Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not Another Garage!?!

In a recent Business Journal article on the current state of downtown, Mike Jones, former deputy mayor for development, says:

“St. Louis Centre was a mistake,” Jones said. “What you ought to do with a mistake is tear it down and do something else with the space.”

While Mr. Jones is correct in that St. Louis Centre was a mistake, I don’t necessarily agree that the best solution is to tear down the building.  Typically, when something gets torn down in this city, nothing gets built to replace it.  The skybridges over Washington and Locust should most definitely be removed, but there is no reason to believe that most of the structure could not be preserved and repurposed.  It would work well either as apartments or as office space, with ground floor retail. 

Pyramid, and its partner Spinnaker, had planned on transforming St. Louis Centre into a mix of residential and retail space to be known as The Concord.  Pyramid’s design for The Concord was sleek and modern and would have fit in well with its surroundings.

After Pyramid’s demise, Spinnaker took ownership of the building and is apparently floating the idea of converting the former mall into a parking garage with ground floor retail – a bit confusing, considering how much parking can be found in the immediate vicinity, including the St. Louis Centre garage and the new garage planned for 7th and Locust.  Do we really need another garage?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Harris Corp. Expanding at Blanke Building

According to the Business Journal, Harris Corp. plans to add 15 jobs in St. Louis with the opening of a geospatial services production facility this month. The company is already in the process of hiring five workers and plans to add 10 more within the next year. Harris spent $350,000 renovating its space in the Blanke Building at 1310 Papin.

It looks like the loft-style Blanke Building has filled up nicely. Duffe Nurenberger currently has one vacant space available in the building - 4,580 sf on the first floor listed at $14.50 psf.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Observation Wheel Update

Building Blocks has an update on the Rodgers Brothers' proposed observation wheel on Laclede's Landing.  It's not sounding too encouraging...

Office Market Stats

CB Richard Ellis released its office market statistics for the first quarter 09, which revealed the following for the downtown submarket:

Class A
  • 5,308, 638 Gross building sf
  • 22.0% Vacancy rate
  • 5,664 sf YTD net absorption
  • $18.47 Average asking lease rate
In comparison, the Class A rates for the Mid-County (Clayton) and West County submarkets are $28.60 and $23.77, respectively.

Class B

  • 5,629, 696 Gross building sf
  • 22.6% Vacancy rate
  • 33,885 sf YTD net absorption
  • $15.42 Average asking lease rate
The going rates for Class B space in Mid-County and West County are $21.56 and $18.78, respectively.  This means that, on average, office tenants can lease Class A space downtown for less than Class B space in suburban submarkets.

Class C

  • 2,372,200 Gross building sf
  • 25.2% Vacancy rate
  • (68,430) sf YTD net absorption
  • $12.40 Average asking lease rate
I'd be interested to know what contributed to the negative absorption figure in the Class C market.

Friday, April 24, 2009

SCR Purchases Curlee Building

SCR Investments has purchased the 84,000 sf Curlee Building at 1001 Washington from Pyramid Construction for $7.2 million ($86 psf).

The building is 76 percent leased, with Mosaic restaurant on the ground floor, and office tenants that include Phoenix Creative and William B. Ittner Architects.

SCR is led by Stacy Hastie, chairman and CEO of Environmental Operations Inc.  SCR also owns One City Centre, taking over the building after Pyramid defaulted on a $7 million loan from SCR.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

LarsonAllen Still on Track to Move Downtown

The Business Journal confirmed that LarsonAllen is still planning on moving its offices downtown from Town & Country in 2010, to the Lawrence Group's Park Pacific development. The Lawrence Group is still working on securing financing for the $120 million redevelopment of the former Union Pacific headquarters.

LarsonAllen Principal Scott Engelbrecht had a great quote: “We’re going downtown. Downtown continues to be the primary epicenter for the community. It’s more central to all of our clients, and from a hiring perspective, we think it will help us because it will open us up to the Illinois employee market.”

I love it.

The addition of LarsonAllen will give downtown six of the 15 largest accounting firms in the region, along with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, KPMG, Deloitte & Touche, BKD and Anders Minkler & Diehl.

