It wasn't meant to be anything more than a cocktail hour.
Bill DeWitt III, President of the St. Louis Cardinals was talking with other guests of the UMSL College of Business Administration, proud of the progress on the construction of Ballpark Village (slated to open in April 2014), was asked about the possibility of creating zoned business space on the land Adjacent to Busch stadium.
"You've got to get more growth downtown."
And like that, any notion you might of had of the DeWitt's being the savior of downtown St. Louis as a business epicenter vanished.
Let's look at what's taken place in the past year:
AT&T vacated 44 floors of building space, dispersing over 2,000 to other locations. Leaving one of the tallest downtown office buildings empty.
Macy's closed their downtown store, which at it's peak, had 3,000 people in the Railway Exchange building. And Laclede Gas, while thinking about moving to the now vacant GenAmerica building downtown, looks to be on the outs with another STL skyline staple – the Laclede Gas building.
None of this could (or should) be considered 'good news' when it comes to reviving downtown. Truth be told, the days of having people actually come into 'business districts' and 'office buildings' are probably at the end of their lifespan. Most jobs can be done from a home office. Most office buildings are just fancy meeting rooms.
Technology is killing downtown STL.
On the other hand, movement hasn't been all in the wrong direction. IKEA will be building their first STL store downtown. the aforementioned Ballpark Village will surly keep some of the 3M+ Cardinal patrons from exiting downtown as soon as the game is over. And several other cutting edge STL companies, like LockerDome, keep growing and in turn expanding their footprint downtown.
Bill DeWitt III isn't wrong about his assessment. STL does need more growth. Especially downtown. But I wonder if he's thinking in skyscrapers and office anchor tenants, instead of retail, residential and start-ups.
The concept of 'downtown' in big cities is changing. Fast.
It will be interesting to see what downtown STL actually becomes. And the Cardinals could be helping, even though they might think they're not?