Friday, July 31, 2009

Moving...

Health food store La Buena Salud has moved from the St. Louis Design Center at 917 Locust to the loft district. The store's new location is in the rear of the Knickerbocker Building at 1300 Washington, facing 13th Street.

Cafe Cioccolato will be moving from the Ludwig Lofts at 1008 Locust to the first floor of the Paul Brown Building at 816 Olive, next to San Sai and across from the Old Post Office.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

101 Cass Update


On Monday, the Preservation Board recommended that the St. Louis Stamping Company Building at 101 Cass be added to the National Historic Register. This handsome building certainly has potential and a great location near the Mississippi, and could help jump-start development in the North Riverfront area.

I look forward to seeing what LoftWorks has in store.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another Pyramid Property Up for Auction


According to Building Blocks, another Pyramid property, the Jefferson Arms at 415 N. Tucker, will be put up for auction on August 10 at the Civil Courts building.

A Minneapolis developer – Sherman Associates – had expressed interest in converting the building to rental apartments with a senior living component, just as Pyramid had planned, but apparently that deal never panned out. The building is currently configured for 529 units, but Pyramid's plans involved reducing it to nearly 360 units (196 market-rate units and 163 senior apartments).

Will Sherman, who partnered with LoftWorks on The Syndicate, be in play at the auction? It will be interesting to see who snaps up this property and what kind of deal they'll be able to get.

Once renovated and filled with residents, this massive building will really help add the critical mass of residents needed to help support businesses on both sides of Tucker. One part of Pyramid's plans was to add a movie theater to the building, which would bring a much-needed amenity downtown. Hopefully the building's new owner will consider that as well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Downtown Restaurant Week - Aug. 3-9

The fifth annual Downtown Restaurant Week starts Monday, August 3, and has grown to include 25 of downtown St. Louis' finest eateries.

This event continues to gain in popularity (last year's Restaurant Week attracted over 15,000 diners), so make your reservations now. Each restaurant will be offering a menu of three-course meals for just $25, making Restaurant Week the perfect opportunity to try the places you've always wanted to check out.

A list of participating restaurants can be found at www.downtownrestaurantweek.net.

Expanding Hours

A few downtown establishments have recently expanded their hours:

The Savory Deli at 500 N. Broadway is open until 5 p.m. (They previously closed at 3 p.m.).

Downtown Urgent Care is now open Sundays.

One of my personal favorites, 10th Street Italian, is now open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. (They close at 3 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays)

Could this be a growing trend? I hope so, especially in the area around City Garden. It's crazy to see places like 6 North closed on the weekends when right outside their door, thousands of people are enjoying the new sculpture garden. Until the Terrace View Cafe opens, there is little in the way of dining options adjacent to the park.

Monday, July 27, 2009

North Riverfront Investment Opportunity


Believe it or not, the North Riverfront district still has some buildings left standing!

1230 N. 2nd Street is currently listed for sale for $5,875,000 ($24.00/psf). Built in 1906, this five-story, 244,800 sf building offers sweeping views of downtown, the Arch, and the Mississippi River, and is just blocks from Laclede's Landing and Lumiere Place.

This building is ideally suited for lofts, live/work space for artists, creative office space, or a combination of all of the above.

Patrick T. McKay of Hilliker Corporation is the listing agent: (314) 781-0001.

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Plans for an Old Building

Bob Guller has purchased the former United Way headquarters/Post-Dispatch printing press at 1111 Olive from Larry Deutsch for $2.25 million. Guller plans on spending $9.5 million to renovate the building and is considering converting it to a hub for IT firms, similar to two other “telecom hotels” he previously owned – 201 N. Tucker and the Valley Building at 900 Walnut.
 
Under such a plan, most of the space would be filled by servers, switching equipment and other IT-releated equipment, with relatively few employees. Not an optimal use of office space, but in this case (as with 210 N. Tucker and the Valley Building), it would fill a difficult-to-lease building that has been vacant for almost five years. And, its reinforced concrete floors make it an ideal candidate to house IT infrastructure. 

The building – built in 1941 – is listed on the National Register for Historic Places, making it eligible for historic tax credits. It originally had windows that were more consistent with its overall design scheme. Guller applied for, but did not receive, New Markets Tax Credits, which were awarded earlier this month, however, the city is working with him on other sources of financing. 

It had been mentioned as one of the candidates for Emmis Communications' new offices and studios for KSHE, KPNT, KHIT and KFTK, but no announcement was ever made.

