What’s the Final Price Tag on a Vibrant Downtown St. Louis?

nfl stadium perspective

This is something we must start wondering. In the last dozen years, downtown St. Louis has witnessed the construction of a $500M casino and a $380M baseball stadium. The $700M Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge is just behind the vantage point in the image. The Arch grounds project is estimated to be at least $380M. Considering the past two decades one can add the $135M Scottrade Center (seems like a bargain), and Edward Jones Dome, which will take $720M to pay off. One can see $2.6B in projects

So, just in the last few years we have $1.58B in just three projects. Just five projects total $2.44B. And including the Arch grounds and a new NFL stadium, brings the total to seven projects and $3.82B. Surely some would, and have, celebrated each investment as a vote of confidence, as a step toward a more vibrant downtown. But where’s the payoff? Where are the new jobs? Where is the spin-off development? Where is the vibrant downtown?

These projects, and smaller ones, are touted as “game changers” by developers and local officials. We’ve changed the game so many times, perhaps we’ve lost track of what we should be trying to do – build a more inviting, economically sustainable and resilient city. Where’s the return on investment for these projects? What if projects like these don’t build a better city? What if they don’t lead to a more equitable, safer, economically vibrant place to live?

  • Corpse Bride

    I wish they would stop building these dumb stadiums and beautify our streets instead. Football is a barbaric sport that leaves its players injured for life.

  • Ian Mitchell

    They all seem to lead to a ton of parking and locations which are used transiently and are empty 95% or more of the time.

    Sports venues do not do anything for economic development. They have no place in cities. Build them as greenfields out in the woods.

    • Ian Mitchell

      And on the NFL (et al)’s own dime, for once!

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  • Jim

    Excellent article. I would like to say that sports stadiums definitely do not stimulate residential growth downtown. St. Louis is on the verge of building it’s fourth major sports venue in 20 years. ( Scottrade, Edward Jones Dome, New Busch Stadium, Proposed river football stadium ) Meanwhile in that time, it has lost 60% of its population. Ouch!

  • Les Sterman

    These projects simply indulge our civic vanity. Each one has been touted as the savior of downtown, and none (with the possible exception of Busch Stadium) generates the kind of activity needed to build a sustainable neighborhood in downtown. These developments are, for the most part, intended to serve the occasional visitor, not the people who live or work downtown. To suggest otherwise, as the various project proponents have done incessantly and predictably, is simply disingenuous and is a public relations ploy. So how many “game-changers” does it take before people stop buying this logic? Apparently we haven’t found the answer to that question yet.

    The latest proposal for a new “downtown” stadium is yet another development that will actually draw civic energy and financial resources away from the things that will make downtown successful. The things that will make downtown successful are investments in building and carefully maintaining good infrastructure (note the gradual deterioration of the streetscape on Washington Ave), a clean, walkable, and attractive neighborhoods (without overflowing dumpsters on city streets, or piles of snow plowed onto sidewalks), and constant attention to making the area safe at all hours. These things don’t provide the immediate (if false) gratification of the big projects, but together they constitute a real economic development strategy, not one based on phony and demonstrably false promises.

  • Kevin Farrell

    So many good points here, Alex you are right on the mark to push this discussion. A few more thoughts. Absolutely agree that leadership with a real vision and plan is needed. Cities across the country have been and are desperately trying to re-connect to water. We have all of this open land and historic buildings on the river that no one had tried to develop for years. Now we are talking about investing $1.3 billion and we are getting overdue upgrades to an existing amenity (the Arch), a facility that will be used 10x a year (ok, add 20 dates for MLS if we can come up with an additional $100 million for a franchise) and 75 acres of parking. In a region that is strapped for cash, it seems like we should get a better return for our dollar. Is the Arch renovation and stadium driving new development? Nothing is planned, shown, funded, promised or event hinted at. No redevelopment on the Landing, no office or residential around the stadium, no conversion of Kiener Garages to new offices that would attract these suburban companies that won’t come downtown.

    Also agree that jobs are the key to support the next wave of residential and retail. In just 3 years, T-REX, with very little public money has grown to over 100 companies and 250 employees. Eight companies, recently graduated from T-REX have a combined 100 employees and lease over 20,000sf of space. Many are also living downtown, It’s just a start but shouldn’t we focus more attention and money to support entrepreneurs and startups? Question – when young, educated talent is constantly touted as the #1 factor in attracting businesses, why do our our regional corporations not want to be in our center city which has enjoyed the highest % increase in the US in that residential demo? Doesn’t the ability to attract and retain top talent trump the earnings tax.

    I am not opposed to spending some pubic money on a new football stadium. But, if it doesn’t leverage other economic activity, I would rather use public money to “buy” some developers and companies to successful mixed use development on our riverfront (or to connect other gaps in the core of downtown).

    • Alex Ihnen

      I’ll just mention again that the $380M being spent on the Arch could fund 7,600 Arch Grants companies to move to St. Louis.

