ST. LOUIS – This city’s prime was before his time. But that isn’t stopping Amrit Gill and his wife, Amy, from trying to restore some incredible architecture in St. Louis, all while leaving the neighborhood’s character intact.
“You weave your development into the whole character of a neighborhood in terms of architecture,” said Gill, president and chairman of Restoration St. Louis. “You don’t try to change the character of a neighborhood until you get to this phase when you’re doing a unique building like that and it sets the tone for what’s going to happen next.”
The Gills hope to breathe new life into parts of the city that have deteriorated over time.
Amrit Gill understands being an immigrant in a new land, coming to St. Louis from India at age 22 to study at Washington University. Three decades later, he’s reimagined a Louis Sullivan designed building and brought it back to life as the stunning Hotel St. Louis.
Next up: the building next door.
The Chemical Building will come back to life, connecting these two 1890-era structures and reopening them and the Old Post Office neighborhood of downtown St. Louis.
But it’s not just commercial development.
In a rare interview, Amrit Gill is showcasing The Grove.
“It’s kind of funny what we said would happen in 25 years actually happened in less than 15,” he said.
Gill speaks three languages fluently, which helped him when he was holding a job fair at the Blackhawk Hotel to reimagine that Quad City location into a restored jewel.
The Forest Park Southeast neighborhood that has become The Grove is breathing new life into the city. The Gills pay close attention to every detail along the way.
“That’s a way to level the ceiling and it also reduces the sound upstairs from sound transmission,” said Gill, showcasing a unit under construction. “You’ll see large closets. A lot of our research says large closets and bathrooms.”
At the Restoration St. Louis offices, his map of properties in various stages of renovation or construction looks like a Monopoly board game.
Tucked into the fabric of this neighborhood will be a future grove in the Grove with fruit trees and gardens for nearby residents.
“We’re going to work with some of the volunteers from the neighborhood,” said Gill. “Amy and I are going to clear the dead trees from this piece of ground and we’re going to plant fruit trees.”
The Gills are interested in keeping the character of 100-plus-year-old structures and fixing what he calls “the broken teeth.”
But why do all this?
“Because it’s the right thing to do, don’t you think?” Gill said. “It’s what Amy and I set out to do three decades ago to rebuild these neglected neighborhoods in St. Louis. We used to call them derelict but they’re not. They’re neglected. Nobody was putting any money into these neighborhoods. And if we could show that an investment will pay off, then other people are willing to invest. So that’s what we do in Sioux City, Iowa. That’s what we did in downtown Davenport, Iowa. That’s what we do in The Gate neighborhood and The Grove.
“My wife has been a big influence on me and one of the things she always says is, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ It’s so true. All of us, you included, we’re blessed. We’ve been given wealth and so much is expected from us in helping the community in return.”