Friday, December 02, 2011

Larson Allen Looking to Grow

According to an article in today's St. Louis Business Journal, Larson Allen has acquired NBA Inc., a Belleville-based accounting and consulting firm.  NBA's 22 employees will be relocated to Larson Allen's offices at 600 Washington, bringing the firm's total headcount downtown to 135.

Also mentioned in the article is Larson Allen's recently announced merger with Clifton Gunderson to create Clifton Larson Allen.  Clifton Gunderson currently has approximately 75 employees at its office in Clayton, which begs the question: will the combined firm maintain a downtown office and a Clayton office, or will it consolidate the two? 

With several full floors available, 600 Washington has plenty of space to accomodate the addition of 75 employees, whereas the Clayton building in which Clifton Gunderson is located only has three small suites available, offering nowhere near enough space for Larson Allen's 135 employees.  Even if the Clayton building did have adequate space, its space rents for $8 per square foot more than 600 Washington.

Should Clifton Larson Allen move its Clayton-based employees downtown, it would need anywhere from 13,000 to nearly 19,000 sf to house them - approximately the size of a full floor of 600 Washington.

Larson Allen has been bullish on downtown since moving here from the suburbs.  Will their Clifton Gunderson counterparts be as receptive to making a move downtown?  Let's hope so.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

505 Washington Could Use Curb Appeal

HGTV has a show called "Curb Appeal" in which relatively bland houses are given exterior makeovers.  While the "after" pictures are always amazing, it's surprising at how big of a difference subtle improvements can make.  This could be said not only for houses, but for downtown properties as well.

I recently came across the picture of a modern building in Austin shown above, and it got me thinking about how much better 505 Washington, a somewhat similar building that happens to be one of my favorites, could look like with just some minor improvements.

505 is actually a bit more interesting than the Austin building, architecturally speaking, with its creative embellishments above the windows and interesting materials.  It looks good now, but as seen in the picture of the Austin building, the addition of street trees and lighting would really accentuate 505's facade.  Of course, a St. Louis City flag flying from the flagpole by the entrance would be a nice touch as well.

It's relatively simple fixes like this that could go a long way toward sprucing up downtown and making buildings like 505 more marketable and desirable.  I'd love to see 505 Washington receive a little curb appeal!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hey World Wide Technology, How About Downtown?

This would be a good spot for World Wide Technology's HQ

World Wide Technology, one of the region's largest private companies, is considering expanding its headquarters in Maryland Heights.  It currently employs roughly 1,700 people and plans to hire more.

As a general rule of thumb, most commercial real estate professionals recommend leasing 175-250 square feet of office space for every employee. Using this ratio, World Wide Technology would need between 297,500 and 425,000 square feet just to house its current workforce. Just as a point of reference, this is enough space to completely fill the equivalent of downtown buildings such as 600 Washington (300,000 sf) and One Financial Plaza (434,136 sf). The addition of as few as 100 employees would require WWT’s space requirements to grow substantially. WWT would likely require a new office building – what better way to jumpstart the moribund Ballpark Village development?

A tenant of WWT’s magnitude would have a transformative impact on downtown St. Louis, far greater than any of the “silver bullet” projects like shopping malls and entertainment districts that have been either built or planned over the last few decades. 1,700 employees are enough to support new and existing retail businesses downtown, and it’s likely that at least a few of those 1,700 employees would suddenly be a lot more open to living downtown.

It’s exciting to see a local company experiencing such a high degree of success, especially in a tough economy. It’s disappointing, however, that more of our local companies don’t even consider downtown as an option. In other cities, such as Detroit, companies of similar size are moving from the suburbs to their respective downtowns. Why couldn’t WWT move to downtown St. Louis?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Big Summer for Ralcorp

Ralcorp Holdings has certainly had a busy summer.  After spurning a takeover bid from ConAgra Foods, the company agreed to purchase Sara Lee's North American refrigerated dough business for $545 million in a deal that is expected to be accretive to earnings.

