Monday, March 22, 2010

Field of Broken Promises

We started Saturday's City to River walking tour at Busch Stadium at the Stan Musual statue across from the MetroLink Station to emphasize the lack of a direct connection between two of Downtown St. Louis' top attractions, the Arch and Busch Stadium.  Before we were able to make this point though, we walked past the six block reminder of broken promises by the St. Louis Cardinals organization to develop Ballpark Village north of the stadium.
Four and a half years after the demolition of the old Busch Stadium, Ballpark village today remains a large asphalt surface parking lot, a softball field, complete with cross slope and a small lake all surrounded by a beautiful chain link fence.  Across the state however in Kansas City, Cordish, the developer who was to build Ballpark Village completed last year the Power & Light District, which bears striking similarities what Ballpark Village would have been, including tenant mix.
Yesterday an article in the Post Dispatch about incentives used to keep large office tenants Downtown was a stinging reminder of the loss of the Centene Headquarters, to Clayton, the nearly completed development which I covered in my last post.  One thing seems certain and that is when the economy does finally recover, the likelihood of a developer coming in and developer coming in and building a six block development at once is slim.  The street grid should be returned and the project should be broken up into the separate blocks that once occupied the area.
I have to wonder, if this had occurred from the beginning right after the demolition of Busch, would Centene have been able to come in and simply acquire the two blocks they wanted and built their buildings without being mired down in a complex series of negotiations between a "master developer" and the City, or would we still be stuck with the same field of broken promises?


Anonymous said...

Certainly you understand that market conditions have a lot to do with the lack of BV progress, right?

Anonymous said...

Certainly you understand that market conditions have a lot to do with the lack of BV progress, right?

STLgasm said...

It's ridiculous and embarrassing that we are looking at a f**king parking lot 5+ years later. I hate to use this cliche, but "I TOLD YA SO!" I knew from the start that this was a lot of hot air, and that the development would be a watered down version of the grand plan. But alas, nothing. NOTHING.

Where is the media on this? Our local newspapers and news stations are not doing their job. It's as if everyone forgot that the new stadium was built contingent on the development of Ballpark Village. This is a joke!

Greg said...

I'm well aware that the stadium was tied to the idea of BPV. However, I am very glad it hasn't gone up.

1) It was an awful idea in the first place that was just going to bring tacky theme restaurants down to the area.

2) One proposal showed it being introverted with limited access from the street grid.

3) It was another "district" created rather than evolving over time. These false pretenses for a project doom it from the start and it lends to a tacky theme to them, when it's not necessary.

Do I want a building there rather than a parking lot, sure, but at the end of the day, I'd rather stop and wait for the right project than getting one that isn't designed and built with the best interest of the city in mind.

A.A. said...

Then the Cardinals should pony-up the money they took from the City for the ballpark. Why does everyone but the Cardinals have to play by the rules? I knew this would not be completed, maybe never, before this bunch of yahoos sell the team anyway. This is a big joke and Mayor Slay should take some of the heat too.

Kara said...

Who is responsible for the design not following the original street grid? What I like most about the Cordish development in KC is that is does follow the original street grid and flows seamlessly into the rest of downtown.

threeonefour said...

Anonymous, certainly you must understand that blaming the lack of activity on the Ballpark Village site on the economy is a flimsy excuse at best.

Planning for the village began in 1999 when the new Busch Stadium was first proposed. By 2006, just as the Cardinals won their 10th World Series Championship, the Cardinals signed an agreement with the city that had deadlines for completion with penalties assessed if they were not met.

This gave the Cardinals almost two full years to commence construction before the global economic downturn made it nearly impossible to secure financing for such a large project. The city has since eased the deadlines, which would have resulted in millions of dollars in penalties if the entire development wasn't complete by 2011. Well, that's just eight months away, and nothing has been done beyond the pitiful-looking parking lot and softball field.

STLgasm is right- the Cardinals were never serious about getting this done in the first place. Otherwise, the Cardinals would have at least completed the first phase before economic conditions worsened.

Most people around town are excited about the beginning of a new season approaching, and while I am no exception, I truly resent the Cardinals' owners for their broken promises to the people of St. Louis. I don't disagree with the notion that the project may be better off if the land is divided and the original street grid is restored, but then, the Cardinals should sell the land and admit they never had any intention to develop it.

But, the Cardinals owners don't care, because they know they have plenty of loyal fans that will continue to pass through the turnstiles, add to their piles of money, and make excuses for an egregious breach of trust between the team and the community.

Vanishing STL said...

The Cardinals ownership had plenty of time and money to get something started before the economy and the real estate market cratered. To be honest though I am somewhat glad that they did not get it built, as I was skeptical about the long term viability of a six block district of chain bar/restaurants, which were slated to be the majority of tenants.

The plan was done by HOK. I would assume they chose to divide it up into the odd plan with small blocks with a park in the middle (like we needed more green space?!). The way it was divided up is another reason I am glad it did not happen. There are a few differences with the KC project: In KC, the original street was still there, whereas here it had already been obliterated in the 60's and today, 7th street from the north is the only street besides the perimeter streets that still connects.

This however should no excuse them from doing the right thing and going back to the old grid. Even if they had put the streets back in and only started building on one or two of the blocks, we would be in far better shape. The block sized parcels would be much more feasible to develop in the future one by one than the giant mega block that we are left with today.

Doug Duckworth said...

At least we're collecting revenue on every ticket sold at Cardinals games. Or not.