      • Guest

        And again, Alex…spending money to entice companies is a waste of money without a city that functions like a city has always functioned (save the few decades post WW2 with the nation’s love affair with the automobile). St. Louis is dysfunctional because the business sector mindset still thinks westward of the city limits. Until we make our front door and our urban core viable we ain’t goin’ nowhere. No company, especially a major corporation, is going to take a city like St. Louis seriously, and who can guarantee that we won’t lose those we have to “greener pastures”? We’ve already lost too many. Both nationally and locally this has a trickle down negative effect.
        Some have woken up…but the key players…what…refuse to educate themselves…are making big bucks with the status quo… somehow benefit seeing a wonderful city like St. Louis bite the dust? Because the business sector is (or should be) a well educated one, I seriously consider my third hunch might be the correct one. If not, then the local business sector is seriously incompetent in their notion of how a successful city functions.

  • Amos Harris

    It is a relief to know that the answer to desperate education inequality, deteriorating infrastructure, increasing homicide rates, low investment in start-up capital is so simple – build a new stadium. Economic impact, return on investment – those are things that should only apply to other things.

    • BudSTL

      A slight argument with the above:
      The homicide rates in St. Louis have dropped quite a bit from their peak in the 70″s. It is still a massive problem, but it might be unfair to say that it is “increasing”.

  • Chris

    I think it would be fair to include the price tag for the first Busch Stadium, the Gateway Mall, St. Louis Centre, Union Station (1984 version), the Spanish Pavilion and the Gateway Arch itself as other huge expenditures that were supposed to be game changers in their own time.

  • Bryan Kirchoff

    A couple of less-commented aspects regarding a stadium:
    1) Very few people comment on the possibility of an MLS franchise. It seems to me that soccer is only going to grow (given immigration, especially the Mosaic Project’s ambitions for St. Louis), and I would not be surprised if it is bigger than the NBA and NHL by mid-century, and bigger than the NFL by the end. Yes, decades is a long time to await a payoff, but there is also a lot of potential there.
    2) We debate the idea that the North Riverfront should be rehabilitated into office and living space, rather than “wasted” on a stadium. But will the simple act of building offices and apartments cause the corresponding jobs and residents to materialize, or will we simply be drawing jobs and residents from other parts of the region, thus not growing the metro economy?
    Bryan Kirchoff
    St. Louis

    • Adam

      “We debate the idea that the North Riverfront should be rehabilitated into office and living space, rather than “wasted” on a stadium.”

      it’s not a waste to build a stadium on the north riverfront. it is, however, a waste to level everything else on the north riverfront in order to build a stadium surrounded by acres and acres of parking lots.

      “But will the simple act of building offices and apartments cause the corresponding jobs and residents to materialize, or will we simply be drawing jobs and residents from other parts of the region, thus not growing the metro economy?”

      in addition to attracting people from outside of the region, i would say that drawing jobs and residents from the exurbs is exactly what we want to do. moreover, i don’t think anyone is suggesting that just building stuff will cause jobs to materialize (although others on here seem satisfied to tout temporary construction jobs as a good reason to build the stadium) but i don’t think that’s the point. the point is that building a well-designed URBAN environment, even if it takes a few more years, will benefit us much more in the long run than building an island football stadium.

      • Ian Mitchell

        It is a waste to build a stadium of any kind on any kind of waterfront. It’s a structure that is almost always unused. A half-way house, homeless shelter, or prison has more return on investment than a stadium!

        • Adam

          I agree that a stadium is not the best use and the current proposal is, indeed, a waste. A stadium surrounded by dense development, however, would not be a waste. I’ll assume the alternatives you offered were hyperbole.

          • Ian Mitchell

            Well, I gave alternatives which are generally publicly funded, but if I had some numbers to run on those I’m sure the cost-benefit ratio would be on the side of not-stadiums. Run-down liquor stores, flophouses, and laundromats have higher ROI than stadium- hence why the private sector operates them.

    • John R

      we have one of the highest levels of jobs and residential sprawl in the nation; re-centering the region with a greater number of jobs and people in our core is a healthy thing and makes us more competitive.

      But again some of us are saying that there is room for both a stadium and a mixed-use district if the stadium were relocated just a bit. It largely is a design preference, with HOK on record for saying they don’t want to integrate the warehouses as they already did that sort of thing in the past with projects like Camden Yards, If you moved the stadium just a bit to the north, we;d have a ready-made, kick-ass mixed-use district and be able to truly revitalize the area and bring real economic development.

      • Amos Harris

        I wish it worked that way. Small islands of development don’t work. For a district to survive it has to be connected to other things. If we get the Landing right, then maybe we could expand north – but are not yet able to build apts or office without subsidy because not enough people want to live dntn – we have to fix that first.

        • Ian Mitchell

          Stadiums are dead space. Don’t subsidize construction of another one. They can move out into the woods. They’re parasites.

  • BudSTL

    Why do we keep building “destination” projects for people in Chesterfield and the metro East? I love the amenities, but in the end…most of these are vanity projects that serve a transient constituency. An unpopular opinion: only the Northside project (which is unmentioned and only an idea at this point) is directed at making downtown a livable community. The best existing project that has helped to change the community is Cortex, to my thinking.
    Kudos, Alex for raising the question.

  • Max

    I wish I could be more productive with my commentary, but this just sucks.

    Any faint hope of this actually revitalizing the north riverfront went out the window with this revision still showing a massive parking lot separating the Landing and Lumiere from the stadium or associated development.

