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Storefront Still Vacant A Decade Later, Tax Dollars Wasted?

September 7, 2012 Downtown, Featured, Retail 17 Comments

The Renaissance Hotel, Ballrooms and parking garage were built in 2002, a decade ago. Like most deals, it was complicated and players took fees off the top.  But tax money was also involved.

ABOVE: This storefront facing 9th Street has been vacant for years, no leasing information has been posted in the window.

The Missouri Development Finance Board was involved in the financing of the hotel and building the garage, from their 2003 annual report:

The decrease in operating income from 2002 to 2003 is primarily related to the decrease in loan and note receivable interest income from 2002 due to the pay off of the St. Louis Convention Center Hotel loan receivable. The St. Louis Convention Center Hotel loan’s outstanding balance as of June 30, 2002, was $13,455,000 with an interest rate of 9.5% with interest income of $1,753,225 and $759,329 earned in FY2002 and FY2003, respectively. Other considerations for the decrease in operating income are a decline in participation fee income of $179,540 and an increase in professional fees of $139,862 for FY2003.

I just find it curious when I go down 10th Street I see a thriving Stefano’s and an Edible Arrangements location on the west side of this building but on the east side, facing the hotel, a retail space remains empty — for a decade! Shouldn’t someone be trying to get this space leased? What must visitors think when they see this?

A restaurant with sidewalk dining would be nice, the building would provide shade for dinner. The city has the parking lane marked off as no parking, that’d need to change to lease this space. But how does it happen that no visible effort is made to lease a space for a decade?

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Barbara says:

    Excellent question and now you have us wondering why.

  2. Scott Jones says:

    St. Louis is lucky to have someone who cares about it as much as you do Steve!

  3. JZ71 says:

    99% of the people walking by would not notice the lack of leasing efforts (it’s just another vacant storefront in a city with too many of them), but as a taxpayer (and minority owner), I’m outraged! Sign up a leasing company and go cut a deal – something will be better than 10 more years of zero rent!!!

    • moe says:

      I wonder what is on the other side of the paper. I bet someone is using it for storage if it’s been such a long time. Not that that is an excuse. But I be the manager of the hotel knows.

  4. Agnes A Murphy says:

    How do we know deals were being made in the past that fell through for some reason? How do we know there isn’t a possible deal in the mix going on right now, and that’s why there isn’t a leasing sign?

    An easy way to figure this out is to call the Renaissance Hotel and find out what’s going on, instead of just making guesses.

    • I know enough to know the hotel isn’t responsible for leasing commercial spaces in the adjacent parking garage. I’ve personally passed by that storefront over the last 4 years and it looks the same as it has while the opposite side has had activity.

  5. Why would someone want to lease below a garage? Not a lot of potential customers living above. There are more desirable retail locations downtown. Perhaps this is a combo of that reality and the agent not being very proactive?

    • Superfly TNT says:

      Not always the case Double D. Retail below parking garages works in St. Louis. Perhaps not optimal, but feasible. The Mai Le below the parking garage by Hanley & Eager does just fine. There are other example downtown too.

    • backprop says:

      Schnucks built itself a garage and then leased the ground floor.

    • samizdat says:

      Well, considering this is close by a gigantic rehabbed-for-apartments historic warehouse (Merchandise Mart?), I’m not sure the argument that there aren’t nearby residents is entirely valid.

  6. gmichaud says:

    First it is an illustration of the weak and failing capitalist system that functions in St. Louis. Are there no capitalists that will risk their money at this prime location? Are rents far too high? What is the problem?
    Or is it a governmental failure to create a city plan that supports the Convention Center, the Rams and the rest of downtown?
    Looking at Goggle Maps it appears that city planning is at least adequate, although I’m sure that can be debated. There is no doubt there is a certain dead quality designed into the city with the buildings they approve as well as with parking. In any case surface parking does not dominant the surrounding streets, hence the storefronts in the garage. (A policy that may be a reasonable attempt to correct the many dead spaces of St. Louis, although it could be argued the focus should be on transit and walk ability, not more spaces for autos)

    No doubt DD is correct that density can be a factor, and the location of that density, if there are no apartments in the garage, becomes more important.
    That leaves serious questions related to the management of the storefront. It does seem very odd they couldn’t manage to rent it for 10 years. Nor is the excuse using it for storage valid. St. Louis does not need more dead spaces, especially downtown.

    • JZ71 says:

      We have multiple examples, across the city, in “good” neighborhoods and in “bad” ones, where structures’ original uses have been abandoned and new uses found for the spaces. Corner groceries have become offices, churches and residences. Churches and schools have become warehouses. Manufacturing buildings have become restaurants and residential lofts. All are examples of capitalism at work. The building’s owner(s) and the building’s buyer(s) or tenant(s) have reached a mutual agreement about a fair value for the space at that point in time. Both you and Steve are assuming that this storefront hasn’t been rented or used for a decade. Since there is no evidence of current leasing activity, and there is evidence that someone wants to keep the public from looking in, it can also be assumed that the highest and best use, currently, is a passive one, likely for storage. Yes, it creates “dead” spaces, especially in urban neighborhoods, but you can’t force people to spend money on uses that make no sense to them. And on the continuum of urban goodness, this kinda falls in the middle. It’s certainly not as “good” as a trendy restaurant with sidewalk seating, but it’s certainly much better than vacant and abandoned, something that typifies too much of the city. Want to change this dynamic? Then don’t expect the city to plan its way out of this predicament. Expect the city to reduce crime, improve the public schools and reduce impediments to doing business – in short, make St. Louis a cool place to be, and not a place to be avoided. We get this kind of less-than-optimal use because we have too much available space and too few willing takers, period. Capitalistic supply and demand may rub you the wrong way, but the alternative is a socialistic government allocating resources, like the USSR did in the last half of the last century, and Cuba continues to do today . . . .

      • gmichaud says:

        If the “highest and best use” is storage a little over a block from the Convention Center it only highlights the failure of capitalism to “capitalize” on potential (potential that includes other surrounding activities along with the rest of the City of St. Louis)
        It is not a question of socialism or capitalism. The real question is where is the mythical vigorous, achieving capitalism? It is not around.
        Capitalism once matched the innovative nature of democracy, now it is largely chasing after money while not building a thing.

        Government is at fault by not providing a guiding city plan that contributes to economic and social potential. They go together. Private enterprise cannot accomplish that by itself, especially when the extra considerations of transit and movement systems are included, as they should.

  7. James Haney says:

    I personally beleive that the city makes it entirely to difficult to entice business to enter the city. Lest not forget you have to buy a permit for everything, then hire security to make sure your tools, equipement aren’t stolen. And it’s not uncommon for one city entity to not share info with another city entity, which then starts the process of long delays where you have to pay everyones wage for sitting while “things get straightned out down town.” That’s my take for what ever it is worth.


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