Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another Good Ballpark Village Candidate: Montgomery Bank

Montgomery Bank's plans for a new high-rise office building in downtown Clayton have been put on hold indefinitely. St. Louis County, who was to partner with Montgomery on the project, announced that it would not send out RFPs to developers until market conditions improve.

This project always struck me as a little strange - at 30+ stories and 600,000 sf, it's awfully large for Clayton, and it seemed like way too big of an undertaking for a smaller, regional bank like Montgomery.

When the project was initially announced, Joel Montgomery Jr. was quoted as saying, "What we would build (on the Clayton site) would make a statement and would redefine the Clayton skyline."

How about helping to redefine the ST. LOUIS skyline? A downtown headquarters would make so much more of an impact than would a Clayton location. Again, the fact that there are people out there who want us to have a great suburban business district instead of a world-class downtown is indicative of the short-sighted, small-minded thinking that has plagued this region for decades.

Why not lease space in Ballpark Village? Let Cordish worry about developing the building.

Montgomery Bank, originally based in Sikeston, Missouri, serves two major regions - St. Louis and Southeast Missouri. Southeast Missouri also happens to be Cardinal country, with thousands of Cardinal fans making the pilgrimage to Busch Stadium every year. A Ballpark Village location makes a tremendous amount of sense as it would provide exposure and publicity that would reach both constituencies. A Ballpark Village location would also be a great sign of faith and support by Montgomery Bank, that it believes in this region and its future.

Downtown was once home to great St. Louis banks like Boatmen's Bank, Mercantile Bank and Centerre Bank. These institutions thrived downtown, and there's no reason why Montgomery Bank would not thrive downtown as well.

To the City of St. Louis and Cordish: Make this happen.
To Montgomery Bank: Move downtown - it just makes sense.

Want to contact Montgomery Bank to encourage them to move downtown? Link

2000 Washington For Sale

One of downtown’s coolest buildings, 2000 Washington, is listed for sale. This former firehouse is located adjacent to the Sporting News Lofts, the Tudor Lofts, and other recent developments. At 11,400 sf and with 12 parking spaces, it is flexible enough to be redeveloped for office or residential uses, and the first floor could easily be converted to very unique retail space. Would also be perfect for anyone considering opening their own ghost-busting operation. I wonder if it has a pole...

The building is available for $900,000 ($78.26 psf).

Mark Brennan of Solon Gershman is the listing agent – (314) 862-9400

Monday, November 24, 2008

Railway Exchange Headed to the National Register

Overshadowed by the Roberts Brothers' attempt to demolish 917-923 Locust for a pointless driveway, there was some good news for downtown at the most recent Preservation Board meeting: The Railway Exchange building at 600 Locust will be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, the first critical step in earning historic tax credits for redevelopment.
The Railway Exchange truly is one of downtown's most amazing office buildings. I hope that it is not functionally obsolete, as I would prefer to see it retained as office space, particularly with the housing market as soft as it is currently. My recollections of the building's office space is that it featured relatively low ceilings and felt rather cramped. Perhaps that problem could be remediated with the removal of drop ceilings in favor of a more creative solution.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What We've Gained

Just so as to not be entirely gloom and doom, here's a quick look at some of the firms that downtown has GAINED in recent years:

Adamson - Moved from Clayton.
Asynchrony Solutions - Moved from Earth City, grew from 18 to 85 employees.
Gateway CDI - Moved its employees in Sunset Hills downtown.
Hardee's - Moved from North Carolina.
Hughes Group - Moved from Clayton.
Jacobs Engineering - Consolidated its Earth City office downtown.
Larson Allen - Moving from Des Peres.
NSI - Moved from Maryland Heights.
Osborn & Barr - Moved from Clayton.
Rosemann & Associates - Moved from Maryland Heights.

Adamson, Hughes, Osborn & Barr and NSI are particularly exciting newcomers. They all operate within the same general industry - creative services - and could signal the rebirth of downtown as a center for advertising, PR and other services after the loss of such firms as D'Arcy, Arnold Worldwide/Simmons Durham, Advanswers, etc.

