Monsanto $1 Billion Plan for Chesterfield Campus may Hint at HQ Move

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nextSTL has learned Monsanto is planning the construction of an approximate 5,500-seat multipurpose facility at its Chesterfield Village Research Center. The yet-to-be-disclosed structure will be a component of the second phase of expansion at the 210-acre campus closeby the Missouri River. Sources maintain this development is evidence of the company’s intent to make Chesterfield its new world headquarters.

In 2013 nextSTL broke news of the $400 million first phase at the Chesterfield site. This development ranks as one of the biggest corporate expansions in the region. Then in 2014 nextSTL was first to report on the yet to be announced second phase of the expansion. According to sources, phase one project manager Alberici Constructors has the second phase budgeted at approximately $700 million, making the total expansion in excess of $1 billion.

Phase one of the expansion is expected to be completed in 2017, and will add 590,000 square feet to the campus. Elements of the first phase include construction of 250 labs, a conference center, a new parking garage, new office and research space, an expansive dining area, 36 greenhouses, and 13 Controlled Environment Agriculture rooms. The first phase will facilitate consolidation of Monsanto’s research and design team.

The proposed multipurpose facility would be able to accommodate all of Monsanto’s 4,500 area employees plus the 675 new hires the company has stated it wants to make by 2017. Comparatively, the Pageant in the Delmar Loop seats 2,300 and the Fox Theatre in Grand Center lists capacity at 4,500. Currently, 1,000 Monsanto employees work at the 1.5M square foot Chesterfield facility. Upon completion of the first phase employee ranks at the campus will grow to 2,000.

Monsanto spent $150 million in 1984 when it first developed the Chesterfield campus. In 2000 the company merged with Pharmacia & Upjohn and changed its name to Pharmacia Corporation. The current company spun off from Pharmacia in 2002. The independent company focused solely on agriculture and leased space at the Chesterfield site from Pharmacia. The lease continued after Pfizer purchased Pharmacia in 2003. In 2009 Pfizer cut 600 area jobs and then sold the campus back to Monsanto for $430 million in 2010. The pharmaceutical giant still occupies space and conducts research at the Monsanto campus.

nextSTL sources have said the company is contemplating shutting down its Creve Coeur campus and making the Chesterfield Village Research Center corporate headquarters. This move would take place in 2020, following completion of the second phase in Chesterfield. Monsanto’s commercial and corporate teams are currently based in Creve Coeur. In 2014 Bloomberg Business reported $64 billion Monsanto explored a takeover of $34 billion Swiss rival Syngenta AG in a deal that would have allowed the company to move its tax location to Switzerland.

Monsanto began developing the expansive Creve Coeur campus in the mid-1950s. It covers 504 acres and only 68 acres is developed with building space and 52 acres of infrastructure. The remaining 436 acres are manicured lawns and forest. The company donated 40 acres of land for construction of the non-profit Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center and also dedicated five acres on its main campus for the NIDUS Center, an entrepreneurial incubator for startup bio-tech companies.

The company has many options regarding its Creve Coeur campus. It could potentially donate more land to augment Danforth Center and Nidus Center growth. Additionally, the value of square footage in Creve Coeur is $170, much higher than the St. Louis metropolitan area average of $106 according to Zillow. There would be no shortage of high-end developers interested. Or they could keep the corporate and commercial divisions where they are, and do nothing with the land.

Monsanto campus map

Monsanto officially moved to the suburban community in 1957 after outgrowing its headquarters in downtown St. Louis. The company also formerly owned nearly four city blocks at 1800 South Second Street operating out of 30 buildings. For those following the CEO residence/proximity to headquarters game, current Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant has been a denizen of St. Louis City’s Central West End since 2006.

The company supplies approximately 90% of the world’s GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds. At the official groundbreaking ceremony in Chesterfield last October Grant commented, “Our Chesterfield expansion is focused on strengthening our world-class capabilities in the discovery and development of innovations for farmers around the world.” According to the company website, Monsanto is specifically working to double yields in core crops by 2030.

GMO technology is highly controversial and has many detractors. A major 2008 UN /World Bank-sponsored report compiled by 400 scientists and endorsed by 58 countries concluded that genetically modified crops have little to offer to the challenges of poverty, hunger, and climate change. The report recommended organic farming as the sustainable way forward for developing countries. Additionally, the United States is the only developed country in the world that does not have mandatory GMO labeling laws.

According to the company website Monsanto states farmers are looking for ways to have better harvests while using water and land more efficiently. The company claims genetically modified crops can help protect resources and make a balanced meal more accessible to everyone. An attempt to reach Monsanto for comment was unsuccessful.

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  • Tom

    While you guys are hating on the ‘burbs and car travel Hugh Grant just said Auf Wiedersehen! I hope they leave the gmo’s outta Swiss Miss!

    • Geoff Whittington
      • Tom

        Yes they rejected their first offer but there will be more, they’re only $5billion away in what their offering and want Syngerta wants. This will happen, it’s has to happen for Monsanto business wise. This will not be good for Creve Couer, their already slipping schools, our airport or our region. But go ahead focus on what doesn’t matter!

        • jhoff1257

          I don’t think we need to start panicking about the airport, schools or the overall region based on what we know so far. Monsanto isn’t going to move the physical headquarters over to Switzerland. They’ll put an executive or two over there, call it their “corporate headquarters” so they can skip taxes here in the US. The 5,000 or so employees they have here in St. Louis are going nowhere. If anything they will only be adding jobs here if recent development announcements are any indication. You don’t pump a billion dollars into your home base and then pick up and leave. Besides they will surely run into issues with anti-trust laws, and the Treasury as the latter is actively trying to stop these inversions as they are called. Time will tell, but I’d hold off on predicting the death of Creve Coeur or the St. Louis region.

