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Finishing Ballpark Village…

March 27, 2008 Downtown, Planning & Design 42 Comments

Centene is out, no real surprise. What is the future of BPV?
Yes the economy is rocky but we are talking about prime real estate. This is an example of where good development standards for the larger area would guide future construction. Create a physical vision — mandate that through a zoning overlay – get streets in place to create parcels and then sell the parcels to others. Today’s mega projects make financing and such so complicated it takes forever to finish a project — if at all.  Costs get so high only big chains can afford the rents.  The entertainment district first described seemed geared to tourists — not really connected to the rest of the city.

We need to rethink the wisdom of the mega all or nothing project.


Currently there are "42 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mike says:

    Can someone please tell me what kind of penalties (if any) these guys are paying to the city for getting absolutely nothing done over the last 6 years while were on the line for TIF and tax breaks when/if the thing gets built?

    How difficult would it have been over the last 3 years to at least level the ground and lay some sod so it could have been another urban park?

    I hope other cities learn from us that a new stadium is no guarantee for “new” surrounding development. So sad.

  2. john w. says:

    They’ll likely throw some sod down for All Star Game Village 2009, which will feature beer tents and other tourist attractions, so that they can hide the embarrassing mudhole.

  3. Jim Zavist says:

    One, I’m not surprised that things didn’t work out. I’m guessing that Centene was using the “announcement” for leverage to get a deal done in Clayton. Two, the short-term “solution” is pretty obvious – make the site flat, pave it, and when the All-Star Game rolls around, it will be the perfect place to put up all the big white tents for all the private parties and the All-Star Fan Fest. The rest of the time, it’ll just be more, convenient parking. And three, eventually our dreams and the market will merge, and what can be built will be built . . .

  4. john w. says:

    …and there will be much rejoicing.

  5. john says:

    “Pave it”, why not? The Concrete Jungle known as St Louis certainly needs more concrete and less green space!
    – –
    What’s the common element to the Page Extension, expanded Lambert, 270, Metro Extension, the New 64, and every new mall?. A: Tons and tons and more tons of concrete. What’s new? Land needed to build highway 40 seventy years ago was taken from the natural environment called Forest Park. Why change when this solution is so successful?

  6. samizdat says:

    Considering the fact that Kiel Center Partners pulled one over City officials eyes, and nothing came from that, this is not at all surprising. The City is run by a bunch of incompetent, ignorant, corrupt, morons. Aldermen and you-know-who, included. Why anyone thought that the Cardinals or Cordish would actually accomplish anything is beyond my ken. The Carkinals got what they wanted, and the City, and her citizens, be damned! C’mon, folks, YOU DON’T MATTER! Contribute to the campaign? Cozy up to a pol at a party you weren’t invited to? Make enough $$$ to get noticed? Worried about brick theft, and how it affects your nabe or City, and you’re not Paul McKee, etc., et al? Let’s face it: unless a wholesale change in the makeup of the Board of Aldremen and Mayor’s office are accomplished, this is how this City will continue to run. They have nothing to fear. There is nearly no oversight from the media, with the exception of various blogs. Who is going to tell them they can’t do what they do? Rev. Biondi, he does whatever he wishes. Razes any and all buildings which don’t advance, or contribute to, the creation of the SLU superblock/ghetto. They are systematically eliminating most of the connections the campus once had to the surrounding neighborhood. If someone just happens to come along and create or restore a beautiful thing, well, it’s probably a result of a misstep in the ghettoization process. Paul Mckee, same thing. He’s wealthy, you’re not, get over it. Would I like to see the City return to its former elegance and glory? More than you can possibly contemplate. I have a home here in the City, I care, but I am not so naive as to think that I can make any great contribution to a progressive, free-thinking, sensible political structure. It seems to me that the average citizen is not particularly interested in change. Does this mean that cannnot be accomplished? No, but change will only come through education and information. Since we don’t own any of the major media outlets in town, this will require a massive ouput of effort and resources from the very people who wish to see change. I don’t see anyone putting together a slate of “progressives” for the next elections. Who will be the next Mayor? Mike McMillen(sp?). You know it, I know it. Unless something, or someone, changes, there’s nothing that can be done. I’d rather not that this would happen, but the “fix” is in. I’ve been observer City politics since I was in grade school in the County(Cervantes admin.). I think I may have a good idea what I’m talking about. I may only be a high school graduate/industrial worker, but that didn’t mean I stopped learning once I exited the building. I realise this is, unfortunately, a very rambling post, but I’ve been meaning to get it off my chest for a while. Mea culpa, for its’ length and probable incoherence. As for the inevitable snarky “Well, why don’t you run for office?”, hmm, good question. Not a professional, would lose that vote, and I consider myself too well self-educated to appeal to the hoi-polloi. A bit pat, but I’m just an average, everyday, working-class Joe to have the connections I see as necessary to conduct a cohesive and successful campiagn. Not pessimistic, REALISTIC. I’ll just focus on getting the brickwork, windows, roof, electrical, insulation(Dog, I hope what’s up there already isn’t asbestos), etc., restored/updated this year. Ta.

