Friday, February 27, 2009

Jim Cloar: Man of Mystery

Jim Cloar, president and CEO of the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, included this tantalizing tidbit in his most recent e-mail update:
I had an energizing lunch this week with the partners of an organization that will be moving downtown in a year or so. They are very excited about coming and ready to get involved. They expect to grow by 50% over the next couple of years.
Hmmm…who could this be?

I’m guessing it was LarsonAllen, which is scheduled to move into the Lawrence Group’s Park Pacific development on Tucker.

Or perhaps it’s a firm that has yet to announce its intentions to move downtown. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wellpoint Moving 300 Employees Downtown!

Big news: After considering a move to Clayton, Wellpoint has announced that it is staying downtown at the building it owns at 1831 Chestnut.

Bigger news: They will be moving 300 employees from its HealthLink division downtown from Creve Coeur!

Wellpoint will be receiving a 10-year tax abatement on its building as part of $4.5 million in improvements it is planning.

It's always great when an employer makes a commitment to downtown St. Louis; it's even better when it brings new jobs with it! With the loss of Macy's Midwestern HQ, Armstrong Teasdale, Husch Blackwell, etc., retaining and attracting jobs is of critical importance to downtown at this junction.

The additional workers should be great for Downtown West restaurants and retailers. I would LOVE to see a tenant move into the vacant Sherwood Medical Building a block away at 1915 Olive to really help give that area critical mass.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rumor Has It...

...that the downtown Starbucks in the Millenium Center at 6th and Olive will NOT be closing.

Has anyone heard this as well? Great news, if true.

UPDATE from the Business Journal:
The Starbucks on Olive Street in downtown St. Louis that was slated to close Tuesday will remain open.

Employees said they learned Tuesday that the coffee shop at 521 Olive St. was staying open after all.

Requests for comment from Seattle-based Starbucks were not immediately returned.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Office Condos Available in the Hadley-Dean Building

The historic Hadley-Dean building at 1101 Lucas Avenue is now listed for sale. Well, most of it is listed for sale anyway.

$1,125,000 gets you the basement, the ground floor and floors three through seven – everything but the second floor, which has already been sold as an office condo.

However, for office users looking to own their own space without buying the building, floors three through seven are also listed for sale individually, for $199,900 apiece. Each floor plate is approximately 6,000 sf, making the office condos an affordable – and unique – option for smaller users. Might be well suited as flexible live/work space as well.

The building is listed on the National Historic Register and received an extensive renovation in 1982.

Jeffrey Altvater of Hilliker is the listing agent – (314) 781-0001.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Paging Ronald McDonald...

I rarely eat fast food, and I certainly don’t want downtown to be completely overrun with fast food joints, but there are a few chains that, surprisingly, have no presence downtown.

Most notable by their absence are:

Taco Bell
Burger King

None of these chains want to make a little money downtown?

It seems strange to me that a major urban business center does not have a McDonald’s. It seems like just about every other city I’ve visited has one downtown, and today’s McDonald’s, with its more upscale look and wider variety of menu options, would be a nice fit for downtown St. Louis. I have a hard time believing that a downtown McDonald’s would not be successful today.

At one point, downtown had THREE McDonald’s – 7th and Olive, St. Louis Centre and the McDonald’s Riverboat – and now there are none.

The St. Louis Centre food court also had an Arby’s and a Chick-Fil-A, both of which seemed to be quite popular. For many years, even while the mall struggled, its food court was always bustling at lunch time. Downtown now has a Lion’s Choice, which cancels out any need for an Arby’s, but Chick-Fil-A might be a good addition.

The more dining options downtown, the better. Especially when we still have empty storefronts.
And of course, I can always dream of a 24-hour downtown Steak ‘n Shake…

Friday, February 20, 2009

Downtown Office Space: What a Bargain!

David Morris from Gundaker Commercial has a great article on how businesses can cut their overhead expenses by reducing their rent. In it, he compares average asking rental rates for downtown, Clayton and Chesterfield. It’s clear that downtown offers the most bang for the buck. A Class B tenant in Clayton could upgrade to Class A space downtown and still realize a cost savings while moving to higher-quality space.

Subleases offer an even greater potential savings. According to Morris:

If a company can be flexible for the purpose of achieving optimal savings, there could be some significant savings. For example, according to these charts, a company occupying 5,000 SF of office space in a Class A office building in Clayton with the flexibility to relocate to a sublease space in Downtown would have a savings of $166,800 over three years. Even factoring in moving costs, these are still some real savings.
Considering the current state of the economy, many businesses are going to be looking to cut costs any way they can. The time is right to take advantage of the substantial cost savings offered by downtown office space.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Wheel In the Sky Keeps on Turnin'

The Business Journal provided an update on Rodgers Group’s proposed “sky wheel,” a development that could help draw visitors to Laclede’s Landing:

The city has granted $3.4 million in tax increment financing for the $11.7 million project.

