Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jazz Club to Occupy Former Red Moon Space

According to Joe Whittington of the Post-Dispatch, a jazz venue - the St. Louis Jazz Café - is slated to open in the former Red Moon space in the Terra Cotta Lofts building at 1501 Locust.

The café will open in March and will be run by Arnold and Aundra Charleston.

Arnold Charleston said the new spot would have live entertainment three or four nights a week, and maybe a Sunday jazz brunch. The rest of the week will consist of local talent and streaming smooth jazz from the Internet.

"Once a week we'll get a headliner, and I've been talking with Erin Bode and Tim Cunningham," said Arnold Charleston.
I've heard that jazz clubs are challenging to run, so I wish the club's owners the best of luck. It will definitely be great to fill the void left by Red Moon.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Danna McKitrick Should Have Considered Downtown

Clayton-based Danna McKitrick, the 28th largest law firm in St. Louis, is moving its offices to 23,000 sf in the Pierre Laclede Center. The firm is moving from 17,700 sf at 150 N. Meramec. At the asking rental rate of $24.50 psf at Pierre Laclede, the deal is worth an estimated $5.6 million over the span of the 10-year lease.

Unfortunately for Danna McKitrick, had the firm considered downtown, it could have realized some nice cost savings at any of these Class A buildings that currently have large enough vacancies to accomodate them:

Equitable Building - $21.00 psf
One Financial Plaza - $21.00 psf
One City Centre - $18.50 psf
Bank of America Tower - $18.00 psf
St. Louis Place - $15.00-$16.00 psf

In a B/B+ building like 500 N. Broadway, the cost savings would be even more significant.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Forum Up, Productivity Down

Just a quick note: After going down for a few days due to server/software issues, the Urban St. Louis forum - - is back up and running again. Whew!

1500 Washington For Lease

RileyWaldrop has the listing on one of my favorite downtown buildings, 1500 Washington. Situated in the heart of the Loft District, this building is being marketed as restaurant space, for which it would be perfectly suited.

It features 3,500-7,000 sf available at $22 psf. It would be great to have another dining option on Washington Avenue while saving this unique little building.

1500 Washington

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I'm going to be taking a few days off from blogging, so happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

HDR Inc. Moves Downtown From Maryland Heights!

A nice early Christmas present for downtown boosters: HDR Inc., an architectural, engineering and consulting firm, is moving to downtown St. Louis from Maryland Heights! The firm has leased 11,400 square feet in Union Square Plaza, at 326 S. 21st Street and will move into its new home in February.

Space in HDR's current building leases for $20.00 psf, whereas space in Union Square Plaza goes for $14.00 psf, representing a nice cost savings in addition to more interesting office space and a great location. After HDR's lease, the 50,000 sf building now has just 814-5,413 sf available.

Tom Bajardi of Sansone Group is the leasing agent - (314) 727-6664

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shop Local - Stop the Insanity

Fox 2 aired a story last night about holiday shoppers at West County Mall. Apparently, many shoppers drove around the parking lots and garages for up to an hour in search of a parking spot. Made me glad I knocked out all of my shopping downtown - a completely stress-free experience.

Sure, West County has some great stores, but here in the St. Louis area, we're also blessed with a plethora of great local retailers. Maybe stories like these will convince people to check out locally-owned retailers instead of battling the malls. When you're wasting an hour in the parking lot, is it really all that convenient? Obviously, I'm impartial to downtown retailers, but supporting local stores throughout the region has a much greater benefit to us all.

In today's economy, it's the local stores that need - and appreciate - your business more than ever.

Ford Plaza Renovation Greenlit

Some rare good news on the residential front: The redevelopment of the Ford Plaza Apartments has been approved to receive $900,000 in TIF assistance as part of an $11.5 million plan that will include 39 rental apartments and first-floor retail.

Peter George's Blue Shutters Development will be taking on the renovation of the 14-story high-rise; work is expected to begin in the spring and take approximately one year.