Then, it named Ralcorp Chairman William Stiritz Chairman of its Post Holdings division, and Robert Vitale was named CFO.  Post Holdings, which encompasses Ralcorp's cereal business, is expected to be spun-off.

Finally, Ralcorp announced that it plans to expand its headquarters at Bank of America Plaza.  The company is seeking $20 million in tax credits that will enable it to add 100 employees to its current headcount of approximately 400.  Ralcorp currently occupies more than five floors in the Class A building where space leases for $22/psf.  Retaining Ralcorp is a big victory for downtown.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Verizon Boosting Wireless Capacity Downtown for Cards Games

Trying to get a cell phone signal downtown during major events can often be difficult, if not impossible.  I lose the signal on my AT&T phone at every Rams game, without fail. 

It's nice to see that Verizon Wireless is boosting its wireless voice and data capacity downtown during the upcoming Cardinal playoff games against the Milwaukee Brewers by bringing in a temporary cell site.  Does anyone know if AT&T, Sprint or the other carriers have plans to follow suit?

Monday, October 03, 2011

Lathrop and Gage Leaves Downtown

As announced some time ago, law firm Lathrop and Gage is shuttering its downtown office, consolidating its two St. Louis offices in a single location with 46 employees in Clayton.  The firm has leased two floors in the Pierre Laclede building for a total of 30,518 sf, and 23 employees will be moving there from the former downtown office, which was located in the Equitable Building at 10 S. Broadway.

Did the city of St. Louis make any attempt to convince Lathrop and Gage to remain and grow its presence downtown instead, or was it content to lose yet another law firm?  A 30,000 sf lease is nothing to sneeze at, and had Lathrop and Gage consolidated downtown, their lease would have helped stablize the Class A vacancy rate.  Instead, downtown now has another hole to fill. 

Lathrop and Gage was willing to take space in a Class B building in Clayton instead of Class A space downtown.  That says a lot about what downtown is up against these days.  Clayton has seemingly long held an edge over downtown as a location for small firms and solo practitioners, while downtown has traditionally been home to the larger firms.  Downtown has begun to lose its edge in recent years after the exodus of firms like Husch & Eppenberger/Blackwell Sanders, Armstrong Teasdale and Stinson Morrison Hecker, and it's very disconcerting to see.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Missouri Lawyers Media Extends Lease at the Security Building

Missouri Lawyers Media LLC, publisher of Missouri Lawyers Weekly, the St. Louis Daily Record, the St. Louis Countian and other publications, extended its lease of 10,844 sf for 66 months in the Security Building at 319 N. Fourth Street.  Robert Busch of Gundaker Commercial Group represented the tenant; Rick Messey and Mark Schumacher of Cassidy Turley represented the landlord.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our Chemical Romance

Back in late March, Centrue Bank foreclosed on the Chemical Building with a sole bid of $3.36 million.  Its previous owners, Chemical Building Acquisition LLC, purchased it in 2006 for $6.6 million and owed Centrue a total of $7.8 million.  Recent appraisals peg the building's value somewhere between $4 million and $4.2 million.

At the time of the foreclosure, Centrue's CEO talked of the bank's plans to sell the 17-story building and was about to begin discussions with interested buyers.  Since then, we've heard nothing.  Are no suitable buyers to be found? 

Other projects such as the Leather Trades Lofts, The Laurel and the Park Pacific have either been completed or are nearing completion, and their rental units have been quickly leased.  As the downtown residential market continues to exhibit its strength despite the difficult economy, it's clear that it could easily accommodate another development of the magnitude of the Chemical Building, which was slated to include 91 units, along with office and retail space.  Whoever decides to renovate this beautiful building will undoubtedly be able to purchase at a much more attractive price than the previous developers. 

The building and its location facing the Old Post Office are incredibly attractive, and whoever decides to renovate it will undoubtedly be able to purchase it at a much more attractive price than the previous developers.

