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ST. LOUIS-Law firm Thompson Coburn is trying to decide between moving its roughly 650 employees to about 250,000 sf of office in the Clayton area, or staying in the Downtown area, possibly remaining in its current 12 floors at the One US Bank Plaza at Seventh and Washington avenues when its lease comes up in 2010. The company is one of about half a dozen legal firms that are engaged in a musical chairs search for space in the CBD and the popular suburban.

About one million sf of legal space is reportedly being sought by law firms in the St. Louis area, including firms such as Blackwell Sanders, Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus, Lewis Rice & Fingersh and Armstrong Teasdale, which had planned to locate in the proposed Centene Corp. headquarters that was proposed for Clayton, before the healthcare firm changed gears and announced a $250 million, 1.2-million-sf in the Downtown. The move into the proposed Ballpark Village development, being completed by Cordish Co., is seen by city officials as the tipping point to bringing and/or keeping office workers in St. Louis proper.

However, many of the lawyers are casting an appreciative eye toward the Clayton market, according to Grubb & Ellis research. Many of these professionals already live in the area, which has about 6.5 million sf of office, the largest market outside of the Downtown.

Ken Luther, executive director at Thompson Coburn, tells GlobeSt.com that though his company has been in the US Bank Plaza building for about 30 years, the firm is seriously considering Clayton. “It’s a wonderful suburb,” he says. “There have been many firms that have moved out there, and a lot of lawyers already live out there. It’s one of several options.” The company is also looking at space in the Centene project itself, he says, and is also reportedly considering the 25-story One City Centre.

Luther says the owners of the 35-story US Bank Plaza have been gracious and accommodating. “We have enough space right now, but we want to make sure we have enough space for 10 years of growth,” he says. “Obviously, if we want to consider a build-to-suit, we need to have that pretty much well nailed down by early summer.”

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