    I understand that a big part of the gameday atmosphere comes from tailgating in parking lots around the stadium (which I’ll admittedly still take part in if this gets built), but this is the wrong strategy for the City. This isn’t revitalizing the area, it’s just demolishing older buildings and replacing them with (mostly empty) fresh pavement and a few small trees.

    I honestly don’t understand why so many people think its so important to shove a stadium with 10,000 parking spots into the City. The City will not get a return on its investment for this stadium.

    This site plan looks like it would be a great addition for Chesterfield valley, let’s just put it there and leave the City out of it.

    Also, isn’t anyone concerned about the river smelling during a three and a half hour game?

    • Ian Mitchell

      How about no associated parking for the stadium whatsoever? Let the streets and alleys and driveways of the whole city fill with tailgating, integrate it with the community.

      I live in a college town. Our stadium, ben hill griffin stadium, has very little parking associated with it. As a result, people who live under a mile from the stadium (like me!) have the opportunity to sell parking on game days. That’s better for the gameday spirit, the local economy, and gives the sports fans some exercise they otherwise wouldn’t get.

  • Yes, and we’re not even counting the Peabody, Library and CityGarden.

    The Archgrounds and riverfront stadium should be the last of the “gold bullet” projects for a loooong while (sorry Chouteau Greenway…unless Purina wants to cover it!).

    Furthermore, these two projects failed in “bridging the gap” toward a more vibrant/lucrative/populated downtown. IF the stadium is to be built, the City’s Board of Alderman should have a development plan designed and voted into law for the surrounding area — mid/high-rises at the Bottle District, an updated Columbus Square, a business corridor along N. Tucker and the Stan access, connectivity and community support for Old North, Hyde Park and N. Broadway, etc.

    The keyword should be “connections”, but I fear instead it’ll be another instance of planned separation.

    With that said, I’ve never been as excited now as I am for the future of our riverfront and Near North side. As that goes, I feel, so too does St. Louis. If we can expand and connect downtown to its nearest neighborhoods, the billions will be worth it.

  • Daniel S. Leritz

    What Downtown lacks is a critical mass of professional employment. Downtown has many professional employers, but not to the point where we have busy sidewalks and multiple Downtown restaurants daily having to refuse business because they’re all full of diners. All the while, major employers continue to see themselves relocating to Clayton. Major corporate expansions are taking place in the region, but they’re largely taking place in the suburbs, around corporate campuses and business parks; the last major Downtown office building was last constructed in 1989 (One Metropolitan Square). The AT&T Building is emptying out.

    Now, we can list multiple reasons for why all these corporations are not basing themselves in Downtown, or the City. Reasons range from the 1% Earnings Tax, to crime, to schools, to wanting shorter commutes, to newer buildings already being built in Clayton, et.al. More reasons can readily be added. Perhaps what is needed is to look at proactive, top-down reinvestment into Downtown as the Central Business District more than just a place for tourists & hotels, or Downtown loft residents & bar districts, but as the one place in the region where businesses want to locate themselves.

    Personally, I am a fan of keeping the team by reasonable means, and while some of the buildings in the new Riverfront Stadium’s footprint sadly may be lost, we must recognize that the gains will likely surpass the losses (especially for how unproductive many are in their current empty conditions). Same time, I am in favor of a concerted effort being made to rededicate the Central Business District as a place primarily for businesses. Investments should be made by the City, region, etc. in infrastructure that will help secure more corporations into Downtown. For God’s sake, some of the most incredible potential real estate for new construction in the entire country are along Chestnut just west of Broadway, and they sit today as dumpy parking garages among a sea of redundant parking garages. Instead of business competing to have the Gateway Arch just outside their conference rooms, they’re building along 64/40 so far out in the suburbs that the area code’s (636); why? How about the plot of green land along Market at 10th, next the Bank of America Tower (the black one, not the silver one)? That plot is begging, pleading, to be more than just green space with a couple sparse young trees along the main thoroughfare of Downtown. It really should be the site of an office tower, filled with thousands of daily employees and corporations contributing to the City’s tax coffers.

    Going forward, we need to invest in making Downtown better for businesses to conduct their day-to-day operations. This should include ultra-high-speed internet pipelines, transportation infrastructure (trolleys), and transitional cluster development of certain industries (i.e. technology companies) into Downtown office space that currently sits idle. All the while, we must continue to proactively recruit companies to the region, focused on Downtown office space. Get the existing buildings’ owners (largely real estate investment trusts) to contribute to a strategic initiative to improve the quality of life for businesses and their employees. If we want Downtown to be vibrant, then we must focus on making it vibrant with professional employees at business choosing to locate into Downtown.

    • John R

      We definitely need to put the ‘B’ back in the “CBD’ as Job 1. On a bit of a bright note, though, the movement out to Clayton seems to have largely stopped. Last major one I can recall is when BPV lost the race for the new Centene Tower to Clayton and the downtown law firm moved to the new building. We’ve had some gains and losses since then, but we won’t make a real dent until corporate leaders increasingly make the move to the 21st Century and locate downtown.

  • Who is promising downtown will be vibrant if we just build another new stadium there? I don’t think anyone has ever promised that. Stadiums so far have encouraged property owners to build more parking garages. But, I would just like to see the Rams stay so I can buy tickets and watch them play, and they won’t stay without a new stadium, wherever we build it. No place that I know of, suburbs or city, has ever increased its vibrancy due to stadiums. But you have to have one somewhere if you like watching live sports for the entertainment value.

