News Briefs


Ben Franklin set to close due to rent increase

The Ben Franklin Craft Store in the Old Orchard Shopping Center announced this week it would be closing its doors.

Ben Franklin owner Gary Hempel told Webster Groves Patch that an increase in rent from Webster University, the property owner, was a major factor in the decision to close.

Greg Gunderson, Webster vice president and chief financial officer, said the decision to raise the rent on Ben Franklin was based on market values for the property.

“The rate being paid by Ben Franklin was about 40 percent below market value,” Gunderson said. “We offered them a higher rate, which they refused. We offered them a second, lower rate, which they also refused.”

Webster will be seeking to replace Ben Franklin with a retail business, according to a statement provided by Susan Kerth, media relations specialist for Webster.

“Beginning in 2008, Webster University has invested over $5 million in the Old Orchard Shopping Center,” Kerth said. “This investment in our community reflects the value we place in improving the quality of our community.”

Student reported being followed in Old Orchard area

A student in Webster Groves has reported being followed on two separate occasions on his way home from campus.

Both times happened as the student was walking home in the Old Orchard area. The only description the student could give of the man was that he is white and is approximately 30 years old.

The first occurrence happened Aug. 16 between 3:30 and 4 p.m. According to police, the man walked out of a business in the 600 block of Lockwood Avenue and followed the student for several blocks. When the student turned onto a side street, the man following left in an unknown direction.

The second occurrence happened Aug. 20 at the same time and place. The man followed the student the same approximate distance before leaving.

The man did not speak to the student on either occasion.

The Webster Groves Police Department sends out important information on incidents like this via its email.
Webster Groves Police Department is asking anyone with information regarding the incidents to contact the department at 314-645-3000.

Elm exit reopened; other construction updates

The Elm exit to Interstate 44 west reopened after five weeks of closure. While the ramp is open, expect single-lane closure for the next couple weeks. The ramp was closed to reinforce a failing retaining wall.

The rebuilding of the Murdoch bridge over Interstate 44 is three days behind schedule. But depending on weather over the next few weeks, that day may be pushed back further. As of now, the new completion date is Oct. 15.

Webster Groves will be starting the bidding process on Sept. 10 for construction on Garden Avenue. The construction will widen the street. It will also install new curbing and lighting along the streets, as well as landscaping along the side of the road. The project is set to start the first week of October and will close down Garden Avenue near the train tracks for four to six weeks.

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