  7. old hat says:

    The Cardinals are not going to give up control over Ballpark Village. It would be fun to watch them squirm over public protests held in front of the stadium on the public street (Clark Street) which runs right between Ballpark Village and the new ballpark. The situation is an embarassment.
    The Cardinals got a deal thanks to the taxpayers, now they are holding all the cards, no pun intended. Average Joes (since they can no longer afford to go the games anyway), have all sort of good things to protest about the Cardinals new ownership group. $9 beers. $15 million to mediocre pitchers like Wainwright. Renegging on a deal to build Ballpark Village.
    We don’t need a bunch of politically connected insiders to do something. The pols are pissed too. Everyone is pissed at the Cardinals. This needs to be put right back in their faces. Millionaires party while the city has a big hole in the middle of downtown. F*** that. No more excuses. These guys have the bucks to build. Build. Take some risk. You asked for it. You got it. Now do it!

  8. dude says:

    Got that out of the way. I read the spectrum of 150 comments on the post’s blog. My favorites:
    Turn it into a tent city to house the homeless and druggies to put on display for the all star game.
    Stalk the pond with fish so folks can cast a few reels before the game.
    Build a strip club so cardinal players won’t have to risk life or SUV to go over to sauget but just walk across the street.
    I read a lot of comment of people saying we need change. Saw some comments about uniting the city and county. Saw some comments saying they don’t want that changed. I wonder if that’ll ever show up on a ballot or if the govenor or may be the president has to force it.

  9. Hasn’t anyone heard? The BPV site will be used to stage half of the world’s largest pizza during the All-Star Game.

  10. southsider says:

    St Lou’s concern over the All Star Game is over blown. Who gives a dern? I’d rather see the project done right then fast.

    Secondly, the new ball park was largely done with private money with a few sales tax waivers granted. I don’t think we can *itch too much about the Cards.

    Lastly, St. Lou given its current state can never negotiate from a position of strength so I’d go a little easy on City Hall. Look what they were giving up on payroll taxes to Centenne on this deal. (Centenne apparently isn t doing that well anyway so a pass may be a blessing).

  11. stannate says:

    Between Centene’s attempt to declare its surroundings in Clayton as “blighted,” and their alleged role in altering the designs of Ballpark Village to the point of unworkability, I would really be wary if I were on a city council and Centene came knocking on my door. They are not developing a reputation as a good corporate neighbor, as they’ve managed to tick off Clayton, Saint Louis, and Jefferson City by extension.
    Then again, who am I kidding? In spite of their not-so-friendly reputation, there will be some suburban community that will be desperate enough for attention to overlook their travails with the aforementioned. Centene will be enticed to move into this particular community, no matter what the financial or structural costs may be. Hey, at that rate, it’s not too late to redesign the empty spaces at Market at McKnight to accommodate Centene–after all, it’s not like the developer of that mall has been successful at filling the larger vacancies!

  12. Dale Sweet says:

    BTW Steve, we’re very glad you’re making incredible progress.
    Has anyone else noticed that the Ballpark Village as promised is exactly what Union Station should (or was promised to) be:
    -outdoor concerts and family-centered events
    -destination dining
    -hotel(s)-Hyatt in the Station Headhouse and Drury in the old Railroad YMCA
    -park and walk to downtown sports and/or attractions
    -connect to Metrolink
    -tourists- and locals-centered retail
    -offices (Powerhouse)
    -public spaces
    Everything but the BPV residential component, but we see how well anything residential is going these days. Go check out Union Station’s current tenant lineup and significant vacancies, and reference Hyatt’s recent involvement in other downtown properties, then see that we’re in a world of hurt in the 1800 block of Market Street, whoa, not so far from the BPV.
    And let’s not even mention the similarity to the old and now the proposed uses of St. Louis Centre.

