Monday, March 31, 2008

Farm & Home Savings Building Scheduled for Office Renovation


According to Mayor Slay's blog, Craig Heller of Loftworks has plans to renovate the Farm & Home Savings Building at 10th and Locust as quality Class B office space with first floor retail space. The city's TIF commission met last week to set a public hearing for tax increment financing for the development, the first important step towards revitalization.

The blog mentions that the building's historic facade cannot be rebuilt, but I think that the existing modern facade can still look quite good with a little freshening up.

Heller has a good track recordwhen it comes to luring office tenants, as evident at the Ludwig Lofts Building, one of his other recent projects. Hopefully he can work his magic again with the Farm & Home Savings Building and add some jobs for downtown and vitality to the area.

Random Lease Roundup

Weller, Gorla and Butts renewed its lease for 2,185 sf in the Laclede Gas Building at 720 Olive.

The St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association leased 27,126 sf in Met Square, 211 N. Broadway.

The Business Bank of St. Louis leased 15,000 sf at 300 N. Tucker.

Friday, March 28, 2008

St. Louis Sports Commission Goes to the Mat to Land NCAA Wrestling Championships

After a shattering attendance records, Frank Viverito and the St. Louis Sports Commission are making a pitch to the NCAA to become the permanent home of the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Next year, St. Louis will host the tournament for the second straight year, and for the fifth time this decade. Next summer, the Sports Commission will be making bids to host the tournament every year from 2012 to 2015.

About 10,000 hotel rooms were booked during the tournament, an estimated 15,000 visitors flooded the downtown streets and, organizers say, injected economic impact of $10 million.

And according to the Sports Commission:

A record 96,994 fans attended the 2000 Championships in St. Louis. The total attendance of 95,459 at Savvis Center in 2005 was the second-highest in the tournament's 75-year history. Based on an economic impact survey conducted at the 2000 event, the Championships attract 15,000 visitors to St. Louis, account for 12,000 hotel room nights and generate an estimated $10 million in economic impact.

And as mentioned in a recent article:

Viverito said St. Louis' experience and success running the event make it the perfect choice, not to mention an ideal location in the middle of wrestling territory without any school claiming an advantage. The top three attendance figures in event history are all in St. Louis.

"It's the absolute center of wrestling interest and yet a neutral site," Viverito said. "And downtown is a perfect fit. It's all walkable, compact, and the people are comfortable here.

"It's great business but it's gone beyond business. We love the event."
St. Louis is fortunate to have a great organization like the Sports Commission working on its behalf. Let's hope they can convince the NCAA to make the city the permanent home of the wrestling championships.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The REAL Ballpark Village?


While plans to redevelop the area to the north of Busch Stadium as Ballpark Village are floundering, good things are happening just to the south of the stadium at Chouteau's Landing. The first phase of Chouteau's Landing continues to progress, with Bushwoods Bar & Grill scheduled to open in a few weeks.

Instead of floating pie-in-the-sky plans, the developer - Chivvis Development LLC - has quietly been at work renovating a strip of historic buildings that, while receiving relatively little fanfare, will actually go a long way toward connecting downtown with the thriving Soulard neighborhood to the south.

It's projects like this that are making a real difference downtown, not unrealized entertainment districts.

To learn more about Chouteau's Landing, check out the recent article in the Post-Dispatch and last night's story on KMOV.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Centene and Ballpark Village: A No-Go

The Business Journal is reporting that Centene is pulling out of Ballpark Village:

"Ballpark Village was unable to accommodate Centene's plans for our world headquarters which we deeply regret and are disappointed to announce," Centene said in a statement. "Since our announcement in September 2007, we have been working closely with representatives of Ballpark Village to finalize details for this project. Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, we could not bring our plans to fruition."
The Cardinals' owners, Cordish and the City really dropped the ball on this one. This could have been a milestone achievement for downtown St. Louis, but instead we're left with giant hole in the ground and plans for an "entertainment district" that will likely not ever resemble the grandiose bill of goods we were originally sold by the the Cardinals' ownership team. Way to go. I'm sure that another opportunity to lure a Fortune 500 headquarters to downtown St. Louis will be coming along any day now.