Montgomery Bank, which took over ownership from Matt Burghoff this past summer, will be financing the project.

The Ford should make a nice bookend for the Park Pacific project that's currently underway two blocks to the east. The two buildings are separated by a one-block park that is slated to receive improvements soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Flux Capacitor...Fluxing

Let's go back in time, to November 1968. This picture was taken at the corner of 7th and Washington on the day after Thanksgiving, 40 years ago. I LOVE this picture; I find myself staring at it all the time.

Having been downtown on the day after Thanksgiving this year and the last few years, I can attest that there were a lot fewer people on the streets than there were 40 years ago. This year, the vast majority of the people I saw downtown were there to attend the Show-Me Bowl high school state championship football games at the Edward Jones Dome. It was enough to add a little life to the streets, but certainly nothing like the picture above.

When I think about the future of downtown and how I'd like for it to look and feel, this is what I want.

How do we get back to this point?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Everybody Loves UMA

According to Deb Peterson's column in the Post-Dispatch, Mike Finan's Urban Materials and Accessories (UMA) at 11th and Locust has been getting a lot of attention - and business - these days. Apparently the store's web site has some high-profile fans!

The site was featured last Friday on the Today Show's holiday gift list segment, and it was spotlighted again Monday on Isaac Mizrahi's webisode series on holiday gift giving. December was the second month for to be included on Oprah's "O List." Finan says he's thrilled with the attention and that he can now be found in the Shipping and Receiving Department filling the orders!

UMA is a great store and the perfect place to do a little last-minute holiday shopping!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

12th Street Animal Hospital

The 12th Street Animal Hospital and Boutique is now open at 412 N. Tucker and has a great web site.

12th Street is the only full-service veterinary hospital serving downtown, Soulard, Benton Park and Lafayette Square. In addition to veterinary care, they also offer doggie day care, grooming, dog walking, pet sitting, pet supplies and even a "boutique hotel" for cats.

Wtih City Pet Supply at 1915 Washington and now 12th Street Animal Hospital and Boutique, downtown pet owners should have everything they need!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Open Letter to John Steffen

Dear Mr. Steffen:

These are tough times, as you know better than anyone else. But tough times call for tough people.

I’m sure that plenty of people told you that you were crazy over the course of your career; you weren’t. You were just unafraid to dream big, which is something that a lot of people in this city are unable to do. You envisioned St. Louis as “Paris on the Mississippi,” and thanks to your hard work, that vision was becoming a reality.

You’ve left an indelible mark on this city, and the projects that you completed on Washington Avenue and in the Old Post Office District have made downtown a much more vibrant, exciting place to work and live. Hopefully, the projects you began, such as the Mercantile Exchange and Arcade Building, will come to fruition under new developers and I hope you'll return to take on new projects of your own.

I obviously don’t know the specifics of your personal financial situation, but I trust that you’ll bounce back as you always have when faced with adversity.

I sincerely hope we haven’t heard the last of John Steffen. St. Louis needs more people like you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fireman's Fund - Why Not Downtown?

According to Joe Whittington's column in the Post-Dispatch, Fireman's Fund Insurance has dropped its plans to relocate its offices from Earth City to a new 100,000 sf building in Winghaven. The company is looking to renew its lease in its current location.

My question is, why not downtown? (I'm a broken record, I know.)

500 N. Broadway ($14.50 psf) would be a great choice if Lewis Rice decides to move. As would the former United Way building at 1111 Olive. And if Fireman's Fund is looking for Class A space, One City Centre has plenty of it at only $18.50 psf.

The Sherwood Medical Building at 1915 Olive would be another great option - Over 100,000 sf available at just $15.50 psf, and in a more "campus-like" building if Fireman's Fund thinks it absolutely has to have a suburban-style office building.

And with Metro about to drastically cut service outside of 270, places like Earth City and O'Fallon are about to become a lot less accessible.

