Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Downtown Housing Update

The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis issued its latest report on the downtown housing market. Here is a quick rundown on the report's findings:

  • The downtown population grew over 6% to 11,854 in 2008.
  • The 55-unit Roberts Tower, scheduled to open in 2010, is currently the only condominium property under construction or in development.
  • Of all of Pyramid’s downtown projects under development – The Arcade, The Concord, The Jefferson Arms, The Laurel and the Leather Trades, only the Laurel is currently projected to move forward within the next year.
  • Over 400 apartments were added to the downtown market in 2008, the largest increase in the past ten years with the exception of 2006.
  • This includes nearly 200 units that originally opened as condominiums in 2007 and converted to apartments in the second half of the year.
  • Despite the increase in apartment units, apartment occupancy for properties open a full year actually increased from 88% to 90%.
  • Several developers to have converted unsold inventories of completed condominiums into apartments. This change in use allowed developers to not only adjust to market conditions but also to take financial advantage of Federal Historic Tax Credits (condominium projects do not qualify).
  • The limited supply of new condominiums available means that downtown should be well positioned when the economy recovers and the market for condominiums returns.
  • There will also be a ready inventory of high quality rental units in recently developed properties that are prepared to convert quickly from apartments back to condominiums as the market dictates.
  • The same changes that have corrected a potential oversupply of condominiums could also create a potential short term oversupply of apartments pending development of several large mixed-use projects that have shifted from condo to apartment properties.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kiel Opera House Update

The St. Louis Beacon has an update on the proposed redevelopment of the Kiel Opera House by Dave Checketts' SCP Worldwide and McEagle Properties.

Both the developers and city officials seem optimistic that this project will finally become a reality, after almost 20 years of waiting.

According to the article:
Although many details are still under wraps, a spokesman at SCP confirmed this week that what's being talked about includes the Opera House's 3,500-seat main auditorium, four smaller adjoining assembly rooms, and perhaps the old Kiel Club area in part of a large exhibition space on a lower level.
Let's hope that a deal can be struck soon so that construction can commence. It would be incredibly exciting to see this landmark performance space open once again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Poor Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 3/27

It looks like the owners of the Mansion House are finally making an effort to market this vacant retail space. The "Happy Holidays" sign that had been in the window for years has been removed and it looks like the space has been cleaned up. Realty Exchange is the new listing agent.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poor Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 3/26

I love this little sliver of a building on Olive, between Broadway and 6th. It's actually part of the Mercantile Library complex.

If I had my own business, I would locate it here. It's got to be a relatively easy rehab.

NGAGE Moves Into The 411

I meant to post this earlier...

Last month, marketing agency NGAGE moved into its new home in The 411, the former Farm & Home Savings Association Building at 10th and Locust. Not only are the building and the office space itself built to LEED standards, the firm is committed to being as environmentally-friendly as possible - very cool! The firm is even providing bike storage and showers, and will be participating in Enterprise Rent-A-Car's WeCar program.

According to the firm:
Everything about NGAGE’s new office space in the 411 indicates that it is an agency for a new age - and it looks more like an Apple store than the set of “Mad Men.” Most employees use laptops and iPhones. Closed-in offices are eschewed for more open and shared spaces that foster collaboration and creativity.
Downtown needs more firms like this!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poor Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 3/25

I've grown to appreciate the mid-century modern design of 500 N. Broadway.

I just wish its owners would spruce it up a little at street level. Some trees and other greenery would do wonders for this building.

Two Downtown Companies Expanding

Good news for two downtown companies:

Stifel Nicolaus is growing its nationwide footprint by acquiring 55 branch offices and 320 financial advisors from UBS Financial Services Inc.

Ralcorp Holdings Inc. has acquired Harvest Manor Farms, a manufacturer of private label and Hoody's branded snack nuts with annual sales of $180 million.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Record-Setting Attendance for the NCAA Wrestling Championships

According to the Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Sports Commission did another fantastic job hosting the NCAA Wrestling Championships. The six sessions drew a total of 97,111 fans, setting an attendance record for the event. The estimated economic impact for St. Louis is $14 million.

