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ST. LOUIS-Over the objection of the owners of adjacent properties, Centene Corp. has hired locally based international architect Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum to design a twin-tower, 600,000-sf expansion to its existing 100,000-sf headquarters here. RFPs for a co-developer of the mixed-use project have been out for several weeks, and the locally based Medicaid program provider plans to make a selection soon, according to Robert Schenk, VP of corporate marketing.

Completion of the expanded Centene Plaza complex calls for the acquisition of the adjacent properties. St. Louis County Judge Carolyn Witthington rejected a petition for a referendum to let voters determine whether or not developers could use eminent domain to evict the owners. Aldermen of Clayton, the suburban municipality in which Centene is located, have already approved the project.

Schenk says, “the municipality provided, as part of the agreement, the use of eminent domain. However, we are in the process of negotiating with the owners, and are also involved in ongoing individual court cases.”

Michael Neidorff, Centene’s chairman and CEO, tells GlobeSt.com the estimated construction cost is $190 million. He anticipates breaking ground in fall 2007, and the complex will be completed in three phases, which could overlap. The first includes enhancements of the existing 10-story building and an adjacent parking garage the company acquired from the city. The second is demolition of a parking garage for construction of the first tower, and the third is construction of the second tower and approximately 60,000 sf of retail space.

Centene plans to expand its work force into between one half to two-thirds of the additional office space. It will lease the remaining office space and the retail. “The retail,” Neidorff says, “will be services to support employees and office occupants.” The entire project is scheduled to reach completion by 2010.

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