Friday, October 31, 2008

1015 Locust Update

Some additional info on the renovations underway at 1015 Locust:

The building’s transformation will begin in the lobby, where renovations will create a more upscale image. Space will be carved out of the lobby for a restaurant and retail space in order to provide amenities to both the office building’s tenants and its neighbors. Eileen Hamburg of Quintin Design Resources has a created a completely new look in the lobby, featuring a redesigned security desk, updated lighting and ceiling treatments combined with new, rich-finish materials and comfortable seating areas.

Elevator cabs will be refinished in high-quality materials, and individual office spaces can and will be tailored to meet tenants’ needs, including creating a popular “loft-style” creative look by accenting the exposed architectural aspects, including distinctive bell columns. Next up, contractor Stuart Dean will begin work on the exterior of the building. A new exterior color palette and new canopies will be added over the building’s ground floor. In addition, the skin will undergo a major cleaning and will be refinished in a new color, offering a fresh, modern look.

“These renovations will dramatically improve the image of 1015 Locust,” says John Warren, an Associate with CB Richard Ellis, which handles leasing efforts for the property. “Just as the neighborhood around the building is being dramatically transformed with new loft apartments, high-rise condominiums, restaurants, retail services, parks and supermarkets, so will we create a special new environment for Downtown office tenants,” notes Stephen Reinstein, ICO’s Senior Vice President.

“More importantly, however, the changes will give our tenants some important added amenities and send a message that ICO Development and Sovereign Partners are serious about making 1015 Locust one of the premier office buildings in St. Louis,” Warren adds.

Renovations began in mid-August with the exterior changes as well as those to the lobby, which are scheduled to be completed before the end of 2008. AJ Brown is the general contractor. A second phase, slated for 2009, will include awnings with associated retail signage.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

Armstrong Teasdale’s managing partner cited the fact that its new home – Centene’s office complex in Clayton – will be LEED certified as one of its reasons for leaving Met Square downtown.

“Technology has changed considerably since we moved into this building. That, and you hear a lot about LEED-certified buildings. We’re very interested in that effort, as are our clients, so we were very interested in being involved in an office building in St. Louis that’s LEED-certified.”


First of all, isn’t remaining in an existing building – even if it is not LEED-certified – be considered more environmentally friendly than moving to a new one? This falls more on Centene than it does Armstrong Teasdale.

And just because Met Square and certain other downtown buildings aren’t LEED-certified, Armstrong Teasdale could have earned LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors) certification for remodeling its space. HOK’s space in Met Square is LEED-CI certified as is Arcturis’ new space in the Laclede Gas Building.

With regards to technology, as part of its upcoming office renovations, Thompson Coburn plans to outfit its offices with the highest technology available, including voice-over IP and video conferencing. Bryan Cave did the same thing when it renovated its space in Met Square a few years ago. So, it can be done – even in Armstrong Teasdale’s current building.

It’s okay to admit that you’re just helping out a major client and received a massive subsidy to go there.

Thompson Coburn has presented some more compelling reasons for remaining downtown:

"From a recruiting perspective, (Managing Partner Tom) Minogue said the firm’s proximity to downtown redevelopment, including the Washington Avenue loft and restaurant district, was another factor in the decision to stay. 'Our young people like being here, which is a very positive thing to say about the city,' he said. In addition, half the firm’s staff commutes from southern Illinois, which was another consideration in choosing to remain downtown."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Office Space at 14th and Washington?

An alert poster at has pointed out that RileyWaldrop is proposing a new office building on the former site of the ill-fated Skyhouse condo tower.

According to the developers, the building will have eight stories of office space with ground floor retail. The proposed building certainly seems to fit in with its surroundings better than the Skyhouse would have.

We'll keep an eye on this one. It would be nice to see this project and Nadira Place - the other proposed office development on Washington Avenue - move forward.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

DHR International Still Interested in GenAm Building

Unfortunately, last year executive search firm DHR International made the decision to locate its headquarters in a building it purchased in Clayton. It had also been considering the purchase the vacant General American building at 700 Market Street downtown.

Apparently though, DHR is still interested in purchasing the building as an investment property, according to the Business Journal. While it would have been preferable for DHR to use the building as its headquarters, perhaps it would do a better job of landing a tenant for it than the current owners, Centaur Properties LLC. They certainly couldn’t do any worse, as the building has continued to sit vacant under Centaur’s ownership the last three years.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Suitable Spot for O'Fallon

Just wanted to follow up a bit on my post on O'Fallon Brewery last week.

