Friday, May 29, 2009

Big Acquisition for Cannon Design


Looks like the firm in the converted powerhouse downtown has become a powerhouse of its own: Cannon Design recently acquired OWP/P, a Chicago-based design firm, in a deal that will make Cannon the nation's 11th-largest architectural firm based on annual revenue.

Random Observation

I heard an ad on KWMU this morning for a law firm that touted its offices in Detroit, Washington, D.C., Portland and...Clayton.

I don't know, listing Clayton among those other cities sounds pretty parochial to me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Poor Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 5/27

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, "Mr. (Harris?), tear down this skybridge!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nike to Open Downtown Store

According to the Business Journal, Nike will be opening a new store Saturday in the former Bowling Hall of Fame Museum building in anticipation of the influx of visitors expected during the MLB All-Star Game festivities in July.

Nike will take 2,500 to 3,000 sf on the ground floor, and is currently working on the store's build-out and exterior improvements.

A Nike representative said the store will operate through the All-Star Game and “hopefully beyond that,” but did not disclose the length of the Nike agreement.

Whether Nike will operate out of the Bowling Hall of Fame building on a permanent basis depends on just how "permanent" the building is. The building was slated for demolition so that the land could be included in the Ballpark Village development, but at the rate that project is progressing, the Bowling Hall of Fame building could be standing for some time. If Ballpark Village ever does get built, hopefully the Nike store will be successful enough to warrant a new, larger store there.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Adamson to the Marquette


The Business Journal is reporting this morning that ad agency Adamson has struck a short-term deal to lease 11,400 sf in the Marquette Building at 300 N. Broadway.

The firm is in the hunt for 13,000 to 15,000 sf of contiguous space downtown for a permanent home for its 53 employees.

The article also mentions that the Lawrence Group has moved 35 of its employees from Adamson's new space in the Marquette to its headquarters in the Security Building across the street.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A 40-Story Office Tower?

Paul McKee is starting to provide more details on his ambitious plans for his property holdings, which are concentrated primarily in north St. Louis. Downtown, however, figures in to his plans as well.

McKee is in talks with MODOT to reconfigure the Highway 40/22nd Street interchange into a typical diamond interchange, freeing up additional land for development.

Then, at the western end of the Gateway Mall (near the reconfigured 22nd Street interchange), a 40-story office tower and "corporate campus" would be constructed, provided a lead tenant or tenants could be procured. Given McKee's experience working with MasterCard and Express Scripts, maybe this idea is not so far-fetched.

Could this be this be related to this?

The New Hughes

Big news in local ad agency circles - Ngage and the Hughes Group are merging.

Hughes will move from its current space in the Art of Living Building to Craig Heller's 411, where Ngage had already signed on as the lead tenant with a 10,000 sf lease. In order to accomodate the combined firm's 45 employees, the new Hughes will lease an additional 6,000 sf for a total of 16,000 sf.

Update: Just heard on KWMU that the deal has fallen through!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Landmarks' Enhanced/Endangered Lists

As part of its annual Preservation Week festivities, the Landmarks Association of St. Louis released its lists of the Most Enhanced and Most Endangered historic structures in the St. Louis area.

A few downtown redevelopment projects made the Most Enhanced list this year:

- 1100 Clark - Cannon Design's renovation of a historic powerhouse, which is now home to the firm's headquarters.
- 2615 Washington - Blue Urban's colorful G.W. Lofts development.
- 1901-37 Washington - Robert Wood's Tudor Building, which is now home to City Pet Supply and Smokin' Joe's BBQ, with Wicked Fresh Subs coming soon. Something tells me Mr. Wood may be on this list next year for his redevelopment of 1818 Washington, which is currently underway.

No downtown buildings were listed on the Most Endangered list. The ommission of 919 and 923 Locust was a surprise to me. I guess Landmarks figures they're good as gone.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ooooooh!!! Aaaaaah!!!


The Building Blogs blog on STLToday has renderings of the proposed Kiel Opera House renovations.

Check them out here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lighting the Night


Illuminating buildings and other structures can do wonders for a downtown's nighttime appearance.

In recent years, the Gateway Foundation has lit up the Civil Courts Building, the Old Courthouse, the Arch and Christ Church Cathedral, all of which have helped make downtown feel a little livelier and a little safer at night.