Here's an old pic of the building - I like the original windows much better than the current ones:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dominium Takes on Leather Trades Building


Minneapolis-based Dominium Properties has purchased the Leather Trades Building at 1604 Locust from Workers Realty Trust – a creditor of Pyramid Construction – for an undisclosed amount. Pyramid planned on converting the eight-story warehouse to 59 condos, and had already built a display unit and completed a good deal of interior demolition and environmental remediation before the firm went belly-up in 2008.

Dominium plans to spend $23.2 million to build apartments in the Leather Trades and has applied for low income housing tax credits. It will also seek state and federal historic tax credits for the project.

This project should go a long way toward strengthening the Locust corridor west of Tucker, especially if Dominium can add some decent first floor retail tenants. Pyramid’s portfolio is slowly being absorbed by other developers. Now, if someone would just take on the Arcade Building…

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Restaurants Planned for The 411, Lofts @ 315


What's the 411 on The 411?

Craig Heller of LoftWorks has received $5 million in New Markets Tax Credits to add a restaurant to the first floor of The 411 - the former Farm & Home Savings Association Building at 10th and Locust. He is currently in negotiations with Chip Schloss, co-owner of Atomic Cowboy in The Grove, to operate the eatery.

The tax credits will also go toward opening a wine bar and restaurant to another LoftsWorks building, The Lofts @315, which is just across the street from The 411. The establishment will be run by Dave Bailey, who also owns downtown favorite Rooster, as well as Bailey's Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Development for the North Riverfront?

Looks like more development could be in store for the North Riverfront in the near future: At its meeting next week, the Preservation Board will be considering the St. Louis Stamping Company Buildings at 101 Cass Avenue for addition to the National Historic Register - the first step toward attaining tax credits for historic renovations.

The building is owned by Craig Heller of LoftWorks - an encouraging sign - and located adjacent to one of my favorite buildings in all of St. Louis, the Cotton Belt railway depot.

Also, a group led by Jay Simon and Jim Callahan is in early talks to reopen Mississippi Nights, the popular music club on Laclede's Landing that closed in 2007 when Pinnacle Entertainment decided to demolish it for a parking lot. Neither Simon nor Callahan was affiliated with the original Mississippi Nights ownership group.

The new Mississippi Nights would be located in the historic Laclede Power Building, which is owned by Simon's firm, Metropolitan Building & Design. While the project is still in the planning stages, amenities would include a restaurant, recording booth, beer garden, balcony, and a deck overlooking the Mississippi River. Capacity will be 1,000 to 1,200.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Great Speech

The Business Journal printed an excerpt from Mark Mantovani's excellent speech on the need to support downtown St. Louis.

Mr. Mantovani is president and CEO of NSI Marketing Services and serves as chairman of the board of the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis. He's also an individual who practices what he preaches, having moved his successful business downtown from Westport a few years ago.

This speech includes an 11-point plan for downtown that centers around making the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis into a more aggressive leadership organization, developing more transit options, and encouraging business development and making downtown the true center of our region.

Here are two of my favorite parts of his speech:
I view downtown St. Louis as the central asset within our region. it binds us together. I view it as everyone's downtown: whether one lives in Kirkwood or Florissant; North St. Louis or the Central West End; Edwardsville or Waterloo; St. Charles or O'Fallon.
And:
Recently, a head hunter advised me that searches involving St. Louis organizations and personnel are always difficult. Concerned that this reflected negatively on the region, I asked him if he could tell me more. He replied, "St. Louis is a tough one for us, because it's very difficult to get someone to move here, but after they go, we have a hell of a time getting them to leave.

In our hearts, we know this to be true. While far from perfect as a community, St. Louis has much to offer. Sometimes we forget. More frequently, we fail to speak of it. We St. Louisans must grow in confidence about our community, speak openly about our affection for it, and reach out to those with different points of view. Where there are shortcomings, we must be willing to take more risks and confidently invest in the region's future.
It's refreshing to hear this kind of talk from a local business leader who really gets it. It's time to get our residents and business leaders to take pride in their downtown and focus on making it a better place.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Adler Lofts Back on Track


More good news for Downtown West: Bob Wood's Adler Lofts project at 2035 Washington Avenue has been approved for $5 million in New Markets Tax Credits. Money received from the tax credits will go toward helping Wood finish the stalled development, which will feature 26 apartments and 8,500 sf of retail space.

According to Wood, there are several parties interested in the space, and now that the tax credits have been awarded, he can finalize tenant negotiations.