    The NFL and owner will not invest $450M for construction jobs in downtown St. Louis if the Rams leave. Rams fans will likely put up another $130M in construction if the Rams stay, and even more in ticket taxes etc. So, let’s just assume a new stadium will not make downtown vibrant. And I think we can assume nobody is going to come in an hand over $580M to encourage vibrancy alone.

    • Adam

      “But, I would just like to see the Rams stay so I can buy tickets and watch them play, and they won’t stay without a new stadium, wherever we build it.”

      Sure you do, but “I would just like” is not a good reason to invest a few hundred million dollars of public money into a stadium that will not produce any significant, long term benefits for the city. Despite some short-term construction jobs, the research is pretty clear that it’s not a good return on investment for the city. And in this case the poor planning eliminates any potential for the north riverfront to ever be integrated into our urban fabric—a scenario that has begun to play out and would produce far more long-term economic benefits than a stadium surrounded by parking that will have to be replaced yet again in 20 years.

      • Ian Mitchell

        Spend that money on anything else and you’ll get a better return.

  • Eric Casper

    Take away all the parking! If they have to walk across that parking lot and down 10 more blocks before they get to restaurants on Wash Ave, it’ll never happen.

    • I agree. Unfortunately, new parking revenue will probably figure into the financing, since current parking closer to Busch is too far away for this new stadium. Or is it? I fully expect in 10 years we’ll have cars that drop us off and go park themselves in cheap remote lots. Or Uber-like cars will drop us off and pick us up. Car ownership, where our cars sit unused in a parking lot all day, will be replaced by something more economical where cars get re-used. And we can all turn our current 3-car garages into a man-cave or something.

      • Michael B

        This is all theoretical, but you make a great point about self-driving cars. They will completely transform transportation as we know it. Self-driving taxis or car-shares will pick people up, drop them off, and then continue somewhere else or even return home. I love the idea of my car being safe in my garage while I’m at work, and at the end of the day if comes to pick me up on a schedule or when I call it. But this completely eliminates the need for massive parking structures in the middle of our cities. We should be focusing on making areas safe for pedestrians. In as few as ten years time, very little of what we have now will be relevant anymore.

      • Ian Mitchell

        Just require no place, of any kind, to build parking (no minimums), and require that no development receiving a red cent of government subsidy may build a single parking space. The free market will provide whatever parking people are willing to pay for- and no more should ever be built than that.

  • Mark Tornado

    Adam, I did said, “Washington Avenue is still strong despite new competition from Ballpark Village”, but I didn’t say that some business were hurting. Business is business. Businesses come and go. They come and go on the Delmar Loop, Grand Center, South Grand, Soulard, Clayton, Chesterfield etc.etc. Downtown St. Louis is no exception when competition arrives.

    Struggling businesses need to step up their game to compete. For example, if a new hotel comes on the market then older nearby hotels renovate, offer specials or close if they can’t compete. That’s the nature of business.

    No one is going to tell me that the Edwards Jones Dome, Busch stadium nor Scottrade Center have not been beneficial to downtown. Hotels, restaurants, bars, tourist attractions, casinos, entertainment venues, helicopter and riverboat rides etc. all have benefited because of the sports venues downtown.

    When people to visit due to sporting events – they do more than just go to the games and tournaments.

    In essence, it translates into jobs (vendors, sanitation workers, concession workers, cabbies, fare for MetroLink, restaurant workers etc. etc.) thereby helping downtown and the region economically. It’s preposterous to suggest otherwise.

    Further, think of all of the money and people that have come to the city due to World Series and MLB playoffs, Monday Night Football (and other Rams games) as well the Blues playoff runs.

    Sports and stadiums are only ONE PIECE of the downtown puzzle. Snatch that away, then you must find another piece to fit the puzzle.

    Last, while it’s great that Left Bank took a risk on downtown, it closed because people are buying off Amazon. Even if downtown was populated with 200,000 people during the day, Left Bank probably would have closed.

    Alex, I agree with you something is not being done right, which is why I suggested the problem is POOR LEADERSHIP and fractured, provincial government – not stadiums. Those stadiums would be empty in the flood plains of Chesterfield or Howard Bend most of the year too.

    No stadium in the world is operating 365-days – even the most famed ones.

    The problem is poor regional and corporate leadership. With the exception of a few (Peabody, LaClede, Ameren, Stifel, for example) the others refuse to make the tough call to move downtown when there is a current movement in this country for corporations to relocate downtown.

    Even Detroit has corporations moving back to downtown and planning new corporate facilities.

    • John R

      I agree with much of what you have to say but you overstate the case… tourism and sports entertainment do have a role to play in a region’s economy and quality of life, but these must be secondary to the real work of building cities through residential and employment growth. A city that overly subsidizes sports facilities and puts too much emphasis on them as an economic development strategy increases the likelihood that it loses its focus on real priorities as well as the ability to give resources to them. Subsidies directly adding residents and office jobs generally are a much better economic development strategy than tourism/entertainment.

