When all is quiet, it is easy to imagine the ghostly echoes of “Stop the presses!” ringing off the 104-year-old walls.

Welcome to the Front Page Lofts, the latest example of adaptive reuse in St. Louis, Mo., a city filled with such projects. The eight-story, 129,175-square-foot building was once the home of the respected St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Today the Beaux-Arts classic is reborn as a mixed-use property with 51 one- and two-bedroom loft units. The multifamily project is the latest entry into the city’s growing adaptive reuse portfolio, now counted as one of the nation’s largest.

The downtown steel frame structure has had its share of ups and downs over the decades. From 1965 through the late 1990s, the George D. Barnett-designed building was sadly masked with a “modernizing” metal rain screen. Today the $15 million revitalization has restored its exterior glory while offering an interior that is Gen Z-friendly, including a fitness center and stainless-steel appliances.

Adaptive Reuse Boom?

The next few years are expected to be busy ones for architects seeking adaptive reuse commissions. The waning pandemic has revealed the extent of retail and hospitality sector declines. Office space is now the big question mark as commercial tenants (and their employees) consider all options. Some structures, like the Front Page Lofts, have found new life as multifamily units.

Challenging Makeover

Achieving the top-to-bottom redo was no small task, starting with the gutting of the four residential floors located on levels four through eight. “The biggest challenge was getting material in the building,” says Bill VanGels, superintendent for D&L Painting & Drywall, a St. Louis-based specialty contractor. “Everything is hoisted up with a crane. We started on the eighth floor and worked our way down.”

VanGels’ team was responsible for the metal framing, drywall hanging, and finishing. Time means everything to a union crew like this. The contractor has a hard-earned reputation among architects, owners, developers, and GCs for efficiency, quality, and code compliance. Any advantage that helps them minimize hours while maintaining quality is seized upon, especially in labor-intensive drywall finishing.

The Easy Button

VanGels is always on the hunt for any reasonable innovation. One that immediately caught his eye cut the team’s cumulative workload by over 100 hours, saving the owner several thousand dollars on drywall finishing.

“It’s all about speed and simplicity. We’re always looking for the easy button,” VanGels says.

Breakthrough Time-Saver

The time-saver came from an unexpected location—the sealing bead for head-of-wall joints. To be code compliant, upper wall joints between units and common areas require a fire-stopping seal, usually achieved through a special fire-stopping caulk.

The new bead approach includes an intumescent tape that swells 30x on exposure to heat, effectively sealing-off the unit from smoke and fire. The all-in-one fire-stopping bead, called Fire Bead from Trim-Tex, saves about two and a half hours of finishing time per unit, VanGels estimates. When multiplied by 51 units, the time savings is significant. Owners also like Fire Bead because of its lifetime warranty.

D&L has made Fire Bead part of its workflow. The Front Page Lofts welcomed its first tenants on August 1.

Learn more about the all-in-one fire-stopping bead that cuts drywall installation time and cost.