  13. john says:

    “St Lou, We Give Tax Credits for Empty Promises”. It’s just not BPC, Union Station, etc. it’s how government functions on all levels in this region. Disasterous decisions like the New 64, Metro Extension, Lambert, TIFs, selective enforcement, ED abuse, mega malls with mega parking lots, wider roads made more dangerous for non-motorized travelers, are all part and parcel of dysfunctional public policy. Robbing Peter to pay Paul has serious and long term consequences …that has been the MO for five decades.

  14. Jim Zavist says:

    Three more points. Some people say that grass would be better than more asphalt/more parking here. I disagree. This is downtown, an allegedly urban area. We already have plenty of unused “park” blocks nearby. The two big adavatages of doing a “temporary” parking lot are immediate revenues and fewer future hassles – it’s easier to tear out a parking lot than it would be to tear out “green” space, once someone figures out what will really work here.
    Next, this is mostly just an example of the market (and market forces) at work. The demand for what was envisioned and promised years ago has changed and, in many cases, fallen significantly. No developer is going to build something they don’t see a market for. Much like the blocks left barren in the ’60’s and ’70’s, thanks to “urban renewal” efforts, there will come a time when vision meets reality. Until then, we need to either accept place-holder uses (like parking lots) or accept, and be stuck with, low-rise, low-density developments, primarily sports bars. We might not like that the real estate market has tanked around the country (not just here), but we can do little, either individually or as a city, to change that reality.
    Finally, a contrarian perspective – instead of focusing on what’s not happening, why not think bigger? There are two large parking structures that “bookend” the site on the east and west sides. Yes, they’re still in good shape, and yes, they bring in revenues. But from an urban design perspective, they create significant barriers to the rest of downtown’s fabric, including a connection between the site and the arch grounds. What if they were replaced by the current lifestyle-center model of urban blocks with street-hugging retail, office, hospitality and residential uses wrapping smaller parking structures on the interiors of each block? What if we focused on mid-rise (12 stories or less) projects instead of high rise ones? We built a retro-looking stadium. There’s no reason why we can’t create a retro-looking urban neighborhood around it. Plus, it’s a whole lot easier to build (and finance) twenty 50,000 square foot projects than it gonna be to do one million-square-foot one.

    [slp — I’m not a fan of more grassy lawn areas but I don’t want to see more surface parking either — Allowing on-street parking around the site, however, would be good. if paved we must consider the water runoff. I say plant native grasses and such so it looks better. Yes, those parking garages need to go . We need to drop this notion of “towers” as being the ultimate —- let’s build great streets fronted by nicely scaled buildings instead — max of 10 floors.]

  15. john w. says:

    Pervious pavers would be the sensible comprimse in the example of temporary surface parking for profit. The pavers could then easily be pulled up and moved somewhere else when construction begins. I am in complete agreement with Steve’s editorial remark, and would add that any new garages that may be built (not that there is a need) follow the example set by Studio E’s Fahrenheit condominium building in San Diego’s emerging and successful ballpark village.

  16. Leadership says:

    I used to think that Slay and Geisman were a crack team at luring development. Now I think they just follow trends, making deals along the way. We need real leadership in Room 200.

    [slp – if only they would follow trends. For the last decade the national trend has been toward mixed-use and more urban/walkable. They are happy following the outdated suburban model rather than recognize demographic changes (more single households) and shifting consumer preferences toward more walkable communities.]

  17. studs lonigan says:

    I would worry about the creation of Ballpark Village if they move to pave/landscape it “in the interim”. You know what would happen next? The “interim” will stretch out interminably, with the city being told, ultimately: We’re done here. Sorry that whole condo-office-retail thingy didn’t work out, but we don’t control the national economy. At least it gives MORE PARKING. And look at what we spent on landscaping! You think that’s cheap? And we kept the Cardinals downtown, even though Eureka and Illinois wanted us. Just keep that in mind. Don’t be greedy, huh? See you at the Club! Oh. Maybe not.