Unfortunately, the firms downtown has picked up don't quite offset the losses it has suffered. Centene could have brought about a major shift in momentum, but unfortunately, we'll have to hope that someone else can fill the void. We need more firms to follow in the footsteps of those listed above and join the downtown revolution.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Urban Review on the Mansion House Complex

Over at Urban Review STL, Steve Patterson has a great write-up on the Mansion House complex and some ideas for re-connecting the street grid in this semi-odd hodgepodge of a 60s urban renewal project.

I think these ideas are great, and could potentially benefit the Peabody Building and the smaller office building in between the Mansion House and Gentry's Landing buildings. These two buildings are really cut off from the rest of downtown, visible only from Memorial Drive with very difficult accessibility. Despite their unbeliveable Arch views, these properties sit empty, and their lack of connectivity likely plays a major role.

I especially like Steve's idea of building a 2-3 story structure to connect the complex's center tower to Fourth Street. The Federal Reserve and the backside of 500 N. Broadway create a bit of a dead zone on the west side of Fourth Street, so the east side needs as much retail and activity as possible.

I would add to Steve's ideas that the three-story office building at the corner of Fourth and Washington should be considered a top site for redevelopment. The building takes up an entire block and the site's footprint could easily accomodate a much taller office or residential tower. A developer had proposed a 14-story condo tower for the site back in 2007 before the market collapsed. I hope we'll see something substantial on that site at some point in the future.

The proposed 14-story condo tower:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

St. Louis Loses Out In Final Four Bidding

Bad news: St. Louis has been shut out in its attempts to land an NCAA Division I men's basketball Final Four in 2012-2016. New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, Indy and Houston were the big winners. St. Louis will now miss out on an estimated $40 million in economic impact and a huge amount of publicity. We also lost out in the 2003 bidding round, but it was suspected that the NCAA was waiting to see how St. Louis would fare in hosting the event in 2005 before awarding us any future bids.

As Vahe Gregorian of the Post-Dispatch says:

But even in a particularly competitive field, the second straight jilting calls into question whether St. Louis can maneuver to the front again and perhaps even whether it will be willing to try.

Dallas, Indy and Houston all have an edge in facilities, with glitzy new stadia. New Orleans and Atlanta do not have an advantage over St. Louis in this regard.

Think the condition of our downtown had anything to do with this decision? I sure do. When the selection committee sees the vacant hulking shell of St. Louis Centre and the empty Dillard's building just outside the Edward Jones Dome along with empty surface lots and a lack of vitality in many parts of downtown, that can't help.

A prosperous downtown would have helped our case immensely. The present condition of our downtown is the cumulative result of every company's decision to either move out of downtown or choose inferior suburban locations over downtown.

If we want to be competitive in landing events of this nature and attracting conventions and tourism, we're going to have to clean this place up.

Update: Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch has a nice blog entry about this subject - Link

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.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Scottrade - The PERFECT Ballpark Village Tenant

Friday's Business Journal featured an article about Scottrade's rapid growth; the company expects to hire 400 additional employees in St. Louis in the days ahead. A few months ago, Scottrade unveiled its plans to expand its headquarters in West County, adding over 200,000 sf of office space and a 1,400-car parking garage.

It's great to hear about a relatively young company (founded in 1980) doing so well here in St. Louis - it's great for the region.

Scottrade would have to be at the top of my list of firms that should be located downtown but aren't. With Stifel Nicolaus and Wells Fargo/Wachovia Securities already downtown, they would be a perfect fit. There's no reason that Scottrade's office space needs could not be met downtown. In fact, they would be an ideal tenant for Ballpark Village. For a firm that is doing everything it possibly can to get its name out to the public - saturation web advertising, sponsorship of the Scottrade Center, aggressive TV advertising, etc. - the publicity and exposure they would gain by locating in Ballpark Village would be huge.

I wonder if anyone from the city or Cordish has ever approached them.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lafser & Associates

In following the proceedings of the city's Preservation Board over the years, I've noticed that Lafser & Associates is responsible for providing the research and legwork needed to get numerous historic buildings nominated to the National Register. They provided the research for the Railway Exchange's nomination, for example, and have an impressive track record.

This is a firm that has been heavily involved in the preservation of our architectural heritage. They specialize not only in historic preservation but environmental assessment and remediation as well.

So, when I was visiting Lafser's web site, I was a little disappointed to see their offices listed at a Creve Coeur address. Creve Coeur? Come on!