Just south of downtown in Benton Park is the former Falstaff Brewery which would be a great spot for O'Fallon to move its operations.  This location would help bridge Benton Park/Soulard with downtown while preserving an important structure - for its intended use even!

Matt at has a great post with more pics and information.

Arcturis' New Digs

Architecture/design firm Arcturis has posted pictures of its new office space on its web site, and the results are fantastic. The new space looks like a great place in which to work and is an excellent example of the firm’s capabilities and creativity. Arcturis recently moved into roughly 45,000 sf on the second and third floors of the Laclede Gas building and intends to pursue LEED certification for its efforts.

According to the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, “Features of the space include a living green wall equipped with grow lights, unique/signature orange concrete sinks and 12' tall steel doors designed by local artists, high technology throughout with A/V, special lighting, moveable walls and open collaborative spaces, Wii room, private rooms for personal time, large kitchen, showers and bicycle lockers.” Sounds good!

In particular, I love this view of the Old Post Office and the Alexa (formerly the Chemical Building). One advantage of having space on a lower floor is that it makes you feel like you’re a part of the energy and vitality of the street below.

With a mix of different architecture types that can’t be found anywhere else in the area, along with an active, lively work environment perfect for stimulating creative thinking, why would any local architecture firm choose to locate anywhere but in downtown St. Louis?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Random Lease Roundup

East-West Gateway Council of Governments renewed its lease and expanded to 15,969 sf at the Gateway Tower, 1 Memorial Drive.

Gateway Legal Services renewed its lease for 5,627 sf at St. Louis Place, 200 N. Broadway.

The Newport Group subleased 2,074 sf at Gateway One, 701 Market, from Northwestern Mutual.

Richard Constance and Kurtis Hoener renewed their lease for 2,395 sf at the Laclede Gas Building, 720 Olive.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brewing Up More Tourist Attractions

The Post-Dispatch recently featured an article on O’Fallon Brewery and how it’s outgrowing its “little brewery in an industrial park in O'Fallon, Mo.” O’Fallon is looking for ways to fund an expansion that would increase its production from about 4,000 barrels this year to 15,000 to 20,000 barrels within five years.

Said O’Fallon co-founder Fran Caradonna, “We really could make this place a bigger brewery. We started thinking about what do we want to be?”

The company’s plans for expansion could involve incremental expansion or even the construction of a new brewery. If O’Fallon opts for the latter, downtown would be an ideal location.

With Tom Schlafly’s St. Louis Brewery on Locust, Morgan Street Brewery on Laclede’s Landing, and of course, Anheuser-Busch in Soulard, just south of downtown, relocating O’Fallon Brewery somewhere from downtown to Soulard would help reinforce St. Louis’ standing as a brewing capitol.

A location in an industrial park in St. Charles County is too isolated; a downtown location would raise the brewery’s profile substantially and provide exciting opportunities for tours and tasting events – perhaps even a bar or hospitality house – along with the natural synergies that come with being located in close proximity to other breweries.

With continued growth, O’Fallon could evolve into the St. Louis equivalent of Kansas City’s Boulevard. Boulevard’s brewery is located in an urban area near Union Station in Kansas City proper, and has become a popular destination for tourists and local beer lovers alike. It’s hard to picture it anywhere but in the city of Kansas City. Were it located in Olathe or Overland Park, it just wouldn’t be the same.

O’Fallon could become a similar attraction for St. Louis with a downtown brewery. Tourists and conventioneers who mostly stay downtown – not in places like O’Fallon – would provide a totally new market for O’Fallon’s beers.

Choosing downtown would be a win-win for both O’Fallon and the city. Come on, Caradonnas – make it happen!

Edit: According to STLHops, Boulevard produced 132,000 barrels last year and has the capacity to produce up to 700,000 barrels per year – obviously much bigger than what O’Fallon has its sights on right now. At a goal production of 15,000 to 20,000 barrels per year, O’Fallon would still be producing less than Schlafly does (about 24,000 barrels annually). Still, Boulevard – and Schlafly, for that matter – makes for a good role model for O’Fallon in a variety of respects, particularly their urban location.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Working On Another Final Four

Officials from the NCAA were in town on Monday to tour the Edward Jones Dome as part of the St. Louis Sports Commission’s bid to win the city a Men’s Final Four in 2012, 2013 or 2016.

The Sports Commission will make its final presentation to the NCAA on November 12 and expects a decision to be made sometime shortly thereafter.