He said he expected to close on financing within 90 days and start construction on the Adler this fall.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's the Final Countdown (to Re-opening)


Kevin Johnson of the Post-Dispatch is reporting that the Europe night club is reopening in the long-vacant, but very cool art deco building at 710 N. 15th Street, just north of Washington Avenue.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Construction at Jefferson and Clark?


It looks like the vacant lot at the southeast corner of Jefferson and Clark - just north of Highway 40 - is being prepped for construction. The pavement has been torn out and a plumbing contractor has set up on the site.
It will be interesting to see what gets built there...

Macy's Reconfiguring Layout, Reducing Space

Macy's has been approved to receive $7 million in New Markets Tax Credits to help pay for reducing its downtown department store from 400,000 sf on six floors to 125,000 sf on three floors. The downsized store would then be consistent in size with the chain's other stores throughout the country.

Under the May Co.'s ownership, the store (then known as Famous-Barr) once occupied eight floors of the Railway Exchange Building. While having a store that large would be nice, the retail business has undergone a sea change in recent years, and such a store is no longer viable. And, this investment is an early indicator that Macy's plans to keep the downtown store open.

Hopefully, the store's restaurants will be retained, along with unique, retro features, such as the first floor candy counter, that give the store its charm. The downtown Macy's could also stand to upgrade its merchandise selection, utilize more of its display windows and continue to organize special events to lure shoppers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Transition in Store at Qualy Agency

The Business Journal has reported that John Qualy, head of Northwestern Mutual's Qualy Group - one of the most successful Northwestern Mutual offices in the country - will be retiring on October 31, 2011. According to the article:

“There are three individuals who could step into this and do a great job: Steve Gross, Gerard Hempstead and Matt Plocher,” Qualy said.

Each is managing director of one of Qualy’s seven regional offices:
Gross in Chesterfield, Hempstead in Clayton, and Plocher in St. Louis. In
addition, Plocher is chief development officer.

The Qualy Group employs 176 financial representatives in its 25,000 sf space in Gateway One and has been a longtime supporter of downtown St. Louis. The Qualy Group's success also disproves the notion that financial services firms need to be in Clayton or other suburban locations in order to "be closer to their clients."

Let's hope Mr. Qualy's successor shares his dedication to downtown.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Lewis Rice to One City Centre?

The Business Journal is reporting that the St. Louis Development Corporation has approved $4 million in tax credits for Lewis Rice to relocate to One City Centre, which has been almost entirely vacant since Cannon Design moved to a renovated power house near Busch Stadium last year.

The deal has not been finalized, and Lewis Rice is still considering other alternatives, including renewing its current lease.

Lewis Rice would lease 100,000 sf of the 364,000 sf office tower, which is also home to law firm Sandberg Phoenix & Von Gontard. This lease would have a positive impact on downtown's Class A vacancy rate - One City Centre is currently over 70 percent vacant - while delivering a hit to the Class B vacancy rate.

The loss of Lewis Rice would leave a gaping vacancy at 500 N. Broadway, which has struggled to attract large tenants since Stifel Nicolaus moved to One Financial Plaza in 1998. If Lewis Rice were to vacate its current space, perhaps that would be enough for 500 N. Broadway's owners to make improvements to the building and get more aggressive in attracting new tenants.

Black Label Looking Forward to Big All-Star Week

Kevin Johnson of the Post-Dispatch had a good write-up on the Black Label night club at 758 South Fourth Street in Chouteau's Landing. Black Label has a full slate of events planned for this weekend and into next week and should be well positioned to do big business.

According to Johnson's blog post, Black Label’s restaurant, House of Kabobs, opened this week with eight kabobs including chicken, vegetable, fruit and seafood. Sandwiches and salads also are available.

Here's one particularly cool aspect of Chouteau's Landing's newest hotspot:
The room is decorated with local art, and colorful sneakers by local shoe designer Greedy Genius hang from the ceiling. It’s all for sale.

“Shoes, sneakers and heels are big here, and you can look up and see exclusive shoes,” Morris says of the dangling sneaks. “That’s something you don’t see on a normal basis.”

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tucker Parking Garage to Open in August

The opening of the $16 million city-owned parking garage at Tucker and Clark has been pushed back to August 3. City officials had hoped to have the garage open for next week's MLB All-Star Game festivities, but progress was delayed as construction crews discovered that it would need additional support to make the structure earthquake-proof.

The 542-space garage will also include 10,000 sf of ground floor retail space. Despite the delays, the project is on budget.

Low Quality Camera Phone Photo of the Day, 7/9

The Over/Under is just about to open in the Lammert Building - the new sign went up on Wed.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Low Quality Camera Phone Picture of the Day, 7/8


New trees have been planted along Washington Avenue by the Eads Bridge - they make a huge difference!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Another North Riverfront Development


Adjacent to the Laclede Power building on the North Riverfront is the recently-renovated home of the William A. Kerr Foundation.

