Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A New Tenant for the Truman Building

The Truman Building continues to pick up tenants, recently adding a newly formed, non-profit jazz dance troupe, St. Louis Dance Theater.

The troupe occupies the Truman Building's entire 5,000-sf third floor, which it will use for rehearsal space, offices and conference rooms. St. Louis Dance Theater will initially recruit and employ up to 14 dancers for a 30-week contract year.

The building is also home to Downtown Urgent Care and The Boxing Gym.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Low Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 10/4

Ok, I got a new phone and its camera is actually pretty good, but I figured I'd stick with the "low quality" post title for continuity's sake.

Here's a look at the glass panels that have been added to the facade of the St. Louis Centre garage:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

One Possible Step Forward; One Possible Step Back

Today is the LCRA's deadline to submit proposals to redevelop the long-vacant Arcade Building at 8th and Olive.  It will be interesting to hear how many developers responded and what their plans are.

Meanwhile, another important building in the Old Post Office District may be suffering a setback, as the owners of The Alexa (formerly the Chemical Building) have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after one of the project's creditors - Centrue Bank - nearly foreclosed on the building.  What does this mean for the future of the development?  The ownership group claims that it still plans to redevelop the building as opposed to selling it off, but it's hard to consider this encouraging news.  Seeing this building sit empty for several years since redevelopment plans were originally announced has been incredibly disappointing, and the unnecessary loss of Dooley's Pub merely compounds the pain.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Waiting on the Arcade Building

There's nothing terribly exciting in the City's RFP for the Arcade Building - it's mostly standard boilerplate stuff.  One item, however, did stand out:
The City has a strong preference for office space on upper floors and retail uses in the arcade section (first and second floors) that contribute to the quality of the streetscape; however, other uses will be considered.  Additionally, proposals which include plans to seek Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification are encouraged.
I have to think that a mix of residential and office space (along with retail space in the two-story arcade) would work better than an all-office concept. The building does total 500,000 sf, after all.  And if renovated as office space, it will be competing for tenants with the Railway Exchange building, which is slated to undergo renovation soon.  Just how big is the market for office space in renovated historic buildings as compared to newer Class A and B buildings?

It will be interesting to see who responds to the RFP (last I heard, 2-3 firms were interested in it) and what ideas the respondents have for the building's reuse. The deadline to respond is September 30, so hopefully this fall we'll have a clearer picture of the Arcade's future.  It's the lynchpin of the Old Post Office district and arguably the most prominent vacant building downtown, now that St. Louis Centre and the Kiel Opera House are being renovated.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Downtown: The Path of Least Resistance?

It seems that the people of O'Fallon, Missouri are unhappy about the financial incentives their city is offering to Centene, to assist the company in building a new data center.

I have to think that downtown St. Louis would welcome the firm with open arms.  Centene could easily locate its data center downtown, taking advantage of downtown's outstanding power infrastructure while alleviating the need to build a new building, which would likely reduce costs.  The project wouldn't yield many jobs, but would be good for downtown's burgeoning IT sector.

How about it, Centene?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Filling Met Square, Part II

After suffering the loss of Armstrong Teasdale, one of its largest tenants, Met Square continues to rebuild its occupancy rate, adding one new tenant from across the street and another from across town.

Insurance defense law firm Evans & Dixon has leased nearly 40,000 sf on floors 24 and 25 for its 116 employees.  They're moving from 33,000 sf on three floors at the Millennium Center at 515 Olive and a smaller office at 705 Olive.

Favorable rental rates facilitated the firm's step up from a Class B building to Class A space, and the move now opens up a significant block of space for a value-minded tenant in the Millennium Center.  Space in the building leases for $12.00 psf - a true bargain in a recently renovated building with a great location.

Met Square is also adding the Better Business Bureau, which is relocating its 32 employees from Maplewood to a 6,700 sf space.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brookdale Farms to Open Stables in Chouteau's Landing

Brookdale Farms, which runs downtown's popular carriage ride service, recently purchased the 20,903 sf building at 218 Lombard Street to house its 10 horses and carriages when they're not being kept at Brookdale's stables in Eureka.

Brookdale will be renovating the building, which is located next to I-44 in the Chouteau's Landing district.

For prospective tenants looking for a well located small office and warehouse facility, an adjacent building is currently listed for sale for $350,000.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meanwhile, in the Motor City...

In Detroit, a city whose downtown has experienced a similar decline to our own (albeit on a much larger scale), there is reason for optimism thanks to two major employers who have decided to move downtown from the suburbs.

First, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan announced that it would be moving 3,000 employees downtown from Southfield. That announcement was followed by Quicken Loans' decision to relocate its headquarters to downtown Detroit from Livonia, a move that will eventually bring 1,700 employees to the CBD.

The first wave of Quicken Loans employees began made the move downtown this week. Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans' chairman and founder, addressed the employees on their first day downtown, saying, "For those of you who've never worked in a real downtown, there's something special about it. It will fuel us with a special energy." (No word as to whether his speech was written in Comic Sans.)

Gilbert really hit the nail on the head - downtown really does offer an energy that can't be found in the suburbs. It's just as true in Detroit and St. Louis as it is in Chicago and San Francisco.

Detroit's business leaders seem to be figuring out that their city's urban core is crucial to their region's survival. I hope our own business leaders can figure it out as well. If Detroit can do it, certainly St. Louis can as well.

Can you imagine 4,700 employees moving downtown? I sure can.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Downtown: It's Worth the Drive

A few weeks ago, the Business Journal ran a story about Gateway Packaging, a local, family-owned business based in Granite City that recently sold a 75 percent stake to a private equity firm in order to raise money for future acquisitions.  Gateway's CEO, Roger Miller, hopes to eventually increase sales to $300 million, from $79 million in 2009.

Buried in the article was this brief mention of the company's future office space needs:

If the company expands to $150 million to $250 million in sales, Miller said he might open a corporate office in Clayton, where he lives.

This took me back to a speech given by Mark Mantovani, CEO of downtown-based NSI, at the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis' annual meeting in July. To paraphrase, he stated that local CEOs need to locate their businesses based on what's best for the region - and strengthening our downtown is one of the easiest ways to improve our region - instead of choosing an office that's simply close to their homes.