          • Geoff Whittington

            I agree with jhoff1257. I wasn’t clear enough Tom. Sorry. I’ll try to focus on what “matters” more in the future. Monsanto will probably get away with not having to pay taxes by way of inversion. However, its core base is more likely to end up in Chesterfield than in Basel.

  • Presbyterian

    Land in Creve Coeur runs around $300,000/acre. That’s a $150 million piece of land they could sell if they moved.

  • Richard O

    Let’s hope Hugh Grant decides to become selfish and moves the corporate headquarters office space to downtown, the CWE or CORTEX, closer to where he lives and expand the R&D campus to Chesterfield. The Creve Coeur campus is ideal for the Danforth Center expansion but I get so frustrated that corporate St. Louis, meaning the CEO’s, continue to abandon our CBD. This community just keeps making the same mistakes over and over again, isn’t that the definition of insanity?

    • Alex Ihnen

      One could see an HQ somewhere else, but it seems unlikely. IMO – it also seems Monsanto may be happy not having a sign on a tower somewhere, or a prominent urban location as it could more easily be the target of anti-GMO protests.

  • Tim E

    Agree with your comments Kevin, the bigger issue is that the cost of transportation even with a car as percentage of overall income is relatively small percentage vs. when streetcars where in their heyday. The reality is the convenience of car is cheap and won’t change anytime soon.
    I think the best option is for the city to continue to push central corridor development with transit already in place as well as come up with a viable N-S BRT county/City streetcar plan and reform city departments to promote business instead of nickel and diming. In the meantime find the small and developing companies that want to be in the core with transit and urban living available as an option.
    Also, we still got some expanding companies who will be shopping for space that might be a better fit downtown/BPV including Apex Oil and Bunge, NA if not mistaken. Time for the city to come to the plate and buy a Corporate HQ Maybe Geoff has an update or any rumblings on those two companies.

    • moorlander

      Cheap? It costs American on average almost $10/year to own and operate one car.

      • Tim E

        Moorlander, yes that it is not chump change but transportation as percentage of household earnings has dropped significantly since WWII. It becomes a question of time and price of convenience. As Kevin noted, without a car it becomes difficult but how many Monsanto employees are willing to give up their car?

        • Ian Mitchell

          5 cent streetcar fare on a $1/day income versus $10k per car on a $22,000 income (St. Louis’ per capita income)…

          • Tim E

            Fair enough but consider how many streetcar trips taken, just two trips, to and from work that day becomes 10% of your earnings. A couple more trips back and forth to a store or a friend and your up to 20% or 25%. Remember, streetcars where straight up private enterprises. What would be today’s Metro fair if it was supported strictly at the fare box?

            Second, 10K a year is high and not even close what it cost me to have my ford focus in St. Louis.. Try a quarter of that cost, which is more like $2500 or roughly 10-15% of the per capita cost which is more likely what someone is looking at if they are making St. Louis per capita income. I doubt very much that person is driving around in a new F150 or SUV which of course drives up the overall cost to own..

            Finally, do you seriously think that Monsanto is paying on average $22k?? Take $10 k on a $65k incoume and your back at 15%. So you got unlimited convenience of coming and going on your own schedule. Once again, its about choices.

            Yes, I would love to give up one of my cars and was able to do that for a while when my wife and I lived in Shrewsbury. At the time she worked downtown @ ATT one center and I traveled outside of St. Louis extensively for work. It was very easy to take advantage of metrolink. In California I have the same issue as Kevin. It would be very difficult to make transit work for my current employment. At the same time, I’m willing to pay for the convenience of a car to be able to go watch my son’s baseball game as I did last night. People have financially choices and they are making them for convenience when they can.

  • tbatts666

    How can we expect this to affect Creve Coeur? Do much of the municipalities taxes rely on Monsanto?

    • Tim E

      I think Creve Coeur might take a short term hit but I think Geoff notes what the property value is there and will drop but not significantly because of its location for respective development as well as future plans for Dansforth. I think it is in Monsanto’s best interest to see Dansforth center expand and thrive. Creve Coeur is still well positioned and will be a big part of making the region a plant science center.
      Also, Monsanto might have an underutilized property but certainly has the means to keep paying property taxes. That is much different then say a bankruptcy nor will employees in the immediate area will see a need to pull up and move (still a relative short distance between campuses in my mind). They too will see a benefit in redeveloping the property, something that gives them a higher return. They got a big construction bill in Chesterfield to pay for.

  • Kevin

    Moving from Creve Coeur to Chesterfield would make an already difficult commute very difficult for employees without cars. Sure, most of Monsanto’s employees likely have college degrees and considerable earning power, but any corporate campus requires security, janitorial services, landscaping, food services, etc. It’s very possible further investment in Chesterfield (or even a headquarters move) makes sense for Monsanto, but from a broader perspective, it’s hard to see how this decision doesn’t exacerbate structural problems in the St. Louis region.

    • Ian Mitchell

      St. Louis’ core is neglected, its CBD is hostile, decay will continue.

      • jhoff1257

        I don’t know if I agree with “decay will continue” with respect to the CBD. I would argue that Downtown is stuck more in suspended animation then decaying. It had some great momentum and then kind of stalled with the crash in 2008 and since then most of the development in the City has been in Midtown/CWE area and areas of the South Side. Clayton is seeing some large projects about to come online too. Downtown is hurting, but renovations continue. Webster University will be moving into it’s new Arcade Building campus soon, the Blues Museum should be opening soon, Union Station is undergoing it’s third iteration. There are other projects large and small here and there too. Not really decay just kind of stuck in first gear. Of course there are other areas of the City (namely the North) that are severely decaying that are in desperate need of help. Unfortunately I just don’t think people in St. Louis care enough about the North to stem that tide.