Friday, August 31, 2007

A Potential Home Run for Ballpark Village?

Centene is considering Ballpark Village (among other sites) for its new headquarters. If the city and Cordish can pull this off, it would be a true watershed moment for downtown revitalization. Not only would it have a huge impact on downtown, it could go a long way towards luring other businesses to the CBD.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Why Not Downtown?

Another firm passes up downtown St. Louis...

Atlanta-based Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., a national employment and labor law firm, has opened a temporary office in Creve Coeur and is expected to move to a permanent office in Clayton in December or January. The firm plans to have 15 to 20 lawyers within the next three to five years.

Their Atlanta headquarters is located in that city's downtown, so they're clearly not averse to operating in an urban environment, so why wouldn't they choose a location in downtown St. Louis? Frustrating...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Downtown Speaks

After hearing about Express Scripts expanding its original plans to build its headquarters on the UMSL campus, I was reminded of a letter that Kevin McGowan and Nat Walsh wrote to the Business Journal shortly after the company made its decision (see below). What a missed opportunity for Express Scripts and for downtown. How could they pass up a sweetheart deal like this?

An open letter to Express Scripts

Thank you, Express Scripts. I am Downtown St. Louis, located at the center of this great country, writing to thank you for considering me as a future home. A company as successful, as large and as growing as you will understand why anyone would seek you out as a neighbor -- and so we tried. From Francis to Zach to Jerry to Barb to Jack, and a hundred other people who knew they may never in their lifetimes have the opportunity to court another Fortune 150 company to venture a move downtown, we thank you for allowing us to extend to you our heartfelt invitation.

Over the past five years, I've gone through a complete transformation and am thrilled with my progress. I've waited in anticipation for the day when a great company like Express Scripts would one day call this area home, and I regret that you may not be joining us. We knew you cared about your employees, so we included them in our proposal. Who wouldn't love our parks, gardens, parades, festivals, three professional stadiums and MetroLink access within walking distance of home or office? Thank you to the developers who offered your employees $10,000 to $30,000 or more off of any new loft in downtown, as well as a 15 percent discount in rent in the fastest-growing and highest-appreciating neighborhood in the region. The finest restaurants also came together to feed your employees at discounts of 10 percent to 15 percent. Thanks also to our hotels for offering special pricing to your company. The growing number of downtown shops also sought your business and offered unprecedented discounts to your employees. All aspects of our vibrant lifestyle will greatly miss your long-awaited presence.

We knew pricing would be critical to making or breaking the deal, and so we made you an offer that no one has ever seen in this city. We envisioned what your presence would do for us in the eyes of the rest of the country. Unlike any other location in this region, a downtown address for Express Scripts makes us both better. An Express Scripts move downtown also elevates us in the eyes of other companies who might also be looking for a great city to call home. With this joint venture, both of our profiles would be raised. For these reasons, we offered you a long-term lease at a flat $10 per square foot rate and free parking, unmatched by any of the other proposed sites. We also offered you ownership in the project, allowing you greater control in your own future growth.

I'd like to thank the elected officials, bankers, developers and lawyers who dedicated their time to make ours the outstanding offer that it was. We can't forget all of those responsible for making our resurgence possible. Thank you to the thousands of new residents who have moved into our new downtown. Please know that without your foresight and energetic spirit, no Fortune 150 company would have considered a move here. Remember that the eyes of this nation are frequently upon me, and it is the spirit of all of you that allows me to shine.

Thank you, Express Scripts, for bringing us all together and for helping us to realize that we are a strong downtown, capable of making you and your employees the offer we did.

Sincerely,

Downtown (As dictated to Kevin McGowan and Nat Walsh, founders of McGowanWalsh)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Power House Update

The Post-Dispatch ran an article last week on Cannon Design's renovation of the historic power house building at 11th and Clark and the challenges the firm faces in adapting the building for its new headquarters. Not much new information was presented, but the article did mention that the building will include such green elements as a water collection system and gardens on the roof and in the courtyard. The best part was the rendering of the building's interior - talk about unique office space!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rodgers Townsend Moves to Cupples Station

Rodgers Townsend, one of St. Louis' largest and most prominent ad agencies, has relocated, moving from its previous digs in the Blanke Building just south of downtown to prime space in Cupples Station Building One (aka The Hammermill Building). The agency will be leasing 44,560 square feet of space on 3 1/2 floors of the building, which is also home to J. Buck's.

