First Look: World Wide Technology Westport Site Plan and Renderings

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In April of this year it was reported that St. Louis tech behemoth World Wide Technology had signed a letter of intent to construct a new headquarters at Westport Plaza. The move to the new building will be a short one. Currently located at 701 Fee Fee Lane in Maryland Heights, WWT opened a new two-story, 57,200sf headquarters in 2013. That project included a 150-seat auditorium and specialized video-enabled smart conference rooms and an Executive Briefing Center.

The Westport Plaza headquarters is planned as a 210K sf building and 763-space five-level parking garage to accommodate 1,000 employees. The project, designed by M+H Architects, including modifications to the existing lake and traffic circulation, would total nearly $96M. WWT is seeking yet-to-be-determined incentives from Maryland Heights, St. Louis County, and the State of Missouri.

WWT was founded in 1990 and had more than $6.8B in revenue in 2014, making it the second largest privately held company in the St. Louis region, behind only Enterprise Holdings ($17.8B) and placing it 59th on Forbes’ Largest Private Companies list for 2014. WWT employs more than 3,000, adding more than 500 in 2014, with plans to add another 600 in 2015.

Lodging Hospitality Management of St. Louis bought the 42-acre Westport Plaza in 2012 for $33M. Opened in 1973, and once a lively retail destination, the complex’s 200K sf of retail has suffered low occupancy for years. Westport features conference space, hotels, and dozens of offices as well. Adding 1,000 WWT employees to the approximately 3,000 already at Westport is seen as a big step toward its revitalization.

{701 Fee Fee Lane WWT headquarters opened in 2013}

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  • John Gardner

    Another ugly building. Amazing how these billion dollar companies like Edward Jones and World Wide Technology have no libido for aesthetics.

  • SJ

    A few points you failed to mention in the article and in the comments: WWT purchased Asynchrony (downtown) and is a sponsor of T-Rex (downtown). Most of the “tech” jobs aren’t downtown, they’re in the county. The “tech” jobs downtown are startups or slightly mature startups. The major tech companies are all over the region: Express Scripts, Panera, Brown Shoe, Centurylink, Monsanto, Mastercard, etc. Those jobs are mostly in the county. Let’s not pretend that downtown is a booming tech industry location. It has a lot of potential and a lot of cheap space, thus a lot of start ups. WWT, while a “tech” company, sells hardware, services and now software. The jobs there are 3/4 business related jobs (sales, marketing, HR) or supply chain related. The IT department is moderately sized and their software department is downtown. WWT has also been in Maryland Heights for 20 years. Do you really expect them to move downtown with the majority of their campus, including their tech showcase buildings, in Maryland Heights? Just a little perspective.

    • FrenchyIU

      “WWT has also been in Maryland Heights for 20 years. Do you really expect them to move downtown with the majority of their campus, including their tech showcase buildings, in Maryland Heights?”

      Finally, someone understands why a company that has been established in an area for nearly 20 years just isn’t going to move downtown or to the Cortex because it’s the “cool” thing to today. Just look at their neighbor, Edward Jones. They building more on their campus, with more buildings to come in the next 3-5 years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more interesting developments in the Westport area within the next 5-10 years.

      • John R

        I need to push back a bit here. Companies relocate all the time and sometimes they pull up stakes out of an entire region. It is easier to do this when you lease instead of own your real estate, but it still happens. rather regularly. One oft-cited example of a large tech company uprooting from its long-time suburban home to downtown is Quicken Loans, which has since brought several thousands of workers downtown over the course of the past four years and has brought a major change in the trajectory of the city and region for the better. GE is currently looking at moving from its long, long, long time home in CT to Hotlanta. On and on…

        With WWT, I think a more practical time to have moved downtown would have been just a few years ago before constructing its latest office building, but again there is nothing at all unique about firms relocating from long-time homes as it happens all the time; around the nation increasingly major moves are going into center cities. Did I expect WWT to do so? No. But I think it is a shame they did not.