    Remember Kiel Partners.

  18. Mike says:

    Call Joe Edawrds and Cassilly and let them go nutball on the land. It will be cheaper for the city and a better more unique draw for citizens and tourists alike.

  19. LisaS says:

    McClellan wrote a column on this today. His point parallels JZ’s above: if it made sense to build BPV, it would be there already. The law of supply & demand essentially works.
    I have a bet with a couple of neighborhood guys: parking lot by 2009. That’s all downtown needs for salvation, right? I think I’ll win.

  20. LisaS says:

    and I should add: my winning that bet will be a big loss for the City.

  21. Jason says:

    I dont know the details but apparently if they do not meet “the deadline” for breaking ground they are fined 3 million dollars. It makes me think of Dr. Evil asking for “one million dollars”- chump change.

  22. Adam says:

    hmmm … media coverage at all-star game = great opportunity for st. louisans to expose/embarrass/kick-in-the-ass our less-than-effective political establishment and corporate elite. a mob of protestors outside of the ballpark holding signs targeting SPECIFIC individuals for SPECIFIC incompetencies — e.g. slay, mckee, various aldermen, etc — for the entire nation to see (maybe even TV interviews!) might just START to get a message across: if your going to give us this SH*T then we’re going to embarrass you in front of the whole country. extreme? maybe but we need some DRASTIC change.

    [slp — I like the way you think!!!!] 

  23. Otto says:

    Let’s not get hysterical.
    Where were all the cries for market-based development when all those historic buildings were getting subsidized?
    Mega projects are on hold all over the country. They just broke ground at Ground Zero, seven years after 9/11. And that’s in Manhattan! How about Millennium Park in Chicago? This project was delayed for years, suffered huge cost overruns, and is now the subject of a corruption investigation. These projects are difficult, complex, and slow.
    But sometimes they are worth it.
    I agree that we now have an opportunity to rethink and improve Ballpark Village. Name calling and placards will do nothing. We need to have a rational discussion to determine how we can accomplish what (as Steve suggests) should be a key goal of BPV: making sure it connects naturally with its urban environment.

    [slp — Parks such as Chicago’s MP doesn’t need to be market based — residential, retail and office projects do.  Oddly there is great demand for housing in Nre York but the new project is largely office space. ]

  24. Adam says:

    i’m not suggesting name-calling. i don’t even think it’s necessary. the shape of the city speaks for itself. but it’s about time to hold people accountable for acres of parking lots, a disregard for preservation, and obvious scams like blairmount (which slay supports).
    “But sometimes they are worth it.”
    let’s hope this is one of those times because STL can’t take many more mega-sized hits. in the meantime the PBV pit could have been parcelled out for multiple smaller developments that likely would have been a hell of a lot easier to negotiate.

  25. Otto says:

    “in the meantime the PBV pit could have been parcelled out for multiple smaller developments that likely would have been a hell of a lot easier to negotiate.”
    No, I don’t think that’s true. The city would then have to negotiate with mutliple developers, each asking for their own subsidies, each struggling to get their own financing in a weak market, and each with their own time frames.
    It’s just more fragmentation by design.

  26. Adam says:

    ^ but smaller developments demand smaller subsidies, and fewer parties involved in a particular development means fewer opportunities for conflict. so even though we might not have a BPV by now, we would likely have the beginnings (at least) of something more organic/authentic. also, i believe the market was on the up-swing when BPV was announced – several smaller developments could have been completed or well on their way before this recession scare.

    if it is fragmentation by design then why does it work elsewhere and why has it worked historically?

  27. Otto says:

    Adam, You’re suggesting that when we separate it out and give it to a bunch of different developers it’s going to be built organically into Greenwich Village. I wish that were the case.
    What’s going to stop a developer from just turning his parcel into a parking garage? That would, after all, be a market-driven and logical use for the parcel.

    [slp — zoning would stop the parcel from being a parking lot.  It could mandate a minimum & maximum number  of floors, door and windows at sidewalk level and so on.  Cities such as Denver and Portland  have used form-based zoning to get the results desired.]