St. Louis has hosted the event five times this decade and owns the four top attendance totals — 97,111 this year, 96,944 in 2000, 95,459 in 2005 and 94,324 in 2008.

Sounds like a compelling case for the NCAA to make St. Louis the permanent site of this event!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Poor Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 3/23

The northwest corner of the Mercantile Library complex, by Macy's and the defunct St. Louis Centre. Wouldn't this be a great site for retail and office space?

St. Vincent DePaul Purchases Former Wachovia Securities Building

According to the Business Journal, the Society of St. Vincent DePaul has purchased Wachovia Securities' former training building, the three-story, 36,000 sf office building at 100 N. Jefferson. The building was listed for $1.8 million and purchased for $1.2 million and will be home to the nonprofit's administrative offices.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Poor Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 3/20

Work continues on the Roberts Tower and Old Post Office Square.

Wrestling at the Scott

The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are currently underway at the Scottrade Center, bringing with them almost 100,000 visitors who will have an economic impact of approximately $10 million. I've noticed wrestling fans all over downtown and even some of the wrestlers themselves, jogging around downtown in an attempt to cut weight.

I'm sure that Frank Viverito and the St. Louis Sports Commission are working hard to ensure that this event will be another great success story for St. Louis and help make a case for St. Louis to become the permanent home of the Championships. Hopefully, they'll be successful - it would be huge for the city.

If you have the time, stop by and take in some matches - you'll be impressed by the awesome displays of athleticism and the passion of the fans.

Downtown Economic Stimulus

Elaine Viets had a great commentary on KWMU Wednesday about how everyday citizens can help ensure the survival of their favorite - local - businesses during these tough economic times.

Her suggestion:
You must have three places you'd like to keep going. No matter how bad times get, you still have to eat, buy gas for your car, take the bus or use the MetroLink.

So what three things do you think are worth saving? Perhaps your neighbors could get together and create a kind of block grant.

Maybe we can save our world - the parts we care about - one purchase at a time.
Definitely a great idea. It got me thinking about which downtown businesses I'd like to direct my spending to. I try to support downtown businesses as often as possible, but if I had to narrow it down to three, I would choose:

1. Left Bank Books at 10th and Locust - A fantastic store and a great amenity to have downtown.
2. Balada's Bistro at 9th and Pine - Great food - fresh and fast - served by friendly people in this family-owned establishment.
3. City Grocers - The perfect place to pick up a meal or everyday necessities.

Which shops and restaurants would be part of your personal economic stimulus plan?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Poor Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day 3/19

Construction crews have cut openings in the side of the Lammert Building for the doors to the Over/Under Bar & Grill's outdoor patio.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The Cardinals unveiled their plans for Ballpark Village on Wednesday: a parking lot and a softball field.

We've come a long way from 3-D models and computer-generated images, haven't we?

While the Cardinal owners claim this is a "temporary" solution, I think this will end up being as "temporary" as our former train station, The Amshack, which was finally replaced after 30 years as a "temporary" facility.

It's time to start exploring other options for construction of Class A space. Downtown St. Louis can't afford to continue to lose tenants to the suburbs while waiting for Ballpark Village to be built. The development community needs to approach it as if it will never come to fruition and proceed accordingly.

It may also be time to drop the entire Ballpark Village concept altogether. Instead of putting Cordish in complete control of the site, why not split up the land into individual parcels that can be sold off to developers and developed orgainically?

Downtown Urgent Care Clinic Opens

The Post-Dispatch ran a nice article on Dr. Sonny Saggar's Downtown Urgent Care clinic, which opened this week in the Truman Building at 916 Olive. According to the article,
Saggar, 41, envisions drop-ins from stressed-out professional types who typically refuse to see a doctor, business travelers who sprain an ankle or get a sore throat and young people who "don't care about health care because they're never sick."
Joining Dr. Saggar will be Alicia Haywood, M.D., David Davis, M.D. and Sanit Saengsamran, M.D. The 2,600 sf acute medical care facility contains six patient exam rooms, an on-site lab and radiology department, front ambulance bay ready to take critical patients to a hospital emergency room and much more.

