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?


Matt said...

You make a great point. But, it's also a bit of a stretch to consider Wells Fargo (AG Edwards) in downtown.

It really stands physically separate from downtown (any Wells Fargo employees walking to Culinaria on their lunch hour?), and officially it is in Midtown.

Brian said...

True, although it is included in downtown's official employment stats. And, they (or A.G. Edwards, rather) didn't give up on the city when they easily could have, like Edward Jones did.

Tim E said...

I think we still have two potentially great opportunities in Stifel Nichols & Wells Fargo. First, time to sell Stifel on a new downtown tower not connected to Ballpark Village. Second, I think McKee's vision of having a 40 story office building anchoring the West end of the mall has Wells Fargo name all over it. Might be wishfull thinking, but lets get these two onboard for a bigger and better presence downtown.