BUSINESS

New Business Surge Drops the Downtown Vacancy Rate to 10-Year Low

If Downtown St. Louis seems more vibrant and active than it has been in recent years, it’s not just your imagination. Thanks to an influx of new business, real estate developments, and an entrepreneurial boom, the Downtown vacancy rate is lower than it’s been in over a decade, according to commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.

“Signature new construction and adaptive reuse projects across the urban core are shifting the perception of corporate relocation into the Downtown area,” says John Warren, director of Cushman & Wakefield. “The community’s emphasis on technology, local startup incubation and cyber-security will continue to benefit tech occupier demand and bolster office fundamentals”

So, who are these new tenants that are boosting the Downtown economy? Here are six stand-out companies that recently opened up shop Downtown and are attracting swarms of fresh talent to the city.

SwipeSum

After receiving an Arch Grant, the rapidly-growing payment solutions tech startup SwipeSum relocated from Los Angeles to St. Louis, which co-founder Michael Seaman called “a startup gem.”

After raising $1 million, SwipeSum moved from Washington Avenue into the Cast Iron Building on Laclede’s Landing.

KnowInk

Founded by St. Louis City Board of Elections director Scott Leiendecker, KnowInk develops technology to make polling and voting simpler, quicker, and smarter (get it? No ink.) KnowInk originally operated out of South County, but Leiendecker moved his business Downtown to Olive Street. KnowInk now has 45 employees.

Momentum

Headquartered in New York, advertising agency Momentum has 44 offices worldwide, one of which is across the street from Union Station on Chestnut Street. Momentum’s St. Louis office used to be in Richmond Heights, but the agency’s CEO cited Downtown’s creative energy as the reason to move Downtown. Momentum occupies 28,000 square feet and employs 150 people.

Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith

When Los Angeles-based law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith looked to expand its footprint in the Midwest, Downtown St. Louis was at the top list. The firm’s new, 10,000 square-foot outpost is in the shadows of the Gateway Arch inside the Deloitte Building.

Label Insight

Another Arch Grant recipient, the three founders of Label Insight recently took their startup down I-55 from Chicago to the Gateway City. Label Insight uses data to help consumers make better-informed shopping decisions and enables retailers to be more transparent. Label Insight now operates with 50 employees in the STL Fusion co-working space on Washington Avenue.

Less Annoying CRM

When five Washington University grads from all over the country formed Less Annoying CRM, they considered both coasts to become their headquarters. However, an Arch Grant kept them home in St. Louis. The company, which has users in 71 countries, helps small businesses manage contacts, track leads, and stay on top of leads. After graduating out of T-REX, Less Annoying CRM built out a floor in their own space on Locust Street.

What’s Next for Downtown Developments?

The business momentum in the Downtown core is expected to carry over into 2020. Of note is Ballpark Village’s $260+ million second phase, featuring Downtown’s first new construction Class-A office building since 1989, which is expected to create 1,700 permanent new jobs.

Also of note is the 15,000 square-foot “Geosaurus, Powered by Bayer” Geospatial Innovation and Resource Center at T-REX. The space is expected to attract new geospatial technology companies in response to the NGA moving its headquarters to St. Louis. The Center will also serve as a talent pipeline for companies like the NGA and Bayer.

“There aren’t many vacant buildings left for developers to purchase Downtown,” says John Warren. “Almost all have been rehabbed or have plans for rehab. It’s actually been a challenge to find vacant buildings for developers.”