Centene Set to Break Ground on Second Clayton Tower in 2016 

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nextSTL has learned Clayton-based Fortune 500 healthcare company Centene Corp plans to break ground on its second phase of expansion in the city in late 2016. The company has more than 13,000 national employees, including approximately 2,000 in the St. Louis area. In 2000 Centene had 270 employees company-wide, with 45 in Clayton occupying 6,000 square feet of leased office space in the former Aragon Place Building at 771 Carondelet Ave. In 2003 the company bought the building for $12.6 million, and expanded into 60,000 square feet of office space.

On July 2 it was announced that Centene would acquire Health Net for $6.8B. While the impact on the St. Louis headquarters is not yet known, the acquisition results in a much larger company, and one poised for growth. Centene currently services just more than 4M people across 22 states, primarily in subsidized health insurance programs serving low-income and disabled individuals. Health Net currently serves nearly 6M individuals via privately sponsored plans, Medicaid and Medicare.

In 2008 Centene, the State-appointed administrator of Medicaid, backed out of plans to be the corporate anchor for Ballpark Village next to Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. The company considered moving its headquarters out of state before Clayton approved $22M in tax incentives. Centene then expanded its footprint within the county seat, building an 18-story office tower at 7700 Forsyth Blvd. Centene Plaza features a 1,700-space parking garage and retail, including Cantina Loredo, Pastaria, Niche, and Kakao Chocolate.

Centene - Clayton, MO{Centene Phase I included a tower at Hanley and Forsyth with parking and retail to the west}

St. Louis-based architectural and engineering giant HOK will be design lead for the second phase of expansion. The firm was also architect for the first phase, and is currently working on a concept for the new Clayton Centenebuilding and grounds. The development zone is expected to be on a recently purchased parcel located directly across Hanley Rd. from Centene Plaza.

In October of 2014 nextSTL first reported Centene had agreed to terms with Gershman Commercial regarding three properties within the expected development zone. The bundle includes 12 S. Hanley Rd. which was completed in 1958, 20 S. Hanley Rd. was constructed in 1960, and 7642 Forsyth Blvd was built in 1952. According to St. Louis County real estate records Hanley Forsyth LLC paid $14.2 million for the properties.

Centene - Clayton, MO

nextSTL sources say Centene has also recently shown interest in purchasing more Clayton properties immediately east of the parcel. These include the buildings at 7620 Forsyth, Wellbridge Athletic Club and Spa, 7606 Forsyth, CoreLink, and 7600 Forsyth, Peoples National Bank. This past October Centene announced it would open an expanded claims processing facility in Ferguson, adding up to 200 new jobs on an eight-acre site on Pershall Road. Additionally, the company has been very active leasing temporary office space in West St. Louis County.

In 2014 Centene signed 5.5-year leases for more than 100,000 square feet of office space at Woodsmill Commons I and II, in Chesterfield. According to nextSTL sources the company is also close to signing a similar lease agreement for more space at Woodsmill Commons and approximately 100,000 square feet of space at Timberlake Corporate Center, also in Chesterfield. An attempt to reach Centene for comment was unsuccessful.

{plaza connecting parking garage and retail to Centene office tower}

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  • Eric

    What happened to the article from earlier this week with the details on the second tower?

    • Alex Ihnen

      It’s coming back, with more info. It was my editorial mistake to post it when I did.

  • Dave

    Any luck recovering the article from Monday that discusses the proposed Phase II Centene tower at Hanley and Forsyth? I’m sure there some folks very interested in this project.

  • Dave

    What happened to your article from Monday, Jan. 18 labeled “pre-construction work begins for 28 story Centene II tower”?

    • John R

      I was about to post on it after getting my thought on Clayton together. Saved me some time!

  • Dave

    Lots of activity at the SE corner of Hanley and Forsyth lately… A Geotechnical company and a surveying company have been out in full force. Have plans been submitted to the city? Could get interesting.

    • Geoff Whittington

      Check back soon.

    • Dave

      Demolition of old Wine Merchant and other two buildings between Carondelet and Forsyth to be taken down beginning early February.

      • moorlander

        I believe it.

  • Chris

    Can we stop acting like people really want to work downtown? Clayton has a better chance of becoming our real downtown then our actual down town coming back. Most of the people that work for these companies live in the county and they don’t want to drive to market street to go to work and hand over an extra 1% of their income to the city of doing so. I would argue that it is infinitely more important that we focus on keeping the jobs in the region than to worry about what zip code the HQ is located. Let’s focus on making the city more livable so it will naturally attract growth. We are better off banking on start ups to fill our vacancies downtown the to count on Fortune 500 companies moving there. #thinkregionally

    • John R

      I disagree; you’re expressing the kind of sentiment that is leaving the Saint Louis region behind.

      First, we have to get more large companies in both downtown Saint Louis and downtown Clayton. As an example of our destructive jobs sprawl, we have 9 Fortune 500 companies HQ’d in the region but less than half are in Clayton & STL, where there are 2 in each. (I give suburban Express Scripts some slack than the others b/c it is at least somewhat accessible to Metrolink.) We simply have to re-center our region more and take the lead of more thriving metros like Atlanta, which are capitalizing on the potential that their light rail and other rapid transit systems have to offer.