According to an article in the Post-Dispatch, the city has agreed to allow Broadway to be closed on the east side of the Dome to help create a festival atmosphere. One of the few criticisms of St. Louis’ hosting of the Final Four in 2005 was that there was a lack of connectivity and core of energy in the blocks surrounding the Dome. Closing Broadway should help significantly.

The article also features a quote from NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt, who said, “There is truly a resurgence in the downtown area. It’s very noticeable.”

This just goes to show how important the public face we present to the rest of the country – our downtown – is to anyone who’s considering planning an event in St. Louis, whether it be a convention, a major sporting event, or even something as simple as a family vacation. And that public face is impacted by downtown’s businesses and residents.

It’s exciting to think about what downtown will look like in 2012, 2013 or 2016. Should we receive a Final Four, I can just imagine how much better Washington Avenue will look, with a renovated Dillard’s Building (I’m assuming) and possibly a revitalized St. Louis Centre. Ballpark Village could be a popular gathering spot. Old Post Office Plaza could host events and broadcast the games on its giant video board.

Of course, downtown’s continued revitalization will depend on economic conditions and the availability of credit, but it also requires commitment from our community. That means locating businesses downtown instead of Clayton and beyond. That means offering a variety of housing options to encourage the greatest possible number of people to move downtown. And that means having a “can do” spirit that so many St. Louisans seem to lack.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Patricia Stevens College Moves to Washington Avenue

Patricia Stevens College is moving from its 13,000 sf space in the Mansion House complex at 330 N. 4th Street to the four-story, 20,000 sf building it purchased at 1521 Washington Avenue. The school has plans to boost enrollment to 300 students from its current 190.

The college paid $835,000 for the building and plans to renovate it, giving the project an overall value of $2 million.

“We are very dedicated to downtown, and we have always been here," said the college's president, Cynthia Musterman. "We have full faith that downtown will continue to thrive, and we want to be a part of it.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Old Post Office Plaza Progress Photos

Over on Urban St. Louis, user irocktheparty2000 snapped these great progress photos of Old Post Office Plaza - it's really coming along!

I hope this project will help spur new development in the area, such as the renovation of the Arcade Building and new construction on the vacant lot at 7th and Locust.

The Ghosts of St. Louis Centre

During the final days of St. Louis Centre, back in 2005 or so, a handful of decent retailers managed to hang on and thrive as the mall continued its decline. Unfortunately, since St. Louis Centre closed, those tenants have been completely missing from downtown.

Shouldn’t the city have worked with those retailers – Walgreens, FootAction, T-Mobile, Sbarro, Chick-Fil-A, GNC and Payless Shoes – to find other locations downtown?

Just because there’s no mall, that doesn’t mean that these stores could not do well in any of the available street level retail spaces scattered throughout downtown. If anything, a street level location should provide a better opportunity for success than one in a dying, uninviting mall.

Heck, Walgreens and Payless did well with locations on the top floor of St. Louis Centre; despite roof leaks, broken escalators, dirt, grime, deferred maintenance and the myriad other problems that the mall suffered from, people still made the trek up to the fourth floor to shop there. Imagine how well those stores would do on Olive, Locust or Washington – revitalized areas that are much more conducive to shopping.

While these retailers may not be as exciting as say, IKEA, it would be nice to fill up some vacant retail spaces and add some additional tax revenue to the city’s coffers while giving downtown a little extra added vitality. While the rotting corpse of the mall itself remains an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, let’s at least get some of its old retailers back downtown.

Friday, October 10, 2008

STL Lands a Big Convention

Meeting Professionals International, which represents more than 24,000 event planners, has chosen St. Louis as its host city for its World Education Congress, to be held July 28-31, 2012.

The Congress is MPI’s largest gathering of meeting and event professionals and usually draws thousands of industry planners.

The selection of St. Louis can bode well for the city if attendees then decide to hold their own events here. We had better put on a great show for them!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Demolition On Locust Proposed

The agenda for the October 27 meeting of the Preservation Board confirms that the Roberts Brothers are seeking to demolish 919 and 923 Locust. The buildings will be cleared to provide a driveway and lobby for the Hotel Indigo that the Roberts Brothers will be opening in the St. Louis Design Center building.

To me, this is a bad idea.

The buildings slated for demolition are small, historic, easy to redevelop and are full of character and personality. There has been a substantial amount of redevelopment taking place in the immediate vicinity – the Syndicate Trust and 411 projects, in particular – and demolishing them will disrupt the building wall along Locust and detract from the overall continuity and pedestrian experience of Locust. Downtown needs more density, not less.

