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?