Thursday, October 29, 2009

The New (and Improved?) Macy's

We know that the downtown Macy's will shrink from its current seven floors to just three floors in the near future to help ensure that the store remains viable.

What we don't know yet is the specifics of the plans for the store.

Will the charming Papa Fabares restaurant on the second floor be retained? What about the St. Louis Room? Or the candy counter by the Olive entrance? Hopefully the store will still retain some of its unique features that make shopping downtown a different experience than shopping at a suburban store.

One interesting tidbit: Jerry Berger reports that Macy's is "refreshing" (and re-thinking) its offerings at the downtown store, possibly adding a department featuring fashions from local designer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Encouraging News on the Railway Exchange

Encouraging news on the Railway Exchange Building has emerged.

Mayor Slay is reporting that Rick Yawkey and Bill and Brian Bruce have the building under contract for $18.5 million, and are set to close in January. The developers are planning a $122 million overhaul and have requested $28.7 million in subsidies for the project.

The Macy's department store would be downsized from seven floors to a more manageable three floors, more consistent in size (125,000 sf) with the chain's more recent stores. Macy's would also lease floors 9 and 10 for office space.

The remaining space would be leased for office an other "non-residential" use. The developer is already in talks with prospective tenants.

Mad Men (and Women) Spotted on Jefferson

Yet another creative firm has set up shop downtown, further strengthening the creative community.

Located at 227 N. Jefferson, Scorch Agency is the latest addition to the downtown advertising scene.

Launched in September by Chris Buehler and Mike Kociela, Scorch is a full-service marketing and events agency delivering "piping hot creative to fuel brand activation" to a diverse roster of clients including Major League Baseball and The Gateway Mall Project.

To Scorch: Welcome!

To the few remaining advertising, PR and design agencies still doing business in bland suburban locales: What are you waiting for? Make the move to a truly creative environment downtown!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Concealing the Future St. Louis Centre Garage

As I mentioned in my last post, I am eager to see a rendering of the redeveloped St. Louis Centre.

One thing I'm curious about is how the two Locust Street entrances to the property will be addressed.

In particular, the southeastern entrance is set back from the street and faces an open plaza (see picture above). With a parking garage going into the southern half of the former mall, there really isn't any reason why it would need a formal entrance plaza. This space could easily accomodate the construction of a new building, which would help to conceal the garage and add density.

Is there any reason to leave this space open?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Somebody Produce a Rendering!

More details on the redevelopment plans for St. Louis Centre have emerged.

According to the Business Journal, the moribund mall will be receiving a $37.5 million overhaul.

The northern end of the building, facing Washington Avenue, will house up to 100,000 sf of retail space, which I am assuming will be spread out over multiple floors (the article didn't specify). Spinnaker, St. Louis Centre's owner, is looking to attract a movie theater, which would be great for downtown.

The southern end will be converted to a 750-car garage for Thompson Coburn (located in the nearby U.S. Bank Plaza) and One City Centre tenants.

The Washington Avenue skybridge is coming down, and the Locust skybridge may be coming down as well.

The plan sounds pretty great. Now I just need a rendering to see what it all will look like!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Future of 500 N. Broadway

It's been an exciting week, with lots of good news on the redevelopment of One City Centre, St. Louis Centre and The Laurel.

The only downside to all the recent news is that Lewis Rice's impending move to One City Centre will leave 500 N. Broadway in peril.

The Sklarov family, owners of 500 N. Broadway claims that when Lewis Rice vacates its 110,000 sf space, they will likely lose the building to foreclosure. They bought the building in 2003 for $11.8 million and currently have it listed for sale for $17.5 million.

500 N. Broadway's other tenants include LaBarge Pipe & Steel, Burton Greenberg, RBC Dain Rauscher, McGlynn & Luther, Beneficial Capital Leasing, Coleman & White, Barken & Bakewell and The Castle Law Office. Together, they lease about 65,000 sf - less than a quarter - of the 282,965 sf building.

The Sklarovs are taking issue with the city and state assistance being provided to Lewis Rice and SCR Investments, which owns One City Centre. On one hand, I can see their point; on the other hand, they've had more than enough time to attract more tenants. For years the building has had several vacant floors, so it's not as if a lack of large blocks was a detriment to its marketability.

500 N. Broadway has many positive qualities which should make it attractive to a wide variety of users, such as a great location, parking for 282 cars, modern layout and low lease rates. It offers a outstanding opportunity for a value-oriented tenant to take up to 200,000 sf, making it an excellent potential headquarters site.

Perhaps the loss of Lewis Rice will force the Sklarovs to be more aggressive in signing on new tenants. We can only hope that this building does not languish for long.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

PRORehab Opening Downtown Clinic

You never know where you'll pick up information about downtown happenings. This morning, while visiting my orthopedist, I learned that PRORehab is opening a physical therapy clinic downtown at 201 N. 7th Street. This is the retail space in the garage located adjacent to the Laclede Gas Building at 7th and Olive.