Soooo...will we be hearing any news about the Chemical Building soon?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Drama at Cupples Station #7

Little did I know that when I wrote about the impending renovation of Cupples Station #9 on Sunday night, the other vacant Cupples Station warehouse - #7 - would be in the news just over 24 hours later.

On Tuesday, the city of St. Louis closed parts of Spruce and 11th Streets adjacent to Cupples Station #7, claiming that the deteriorating building poses a threat to public safety.  The city claims it has tried for years to get the owners of the 200,000 sf building to stabilize the building, but to no avail.

Cupples Station #7 is owned by Ballpark Lofts III, LLC, which is registered to Nat Walsh, former partner of Kevin McGowan in McGowan/Walsh.  The two eventually ended their partnership, with McGowan starting his own company, BlueUrban, but apparently the McGowan and Walsh both retained ownership of Cupples Station #7 after they parted ways.  According to KMOV, McGowan and Walsh owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes on the property.

As you can see from the picture above, a good portion of the building's roof has collapsed,  McGowan says the building has deteriorated to the point where renovating it is no longer feasible, stating, "at some point it is coming down either on its own, or if the city gives us permission to demolish it."

McGowan claims he doesn't have the money to stabilize the building or pay his property taxes, but he apparently has the money to demolish it?  Cupples Station #7 is listed on the National Historic Register, and demolition would require approval of the Preservation Board, which would hopefully stick to its guns and vote to keep the building standing.  Of course, if it's determined that the building could fall at any moment, an emergency demolition could be ordered.

At the same time, is the building in any worse shape today than it was yesterday, last month, or last year?  Is this just the city's way of trying to get McGowan to do something about the building or put it on the market?

Even despite its significant damage, I have a hard time believing that Cupples Station #7 cannot be saved.  At the very least, it needs to be stabilized and preserved for future reuse.  Losing it would leave a massive hole in the Cupples Station district.  With the Koman Group taking over another one of McGowan's stalled projects - Cupples Station #9 - perhaps someone else will step up and save #7.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Koman to Tackle Cupples Station #9...Hopefully Soon

At the end of the Cardinals game the other night, the Fox Sports Midwest broadcast featured a shot of fans filing out of Busch Stadium near the Musial statue, with Cupples Station off in the background.  To the right was the beautifully renovated cluster of warehouses that comprise the Westin hotel; to the left was the long-vacant Cupples Station #9, lurking in the darkness.  It made for quite a contrast.

The good news is that #9 will be receiving a $30 million makeover soon.  The Koman Group is planning on converting the warehouse at 900 Spruce Street into 132,000 sf of office space, with 16,000 sf of first-floor retail/restaurant space.  Koman has also acquired an adjacent lot, which would be a prime location for future development, but will likely be used for parking for some time.

Marketing and PR firm Osborne & Barr, currently located in Cupples Station #8 at 914 Spruce, has signed on to occupy floors 2, 3 & 4 of the building, accounting for 45% of the space.

The project is slated for completion in 2013.  After decades of dormancy, eight of the nine buildings that make up Cupples Station are now accounted for - only #7 at 11th and Spruce remains undeveloped.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Simon Law Firm Relocates to Bank of America Plaza

In order to make way for Peabody Energy's expansion, the Simon Law Firm has vacated its space on the 14th floor of Gateway One, moving across the street to space on the 17th floor of the Bank of America Plaza.  According to the firm's web site, it currently employs 12 attorneys.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Datotel Leads the Way at Electronics Recycling Drive

Datotel, a leader in cloud computing and colocation, proved itself to be a great corporate citizen this week by participating in the electronics recycling drive held by Web Innovations & Technology Services and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

Datotel employees donated four stacked pallets worth of old computer monitors, servers, desktop computers, keyboards, fax machines, printers, paper shredders and VHS tapes.  Hopefully there were no back injuries or strained muscles from loading and unloading all that equipment!