      And NFL teams in particular are a problem as they deliver comparatively few visitors. take up a large physical area, and in most cases are more heavily subsidized. (And while its more of a hunch, I suspect NFL fans spend fewer $$ on surrounding businesses because of tailgating versus dropping in on the bar for pre/post game drinks.)

    • Adam

      “No one is going to tell me the Edwards Jones Dome, Busch stadium nor Scottrade Center have not been beneficial to downtown….”

      More beneficial than nothing, less beneficial than buildings that are occupied 365 days/year with residents and businesses.

      I’m not even opposed to a new stadium. I’m opposed to THIS plan in which the north riverfront is clear-cut for parking lots that occupy three-to-four times the surface area of the stadium itself. That is bullshit.

  • Chris

    They should be putting this across cole street from the Ed Jones dome. Closer to Washington ave and not by itself on the east side of the highway. It would better suit STL to save the area on the north riverfront for other developments including industrial uses.

  • Daniel

    As a positive in what seems to be an unstoppable train, less surface parking than the original renderings and more buildings on the water by Lumiere and at least one building in the rubble of the bottle district. Somehow the connector bridge to downtown doesn’t look as good and I don’t quite know why.. I would like to see the parking taken in at least a block in every direction and build more underground structure parking that they seem to be doing just west of the stadium. The problem is that there is nothing worth saving at the edges of that area so it will just be leveled.

    I don’t quite know where to go from here. This stadium will get built. Just need it to be the best for the area it can be.

    • tbatts666

      This is on the agenda for a lot of aldermen in the running. A lot of them seem to be against the stadium plan.

      What makes you think it is bound to happen?

      • Daniel

        So your insinuating that that aldermen are going to do something? A dig I know, but really, they might put up a ceremonial fight but it will go through

        • John R

          Most likely it will go to a vote of the public with separate votes in the County and City. Not doing so would lead to certain legal challenges and several legal observers have said that on the fact of things it appears that a bond extension would have to be approved by the public since a new facility would be built. I don’t know what the chances are of voter approval; but I think it may be more difficult to pass in the County as the economic benefits of a stadium arguably are the least there.

    • The only new Bottle District “building” shown in the most recent plans looks to be the entrance to the underground walkway connecting Bottle District parking to stadium parking.

      Good to see the McGuire building didn’t get the chopping block though (always thought this would be a cool location for a new craft bottling facility — Schlafly? Kraftig? Other?)

      I feel that if this is turned over to even more parking, the plan missed the boat on what the project can and should do — mainly increase investment/population of St. Louis’ near north side. The Bottle District site is perfect for a few modern mid/high-rises which, in turn, would hopefully increase interest in developing market-rate commercial/residential in Columbus Square and Near North.

  • woodn

    Vitalize North Side River Front!!

  • Brianstl

    I am not a big fan of giving public money to private business, but if we are going to do it we should do it for an airline to locate a major hub here. That would actually help to bring and retain jobs in the region.

    An new stadium isn’t going to fix anything.

    • tbatts666

      Interesting. Do airline hubs tend to help regions out? I would assume that the return on investment would be as poor as some of these other gargantuan projects which aren’t panning out too well.

      • STLEnginerd

        One of the main digs against St. Louis by major fortune 500s is the lack of direct flights. So corporate HQs are located in larger markets, or hub cities. Losing TWA was one of the most damaging corporate mergers in recent history.

        • tbatts666

          There is this assumption that seducing outside investment improves quality of life. It makes sense to me that outside investment makes places less resilient, and more likely to fail catastrophically ( think Atlantic city, Detroit).

          If we are going to put the public on the hook to subsidize a massive use I would prefer a return on investment and low risk.

          In the meantime it seems the safe public investment would be in things for people who live in the city, (schools, infrastructure maintenance). And in subsidizing uses that return a high amount of tax revenue with low risk (small businesses).

        • Michael Fisher

          I live a couple of miles from DFW Airport, and let me tell you, if it weren’t there, much of the business activity locally would have gone somewhere else. Having flights coming in from all over has encouraged a huge amount of international businesses to headquarter here. If you’re not a hub nowadays, you’re a backwater. Nobody wants to have to change planes to get somewhere. Businesses do think about those things.

          • Adam

            “If you’re not a hub nowadays, you’re a backwater.”

            I get your point, but that’s a bit of an exaggeration. There are plenty of non-hub cities that are holding their own.

          • Michael Fisher

            That seems to be true for a lot of cities that don’t have much going for them. I have great hopes for St. Louis.

            I grew up in Columbia, MO and have had many friends and relatives in St. Louis over the years. I listened to the Cardinals on radio with my dad back in the sixties, and still root for them every chance I get. My sister lived in Jennings and then Bridgeton in the seventies, so I was there many times.

            St. Louis seems to have lost its way. The end of manufacturing in the Midwest has taken a terrible toll, and the city seems slow to reinvent itself. It can do better.

            I hate to see more money chasing another stadium for Kroenke. He has done terrible things in Columbia and has no social conscience whatsoever.

          • Adam

            I don’t disagree. I’m just saying there are routes to prosperity, or at least vibrancy, that don’t involve being an airline hub. Take New Orleans for example.

          • Ian Mitchell

            New orleans had more people in 1920 than it does today. It had nearly twice as many as it does today 50 years ago. Its metro area has shrunk in population since 1980. Both of these were true even before Katrina.