  28. Adam says:

    ^ like steve said. i’m not suggesting a free-for-all, and Greenwich Village never even crossed my mind. but even PBV won’t approach Greenwich. all i’m saying is that at least a spattering of mixed-use and a TEMPORARY park (for future class A etc) could have been completed already instead of just dirt. the cardinals and/or centene could have purchased the main parcel (i.e. the park) for condos, office space or whatever and the smaller developments could be making money before and after games, serving DT residents, and would certainly present a better face for the city than dirt.

    [slp — Exactly.  Plus, the ability of say five developers to get loans on a small portion of the total is easier than one to get financing on one big project. The mega project is tough to finance, build and market.]

  29. john w. says:

    Form-based zoning is best. Can we please retire single-use crap zoning already?

  30. Otto says:

    “Exactly. Plus, the ability of say five developers to get loans on a small portion of the total is easier than one to get financing on one big project.”
    Again, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Small projects are tough to finance, bulild and market too. We haven’t seen too many small, single-tenant buildings pop up downtown, even though there’s plenty of developable vacant lots (close to the Ballpark, close or on Washington Ave, etc.).
    Mega projects should be the exception, not the rule. But we don’t have Portland’s or Denver’s zoning code, so having the city in on the deal does give us some input on how this part of downtown is going to be developed.
    Sometimes organic, piecemeal growth works. And other times it is a complete disaster. We’ve got plenty of examples of both in St. Louis.

  31. Jim Zavist says:

    Denver is slooooooowwwwly moving toward form-based zoning. They’ve created a few new zone districts that incorporate some of the concepts, but the bulk of the city is still governed by the “old” zoning code that dates back to 1957. The good news is that they’re working on a new zoning ordinance, but, as expected, it’s an arduous and time-consuming process.
    The big difference around Coors Field and Busch Stadium is simply one of supply and demand – there’s a much greater demand for real estate in lower downtown Denver than there is for in the area around Busch . . .

  32. Adam says:

    “Sometimes organic, piecemeal growth works. And other times it is a complete disaster. We’ve got plenty of examples of both in St. Louis.”
    To which disasters are you referring? i’d venture to say that any such disasters can be traced to pathetic/non-existent zoning and/or insufficient market. i don’t think next-door to Bush counts as an insufficient market.

  33. Otto says:

    “To which disasters are you referring?”
    Here’s five examples:
    The strip malls all along Broadway.
    The suburban style houses on Delmar.
    The single story U.S. Bank on Tucker.
    The ranch houses in Soulard and Benton Park.
    The fast food restaurants on Jefferson and Grand.
    All were small, market-based, organic responses to then existing demand. I’m sure you could come up with a list of mega project disasters (St. Louis Centre, Gateway Mall, St. Louis Marketplace, etc.). But, believe it or not, there are just as many mega projects that have done well: Forest Park, Busch Stadium, the Chase Park Plaza complex. The Anheuser Busch Brewery is twice the size of Ball Park Village. The Missouri Botanical Garden.
    Again, sometimes mega projects are worth it.

    [slp — Smaller projects can be as bad as bigger ones — again a huge lack of leadership around good urban form/architecture is to blame.  The A-B complex is something that evolved organically over time as they grew.  MoBot is hardly the same country garden that Henry Shaw started so many years ago.  St. Louis Centre is a good example of the folly of the mega project that will save downtown.]

  34. john w. says:

    I can only hope the area around Busch Stadium will try to aspire to the vitality of LoDo. A good friend works at Davis Partners right across the street from Coors Field, and I was treated to visits to the office when Libeskind had his DAM team there. I love Denver, and in fact really admire the agressiveness of the residential building boom in its urban core. Does the free bus still run in the CBD during the weekdays? I think form-based codes will eventually take hold in the exurbs and other far-outlying frontiers because they can, saving us from armageddon, and our urban battles will continue in hopes of recapturing the once vital core.

  35. Adam says:

    ^ i agree with some of those. but an abandoned fast-food joint is much easier to undo than a pit the size of several city blocks, or an abandoned strip mall like STL marketplace. adaptive reuse and/or replacement of these projects becomes a huge ordeal — too expensive for small-business people who might otherwise contribute to the solution.
    i don’t agree that forest park, the chase park, and the botanical garden are mega projects. forest park is not a developement so much as undeveloped but manicured green space. the chase park plaza is the combination of two originally separate and very urban buildings: the chase hotel and the park plaza apartments (i believe that’s right…). and as steve said, the gardens have grown “organically” (although probably not literally) over the years. none of these were one-shot developements.

