Readers who make it past the first several paragraphs of Riddhi Trivedi-St. Clair’s story in the Sunday Post-Dispatch will find an update of sorts on Downtown’s continuing revitalization. Like most newspaper stories about the economy, the accent generally is on the negative. Yet, several billion dollars of recent private and public investment Downtown have added new retail and dining choices, new residents, and new or expanded businesses that even the daily newspaper can’t ignore.
I recently spent some time talking to John Steffen about his plans. According to John, the Laurel, formerly home to the downtown Dillard’s department store, is now slated for transformation as an Embassy Suites hotel and first floor retail space, in addition to residential apartments and condominiums. Since Pinnacle Entertainment purchased the Embassy Suites on Laclede’s Landing and rebranded it, the popular Embassy Suites brand has been missing. The Embassy Suites at the Laurel will remedy this deficiency. And many of the condos have already been pre-sold.
In addition, the overall development has been expanded to include the long-vacant first floor retail space at 555 Washington as the first step towards realization of John’s Mercantile Exchange concept. General Growth, owners and operators of the Galleria in Richmond Heights as well as hundreds of other successful shopping malls across the country, is leasing and operating the Mercantile Exchange retail space for John, and has interested a number of mainstream retailers in the Laurel and 555 Washington spaces.
Once a TIF process is completed, construction —including the long-awaited removal of the “bridge” over Washington Avenue between the Laurel and St. Louis Center — is expected to commence.