Let's hope that Centene will at least remain in the St. Louis area.

A Downtown Campus for Lindenwood?

A recent St. Louis Business Journal article mentions that Lindenwood University is considering opening a downtown satellite campus, but that the ultimate decision to establish a downtown location has not yet been made.

Webster University's satellite campus in the Old Post Office is already having a positive impact on downtown, and the more students we have downtown, the better.

Who's next - UMSL? Maryville?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Centene and Ballpark Village: Still a Go

Despite recent reports to the contrary, Centene is apparently still in negotiations with the city and Cordish to move its headquarters to Ballpark Village. I'm not sure who or what to believe anymore, but I hope that an official agreement can be reached soon so that work can get started.

As we start the third season of Cardinal baseball in the new stadium next to a massive chain link fenced dirt lot complete with a "pond," it's time to see some progress. It's an embarrassment to have had nothing occur there after all this time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fashion Week is Underway

The work of St. Louis' established and up-and-coming designers will be on display downtown as the second annual Fashion Week is now underway. Vacant storefronts along Washington Avenue are being used as temporary display areas for fashion designers and retailers. According to the Post-Dispatch, at least 15 local fashion outlets are jumping at the chance to participate in the window shopping display.

Hopefully this event will continue to grow every year and shine a brighter spotlight on the St. Louis fashion scene. It's a great way to promote the city, boost our self image and strengthen and build upon the community of designers working here.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit http://www.stlouisfashionweek.com/

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dear Loyal Readers...

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. I will get back to posting on my usual schedule on Monday.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Polisinelli Consolidating Downtown?

First rumors arise that Stinson Morrison Hecker could be moving downtown after a temporary relocation/consolidation in Clayton, and now, more potential good news.

According to Joe Whittington of the Post-Dispatch, it's sounding like Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus and its 100 lawyers and support staff will be settling down at Ballpark Village, consolidating its offices in Clayton and in the Deloitte Building downtown.

Local real estate experst "say the site will be in what is known as Block 300, centered east and west along the south side of the proposed development, 'with excellent views into the ballpark.'"

Let's hope that Cordish can follow this up with a substantive agreement with Centene to relocate to Ballpark Village. Lots of downtown boosters have their fingers crossed right now.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Truman Building


One of downtown's more interesting buildings, 916 Olive, remains vacant despite the widespread development that has taken place around it in Old Post Office Square.

This four-story, 27,510 sf building, best known for sporting the visage of Harry Truman in neon, is listed for sale for $1,250,000. It is owned by Jack and Pearl Randall, who also own the Gill Building.

Stephen F. Bahn Realty is the listing agent - (314) 849-5858

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What's Left to Rehab? (Part IV - The Plaza Square Building)


The Plaza Square Building (not to be confused with the Plaza Square Apartments) at 1717 Olive is one of the largest undeveloped buildings in downtown St. Louis. Built in 1908, this massive, 8-story, 680,000 sf building takes up an entire city block.

The Plaza Square Building was purchased by Sovereign Partners in 2007 for $13.4 million. Sovereign Partners also recently purchased the Locust Building at 1015 Locust and owns the Gateway Tower at One Memorial Drive and the Dragon Trading Building at 1701 Locust, just across the street from Plaza Square.

The owners' plans for the building have yet to be revealed, but it is well suited for office or residential use. It even has interior garage parking for 200 cars, which will enhance its marketability. The addition of retail space on the ground floor would be very helpful in strengthening the Locust corridor, which has seen the addition of several new bars and restaurants as of late.

