Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cardinals Unveil New Targets for Ballpark Village

Cardinals Unveil New Targets for Ballpark Village

Battered by a shifting economy and tighter credit markets, 2008 turned into a rebuilding year for the Cardinals' plans for Ballpark Village in downtown St. Louis. On Wednesday, the Cardinals unveiled the outline of a new development agreement with the City of St. Louis that provides them with more flexibility as to what they will build.

Under the new plan, the Cardinals agree to build between 100,000 and 750,000 square feet of Class A office space, the first new office construction in downtown in two decades. Under the old agreement, the Cardinals committed to building 300,000 square feet of office space.

The retail component also has become cloudier. The existing plan called for constructing 300,000 square feet of retail space in Phase I. The new agreement gives the Cardinals a range to shoot for: 225,000 to 360,000 square feet.

The estimated cost of building Phase 1 has risen to $320 million from the previous estimate of $280 million. Although the percentage of the cost that the city and state are responsible for financing is decreased in the new agreement to 32 percent, the top amount of that commitment has increased by nearly $4.5 million to $102.4 million

The new plan also has a small residential component, 100 to 250 units, which would likely be built in Phase 2. The estimated cost of the total two-phase project also is given as a range in the new agreement: somewhere between $387 million and $600 million.

Cardinals' President Bill DeWitt and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay commended Stifel Nicolaus for assisting in the negotiations that led to the new agreement. Stifel President Ron Kruszewski said, "We were charged with modifying the previous development agreement to give the development team more flexibility to respond to changing market conditions while also preserving the City's core principles. This new agreement accomplishes all of these goals."

Slay said he will recommend the new agreement for immediate approval to the Board of Estimate & Apportionment, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, and the State of Missouri, a process that is expected to take eight to 10 months.

The off-again-on-again project has languished while mud and water accumulate in the hole at the old stadium site. The Cardinals hope that with this agreement the project will finally move forward. DeWitt announced that site work will begin shortly - an exact date is be announced in the coming weeks - to give developers a jump on the construction schedule pending approval by the Board of Aldermen and the Missouri Assembly. It also will give them a jump on the All Star Game, which will be played in St. Louis in July 2009.