Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pyramid Post-Mortem

Everyone with an interest in downtown happenings is closely following the ongoing saga of Pyramid Construction. The firm is no longer part of the Mercantile Exchange project and rumors are swirling that it is closing its doors altogether, the result of having too many irons in the fire.

The good news is that Pyramid’s former partner, Spinnaker, plans to keep the Mercantile Exchange on track. The Laurel – the first phase of the Mercantile Exchange that involves the renovation of the historic Dillard’s Building on Washington Avenue – is already more than 30% pre-sold and now includes plans for an Embassy Suites hotel on the lower floors. Work is expected to begin in June. The sooner Spinnaker can begin construction on The Laurel, the sooner it can turn its attention to marketing the next phases, which include a complete makeover of the former St. Louis Centre into a mixed-use development (The Concord) and the renovation of the Mercantile Library Building.

Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding Pyramid’s other projects:

What will become of the One City Centre office tower? While Ballpark Village continues to stall, Pyramid was poised to re-introduce some much-needed Class A office space to the market.

What will become of the Arcade Building? Construction work appears to have stopped, which is a shame, as the Arcade was one of the most exciting projects underway downtown.

What will become of the Leather Trades Building on Locust? Pyramid was marketing the building as lofts, but was unable to pre-sell any of the units. Hopefully John Steffen can sell it to another developer. Orchard Development has two other projects nearby – the Terra Cotta Lofts and the Ely Walker Lofts – maybe they’d want to get involved. Perhaps the Leather Trades would make a good loft-style office building or studio space for artists?

What will become of the Jefferson Arms Building? Previously used as apartments geared toward retirees, Pyramid purchased the Jefferson Arms and booted the tenants in order to renovate the building. Even though the building needs a substantial amount of work, getting rid of paying tenants in an uncertain market was probably not the best idea. Now it sits vacant, its ground floor windows boarded up.

Let’s hope for some answers…

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