Cardinals open Ballpark Village coworking space, buck downtown office trend
ST. LOUIS — Bill DeWitt III’s office overlooks what was once the infield of the old Busch Stadium.
On any given day, the president of the St. Louis Cardinals can look out his window in downtown St. Louis and see people walking their dogs or lounging in the plaza sandwiched between Ballpark Village bars and a brand new 216-room hotel.
“I feel like that’s something we didn’t use to have,” DeWitt said. “There’s this activity that’s organic, and it’s because we created the spaces.”
Tuesday, the final piece of Ballpark Village’s $260 million second phase opens. Spark, a co-working office space chain, will move in members. And if the first phase of Ballpark Village was about building a sports-anchored collection of bars and restaurants, the second phase is about creating a neighborhood, executives said. Now, those three square blocks just north of the new Busch Stadium have sprouted with development: a 297-unit apartment building, the Live! by Loews hotel, an 11-story office building and 800 parking spots, all developed by the Cardinals and Baltimore-based Cordish Cos.
Accounting firm PwC has already moved into the office building, and the development also lured investment bank ButcherJoseph & Co. from Clayton in 2019. Now the PwC Pennant Building, as it is called, is nearly 100% occupied with only half of one floor empty, making it one of downtown’s few bright spots amid a bleak landscape that has seen more companies leave than come.
Ballpark Village’s success has surprised few who work in real estate development.
“Metropolitan Square was downtown’s last office development in the late ‘80s. We’ve been waiting for this,” said David Steinbach, managing director of commercial real estate firm JLL.
Downtown has struggled to attract and retain office tenants for years. Liquor company Luxco left its longtime Clark Avenue home for the suburbs this year. In a slow-growth region, the perception that downtown isn’t safe has pushed some companies to offices in safer, cleaner, newer developments. The empty Jefferson Arms, Railway Exchange Building and former AT&T tower still pockmark downtown, which has one of the highest office vacancy rates in the region at 19.4%.
But boosters say new investments, like Ballpark Village, the coming Major League Soccer stadium on Market Street, and even the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at Jefferson and Cass avenues, could turn the tide on downtown.
“There’s a lot of great momentum,” said Steinbach.
Chesterfield-based Larson Capital Management opened an office at 100 North Broadway, three blocks from Ballpark Village, this year. This past week, the private equity firm hired two employees from Illinois who wouldn’t have applied if not for the downtown office, said partner and CEO Paul Larson.
Larson’s company bought the building last year and is investing $15 million into it because of the opportunity Larson saw in downtown.
“You have to have a bigger view of the St. Louis region and understand that without a healthy city, eventually the county stagnates,” Larson said.
The majority of his nearly 200 employees have chosen to work downtown — his firm covers the cost of parking and the city’s 1% earnings tax, and also offers perks like free food and sporting tickets.
Spark, the co-working space, is expected to draw more workers downtown.
The Cordish-owned brand occupies an entire floor at the PwC building and was designed with hotel-like amenities that Shervonne Cherry, Spark’s director of community and partnerships, said helps the brand stand out among competitors. Spark also plans to help connect members and foster entrepreneurship, akin to Midtown’s Cortex district and downtown’s T-Rex technology incubator on Washington Avenue, Cherry said. Memberships start at $50 a month, and day passes range from $15-$35.
Third phase planned
Ballpark Village officials have a third phase planned. DeWitt said they’ll likely take the next year to assess the new developments — which retailers are thriving or struggling and how quickly the rest of PwC building fills — before finalizing plans.
“The overall plan for Ballpark Village was ambitious from day one,” DeWitt said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy because this part of the region has struggled to create these sort of dense, urban areas.”
Now, DeWitt said, “you really do have a corner of downtown that is maybe not a full-service, residential neighborhood, but it’s pretty darn close. That’s very gratifying.”
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