Clayton is home to three firms that would all be perfect for downtown: Ernst & Young, RubinBrown and MPP&W.

The remaining seven largest accounting firms are:

Brown Smith Wallace - Creve Coeur
CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann - Creve Coeur
UHY Advisors - Maplewood
Stone Carlie & Co. - Clayton
Humes & Barrington - Kirkwood
Huber Ring Helm & Co. - Brentwood
Schowalter & Jabouri - Gravois

Rounding out the top 25, only two firms - RSM McGladrey and Kerber Eck & Braeckel - are downtown.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Cool Idea from Michigan

How great is this? In Lansing, Michigan, developers are giving a non-descript parking garage a "green" makeover, spending $350,000 in improvements that include replacing part of its concrete facade with vines.

The ramp's owners also plan to add secured bicycle parking and locker room facilities to the structure - a nod to "green" commuters who might not otherwise have a place to park their wheels.
I love it! The Kiener or St. Louis Centre garages would be perfect for something like this.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kiel - A Done Deal?!

Fox 2 is reporting that the Kiel Opera House renovation is a done deal!


Update: Looks like Fox 2 might have jumped the gun, but the project is moving forward - more info from the Post-Dispatch here.

Bad News, Good News

The bad news: Adamson backing out of its plans to move its offices and 53 employees to 13,000 sf at Cupples Station Building 9. Developer Kevin McGowan is still working on getting financing to renovate the building, and Adamson was apparently tired of waiting.

The good news: The firm is still planning on moving its offices downtown from Clayton. Adamson is reportedly scouting out temporary space downtown that it will occupy for about six months until it can identify a permanent space. It hasn't ruled out moving to Cupples 9 down the road if McGowan can get the project started.

Adamson will have lots of great options to choose from, from historic buildings in the loft district and Laclede's Landing to newer buildings in the heart of the CBD (Personally, I've always liked this one).

Perhaps the best option (for downtown) would be for the firm to choose a building other than Cupples 9. Cupples 9 is obviously an appealing and unique space; maybe McGowan could lure another firm downtown to lease it, increasing the net gain of jobs for the city.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A New Employer/Class A Office Building for Downtown

At the end of the Business Journal's recent rundown of downtown developments is this interesting tidbit:
The city is working to identify sites for the construction of a new Class A office building. One site that has been identified is vacant ground north of Market Street at Pine near Union Station. Geisman said St. Louis is a finalist in an unidentified, out-of-town corporation’s search to relocate with 400 employees.
Fingers and toes crossed...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Landing Lost

Matt at Dotage has an awesome run-down of the buildings that have been demolished at Laclede's Landing over the years: Link

Very sad to see. I remember the demolition of the Bronson Hide Building - It was right about the time I had first taken a serious interest in preservation (which was spurred by the demolition of the Ambassador Building), and of course, losing the Switzer Building to storm damage and the Fresh Warehouse to fire was extremely unfortunate.

To me, the most egregious losses on the Landing have come at the hands of Pinnacle/Lumiere. First Street, with Mississippi Nights, Harpo's and other establishments was a great little strip, and was really the Landing's lone connection to the North Riverfront area. The buildings were perfectly viable and a St. Louis institution - Mississippi Nights - was lost. The northern portion of the Landing is basically a dead zone of parking lots now.

In order for the Landing to truly thrive, everything that' s been lost over the years will have to be replaced at some point. Wouldn't preservation have been an easier option?

BKD Moving to Met Square

According to the Business Journal, accounting firm BKD is in negotiations to move its office from One Financial Plaza to Met Square. The firm will be leasing the same amount of space in Met Square - approximately 30,000 sf - that it currently has at One Financial Plaza.

With BKD going "paperless," the new Met Square space will provide a more flexible space for the firm and its 125 employees. It plans to add eight more entry-level accountants this spring as well.

BKD’s lease brings occupancy to 82 percent at the 42-story Met Square, St. Louis’ tallest office tower and leaves a major vacancy on the sixth floor of One Financial Plaza. This vacancy could allow Stifel Nicolaus to expand at its current location should development plans at Ballpark Village continue to flounder. If Stifel were to lease the sixth floor, it would have contiguous space on floors 5-9, along with space on the first floor.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Church of God in Christ Moves Convocation to St. Louis!

