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CLAYTON, MO-The city is working on another success story, and a not-so-good story for Downtown St. Louis, as it negotiates with backing by the state and county for a new, $215 million headquarters for Centene Corp. The healthcare firm had planned to build a $250 million new HQ in St. Louis’ Ballpark Village, but recently announced that it has instead decided to stay where it’s been based since 1997.

A city spokesman says the company’s proposal is for a 570,000-sf office building, as well as up to 35,000 sf of retail. “The new facility will replace their current headquarters,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “It will be a huge benefit to the city, not only increasing the tax revenue but also that the firm says it will add 869 new jobs. Of course, not all of them will live in the city, but they’ll eat lunch and shop and do all sorts of things that retailers and other markets like.”

The city, a major suburb and the seat of St. Louis County, the region that surrounds the Downtown, has had a few major successes with the office and retail market. Most recently, Brown Shoe Co. Inc. said it will complete a $568 million redevelopment of its headquarters to bring in its subsidiary Famous Footwear, a development that will feature 1.2 million sf of office, up to 80,000 sf of retail, about 360 residential units and a hotel. “Those are two big anchors, and there’s a number of other projects going on,” the spokesman says. “Our skyline will look very different five years from now.”

The spokesman says Centene is asking for incentives from the governmental units involved. A public forum will be held in mid-May, and a decision should be complete by June, he says.

Clayton officials aren’t counting their major healthcare provider developments yet, however. Mayor Linda Goldstein said in a statement that while discussions are underway, the Centene expansion is “far from guaranteed. While we are cautiously optimistic that the mutual needs…can be met, it’s never a deal until it’s done.”

Downtown St. Louis is now seeing a major disaster for its growth plans, the Clayton spokesman says. “You’ve got the biggest redeveloper, Pyramid, declaring bankruptcy, it’s a huge problem.” John Steffen’s Pyramid Cos. shut down its massive portfolio of Downtown plans in April, including a reported two million sf of planned projects, making up almost $600 million in new projects. This included the $450-million, mixed-use redevelopment of the Dillard’s building, to be called the Laurel, and the $100-million renovation of the Jefferson Arms Hotel. Pyramid’s Laurel partner Spinnaker Cos. has reportedly kept the project going, but other plans are dead. A Pyramid spokesman could not be reached for comment.

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