ST. LOUIS – A riverfront stadium planned to keep the NFL Rams in St. Louis never came to be, and the land once desired for that venue is largely unused.

What should St. Louis do with that land? More than 100 college students recently tackled that concept in presentations through the Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation’s annual Real Estate Challenge.

The competition consists of students from 26 universities who are tasked with creating a high-profile development or redevelopment project in the Midwest. Each group focused on the same case site in the St. Louis riverfront.

The focus was a stretch of land in St. Louis’ Near North Riverfront neighborhood, just north of Downtown and east of Columbus Square.

(Courtesy: Getty Images/Art Wager)

Around that site, there are several abandoned buildings. These include vacant spots known to locals as the Laclede Power Company building, the Cotton Belt Freight Depot building, and the Peerless Building.

The area also consists of Rootwad Park, which consists of sculptural elements inspired by City Museum founder Bob Cassilly, and connections to the St. Louis Riverfront Trail, which bicyclists can take all the way to the Chain of Rocks bridge.

Graduate students from the University of Notre Dame and undergraduate students from Tulane University both earned $7,500 scholarships for their presentations on the St. Louis Riverfront. An undergraduate team from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock came in a close second to Tulane. These were among their ideas…

Notre Dame (Graduate Team)

According to the team’s presentation on YouTube, visions include the following…

Preserve the Laclede Power Building with REI Co-Op reutilizing it.

Redevelop the Peerless Building into a hotel concept for AC Hotels – Marriott.

Transform the Sonn Signs & Decals, Inc. building into a craft brewery.

Create a food hall called “The Little French Market” out of 34,000 square feet of rentable space.

Repair and preserve the Cotton Belt Freight Depot building as a mixed-use development with market-rate loft apartments and retail.

Develop twin mixed-use buildings at 10 and 20 Clark Street.

A mixed-use development on the north end of the site with a grocery shop, fitness center, office spaces, and parking spaces.

Use additional space for a riverfront park, plaza, and green space.

Tulane (Undergrad Team)

According to the team’s presentation on YouTube, visions include the following…

Redevelop the Cotton Freight Depot building to create a vertical farming and cold storage facility.

Transform the Peerless Building into a data center.

Develop offices and a coffee shop into the Sonn Signs & Decals, Inc. building.

Create market-rate apartments in an eastern patch of the unused land.

Turn the Laclede Power building into a site for affordable housing.

Build a pickleball facility just west of the proposed data center building.

Build a Schnucks-backed grocery store on the northern-most end of the vacant land with a nearby parking garage.

Arkansas (Undergrad Team)

According to a report from on the team’s presentation, visions include the following…

Turn the Cotton Freight Depot building into an apartment complex facing the river.

Transform the Peerless Building into a site for ziplines, rope courses, and similar activities.

Create a craft brewery at the Sonn Signs & Decals, Inc. building.

Apartments, retail space, and a climate-controlled storage facility in an existing building.

Create an amphitheater and a Schnucks grocery store in unused space.

Students were tasked with making a plan that would generate a 20% investment return on the property, follow zoning policies within St. Louis, and meet community needs.

Projects in the featured presentations came with an estimated construction price tags of $138 million to $247 million.