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?