The first of the two buildings in question are a small, tudor-style three-story building with a historic cast iron storefront. It once served as a Fatted Calf restaurant and more recently was the site of a proposed restaurant by David Slay which never came to fruition. It would be perfectly suited for a cozy pub, with space for parties and group gatherings above.

The second is a larger, four-story building that could provide first-floor retail with flexible uses on the upper floors. It would be well suited for either office or residential purposes.

And what is to become of the St. Louis Design Center? Space for artists, designers and other creative types is important for downtown’s vitality.

A precedent has already been set for a driveway like this, first at the U.S. Bank Plaza, but more similarly at the Omni Hotel on Pine Street. While the Omni itself is quite nice, it sits as an island surrounded by parking lots and the substantial driveway.

Somehow, hotels in cities like Chicago, San Francisco and New York seem to get by just fine without demolishing adjacent structures to create driveways. It could work here as well, with a little creativity.

And at the same time, perhaps it would be prudent to wait until the economy and credit markets improve before any buildings are knocked down. Here in St. Louis, we have a knack for demolishing historic buildings and building nothing in their place (see the Skyhouse at 14th and Washington).

I’m not even sure if downtown needs another hotel right now, but if it does, a better location can be found just a block west on Locust – the former Alverne Hotel, which currently stands vacant.A

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Law Firm Picture

The picture is starting to become a little clearer on the law firm front:

Polsinelli – Consolidating its downtown and Clayton offices in 90,000 – 110,000 sf at Ballpark Village.

Thompson Coburn – Staying downtown, maintaining its space in the U.S. Bank Plaza.

Armstrong Teasdale – Leaving its 100,000 sf at Met Square; moving to Centene’s development in Clayton.

So who’s up next?

Stinson Morrison Hecker – This firm was originally located in the Deloitte Building downtown but consolidated its offices in Clayton after acquiring Clayton-based Blumenfeld, Kaplan & Sandweiss. The move to Clayton has been described as a short-term decision, and the firm is looking to sign a lease for 60,000 sf either downtown or in Clayton. Stinson’s lease in Clayton expires in October 2012 with opportunities to buy out. Having Stinson downtown would certainly help offset the loss of Armstrong Teasdale, both in terms of office space absorption and employees.

Husch Blackwell – Husch & Eppenberger’s merger with Blackwell Sanders give the combined firm 80,000 sf in the Laclede Gas Building downtown and 175,000 sf in Clayton. Husch was originally located in the Bank of America Tower and left for Clayton in 2002 after it was unable to find a large enough block of space downtown. If the firm were to combine its operations downtown, it would be a major coup. Having both Husch and Stinson downtown would mark a significant step forward.

Lewis Rice – The firm is rumored to be looking at a number of downtown sites. It currently leases 110,000 sf at 500 N. Broadway.

Friday, October 03, 2008

KPMG Staying Downtown!

KPMG has renewed its lease of 45,000 sf in the Equitable Building at 10 S. Broadway. The firm is committing to downtown for 10 more years and plans to hire approximately 40 more employees over the next three to five years (it currently employs 270).

KMPG cited downtown’s close proximity to employees on both sides of the river among its reasons for remaining downtown. I’m sure a comparatively affordable lease – the Equitable Building’s asking rate is $21 psf – played a role as well. It would be difficult to get space of that quality in Clayton for a comparable price.

When a firm made up of professional number-crunchers like KPMG chooses downtown, that must mean it’s a smart financial decision!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Doctors, Dentists, Etc.

Looks like things are starting to happen at the Truman Building at 916 Olive. A sign advertising The Boxing Gym is posted in the front window. According to the building’s web site, it will be taking the 4,000 sf basement space, while Downtown Urgent Care will be located in the 4,000 sf first floor space. Both are slated to open in winter 2008.

Dr. Sonny Saggar is investing $2 million into renovating the building, which is being marketed as the Downtown Health and Wellness Center. Dr. Saggar hopes to lure complementary users, such as medical and dental practices. Available spaces in the building include:

3,000 sf first floor mezzanine
1,522 and 1,500 sf spaces on the second floor
2,526 and 1,970 sf on the third floor
5,200 sf on the fourth floor
5,000 sf rooftop space

Meanwhile, the City Smiles dental office has opened on the first floor of the Spool Thread Building at 1113 Locust and is accepting new patients for general, cosmetic and implant dentistry. City Smiles is taking reservations on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can be reached at (314) 375-5353.

There also appears to be a veterinary clinic about to open in the former Gus's/Creepy Crawl building on Tucker.

It’s great to have these services available to downtown residents and office workers.