Hilliker is currently marketing 24,000 sf of ground floor retail space in the building and up to 350,000 sf of office space with rates ranging from $1.95 to $2.75 psf. It is currently home to several nonprofit organizations and is also used as storage space.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Business Bank of St. Louis Moving Loan Servicing Operations Downtown


The Business Bank of St. Louis will be relocating its loan servicing operation from its Clayton headquarters to the former Post-Dispatch Building 300 N. Tucker. The bank has signed an 11-year lease for 12,000 sf and will initially employ 30 people downtown with plans to grow to as many as 60 full-time employees within a year. This full-floor lease will bring the 100,000 sf building's occupancy rate to 86%.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Missouri Valley Conference HQ Update


As this year's edition of Arch Madness gets underway, today's St. Louis Business Journal featured a rendering of the planned Missouri Valley Conference headquarters facility planned for a city-owned parking lot south of the Scottrade Center.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Locust Building to Receive Improvements

Apparently Sovereign Partners, the new owners of the Locust Building at 1015 Locust, have plans to make some major improvements to their new investment. The building's lobby will receive a complete renovation that will include the creation of a large corner retail space. Also planned are improvements to the building's elevators and common areas, as well as a refinishing of the exterior facade.

It will be exciting to see the owners breathe some new life into the structure and increase its occupancy rate, which currently stands at 75 percent.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Downtown's Advantages


I've been thinking recently about the advantages that downtown has to offer and came up with the following:

- Accessibility - St. Louis' major highways converge downtown, making it easily accessible to people from all over the area. It's also well-served by MetroLink and bus lines. As the Illinois suburbs continue to grow, downtown will become more and more of an attractive option - many firms that have decided to remain downtown or relocated downtown have cited the need to be more accessible to their Illinois employees.

- Low rental rates - Quality downtown office space is CHEAP when compared not only to other cities, but other parts of the St. Louis area.

- Abundant parking - Downtown offers many different parking options for those who choose to drive to work, from reasonably priced garages to lots that charge just a few bucks a day.

- Wide range of workspaces - Downtown is home to modern Class A high-rises, affordable Class B space, cool renovated lofts and numerous other options. From silk stocking law firms to ad agencies to high-tech startups, any type of business can easily find a suitable home downtown.

- Hotels - Downtown features an abundance of hotels in a variety of price ranges, making it easy to accomodate out-of-town clients and other guests.

- Dining and entertainment - Working downtown gives employees a wide and ever-growing array of dining options both during and after work, and it's great to be able to walk a few short blocks to lunch instead of having to get in a car and drive somewhere. It's also a great place to entertain clients, with upscale restaurants, private clubs and numerous other places And during baseball season especially, downtown is the place to be.

- Easy - Lunch breaks can become productive time for downtown workers. Pick up dry cleaning, visit the library, pick up items for dinner at City Grocers (and soon, Schnucks), shop at Macy's, get fit at the gym, head to a spa or salon, or just spend some time at the Arch grounds to relax (how many other business districts in the St. Louis area have a NATIONAL PARK in their backyard?) - all without driving.

- Image - Simply put, high-rise CBD office towers are an impressive place to do business. A downtown address shows that your business has arrived, especially to out-of-towners, and downtown offers a business environment that simply can't be replicated elsewhere in St. Louis.

- Infrastructure - Downtown has redundant power and an unrivaled infrastructure (telecommunications and fiber optics) for IT/tech companies.

- Inspiration and excitement - Downtown is a stimulating to the senses. Things such as the character of its historic buildings and the energy of its environment make downtown a FUN place to do business. It's exciting to see new shops, restaurants and other businesses opening up every month.

- Community - Working downtown makes it easy to network. Human beings are social animals, and it's not uncommon to run into friends, clients and former co-workers out on the street, something that just doesn't happen in suburban office parks.

What am I missing?

Monday, March 03, 2008

What an Opportunity!


Next to playing for the Cardinals, the second most popular "dream job" among the children of St. Louis has to be owner of a wax museum. Well, if you've ever wanted to be the next Madame Toussaud, now's your chance!

720 N. 2nd Street on Laclede's Landing is listed for sale at $1,475,000, and that price includes over 100 wax figurines. (Is that really a selling point?)

This three-story, 7,920 sf building was constructed in 1890 and is situated right in the heart of the Landing. It would make for a nice mixed-use project with ground floor retail and residential or office lofts on the upper floors. Bryan Larson and John Shepley of Hilliker are the listing agents - (314) 781-0081.