Just another convenient option for downtown workers and residents, joining Downtown Urgent Care and other health services providers who have opened up downtown in recent months.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Larson Allen Moving to One City Centre

Building Blocks has a great post detailing the ongoing saga at One City Centre.

The great news is that accounting firm Larson Allen has signed a letter of intent to lease 23,000 sf in the 290,000 sf tower. The firm will be moving roughly 100 employees downtown from Town & Country. They will join law firm Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard, which currently leases 56,000 sf.

If Lewis Rice makes it official and moves to One City Centre from 500 N. Broadway, it will take 100,000 sf, pushing the building's occupancy rate to over 60%.

While Larson Allen's move to One City Centre likely means that the Lawrence Group's Park Pacific project is dead, it is GREAT to see a growing, successful firm making the move downtown. Congrats to Larson Allen - their employees are going to love their new location.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Way Cool Washington Avenue Property

2233 is a single-story, 27,000 sf warehouse/service center with a cool art deco facade and unbelievable potential.

The picture above, from the listing broker, appears to have been PhotoShopped - the trees in the photo do not exist, and the windows are currently boarded up.

Regardless, this building could be reused as truly unique office space for a firm with creativity and a little vision. Or, it would be great as a combination retail showroom and workshop for artisans such as furniture makers or metal workers.

Of course, when I look at this building, I think "microbrewery."

Really, the possibilities for a flexible building like this are endless.

Building signage is available, and plentiful free parking is available adjacent to the building. The space is available for lease at $14.00 psf.

Ben Friedman of CB Richard Ellis is the listing agent - (314) 655-6056

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One City Centre Renovation Plans Moving Forward?

The financing of renovations to One City Centre may be taking another step forward soon.

The city of St. Louis is requesting a $5 million loan from the Missouri Development Finance Board to help pay for improvements to the 25-story Class A tower. $4 million in New Markets Tax Credits have already been allocated to help pay for improvements to the building; the price tag for the planned improvements could total $25 million.

Lewis Rice is reportedly considering moving to One City Centre from its current space at 500 N. Broadway. If this happens, it should have a nice impact on downtown's Class A vacancy rate, while delivering a blow to the Class B rate. However, Lewis Rice would be leaving behind a large block of very affordable, well-finished space that, combined with existing vacant space at 500 N. Broadway, could be very attractive for a budget-conscious large tenant.

The area around St. Louis Centre is in desperate need of help. Renovating the office tower and attracting new tenants would be a great first step toward revitalization. Demolition of the St. Louis Centre skybridge and construction on The Laurel would hopefully come next, with the renovation/repurposing of St. Louis Centre itself following.

Stem the Brain Drain by Investing in Downtown

Good stuff from Mayor Slay's speech at last week's Business Celebration Luncheon:

A recent survey showed that more than 77% of Americans born after 1981 want to live and work in an urban core. A more recent survey says “walkability” adds value to real estate. It’s clear to all of us that sustainability is becoming a way of life.

Our City has a lot to offer business leaders of today and tomorrow—our inherent sustainability with a wide variety of uses packed into a dense, centrally located, walkable and bikable core, our diverse architectural and cultural environment, our strong and diverse business base, and our great universities—and the entrepreneurialism they foster.
The message is clear, young people want to be a part of an urban environment, and businesses that operate downtown have a distinct competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting. I don't think many of our business leaders fully grasp this concept. The law firms that have left downtown for Clayton in recent years are a prime example. The firms that have chosen to stay downtown will have the edge when it comes to recruiting summer associates.

At the very least, people need to understand that unless they want their own kids to move away after college, helping create a vibrant, active, exciting downtown is the best way to get them to stay.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Strong Corporate Presence Makes All the Difference

I just read an interesting article on the future of America's cities, that touched on the role that Charlotte's corporate leaders - namely, former CEO Hugh McColl - had on that city's downtown:
With two money center banks and the urbanist leadership of Bank of America’s Hugh McColl Jr., Charlotte built a sparkling downtown from nothing in little more than a decade. McColl could have put B of A’s corporate center out in a suburban office “park,” as has happened all over America, as its cities have cratered. Instead, he located it in one of downtown’s most blighted areas, transforming it. He created delightful downtown neighborhoods. Bank of America and First Union (which took the name of an acquisition, Wachovia) competed to build skyscrapers and then civic assets. Their support was essential to the completion of the first light-rail line in the South.
Downtown St. Louis has some advantages over downtown Charlotte, such as a better stock of historic structures and overall character, but without a strong corporate presence, it will never reach its potential.

Imagine if in addition to Wells Fargo and Stifel Nicolaus, Edward Jones, Scottrade and smaller financial services firms like Smith, Moore and Stern Brothers and local banks such as First Bank, Commerce (joint HQ w/KC), Pulaski, Montgomery and Heartland were based downtown, instead of dispersed throughout the soul-less suburbs.

Then downtown St. Louis would really be in business.

The financial services industry is just one example; the presence of more companies in any industry would provide a major boost to downtown. Centene could have helped provide that boost but chose otherwise.