  36. Jim Zavist says:

    John – yes, the Free Mall Ride is still running on the 16th Street Mall in Denver (with custom propane-powered hybrid buses) – it’s probably one more reason why thier downtown has continued to grow since the late ’70’s – you don’t need a car to get around most of downtown, and during peak periods, the wait is less than 2 minutes for the next bus . . .

  37. john w. says:

    The brewery down there is quite good as well. I don’t know that this type of boom in Denver is not possible here, but some real ATTENTIVE leadership with a determined agenda is paramount, obviously. Joe Edwards comes to mind when I think of attentiveness to long process duration and clear agenda. Now, if we could just take Joe to the power of ten, we might just have a fighting chance for downtown’s BPV and other areas-in-waiting. We’d also need the many benefactors and civic caretakers that are always required to shepherd, and Jackeline Kennedy’s fight for the survival of GCS in NY comes to mind.

  38. Jim Zavist says:

    This is a complex issue framed by a $110 million dollar “promise” to the taxpayers. One, while Cordish has been successful in other cities with their entertainment complexes, I don’t think any are tied directly to a sports venue. Two, I’m aware of a couple of other sports venues (Texas?) that are trying to build mixed-use entertainment complexes, similar to what Busch + BPV is envisioned to be, but I don’t think any have actually been completed. Three, Busch & Coors are not directly comparable. Coors opened in a then-underused part of town (think Bottle District) and may have contributed to reinvestment in the immediate area. New Busch replaced old Busch, and the existing businesses (along with a level of demand for their services) were already in the immediate area – the only difference is that the baseball facility moved a block further south. Where Coors and Busch are similar is on the south side of Busch (and 40/64) – a mix of surface parking lots and sports bars serves both the suburban baseball patrons who drive down and draw a certain, but lesser, number of patrons on non-game days. And in many ways, this isn’t much different than what happens around most other baseball stadia, whether it’s Wrigleyville, Cleveland or San Diego.
    The real challenge, pun semi-intended, is that, with BPV, we’re actually trying to put a square peg in a round hole. In some (many?) ways, mixing business (and residential) with pleasure (entertainment) simply doesn’t work well. I had one client in Denver who had an office next to Coors Field before the facility opened, and they chose to move away after the first year because of all the gameday hassles. Unless you have season tickets, why would a CEO want to be located next to a facility that will disrupt their business operations 60-70 days a year?! (That may be one unspoken reason the Centene “deal” fell apart.) The same goes for residential – it’s one thing to live in the middle of the club scene when you’re single and 23. It loses a lot of its allure when you’re married and 28.
    Yes, “we” were promised a huge project. The question is why should anyone actually buy into the promise? How will the “entertainment” side of BPV be that different than Union Station or Laclede’s Landing (other than being 20 years newer)? In reality, BPV is facing the challenge that it’s not a great office location and there’s no real incentive for the Hard Rock Cafe to relocate their local operation, nor is this the only location you could open an ESPN Zone. “Entertainement” retail is nortoriously fickle – “name” operations don’t guarantee success, although they can get better terms from many developers. Planet Hollywood has come and gone – maybe we’ll get lucky and get a Bubba Gump Seafood restaurant or a Margaritaville Cafe. The question is, if they come, will they be in BPV or Union Station or Chesterfield Valley?

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  41. John T says:

    When is the city going to ask the Cardinals to pony up the 4 million dollar payment it promised the city after defaulting on Ball Park Village? The city could really use this. The Cards could waive a backup outfielder or role player and help the declining city. The Blues finally got around to renovating the Kiel Opera House so I think it’s time for the Cards to step up to the plate.

  42. John T says:

    When is the city going to ask the Cardinals to pony up the 4 million dollar payment it promised the city after defaulting on Ball Park Village? The city could really use this. The Cards could waive a backup outfielder or role player and help the declining city. The Blues finally got around to renovating the Kiel Opera House so I think it’s time for the Cards to step up to the plate.


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