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.