      Second, I believe a lot of workers employed in the County would prefer to work in downtown. I highly doubt that workers at say Stifel are less satisfied with their office location than say those of Scottrade. I’m not expecting or even necessarily advocating that companies anchored in the burbs owning their buildings will up and leave for downtown, but there is no reason that many of them can’t have a sizable downtown presence and appeal to a good segment of their employees at the same time.

      Third, the city already is quite livable but I agree downtown stakeholders need to focus on creating a greater value proposition for companies. But this appeal should attract companies of all sizes — from start-ups to the Fortune 500. This is how we need to #thinkregionally. In the end, a weak downtown Saint Louis hurts all of us. It is like Metro: Not all of us use it but all of us need it. .

    • matimal

      Can we stop acting like people all want the same thing and that we speak for that one singular population?

    • Chicagoan

      Downtown StL has more potential than downtown Clayton could ever have.

      Also, I’d rather work in downtown StL than downtown Clayton, any day. So, let’s not act like nobody wants to work there.

  • opendorz

    I’m sure we can expect another square squat box from HOK.

  • Presbyterian

    I suspected something was up when I noticed that the Wine Merchant had moved. I look forward to seeing the renderings!

  • Alex P

    I’m getting really sick of this “let’s tear down a building when there’s perfectly good empty land surrounding it.” Is Clayton that attached to that green space or something?

    • moorlander

      It’s rumored that Centene decided to build east across the street because of parking needs. Believe it or not, the monster parking garage on Forsyth is currently near capacity.

      • kjohnson04

        Tell them to take MetroBus or MetroLink; or carpool; or ride a bike. Clayton is getting to be a lot like Downtown. Too much emphasis on parking.

        • Doug

          Look – if you want dense urban development you need to provide structured parking. It’s a fact of life – get over it.

          • Alex Ihnen

            How much is the issue, and what incentives are provided. It’s routine for a company to guarantee a garage parking space – which likely cost $35,000 to build, and more to maintain, while not offering a free annual Metro pass ($936). Universities (Webster, WUSTL, etc.) are figuring out that students, faculty and staff use the free passes and so reduce the on-campus parking demand, saving the schools millions. And that’s to say nothing of the savings and benefit of better health, less traffic for others, etc. etc. etc.

        • Brian Lewis

          You’d have to convince both Metro and the city of Clayton that improving access from mass transit is good for Clayton – you ever been to the Clayton MetroLink station? It’s pretty obvious that the city wanted nothing to do with it. No connections to shaw park and the worst entrance to the Clayton business district that could possibly have been imagined.

          EDIT: I don’t mean to say that you are wrong – because you’re not. There IS too much emphasis on parking, and there COULD be better mass transit access. But politics and optics obviously got in the way of good policy.

          • kjohnson04

            Actually, I agree with you fully. You’re right.

  • John R

    I don’t know the details of the breakdown in getting Centene to BPV — was it a ploy to get Clayton to give big subsidies? was Cordish too difficult to deal with? — but it really is unfortunate that Centene hasn’t brought any presence to downtown and those leases in the hinterlands really rub me the wrong way. I also wonder what large company this new tower will take away from downtown…. last time it was Armstrong and its several hundred employees. The downtown CBD really could use a new office building to retain/attract companies seeking top-shelf space. .

    • MRNHS

      I don’t have an answer, but every time I see the renderings for the Centene Towers in BPV, I die a little inside. There must have really been something (someone?) that turned Centene off if they don’t even think of downtown anymore.

      • John R

        I guess we’ll never know. The good thing is at least their HQ is in the Clayton CBD and accessible to Metrolink and not out in boonieville; but they should at least have some kind of presence downtown.

        • stldoc

          I had heard years ago that moving to BPV was never real and was solely a ploy to get the resistant property owners in Clayton to come back to the table. And it worked. I do agree with you guys. I really wish they choose downtown but am equally happy they stayed in the region’s core (which I would say includes Clayton) and not the exurbs or another region entirely.

  • SnakePlissken

    Slightly off topic here but I think the “reflective” wrap around its parking garage is pretty dope. While a step in the right direction I’d love to see something similar or video screens or green/ivy walls wrapping other garages in STL. What is the deterrent in doing so? Cost?

    Example – the metro link garage in Brentwood has prime visibility from hwy 40 and its nothing but ugly. Not to mention the numerous garages in Downtown that could be dopified.

    Can we please reimagine the STL parking garage? Can we consider these as potential public art projects? Someone create a website and lets crowdsource different ideas…Anyone?

    Snake, out.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I agree. From 2011: It’s Time to Invest in Parking Garages https://nextstl.com/2011/05/its-time-to-invest-in-parking-garages/

      • SnakePlissken

        I’m pretty sure that post is what got me interested in the parking garage debate! 4 years later… It’s STILL time to invest in parking garages!

    • Its amazing – makes you forget its a parking garage.

    • Geoff Whittington
    • RJ

      I have been screaming about that issue of garages that look like ugly concrete boxes for years and they continues to build them because it is cheaper than spending a little more money to make them look better. I have seen some in other cities you wouldn’t even know it was a garage. The garage at the Kansas City library from the street looks like a shelf of books. Blame the city that doesn’t require this when issuing the building permit.