This clinic will be a great resource, not just for downtown residents, but for downtown office workers as well. I can think of several occasions when it would have been incredibly convenient to be able to walk a few blocks to see a doctor.

Best of luck to Dr. Saggar - I think this concept will be very successful.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Great St. Pat's Parade

As St. Louis' Irish and Irish wannabees converge on Dogtown for corned beef & cabbage and green beer today, a big "thank you" is in order to Phil and Billy Tomber for doing a phenomenal job of organizing this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade downtown. (It's also worth noting that the Tomber family - owners of Rio Syrup- are committed downtown business owners as well.)

Now in its 40th year(!) the parade drew a huge crowd and a smashing success. The annual five-mile race before the parade had a record number of entries with nearly 10,000 green-clad runners taking to the streets of downtown.

Here in St. Louis, we're very fortunate to have two great St. Patrick's Day celebrations that complement each other!

Monday, March 16, 2009

2217 Olive Has Seen Better Days

I noticed during Saturday's St. Pat's Day Run, that a good portion of the second floor of the "Original Restaurant" building at 2217 Olive has collapsed. Hopefully someone will step up and purchase, stabilize and renovate this nifty little building before it's too late. It's a contributing resource to the Olive and Locust Historic Business District and eligible for tax credits.

More information on this building: Link

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brain Drain

Remember the Montreal Expos? Before moving to Washington, D.C. to become the Washington Nationals, the Expos had one of the best farm teams in baseball, grooming numerous players who would go on to become all-stars. The only problem was, once their prospects blossomed into all-stars, the Expos couldn't afford to keep them. Sometimes I worry that St. Louis is like a farm team that exports its brightest young people to other cities.

While shopping in a downtown store before Christmas, I overheard a group of women (in their early 60s, approximately my parents’ age) discussing their kids and their plans for the holidays. One woman’s son was in Chicago, her daughter in Portland. Another had kids in Dallas and Atlanta. New York, Boston and San Francisco were also mentioned as the topic of conversation revolved around how difficult it is to get everyone together around the holidays.
I didn’t hear any of the women mention having kids still living in St. Louis; it sounded like they had all decided to leave. While this was certainly not a scientific poll by any stretch of the imagination, it worried me a little to think of all these young people who could be living here and contributing their talents and skills to their hometown but aren’t.

What made them want to leave? Certainly simple wanderlust could have been a factor, but it’s clear that St. Louis is lacking something that other popular cities have – a thriving downtown - which young people find particularly appealing.

People who make the decisions as to the locations of their offices need to know that by choosing downtown, they're helping make St. Louis a more energetic, more fun place to live. A place where their children will want to live after they finish college.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Broadway and Washington

A few months back, I wrote a post on the vacant lot next to the Missouri Athletic Club at the northeast corner of Broadway and Washington, and how I thought it would be ideal for construction of a new office building.

Here's an example of the type of building I would love to see on this site, the Cathedral Square Building in Milwaukee. Built in 2004 at a cost of $48 million, this 19-story mixed-use building features 220,000 sf of Class A office space, a parking structure, 25,000 sf of first floor retail space and 27 condos. Its anchor tenant is a major law firm.

It's a great-looking building, designed by the Chicago firm of Solomon, Cordwell, Buenz and Associates.

It amazes me that downtown has not added any new Class A buildings since Met Square was completed in 1989. Why wait for Ballpark Village when we could have something like this on a great site at Broadway and Washington? A building like Cathedral Square would fit in well there - as a point of comparison, 500 North Broadway (at the southeast corner of Broadway and Washington) is 22 stories tall. Firms like Armstrong Teasdale and Husch Blackwell would have made perfect anchor tenants.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More on the Husch Blackwell Consolidation

In a recent Post-Dispatch article on Husch Blackwell's consolidation in Clayton, a Husch partner said that the firm considered downtown, but not enough Class A space was available to allow it to move as soon as it wanted, despite the efforts of Mayor Francis Slay and Deputy Mayor Barb Geisman.