Sounds to me like the kind of firm that would be right at home in one of downtown's many historic gems. When's your lease up, Lafser? It's time to move downtown!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cannon Design's New Office Opens

After a renovation and build-out totalling $8.75 million, Cannon Design has moved to its new home in the former St. Louis Municipal Power House at 11th and Clark. 105 employees will work from the firm's new 31,000 sf headquarters.

The building had sat vacant for over three decades and had largely been considered one of the most difficult rehab projects downtown due to the fact that it was basically just a shell, consisting of four non-load bearing walls. Cannon had to construct its offices within the framework of the exterior walls, a process one of the firm's principals compared to "building a ship in a bottle."

This project just goes to show that with a little thought, effort and foresight, creative solutions to the problems posed by historic buildings can be reached. Maybe the Roberts Brothers could come up with their own creative solution in their plans for their new hotel on Locust instead of tearing down 917 and 923 Locust.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Museum? What Museum?

First of all, let me start by saying that I have the utmost respect for Senator Danforth.

I just think his plans for the Arch grounds are half-baked, in particular, the notion that we need some sort of museum on the Arch grounds.

There’s been no indication as to what the theme of the museum would be or how having a museum built on the Arch grounds would solve all our problems.

More than eight years ago, there actually was a push to create a museum downtown, and it was a good idea – one with a theme and a plan and everything. Somehow, the idea died.

Back in 2000, the Post-Dispatch profiled plans to establish a Smithsonian affiliate museum. Apparently, the Smithsonian has so many items, it was looking for ways to make them available to the public outside of its museum in Washington, D.C. and was looking for “affiliates” in other cities that would display these items in “satellite” museums.

Attorney Alan Bornstein led the efforts to set up such a museum here in downtown St. Louis, to be known as Museum of American Character. Consultants from LORD Cultural Resources Planning & Management were hired to develop a feasibility study and cost estimates. The cost was estimated at $150+ million. The Union Station ownership group, Kiel Center Partners and the Danforth Foundation picked up the $300k consulting bill.

Bornstein wanted to conduct a national architectural competition and end up with something visually powerful and dramatic. There was mention of including a public school in the plans. The St. Louis Public Library was interested in collaborating. People like Richard Baron were mentioned as being part of the planning committee.

From 18 possible sites, it was determined that the best site would be on the gateway mall, on the site of a four-story federal office building at 1520 Market Street, a building that has since been mentioned as being used for parking as part of the late Donald Breckenridge’s plans to renovate the Kiel Opera House. The thinking was that this site would resurrect the old civic plaza idea from around 1919, when city fathers envisioned a public, outdoor gathering place surrounded by monumental architecture.

There was discussion of adding the proposed museum to the Metropolitan Zoological Park & Museum Tax District, and Union Station Partners were even talking about building a branch of the Museum of Transportation at Union Station.

So what happened to these plans? Why were they a good idea in 2000, but not now? Wouldn’t the originally proposed site on Market Street be preferable to the Arch grounds? Can we just bring back this idea instead of altering the Arch grounds?

The Smithsonian affiliate is up there with the planned exhibition hall as good ideas that never came about.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Arch Grounds - A Simple Solution

Much has been made about plans for the Arch grounds lately. Mayor Slay, Senator Danforth, the National Parks Service and even college students have all weighed in with their ideas.

First of all, any plans for the Arch grounds basically ignore the real issues that downtown faces right now. It's just another in a long line of "silver bullets" that are intended to "save downtown."

Downtown needs to:
1) Attract and retain businesses
2) Attract and retain residents

Pumping money into the Arch grounds will not address either of these issues.

So, if it is determined that something absolutely must be done, my solution is simple, albeit pricey:

- Eliminate the downtown section Highway 70 from, say Poplar to Cass.

- Fill in the "depressed section," which will free up a little extra land for development.

- Tear down the elevated section of highway that severs Laclede's Landing from the rest of downtown. Re-establish the street grid.

- Create an at-grade parkway on the current site of Memorial Drive with traffic calming measures and safe, accessible pedestrian crossings.

To me, anything else really doesn't truly address the connectivity problems that Highway 70 poses.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Merc

I apologize for all the posts regarding the Mercantile Library complex, but that's the beauty of having your own blog - you can entertain all sorts of thoughts!

