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Saint Louis Ballpark Village (BPV) is a $650 million district under development adjacent to Busch Stadium where the St. Louis Cardinals play in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, occupying the site of the previous Busch Stadium. Situated on the 200 and 300 blocks of Clark Street across from Busch Stadium, it will cover ten acres and seven city blocks consisting of 250,000 square feet (23,000 m2) of retail shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, 400 residential units, 450,000 square feet (42,000 m2) of office space, and 2,000 parking spaces. As BPV's name and locale suggest, it is designed to be an extension of Busch Stadium and an innovative approach to creating a neighborhood – hearkening to Chicago's own Wrigleyville district next to Wrigley Field – and vitalize downtown St. Louis' economic potential. The project is envisioned as a year-round boon instead of only on the 81 days of Cardinals home games, make the region more of a focal point in the Midwest, and enhance the ballpark goers' experience.
Although delays prevented the project's commencement for several years, the first main phase of construction is currently underway starting early 2013 and is expected to be completed in time for Opening Day of the 2014 Major League Baseball season. The Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum and Cardinal Nation Restaurant, Fox Sports Midwest Live! Restaurant, the Budweiser Brew House, and PBR St. Louis all alight the first phase. More phases of development are expected in the future, with plans to be announced. The primary developer is the Cordish Company of Baltimore, Maryland.
Planning for BPV began in 1999 concurrent with the Cardinals' exploration of ways to build a new stadium since Busch Memorial Stadium, opened in 1966, was in poor repair. After plans for the new Busch Stadium were finalized, the Cardinals entered into an agreement with the City of St. Louis to have a stake in the completion of the development. Although the city of St. Louis supported the project, they refused to guarantee about $17 million in bonds that the state and city authorized. Under the initial agreement, at least one block of the Village was to have been completed by 2007 and the entire development was to have been finished by 2011. If Ballpark Village was not completed by 2011, the Cardinals were to have paid a $3 million-per-year until the actualization of the project.
However, numerous delays induced by a combination of the financial crisis, a soft real estate market and the recession stalled the project, making the only use fit for the land a softball field and a parking lot. Thus, the empty lot became an object of ridicule, saddled with the nicknames "Softball Village," and "Lake DeWitt," named after club owner William DeWitt, Jr. and owing to the poor drainage of the vacant lot.
Another major snag occurred in March 2008 when the Centene Corp. backed out of a plan to put their corporate headquarters in BPV, instead building in Clayton. Regardless, a finalized agreement was reached in the following July. Construction was due to begin in late August, but did not. Legal fees of more than $300,000 piled up as the city and the Cardinals attempted to work out a complicated public financing deal. However, the Cardinals were only liable for the fees once they raised the capital to build, which commenced in 2013. The team had anticipated BPV would be built in time for the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game as Busch Stadium played host. However, the recession further delayed the advent of construction. The Cardinals announced in March 2009 that the area would be used for a softball field and parking area during the game.
For an extended period of time following the financial crisis, raising confidence in potential investors has been difficult. Further, the office retail market has been dismal. With a 25.2 vacancy rate and lease rate of $15.06 per square foot, which are the worst bottom lines of any area of St. Louis, "it doesn't really justify building any new office supply," said Jeff Kaiser, managing director in the St. Louis branch of the brokerage firm CBRE Group. “Leasing activity has been pretty stagnant over the past several years — there’s no migration out to the suburbs and no new growth coming in.” The technology and financial sectors could be the exception, but the residential market appears more profitable, according to Kaiser.
In time, the downtown residential outlook began to improve. Since 1999, more than $1.6 billion worth of developments in downtown St. Louis has taken shape. Another $168 million is currently in development. Further, a population increase from 9,600 in 2005 to the current 14,000 spurred a new, $250 million, real estate development. An affiliate of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners of Norwalk, Connecticut converted an old mall and outlying buildings into a retail, office, residential and entertainment district creating Mercantile Exchange. In turn, this economic boon has helped to make the project's development more of a reality. Further, apartment occupancy rates exceeded 90%. A residential tower that would look in Busch Stadium is also anticipated.
In January 2011, plans were announced for a revised, scaled-down first phase to include 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) of stores, restaurants and corporate headquarters for Stifel Financial Corporation with a target opening of 2013. The new development paled in comparison to the original design, filling just two of the ten blocks originally planned for BallPark Village. The cost would be $100 million as compared to the $650 million original plan. However, plans for future phases are still intended to finish a close approximation of the original plan of a grand total of about 700,000 square feet. BPV's developer, Cordish, recently completed the $850 million nine-block Power and Light District in Downtown Kansas City. Developers had invested more than $1.6 billion in downtown residential developments in St. Louis since 1999, and another $168 million was currently under development as of May 2013.
On September 19, 2012, Missouri state legislature approved tax credits for utilities surrounding BPV. US Bank was one of the financiers of the project, who required tax credits, a construction loan and an undisclosed amount of Cardinals equity for about $7.6 million. A new groundbreaking date was set for November 15, 2012, with construction to begin that day, but it again was delayed. Because St. Louis would not guarantee the bonds, the Cardinals ownership bypassed the public bonds market and purchased the entire $17 million repository themselves. If BPV performs as expected, the investors will be repaid the entire principal over their 25-year term plus earn interest rate of 6% to 9%.
The Cardinals announced a groundbreaking date of February 8, 2013, to start construction of the $100 million, 100,000 square-foot first-phase of the project. The team hoped to open Ballpark Village in time for Opening Day in 2014. The entire project could still total more than $700 million at build out.
Ground was finally broken early on February 8. The Cardinals released new images of the $100 million first phase of the planned development Thursday the day before, showing a Budweiser Brew House and Live! at Ballpark Village entertainment area, Cardinals Nation, the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum and the 300-plus seating area with views into the ballpark. On February 14, the Cardinals announced plans to add the PBR Cowboy Bar to the entertainment area. This part of the project moved along with little delay. On August 27, the final truss intended to hold the retractable roof was laid into place. On September 18, chief operations officer Jim Watry announced plans for more than 1,000 jobs to be opened. Before Opening Day, 2014, the rooftop seating similar to that found in Wrigleyville on top of the Cardinals Museum and Cardinal Nation Restaurant and Budweiser Brew House is on track to be completed.
The St. Louis Cardinals announced the addition of three more tenants to BPV on November 14, 2013, including The Drunken Fish (a sushi restaurant), Howl at the Moon (a piano bar), and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. These three new tenants were expected to be open in time for the completion of the first phase for the Cardinals' Opening Day, 2014. The extent and form in which the frozen custard stand will be present was still yet to be determined, however, according to Ted Drewes operations manager Chris Beckemeyer. The Cardinals and Cordish released a press statement that Ted Drewes Frozen Custard "is expected to be a featured item inside of the Live! Marketplace and also at a branded kiosk on the exterior event plaza located on the same location as the former Busch Stadium infield."