I am unapologetic in my love for the Mercantile Library Building. Sure, it’s an ugly duckling, but as LoftWorks will soon be proving with its newest project, The 411, recladded buildings of this era can be quite attractive with a little creativity.
The Mercantile Library Building is actually a group of seven separate historic buildings that were connected and given a cohesive façade at some point, presumably in the 1960s or so. It has been vacant since the Mercantile Library moved out of the building and onto the UMSL campus (thanks a lot, Touhill!) in 1997 after having been downtown since 1846(!!!!!).
The closest the building has come to being redeveloped was in the late 90s, when Fowler Flanagan Technology acquired it and stripped the interior to create a “telecom hotel” similar to the Valley Building and 210 N. Tucker. That plan never took off, as the tech bubble burst shortly after Fowler Flanagan announced their plans. John Steffen’s Pyramid Development planned to renovate the building as part of the Mercantile Exchange district, but it is now in the hands of his development partner, Spinnaker, after Pyramid folded.
So, right now there is a gaping 270,000 sf vacancy right in the heart of downtown.
I’m convinced that if renovated, it could be incredibly cool – especially as office space. Some new windows and creative touches to the exterior, along with new sidewalks and street trees out front, would make this building look fantastic.
Its ground floor is large enough to accommodate a large retailer with a prominent corner entrance (and highly visible signage) at 6th and Locust across from Macy’s. A lobby for the office tenants could be constructed at the Broadway entrance. A law firm or financial services company could really set itself apart with a truly unique space like this.
Presumably, the fact that the “building” is actually multiple buildings makes its renovation a bit more challenging than typical rehab projects, but it can be done. 555 Washington is actually a series of connected buildings, and it is very impressive.
I really wish Spinnaker would make this happen. I walk by this building every day, and can see its potential. It’s the only vacant building on Broadway in a highly visible location – its redevelopment would complete the Broadway corridor. This one needs to be a priority.