      • MRNHS

        No one said downtown is a booming tech industry location. However, study after study shows that the exact people these companies are trying to hire prefer urban locations. So it’s not really doing it because it’s cool, it’s doing it because that’s where the talent you are trying to hire actually wants to work. I have a pretty in-demand job (not in IT) and have fielded several calls from headhunters that want me to work for (or at least interview with) them. I draw a line at 270 and do not go west. I draw a line at Olive and do not go north. I know I’m one person, but a few recruiters that have called me from way out have said I’m not the first person to turn them down because of location.

        It just seems short-sighted that these companies continue to build sprawling campuses. Edward Jones (who was once 100% downtown and thus disproves your relocation guidelines) has buildings up and down 270. I know several employees that have to drive the 15 minutes from Westport to Manchester (or vice versa) for meetings (not to mention the time it takes to park and walk). It seems that if they had inter-connected office towers downtown, this wouldn’t be so much of a burden. And I know EJ has zero interest in helping St. Louis become a global city (though they still do help the metro area in other ways), but couldn’t you just imagine the possibilities/impressions our city would give off if they and one or two other big companies you mentioned from the deep burbs relocated downtown? I know, I know…the St. Louis corporate mentality is “let someone else do it” and but c’mon…someone needs to step up. That’s all we are saying….just another missed opportunity for someone that CAN make a difference to actually make a difference. Meanwhile, tourists come to town and stay downtown and wonder where the hell the people are (and then don’t return). Tourists don’t come to drive around Westport’s drab USSR-style architecture.

        I’m not saying every business should be downtown…but I firmly believe that, as downtown goes, so goes the region.

        • John R

          Interesting you mentioned Ed Jones…. I wasn’t aware of their original HQ downtown; do you know when and where it last was in downtown? Also, while it would be great to land a full-blown HQ relocation, we really don’t even need that… the cumulative investment of larger companies opening branches/divisions, etc. in downtown can make a huge dent.

          As just one example, Centene could be renting downtown instead of taking up some of the former RGA offices in WestCo. We could re-make downtown with a wave of 10k- 50K sq. ft. leases and start to turn our region into a better direction.

          • MRNHS

            They moved out in the 1972. They were at 4th and Chestnut, where the building that houses Hardee’s HQ is now (though it was a different building when EDJ was there).

            I agree that chipping away at the vacancy rates is likely the best start. However, a large corporate tenant locating downtown would likely require a new office building, which I think would bring other small firms downtown as well…as firms would want to be in the newest and best building (like Armstrong Teasdale did with the Centene building).

  • Guest

    I feel they will really regret not being a part of Cortex. Stupid decision to locate this tech company in the burbs today. The youngest, brightest, smartest talent in the county, and the world for that matter, do not want to live/work in the burbs. How do they not know this?
    Its almost a laughing matter? But it’s too sad. Huge opportunity missed.

    • John Gardner

      Well said.

  • John Warren

    Such a missed opportunity. Too bad they didn’t locate downtown or the Cortex like everyone else has commented. Glad they’re here though…

  • RyleyinSTL

    This guy is holding a ball! An adult male is bringing his ball to the wonderful WWT gardens at Westport. He and his wife (walking hand in hand) want to play with his ball accent the concrete fly over ramps of I270 and Page Ave. Can you also see the guy playing with a frisbee?!

    Ha! You got any snow you want to sell my sister in Saskatchewan?

    Slums of the future I tell you, slums of the future.

    • STLEnginerd

      I’m sure the location was set long before this rendering was created but as a soccer fan Jim Kavanaugh probably appreciated the nod. Always know your customer.

  • Chicagoan

    A tech company and they decided to locate along the highway? That’s pretty disappointing. This seemed like a good opportunity to get some more workers downtown.

  • RyleyinSTL

    Westport is a crumbing suburban eyesore (just take a peak in the covered parking when it’s raining to see infrastructure issues). Developers realized that suburban business parks had zero appeal so they attempted to recreate a walk-able street environment in the middle of disposable office/hotel buildings. Even worse, they went the tudor revival route and also put in a mosquito breeding pond. The only people who go to Westport are forced to do so.

    So yes, if you want to attract younger(ish) tech professionals, the sad confines of a 1970’s idea of suburban utopia might not do it for you.

    Yawn.

    But ya, A STL County company is doing well, I’m happy for them. No doubt Westport and MLHS are pumped.

  • mc

    terribly unfortunate that they didn’t build downtown.. terribly unfortunate.

