St. Louis, Mo. – Since establishing Lawrence Group as a co-founder in 1983, CEO Stephen A. Smith, FAIA has embarked upon a truly visionary career motivated by a passion for his hometown of St. Louis, revitalizing communities and greatly expanding the scope of what an architectural practice can be.
In honor of Smith’s impact as a vanguard of purposeful development within his community and for the many accomplishments throughout his career as an architect, the University of Kansas (KU) School of Architecture & Design has awarded Smith with a 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement. Smith graduated from the university in 1979 with a Bachelor of Architecture.
Smith’s passion to transform St. Louis has been a constant motivator of his work. As his career and firm grew, Smith began to assume the many responsibilities of a developer to shepherd complex projects to completion. He recognized as an architect that he could not wait for another client to come along to save St. Louis’ historic buildings. Instead, he arranged to buy them, find investors and act as client as well as architect. These projects, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, have both stabilized the neighborhoods in which they are located and sparked additional development activity around them.
Smith’s approach has led to a number of transformative developments within the City of St. Louis, including City Foundry STL, a project that rehabilitated the Federal Mogul foundry site into a mixed-use center at the heart of the current development boom within St. Louis’ Midtown.
His investment in the region extends far beyond that project alone, with several properties in the Grand Center Arts District furthering the creative and artistic heritage of the area. Such developments include the innovative Angad Arts Hotel, the first known hotel in the world letting guests book their room by corresponding color and emotion.
He has also led other developments within the district, including the 2011 redevelopment of the Grand Center Arts Academy, the 2014 restoration of the historic Sun Theater, and the ongoing development of the Moto Complex across the street from Saint Louis University. The cumulative effect of Smith’s investment and innovative focus within Midtown has been a major catalyst to the area’s current prosperity, as the rich history of the district has been brought to new life through Smith’s visionary guidance.
Smith’s impact is equally as evident in Downtown St. Louis where his high-profile projects have brought much needed attention to the city’s urban core. Such work includes the high-profile 2011 redevelopment of Park Pacific, rescuing a critical piece of St. Louis’ downtown real estate and turning it into a robust mixed-use property with a true sense of care for the history it embodies. Smith also led the 2007 redevelopment and design of The Marquette Building, creating St. Louis’ first non-loft luxury condominium development through thoughtful adaptive reuse practices. Smith even led the purchase and renovation of the historic Security Building in 2007 to house the Lawrence Group office, making it the first historic building in Missouri to receive a LEED Silver certification while cementing Smith’s commitment to remaining at the center of the communities he serves.
Smith’s innovative approach to these projects has made him a noted leader within his field. As Smith was successful in one project after another, his work began to be recognized across the U.S. by other architects who saw his work as a model for what they might do in their own communities. He has freely shared what he has done and how and lectured on elements of his development-oriented process; this includes sharing his knowledge on complex project valuation, financing, construction lending, and the many other things that go into a development.