Maybe next year, other downtown firms can compete to see if they can out-recycle Datotel!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Downtown to Get Upscale Movie Theater

Since the closing of the Union Station Cinema in 2003, one amenity that downtown St. Louis has been lacking is a movie theater.  That's about to change, as Harman Moseley has announced plans to operate an upscale, three-screen cinema on the second floor of the former St. Louis Centre - now known as the Mercantile Exchange building.

The new theater will show art house ("prestige") films and feature a 21-and-over admission policy, along with leather couches and a full bar and basement.  If it's anything like Moseley's Moolah Cinema in midtown, it should be amazing.  Taking a high-end approach is probably a wise move for this market.  Moseley's theater in the Chase Park Plaza offers complimentary parking, so I'm curious to see if free parking will be made available to theatergoers in the Mercantile Exchange garage.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Schlapprizzi Law Firm Signs Lease in Met Square

On the heels of The Simon Law Firm's move from Gateway One, The Schlapprizzi Law Firm has also left Gateway One, signing a lease for nearly 5,000 sf for its five attorneys in Met Square.

While Peabody Energy has reportedly been offered Simon's old space on the 14th floor of Gateway One, Peabody is not considering the space vacated by Schlapprizzi.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

New Police HQ - Smart Move

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's recent purchase of the former Sherwood Medical building at 1915 Pine for its new headquarters seems to bee a smart move for several reasons:

The police department is getting a fresh, modern space with state-of-the-art technology, which could help make it more efficient and even be good for morale.

At a selling price of $2.7 million, $5 million under its market value (or at least the asking price), the police department is getting a good deal.  

By purchasing the building using money from its forfeited asset fund – money seized as proceeds from crimes – the impact on the department’s finances is significantly reduced.

Added police presence will add stability to the Downtown West neighborhood, which will undoubtedly be appreciated by nearby residents and business owners.

The presence of police department employees will benefit restaurants, bars and shops in the area.

The building will be removed from office vacancy figures, resulting in 143,000 sf of positive absorption. Depending on the criteria for buildings used by the various providers of commercial real estate research, the building could either be classified as Class A or B. In my past life as a research analyst for a commercial real estate firm here in St. Louis, we had it listed as Class B space (albeit high-quality Class B space).

And fortunately, the department isn’t completely abandoning its presence on Clark Street; the police crime lab, adjacent to the current headquarters building, will remain where it is.

Finding a developer to repurpose the existing 83-year-old headquarters building should be a challenge. Its non-ideal location, coupled with the high cost of renovation ($75 million as quoted by the police department) are two major strikes against it, but its attractiveness and interesting back story could work in its favor. Time will tell.

And sure, it would be preferable to see the 1915 Pine used as a corporate headquarters again, but this is probably the next best thing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Park Avenue Coffee to Open Downtown Location

Gooey butter lovers rejoice: Park Avenue Coffee is opening a second location in downtown St. Louis at 417 N. Tenth Street in Loftworks' Tenth Street Lofts building. The new store will open on February 28 and will be a welcome addition to the downtown retail scene.

The original Park Avenue Coffee in Lafayette Square was recently featured on the Food Network's "Food Feuds" program, where it beat out Gooey Louie's for the distinction of best gooey butter cake in town. Park Avenue offers over 70 varieties of St. Louis's favorite treat.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Roberts Orpheum Theater: Underutilized?

