Ballpark Village is up at bat again
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 23, 2008 - After years of passed balls, failed bunt attempts, brush-back pitches and soaring fly balls that went foul, an agreement -- or at least an outline of an agreement -- with the St. Louis Cardinals, the city of St. Louis and the Baltimore-based developer Cordish Co. has been announced.
A more detailed agreement is yet to come, and its completion may take a couple of months. It requires the approval of the city's Board of Estimate and Apportionment, the Board of Aldermen and the state of Missouri, which also has been involved in the stadium development. But since the aldermen are in recess until September, action cannot be taken immediately.
The new Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum-designed stadium opened in 2006, but the village site was left undeveloped. The village, which at one time or another has included plans for office buildings, commercial spaces and residential accommodations, was a selling point for the baseball team's desire to construct a new stadium on a site immediately south of the old Busch Stadium on the southern edge of downtown. The site of the old stadium was to be developed for commercial, retail and residential purposes.
Time passed, and nothing was done. There were significant pauses. One was the result of a proposed development for the Centene Corp., which fell through. Another delay was caused by Cordish Co.'s insistence that the city of St. Louis guarantee construction bonds. The Slay administration refused.
That refusal stands. However, in the agreement, Cordish is granted the flexibility to build what market forces will bear. For example, phase one of the current plan calls for approximately 300,000 square feet of office space. The new proposal provides for a range of between 100,000 and 750,000 square feet. Another big change involves residential, which at one point was supposed to be 1,200 units in three towers. It is now in "a range of between 100 and 250 units and will likely be developed in the second phase," according to a press release.
The key word seems to be flexibility. According to Stifel Nicolaus Chairman Ron Kruszewski, whose firm led negotiations on the new deal, the goal was "to give the development team more flexibility to respond to changing market conditions" and preserve the city's requirement that "no existing taxpayer money or credit to put at risk in any way."
No tenants were announced today, and Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff Jeff Rainford said names of any potential tenants would have be released by the Cardinals (click here to read the mayor's blog post).
Rainford said an adviser to the Cardinals gave him news that has the potential of cheering baseball fans and residents and workers downtown: the sprucing up of the old Busch Stadium site. The filling in and grading of the concavity are epected to get under way soon.