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Mid-70s Downtown Office Tower Getting Needed 21st Century Update

August 12, 2021 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Real Estate, Walkability Comments Off on Mid-70s Downtown Office Tower Getting Needed 21st Century Update

Office vacancy rates are high now, especially in downtown St. Louis.

Office vacancy is up across the metro area, averaging 16.9% in the second quarter of 2021 compared with 11.8% in 2020. Rents for offices outside of downtown declined nearly 4% from the end of 2020 through the second quarter of 2021, according to commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.

Vacancy downtown has risen more than 1 percentage point in the past year, to 20.8% from 19.3% in the second quarter of 2020. And rents have fallen by more than 1% to $19.48 per square foot. (Post-Dispatch)

One downtown office tower, recently acquired by a local fund, is taking steps to reverse years of increased vacancy.

The 4th & Chestnut corner of 100 North Broadway. The former bank pavilion is getting a long-needed update.

Readers might recall my December 2015 blog post on this building. In that post I suggested connecting the low pavilion portion to the adjacent sidewalks, orienting the interior space to take advantage of the location and views.

To refresh your memory, here’s a view of what the exterior looked like for the first 45 years. Awful, right? Zero connection to the sidewalks. The east & west plazas weren’t inviting.  December 2015

I sent the then building owner, a San Diego-based capital firm, my post at the end of 2015. They responded the next month, I met a local property manager on site. They sent me a nice fruit basket from Harry & David.  They didn’t do anything.

Looking at the building from the NW corner of the Luther Ely Smith Square. December 2015. This is the same corner as the first corner, above.

According to KSDK more tenants left, the California owner defaulted, and by February 2019 the lender had taken over the property.  A new local owner purchased the tower and apparently recognized the need for major updates to the prominent pavilion, inside & out.

The SW corner of the property, at Broadway & Chestnut. This is diagonally across from Kiener Plaza, which reopened in 2017 after a major redesign.

The new owners logically hired one of the remaining tenants to update the interior & exterior:

Larson Capital Management has engaged Trivers to make both interior and exterior building improvements to the 2-story atrium structure and surrounding plazas and streetscape to comprehensively update and reposition the Broadway Tower as a premier office building destination in downtown Saint Louis.

Exterior improvements include removing the “greenhouses” and reimagining the Atrium façade materiality and line of enclosure, updated entrances and entry canopies, surrounding site improvements and landscaping, and public art and placemaking components creating public outdoor destinations.

Interior improvements are geared toward creating an abundance of tenant amenities including a best-in-class conferencing center, co-working lounges with hospitality support, a walking track, and access to outdoor work spaces. The Atrium will also include a new café with indoor/outdoor seating connected to the west plaza along Broadway, a new monumental stair, a large greenwall, building management offices, new security desk and updated elevator lobbies, restrooms to support the proposed uses, and comprehensive lighting, casework, and finishes upgrades. (Trivers Architects)

In 2015 I imagined a few restaurants to fill the space, but tenant amenity space will be critical to filling vacancies. There will be one cafe, on the corner shown above.

This is a crop of the previous photo, you can see how the ground floor is set back so the upper level provides shade, room for cafe tables.
The artist rendering shows this corner. The exterior cladding on the pavilion will offer more texture than the tower portion.

I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product, experiencing the revised plazas, eating at the cafe. The upper level features a covered outdoor space on the opposite corner, facing the Arch. Not sure if that will be public or tenant-only. Either way, to pedestrians at 4th & Chestnut it’ll be perceived as inviting.

— Steve Patterson

 

Long-Vacant Retail Space Now A Police Substation

June 14, 2021 Crime, Downtown, Featured, Retail Comments Off on Long-Vacant Retail Space Now A Police Substation

In October 2012 I posted about a state-owned retail space used rent-free for hotel storage (see Hotel Has Used State-Owned Retail Storefront Rent-Free For A Decade). In August 2013 it was finally ready to lease — the space was emptied and a “for lease” sign in the window. It wasn’t long before the sign was gone, I guess everyone just gave up.

It has been vacant until recently. The space isn’t numbered, but it’s on N 9th between Locust St and Washington Ave.

The long-vacant storefront is now marked as a police substation.
The vacant space in August 2012, the paper hid hotel furniture being stored here.
In December 18th the furniture stored inside for years was being moved out.
In August 2013 the space was listed with a commercial broker.

The downtown police unit has a space two blocks south, at 215 N 9th St.

I have yet to see police enter or exit the new substation.

— Steve Patterson

 

Eleven New Trees Replaced Along Broadway at Baer Plaza

June 7, 2021 Downtown, Environment, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on Eleven New Trees Replaced Along Broadway at Baer Plaza

Early last month I saw landscapers planting new trees along Broadway next to Baer Plaza, across from the dome.

On May 3. 2021 I saw workers busy planting new trees on the east side of Broadway.

I frequently take Broadway to/from the central business district. Living north of the convention center & dome, Broadway (5th)& 9th are the only options to get around the massive facility that closed 8th, 7th, and 6th streets. Sometimes to make things interesting I roll on the east side of Broadway, so I knew exactly where they were planting.

On October 1, 2020 I snapped a few pics of the empty spots where trees had once been:

Looking north you could see the numerous empty squares where the allee vanished.
Some were just bare dirt.
Others still had some liriope (aka monkey grass)

There were 11 trees missing, very obvious sign of neglect. Not sure why, but I didn’t post the pictures to social media. So last month I was very happy to see workers busy planting eleven new trees. I retuned on May 7th to get these pics.