As reported by the Post-Dispatch, the Church of God in Christ is moving its annual convocation to St. Louis from memphis. The annual convocation attracts up to 50,000 people and could have an economic impact of up to $35 million for the city. A major coup for the Convention and Visitors Commission!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

209 N. 4th to be Added to Historic Register?

As reported over on Dotage, the agenda for this month's Preservation Board meeting includes discussing the nomination of the William A. Stickney Cigar Company Building at 209 N. 4th Street for addition to the National Register of Historic Places. I would expect this to be approved, and hopefully the Roberts Brothers or some other developer can proceed with its renovation.

More information on this building can be found in my prior post here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Report Cites Lack of "Demand Drivers" Downtown

David Nicklaus of the Post-Dispatch had a great column discussing a recent report from Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels that cited downtown St. Louis' lack of "demand drivers" as a main impediment for the city in luring conventions and vacation travelers.
The report says St. Louis has two good draws for summer tourism — the Arch and the Cardinals — and is firmly entrenched as a second-tier convention city. However, it says, we need more downtown restaurants and attractions to compete with the likes of Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis and Minneapolis.

"When booking meetings and conventions, meeting planners may find the amenities offered in these cities more attractive than those offered in St. Louis," the report states.
Very true. And it's important to note that restaurants, shops and other attractions cannot sustain themselves on tourism and convention business alone, both of which are highly cyclical and prone to wide fluctuations based on the state of the overall economy. In order to support the types of ammenities needed to help attract travelers, we need a much stronger business community downtown. That means more companies making a commitment to doing business downtown, filling up vacant office space, fueling the construction of new office space, and providing the critical mass of customers during the day and evening that will help downtown businesses thrive. Downtown's business community and fortunes as a convention city are strongly inter-related.

The good news is that St. Louis' relative affordability in these difficult economic times is helping the city lure new groups that may not have considered coming here in the past.

At the end of the column, Kitty Ratcliffe, president of the Convention and Visitors Commission, mentions her top priority for downtown St. Louis' redevelopment efforts:
"St. Louis Centre is a tremendous eyesore," she says. "As far as I'm concerned, it is the No. 1 problem, right now."
I agree. It's prominent location across from the convention center and just blocks from the Renaissance Hotel make St. Louis Centre one of the first things that visitors to our city see - it needs to be addressed ASAP.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Minor Rant...

ESPN really had some great shots of various downtown sites during its coverage of the Women's Final Four earlier this week - the city looked absolutely fantastic. Watching the games from out of town, the St. Louis scenes made me proud (and just a tad homesick).

But why didn't they take any shots of Clayton, the "center of the universe" as a former co-worker of mine once referred to it? Could it be that downtown is actually St. Louis' public face to the rest of the world? Nah, that couldn't be it. :)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Random Lease Roundup

Missouri Foundation for Health leased 19,343 sf at 1000 St. Louis Union Station.

Maximus Inc. purchased the 27,482 sf manufacturing building at 2945 Washington Avenue.

Koplar Management renewed its lease for 14,820 sf at the Gateway Tower, One Memorial Drive

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Creative People; Boring Buildings

Clayton, while nice, possesses an antiseptic quality that doesn't exactly scream "CREATIVE!" It's more like a suburban office park with a street grid. Creative companies belong in creative environments, the kind you can only find in places with character - places like downtown St. Louis. You just can't replicate downtown's level of stimulation in the burbs.

The Hughes Group and Adamson know better though; they both gave up their Clayton offices for a better working environment downtown.

A quick look at the Business Journal's listing of St. Louis' largest advertising agencies shows that six are located in or near downtown Clayton:

DDC Advertising & PR - 222 S. Central - $19.50 psf

Coheision - 10 S. Brentwood - $23.00 psf

Geile Leon Marketing Communications - 130 S. Bemiston - $15.00 psf

Weintraub Advertising - 7745 Carondelet – ?? psf

Black Twig - 771 Bonhomme - $23.75 psf

These buildings and their surroundings are boring. And expensive.