One of my favorite downtown enhancement projects in recent years is the improvements made to the Ballpark Hilton at Broadway and Market. When the former Marriott Pavilion Hotel was purchased and re-branded by Bob O’Laughlin’s Lodging Hospitality Management, its new owners gave the building a major overhaul.

Most notable among the $20+ million in improvements made to the hotel is addition of an impressive conference center and ballroom with a wall of windows overlooking the Arch and Old Courthouse. The new addition extends all the way to Market Street and wraps around the Broadway side of the building. It’s sleek, blends in well with the original structure and interacts well with the street. The views are stunning as well.

As I was admiring the Hilton recently, it occurred to me that many of its design cues bear a striking resemblance to the Mercantile Library complex a few blocks south. The color of the Hilton’s addition is fairly similar, as are the windows. The corner entry at Broadway and Market is nearly identical to the Mercantile Library’s entrance at Sixth and Locust. So, for a little preview of just how stunning the Mercantile Library complex could look, take a look at the Ballpark Hilton.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Solution for the Mercantile Library Complex

The Mercantile Library Building is actually six interconnected buildings that have been reskinned to give a cohesive appearance. In my opinion, the redevelopment of this building/these buildings is among the most critical projects left to be undertaken, due to the sheer size of the complex – almost an entire city block – and its highly visible location.

But maybe keeping the buildings together is hindering their development. So, to encourage the redevelopment of these buildings, perhaps Spinnaker – the owner of the Mercantile Library complex – could sell off the complex piece by piece, as individual buildings. The buildings could be sold to different developers or sold off one at a time to a single developer like LoftWorks, with options to purchase additional buildings after rehab work is completed. Actually, one of the complex's buildings has already been sold off and renovated - it's the one right next to the LaSalle Building that is the home of Paradowski Graphic Design until the firm moves to its new home on Locust closer to the Tap Room.

For example:

Buildings one, two and three are the largest of the bunch and take up the corner of Broadway and Locust. It might be best to keep these three together and renovate them as office space with first floor retail space. The large floor plates should be attractive to both types of user. There is a prominent entrance on Broadway, with a secondary entrance on Locust.

Buildings four and five line Sixth Street, facing Macy’s. Each has its own entrance; Building four’s entrance is right at the corner of Sixth and Locust and is particularly appealing. These two buildings are fairly slender and might be better suited for residential use.

Building six is a tiny, five-story building facing Olive that could be easily renovated as live/work space. It might be hard to work first floor retail into this building due to its small size. This building might also be fairly easy to restore to its original appearance before it was recladded.

Even under separate ownership, maybe a deal could be reached with the new owners to allow General Growth Properties to handle the leasing of the ground floor retail spaces as originally proposed in the exciting Mercantile Exchange project proposed by Pyramid in 2007.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

"Can-Do" Spirit

As an avid reader of the Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Business Journal over the years, I’ve noticed that a gentleman named Richard Ontiveros has consistently submitted great letters to the editor. It’s always nice to see someone who gets it. Here is his most recent letter to the Post-Dispatch. I couldn’t agree more – cities like Charlotte, Houston, etc. all embody the “can-do” spirit that St. Louis needs to embrace:

St. Louis lacks a "can-do" spirit

I enjoyed Bill McClellan's column "Business leadership style steals success from St. Louis" (Sept. 19). I have been trying for years to get corporate leaders to realize their role in the vitality of downtown St. Louis (or lack thereof).

Billions of dollars have been invested in revitalizing our central business district, which has gained global recognition. But when it comes to jobs and office space, businesses prefer to go to Clayton, west St. Louis County or elsewhere. The trend has been to hold the city hostage for tax incentives and perks under the threat of leaving the area. What civic pride.

It's not that there is a lack of money in St. Louis to push this city into the limelight, but there is a lack of corporate leadership and commitment. There is no "can-do" attitude in this city. We prefer to be conservative and smug about not suffering the highs and lows that risk-taking cities sometimes experience.

This area has minimal growth in jobs and population. We continue to take one step forward and two steps back. We could be so much more, yet we sell ourselves short of that chance. We have a delusional notion that we are an important city. How many corporate headquarters have we lost? How many of our companies have been sellers rather than buyers? We don't even have non-stop flights to London or anywhere in Europe, let alone Asia or South America.

Whenever I mention building a new monument on the western end of the Gateway Mall — "The Spirit of St. Louis," commemorating our city's heritage in aviation and aerospace — I'm looked at with disdain.