Along Washington Avenue, almost all of the buildings that have been converted to lofts in recent years have some sort of exterior lighting, and the effect is very cool. The top of Met Square, Pointe 400, and a few others are lit up at night as well.

But with all that, downtown still seems a little dark.

One building that could use some lighting is the Hyatt - the former Adam's Mark - which is extremely dark at night. The eastern facade is mostly brick, which could be tastefully lit up without shining lights in the guest room windows.

Which buildings do you think would look great lit up?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We Love Ya, Matty

While most people love wise-cracking sportscaster Matt Vasgersian for his outstanding work as the voice of the XFL and as the host of the International Rock Paper Scissors Championships, he also does play-by-play for the San Diego Padres and Fox's NFL coverage. In these roles, he's developed a strong distaste for St. Louis over the years. In fact, in a recent web interview for Deadspin, he had some choice words about our city - and some unsolicited advice for downtown tourism and development officials:
"I hate downtown St. Louis... build a friggin' convenience store, somewhere in downtown St. Louis. It's a bad hotel town, in fact it's a really bad hotel town..."
He also calls out the Cardinals' owners for not building anything on the Ballpark Village site, which I have no problem with whatsoever. He says that there are "one or two places to eat after the game within walking distance" of Busch Stadium, and "nothing to do around the ballpark." Valid complaints.

Vasgersian is actually complimentary to the Cardinal franchise and its fans, and says that if he had a car and could get away from the Busch Stadium area, he'd probably enjoy coming to St. Louis.

I disagree on the hotels - the Four Seasons, Westin, Renaissance and others are all quite nice. Not quite sure what he's expecting there. However, we definitely need more retail here, especially in terms of conveniences for tourists. I visited Cincinnati recently and noticed two Walgreens and two CVS stores, for example. I'm still amazed that we don't have a Walgreens downtown any more.

It's easy to get upset about comments like these, but then again, he's speaking as a visitor to our city. Maybe downtown needs to step up its game a little.

Shape Up at Downtown Boot Camp

Old Post Office Plaza has only been open a few weeks, and already it's being used for a variety of purposes.

One of the earliest adopters of the new public space is Downtown Urgent Care, which has been offering boot camp training sessions featuring group instruction and motivational training, packed with fun and energizing exercises.

The boot camp sessions start every six weeks, with the next session beginning June 1. Classes will be offered on weekdays at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., and in case of rainy or ridiculously hot weather, they will be moved indoors, to the third floor of Downtown Urgent Care's building at 916 Olive.

The six-week sessions cost just $129. To sign up, contact Tisha Walters at Downtown Urgent Care at tisha@downtownurgentcare-stl.com or (314) 436-9300.

KMOV recently featured the boot camp on the morning news:Link

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On the Move

The St. Louis Sports Commission will be moving this week from 701 Convention Plaza (space that was provided free of charge by the Convention and Visitors Commission) to the fifth floor of the Welsch, Flatness & Lutz Building at 308 N. 21st Street.

And...

Korte Construction - a longtime tenant of the Post Office Annex Building at Union Station - is leaving downtown, but is staying in the city. The firm recently relocated its offices to the Forest Park Highlands.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mayor Slay's Priorities

Mayor Slay posted an exerpt from his recent Business Journal interview on his blog:

Asked by the St. Louis Business Journal last week:

Q: Now that you’ve been re-elected for your third term as mayor, what developments Downtown would you like to see move forward or be completed over the next four years?

A: In two words: Ballpark Village. In more words, the renovation and reopening of the Kiel Opera House, the renovation/reconfiguration of the Central Library on Olive, complete implementation of the new plan for the Gateway Mall, and improvements in the Convention Center.

I would also like to see mainstream retail take off, a movie theater, and a real dog park.

And we need more people living downtown. Five thousand more people over the next five years would be great, and if many of these people were kids, it would be even better.

I would like to see the National Park Service move forward with plans for connecting the Arch to the rest of downtown, and activating the Gateway Arch grounds in accordance with the recommendations of the Danforth Foundation task force and others.
A good list - I'd certainly like to see all of these things happen during the course of the mayor's next term.