Husch will occupy 210,000 sf in Clayton. One City Centre is currently advertising 250,000 sf of available space.

If One City Centre was not a viable option for whatever reason, it's unfortunate that Husch could not have been more patient or that the city could not have found a developer to build a new Class A building for the firm downtown.

The combined firm will have 630 employees - 260 of which are attorneys. How incredible would that have been for downtown? Instead, downtown is losing 180 former Blackwell Sanders employees (90 attorneys). Another wasted opportunity...

Monday, March 09, 2009

New Renderings of Chouteau's Landing Arts Center Released

Chivvis Development has released new renderings of the Chouteau’s Landing Arts Center, currently known as the Powell Square Building.

According to Chivvis, the Chouteau’s Landing Arts Center will include a rooftop event facility, rental studios available to artists and non-profit organizations, exhibition galleries, commercial space, and workshop space for glass blowing, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, wood, jewelry, photography and fiber.

According to the development’s web site, the list of targeted tenants includes:
Eatery or coffee shop, art supply store, framing shop, art galleries, art book store, art brokers/ appraisers /buyers, fashion designer workshop/boutique, art auction house, art restoration, art publication or other art-related business concepts.
This project could have a tremendous impact on downtown. First of all, the renovation of the hulking, 122,000 sf Powell Square Building – quite possibly downtown’s most prominent eyesore – will have a positive psychological effect on the thousands of motorists who pass the building every day. Whether those of us who support downtown admit it or not, that one building has come to symbolize the overall state of downtown to many people, and it desperately needs to be addressed.

Perhaps more importantly, however, the developers of this project are looking to use the Chouteau’s Landing Arts Center as a means of elevating St. Louis’ stature as an artistic hub. The presence of so many artists and other creative types under a single roof will undoubtedly strengthen the sense of community among local artists and spawn new creative ideas as artists collaborate with one another. And as the center of the downtown arts scene, perhaps this the Chouteau’s Landing Arts Center will eventually spawn additional galleries, studios and performance spaces around it.

For inquiries on space at the Chouteau’s Landing Arts Center, contact Andy Murphy of Chivvis Development at (314) 994-4093.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Gill Building - LEASED!

I've received word that the top three floors of the Gill Building have been leased by a single user, leaving only the first floor and the mezzanine level still available. This is exciting news!

(Since I'm not sure if this deal is "official" yet, I'll wait until I hear back from the tenant before posting the name of the firm.)

Interestingly, space has leased fairly quickly in smaller, historic buildings such as the Gill and the Ludwig Lofts. Perhaps the next logical candidate for redevelopment would be the LaSalle Building at Olive and Broadway, a stunning building with small floor plates, similar to those of the Gill Building.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Salt of the Earth for Sale? (Updated)

The commercial condo that houses Salt of the Earth is currently listed for sale. Is Salt of the Earth looking to close its doors?

The condo is located in the Alexander Lofts Building at 1123 Locust and is listed at $350,000. It includes one secure parking spot and storage space.

Martin Ribaudo of Remax is the listing agent - (314) 965-2002.

UPDATE: I received word from the owner that the store is not closing.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

1800 Olive Listed for Sale

1800 Olive is a “unique” little building (for lack of a better word) currently available for sale in Downtown West for $593,000.

It is currently used as a commercial photography studio but was originally a bank and comes complete with a walk-in safe. Rare for downtown, it comes with its own 14-car parking lot.

The 9,086 sf structure itself is unexceptional, and this site would be a good candidate to be torn down for redevelopment. Otherwise, it would take a creative new owner to make the most of it. It appears to have been designed with security in mind and is not terribly welcoming; it has few windows, including no windows facing Olive on its northern fa├žade.

Michelle Duffe and Joe Carpenter of Duffe Nuerenberger are the listing agents – (314)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Coming and Going

According to the Business Journal, Joey Ngyuen will be opening a restaurant called Jade in the old Frisco Cafeteria space at 910 Olive next month. His lease is for 4,700 sf and will be a great addition to the block.

Sadly, after 72 years in business at the corner of Eighth and Locust, Hamilton Jewelers will be closing its doors this spring.