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Hotel Has Used State-Owned Retail Storefront Rent-Free For A Decade

October 25, 2012 Downtown, Featured, Retail 18 Comments

Last month I posted about a vacant retail space in a state-owned parking garage  (see: Storefront Still Vacant A Decade Later, Tax Dollars Wasted?). Some said perhaps the Renaissance Grand Hotel used the space for storage, but that didn’t seen likely to me. Well, turns out the retail storefront has been used by the hotel for storage rent-free for a decade!

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 (MDFB) built and owns the garage, the attached ballroom building has separate ownership. The vacant storefront is just to the south of the auto exits from the garage.

ABOVE: Many hotel guests walk from the garage to hotel daily

For a decade now the state has received $0.00 in rent for this space while visitors to St. Louis see a poorly papered over storefront. The MDFB mission is:

To assist infrastructure and economic development projects in Missouri by providing the critical component of the total financing for projects that have a high probability of success, but are not feasible without the Board’s assistance.

How does leaving this storefront vacant for a decade support their mission?  I talked with a hotel employee in the finance department who said if someone wanted to lease the storefront they’d remove their stuff. Retail spaces don’t lease themselves, it takes work to get tenants.

Even if the space was leased to a business for next to nothing it would be better for the city’s image of the city if it was occupied by an active business. — Steve Patterson


Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. T-Leb says:

    Good work uncovering this!

    • Thanks, I’ve already started talking to those who I think can get the hotel to empty the space and get the MDFB to lease the space. I have no problem with rent of $1/year as long as the space is active.

      • JZ71 says:

        A dollar a year won’t pay for a lot of tenant finish work (for things like lights, HVAC and a bathroom). While something would definitely be better than nothing / the current use, when it comes to energizing the street, there are many other vacant spaces that are already move-in ready. Financially, it would make more sense to put MDFB (whoever they may be) into one of those, and find a tenant that can actually pay market rent to move into this space. Alternately, do what’s been done at Union Station, and finish this space as meeting space for the hotel, and lease it to them.

      • Minge says:

        What is MDFB? I would think a good breakfast spot would fit in nicely, if I do say so myself.

        • JZ71 says:

          Missouri Development Finance Board (per Steve’s link). While they helped to finance project, I doubt that they own it. The owner is responsible for paying the mortgage, and getting the space leased would help. But if enough revenue is being generated from parking alone, and putting a tenant in the space means finding and spending more money on tenant improvements, the owner may have decided to just leave it vacant.

  2. Mike Eaton says:

    Great discovery! Thanks for doing what you do to keep the city honest and make it a better place. I am glad you are following up on the issue and hope that you are successful in getting the retail space used.

  3. RyleyinSTL says:

    You’d think if the State was giving Charity that they could extend it to a struggling small business owner rather than a multi-million dollar international hotel conglomerate.

  4. The MINGE says:

    Completely agree with you. Ridiculous! A store would be a better fit and less of an eye sore.

  5. moe says:

    Well to start with, even though a hotel has a brand name, they are rarely owned by the corporation. Must, if not always, they are franchised out so the state was not really renting it out to a big conglomerate, but to the local franchisee. And what probably happened, especially from your statement Steve, is that 10 years ago, the area could still have been said to be ‘in the dump’, so there was this empty area, the hotel asked if they could use it (for whatever reason) and the state rep (by this time buddies with the hotel) said something like ‘sure, you can use it for a few months, without thinking further, and then it got forgotten. I really doubt this was some devious plot to get free rent or such. But, BUT…this just shows why we have areas where it’s hard to get a foothold.
    I mean, you would think that the hotel managers would think that ‘hey that empty space is making us look bad and therefore bad for business’…we should help find a tenent. Too many building owners/store managers think that their responsibility ends at their front door. God forbid should they look at the bigger picture. Maybe if more understood how the bigger picture plays into the profit/loss process we wouldn’t have issues like this.

  6. Brad Waldrop says:

    Wow. Good reporting Steve.

  7. As a small business owner who had to move out of downtown because of rate hikes, this is really upsetting. There are so many vacant storefronts, but local small companies can’t afford the overhead. Only makes the city look bad.

  8. GMichaud says:

    Hey I could use some $1 a year storage space, as could many who rent the many storage units in the region. Let’s see, what are the the qualifications of this giveaway? Pay offs, what?, come on, is it because I’m a mere citizen I don’t have access to these giveaways?
    The corruption is unbelievable, citizens are being rolled at every turn.

  9. villa rental says:

    ok but why?? …But it is not good at all….Actually it was a good informatory blog. I social issue is focused here..

  10. a-ron says:

    For a couple of days now there has been lots of moving activity out of the space. They’ve got a moving team, trucks, and a dumpster. I’ve seen them carrying out rugs, mattresses, and chairs. Some of the mattresses looked to be still wrapped in plastic and they were placed in a dumpster. Hope it’s bound for a donation instead of the landfill. If this post is related to this recent activity, nice work. Hope the space will be put to better use.


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