            I wouldn’t consider New Orleans to be a good example for how to do things.

            Now, Atlanta has more non-stop connections to the world than any other single airport. (I think London has more if you count all 6 airports) Is Atlanta the strongest city? No. Even in the south Houston, DFW, and Miami are stronger.

            But people and jobs don’t seem to need to be coaxed into Texas or Florida. Maybe that’s worth thinking about.

          • Adam

            I’m just saying that New Orleans is considerably more vibrant than St. Louis in terms of pedestrian activity and sidewalk retail despite having no airline hub. I think we agree that airline hub does not necessarily imply success, and lack of airline hub does not necessarily imply failure.

          • Ian Mitchell

            New orleans has tourism. Simply reforming St. Louis’ open container laws would do a lot to boost that. That costs, unlike a stadium, almost nothing.

          • Adam

            I’m not necessarily opposed to allowing open containers, but I don’t think that alone would have the desired effect. While a big chunk of New Orleans’ tourism is based around drinking, a substantial part is driven by their unique history, culture, architecture, and music scene—all of which St. Louis has but doesn’t leverage. In addition, New Orleans has considerably more contiguous, walkable urbanity than St. Louis. Not more overall, but more contiguous. I think one of St. Louis’ biggest flaws is that its many wonderful neighborhoods have been disconnected by decades of highway-building and demolition so that inter-neighborhood walkability is practically nonexistent.

          • Ian Mitchell

            It would do more to achieve the desired effect than any other single project or change proposed.

  • rgbose

    Glad to see that the Shady Jack’s block may avoid the Grim Reaper.

    • Adam

      may i ask where you got your info?

      • rgbose

        From one of the images

        • Alex Ihnen

          And apparently talks with Ameren resulted in their substation remaining. It’s in an awful location, but leaving it in place would save a lot of money.

          • Anybody run cost analysis on burying the substation? Or partially burying/concealing it?

        • Adam

          ah, thanks. i just now saw that the PD released new renderings. it still sucks. 🙂

    • John R

      But it looks like the lovely buildings to the north are gone (the ones directly south of Bissinger’s can go but the next block has some class).

      And importantly Stamping Lofts is gone…. maybe our friend Eddie Roth can comment on how the city would deal with the loss of that project?

      • I’d like to think that, if it’s removed, ownership would volunteer to pay back the state for monies already invested — either as a lump sum or by investing in a similar project elsewhere. What I’d really like to see, though, is Stamping to stay (as offices, hotel, whatever) to support the stadium program and the Farmworks project tried again somewhere else.

  • STLEnginerd

    I think you have to consider Busch stadium as having a solid ROI, even with the disappointment that is Ballpark Village. I don’t know if any of the Cupples Station complex could have survived if not for the allure of the ballpark.

    I don’t think the Stan Musial Bridge isn’t exactly direct investment in downtown. I also don’t remember it being sold that way and is mostly included it seems to inflate the numbers. How was this going to change the game?

    The Casino I would consider a disappointment but not a terrible one. I don’t necessarily think that’s the fault of the concept, which at the time seemed a sure fire success. Plus there was very little demo involved in its construction so i have to see it as a net gain.

    The Arch grounds project is incomplete and its economic effect is far from realized. That said I won’t be surprised if its disappointing from an ROI perspective. I do think as a matter of civic pride a few 100 million of that had to be spent. Specifically the new museum expansion, and entrance. I was on board with a boulevard but the horse has been whipped so many times that by now it’s dog food.

    You are right, reinvesting in Scottrade looks like a bargain compared to sitting on our hands until we had to replace it with a whole new facility down the road. Once you make the investment I support doing what it takes to keep it relevant. The cost to replace a facility will almost always be higher than maintaining the current one despite popular opinion among the development community.

    Edward Jones certainly stands out as the most glaring “silver bullet” that missed its target. I think it was a forgivable choice, but given its failure to deliver, why aren’t we more skeptical this time around?

  • John R

    What amazes me is that we’re contemplating turning over 1.5 miles of our central riverfront (from the Poplar to just south of the New Musial Bridge) to low-density, visitor-oriented uses that do little to actually build up the city. Only the postage stamp-sized Laclede’s Landing has any kind of solid potential for residential or office density under this plan. Our destiny should be to have decent density of good jobs and residents along our riverfront but this plan makes that almost impossible.

    • StLenny

      In a perfect world sure, but I’ve not seen much happening for a very very long time in this area except for blighted buildings and overgrown lots! I feel this is a vast improvement with what is there now!!

      • John R

        This area already has some good investment with things like Al’s, the Stamping Lofts redevelopment and the Kerr Foundation while GRG is improving the riverfront as we type…. And developers began to look a look at the high-potential warehouses again after loft plans were set back with the recession. There is so much potential here and just a fraction of public subsidy given to the area would provide a greater return for the city than a poorly positioned, parking lot-oriented stadium .
        But moving the stadium closer to the bridge or, if possible slamming it by the Landing, we would have a much better opportunity for creating the type of mixed-use district with a combo of historic rehab and new construction that can give actual value to the City. .

    • kjohnson04

      They are determined to sub-urbanize Downtown. We are still programmed into driving the economic vitality of the region into it’s suburbs rather than its urban core. We can’t win with strategy.

