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Centene headquarters taking shape

March 9, 2010 History/Preservation, St. Louis County 21 Comments

After years of controversy and plenty of lawsuits, the new Centene buildings are going up in Clayton.  Just what Clayton needed, more generic glass towers.  Yawn…

ABOVE: Centene headquarters at Hanley &
ABOVE: Centene headquarters at Hanley & Forsyth, Clayton

For decades the site at Hanley & Forsyth was occupied by the unique Scruggs Vandervoort Barney/Library Limited building (learn more at Vanishing STL).  While I don’t believe we can or should save every old building, I do think we should have higher expectations for the buildings that replace significant structures.

ABOVE: Second building under construction facing Forsyth.
ABOVE: Second building under construction facing Forsyth.

No, this is not a high-rise prison.  This is their second building under construction, just West of the corner tower. Maybe it will all be great when finished but what I see so far makes me think it will be more of the same — anonymous boxes.

At least the other end of the block has a low, but appealing, scale.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "21 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Interesting perspective – not quite sure I agree. One, these “boring, anonymous boxes” house the jobs that make all the other things urban possible. Two, I've said it before, I'll say it again, no neighborhood is static, it's either getting better or it's getting worse. If traditional department stores were still a viable retail model here (like they are along Rodeo Drive, for instance, or Country Club Plaza in KC), then guess what, we'd still have significant retail here. But, for better or worse, the bulk of these shoppers now choose to shop at the Galleria, West County, Plaza Frontenac or on Michigan Avenue. Three, in my world, urban equals dense. How is adding more people and and more jobs a negative? Yes, ground floor retail is critical to creating real urbanity, but the other half of that equation is customers . . .

     
    • Stuffing a bunch of workers into boxes that make up so sterile an environment they don't want to leave their cubicle for lunch and at 5pm they clear out is not a viable long-term solution. Clayton has pedestrians and sidewalk-level restaurants and merchants. Not everyone shops at big boxes or the mall, that should not be the standard by which we judge retail success.

       
      • JZ71 says:

        The Harris Armstrong building certainly had architectural merit; what it didn't have recently was a lot of customers, aka “pedestrians and sidewalk-level restaurants and merchants.” Its contribution to street-level activity, for the last decade was minimal. Whether or not Centene is better in this category, only time will tell, but having a bunch more workers here can do nothing but help the adjacent “sidewalk-level restaurants and merchants”.

         
  2. Michal Alta says:

    I think the new Centene HQ looks pretty cool. I would have preferred it to be in the City but maybe someday the City and County will merge. The second building facing Forsyth is a parking garage.

     
  3. moorlander says:

    I hate that this building is a giant “box” but it certainly does look much nicer at night. On the website (http://www.centeneplaza.com/) you can slide the time scale at the top to simulate this. I also like the scrolling video board on the NE corner. The garage is far too large but I believe there are plans to dress it up and they are including some neat features like plug ins for electric cars. Street level retail is key. The parking lot where phase 2 was to be is also unacceptable but in this economy i'm not sure what other option they had. Can we all agree that having this building 84% leased pre completion is a positive sign for the local economy?

     
  4. moorlander says:

    [url=http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=76120&page=12]HERE[/URL]
    you can see another picture of the bulding at night.

    The scaling does seem off on this building. It really needs to be taller to look proper.

    The building

     
  5. the other guy says:

    Stuffing a bunch of workers into boxes that make up so sterile an environment they don't want to leave their cubicle for lunch

    Presently, Centene offers healthy, cheap lunches in its cafeteria, a cafeteria that uses biodegradable utensils and bags/boxes. I wish my building had such a place.

     
    • Cubicle or cafeteria it still means they will not be outside enriching businesses along the sidewalks.

       
      • the other guy says:

        The outside businesses have to win the $$ of the employees. They don't deserve anything. If the outside restaurants provide a better product at a better price, I am sure they will flourish. Subway, and a bunch of other restaurants, is close by so there is competition.

        The employees look upon the cafeteria option as a benefit that they are in no way obligated to use. The employees are paid for the value they provide to Centene, not the outside restaurants. Do you advocate taking that benefit away from them?