Here are some other creative firms with unexciting locations:

Momentum - Richmond Heights

MediaCross - Brentwood

Imap Advertisting - Chesterfield

Drone & Mueller - Creve Coeur

Turec Advertising Associates - Creve Coeur

Zeis Group - Des Peres

Ervin Marketing - Olivette

It's firms like these that belong downtown, where their employees will

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Culinary Company Opens Downtown

The Culinary Company is now open in 13,000 sf of the former Swank Audio Visuals space at 201 S. Jefferson. The company provides temporary servers, bartenders, cooks and dishwashers to hotels, caterers, restaurants and clubs throughout the St. Louis area and offers culinary uniforms, restaurant supplies, equipment and janitorial products to the public and corporate accounts.

Swank vacated its five-building, 60,000-sf "campus" on Jefferson back in 2007, moving to 38,000 sf in Sunset Hills. That move was a bit of a head-scratcher to me, as the company had been downtown since 1937.

Monday, April 06, 2009

How About Some Zoloft for the Depressed Section?

There has been much discussion recently about what to do with the Arch grounds, or more specifically, how to better connect it with downtown.

The concept that seems to get the most attention is the idea of adding a "lid," covering three blocks of the depressed section of I-70 directly across from the Arch.

The lid idea, in my opinion, does not go nearly far enough. I think the depressed section could use some Zoloft.

The complete removal of I-70 through the heart of downtown would not only make the Arch grounds more accessible to visitors, it would also have a stimulative, transformative effect on the areas surrounding the Arch grounds. Laclede's Landing, in particular, would have a much stronger cnnection to the rest of downtown. As Michael Allen points out in his excellent commentary, it could also help spur development on the land that was slated for the Bottle District and free up additional land where the highway currently is.

It just makes sense.

STL Rising has a great take on this topic as well, as does Urban Workshop. And here is the Landmarks Association's official statement, which also advocates for the removal of I-70.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Paradowski Graphic Design's New Digs

Alex Paradowski of Paradowski Graphic Design was kind enough to provide this rendering of his firm's new offices on the Urban St. Louis forum.

Paradowski's firm is currently renovating the former Stern Fixture Building - originally built as an electric substation - at 1910 Locust, just another positive development in Downtown West, which is experiencing a mini building boom these days. It's great to see firms like Paradowski making this kind of commitment to downtown.

Now, if someone would just lease the old Sherwood Medical Building immediately south of Paradowski's new building, it would provide the critical mass of office workers needed to support additional retail and services in the area, as well as potential residents for many nearby loft developments.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Women's Final Four - This Weekend!

The Women's Final Four returns to St. Louis this weekend, with UCONN, Stanford, Oklahoma and Louisville headed to town to determine the top team in women's hoops.

The festivities begin Saturday morning with the 4Kay Run to help fight breast cancer and honor the late N.C. State coaching legend, Kay Yow.

Later that morning is the March to the Arch, a tradition that began with the 2001 Women's Final Four in St. Louis in which over 3,000 kids of all ages will dribble basketballs from Union Station to the Arch.

Saturday also includes clinics, the Hoop City fan fest at America's Center and practice and autograph sessions for the Final Four teams. On Saturday afternoon is the Women's High School All-America game at Wash U.

The games will take place on Sunday and Tuesday evenings.

For the full schedule of events, click here.

The event is expected to attract 20,000 visitors and create about $20 million in direct visitor spending. Let's hope for another great showing by the Sports Commission and the people of St. Louis, so that the city can land additional events like this in the future!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dr. Downtown On the 2 Fox

Fox 2 had a great report on Dr. Sonny Sagar's new Downtown Urgent Care clinic on Olive: Link

Dr. Saggar has a nice quote on downtown at the end of the story:

"It's got much more of a village mentality," says Saggar. "You can pop into that street or to the grocery store, or the doctor's office now or to the book store, and you never have to get in your car."

An Expansion and an Acquisition

Stifel Nicolaus has re-established its downtown brokerage office, which had closed in late 2007 in connection with the closing of Highway 40.

NSI Marketing Services has acquired Chicago-based CoAMS Inc. in a deal that will grow NSI's employee base to around 325.