I like the fact that he touches on "mainstream retail," which I would construe to mean that there will be an emphasis on adding national retailers to the mix in the days ahead. A movie theater would be a fantastic addition to downtown as well - perhaps we'll eventually get one in the Jefferson Arms, as originally proposed by John Steffen. I would have liked to see the redevelopment of St. Louis Centre on that list as well. Mayor Slay doesn't specifically mention the construction of new Class A office space, but that's part of the Ballpark Village plans.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Polsinelli Commits to Downtown! - Just Not to Ballpark Village

The GREAT news - Polsinelli is consolidating its office space downtown, leasing 80,000 sf in the Deloitte Building.

The not-so-great news - They're backing out of Ballpark Village.

With Husch Blackwell consolidating its space in Clayton, Adamson considering other downtown sites besides Cupples Station and Polsinelli giving up on Ballpark Village, it's clear that firms aren't content to wait for new Class A space to come online. Downtown needs new office space ASAP.

Red Ink Studios - How About a St. Louis Location?

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that the Mott Foundation in Flint, Michigan funded Red Ink Studios, free space for artists in an vacant downtown warehouse.

Red Ink started in Palo Alto, California, when ad agency DMNA decided to donate their unused office space (they were hit hard when the dot-com bubble burst) to artists free of charge rather than having it sit vacant.

DMNA put the word out, selected eight promising artists to occupy the space, and Red Ink Studios was born. The artists understood that the group could be disbanded at any time should the space be leased.

After nearly a year in Palo Alto, Red Ink Studios was welcomed to San Jose. Then, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency invited Red Ink to The City where they now occupy three spaces downtown in the Mid-Market district. "The professionalism of Red Ink Studios, along with their dedication to being a part of the neighborhood, lends confidence to landlords who might otherwise be apprehensive," said Lisa Zayas-Chien of San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.

Today, Red Ink Studios has expanded its mission beyond inhabiting temporary spaces. Art has now become a force that revitalizes. From art studios and gallery spaces, new ideas have grown. In addition to the three locations in downtown San Francisco, Red Ink Studios has developed other types of programs to benefit communities. For example, Red Ink in the Classroom brings art back into schools affected by cutbacks.
Flint is Red Ink's first location outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.

I don't see any reason why this model would not work here in St. Louis. I can think of a few locations that would be absolutely perfect for a St. Louis location of Red Ink Studios. A similar idea is underway at Crestwood Plaza, but something like this works so much better in an urban environment than in a failing suburban shopping mall.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Geography of Jobs

This is pretty fascinating - a time-lapse look at job losses and gains throughout the country since 2004.

Link

A Model for the Danforth Foundation to Follow

Flint, Michigan's downtown has had many of the same struggles as downtown St. Louis, as the loss of businesses and residents have the city's urban core over the years.

The portion of the documentary "Roger and Me" that focuses on downtown Flint's attempts at revitalization in the late 1980s - which included various "silver bullet" projects such as a new shopping mall and convention hotel - remind me quite a bit of St. Louis. Those projects - just like St. Louis Centre and a multitude of other projects here - never had the impact that city officials hoped they would, because the city never fully addressed its real problems, which were the loss of businesses and residents to the suburbs.

The Danforth Foundation's plan to build a $50 million museum on the Arch grounds would have provided St. Louis with just another "silver bullet" that was well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful at revitalizing downtown.

The Mott Foundation in Flint would serve as a good role model for the Danforth Foundation when it comes to making transformative investments in downtown St. Louis. It has made smaller, more strategic investments in downtown Flint in recent years that have helped that city make significant strides in its downtown revitalization.

Here are just a few of the investments that the Mott Foundation has made in downtown Flint:

- Provided a $20 million grant to pay for the acquisition and renovation of a vacant hotel in downtown Flint, which will serve as housing for 250 students at UM-Flint.

- Invested in the renovation of a 15,000 sf building in downtown Flint that now serves as the headquarters for the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and includes ground floor retail space and residential lofts.

- Provided a $4.2 million grant for the redevelopment of the Mott Block in downtown Flint, which includes as its centerpiece a 27,000 sf office building that is home to a civil engineering firm.

- Made a $500,000 grant toward the redevelopment of a seven-story office building in downtown Flint which has been converted to 16 loft apartments.

- Owns a 16-story art deco skyscraper in downtown Flint which serves as the foundation's headquarters and provides office space for a variety of professional firms.

- Helped fund a program that has turned a vacant warehouse into studio space for local artists.

