What was once a mud pit at the site of the old Cardinals stadium has been filled in and new plans are in the works for Ballpark Village, the $650 million mixed-use project the Cardinals and development agency Cordish Company are building on the six-block site. The developers presented revised plans to the Downtown Economic Stimulus Authority (one of several agencies that must approve public funding for the project) during a recent meeting. These call for more flexible figures when it comes to the proportion of residential, retail and office space and take into account the possibility of adding a hotel to the project. With the proposed changes adjusted for the uncertainty of today’s markets, Cordish and the Cardinals hope they can get the approvals they need and break ground this spring.
The last set of plans, presented in 2007, called for 324,000 square feet of retail, 100,000 square feet of office space and 225 residential units. Those residential units look especially risky in the current housing market, so the revised plans call for as few as 100 units, along with as little as 225,000 square feet of retail and up to 750,000 square feet of office space. Also, the builders now plan to seek LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) certification and will consider a hotel.
Some parts of the plans remain the same, including the ‘Live District,’ an element of many similar projects built by Cordish that features an area open only to pedestrian traffic, with a central space designed for concerts and festivals. “We wanted to make sure the middle of the district was a thriving space year round,” explains Chase Martin, Cordish development director. The idea is to generate foot traffic, as at Cordish’s mixed-use developments in Kansas City and Louisville, which draw 15,000 to 20,000 people on an average weekend and have 150 days of active programming per year.
Of course, Ballpark Village will have something previous Cordish projects don’t—a ballpark right next door. “You can basically put on top of the 150 days of active programming the 81 home games,” says Cardinals president Bill De Witt. And certain features will be designed to take advantage of the stadium next door. The office tower just beyond left field, for example, will have bleachers hanging off levels three and four, perfect for viewing the game. There also will be a Cardinals-themed restaurant, store, museum and sports bar. Unlike other ball parks, DeWitt points out, “There isn’t anything like Ballpark Village as a satellite experience.”
“I think that this project is going to create a destination for downtown that we’ve never had before,” Alderwoman Phyllis Young said at the Nov. 6 meeting. Mayor Francis Slay added that, in spite of challenging credit markets, the program was something the city could still support. “It has the potential to bring many jobs to the city of St. Louis,” he said. The developers estimate that Ballpark Village will generate 1,200 to 2,600 construction jobs and 1,200 to 4,500 ongoing jobs. Members of the Downtown Economic Stimulus Authority, who unanimously approved the revised plans, were similarly optimistic. “The demand for housing in downtown St. Louis remains strong; the difficulty has been in financing condos,” said president Jim Cloar. “Every indication we get is that people still want to live downtown.”
Pending approval by the city board of aldermen this year and by the Department of Economic Development and the Missouri Development Financial Board early next year, the developers will go ahead with the bond sale this spring. DeWitt said they hope to complete the first phase by spring 2011 (two years later than was promised in the 2007 plans). For the July 2009 All-Star game, they hope the site will accommodate a 100,000-square-foot gala tent, but, DeWitt said, “There’s no guarantee.” As for retailers, Cordish won’t announce who’s in until after the project is fully approved. But, Martin says, “I can say that this project has captured the attention of retailers across the nation. We want to make Clark Street a great street.”