Hopefully Mr. Miller will give downtown a shot when it comes time to lease space for his growing business; I'm sure he'd be welcomed with open arms! The impact his firm could have on the downtown renaissance would certainly be worth a few minutes' extra drive time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Leather Trades Building on Track for Fall Renovation

Despite a tough economy, downtown continues to make positive strides - Steve Patterson of Urban Review STL is now reporting that Dominium Properties will begin renovating the Leather Trades Building in September!

Barring any major changes to the original development plans, the Leather Trades is slated to include approximately 90 apartments and studio space for artists, dancers and musicians.  Sounds like a great way to enliven the area.

The redevelopment of the Leather Trades will go a long way toward making Locust a cohesive residential street, like its neighbor to the north, Washington Avenue.  There are still a few buildings left to renovate along Locust west of Tucker, the most notable being the Dragon Trading Building at 1709 Locust.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

St. Louis Coworking Coming to the Shell Building

Calling all freelancers and self-employed professionals!  Beginning August 2, you'll have a new great new place to work when Saint Louis Coworking officially opens its doors in the Shell Building.

Saint Louis Coworking will offer three different monthly payment options, ranging from $450/month for a dedicated desk and file cabinet to just $100/month for basic unlimited access to the work space.  And, anyone can drop in for the daily rate of $15.

This concept will hopefully prove popular and make downtown the place to be for those professionals who are constantly on the go and aren't tethered to leased office space.  I can definitely see Saint Louis Coworking's 10,000-sf space becoming a beehive of activity and a place for create professionals to collaborate and share ideas while maintaining their independence.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Breakfast for Bikers this Wednesday at Old Post Office Plaza

Has the Tour de France got you fired up and ready to ride your bike?  Have you been considering making bicycle commuting a part of your routine?

If so, bike on down to  the Old Post Office Plaza this Wednesday, July 28 from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. for "Breakfast for Bikers."  Meet fellow cyclists and enjoy coffee from the London Tea Room and bagels from the St. Louis Bread Company.  It'll be the perfect way to start your morning while showing your support for cycling in St. Louis.

These morning meet-ups will be taking place on the last Wednesday of every month through October 27th.  The first event, held on June 30, attracted 15-20 bike commuters, and its organizers - Trailnet and the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis - are hoping to keep the numbers growing.

For more information, contact

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can Cupples Station #7 be Saved?

It wasn't all that long ago that downtown buildings dominated the Landmarks Association's annual list of the region's most endangered buildings.  The Statler Hotel, Merchandise Mart and Kiel Opera House once seemed like they would be permanent fixtures on the list, but the wave of redevelopment that downtown has experienced over the last decade has seen most of the threatened buildings restored to their former glory by developers.  Even vacant buildings like the Arcade Building are considered viable candidates for redevelopment or have stable enough ownership to no longer warrant endangered status.

Prior to the beginning of the downtown renaissance, Cupples Station was possibly the most decrepit portion of a central business district that had its share of decrepit areas.  Saved from demolition by Mayor Schoemel in the 1980s, redevelopment eluded the historic, nine-building warehouse district for decades before McCormack Baron renovated the four easternmost warehouses as the Westin Hotel.

Eventually Bank of America, which owned the entire Cupples Station district, sold off each of the five remaining buildings to developers.  HRI and Conrad Properties each renovated a building, and Kevin McGowan's Blue Urban took the remaining three.  Blue Urban successfully renovated one of its three buildings before the economy stalled, leaving the other two - Building 7 and Building 9 - vacant.

Now Building 7 has landed on the Most Endangered List.

The building has sustained quite a bit of damage over the years, and has significant holes in its roof and numerous open windows that expose its interior to the elements.  Prior to selling it to Blue Urban, Bank of America had thought it was too deteriorated to be rehabbed and sought to demolish it. 

Kevin McGowan saved it once; can he save it again?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Future of Ballpark Village Residential?

DeWitt also mentioned that he is hopeful that future phases of Ballpark Village will include a residential tower.  Obviously, attaining financing for new residential construction is extremely challenging at the moment, but based on past comments from both the Cardinals and Cordish, I think both groups grossly underestimate the demand for condos in a new residential building overlooking the ballpark.

In my opinion the uniqueness of such a project in baseball-crazed St. Louis would make demand virtually inelastic - popular regardless of the state of the real estate market.  If the tower were to be configured in such a way that each unit has a view of the stadium/playing field, it could very easily become popular as second homes for wealthy executives, and could even be popular with companies for use in entertaining clients.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Phase I of Ballpark Village to be Scaled Back?

At a recent gathering of commercial real estate professionals, Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III told the crowd that efforts to finance the construction of Ballpark Village have progressed in recent months.  Of course, we've heard this song before on several other occasions, and Ballpark Village still consists of just a softball field and a parking lot (which looks absolutely atrocious on TV).

The interesting aspect of DeWitt's presentation was the revelation that the plans for the first phase of the development have been phased back a bit.  This could actually be a good thing.

According to DeWitt, phase I of Ballpark Village will be built on the tow blocks at the southeast corner of the development's 10-acre site, directly across from Busch Stadium at the northwest corner of Broadway and Clark.  It will consist of a new office tower totaling somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 sf, as well as retail and restaurant space.  As a point of comparison, the Deloitte Building at 100 S. Fourth Street is approximately 250,000 sf.  It's also worth noting that the Deloitte Building has historically enjoyed stable, high occupancy rates compared to other downtown properties.

With Stifel Nicolaus planning to lease at least 175,000 sf, building a smaller office building could help minimize the potential for another round of musical chairs among downtown office tenants.  Stifel's four-plus floors in One Financial Plaza...And finally having tangible construction underway could help generate interest among prospective tenants for office space in future phases.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unisys: Welcome to Downtown St. Louis!

The IT sector in downtown St. Louis has been on a roll as of late, and it received more good news on Thursday as Fortune 500 IT firm Unisys announced that it plans to open a data center in downtown St. Louis that will employ 300 workers by 2012.

The center will provide a central team of highly skilled experts focused on building, operating and maintaining innovative, leading-edge software applications for Unisys federal government and commercial clients.

Unisys is looking for 35,000 to 40,000 sf, and hopes to be in its new home by October.  555 Washington is one of the buildings under consideration.   The 165,000 sf 555 Washington currently has over 80,000 sf available, so a lease by Unisys could potentially push the building's occupancy rate to around 75% while adding workers to a section of downtown that is seeing a huge amount of redevelopment right now, with the Laurel and 600 Washington/7th Street Garage projects currently underway.