These are investments that have had an overwhelmingly positive effect on downtown Flint. Just imagine what the Danforth Foundation could do for downtown St. Louis by taking a similar approach.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

There Are Better Ways to Spend $50 Million

It appears that the Danforth Foundation has withdrawn its offer to contribute up to $50 million toward a new museum on the Arch grounds.

In my opinion, this is a good thing - we don't need a museum on the Arch grounds.

Maybe the Danforth Foundation could use that $50 million to focus its efforts on projects that would have a much more transformative effect on the revitalization of downtown than a museum.

I'm sure an investment by the Danforth Foundation would help Dave Checketts and Paul McKee with the renovation of the Kiel Opera House. Perhaps the Danforth Foundation could use its money to tackle St. Louis Centre. Maybe it could help bring the Museum of Transport to Union Station or fund the expansion of the Central Library. $50 million could cover the cost of numerous smaller renovation projects, like the Mercantile Library Complex, Chouteau's Landing, the Union Square Building on Locust, and a host of other buildings that need to be brought back to life.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

St. Louis As an IT Hub

The St. Louis Beacon ran a nice piece on efforts to establish St. Louis as an IT hub. One particular part of the article stood out to me:
Companies recruiting outside the region sell potential employees on affordable housing and quality of life, but face the perception that St. Louis is the place you go to start a family and have a house in the suburbs, (Willem) Bakker (executive director of the Information Technology Coalition) said. While that might appeal to some potential employees, he said, the city misses out on too many young people who don't want that life.

(Benjamin) Akande, the (Webster University) business school dean, said it will take the arrival of more start-up companies, as well as public and private investments in areas such as green technology to reverse the trend of the outmigration of young people who are interested in high-tech careers.

"We can make all the excuses in the world on why we are not recognized for who we are in St. Louis and what we have to offer, but the reality is if we are recognized as a technology hub, the results will speak for itself," he said.
If St. Louis is ever going to develop a reputation as a great place to both raise a family AND start a career right out of college, a strong downtown is the key.

Young, creative, educated people - the people we want to attract - are drawn to thriving urban centers. If IT firms are looking to recruit the best and the brightest, locating their offices downtown will go a long way to that end. Young people don't want to work in a bland office park Maryland Heights, Chesterfield or St. Charles - they're looking for an exciting urban environment, something only downtown can provide.

St. Louis' IT community would be well-served by embracing downtown as its hub. Downtown could - and should - be our own version of San Francisco's SOMA district.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Volunteer to Help Make Downtown a Little Greener!

Got a green thumb and a desire to help spruce up downtown?

Urban Roots – the group responsible for planting and maintaining the beautiful flowers in medians and planters throughout downtown – is looking for volunteers to help with this year’s spring planting project.

If you’d like to help beautify downtown, this year’s plantings will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 9 and Sunday, May 10.  Volunteers will meet at Poelker Park, across from the Soldiers Memorial near Tucker and Market.

For more information, contact Lindsey Schmid of the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis at (314) 436-6500 or lschmid@downtownstl.org.  



Friday, May 01, 2009

New Life for the Municipal Courts Building


Heisman Properties has set its sights on the vacant Municipal Courts Building at 13th and Market. This $40 million redevelopment project - to be named 1300 Market - will include a restaurant, retail and gallery space, and office space on the upper floors. Completion is expected in 2010.

The city is considering constructing a 600-car parking garage behind the building (visible in the rendering above). Hopefully the garage will have first floor retail space as other city garages do. Would a garage at 14th and Clark allow for future construction on the parking lot immediately south of City Hall?

The office space will be suitable for a variety of users, but Heisman believes it will be especially attractive to law firms, who would not only be in close proximity to downtown courthouses, but would also be able to use the building's restored courtrooms to stage mock trials.

Plans call for retail tenants and one or more restaurants to be added along 14th Street catering to daytime users and community events at the neighboring Scottrade Center and the renovated Kiel Opera House, which is sounding like it will become a reality. The building's grand hallway with vaulted ceilings and elegant entrance will feature exhibits showcasing St. Louis artists.

“Being in such a desirable location we anticipate not only servicing our core tenants, but will offer the ability to provide locations for cultural events and meeting places with those who want to share in this extraordinary redevelopment,” noted Heisman Properties Principal Curt Schroeder.

All in all, this sounds like a great project that will do much to enliven the "Civic Center" portion of downtown.