  • MRNHS

    I can certainly understand the argument for staying near where you currently are, but at the same time, I can’t help but remember CEO James Kavanaugh’s recent comment on how it is difficult to recruit IT jobs here (believe it was in the Business Journal, but couldn’t find the exact quote). I would think recruiting would be improved if they built a nice office downtown, Cortex, Clayton, or somewhere along that central corridor. Overall though, I suppose this is much better than shipping the entire company to SF like Square did.

    • Chicagoan

      If the CEO said that, this is one big missed opportunity. Tech workers and young working professionals as a whole are looking for a certain something when they consider where to live after college and this isn’t it.

      • Tim E

        I can agree to an extent, because the hard reality of needing a job and income matter at the end of the day. WWT will attract employees

        • Chicagoan

          They won’t get the people they desire the most, though. Those people are going to tech companies with office space in the city. Bars and restaurants nearby, retrofitted loft/warehouse space, transit access, all of those things. This doesn’t offer any of that. WWT is a great company, but this is a horribly unappealing place to work.

          • Guest

            It’s utterly useless to try to make the willfully blind see. Any decently educated individual knows what gifted and talented people want is an urban environment with it’s diversity, density and charm of fascinating architecture which can no longer be produced. The handwriting was on the wall at least 30 years ago. If this shamefully outdated failing trend continues our (once) wonderful city will continue it’s downward spiral, and those remaining successful corporations will eventually leave St. Louis completely or sell out (as some have already done). It’s pretty sad when our CBD continues to lose out to it’s own suburbs and people who SHOULD realize why St. Louis isn’t taken seriously nationally still…don’t…get…it. These are the companies that are facing ultimate failure because they appeal to mediocre talent at best. I seriously question the competence of the CEOs of such companies and anyone who supports their perceptions and actions. The ignorance is almost laughable and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if laughter at such ignorance goes on in corporate circles and universities of the cities that have left us in the dust long ago.
            The truly gifted and talented can’t be fooled, no matter how hard the effort. The person who tries makes a fool of themselves without even realizing it.

          • Chicagoan

            The thing that bothers me most is downtown St. Louis has so many beautiful buildings that are perfect for offices because, well, they once were. In a lot of other cities, these charming buildings are being renovated into hotels and office spaces (among other things), while in St. Louis, they continue to sit vacant as companies appear more interested in being in Clayton or Maryland Heights. I just don’t get why St. Louis is either so far behind on this positive trend, or can’t convince people to come downtown and renovate.

          • Chicagoan

            To expand upon that, getting companies to come downtown is what’s going to wake up this area. Once you have more people there, hopefully young working professionals, bars and restaurants will want to be there. Developers will be looking to get in the game, either building new apartments/condos, or renovating historic buildings, because people like being close to work. I feel like this is what’s going to jump start St. Louis and the downtown area, so it’s disappointing to see this missed opportunity.

          • jhoff1257

            “Developers will be looking to get in the game, either building new apartments/condos, or renovating historic buildings…”

            This is happening Downtown already. May not be the speed at which you, or I, prefer but it is taking place. It’s also taking place in dozens of other areas of the city. And it’s worth noting that many of the largest historic structures Downtown have largely been renovated. It’s not as empty and desolate as people here are making it out to be.

            Would I prefer WWT move to the City? Of course. But at this point in time a company adding 1,000 jobs and building a new headquarters building is great for the St. Louis economy (which is much bigger then the City). Reading these comments you’d think WWT adding onto a project they started 2 years ago is the death blow to the City. It’s not.

            And to address a comment from another person, downtown offices and companies (or lack thereof) are not the reason St. Louis isn’t “taken seriously” anymore. That belongs to our fragmented government. St. Louis City and County are home to a combined 1.3 million people. If we were united as one and acted like a city of 1.3 million people we’d be far better off, both in perception and economically. Instead we are all divided into 92 little fiefdoms constantly competing against each other instead of our peer cities. Fix the fiefdoms and then focus on moving everyone Downtown.