The firm chose downtown due to its desirability to young IT workers.  Seeing as how Unisys employs roughly 24,000 worldwide, it's safe to say they know what it takes to attract talent.  Hopefully they will serve as an example to other IT firms in the area, proving that the combination of unparalleled infrastructure and an exciting, stimulating work environment make downtown the most logical location for tech firms in the region.

At the same time, it's unfortunate that Centene appears poised to move forward with its plans to build its new data center in O'Fallon.  By locating in an existing building downtown, they could have keep the momentum rolling downtown and partially redeemed themselves for pulling out of Ballpark Village.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Low Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 6/21

Gone daddy gone...

Friends, with Benefits

Looking for an easy way to support the revitalization of downtown St. Louis?  Become a Friend of Downtown, a new affinity program from the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis.

For a membership fee of $50, you'll receive a $10 Downtown Gift Card as well as a "Friends Pass" entitling you to a slew of other perks, including tickets to special events, discounts on dining, shopping and lodging and much more.  The membership fee pretty much pays for itself.

As a Friend of Downtown, you'll be making a tangible show of support for downtown St. Louis, while helping sustain the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis' outstanding events and marketing programs - programs that go a long way toward making downtown a better place to live, work and visit.

For more information, or to become a Friend of Downtown, visit

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

IT Firm Contegix Expanding Downtown

Following what seems to be a trend among downtown IT firms, Contegix is planning to double its staff from 20 to 40 by the end of the year.  The company is also on the lookout for potential acquisitions, so perhaps its presence downtown will continue to grow in the near future.

Contegix is based in the Bandwidth Exchange Building at 900 Walnut, which is fully leased.  In addition to Contegix, the list of tenants at the Bandwidth Exhchange Building includes Connectria, Xiolink, Broadwing Communications, Chase Paymentceh, Level 3 Communications and McLeod USA, among others.

The IT sector has been a real bright spot for downtown as of late, with Digital Realty Trust making a significant investment in its data center space at 210 North Tucker, Xiolink building a new data center and expanding to 150 employees at 1111 Olive, and Datotel consolidating its 36 employees in the Globe Building.

Who will be the next firm to join the party?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Plaza Square Apartments Under New Ownership, Receiving Upgrades

CityView (formerly known as the Plaza Square Apartments), downtown's largest apartment complex, will soon receive a $4 million in upgrades thanks to its new owner, Mills Properties.

Mills, which began managing the 911-unit complex last August and officially took ownership of it in May, has already raised CityView's occupancy rate to 60 percent.  Mills Properties previously managed Plaza Square back in the 90s, achieving an occupancy rate of over 90 percent.  Renovations are already underway - it would be a great accomplishment if Mills can return CityView/Plaza Square to its former glory.

Mills plans on retaining three of the complex's five buildings as rental apartments and will sell the remaining two buildings, which are currently vacant.  After receiving improvements, the two vacant buildings will be listed for $10 million and will be marketed as senior living units.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How Will The Laurel Impact its Surroundings?

It will be interesting to see what kind of impact the current redevelopment projects underway at St. Louis Centre and the Dillard's Building will have on the surrounding area.

One building that could potentially benefit from this mini development boom is the Union Market, which occupies an entire city block boardered by Broadway, Convention Plaza, Sixth Street, and Lucas.

While the Union Market was renovated in the 1980s and is currently home to a Drury Hotel, J.F. Sanfilippo's restaurant and a three-story parking garage, the western portion of the building remains largely underutilized.

However, the apartments and Embassy Suites hotel planned for the Dillard's Building - just catty-corner from the Union Market - will bring an influx of residents and tourists to the area.  Several office buildings - 555 Washington, 505 Washington, One Financial Plaza, 500 North Broadway, 600 Washington and the U.S. Bank Building - are all located within a short walk of the building as well, as are the Edward Jones Dome and America's Center.  And of course, as mentioned earlier, the building houses its own hotel.  These factors may make the vacant western portion of the Union Market a prime candidate for a bar, restaurant or other retail use.

Lots of people will be visiting this area in the near future.  Will Drury give them another place to go?

The western entrance to the Union Market:

A look inside:

A view of The Laurel from the Union Market's entrance:

The rear of 555 Washington:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Low Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 5/24

The Dillard's Building appears to be in pretty good shape behind the St. Louis Centre skybridge.

Missouri State Public Defender System Signs Lease at 1010 Market

The Missouri State Public Defender System has leased the 17,896 sf 11th floor at 1010 Market Street, moving from a building on 18th Street near Union Station. Occupancy is scheduled for November.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Short-Distance Dedication to the Skybridge

This one goes out to the St. Louis Centre skybridge, which currently has just hours to live.

Good bye, and good riddance.  You will not be missed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Boxing Gym Coming to 916 Olive

The owners of The Boxing Gym have purchased The Training Room at 916 Olive from Dr. Sonny Saggar.  Dr. Saggar owns the building and its primary tenant, Downtown Urgent Care.

Said Phil Kammann, Chief Operations Officer of Saggar Holdings, "I am very excited by The Boxing Gym opening up in this building.  It fits well with our branding this address as a real destination for those seeking health and wellness services.  This is good for Downtown Urgent Care, it's good for the people who live in, work in and visit downtown St. Louis.  This is yet more evidence that downtown St. Louis has reestablished itself as a desirable place to be."

Although The Boxing Gym will reopen its doors on Monday, May 24, it will not have an official grand opening until sometime in July, when a more structured class schedule will have been developed.

Next Up on the "To-Do" List: The Railway Exchange

With three major downtown development projects - the St. Louis Centre Garage, The Laurel and the Park Pacific - currently underway, city officials can now turn their attention to crossing another significant project off their "to-do" list: The Railway Exchange.

Rick Yackey has teamed up with Bruce Development, and the partnership entered into an agreement to purchase the building, along with its parking garage and the surface lot at 6th and Olive, last fall for $18.5 million.  The deal was anticipated to be finalized last month, but to my knowledge, it has not closed yet.

After the sale closes, work on remodeling and downsizing the Macy's store will begin as soon as the developers are able to sell $7 million in New Markets Tax Credits.  The renovation will cost a total of $122 million and could receive up to $28.7 million in public assistance.