Who will be the next company to step up and make a major commitment to downtown?

Friday, October 09, 2009

A New Chief at the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis

The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis will have a new leader, Maggie Campbell, who will take over for the retiring Jim Cloar on November 2.

Ms. Campbell comes to St. Louis from Arlington, Texas, where she served as president of the Arlington Downtown Management Association since 2006. According to the press release announcing her hiring:

Campbell’s accomplishments over her 24 years of diverse downtown experience with organizations in Texas, California, Mississippi, and Oklahoma include: successfully recruiting new investors and tenants for the Center Street Station project, a $12 million expansion of a historic entertainment venue as a new performance hall and the recruitment of an anchor tenant; securing a substantial grant from the Mortimer Levitt Foundation to support the creation and operation of the “Levitt Pavilion”; raising more than $1.2 million in private donations in less than eight months for the Levitt Pavilion Business Plan and volunteer-based capital campaign; administering BID’s with budgets in excess of $1.5 million; and, successfully leading BID renewal’s.
Ms. Campbell comes to St. Louis at a critical juncture. Major developments like the Laurel, One City Centre, the Kiel Opera House, and St. Louis Centre need to proceed in order for downtown to continue its positive momentum. Work on Ballpark Village must commence at some point. Downtown needs new Class A office space and attracting new businesses to the CBD and retaining and nurturing downtown's existing businesses is of the utmost importance. Downtown needs to continue to add residents and is woefully underserved from a retail standpoint.

The good thing is, as Mr. Cloar showed us, these problems can be successfully tackled with good leadership. After decades of inaction, downtown has finally started to turn the corner and is headed in the right direction.

Welcome to St. Louis and good luck, Ms. Campbell! I look forward to seeing what you have in store for downtown St. Louis!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

2 North Jefferson

Many financial services firms have left downtown over the years in order to "be closer to their clients" who typically live in West County. For the most part, these firms have moved to Clayton.

Take, for example, a firm like Smith, Moore, which left the Security Building in 2004 for Clayton after spending 90 years downtown. Their reason for doing so, according to president Jim Deutsch:
"As far as the location, our clients have been moving west (of downtown) for some time. Clayton puts us closer to them."
But is Clayton really all that convenient? It is for clients who live in Clayton or off Ladue Road in Ladue, but for many people in the St. Louis area, Clayton may be closer, but not necessarily easy to access. From my home in the County, getting downtown takes me roughly the same amount of time as getting to the Sevens Building in Clayton, where Smith, Moore is now located.

Consider the former A.G. Edwards Trust building at the northeast corner of Jefferson and Market. Its location is fantastic, just blocks from Highway 40, and not far from 44. For clients traveling to the office from West County via 40 or 44, this location might actually be quicker to get to than a Clayton location. And for clients coming from Illinois, there's no comparison.

2 North Jefferson contains 84,370 sf of modern office space, including two conference rooms and a lower level lounge area. It also has a loading door and storage area, as well as its own 175-car parking lot.

While this building would work well for a variety of firms, it's ideally suited for a brokerage firm, law office, or any business looking for easy highway access and parking for clients.

The building is listed for sale for $7,000,000.

The listing agents are David Randolph - (314) 655-6006 - and Don Woehle - (314) 588-1623 - of CB Richard Ellis.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Jos A. Bank Checking Out Downtown

According to an informed poster on UrbanSTL, representatives from Jos A. Bank are in town checking out space in the vicinity of the Old Post Office. I had previously heard rumors of this myself, but was unsure how accurate they were. Glad to hear the rumors were true.

I just happened to be working on another "Businesses I'd Like to Have Downtown" post describing the need for a quality men's clothing store. If Jos A. Bank signs a lease downtown, I can cross that one off my list!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Post-season Baseball Means Big Business

One more reason to hope the Cardinals make a deep run in the post-season: an infusion of cash to downtown businesses.

Adam Allington of KWMU recently reported on the economic impact of Cardinal playoff games on the bars and restaurants near the ballpark:

The last time the Cardinals went to the playoffs was the year they won the World Series in 2006. At that time, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association calculated the total economic impact at $3.1 million per playoff game and $4.5 million per World Series game.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Businesses I'd Like to Have Downtown: A Movie Theater

It doesn't have to be a 20-screen megaplex or anything, just a nice 1-4 screen theater, maybe something along the lines of the theater at the Chase Park Plaza, which is operated by St. Louis Cinemas.

A mix of independent and high-quality studio films would be ideal, and the opportunity to buy a bottle of beer or a glass of wine would be a nice touch as well.

Downtown has now gone years without a movie theater - the most recent movie theater was at Union Station and there once was one in one of the Kiener Plaza garages. These theaters failed because they tried to compete with the suburban cinemas, when an art house theater may have been more appropriate.

Before Pyramid went out of business, there was talk of adding a small movie theater to the Jefferson Arms, which would be a great spot. It would be great to see a local operator like St. Louis Cinemas step up and fill the void downtown.