          • Chicagoan

            That’s a great point about city/county government. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right places, but when I visit St. Louis to go to Cardinals games or explore the city, downtown just seems so incredibly desolate. The roads are in poor shape, there aren’t any good bars or restaurants, there are too many parking lots and not enough street scenes. The worst part is that area downtown by the arch, surrounding Kiener Plaza. You feel right in the heart of it all and the prime eating options are a Hardee’s, Hooter’s, and TGI Friday’s, sitting below a couple of ugly parking garages. I feel like St. Louis needs to start at the core and expand from there. So much potential downtown.

          • John R

            Downtown right now is in flux…. there is some momentum but too many areas in even the CBD are moribund and dated. Kiener Plaza and surroundings is a perfect example but the good news there is that it is slated for a major overhaul as part of the Arch project; in addition, the parking garage owner is also planning some enhancements for the street-level retail and hopefully can lure a more exciting tenant or two.

            But the plain fact of the matter is we’ll need to land thousands of more residents and workers before we can make a major dent in day-to-day vibrancy.

          • jhoff1257

            Maybe that’s the point. St. Louis has much more to offer then just downtown. I much prefer the CWE, Lafayette Square, Benton Park, Soulard, South Grand, Cherokee Street, The Grove, etc. These areas are booming. I also love St. Louis residential architecture so that may be a driving force too. I love Downtown and I like everyone else here (despite what some “guests” will tell you) want nothing more then downtown to become the thriving center of this region. It’s on it’s way there, at a glacial pace no less, but it’s far more along then it was even 10 years ago. The crash in 2008 didn’t do us any favors either.

            My suggestion next time you’re in town, if you don’t already live here, is check out a few of the other neighborhoods. Downtown is great and once you get north of Market your options do get a bit better. Busch is quite a dead zone, even on game days. But in my opinion St. Louis really shows itself in its neighborhoods.

          • Chicagoan

            It’s the same way here. Chicago has a nice downtown, but I almost never go there. I don’t live or work downtown, so I don’t have much of a reason to go there. There are a lot of beautiful buildings, great museums, all of that, but it’s often too crowded and swarming with tourists, so I tend to stay away.
            Chicagoans dine and drink in the neighborhoods. Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Wicker Park. Edgewater and Uptown have also seen a lot of growth, with Uptown especially having a lot of potential. And, that’s just a few neighborhoods.

            Despite that, your downtown is how you present yourself to business people, tourists, and others.

            Perhaps if St. Louis had better transit options, being a “neighborhood city”, so to speak, wouldn’t be such an issue.
            But, as it stands, you’ll need a car to experience these neighborhoods and as a result a number of visitors will have to settle for downtown, which isn’t the city’s best representation right now.

          • John R

            Agree 1,000%. We lose a lot of our potential in both the neighborhoods and downtown as a result of our lack of quality transportation into the neighborhoods.

            Also, the simple fact of the matter is that having a healthy downtown Saint Louis is essential to the city’s tax base as well as the overall strength of the region. WWT would have succeeded wherever it chose to locate in the region and it is a unfortunate the company didn’t take a leadership role and help change the direction of this static region.

          • jhoff1257

            Uber would be a nice placeholder until we can get some sort of a North-South transit line…

          • Guest

            And you’re on the bandwagon that says because more jobs are added locally even if not downtown it’s still good for the economy? It’s still ignoring our most precious resource…young college educated creative people…who are the driving force of successful corporations…who don’t want to live and work in the suburbs…especially one that tries to disguise itself as urban…(you know, the one with the phony urban street?)… of a nothing city. So, why contribute to this nonsense?
            St. Louis has been fragmented since 1876. When I was a teen (that was the early 1960s) St. Louis was still one of the top cities in the nation. It began to falter in the 70’s. How old are you? You’ve got lots to learn, kiddo, because your statement on this is utter nonsense.
            Although I agree about the fiefdoms, the idea is NOT to “move everyone downtown”. It’s about making this city function like a sane and workable city, offering every lifestyle every other successful city has…including downtown, including suburbs. But, the suburbs know their place in those other cities, don’t they?

          • jhoff1257

            I don’t appreciate the judgmental tone and I’m not a kid either. I never said we should ignore downtown, quite the contrary. I’d much prefer to see WWT move downtown or to the city, I even said exactly that in my last comment. And whether you like it or not adding jobs to the region is good for the economy even if they aren’t downtown. Our metropolitan economy covers Westport as much as it cover Downtown or even god awful St. Charles.