      • John R

        Yep. We need people like Bob Blitz to move their firms downtown as opposed to seeing the place as a visitor experience. And if we used the city’s restaurant and hotel taxes for building a better downtown (through subsidizing actual office and residential projects that net taxpayers and improve streetscaping and security initiatives) we’d see a greater return than trickle-down NFL economic theory.

    • I tend to disagree. In a post-industrial era, the “working” riverfront’s best use may very well be as a single-use (or primary-use, anyway) visitor attraction. Work on density for the near north neighborhoods first — a downtown immediately bordered by desolation and disinvestment is a sure-fire way to ensure downtown will continue to be considered a hard-sell for large businesses.

      A community exists in Near North, sure, and efforts are being made to improve, but for the vast majority of St. Louisans and visitors, the City stops at Cass (or even Carr for a lot of folks).

  • jidle

    I like all the upgrades,but we need to develop more on the westside of town i must say.

    • onecity

      There has actually been a lot of investment on the west side of town; Forest Park had a massive renovation a few years ago, the new Chipperfield wing of the Art Museum was recently completed, eastward expansion of the Delmar Loop into the city limits continues, the Delmar trolley project (if the NIMBYs let it move forward), continued WU investment on the west end of the city. Add to that the constant development in the CWE including CORTEX and the Ikea and that whole surrounding area – granted that’s more mid city – a lot has been happening.

      • jidle

        I agree with all of what you said,but more must be done on the residential side going north.As you mentioned the cortex area alot of redevelopment has been going on and WU is giving their employees $6k-$8k to move in the grove west end skinnker-deviliber community…But the Whole westside needs a new make over…To bring in new ppl with great ideas and new parents whom cares about their child’s education.To help SLPS.

    • Change it to “northside of town” and I agree completely. The west side is coming along just fine organically — won’t be too long before the downtown-west-to-midtown corridor is equally appetizing for small businesses and residents as downtown is now.

  • Mark Tornado

    Oh shut up and stop complaining. Downtown St. Louis is more vibrant than it has been in a long time. Washington Avenue is still strong despite new competition from Ballpark Village.

    Keep in mind that things are happening downtown. New residential housing, absorption of Class A and B office space. A renovated Philip Johnson (702 Market), the Arcade, Blues Museum, a revived Arch-grounds and Kiener Plaza are on the way, new restaurants coming etc. etc. Downtown St. Louis would have been worse off without the stadiums. WORSE. Stop whining about the new stadium plans.

    Stadiums are an evil necessity. Professional sports also play a role in a region’s vitality. And maintaining modern sports facilities are just as important as other civic infrastructure. Without them St. Louis would have never hosted men’s and women’s Final Fours and many other major amateur and professional sporting events – many of which were international.

    The issue downtown is not stadiums. The issue is crime, perception of crime, lack of investment in downtown by many regional corporations that continue to choose Clayton, Chesterfield and Creve Coeur over downtown St. Louis for expansion and jobs – AND developers who apparently do not have faith in downtown St. Louis so they don’t build downtown.

    The powers in metro St. Louis DO NOT realize yet that a strong downtown potentially can lead to a stronger perception of the region. It’s your front door, but the region is too fractured, provincial and parochial. And quite frankly, pathetic.

    Also, the City of St. Louis and the Downtown St. Louis, Inc. ARE NOT doing enough to protect downtown from criminals nor do they have an overall development master plan for downtown let alone how to execute it.

    • Alex Ihnen

      If almost $4B in investment hasn’t made downtown save enough, or produced a master development plan that would lead regional corporations to build or lease office space there, then we’re not doing it right. If all the things you list, the $2B in sports stadiums and $380M on Arch, and all the other stuff can’t get a major corporation to locate there, or even grow jobs, then it isn’t working. This is the point.

    • Adam

      “Washington Avenue is still strong despite new competition from Ballpark Village.”

      Actually, several Wash. Ave. businesses have stated that BPV has cut significantly into their revenue and that they may have to close if business doesn’t pick up.

      “Stadiums are an evil necessity. Professional sports also play a role in a region’s vitality.”

      Jesus… this is the WHOLE POINT. they obviously, demonstrably DON’T by any economic measure. if they did, given the billions that has been spent on venues, the region would be EXPLODING. the excruciatingly slow growth occurring downtown has NOTHING to do with sports. it has everything to do with renovation of historic buildings into residential and our growing tech and startup scene (e.g. T-Rex), along with a few businesses willing to take the initiative (Left Bank Books, Culinaria, etc.).

    • tbatts666

      I would tend to think stadiums aren’t a necessity.

      I am not an economist, but people are pointing to property taxes and examples from other cities. It seems that these subsidized stadiums have been a net loss.

      STL will be fine without another one.

    • Richard O

      Your statement:
      ” The issue downtown is not stadiums. The issue is crime, perception of crime, lack of investment in downtown by many regional corporations that continue to choose Clayton, Chesterfield and Creve Coeur over downtown St. Louis for expansion and jobs – AND developers who apparently do not have faith in downtown St. Louis so they don’t build downtown.

