Wednesday, April 02, 2008

David Nicklaus' Take on Downtown

David Nicklaus of the Post-Dispatch takes a fair look at the current state of the downtown office market in his column today.

A few highlights:

The law firms (six downtown law firms whose leases are up for renewal soon) do have a third option (besides staying put or signing on at a new building): Clayton, where developers are promoting new high-rises and where Holland says the market is ripe for more construction. Clayton has lured big firms from downtown before, including accountants Ernst & Young in 2001 and lawyers Husch & Eppenberger in 2002.
If any of the firms in question decide to move to Clayton, we might as well turn out the lights on downtown. The bleeding of firms from downtown to the suburbs has got to stop - Clayton should be a secondary business district, not the area's primary business district.

It's time for the local business community to show a little civic pride and make a commitment to downtown St. Louis. As Bob Lewis of Development Strategies Inc. mentioned in a recent Post-Dispatch article on Ballpark Village, "People form their opinions of a region based on the central downtown. If downtown St. Louis looks like it is disinvested, that's the first thing you notice about the region." When will we finally grasp this concept?

Ballpark Village remains the highest-profile spot for new offices, but it's not the only one. Richard Ward, a consultant with Zimmer Real Estate Services, says he's recently been looking at potential office-building sites downtown. "There are quite a few of them actually, more than I had thought," he said.

Ward says the city, and business groups like the Regional Chamber & Growth Association, should start packaging and promoting one or more of these sites, looking forward to the day when things don't look so bleak. "I think this is a good time to plan, to begin at least a slow drum roll," he said.
Bingo. The city shouldn't depend on Ballpark Village as the ONLY site for new office space, especially considering how long the development process has been drawn out. It's time to lay the groundwork for the construction of new Class A space elsewhere downtown.

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