Give downtown a chance!

Monday, December 15, 2008

More Musical Chairs

Joe Whittington of the Post-Dispatch is reporting that Lewis Rice may be interested in taking Stifel Nicolaus' space in One Financial Plaza once that firm moves to Ballpark Village in 2011. Lewis Rice signed an 18-month lease extension at 500 N. Broadway, buying the firm extra time to fully consider its options.

Stifel currently leases floors 7, 8 and 9 as well as part of the fifth and first floors.

Such a move would certainly be great for One Financial Plaza, but would create a massive vacancy at 500 N. Broadway, one that would be difficult to fill.

The building is currently 58% occupied, with four full floors currently vacant. LaBarge Pipe & Steel, McGlynn & Luther, Castle Law Office, Daedalus Capital, Beneficial Capital Leasing, Lord & Taylor and 3001 Inc. are among the major tenants at 500 N. Broadway.

500 N. Broadway is currently up for sale, offered at $16,500,000 ($58/psf). Perhaps a new owner could bring an infusion of new tenants to make up for the loss of Lewis Rice. The availability of Lewis Rice's current space, combined with the current vacancies, would offer a great opportunity for a tenant looking for a huge block of space at a low rate.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Left Bank Books Now Open!

In a day and age of Amazon, Borders, Wal-Mart, Kindles and other competition for your book-buying dollar, the intrepid souls at Left Bank Books have opened their new store downtown, at 10th and Locust.

While the economy and the market for book retailers are both tough, fortunately, LoftWorks' Craig Heller is providing Left Bank's 6,000 sf space rent free for three years, giving the store time to achieve profitability. I had a chance to check out the store on its first day in business, and it is fantastic. The space is loft-like, with huge windows. Employees were still hard at work stocking the shelves, so I look forward to stopping back in next week, when the store is fully up and running.

From the St. Louis Beacon:

Heller...hopes the addition of a book store will add to the fledgling neighborhood's "walkable" atmosphere. He said he likes the fact that the shop will be an independent one, too, he said, rather than a chain.

"When you walk in, you're going to know the people behind the counter, and they're going to know you," Heller said. "You don't get that in a 30,000-square-foot store."

This is an extremely important - and exciting - development for downtown. A bookstore is something the downtown retail scene has been sorely lacking since the Waldenbooks in St. Louis Centre and the B. Dalton in Union Station both shuttered.

Now that we have our bookstore, what's next? What other retailers does downtown need at this point? Personally, I'm hoping for a Walgreen's. Boring, yes, but needed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

St. Louis Design Center

The Roberts Brothers’ plans to open a Hotel Indigo at 917 Locust got me thinking about that building’s most recent use, as the St. Louis Design Center. I was familiar with the building primarily due to the fact that the Landmarks Association and Art St. Louis were located there up until this year.

Apparently, the St. Louis Design Center was intended as a smaller scale version of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, a one-stop shop for interior designers and architects and their clients.

The 12-story, 60,000 sf building, originally a warehouse for Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney department store, was repositioned and became home to furniture and lighting showrooms, art galleries and even an open-to-the-public artists’ supply shop. Knoll International, an office furniture and furnishings company, was the first tenant, establishing its showroom on the 11th floor.

The Design Center opened in 1986 and was founded by Paul McKee, president of Paric Construction, and a group of limited partners. Mike Murphy was hired as the center’s director and Sharon Derry was the creative director.

Back then, the building was a hub of activity, hosting a constant stream of exhibitions, shows and seminars. It sounds like it was an incredibly cool resource to have downtown.

Would it be possible for the St. Louis Design Center to make a comeback in another location downtown? Of course, I can think of plenty of potential sites that would be perfect for it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NGAGE Preleases Full Floor in The 411

Somehow, in my last update on Loftworks' latest project - The 411 - I missed this little nugget of information from the Business Journal:

Advertising firm NGAGE has preleased a full floor, or about 9,000 square feet, of the building, according to agency President and CEO Dan Curran. NGAGE currently leases space at 1141 S. Seventh St., and targets Dec. 1 to move to The 411. NGAGE expects about $3 million in '08 revenue and will have grown from its current 16 employees to about 20 by that time, Curran said.

1411 S. Seventh Street is Disper Schmitt's Art of Living Building, BTW.

When researching NGAGE, I came across another local firm - Engage Software - which is currently based in Des Peres. A software firm like Engage could use some cool office space like that in The 411. Maybe they could lease a floor or two and make it the Engage/NGAGE Building!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Check Out This View

I've written a handful of posts on the odd little Mansion House office building at 335 N. Fourth Street.

This building has been vacant for decades, and with good reason, frankly. The poor design of the Mansion House complex leaves this building sitting atop a parking garage, completely detached from Fourth Street. It does have street-level access at Memorial Drive, but Memorial is not exactly pedestrian-friendly.

On the other hand, being situated atop a garage means that the building offers abundant parking. It also features great visibility from Memorial Drive. But its real selling point, for any tenant who doesn't mind the building's flaws, is its views...

Check out this picture taken by Steve Patterson at the recent riverfront/Arch grounds design charrette held in the vacant office space. Look past the dated decor - that can be easily updated - and you'll see that this building offers amazing views of the Arch grounds. I'd love to have this view.

335 N. Fourth Street currently offers 18,500 sf of space, with lease rate and tenant finish negotiable - I'm guessing this space could be had at a very nice rate. It would work well for office tenants, but might also be a good spot for a restaurant as well.

Rob Berneking of AH Realty Advisors is the listing agent - (314) 773-1700 x114,

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Little Love from the P-D

My recent post on starting a microbrewery incubator was mentioned on Jeremiah McWilliams' Lager Heads blog on STLToday.

Thanks for reading! I hope this does not mean that my 15 minutes of fame are up though!

What Would Santa Do?

With the holidays just around the corner, now is the perfect time to patronize downtown businesses - the easiest way for everyone to do their part to revitalize downtown St. Louis.

Why buy books from the Ann Arbor-based Borders or New York-based Barnes & Noble when you can shop at the new ST. LOUIS-based Left Bank Books on 10th Street or the incredibly unique AIA Bookstore on Washington Avenue?

Thinking about ordering a gift basket from Oregon-based Harry & David? Why not check out what ST. LOUIS-based City Grocers has to offer?

What about Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel? Try English Living, UMA, Niche, Salt of the Earth and other home furnishings stores.

"He went to Jared?" Forget that. He should have gone to Hamilton Jewelers at 8th and Locust.

Downtown now features so many UNIQUE shops and boutiques that you should be able to find something for everyone on your shopping list - gifts you can't find anywhere else. And to supplement your local shopping efforts, there's also the downtown Macy's at 6th and Olive, which makes for a fun experience. The window displays are up and they look fantastic.

Why deal with the hassles of the mall when you can come downtown, do your shopping, have lunch and make a fun day out of it.

WWSD? What would Santa do? Shop downtown, of course! These businesses need your help now more than ever.

Some resources to help you get started:

Friday, December 05, 2008

One City Centre

A little over six months ago, SCR Investments took over ownership of One City Centre after Pyramid Construction started missing its loan payments on the building.

SCR is led by Stacy Hastie, who is also chairman and chief executive of Environmental Operations Inc. Environmental Operations was one of Pyramid's creditors, loaning the developer more than $7 million.

When SCR took ownership of the property, they stated plans to immediately invest an undisclosed amount of money to "update and enhance the facility and attract new tenants." SCR hired Matt O'Leary from Pyramid to handle the development.