            My support for downtown and the core is clear. Hundreds of comments on this site over the years will attest to that. I guess I just don’t see this as downtown’s doomsday as you and so many others do. A local company is adding jobs where they currently operate. Not as great as having their name on a prominent building downtown, but not a horrible thing either.

            And this does happen in other cities, by the way. Cerner, the largest company in Kansas City (a technology company at that) is spending over a billion dollars to build a few mid rise buildings surrounded by parking lots at a massive freeway interchange in South KC. This despite a booming tech startup scene in the city core. AMC theaters just took $47 million dollar check to ditch Downtown KC for suburban Leawood. Sprint is headquartered on a campus designed in Collegiate Gothic in Overland Park.

            And “move everyone downtown” was hyperbole, obviously lol.

          • John R

            I really find the state of our downtown buildings to be fascinating… it is true we have been some making progress but at the same time we’ve been taking some huge steps back.

            In fact, I’d venture to say we have had the worst record among peer cities during the post-Great Recession era beginning in 2011 or so if we consider the amount of space that has gone dark and with no imminent redevelopment plans. Such buildings include the One ATT Center and Railway Exchange (each of which exceed 1 million sq ft.) along with other significant buildings including the beautiful International Shoe and CPI buildings on Washington and the Millennium Hotel complex on S. 4th. I find it incredible that we’ve emptied out more than 3,000,000 million square feet of what should be desirable buildings the past few years during a time when peer downtowns are experiencing unqualified progress.

          • jhoff1257

            That’s actually a good point. I did forget about the Railroad Exchange building, that was a punch in the gut. Though it was a shell of its former self even before 2011. The ATT and Millennium buildings are tough because they were built as single use towers for one tenant. That makes a redevelopment especially hard. Not to mention the Millennium owners basically let that building shut itself down. It’s been rough and like I said 2008 really put the breaks on it seems. Projects like SLU Law, Webster U and the Arcade, the Roberts Tower finally filling up and that hotels are on the rise to give me some hope though. Hopefully some more things start to pick up soon.

          • John R

            I think the mixed-use Arcade-Wright will provide a nice boost and I wouldn’t doubt if another larger historic building or two get tackled in part as a result of the recent New Markets award but progress can’t come fast enough. Also, in regard to the recession, for whatever reason we’ve been slow to pick back up since its end…. Cleveland is an example of a city that got hit even harder than we did yet it has been killing it the past few years with development in the CBD and along their Eds & Meds corridor.

        • Chicagoan

          If I could offer one example, look at Kraft Foods and their recent move from suburban Northfield to Chicago. They did this, in part, because the allure of their expansive suburban location had lost its luster. Moving to downtown Chicago (Aon Center) meant that those who lived in the suburbs would have commuter rail transit access, and those who lived in the city could have transit access via the L. They did it, in part, to remain competitive in hiring the best talent. This kind of pressure needs to happen in St. Louis, too. Hopefully it will sometime.

          • Tim E

            Chicagoan, thanks for the viewpoint. Agree with a lot of posts that yes a downtown, or even a Cortex, heck a Clayton central business district move would have been a nice pick up for the central corridor. But, I think the issue at the end of day is executives. Yes, you can cite Kraft Foods and probably make the case that McDonalds should have moved downtown a long time ago (I use to play pickup games at the Oakbrook center because my former employer is just down the road McDonalds HQ). Heck, even Clayco’s Chief picked up and moved its corporate’s HQ to downtown Chicago from St. Louis burbs. But I believe a lot of these moves have to do with executive preferences at end of day.
            .
            At same time, since I moved to the Bay Area from St. Louis you wouldn’t believe how much Google, Facebook, and Apple are expanding their suburban footprint and all their proposed new campuses are built near freeways more so then transit. South Bay traffic will continue to get worse because a small fraction of their work force will ride a bus to pay a big premium on a small space in a cool San Fran neighborhood,
            .
            In the meantime, I will get only older then my mid forties and continue to use my real name. As some might not believe, there is a lot of experienced, highly educated and talented individuals who have passed their twenties who makes things run. WWT is expanding and making money and a has to balance a few things. Maybe or maybe you don’t know that WWT bought out a downtown based tech company that will remain downtown.