In addition to its department store on the first three floors, Macy's will also lease office space for 80 corporate worker on the ninth and tenth floors.  That still leaves a lot of space to fill in the 21-story, nearly 1.2 million sf building - approximately 900,000 sf!

It will be interesting to see what kind of interest Yackey and Bruce will be able to generate from prospective tenants. If they're able to fill the building with as many workers as the May Co. had before being acquired by Federated/Macy's, the end result will be a huge increase in vibrancy in the Old Post Office District.  The demolition of the Locust Street skybridge, anticipated to occur later this year, as well as the revitalization of St. Louis Centre immediately to the north of the Railway Exchange, will certainly improve its marketability.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Filling Met Square

With Armstrong Teasdale about to abandon its 120,00-sf space in Met Square, the building's leasing agent, Jones Lang LaSalle, certainly has its work cut out for it.  Fortunately, progress is being made on the leasing front at St. Louis' premier office property.

First, in November, law firm Brown & Crouppen announced that it would be relocating its offices to Met Square from the Laclede Gas Tower, signing a 25,000-sf lease.

Then, in April, engineering firm HNTB and law firm Littler Mendleson signed leases for 9,000 sf and 9,300 sf, respectively.  HNTB is moving from 10 S. Broadway while Littler Mendleson is headed downtown from Creve Coeur.

The three leases total 43,300 sf and bring Met Square's occupancy rate to 82 percent.  There's still lots of work to be done.

With these new tenants on board, Jones Lang LaSalle must now focus on filling the Armstrong Teasdale space.  The good news is that, according to Henry Voges of Jones Lang LaSalle, interest in the space has been strong.  Four contiguous floors in a prestigious building like Met Square are surely attractive to a large number of firms looking for high-end, highly visible space that offers a significant cost savings over space in Clayton.

Jones Lang LaSalle is also in talks with a prospective tenant for 45,000 sf elsewhere in the building.

It's unfortunate that Armstrong Teasdale is leaving downtown, right as momentum is at an all-time high - they won't be around to be part of the revival.  Let's hope some other firm(s) out there realize the impact they can have on the region by locating downtown and push Met Square's occupancy rate back over 90 percent.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Renderings of the St. Louis Centre Garage/600 Washington

Here are some pics of the renderings for the new St. Louis Centre Garage...

At 7th and Washington, looking south:

At 6th and Locust, looking north:

6th and Washington, looking south:

The new lobby of 600 Washington (Formerly One City Centre):

And a site plan showing first-floor retail on the western and southern sides of the former mall, and a retail bay near the southeast corner:

Friday, May 07, 2010

Re-Saving Lindy Squared

At the end of Lisa Brown's article on St. Louis Centre's reincarnation as a parking garage was a mention of Lindy Squared, one of the coolest public art projects downtown has ever had.

Lindy Squared was a 40-by-60-foot (roughly five stories) mural painted by Robert Fishbone and Sarah Linquisk on the side of the Lion Gas Building at Ninth and Chestnut.  The mural was completed in 1977 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's famous trans-Atlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.

Up close, the abstract mural was a blur of 1,160 blocks in 72 shades of gray.  From a slight distance, it became the face of the legendary aviator.  It had a cool geometric, pixilated look.

In 1981, the Lion Gas Building was demolished to make way for Southwestern Bell's headquarters tower.

The mural was so popular among St. Louisans, it even had its own "Committee to Save Lindy Squared."

Fortunately, the public was not deprived of its beloved Lindy Squared for long, as a half-scale version of the mural, a wall sculpture named Lindy Squared II, was installed in St. Louis Centre in 1985.

According to this week's Business Journal, it's still there.  Mr. Fishbone plans to remove the mural from St. Louis Centre this month, and is considering relocating it elsewhere.

I'm hoping that it remains downtown, where it can be enjoyed by future generations of St. Louisans and by visitors as well.  City Garden and Old Post Office Plaza would be great locations, as would the lobbies and blank exterior walls of any number of office buildings.  Lindy Squared could really spruce up some bland parking garages as well.

Just keep it downtown!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mid-Century Modern Office Space Available

Here in St. Louis, and across the country, mid-century modern structures have received an increasing amount of attention in recent years, as the urbanist/preservationist communities have worked hard to raise public awareness of the importance of unique, post-war structures.  Subsequently, mid-century modern architecture is now "hot" again and deemed worthy of preservation.

This renewed interest in mid-century modern buildings makes it all the more disappointing to see the sleek, 1959-vintage office building at 505 Washington continue to sit vacant.

Situated on the periphery of downtown, overshadowed by larger, newer office buildings nearby, as well as its next-door neighbor, the ornate and historic 555 Washington, 505 can be easy to overlook at just three stories and 75,800 sf.

While 505's space is dividable, this building would make a fantastic headquarters for a medium-sized single user.  Certainly, an architecture firm, ad agency or design firm would be a logical fit, but it might be even more impressive for a "traditional" business with the capacity for unconventional thinking.

It's not hard to picture a law firm, money manager, or boutique investment banking firm located here (how about Stern Brothers?).  Add signage that's compatible with the building's style - how about some stainless steel lettering above the front entrance? - and some colorful plantings to soften the facade a bit, and 505 would be an absolute knockout.

Did I mention that space at 505 Washington leases for just $13-$16 psf?  That is a ridiculous value.

Is there any firm out there willing to step up to the plate and lease this cool little building?

Andrew Bagy of Grubb & Ellis Gundaker is the listing agent - (314) 719-2041.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Look at the Proposed Commuter Bike Station

Did you enjoy riding your bike down Locust as part of the Open Streets festivities this past weekend?

If so, you might have biked right by The 411, the proposed site of the St. Louis Commuter Bike Station. The group behind the bike station is still trying to raise $125,000 by June 30 to fund the project, and hopes to open later this summer.

The Commuter Bike Station would be an amazing addition to downtown St. Louis.  If more commuters were able to bike to work with the help of a facility like this, perhaps we wouldn't need so many parking garages.  Let's hope a generous benefactor will step up to help it meet its fund raising goal.

To get a better understanding of how the facility will look, here are some renderings:

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The "Back to the City" Movement: Has it Hit Downtown St. Louis?