The new trees are small compared to the more mature trees further north, but they’re quite big for new trees.
Another view.

I don’t know trees to tell you the variety or how fast they’ll grow. Hopefully within a few years they’ll fill out nicely.  I’m going to take the east side of Broadway more often, especially when going to Laclede’s Landing, Eads Bridge, Arch grounds, etc.

— Steve Patterson

 

Lenore K. Sullivan Boulevard Reopened Five Years Ago Today

June 2, 2021 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on Lenore K. Sullivan Boulevard Reopened Five Years Ago Today

Remember when Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd used to flood nearly every year? How it was a costly mess because street light wiring, guard rails. and such were all damaged? The street between the Arch and the Mississippi River underwent a major makeover, including increasing the elevation roughly four feet.

Re-opening day June 2, 2016. Lights were mounted on top of angled concrete piers to keep the wiring dry.

The work to elevate the road reduces odds of flooding, but it can and does happen.

Major flooding on the St. Louis riverfront, May 5, 2019

In the above example you can see the tops of the concrete piers sticking out of the water. Keeping the electrical connections dry significantly reduced the time & expense to reopen the street once flood waters recede.  Hopefully we won’t see future flooding so extreme the connections are under water.

— Steve Patterson

 

The 9th/10th One-Way Couplet Needs To Return To Two-Way ASAP

May 25, 2021 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on The 9th/10th One-Way Couplet Needs To Return To Two-Way ASAP

More than six decades ago 9th & 10th streets were changed from two-way to one-way in the opposite directions — a one-way couplet. This still exists from Clark Ave on the south to Cass Ave on the north — a distance of 1.2 miles. The north end used to continue past Cass to connect to I-70, but it was shortened when construction on the newest bridge over the Mississippi River began approximately 15 years ago. The south end still connects to I-64 ramps.

The purpose of one-way streets decades ago was to quickly get cars into downtown in the morning, then back out after work. They did their job…a little too well. Downtown was so quick to empty out nobody stuck around for shopping, dinner, or a show. There many reasons why downtowns emptied out, but one-way streets were a major contributor. To make downtown St. Louis enjoyable as a place to live, work, and visit all the one-way streets need to return to two-way traffic eventually. When Locust Street west of 14th switched back to two-way a dozen years ago it made a huge difference.

For nearly 50 years  9th & 10th extended north of Cass Ave to connect to I-70, but that ended with the 2010 start of a new bridge over the Mississippi River, later named the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. But downtown 9th & 10th weren’t the original couplet of paired opposite direction one-way streets.

Let’s look at the original one-way couplets in the downtown central business district (Arch to 12th/Tucker):

  1. Northbound 4th & southbound Broadway (aka 5th)
  2. Southbound 6th & northbound 7th
  3. Southbound 8th & northbound 9th
  4. Southbound 10th & northbound 11th

The first still exists today, the rest have all been changed to the point they no longer function as original intended. Three streets lots blocks to the convention center & dome: 6th, 7th, 8th. Ninth will soon be added to that list.  Sixth street lost blocks to Kiener Plaza & the hotel south of Market. Both sixth & seventh streets lost blocks to the original downtown Busch Stadium (now Ballpark Village), and the current Busch Stadium. And finally northbound 9th Street is closed for one block between Market & Chestnut because the designers of Citygarden didn’t think about a pedestrian signal at 9th & Market. D’oh!

I’ve posted about changing these opposite one-way streets back to two-way traffic numerous times, but now it’s urgent. When the convention center expansion begins a couple of blocks of 9th will be closed, but that’s not the urgent reason for restoring two-way traffic. The vacant AT&T Tower downtown at 909 Chestnut (bordered by 9th, Chestnut, 10th, and Pine) is why these streets need to revert to two-way traffic. Why?

909 Chestnut was built at the headquarters for Southwestern Bell Telephone, later purchased by AT&T

The entrance and exit to the small underground garage was designed with the one-way streets in mind, the entrance was off northbound 9th and the exit was onto southbound 10th. The 44-story building has been vacant since 2017, but eventually someone will renovate it. When they do it would be easy to switch the entrance and exit. If the building is renovated while 9th & 10th are still one-way it’ll be impossible to make them two-way in the future.

The original entrance off nb 9th could be an exit after future renovations.
The original basement entrance could just as easily be the exit.
On the opposite side of the building we have the original exit onto sb 10th. Again, this could easily be the entrance if 10th was two-way.

Since built, exiting traffic has come out southbound just before Chestnut. Switching the exit from 10th to 9th wouldn’t change this potential conflict point.

The building has lost value and changed hands numerous times, eventually someone is going to renovate it. 

The 1.4 million-square-foot, 44-story office building on Chestnut Street is the largest office building by square-footage in the region, and the 1986 structure built for a single tenant has posed a vexing challenge amid a downtown market already struggling with the highest office vacancy rate in the metro area. 

AT&T vacated its lease in September 2017 and about 2,000 of the company’s employees relocated nearby in buildings at 801 Chestnut and 1010 Pine streets. (Post-Dispatch, May 2019)

For comparison here are some other large vacant buildings downtown

Since 909 Chestnut was built as a headquarters it was connected to buildings to the east & west. Another block west was a large company parking garage. The garage under 909 Chestnut is small, was built for service vehicles and company executives. A MetroLink light rail station is only a block away, but parking obsessed assumes everyone has a car.

The building footprint is too small to ramp up to use some upper floors for parking. A car elevator or automated system are the only options to get cars up higher, but they’re very costly.

Eventually someone will figure it out. When they do 9th & 10th should be two-way traffic.

— Steve Patterson

 

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