Tom Townsend, Rodgers Townsend co-founder and Agency principal, comments, “We couldn’t be happier to begin this next era in our company’s life here in the heart of St. Louis. Here near the courthouse, the ballpark, City Hall and the Riverfront, great things have happened over the last century. We look forward to contributing to St. Louis’ future success during the next one.”

This city could use more people like Tom Townsend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

Today's Post-Dispatch features an article on the new St. Louis office of the William A. Kerr Foundation in a renovated bathhouse just north of downtown. With the help of environmental consultants Vertegy (www.vertegyconsultants.com), this $2 million project is the first building in the city of St. Louis to be platinum-certified (the highest level of certification) by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design of the U.S. Green Building Council (LEED). Upcoming downtown projects that will strive to achieve LEED certification include the SkyHouse on Washington Avenue and the Roberts Tower in Old Post Office Square.

The article got me thinking about Chicago's "green" city hall and how it could serve as a model for St. Louis. In 2001, at a cost of $1.5 million, a green roof was installed at Chicago City Hall to help combat the effects of that city's urban "heat island effect" and reduce energy costs while helping inspire developers and property owners to adopt environmentally sound building practices.

Perhaps the Gateway Foundation or the Danforth Foundation could step up to help fund a similar installation on the roof of St. Louis City Hall. Maybe St. Louis Metalworks would be willing to donate its exclusive Green Roof Blocks (www.greenroofblocks.com) to make it happen...

Chicago City Hall's Green Roof

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Peabody Building - A Hidden Gem

Tucked in between two towers of the Mansion House complex, this three-story, 1950's office building once served as the headquarter's of Peabody Coal. It's a real gem, offering breathtaking, unencumbered views of the Arch grounds.

The building has attached parking, thanks to the Mansion House's parking garage, and is completely vacant. With 48,000 square feet of space at only $12.00 per square foot, this building would be ideal for a single occupant looking for a prominent location with signage.

505 Washington

505 Washington is an architecturally interesting building in a great location downtown, at the corner of Washington and Broadway. (My only beef with this building is that I wish it was three stories taller, to match the height of the other buildings on the block.)

Greater Missouri Builders purchased the building from the state of Missouri in late 2006 and has been sprucing up the property recently. The exterior has been thoroughly scrubbed and given a fresh coat of paint within the last week, and looks great. Greater Missouri Builders also owns 505's next-door neighbor, 555 Washington, which is home to Zipatoni, Weber Shandwick, and several other firms.

Previously used as office space, the ground floor - consisting of 18,800 rentable square feet - will be marketed to retail tenants. I'm convinced that when the St. Louis Centre skybridge, just a block west of 505 Washington, comes down and construction begins on St. Louis Centre and the Dillard's Building, the retail space in both 505 and 555 will become hot commodities. Their proximity to several large office buildings, hotels, new housing and the convention center will make them very attractive to retailers.

Floors two and three consist of 19,000 apiece and will rent for $9.00 to $12.00 per square foot - a relative bargain.

Nearby parking is plentiful, with the Missouri Athletic Club, Drury Hotel, St. Louis Centre and convention center garages all just a block away and the Hampton Inn garage just on the other side of Fourth Street to the east. There is also limited parking on a small lot directly behind the building.

The space is ready; who's going to step up and lease it?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Woolworth's Lease

In May 2001, real estate investor Keith Barket purchased the lease to the old Woolworth's space in the first floor of the St. Louis Centre parking garage on Locust, between Sixth and Broadway. Barket completely gutted the retail space and converted it for use as additional parking. At that time, downtown's renaissance was in its infancy, and this proved to be a shrewd move on Barket's part.

However, downtown has seen an influx of new residents and businesses over the last six years, with more to come in the months ahead. Pyramid's upcoming redevelopment of the moribund St. Louis Centre, which will see the building converted to condos with first floor retail space, and other nearby projects, such as the new apartments and condos in the Marquette building, suddenly make the Woolworth's space attractive for use as retail space again.

While I don't know the specific square footage of the Woolworth's space, it appears to be large enough to pique the interests of national retailers. The Woolworth's space, along with the recently revitalized downtown Macy's and potential retail in the first floor of St. Louis Centre and the old Mercantile Library Building (also scheduled for redevelopment by Pyramid), give the area great potential for a rebirth as a major retail corridor.

Let's just hope that when Barket's lease is up, the City (which owns the garage) will do the right thing and find a retail tenant. When retail returns to the old Woolworth's, it will send a strong signal that downtown has turned the corner.