Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Develop Me!

It's clear that the time is right for the construction of new office space in downtown St. Louis. The vacancy rate for Class A space is now under 5%, absorption is up, and large blocks of contiguous space are in short supply.

So where should downtown's next office building be constructed? Here are my three top choices:

1) The northeast corner of Broadway and Washington. There are actually two large lots at this site, split by Lucas Street, which, despite its name, is actually more of an alley. This site is attractive for several reasons:
  • High visibility, prominent Washington Avenue address
  • Close proximity to the convention center and numerous hotels
  • Ample available parking in the Missouri Athletic Club and Drury Hotel garages as well as ample room to construct a new garage (on the northern end of the site, with the building fronting Broadway)

2) The vacant lot on Broadway at Spruce, immediately east of Busch Stadium. This site offers unbeatable visibility thanks to baseball traffic and proximity to Highway 40, and with the impending construction of Ballpark Village, this site will become even more attractive. The site has ample parking available in the two stadium garages and various lots south of Highway 40. It's still somewhat isolated and distant from the heart of downtown though, with few dining options (at least until Ballpark Village is built).

3) The Gateway Mall. The construction of Gateway One in the mid-1980s destroyed the Gateway Mall concept, so why not build on any of the three vacant parcels between Gateway One and the Civil Courts Building? Parking may be a perceived issue here, with little adjacent parking (although the Kiener Plaza garages, Century Building garage and Laclede Gas garage are all just a short walk away). This option would greatly enhance the streetscape on Market Street and would replace some of the Gateway Mall's "passive" and unused greenspace.

Other attractive sites include: the northwest corner of Tucker and Olive (underutilized site occupied by a U.S. Bank branch), 11th and Locust (a huge sea of parking lots), 9th and Clark (odd greenspace adjacent to the Eagleton Courthouse).

The market conditions are right - it's imperative that new space be developed in order to attract new firms to downtown and retain existing ones.

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