The Harvard Business Journal ran a great piece in its May edition on the "back to the city" movement taking place around the country. The article cites United Airlines in Chicago and Quicken Loans in Detroit as two major companies that have recently moved their headquarters to their respective cities' central business districts from suburban locales.

According to the article, in the last U.S. census, almost two-thirds (64%) of college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds said they looked for a job after they chose the city where they wanted to live.


That is a remarkable figure, and one that speaks to the importance of making St. Louis as appealing as possible to this demographic.
That suggests that businesses like Quicken Loans are on to something: Move in and help build up urban neighborhoods, the argument goes, because that's what will draw the talent.
Unfortunately, while companies like Quicken Loans are investing in cities' urban cores in an effort to attract the best and brightest, here in St. Louis, we have firms like Centene and Armstrong Teasdale that instead choose the suburbs over downtown.
"Increasingly CEOs understand that without a vibrant central city, their region becomes less competitive," says (CEOs for Cities president Carol) Coletta. "Good CEOs care about the fate of their cities, because they have to question whether that is the place where they can attract the talent they need."
The good news is that downtown St. Louis does have a growing number of companies that understand this. Stifel Nicolaus, NSI, Lewis Rice and Thompson Coburn, for example, are all firms that could do business anywhere in the region, but they have chosen downtown not only because it makes good business sense, but to attract the best and the brightest employees as well. Downtown has also become more attractive to a growing number of smaller firms and start-ups, from Landshire (which recently moved to Laclede's Landing from Belleville) to IT firms Datotel and Xiolink, to creative firms like NGAGE/4ORCE and Antidote.

The sooner more of our region's CEOs figure out that investing in downtown will pay remarkable dividends in terms of St. Louis' ability to attract a young, educated, talented workforce, the better off our region will be.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Landshire Moves Downtown

The next time you eat a Nike Sandwich, you'll be doing your part to help downtown St. Louis.

Landshire Inc., distributor of prepackaged sandwiches, announced Thursday that it is relocating its headquarters to Raeder Place on Laclede's Landing from Belleville.

The company will be leasing 14,500 sf in the historic cast-iron fronted building and will be moving 50 employees downtown.  Landshire, originally known as Lakeshire, was founded in St. Louis and moved to Belleville in 1966.

It's been a while since we've heard of any developments on Laclede's Landing, so this is great news.  Welcome back, Landshire!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blustein Building Headed for the National Register

At Monday's Preservation Board meeting, the board recommended the St. Louis News Company Building at 1008-1010 Locust for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.  The building is best known for its most recent incarnation, the Blustein Bride's House.

This building is owned by Sam Berger's Alverne Associates, which also owns the vacant Alverne Hotel next door.  The Alverne is listed on the National Register as well.

Could redevelopment of this building be just around the corner?  I'm not terribly optimistic about it, considering that the Alverne has been on the National Register since 2002, with no progress made.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Datotel Consolidates Downtown

Datotel announced that it has consolidated its operations in the Globe Building at 710 N. Tucker, moving its administrative office downtown from O'Fallon, MO.  The firm now has 36 employees working in its downtown headquarters.

Earlier this month, Datotel began a major investment in its data center, doubling its cooling infrastructure in order to add to its cloud-computing capacity and clients.

"Moving all our employees to one location is key to the growth of Datotel's business and cloud-computing offerings," said David Brown, president of Datotel.  "Downtown has a buzz and energy that we feel is important for a tech company and part of the image we want to communicate to our customers and the public.  Our downtown office provides more room for growth and is more centrally located for our wide variety of clients.  At the same time, to help build downtown buzz and fulfill Datotel's core value of bettering the community in which we work, our employees plan to participate in downtown volunteer efforts and advocate for downtown St. Louis."

I love it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Arcturis Named an "Interior Design Giant"

Interior Design Magazine has named Arcturis one of the country's Top 100 Interior Design Giants for 2010.  This is the third consecutive year that Arcturis has been named to this prestigious list.

Arcturis' inclusion was based on its design work on more than 2.28 million sf of office and commercial space in 2009, which was nearly 800,000 sf more than the firm designed in 2008.  Included in this total were major downtown projects for UMB Bank and office space in the Cupples Station district for Luxco.

In 2009, Arcturis ranked as the region's largest interior design firm and the 16th-largest architectural firm in the St. Louis Business Journal's Book of List.  The firm is based in the Laclede Gas Building.

Congrats to a great downtown firm!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Businesses I'd Like to See Downtown: Crazy Bowls and Wraps

Building Blocks had a recent post on the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis' efforts to attract "chainlets" - local and regional chains such as Clarkson Eyecare and Schnucks - that are more likely to choose a downtown location than national retailers in the current economic environment.

Well, here's a chainlet that I'd like to see downtown: Crazy Bowls and Wraps.

CBW would be an outstanding choice to fill the void left by the loss of Lion's Choice (another chainlet that I would like to see return to downtown) and Espresso Mod while adding a little diversity to the lunch options available to downtown office workers, visitors and residents.

It's a known entity, a local chain that has a loyal following, much like St. Louis Bread Co., which has been very successful downtown for years now.  This familiarity would enable CBW to quickly and easily establish themselves on the downtown scene.  It certainly fits in with the "chainlet" concept that the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis is trying to attract downtown.

So how about it, CBW?  We need more restaurants downtown!

Monday, April 19, 2010

210 N. Tucker Powers Up

Digital Realty Trust is making a major investment in 210 N. Tucker, adding 16 MW of new electrical power (quadrupling the power available to the building), a new power distribution system and 30,000 to 60,00 sf of data center space to the 200,000 sf building.

"These improvements to 210 N. Tucker make it one of the most desirable data center properties in the Midwestern United States," said Glenn Benoist, vice president of portfolio management at Digital Realty Trust.  "The increased level of data center demand in St. Louis has prompted us to expand our commitment to this market.  With a total of 20 MW of power and a significant amount of new data center space, the facility will be the premier site for St. Louis' growing data center market."

Set for completion by the third quarter, the expansion will allow customers seeking space in the facility to begin building out their data center space following the infrastructure improvements.

Digital Realty Trust is working with its national and international partners and customers for expansion of their data center networks into the 210 N. Tucker property.  They're also partnering with the RCGA, the St. Louis chapter of AFCOM (a trade association for data center professionals) and the local brokerage community to address the needs for quality and affordable data center space.