Times change, but we don't. The last time this city was prominent was when we had the audacity to have a World's Fair in 1904 and the business community had the chutzpah to invest in the crazy idea of a transatlantic flight to Paris. That never would happen today.

Richard Ontiveros | St. Louis County

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Achieving Balance

Back in 2005, Jack Carl’s 2 Cents Plain delicatessen closed its doors after 40 years in business downtown. In a Post-Dispatch article about the closing, Carl referred to downtown as “done-town” and said, "They keep kicking out the businessman to put up lofts. Now, there's no one around to buy lunch."

At the time, I dismissed his comments as the ramblings of a crotchety old man who was unable or unwilling to keep up with the changes taking place around him. But as I took a walk around downtown the other day, it occurred to me…

He actually had a decent point.

Starting with the demolition of the Ambassador Building at 7th and Locust in 1996, several prominent downtown office buildings have been demolished or decommissioned:

Ambassador Building – Demolished for U.S. Bank’s “driveway”
Arcade Building – Slated for loft conversion, in limbo after Pyramid's demise
Century Building – Demolished for parking garage
Chemical Building – Converted to lofts
Farm & Home Savings Association – Currently vacant, but slated for renovation as office space
Fur Exchange Building – Converted to hotel
General American Building – Vacant
Louderman Building – Converted to lofts
Marquette Building – Converted to lofts
Marquette Annex – Demolished for parking garage
Mercantile Library Building – Attempted conversion to telcom hotel, now vacant
Merchants Exchange Building – Converted to hotel
Paul Brown Building – Converted to lofts
School Board Building – Converted to lofts
Syndicate Trust Building – Converted to lofts
Union Pacific Building – Slated for loft conversion
210 North Tucker – Converted to telcom hotel (few workers)

The majority of these buildings are located in the central and western portions of the CBD. While many new modern office buildings were constructed in the 60s-80s, they have largely been concentrated in the eastern and southern portions of the CBD. And while the loft conversions have breathed new life into so many historic, but functionally obsolete office buildings, there are now relatively few office buildings in the central and western portions. These areas now lack the daytime population needed to sustain a successful mix of businesses. The loft dwellers cannot shoulder the responsibility for the downtown renaissance by themselves; a truly revitalized downtown requires a proper balance of workers and residents.

There is hope for the western portion of the CBD though: its vacant lots. The massive parking lots at 11th and Locust/St. Charles and 11th and Pine/Olive are among the best prospective building sites downtown – new office buildings on either of those sites would go a long way toward balancing out the office/residential mix in the area and give it more stability.

Arcade Status?

What's going on with the redevelopment of the Arcade Building? According to the Post-Dispatch a few months back, developer Keith Barket was considering taking it on.

Barket holds the second deed of trust on the Arcade, and was the one who sold it to John Steffen of Pyramid. He has been involved with the Arcade since 1979 when he was part of a group that bought the land under the building.

Barket is talking with Chicago-based Centrum Partners (which, with his son Sol Barket, was part of the Crestwood Plaza deal), some joint ventures and local investors.

"The development can be done somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million," said Barket. "Whatever is done will have to be redrawn, and it would have to go dormant about a year because of the financing atmosphere."

Apparently other sources have said that the Roberts Brothers have expressed interest as well. By taking on the Arcade, they would certainly help protect their other interests in Old Post Office Square - the Orpheum, the Mayfair, Roberts Tower, Roberts Lofts and the planned Hotel Indigo.

Steffen's $132 million plan had called for 40,000 square feet of retail, condominiums and office space.

I just hope that something is happening behind the scenes. This is the type of project that could really help move downtown forward, especially from a retail perspective. It and the Chemical Building (Alexa) are the two remaining undeveloped buildings in Old Post Office Square. The good thing for any developer willing to step up to the plate is that a sizeable portion of interior demolition and other pre-construction work has already been performed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Losing a Pointless Plaza, Gaining Another Garage

There has been a lot of discussion in urbanist circles recently about the new parking garage that will soon be sprouting up adjacent to the U.S. Bank Building at 7th and Locust. The garage will be built on the site of the pointless “urban plaza” that took the place of the beautiful and stately Ambassador Building.