The RFT recently featured a conversation between its theater reviewers, Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold, regarding the state of theater in St. Louis. The discussion touched on the role that the Peabody Opera House will play in the cultural scene, as well as the underuse of the Roberts Orpheum.
Dennis Brown: Last week we talked about the year just ended. Today let's chat about the year to come. Perhaps the big event — at least the most costly — will be the expected reopening this fall of the old Kiel Opera House. Although renovated at enormous taxpayer expense, nevertheless it should wonderfully fill the city's desperate need for yet another theater that is too large.
Paul Friswold: I'm on the fence about the new Peabody. The city put up quite a bit more dough for a football stadium and a baseball stadium, and I've never been to either. And yet I paid for them, at least in part. So I suppose I should be thrilled that this time my money is going to something I'll visit every now and again. I do wonder what will play here — will the Peabody attract more Broadway tours? I'd rather see the city splash out some cash for any of the local gypsy companies than for a big barn for touring productions, but at least the money's not being spent on a basketball team. In short, I'll take it and like it.
Brown: I think it's indisputable that cities need the arts if their downtown areas are to thrive. Look at Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis. Color me old-fashioned, but I've always believed that downtown St. Louis begins east of 12th Street, so I don't see the Peabody having an impact on downtown. Meanwhile, the Roberts Orpheum Theater is downtown and plays no theater role whatsoever.
Friswold: And that puzzles me. Two Decembers ago Stages St. Louis presented a Little Women at the Roberts that worked well from an audience point of view, and it felt like an event. Why doesn't the Orpheum house more theater?
Brown: Why indeed? I'll try to keep an open mind about the opera house, but the cynic in me is certainly stirring.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hinshaw & Culbertson Renews and Expands in Gateway One

Chicago-based law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson recently renewed its 11,000 sf lease on the 13th floor of Gateway One, and has expanded by an additional 3,000 sf to accommodate the potential addition of more attorneys.  The firm currently has 10 attorneys based here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Look at the St. Louis Creative Scene

AgencySpy recently featured an interesting look at the St. Louis creative community: The STL's Creative Scene: Dangerously Creative

Nearly all of the firms listed here are located either downtown or elsewhere in the City of St. Louis - What in the heck are you waiting for, Momentum and Cannonball - come join us downtown!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Best of 2010: Saint Louis Coworking

Despite the challenging economy, lots of great things happened over the course of 2010. Major development projects such as the Peabody Opera House, Central Library, Park Pacific, The Laurel, and One City Centre/Sixth Street Garage all began construction this past year and figure to play major roles in downtown's ongoing renaissance upon their completion.

Since these projects have already received a great deal of press in recent months, I'd like to focus on some of the notable developments and business dealings of 2010 that may have flown under the radar a bit.

Let's start with the opening of Saint Louis Coworking in the Shell Building.

Saint Louis Coworking has been a hit with freelancers, startup entrepreneurs and the self employed since opening in August.  Not only does Saint Louis Coworking provide these creative professionals wtih high-quality workspace, it allows for opportunities for socializing and collaboration as well. Weekly pancake breakfasts, parties and other social events hosted by Saint Louis Coworking have allowed the space to develop its own culture, despite the independent nature of its tenants.

More than 40 different people have used the 10,000 sf coworking space since it opened in August. Representative of the type of tenant drawn to the coworking concept is Boom.reactive, a new web development and branding firm led by Shawn Hautly and Jon Becker.  It will be interesting to see if Saint Louis Coworking can develop into a true business incubator for downtown, giving fledgling firms a place to start before they "hatch" and lease space elsewhere - it certainly appears to be well on its way.  Who knows what great ideas will emerge from this type of environment?

Kudos to Mike Tomko and Chris Buehler of Scorch Agency (a Shell Building tenant) and the owners of the Shell Building for bringing the coworking concept to St. Louis!


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A Look Inside Powell Square

The blog We Are the City has some fascinating pictures and videos taken inside the Powell Square Building. Check it out here.

Over the years, Powell Square's graffiti has become more and more attractive to me, as it gives it a little personality. It would be great to see graffiti art somehow incorporated into the building's redevelopment plans. A renovated Powell Square with a graffiti covered facade would be a true landmark for the southeastern edge of downtown and would give the Chouteau's Landing neighborhood more of an identity.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Back and Blogging Again

Things have been a little crazy since the birth of my second child, so I thought it would be wise to take a little hiatus from blogging.  However, the start of a new year has given me a new resolve to jump back into the blogosphere, so be sure to look for more regular updates coming soon.

Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading!