Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It Takes a Village...

It’s sounding like we’re a little closer to seeing something built on the urban prairie next to Busch Stadium as the Board of Alderman has approved $188 million in subsidies for Ballpark Village.

So what will Ballpark Village bring us? The first part of the development is a new office tower that will be home to Stifel Nicolaus and Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus. Stifel Nicolaus is already located downtown, so this move will not result in any net gain for downtown. However, it will enable the rapidly-growing firm to continue to expand and give it the exposure that comes with a prominent location. If Lewis Rice takes Stifel’s space in One Financial Plaza, there would be no hit to downtown’s Class A vacancy rate.

Polsinelli’s commitment is a great thing. The firm currently leases space downtown and in Clayton and could have easily consolidated its offices in Clayton instead of downtown. If only Husch Blackwell had done the same thing, but I digress.

Overall, I think it’s clear that the new office building will be good for downtown.

That brings us to the retail component of Ballpark Village. Cordish claims to have commitments for some of the planned 325,000 sf of space, but won’t divulge any details. The proposed Cardinals Hall of Fame should be a great addition to downtown – a fun attraction that could be a year-round draw. Otherwise it’s sounding like the rest will be a typical pre-fab entertainment district that will leave much to be desired. Cordish’s developments throughout the country largely feature the same roster of schlocky chain concept bars and restaurants.

It’s likely a safe bet that Ballpark Village will likely feature establishments such as Maker’s Mark, Flying Saucer, Gordon Biersch, and z that can already be found at Kansas City’s Power and Light District, Louisville’s Fourth Street Live! and other Cordish developments. The result is a cookie-cutter “bar mall” that is not at all unique. Even the glass-roofed plaza is part of the Power and Light District.

Will any local businesses be a part of Ballpark Village? I’m concerned that the development’s chain bars and restaurants could potentially harm nearby existing, locally-owned businesses such as J. Buck’s, Mercury and others. Also, if Cordish lures Lucky Strike Lanes – a tenant common to many Cordish developments – to Ballpark Village, it could steal business from Joe Edwards’ Flamingo Bowl on Washington.

Had Centene not pulled out of Ballpark Village, I would be a LOT more excited about it. Instead, when Centene instead opted to progress with its original plans for a new office building in Clayton, they caused the development to stall, kept the city from gaining 1,200 jobs and a 27-story office tower, AND caused Armstrong Teasdale to leave downtown. I’m surprised they didn’t knock down the Arch and set fire to city hall while they were at it. Thanks for the help, Centene.

I’d also be more excited if Ballpark Village contained a residential component as originally planned. Despite the current economic conditions, I think the unique location of Ballpark Village would still be a very attractive site for condos or apartments.

Personally, I’d rather see the xx-block Ballpark Village site developed organically, by different developers as opposed to allowing Cordish free reign over the entire site.


Mr. said...

I would like to see the old Gen America building turned into a satellite campus of SLAM . By creating a attraction you'd have zone of activity extending from the future BPV towards Market and the new sculpture park begin finished.

Brian said...

I think that is a fantastic idea.

Steve said...


I'd like to see Rawlings, a St. Louis-headquartered company, ditch Maryville Centre and lease space in BPV. How cool would it be seeing giant Rawlings signage from Busch Stadium? They could even incorporate street-level retail space to attract fans down there for games. (Louisville Slugger does this)