The general sentiment surrounding the new garage seems to be negative, which is justifiable. However, while a parking garage would not be my first choice of uses for that site, I contend that it’s not the end of the world. The good news:

-Thompson Coburn is not only staying downtown, it’s staying in the U.S. Bank Building. This will help keep the “musical chairs” game to a minimum.

-The garage will make the U.S. Bank Building and other nearby office buildings such as One Financial Plaza, the Railway Exchange and any future redevelopment of St. Louis Centre more marketable to prospective tenants.

-The garage will hopefully make the surface parking lot at the southwest corner of 7th and Locust more attractive for redevelopment, either for office or residential use.

-Ground floor retail will be included in the design, which will add some life to a fairly dead stretch of Locust.

It’s time to come to terms with the fact that we are getting another garage downtown and push for a smart, attractive design – something more along the lines of the Century garage. And at the same time, the line on construction of new garages needs to be drawn here, with an emphasis placed on attracting businesses and redeveloping problem properties and surface lots to add density. It’s critical that the gaping wound of downtown that is St. Louis Centre be redeveloped and new tenants brought in to occupy the office space in the Railway Exchange that has been vacated by Macy’s.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Random Observations, 11/3/08

Workers were performing what appeared to be some exterior cleaning at The 411. It looked like one of the dingy panels under one of the windows was being scrubbed to reveal the bright blue color under layers of dirt.

The Chinese restaurant in the first floor of The 411 is moving to a vacant retail space in the parking garage at 1120 Locust. It's an odd semi-subterranean space last occupied by the "City Cafe and Market." Chinese restaurants generally seem to be pretty resilient and able to succeed in strange locations, so I'm sure this one will do well in its new home.

Work continues on the exterior of 1015 Locust, and it appears that the white sections are going to be painted black, giving the facade an all-black appearance. Should be an improvement.

There is an Athlete's Foot store in the first floor retail space in the Globe Building on Tucker. I'm not sure when it opened, but it must have opened fairly recently, as I don't recall seeing it before.

The usually meticulously maintained plantings in front of the Renaissance Hotel are looking a bit shabby. Many planters are missing plants, and some of the plants look like someone tried to rip them out, with exposed roots. I hope this isn't an indication of the hotel's financial problems.

The building that housed Creepy Crawl and most recently Gus's Fashions is getting a facelift. It looks like the facade is being skimmed with stucco. I'm interested to see the final product. I believe a vet's office will be opening in the building.

From what I can tell, no progress is being made at the burnt-out Copia space.

There appears to be some sort of build-out taking place in the former Baseline Gallery space in the Vanguard Lofts at 1110 Washington. There's no indication as to who the tenant is though. Looks like there's some sort of refrigerator case by the window.

The Old Post Office Plaza is rapidly changing. A large steel frame has been erected at the northern end of the plaza - looks like the framework for the video screen. Lots of large trees have been brought in for planting at the eastern end, and small plants and shrubs are waiting to be planted at the western end.

Doesn't look like much is going on in the Left Bank Books space, but it's sounding like they're still on track for an opening later this month.

I really hope the Roberts Brothers reconsider their plans to demolish 917 and 923 Locust. These buildings add more to the streetscape than meets the eye at first glance, and their loss - especially at the expense of a driveway for their planned hotel - will really detract from an area that is just now starting to get stronger. I still question the need for another hotel in the first place, but that's another story.

City Pet Supply is now open in the Tudor Building at 1915. It's a great little store with everything a pet lover could want. I hope downtown's pet owning population gives them plenty of business.

With all of the development that's taken place downtown in the last few years, I'm surprised that HRI hasn't been able to lease the 2,000+ sf first floor retail space at the northwestern corner of the Merchandise Mart. It's a great space in a great location.

Foresight Needed

Looks like the loss of Armstrong Teasdale and/or Husch & Eppenberger to Clayton could have been averted with a little foresight.

From the January 30, 1998 edition of the Business Journal

Sources said Armstrong Teasdale is interested in approximately 175,000 square feet in the Cupples property facing and behind Clark Street, across from the new federal courthouse. The firm is looking at either building new or combining rehabbed space with new construction, according to those close to the project. Husch & Eppenberger is also said to be interested in having offices at Cupples, but a lawyer there said the decision is at least a year away.

Downtown needs more quality office space so that this kind of thing does not happen again. How did we let these two firms slip away like this?