Several tenants have left the building in recent months. A-B moved to Sunset Hills and is currently sub-leasing the space it leased there, so their space would be vacant now anyway. Cannon moved its offices to the historic power house it renovated in the Cupples Station area. Losing those tenants brought the building's vacancy rate to 65 percent. Then, Herzog Crebs signed a lease at the Bank of America Tower, bringing the vacancy rate further down.

To my knowledge, no work has been performed on the building, but I hope SCR can get its plans moving forward and attract some new tenants.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My Idea: A Microbrewery Incubator

A few weeks ago, I had a post about O'Fallon Brewery and why it should locate its brewery downtown. I still think it's a good idea, if anyone from O'Fallon is reading this.

Anyway, writing that post got me thinking about St. Louis' role as a brewing center, especially in light of InBev's takeover of Anheuser-Busch. How can we maintain and build upon our reputation as a "beer city?"

My idea is to establish a microbrewery incubator in downtown St. Louis. The incubator would consist of:

-Bulk warehouse space for production, packaging and storage. The incubator's tenants would be able to rent brewing equipment, instead of having to provide an outlay of capital to purchase it themselves.

-A business office with in-house professionals to assist brewers with marketing, finance and other functions as well as the art of brewing itself. Professionals would help the tenants find their own space once they've outgrown the incubator.

-A restaurant/brewpub that will sell the tenants' beers and feature them in its menu items. The profits would help subsidize the facility and provide the tenants with income.

-An education center to teach homebrewing - to help encourage the next generation of brewing - sell supplies, offer a "beer school" for anyone interested in learning more about beer and brewing.

-A market to sell the tenants' beer and merchandise.

-Small museum to highlight St. Louis' brewing history - A-B, Lemp, Griesedieck, Falstaff, Schlafly, etc. Even though we want the emphasis to be on the FUTURE of St. Louis brewing, it's important to appreciate and honor past and present brewers.

-Maybe even a small agriculture center to learn more about growing hops, barley, grain, etc. to encourage local production of beer ingredients as well as to explore green/sustainable methods of production - perhaps the facility could have its own turbine or solar panels to help provide its own power.

I don't know enough about brewing to know if something like this is possible, but thought it just might be crazy enough to work.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Back to the Drawing Board for the Hotel Indigo

The Roberts Brothers’ architects – Killeen Studio, who has done some great work all over St. Louis – have gone back to the drawing board and come up with a revised rendering for the entrance to the proposed Hotel Indigo on Locust.

The new rendering is a significant improvement over the original – an open driveway that would have been horrible for the streetscape.

That said, it’s still not an improvement over what’s there right now – a three-story, Tudor-style building dating back 118 years(!!) at 921 Locust and a four-story building at 917 Locust that dates back almost 100 years. According to a recent article in the Post-Dispatch:

Steve Roberts said the company considered incorporating 921 Locust into the hotel until they discovered its wooden beam construction of 1916 doesn't comply with modern earthquake-resistant building codes.

Sorry, I’m not buying it.
Another obstacle was 921's floor levels, which are mismatches for the adjoining 917 Locust, which was built in 1913.

I would refer to 555 Washington for an example of how to combine adjoining, mismatched buildings into a single interior space. It can be done with a little creativity. I think Killeen Studio could pull this off.
Roberts said the design might still change slightly, depending on the requirements of state and federal building preservation officials who control the tax credits the brothers plan to seek for the project.

As a poster on Urban St. Louis pointed out, should tax credits really be administered for a project that involves the demolition of two historic structures? The Preservation Board has already approved the project, but I implore the Roberts Brothers two save these two small, but important structures and either incorporate them into the hotel design or preserve them and renovate them for other uses.

Couldn’t the hotel just take up the St. Louis Design Center building?

Monday, December 01, 2008

1424 Washington For Sale

Another opportunity in the loft district - 1424 Washington is listed for sale. This three-story, 13,500 sf building is well suited for office or residential reuse.

The building is listed at $875,000 ($64.81 psf), and Patrick McKay of Hilliker is the listing agent - (314) 781-0001.