St. Louis, Missouri
The Mercantile Exchange District is the redevelopment of the vacant St. Louis Centre, a failed urban shopping mall that occupies two city blocks in Downtown St. Louis. The mall contained four levels of retail space and connected Dillard’s and Macy’s department stores (both now closed), which occupied their own city blocks at the north and south ends of the mall. From its opening in the 1980s, it was clear the mall contained too much space, with an internal focus that turned its back to the street, creating an unfriendly street-level pedestrian environment. Spinnaker Real Estate conceived a plan to turn the mall “inside out”, including an Embassy Suites, luxury apartments, and the Blues Museum in the former Dillard’s building, demolishing a pedestrian bridge that both took people off sidewalks as well as blocked views, created multiple street-front retail, restaurant, and theater spaces, and infilling the mall with much needed parking for surrounding office towers.
Spinnaker relied on Development Strategies’ expertise in market analysis, public-private funding mechanisms, and valuation throughout this many-year effort, with our work beginning with appraisals for the acquisition of the mall property, consultation with the assessor’s office regarding a reduction in the taxes, complex market analyses determining the gap for potential retail and restaurant uses, market studies for HUD-insured financing of the apartment component, appraisals of the completed project and independent project components for construction and permanent financing, and continued annual valuation of the retail portion of the project for cash flow distributions to the partnership.
While opening during the depth of the Recession, the project has been successful due to reasonable expectations. Its completion has breathed new life into the convention district of Downtown St. Louis, polishing the City’s image as viewed by its employment base, conventioneers, sports fans, and tourists.