Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ozzie's Set to Open Downtown

According to the Business Journal, Ozzie's sports bar will be opening in the East Bank Lofts Building at 1511 Washington.  The restaurant is slated to open by the Cardinals' home opener on April 12 and will take two stories of the building with room to display Ozzie Smith's 13 Gold Gloves.

Ozzie's will be run by Roberto Gallardo, whose father, Ramon, operated the previous incarnation of Ozzie's at Westport Plaza.  That restaurant closed this fall after a 20-year run.

A few years ago, this space was supposed to house a restaurant by renowned Idaho chef John Mortimer, but the deal never came to fruition.

While downtown is undoubtedly a superior location than Westport for Ozzie's, the loft district strikes me as an interesting choice.  It's just a block away from another sports bar, Flannery's, and is fairly close to the Over/Under as well.  Wouldn't Cupples Station or a spot closer to Busch Stadium have been better?

Regardless, it will be great to have this St. Louis institution downtown, where it should have been all along.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Clarkson Eyecare Coming Downtown

Clarkson Eyecare is opening a downtown location in the Syndicate Building at 917 Olive.  The store is expected to open March 1.

Interestingly enough, they chose a location directly across the street from Erker's Optical, which has served downtown for years from its location in the Frisco Building.

Can the two stores successfully coexist so close together?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Downtown Restaurant Bites

Two tidbits of downtown restaurant news:

Pablo Weiss has decided to close the venerable Kitchen K and will open a new restaurant in the same space called The Pacific Grill and an event space called The California Room.  Unlike Kitchen K, The Pacific Grill will only be open for lunch.


David Bailey of Rooster and Bailey's Chocolate bar is slated to open his newest establishment, Bridge, a multi-story wine bar and tap house next to Left Bank Books at 10th and Locust.  Bridge will feature 100 bottled beers, 36 draft beers, 18 wines by the glass and full-service dining.  Bailey describes the menu as "sophisticated bar dining."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ballpark Lofts Update

The Business Journal recently provided a brief update on Blue Urban’s Ballpark Lofts #9 project in Cupples Station.

The $43 million development was originally slated to house first floor retail, the offices of Osborn & Barr (which is temporarily located in Blue Urban’s Ballpark Lofts #8 building), and 54 loft condos, which the firm claimed to have entirely reserved back in 2008.

However, Kevin McGowan, president of Blue Urban, told the Business Journal that he is still working with lenders to get financing in place for the project and that the condos will now likely be apartments instead.

Also still on the drawing board for Blue Urban is the $47 million Ballpark Lofts #7 development, which was originally slated for 120 rental apartments.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Arcade Building Headed Toward Foreclosure Sale

After being declared blighted by the city's Land Clearance for Redevelopment and authorized for 10-year tax abatement, the vacant Arcade Building will be offered at a foreclosure sale on December 31.
“This is a step toward getting the property back into circulation and get it redeveloped,” said Barbara Geisman, deputy mayor for development. “We were glad to see it.”
The Arcade is one of the few remaining buildings originally owned by Pyramid that has yet to be transferred to new ownership and is the most prominent vacant building in the Old Post Office district.
Hopefully the building will be purchased by a developer who can quickly get financing and begin working on restoring it to its former luster.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Look at Artists Lofts Downtown

As mentioned here last week, the Post-Dispatch ran an article on the Bottle Art Lofts, a planned 70-unit development geared to artists.  This project follows a growing trend in downtown St. Louis that includes the following:

Tim Boyle’s ArtLofts at 1527 Washington was one of the first loft developments downtown.  It opened in 1996 and currently has a waiting list for its 63 apartments.

The University Lofts at 1627 Washington features 26 units of loft-style, live/work space for artists and a first floor gallery operated by the Washington University School of Art.

The Syndicate Lofts development at 915 Olive includes 28 affordable rental units geared to artists, along with a large artist workshop and four galleries.  It was developed by LoftWorks and Sherman Associates.

Dominium Properties is working to secure funding for The Leather Trades Lofts at 1604 Locust, which will include nearly 90 apartments and studio space for artists, dancers and musicians.

Other buildings, such as the King Bee at 1709 Washington, have been marketed as raw loft space geared to artists and other creative types.  Chivvis Development’s plans for Chouteau’s Landing include live/work space for artists as well.  Whether or not those plans come to fruition remains to be seen.

There is hope though.  According to Dominium's Jeff Huggett in the Post-Dispatch article on the Bottle Art Lofts: “It seems to us the St. Louis arts community is very vibrant. It would easily support a number of projects.”

I certainly hope this is the case, as the Chouteau’s Landing and North Broadway (adjacent to the Bottle District) are prime locations for additional artist-driven development.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

HRI to Develop Artists Lofts at Bottle District

Tim Bryant of the Post-Dispatch had a great article on the Bottle Art Lofts, the newest project from Historic Restoration Inc.

HRI plans to convert the vacant McGuire Moving & Storage building at 1333 North Sixth Street to roughly 70 apartments geared to artists. The $22.2 million project will also include a 7,600 sf gallery and performance space.

HRI is partnering with Clayco Construction on the project. Pending approval on $1.35 million in federal low-income housing tax credits in February, the developer hopes to begin work on the project in July.

It’s great to see that HRI is continuing to develop projects in St. Louis; they were instrumental in helping to spur downtown’s revival, renovating the Lenox and Statler Hotels as the Renaissance Hotels, the Merchandise Mart and a Cupples Station warehouse.

It is also great to see this project moving forward. Hopefully, the Bottle District will be allowed to develop organically, as a neighborhood, with a variety of developers contributing different ideas for the area. The original approach, a self-contained entertainment district similar to what is planned for Ballpark Village, was doomed to fail from the start.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Gateway EDI Expands at One Financial Plaza

One company that has found downtown to be a great place to grow is Gateway EDI.

As reported in the Business Journal, Gateway EDI, which moved its headquarters to downtown from Crestwood in 2005, expanded its lease at One Financial Plaza, adding 22,724 sf to its 46,000 sf office.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Downtown Needs Zhu Zhu Pets Too

The must-have toys this holiday season are Zhu Zhu Pets, a line of adorable robotic hamsters. Zhu Zhu Pets are the brainchildren of Cepia LLC, a Clayton-based firm with 15 employees.

Cepia is led by Russell Hornsby, one of the founders of Trendmasters, a toy company that was based downtown at 1015 Washington Avenue, way before Washington Avenue was cool. Thanks to strong sales of its Rumble Robots and Powerpuff Girls toy lines (among others), the firm grew to 250 employees and was generating $150 million in sales. Unfortunately, Trendmasters went out of business in 2002 after a devastating holiday season that year.

Sounds like the minds behind Cepia have a great track record of developing popular toys. If the firm can keep growing, it’s going to need new office space. And of course, the best office space and overall working environment for creative professionals like those at Cepia is found downtown.

Downtown, and Washington Avenue in particular, has improved by leaps and bounds since Trendmasters closed in 2002. Perhaps Cepia’s leadership would be willing to give downtown a second chance? I can think of several spaces that would absolutely perfect for a firm like Cepia.