Said Dick Fleming of the RCGA, "This is further evidence that the St. Louis region is a leader in the Midwest for data center operations.  We have the world's largest wholesale data center provider making this major investment in St. Louis at a time when the region prepares to showcase St. Louis IT industry successes at the upcoming Gateway to Innovation conference on April 20.  We at the RCGA were pleased to partner with Digital Realty Trust on this important business expansion project."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cash Infusion for Park Pacific, Laurel

Good news for two important downtown developments: The Business Journal is reporting that the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust is investing $63 million in the Lawrence Group's Park Pacific project on Tucker and $45 million in Spinnaker's Laurel  development in the former Dillard's Building at 6th and Washington.

As I mentioned last month, the Lawrence Group had been given a deadline of June 30 to begin construction on the Park Pacific, and expected to have financing in place by the end of April.

The Park Pacific will include 230 apartments and office and retail space, while The Laurel is slated to include an Embassy Suites hotel and 205 apartments.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Peat Wollaeger Leaves His Mark on Powell Square

The Post-Dispatch reported on Sunday that stencil artist extraordinaire Peat Wollaeger is doing his part to spruce up the decrepit Powell Square building by painting a huge 16-foot-by 16 foot mural on the side of the building that reads "I ♥ St. Louis," with his trademark eyeball replacing the letter I.  Wollaeger was given permission to create the mural by the building's owner, Steven Murphy.

While the Powell Square development has stalled, at least Wollaeger will leave it looking a little better than it was.  He had a great quote in the article:

"I'm tired of the haters who say they can't wait to leave St. Louis," Wollaeger said. "Yeah, there are a lot of racist people in this town. There are a lot of people who are so closed-minded and people who only will come downtown for Cardinals games. But there are also people who put a lot of heart and soul in this town to make it a better place."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Downtown's Role in St. Louis' Competitiveness

I highly recommend checking out the Post-Dispatch's series "Can St. Louis Compete?" if you have not done so already.  And as with any of the Post-Dispatch's online articles, I also highly recommend avoiding the reader comments.

Anyway, the first two articles in the series have touched on some of the reasons for St. Louis' decline over the last half century, and the issues our region must address in order to turn things around.

Of course, our problems stem from a long list of items that each need to be tackled - balkanized government, education, taxation, insufficient access to venture capital, lack of innovation, among others.

The second installment of the series, "Finding a Niche," addresses St. Louis' reputation problem, which has caused the region to, at times, get passed over by companies looking to move or expand.  The article includes a quote from Doug Koch, chief talent officer for Brown Shoe, on one overarching problem that seems to find its way into many of our other problems - "We have not been good at blowing our own horn, and blowing it in a way that is effective."

I agree completely.  And to me, the civic inferiority complex - it would probably be more accurate to describe it as self-loathing - that so many in our region seem to suffer from is a direct result of decades of disinvestment in our central business district.

As middle-class residents moved to the suburbs in post-war St. Louis, an increasing number of jobs and employers followed.  As a result, downtown St. Louis suffered more than 50 years of decline, and a substantial segment of the population found itself living and working away from the urban core, creating a massive disconnect between our citizenry and our downtown.

A city's downtown, however, is where it derives its very identity.  In thriving, successful cities, even suburban residents can consider their regions' downtowns to be points of pride.  In St. Louis, on the other hand, we now have several generations of residents who are either completely apathetic/indifferent to the plight of downtown, or who harbor negative perceptions of it - people who consider Clayton to be the region's downtown.

It's more difficult for most people to take pride in a city with a ragged downtown, because now matter how much boasting to outsiders one does about St. Louis and all it has to offer - which is a lot - inevitably, the conversation will eventually come back to the state of our downtown.  Having a great Clayton or a great Creve Coeur will never solve that issue; downtown is our public face to the rest of the world.  And right now, that face is haggard and gaunt, with an overabundance of vacant buildings and surface lots, with a handful of urban planning blunders thrown in for good measure.  We need to put our best face forward, something we haven't done in years.

I remain convinced, however, that if more employers were to choose downtown, something that would revitalize our central business district and reconnect our residents with our city's identity, civic self-loathing would subside, and St. Louis could blow its own horn once again.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Work Beginning on 600 Washington

On Wednesday, Clayco began setting up construction fencing around the southeast and northeast corners of St. Louis Centre, presumably to begin reconfiguring the entrance to One City Centre, now known as 600 Washington.  Now, if they could just do something about those skybridges...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sprucing Up a Downtown Entrance

I'm a big fan of the recent landscaping improvements that have been added to the grassy areas alongside 55/70 at the Memorial Drive exit.  They really help spruce up what was previously a drab area and help make for a nicer entrance into downtown.

This got me thinking about other ways to improve downtown's front doorstep.

Obviously, renovating the decrepit Powell Square Building would have the greatest impact, but who knows when that will ever come about?

One relatively cost-efficient way to welcome motorists to downtown would be to paint the railroad trestle that crosses over 55.70 immediately south of the Memorial Drive exit (and immediately north of Powell Square).  It was once painted to read "Route of the Eagles" by Union Pacific, but most of it has been painted over with a solid swath of black (a similar trestle can be found on Kingshighway, near Fyler).

Why not give this trestle a fresh, colorful look?  Paint it in red, yellow and blue to make it look like the city of St. Louis flag, along with "Welcome to Downtown St. Louis." Perhaps a philanthropic organization such as the Danforth Foundation or the Gateway Foundation could help pay for the makeover.

Trailnet recently converted a retired railroad trestle over Interstate 44 in Kirkwood to a walking/biking trail and painted it bright green - the results are amazing.  Something similar would look incredible downtown and could be done relatively easily.  The only difference between the downtown trestle and the one in Kirkwood is that the downtown one is still in use and would likely require permission from Union Pacific.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Downtown Development Status Rundown

Dominium Development plans to start work on the Leather Trades Lofts as soon as it can procure $3 million in anticipated state tax credits.  The project will include 86 loft apartments geared toward artists.

Construction on 100 high-end apartments in The Alexa - the former Chemical Building - is expected to begin in the next 30 days, with completion coming in 12 to 15 months.

The Lawrence Group has been given a deadline of June 30 to begin construction on its Park Pacific development and expects to have financing in place within 60 days.