Adjacent to the Ferris wheel, the Rodgers Group plans on building an office building and restaurant space.

The office building will house the Rodgers Group’s headquarters, relocated from Clayton.

The Rodgers Group is projecting that 460,000 people would ride the wheel each year, bringing in $4.25 million in revenue annually.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Revitalization Continues in Downtown West

Lots of work underway on Washington in Downtown West these days. 

The recently renovated Tudor Building at 1901 Washington looks fantastic, and is now home to City Pet Supply and a salon with Wicked Fresh Subs, Smoking Joe’s BBQ and possibly a bar/restaurant coming soon.

Across the street, the old gas station at 20th and Washington has been torn down, freeing up the site for parking or new development (hopefully new development). 

On the same block, the building that once housed the popular Nepalese restaurant Everest (which moved to The Grove) has been renovated and is listed for sale.  The building next door appears to be under renovation, albeit at a slow rate of progress.

Just a block to the east, the Post-Dispatch is reporting that Bob Wood, developer of the Tudor Building, is converting the historic warehouse at 1818 Washington into workforce housing with first floor retail.  Work on the $13 million project began in January and the project is expected to be completed late this year.  The Tudor Building cost $16 million to complete, so this project represents another substantial investment on behalf of Mr. Wood.

Downtown West has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years but still has a bit of a disjointed, patchwork feel to it.  These new developments should go a long way toward making the area more cohesive until infill projects eventually fill in the gaps.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

1015 Locust Update

Improvements are underway at 1015 Locust. The exterior has been scrubbed, and the formerly white panels on the south facade have been painted a striking gray, and new signage has been added. It's really looking great.

The sleek new entrance:New parking entrance.
The corner retail space is cleared out and ready for a tenant. It will have its own entrance from 11th Street.

Before and after: the west facade has yet to be painted; the south facade is now black and gray.

Friday, February 13, 2009

UMB Bank Signs New Lease at 10 S. Broadway

UMB Bank has signed a new lease at the Equitable Building at 10 South Broadway.  The bank previously leased space on the second and fourth floors and will be moving to the sixth and seventh floors.  The 40,633 sf lease also includes roughly 6,630 sf on the ground floor, where UMB operates a retail branch.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Over Under Bar & Grill Coming to the Lammert Building

Looks like work has begun on the Over Under Bar & Grill in the Lammert Building at 911 Washington Avenue.  The first floor retail space facing Washington has been cleared out and it looks like preparations are being made to cut a doorway into the building’s western wall which will lead to a “summer garden” in what is currently a parking lot.  It’s great to hear about projects that will add a little more life to Washington.

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.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't Let Them Bury Me. I'm Not Dead.

While no work appears to have been performed at The Alexa in months, the project is apparently still a go, according to the Post-Dispatch.  According to Rob McRitchie of Civitas Development, the owner and developer of The Alexa:

"I can say for 100 percent certain the project is not dead.  I work on it every day. That baby is going."

However, as has been the case with other downtown developments, the collapse of the real estate market has Civitas shifting its plans to favor rental apartments over for-sale condos with the possibility of eliminating condos altogether.  The project will still include ground-floor retail with office space on the second and third floors.  Civitas is hoping to start up construction on the $22 million development in the spring.

I just wish they would have let Dooley’s stay.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Scottrade Expands in Maryville Centre, of All Places

According to Joe Whittington of the Post-Dispatch, Scottrade is acquiring two buildings and two parcels of land in the Maryville Centre area, which will be the new home to the firm’s IT staff.

Again, our business leaders’ fascination with Maryville Centre completely mystifies me.  If they were going to establish a secondary campus, Scottrade could have established its IT hub downtown instead, taking advantage of downtown’s excellent infrastructure for such uses, and saved a good deal of money in the process. 

Oh well.

Friday, February 06, 2009

St. Louis Centre on Downtown's Stimulus Package Wish List

I was perusing the list of almost $2.5 billion worth of “shovel-ready” projects for which the city of St. Louis has requested funding under the proposed federal stimulus plan.  Among the downtown projects included in the city’s request are:

Streetscape Improvements:

  • Delmar, from Tucker to Jefferson ($5 million)
  • Locust, from Tucker to Jefferson ($5 million)
  • Laclede’s Landing, including cobblestone street renovations ($6 million)
  • Downtown/Central Business District Streetscape Improvements ($33 million)

Park Improvements:

  • Park Pacific Park Enhancements/Event Space ($9 million)
  • Gateway Mall Park Enhancements ($50 million!)

