Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What We've Lost

I get irrated at the notion that a new museum on the Arch grounds is the answer to downtown's ills, as if that's all it will take to bring downtown back to life.

It's not. What downtown really needs is businesses and their employees. Consider what we've lost in recent years:

Anheuser-Busch - 110,000 sf in One City Centre, leased 150,000 in Sunset Hills.
Armstrong Teasdale - 400+ employees, 100+ attorneys, 100,000 sf in Met Square.
Arthur Andersen - 60,000 sf (three floors) in 1010 Market.
Energizer - leased 170,000 sf in Maryville Centre.
Ernst & Young – 86,000 sf in Gateway One. Now leases 100,000 sf in Clayton.
General American - 128,250 sf, 400 workers.
Husch Blackwell – 57,000 sf in the Bank of America Tower. Now leases xx sf in Clayton.
May Company/Macys - Railway Exchange now 50% vacant, 1,700 jobs lost.
Smith, Moore & Company - A small loss in terms of square footage and employees, but a growing firm and once part of downtown's identity as a financial center. After more than 90 years downtown, left for Clayton in 2004.
TWA – 57,000 sf in One City Centre, reservation center on Olive.

This is not even an all-inclusive list by any means; these are just the firms I could think of off the top of my head. I'm sure I've missed a few.

The most disappointing losses on this list are Energizer, Ernst & Young, Husch and Smith Moore. Each of these firms could have chosen to remain downtown and help fuel the revitalization of the CBD, but passed up the opportunity. The others were the victims of mergers and outside circumstances; the decisions to move were made by players from outside the St. Louis area.

In the case of Energizer, Ernst & Young, Husch, and Smith Moore, our own citizens chose to cast a vote for mediocrity over a thriving, healthy downtown. This city would be a much better place had they stayed.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

When you live in the county, its nice to work in the county. NO offense, I dig architecture but a 14 minute drive versus a 45 minute traffic jam... paying for parking... crime... etc....

Brian said...

That's the kind of small-minded thinking that's gotten us into the predicament we're in.

I live in the county, and my commute is a relative breeze. Downtown is accessible enough to most parts of the county that most people's commutes are less than 45 minutes. And even for those who do drive 45 minutes, when compared to the cities that we aspire to be like, 45 minutes is nothing. If we had better public transportation options, that would be helpful as well.

Paying for parking is an inconvenience, but people in Clayton pay for parking too and no one seems to complain about that being a factor.

Crime-wise, downtown is, statistically speaking, very safe. People's perceptions are generally worse than reality.

JMedwick said...

Man, that list is like a punch in the gut. If people want to understand why the renaissance of downtown didn't get further in the past 10 years, take a look at that list (and add a few other major employers like Union Pacific) and think how many fewer shoppers there are for retailers, diners for restaurants and most notably, home buyers and renters for rehabilitated downtown buildings.

While I understand the desire for a short commute anonomus, that short-sighted thinking is why the entire region continue to slide backward. If our "regional" business leaders really want to improve St. Louis' standing in the US and the world, locating your business in Maryville Center or Winghaven is the wrong choice. When will these leaders who love to talk about how great St. Louis is, put their money where there mouths are and step up?