      The powers in metro St. Louis DO NOT realize yet that a strong downtown potentially can lead to a stronger perception of the region. It’s your front door, but the region is too fractured, provincial and parochial. And quite frankly, pathetic.”
      I have been trying for the past ten years to get every St. Louis-based corporation to invest jobs and office space in the downtown market and they continue to run off to the suburbs and Clayton and it is pathetic. A good example of vibrant downtowns are Seattle with 65,000 residents and over 200,000 jobs and Minneapolis with over 35,000 residents and 150,000 jobs. Downtown St Louis has maybe 15,000 residents and 90,000 jobs? That is how you get a vibrant city but the St. Louis business community for whatever reasons and I can conjure up a few good ones, avoids downtown like the plague. Until that changes I’m not sure all these billions of dollars will do the job.

      • Guest

        You got it. What puzzles me is that the business community who SHOULD get it DON’T get it in St. Louis. For one example, anyone who’s studied the development of the skyscraper knows that they’re built not because of a need of height, but as a means of presence. This is advertisement. Witness how the skylines of Seattle and Minneapolis have come up from behind and left us in the dust, not to mention New York, Chicago, Houston, Boston, Atlanta, etc. etc. etc. A major corporation isn’t going organize a project where their presence isn’t going to visible. And they’re not visible in the suburbs. Why? The free advertisement with pictures in media (such as sports events) of a cities’ central business district, postcards and visitors to that city who take pictures and talk to friends about the city they visited. All anyone who doubts this need do is to search the internet and see the dozens of sites devoted to cities and their skylines. If people didn’t love working in them, living in them and bragging about their heights corporations wouldn’t bother with them…they’d have died out not too long after being invented. Instead, they’ve grown ever taller…and their location is in their CBDs…their “front door”. Clayton and West County is not St. Louis’ front door…not by any means…and until our business community figures it out St. Louis isn’t going to attract any major corporation and may even lose more of the few we have left. Building bland and uninspired office and apartment buildings, obviously fake Disneyland-like urban street scenes, and doing things *ss backwards doesn’t impress the best of the very people they think they’re targeting…especially so if done in a suburb where people don’t have to suffer the chance of rubbing elbows with too many people of the “wrong” color, education or less than a six figure income.
        Maybe these people are hell bent on all out destroying this city. Don’t laugh…the formulas by which our business community goes by works for just that in today’s terms and as “educated” people they should know that. Anyone who doubts it is sorely ignorant of how successful cities work.

        • Mike F

          “Maybe these people are hell bent on all out destroying this city.”

          Whew, that’s a relief. I thought I was the only one who’s had thoughts of this nature.

          • Guest

            Believe me, you’re not alone. Thank goodness for those who stayed and decided to try to turn this city around. They seem to be gaining ground.

  • Sean McElligott

    I think the arch project is worth the coast but why dose city leadership see sports as why to revitalize downtown. Sports fans get to the city by “CAR” and they “LEAVE'”right after the game. They don’t go to restaurants downtown and they don’t really want nothing to do with the city for the most part. Lets the suburbs pay for and have the stadiums and all the parking. All stadiums give downtown is a parking based economy.

    • Frank
    • StLenny

      Curious….have you even ever attended a game?? Believe me… When you gather 45K-65K fans into downtown for a single event, sometimes they even over lap and put 100K+ during two events. I guarantee you that money is being spent in the local economy!

      • chaifetz10

        Multiple studies on public financing for stadiums disagrees with this. Especially in the NFL where you are only guaranteed 10 home games (2 pre season) a year.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Let’s think about this in regards to Bissinger’s. Their new chocolate factory is immediately north of the proposed stadium site. Such a big development at its doorstep would seem like a win? But I don’t think it’s good news for them. So 8, maybe 10, days a year there are 65,000 people at its doorstep. How many of those can be squeezed into a tour, or into the gift shop? Maybe a lot. What happens the other 355 days? I guess Bissinger’s just needs to double its staff on those 10 game days? The rest of the year its facing a massive dead parking lot. Believe me, not a single business on Washington Avenue lives or dies by receipts from Rams games.

      • tbatts666

        We can use that same logic to defend a Wal Mart moving into an area right? But people are saying that those are net economic losses for cities too.

    • Adam

      “The basic idea is that sports stadiums typically aren’t a good tool for economic development,” said Victor Matheson, an economist at Holy Cross who has studied the economic impact of stadium construction for decades. When cities cite studies (often produced by parties with an interest in building the stadium) touting the impact of such projects, there is a simple rule for determining the actual return on investment, Matheson said: “Take whatever number the sports promoter says, take it and move the decimal one place to the left. Divide it by ten, and that’s a pretty good estimate of the actual economic impact.”

      Others agree. While “it is inarguable that within a few blocks you’ll have an effect,” the results are questionable for metro areas as a whole, Stefan Szymanski, a sports economist at the University of Michigan, said.


      • Adam

        to bad that there won’t be anything “within a few blocks” of the new stadium except parking lots, if built as planned.

  • Ann Wimsatt

    Green asphalt!

    • StLenny

      Guess well kept ‘Green asphalt’ is better than ‘Weeded asphault’ that’s currently there now right?

      • Chippewa

        Thats insulting to the people that in fact currently live there, and the businesses that currently produce jobs there.

        Weeds indeed.

        • John R

          Big round of applause…. Nixon and Peacock co-own the Jerk Store for failing to recognize all those who have invested in the area.