City Hall Improvements:

  • Exterior Cleaning ($3 million)
  • Exterior Repairs/Roofing Lighting ($4 million)
  • Interior Public Space Renovations ($5 million)
  • Electrical Modernization ($25 million)
  • Convention Center Improvements:
  • LEED Certification Repairs/Replacements/Enhancements ($51,245,000) 


  • Kiel Retail/Parking Structure Development ($30 million)

And here is the most mysterious request:

  • St. Louis Centre Retail/Parking Conversion ($20 million)

I wonder what that means.  I’m intrigued…

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Downtown Law Firms Merge

Two downtown law firms, Gundlach, Lee, Eggmann, Boyle & Roessler LLC and the Brasher Law Firm L.C., have merged to form Boyle Brasher LLC. The combined firm is based in Met Square and has 30 lawyers in three states.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Laurel Update

Tim Logan of the Post-Dispatch has an update on The Laurel - the redevelopment of the former Dillard's Building as residential units and an Embassy Suites hotel - on the Building Blocks blog.

Spinnaker took over the project from John Steffen's Pyramid Development, but it's now looking like the project may be headed to foreclosure. Amos Harris of Spinnaker and Barb Geisman, Deputy Mayor for Development, however, both sound optimistic about its chances. Hopefully the picture will become clearer soon; this project is too important to downtown's future.

Syndicate Building Retail

Just behind the space that will soon be home to the Schnucks Culineria, the first-floor retail space at the Syndicate Building is ready to be leased. A total of 20,000 sf of space is currently available, divisible to as little as 1,500 sf, which should make it appealing to a variety of different types of users. The space is listed at $17.50 psf.

With the new Schnucks, Left Bank Books, City Grocers, and the redevelopment of The 411, the St. Louis Design Center and the Truman Building either underway or coming soon, the Syndicate offers a great location for any retailer looking to be right in the thick of things in the CBD.

Kurt Lord of Lord Partners is the listing agent - (314) 862-5566.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cioccolato Relocates to Locust

Cioccolato, a long-time fixture at Union Station, has moved to a new location.  The new store is located in the first floor of Loftworks’ Ludwig Lofts development at 1008 Locust, right next to Simply Elegant Bridal.

Cioccolato specializes in selling gourmet chocolate from around the world, including the latest creations from top French, Swiss and Belgian chocolatiers.  The store also sells fine wines – the perfect accompaniment to a delicious truffle or bon bon.

In addition to its retail store, Cioccolato also sells online at


Monday, February 02, 2009

CVS Opens in AT&T Building

A small CVS Pharmacy has opened up in the lobby of the AT&T Building at 909 Chestnut. The store is adjacent to a Minute Clinic which has two nurse practitioners who can see patients and write prescriptions.

For so long, downtown had zero pharmacies, and with CVS and soon Schnucks, we will have two!

The Show Must Go On

Downtown could soon be regaining an important cultural venue.

According to the Business Journal, Dave Checketts and SCP Partners are attempting to finally move forward with plans to renovate the long-vacant Kiel Opera House.  If all goes according to plan, construction on the $50-$60 million project would begin in late spring or early summer, with reopening targeted for late 2010.  The venue would be used primarily to host Broadway shows and concerts, taking advantage of SCP’s experience and relationships in booking and producing such performances.

SCP is partnering with McEagle Development, and Paric Corp. would serve as the general contractor.  The city has hired Thompson Coburn to assist it in talks with the developers.

Said Ken Munoz of SCP:

This remains a great project, and I think it absolutely will happen.  We’re going to try to put together a financial plan that makes sense for us, and we certainly want the city’s support. It may be harder to do considering the constraints on credit and the overall economy, but we remain resolute that this is something we will get done.

Economics change, but this is going to be a first-class renovation.  We are not looking to do this less expensively. We are looking to do this correctly. We want something we’ll be very proud of.

The redevelopment of the Kiel Opera House would mark an important step in downtown’s renaissance, bringing people to the area from all over.  One issue with the Kiel though is that it is relatively isolated from the rest of downtown.  Many patrons of Kiel events may be tempted to just get in their cars and go back home after their events have concluded, as there are few bars and restaurants within a short walk of the venue.

Fortunately, SCP has also expressed an interest in developing properties adjacent to the Kiel Opera House and Scottrade Center, which would provide a tremendous boost to the area.  With complementary development on the surface lots near city hall and the Scottrade Center, the southern corridor of downtown from Broadway to 18th could be a very exciting place to be, with Ballpark Village, Cupples Station and Union Station forming a cohesive, walkable district.