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Lack of City businesses

Having moved back to South St. Louis a year ago, after a long hiatus in the suburbs, I have really enjoyed being back. While I recognize that “city life” isn’t for everybody, I think that St. Louis has made some real strides in terms of winning back people lost during the mass exodus era of the 80’s and 90’s. Both commercial and residential sectors that had long been neglected, are seeing new life. Even North City is starting to see a significant turnaround in areas such as Old North St. Louis.

As well as things are going in the relative sense, and while I love being just blocks away from countless restaurants and nightlife destinations, I must admit that I miss some of the perks of suburban life. For whatever reason, some businesses seem to be shying away from opening up shop. To me, the two things that seem to be the most glaringly absent in the area are gyms and movie theaters. I’ve managed to adequately take care of my needs on both fronts, but not as conveniently as I would like.

Consider that the only movie theaters in the City of St. Louis are the Moolah Theatre, the Chase Park Plaza and the soon to be reopened Hi-Pointe. All but Chase Park Plaza have only a single screen and that only has three. As much as I like those places, with all the movies constantly coming out, I often find that the movie I want to see is not playing at one of these theaters.

The nearest megaplex is the Esquire in Richmond Heights and its definitely in need of a little work. Its also far from mega, coming in at only seven screens. To find your way to one of the true megaplexes, you’ve really got to go out of your way. If you live in West County or St. Charles, however, you are always just minutes away from a 12+ screen theater. I’m sure theater chains have concerns over security and vandalism, but I have to think a large theater closer to, if not in the city limits, could do quite well. Rather than cannibalize their existing customer bases by continuing to construct theaters closer and closer together, why don’t they give the urban core of the area a look? Think of all the customers they could pull from Downtown, Soulard, Maplewood, etc..

I look at gyms the same way. I work out at the Fitness Factory Downtown, but if I didn’t want to go there, I don’t have many other choices other than the YMCA. All the other gyms in the city are small and don’t have a lot of the equipment I like. There are things about the Fitness Factory I don’t like too, but since nobody else has opened shop in the city limits, I don’t have a .lot of options. How can the large gym chains like 24 Hour Fitness or Gold’s Gym (I know there used to be one Downtown) not give the area a try?

I don’t know if its simply that these companies don’t see the City as a viable investment option or if something else is to blame. Have our local leaders been doing all they can to court these types of companies? We need to do everything we can to eliminate all the possible objections people might have when considering buying or renting in the City. These might seem like frivolous complaints, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed. Hopefully the powers that be notice as well.

So what do you think about this situation? Any other insight why these establishments are so glaringly absent? Any other type of business that you think is missing in the City?

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Matt Kastner

Matt Kastner is an Investment Real Estate Consultant at St. Louis Real Estate Society in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also develops properties on the side through Threshold Properties. When he isn’t representing investors in the purchase or sale of multifamily properties, rehabs, foreclosures and other income producing properties, he is often taking on rehab projects himself. He lives in South St. Louis and has been in the real estate business since 2004.

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3 thoughts on “Lack of City businesses”

  • Brian S.

    June 25, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I agree with you, although the gym situation seems to be (slowly) improving. If the Fitness Vault on Chouteau ever opens up, that will be helpful – the Soulard/Benton Park/Lafayette Square area is woefully underserved. I used to go to St. Louis Workout on Hampton (just north of Chippewa), which was a great gym. Club Fitness recently opened up in Hampton Village too.

    And we could definitely use a movie theater – I always thought that Kingshighway and Chippewa would be a good spot (I’m guessing the Avalon won’t be making a comeback any time soon). Union Station used to have a theater – I would be interested to know the reasons why it failed. Can’t say I ever went there, although I was still a kid when it was in operation.

    A few other areas in which the city is underserved are electronics, sporting goods and books. There are some good options though – Left Bank II will be a great addition to downtown, Big River Running on Macklind is a great place for shoes, apparel and other gear. I can’t think of any good electronics stores though – a Best Buy would be nice. The Hampton Target is decent, but still has nowhere near the selection of BB or Circuit City.

    A while back, there was talk of developing the old MSD site for retail, but it seems like we haven’t heard anything about that in some time.

    Reply
  • bodyworks

    June 25, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    You are missing plenty of gyms: the Downtown Y and the one on Loughborough come to mind; Workout for Life on Union; the Powerhouse Gym on Watson at the city limits. If you hang on a bit, there are two new state of the rec centers planned for the next year or two, with the south city one already under construction.

    Reply
  • Matt Kastner

    June 27, 2008 at 9:50 am

    I know there is a small place on Hampton as well. I know of the Powerhouse Gym (not sure how nice it is)m but that is a pretty far drive if you live in a neighborhood like Soulard or Shaw. The Y is great if you have a family, but for singles or unmarried couples it is really expensive. Never really been a fan of their workout facilities either. The rec centers are great, but I have yet to see a rec center that offers all the workout options I want. All of these places are family oriented. They fill an important niche, and I am glad they are around, but I still don’t get the snub from all the 24 hour chains. I bet a 24 hour place would do killer business at a location like Chippewa and Kingshighway or Chippewa and Hampton.

    Reply

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