Financing is nearly in place for the redevelopment of St. Louis Centre, pending completion of paperwork related to New Markets Tax Credits for the project.

Deputy mayor for development Barbara Geisman is reporting that The Laurel - the conversion of the former Dillard's Building into apartments and a hotel - is moving "full-speed ahead."

Sources are reporting that plans for the Roberts Brothers' Hotel Indigo project on Locust have been shelved, possibly giving the two historic buildings on the site a second chance for redevelopment.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Asking Way Too Much

The Zimmerman Associates building at 400 N. Tucker is listed for sale.  Originally a Hertz rental car facility, this free-standing, two-story, 2,400 sf building was built in 1960 and gut rehabbed in 1999 to include exposed brick walls and terrazzo floors.

The building is situated on a large (8,357 sf) fenced lot with attached parking, and there is abundant additional parking available in surface lots and garages nearby.

Its prominent location at the corner of Tucker and Locust make it a prime candidate for infill development, and is likely the reason for the exorbitant asking price of $1,178,750.

At that price and in this market, I can see this property sitting vacant for a long time.  It's a shame, too, since Tucker could really use some added density.  Along with the U.S. Bank branch across the street, it's one of two sorely under-utilized parcels along this prominent boulevard.

Anthony Burgio of Prime Properties is the listing agent - (636) 797-4770.

(BTW, is Zimmerman Associates still in business?)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Infuz Recommits to Downtown

Interactive marketing firm Infuz has signed a six-year lease for 11,000 sf in the Curlee Building at 1001 Washington Avenue.  The firm's 30 employees are currently based in 12,000 sf at 555 Washington and will be moving in March.

Infuz will be joining Phoenix Creative, TRC Staffing, Edison Schools, First Omni and Wm. B Ittner Architects in the Curlee, which will now boast an 85% occupancy rate.

According to Infuz CEO Jason Fiehler, the firm chose to move to the Curlee because of its more vibrant location.  Until the Laurel and St. Louis Centre redevelopment projects get underway, 555 and 505 Washington are going to have a hard time attracting tenants.  It's unfortunate, as both buildings are quite unique and are perfect for a variety of firms.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Random Ramblings

Dave Bailey's newest endeavor, Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar, is now open next to Left Bank Books at 10th and Locust.

Great Clips is going in the former Curves space in the Paul Brown Building.  Crews are working on The Time's former space at 10th and Washington.

The grassy areas along 55/70 have received extensive landscaping, including trees and other plantings.  The finished product will look especially good come springtime.

Work seems to be continuing on Copia, albeit with no noticeable difference from the outside.  Will anything ever happen with the adjacent "Washington Avenue Market" space?  With the Culinaria open just a few blocks away, a small grocery store doesn't seem necessary at that location.

Scorch Agency has moved to the Shell Building from 227 N. Jefferson.

505 Washington has had a boarded-up window next to its front entrance for several weeks now.  Time to replace the glass; the board-up sends a bad message.

I'm hearing that the St. Louis Centre skybridge is slated for demolition in August.

Monday, February 15, 2010

McCormack Baron Finalizes Relocation Plans

As reported in the Business Journal, McCormack Baron Salazar has signed a lease for 37,000 sf in the Laclede Gas Building.  The deal will boost the building's occupancy rate to 85%, impressive considering it has recently lost two major tenants - Husch Blackwell to Clayton and Brown & Crouppen to Met Square.

McCormack Baron will move its 110 employees - 50 from McCormack Baron and 60 from its affiliated management company McCormack Baron Raglan and its not-for-profit arm Urban Strategies - from the Farm Credit Bank Building at 1415 Olive this summer.  The former McCormack Baron space will be used for administrative offices for the St. Louis Public Library and Confluence Preparatory Academy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dragon Trading Building Up for Auction

The Dragon Trading Building at 1709 Locust will be available for sale via auction starting on February 23. Bidding will start at $900,000.

The building was purchased by its current owners, New York real estate investors Cyrus and Darius Sakhai, for $1.8 million back in 2006. Darius Sakhai is also a principal of Sovereign Partners, which owns the Gateway Tower and 1015 Locust.

The Sakhais planned to convert the 80-year-old, 76,000 sf building into 36 to 40 rental lofts on the upper three floors with retail space on the first floor. Its 15,000 sf basement was to be converted into an underground parking garage.

This building has always been a favorite of mine. Renovated and converted to residential use, it would nicely complement the recent developments around it, such as the Printers Lofts, as well as the planned redevelopment of the Leather Trades Building a block away.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hawkins, Parnell & Thackston Opens St. Louis Office

Atlanta-based law firm Hawkins, Parnell & Thackston has established a St. Louis office and - get this - it's downtown!

The firm has leased 7,700 sf in the Equitable Building at 10 S. Broadway.  It has two attorneys and plans to add two more this month.

It's wonderful to hear about an out-of-town firm choosing downtown; I've profiled many others on this blog who unfortunately did not.  We're fortunate to have Hawkins, Parnell & Thackston joining the ranks of downtown's many outstanding law firms.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Bottle Art Lofts Clear Critical First Hurdle

The Bottle Art Lofts are about to get one step closer to becoming a reality, as the city's Preservation Board recommended that the three buildings making up the former Sligo Iron Store Company complex at 1301 N. Sixth Street be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

Developer HRI is hoping to begin construction on the $22.2 million project in July with a completion date of October 2011.  Geared to artists, the development will feature 70 lofts as well as a 7,600 sf gallery and performance space.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Restaurant Bites

A new Thai restaurant, Sweet Basil, has opened in the former Gregory's space at 9th and Pine.

Pat Shannon's newest restaurant, Cotto Cucina Moderna, is slated to open in the Knickerbocker Building at 1304 Washington.

