Laying the Foundation with City Foundry STL’s Website

Laying the Foundation with City Foundry STL’s Website

Atomicdust works with clients all around the country, but we’re also drawn to projects that have a profound impact on our own city. One such opportunity was something we’d passed every day on our commutes down Highway 64/40: a vacant, graffiti-covered building that would eventually become City Foundry STL.

Historic photo of City Foundry in St. Louis

Opening in 2020, City Foundry will be an entertainment destination, with an expansive food hall featuring tons of local eateries, as well as retail stores, a movie theater, beer garden, office space and more. The 15-acre site is in the heart of Midtown—one of the fastest-growing and vibrant areas of the region—and will be linked to nearby attractions by the Great Rivers Greenway to make St. Louis even more connected.

When we started our website program for City Foundry, we knew a big challenge would be exciting St. Louisans about a place that’s yet to be built and wouldn’t open until the following year. We started researching how similar properties around the country present themselves. We looked at both broad concepts and dug into the weeds, seeing how they tackle details like hours, parking and directions on their websites.

City Foundry Website Design Team

Doubting Thomas and Negative Nancy

By this point, City Foundry had already been publicly announced. Most people hadn’t heard of it, but as more and more did, we started noticing something: skepticism.

Take, for example, a local news story about the development. At the end of the clip, a newscaster back in the studio remarked, “It will be happening, folks. It will be happening.” Another reporter quipped, “Now we have to do our part and give these places business so they don’t close.”

Wow. Talk about negative.

I understand. I do. Over the last few decades, the St. Louis Midtown area hasn’t exactly been bustling. It’s been mostly forgotten about real estate without much activity. That sort of thing can be disappointing for a city’s residents and feeling resentful is normal.

The difference, though, besides having an amazing concept and a long list of cool merchants signed on to the project, is City Foundry’s developer, the Lawrence Group.

Research of food hall websites

Research of food hall websites

Walking the Walk

A lot of people talk about ways that St. Louis can grow and evolve. A lot of people complain or point fingers. But the Lawrence Group, a St. Louis-based firm that executes planning, design, architecture and construction projects, doesn’t just talk—it makes things happen.

The firm had a vision to take a vacant building and invest in it wholeheartedly, transforming it into a destination. Its team wanted City Foundry to take the best of St. Louis—it’s innovators, activists, entrepreneurs, artists—and make the city even better. The Lawrence Group’s vision for City Foundry and all it will bring to our city was all the inspiration and fuel we needed. We were proud to team up with them during this initial phase and drum up excitement among the public and prospective tenants—important steps in City Foundry becoming a huge success.

From the Ground Up

But how do you excite people about a place that’s yet to be built and won’t open for months? And how do you persuade a city’s residents to embrace something new and different?

City Foundry Website Design Team

City Foundry website design team touring the space

Those were our challenges as we set out to build a website that would educate locals and visitors about City Foundry and all its features, as well as convince them it would be a positive, driving force for the region.

The visual branding had already been created by The Lawrence Group. We worked with their team to bring the brand to life online.

City Foundry brand guidelines

City Foundry brand guidelines

A Way with Words

People often overlook the importance of the words a company chooses to use. Great branding uses language that so accurately embodies the company that you don’t even notice how it sounds, but you do notice how it makes you feel.

We’re big believers in the power of words and knew a strong foundation of brand language would help the other elements come together seamlessly.

A lot of people we spoke with didn’t know what to expect from the city’s first food hall—or they didn’t understand what a food hall was. The website also needed to communicate City Foundry’s focus on local businesses and entrepreneurs.

City Foundry branding audience personas

To make sure the language did what it was supposed to, we created user personas with demographics, interests and concerns. This helped us foresee possible misconceptions people might have about City Foundry—concerns about parking, unfamiliarity with Midtown, or thinking it would be just another mall. From there, we wrote copy to assuage concerns and hype up residents.

Animated gif of "Makers make, doers do" "imagination, hustle and soul" and "let's do this"

The language feels fresh, sincere and action-oriented. Calls to action include words like explore, connect and celebrate. The language acts as a cheerleader for the city and for innovation, hard work and having fun. Phrases like “Makers Make, Doers Do. Let’s work together,” and “Imagination, hustle and soul,” position City Foundry as a proud member of Team St. Louis.

Old School Architecture Meets Modern Design

St. Louis history is an important element in the spirit and design of City Foundry. The property was used by various manufacturing companies for almost a century before becoming vacant in 2007. We found inspiration in its historic architectural patterns, as well as fashion, music and the grit and hustle the city—and the site itself—is known for.

Explorations of early web design

The worksite is constantly evolving, but it remained a muddy construction zone for the duration of the project, so we couldn’t use current photos of City Foundry on the website just yet. Instead, we combined energetic, youthful imagery with historic black and white photos that had been embellished with the brand’s signature geometric patterns, seamlessly connecting past and future.

City Foundry interior surfaces

Actual photo of the City Foundry’s surfaces.

City Foundry brand pattern photoshopped onto City Foundry interior surface

Photoshopping the branded patterns on the surfaces, paying homage to The Designers Republic.

Early website design layouts

We built the website to evolve and grow as City Foundry continues to announce new merchants and release information about the opening. Once the development opens, the website will easily transition to include a directory map, hours and directions, event info and more.

City Foundry website design

Mobile responsive website design for City Foundry

Already, City Foundry STL’s website has received national attention: Communication Arts featured it as a web pick and Awwwards nominated it as site of the day.

It’s an amazing opportunity to be invited to partner with change-makers like the team at Lawrence Group who are dedicated to lifting up our city, celebrating its movers and shakers, and creating new possibilities. And it doesn’t hurt that City Foundry itself will be a unique and vibrant experience for St. Louis. Next year, when City Foundry opens its doors, we’ll be there.


5 Things to Consider When Redesigning Your Website


Blaise Hart-Schmidt

Blaise Hart-Schmidt

Blaise’s path to digital marketing began in journalism and took a detour through public relations.

Passionate about storytelling in any medium, her experience with writing, design, strategy and digital marketing combine to help clients build strong marketing plans.

More posts by Blaise Hart-Schmidt