The 5,200 sf building was constructed in 1894 as a bathhouse - it sits above a natural mineral spring - but had fallen into disrepair and was long vacant when the Kerr Foundation acquired it.

The Kerr Foundation restored the building with sustainability in mind, incorporating a number of "green" features such as a wind turbine, green roof and solar panels. Construction crews took great care in reusing and recycling demolition waste as well. As a result, the $2 million renovation earned the building LEED Platinum certification, the highest rating given by the U.S. Green Building Council.

More on this exciting project can be found here.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Laclede Power Building Redevelopment Moving Forward


Saturday's Post-Dispatch featured an article on Trailnet's plans to renovate the long-vacant Laclede Power building near Laclede's Landing on the north riverfront.

According to the article, extensive structural and cleanup work has already been completed inside the building, and a small park overlooking the Mississippi has been constructed adjacent to it.

When the $16 million redevelopment is complete, the building will house a restaurant and offices for Trailnet and other businesses/organizations, and serve as the trailhead for the St. Louis riverfront bike trail. Plans include a bike shop with bike rentals, lockers, showers and other amenities for cyclists using the trail.

Trailnet hopes to have the project completed by August 2010.

Of course, as with any article on downtown development, the Post-Dispatch has to include a quote from a naysayer - in this case it's Jeffrey Hawley of Block Hawley Commercial Real Estate Services in Chesterfield.

St. Louis Centre, for example, which opened with great fanfare in 1985, is now shuttered. And Union Station, also remodeled with great hype, continues to struggle.

Meanwhile, more recent initiatives such as the Bottle District and Ballpark Village are not dead, but they have been delayed and still aren't off the ground.

"People have been trying to do something there for a long time," Hawley said. "You've got to grow it over years. You don't just go in, plant a seed and the next day find a million people living downtown."
I don't see how this project is at all comparable to St. Louis Centre, Union Station, the Bottle District or Ballpark Village in size, scale, scope or intent. It's an apples to oranges comparison.

While it does have some issues - most notably accessibility - the bike trail is already a popular attraction, and this development will serve the thousands of visitors who already come to the area to use it, while potentially giving the trail a higher profile and increasing ridership. Despite its location, many people have still found a way to get there.

This development will be a great first step toward connecting Laclede's Landing with the north riverfront area and the North Broadway corridor. Had Pinnacle not torn down a few historic structures in the area recently, that connection would be a little easier to make.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Update on the Roberts Brothers' Hotel Indigo Plans


Tim Bryant's article in the Post-Dispatch on the grand opening of the Roberts Brothers' new Hotel Indigo in the Central West End included an update on the second Hotel Indigo they're planning for the old St. Louis Design Center building on Olive.

According to the article, the projected opening of late 2010 has been pushed back at least a year, and the demolition of two historic buildings (919 and 923 Locust) is on hold as the Roberts Brothers work to get the Design Center building and an adjacent building placed on the national historic register.

One quote from the article that I found particularly interesting:

Gary Andreas, principal at H&H Consulting Inc., a Chesterfield-based hotel consulting group, said the Indigo on Lindell should do well because the Central West End is a good hotel market. But he said downtown is no place to put another hotel now.

"The big question is whether you need another hotel room anywhere downtown, period, for the next few years," he said.
So, we're stuck with a half a block of vacant buildings, two of which will eventually be torn down for a hotel that downtown doesn't need.

My preference would be to see the Roberts Brothers ditch the hotel plans and get all of the buildings placed on the national register. They could renovate the small building at 923 Locust as a restaurant/pub first, then move on to the other buildings, which could be converted to office space, apartments, condos, or even a smaller hotel, based on the conditions of the market.

Doing so would preserve historic architecture, keep the street wall intact, and bring more diversity to the 900 block of Locust.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mayor Slay on City Garden


A snippet from Mayor Slay's remarks at the grand opening of City Garden yesterday:

Now, with Citygarden, we have put in place the crucial first piece for finally realizing (the Gateway Mall's) potential. And the statement that piece is making is this: “Look. We do great things in this City. And the future here can be even greater than our past.”

For that reason, I also think this garden will act as a catalyst for the commercial and residential development of downtown. I’m already hearing from CEOs about how much they love this place. With one stroke, this garden has made downtown SO much more attractive as a place to do business.

Hopefully some of these CEOs like it enough to make their own investments in downtown St. Louis...