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.