         
        • The point is the quality of the public space created by surrounding private buildings should be such that people want to participate in their environment. They should want to take their lunch or their cafeteria purchase out to the sidewalk to enjoy. The should want to go for a walk at 5pm rather than flee in their car. They should want to ride MetroLink because the walk from the station to their office is just so interesting.

           
          • JZ71 says:

            There are two separate issues that are getting mashed together here, “the quality of the public space” at street level and the reality/dynamics of one building being replaced by another. I don't think that there's any disagreement that a vibrant street level retail environment is preferable to sterile office building lobbies and blank parking garage walls. What's unclear, at this point, to me, at least, is whether or not the new Centene building will engage more successfully at street level than the Scruggs Vandervoort Barney/Library Limited building did. I really don't care if there are two, six or thirty floors of office space and/or residential space, or even a parking garage, above the ground floor, as long as the ground floor is energized and the upper floors are occupied.

            Last, a reality check. If you really believe that most workers, here or anywhere else, “want to go for a walk at 5pm rather than flee in their car”, then you truly are living in la la land. After work, workers want to do one of three things – go home, go work out or go to a bar. Going for a walk happens at lunch, not at quitting time. And they'll “want to ride MetroLink” NOT “because the walk from the station to their office is just so interesting”, they'll want to ride MetroLink because it's a better option than driving themselves (duh!). An “intersting walk” would be an added bonus, but if the train ain't goin' where you need to go, it doesn't matter what you could be walking by, you're not gonna be taking the train!

             
          • I never stated where they might walk to — gym or happy hour at a bar is fine. The Clayton landscape gets less and less appealing with each new building.

             
          • JZ71 says:

            So the answer is no new buildings?! Or new buildings that engage the streets and aren't simply monuments to corporate egos?

             
          • Clearly the latter! We know how to create engaging environments, we just find excuses not to do so. Then we act surprised when sidewalks are vacant and businesses fail.

             
          • moorlander says:

            We'll just have to see how pedestrian freindly/inviting the outdoor plaza turns out to be between the retail/garage and the main building.

            It includes a (from the website)
            1. Dazzeliing colored art glass canopy
            2. Granite seat wall with inviting curve and focus on the fire pit
            3. Fire pit acting as a focal point with cherry trees and decorative landscaping
            4. Acustic water wall with bamboo grove back drop

             
          • DJ says:

            Give up guys. It's clear that Steve's determined to declare this new building a disaster before it's finished and before you can even see the street level characteristics. A decent researcher would have at least included the link to the plans for Centene Plaza (that moorlander so kindly added). Those plans show street level retail and an engaging environment. But it is much easier to just snap a couple of pictures and bash the greedy corporations.

             
        • The point is the quality of the public space created by surrounding private buildings should be such that people want to participate in their environment. They should want to take their lunch or their cafeteria purchase out to the sidewalk to enjoy. The should want to go for a walk at 5pm rather than flee in their car. They should want to ride MetroLink because the walk from the station to their office is just so interesting.

           
  6. davidblarsen says:

    Steve,

    Definitely have to agree with you on this one. Most urban designers know that the first 30' of building facade is the most important for the pedestrian realm. Of course these buildings look sleek and modern from afar, but when you get up close there is nothing to soften the buildings for pedestrians. For instance, that garage is massive, no reason that they couldn't add another level and have some ground-floor retail to make it seem as though it isn't just a massive garage (or just eliminate 1 floor of parking). That way it might be able to actually contribute to the urban appeal of downtown Clayton. Ideally we want these downtown areas to include housing in addition to office space and scattered retail spaces in order to support 24hr. pedestrian activity. We need to stop thinking about buildings as stand-alone pieces in urban environment and start to understand the complexities that make downtowns exciting for all users.

     
  7. Brian S. says:

    Still pissed at Centene for pulling out of Ballpark Village. Clayton is your grandpa's business district; they really could have had a major impact on downtown St. Louis but made the wrong decision.

     
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