The Imo's on 4th Street is moving to a renovated space at 904 S. Fourth Street in Chivvis Development's Chouteau's Landing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Swear, I Didn't Write This

The STL JobWatch blog on STLToday recently featured a post on how working in St. Louis differs from other cities.  One commenter, Dave, summed it up so well, I felt that I just had to repost it here:

One big difference is that here 90% of white-collar jobs exist outside of the urban core making it an undesirable place to live for those graduating from college and young families. That’s quite different from most desirable cities - NY, Chicago, Philly, Seattle, etc… I had to be pretty picky to finally land a job downtown where I could walk to many places for lunch, use public transportation, and enjoy many other perks with working in a neighborhood. Too many of the job offers were at boring suburban office parks surrounded by a sea of parking and offering little more than Taco Bell and Subway for lunch which still required driving.
If we could get more business owners to relocate their companies into the urban core, we would immediately help retain and attract more young talent as that’s where that demographic wants to work. It would also help attract more entrepenuers to open local-only businesses that puts that money right back into our local economy as opposed to elsewhere.
Truer words have never been written on STLToday.  Bravo, Dave

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

George K. Baum Opens St. Louis Office...But Not in St. Louis

At the end of 2009, Kansas City-based public finance firm George K. Baum - the 12th-largest municipal finance firm in the country - opened an office to serve the St. Louis area.

Of course, the firm chose to locate in Clayton.

This is exactly the type of firm that should be located downtown, to help complement firms like Stifel Nicolaus and Wells Fargo Advisors, along with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.  A quick review of Baum's other office locations shows that many of them are located in their respective cities' central business districts (Denver, Chicago, Columbus, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Wichita, etc.), but not in St. Louis.

Downtown needs to re-establish itself as the region's financial district.  Frankly, it's embarrassing that so many financial services firms choose Clayton as a default location (presumably) without giving downtown a fair shake.

George K. Baum's St. Louis (area) office currently has just one employee, but the firm hopes to eventually add six to 12 more.  If the firm bothers to explore all that downtown has to offer, I think it will find it to be the perfect place to fuel its growth.  Downtown has certainly worked well for Stifel Nicolaus, whose public finance arm has grown exponentially in recent years.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

FOCUS on Downtown Public Policy Forum Events Begin this Week

The Holden Public Policy Forum at Webster University is teaming up with FOCUS St. Louis, the region’s citizens league, to offer a new speaker series dedicated to downtown issues. “FOCUS on Downtown with the Holden Public Policy Forum” aims to get people to come downtown more often; foster a dialogue about downtown misconceptions, challenges and solutions; and realize the area’s importance to the health of the entire St. Louis area.

Members of the local media will serve as guest speakers for the program. They include McGraw Milhaven (KTRS-AM), Carol Daniel (KMOX-AM), Mike Owens (KSDK-TV) and Jo Mannies (St. Louis Beacon). Topics to be discussed include revitalization, infrastructure and safety, among others.
All programs are free and open to the public, and local Missouri wines will be available for sample after each program. The first event will take place this Thursday, January 28 at 6 p.m. at the Old Post Office.

Be there!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cool Office Space in the Gill Building

Michael Francis of Antidote was kind enough to send along a link to some photos of his firm's great looking space - known as The Media Lab - in the Gill Building at 7th and Olive.

Check them out here.

Personally, I think that blank wall on the adjacent parking garage (pictured in the last two photos) is just begging for a mural or some sort of embellishment.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The 411 to House Downtown's First Bike Station

It's looking like downtown will soon become much more bike-friendly in the months ahead.

The city of St. Louis will use $225,000 of federal stimulus money to build a public commuter bicycle station on the first floor of LoftWorks' most recent development, The 411, at the corner of 10th and Locust.

The facility would include showers, bike storage and lockers, and bike repair services would be located nearby. Users would pay a membership fee to use the facilities, and officials hope to sign up 100 members initially.

This is a great step toward making downtown a more desirable place to work while helping to get cars off the road. Many other cities, including Chicago and Washington, D.C., have built similar facilities which have proven to be very popular. St. Louis' bike station will help make bicycle commuting a much easier option.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Time to Reconsider Hotel Indigo Plans

The Post-Dispatch is reporting that work on the Roberts Tower appears to have come to a halt, as contractors on the project are still awaiting payment and not a single unit has been reserved at this point.

With this project in a state of flux, perhaps the Roberts Brothers will reconsider their ill-conceived plans to build a Hotel Indigo one block to the east. Those plans involved the demolition of two historic buildings to make room for an unnecessary driveway and entry canopy at 10th and Locust.

In my opinion, a win-win for the Roberts Brothers and downtown as a whole would have the Roberts Brothers building a scaled-back hotel in the former St. Louis Design Center building at 917 Locust while selling off the buildings at 919 and 923 Locust to developers who would renovate them. Under such a scenario, the Roberts Brothers would still get their hotel (at a lower cost) and two historic structures would be saved, preserving the street wall in the 900 block of Locust.

And, really, is the hotel even necessary? According to one expert, it's not: Link

The surrounding blocks, which have received a lot of redevelopment in recent months, would benefit not only from the hotel, but from the presence of the retail tenants and office workers and/or residents in the buildings that would be preserved.

I sincerely hope they consider a change of plans. If not, my fear is that all of the vacant Roberts-owned buildings in the 900 block of Locust will continue to remain vacant for some time, impeding the progress that has been made around them.

Update 1/25: Building Blocks is reporting that construction activity has resumed at the Roberts Tower.

Friday, January 08, 2010

IT Updates

Downtown-based IT firm Datotel announced that it has kicked off 2010 by signing contracts to provide computing services to four clients – Accelerated Health Systems, Chamberlain College of Nursing, Missouri Venture Forum and Bakers Pride – worth $1 million.

The addition of these four new companies to Datotel's roster of customers comes on the heels of a notable 2009.  In 2009, Datotel gained more than 20 new customers, while adding employees to its downtown St. Louis data center and headquarters.  Additionally, Datotel bucked larger business trends and saw 2009 revenue increase 20 percent from 2008.

Also on the IT front, publicly-traded IT firm Perficient has moved its headquarters to its existing St. Louis office from Austin.  The firm is currently based in the soulless Maryville Centre, with an additional office in Creve Couer.  Total employment in St. Louis is approximately 100. 

According to Perficient’s CEO, Jeffrey Davis:

…the presence of talented IT workers in St. Louis and “the Midwestern work ethic” were additional factors in designating the Maryville Centre office as Perficient's headquarters. He said the company might eventually combine the Creve Coeur and Town and Country offices.

In order to attract and retain those talented IT workers while reducing expenses, Perficient would be wise to consider combining its operations in downtown St. Louis where it could enjoy considerable rent savings and offer its employees a more fun, interesting and creative work environment while taking advantage of downtown’s unmatched IT infrastructure.  Downtown is clearly serving Datotel well, what would it take to convince Perficient to move downtown?