Home to American icons the Gateway Arch and Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis is getting a new, edgier reputation thanks to a rise in biotechnology and medical research at Washington University. But this is just one reason biotech and pharmaceutical companies are setting up shop here; there are also the area's central location, good economy, and dual appeal as college town and Midwestern urban hub.

“We have some of the oldest housing stock in the country, with neighborhoods that predate streetcar-type urban neighborhoods,” explains Robert Wagstaff, a principal of local firm Rosemann & Associates. “As the urban lifestyle becomes increasingly more popular, this is a great strength. We have what people want—we just have to rehab it and make it accessible.”

That's driven about $4.5 billion in redevelopment of the city's core and renovations to surrounding residential areas. Projects include the redevelopment of the dying, 540,000-square-foot St. Louis Centre mall into a retail and residential complex. As a result, leaders are trying to balance St. Louis' rich architectural history with the needs of its promising future. “St. Louis' architecture is a rich reflection of the city's diverse French, Spanish, and German historical influences,” says Clark Davis, vice chairman of locally based megafirm HOK. “The city and region have also been fertile ground for modern design.”

How fertile? According to Eugene Mackey III of hometown firm Mackey Mitchell Associates, “We have 16 recipients of the National AIA Gold Medal in our region. That's more than New York.”

But the city's best-known landmark, Gateway Arch, could become a target for redevelopment. A recent study by the Danforth Foundation—a private enterprise that focuses solely on revitalizing the St. Louis region—suggested repurposing some of the parkland surrounding the arch to create a riverfront link to downtown, much like Chicago's Millennium Park.

Job/Population Growth

The St. Louis metropolitan area is home to 2.8 million people and has experienced 37 consecutive months of net job growth.

Office Market

Average asking rental rates for Class A space are $22.30 per square foot. For Class B space, landlords are asking an average of $17.21 per square foot.

Residential Market

Year-to-date home sales declined 6.7 percent in September.

Market Strengths

  • Central location
  • World-class institutions of higher education
  • Unique neighborhoods

Market Weaknesses

  • Lack of clear regional leadership
  • Rapidly sprawling suburbs
  • High poverty rate


“There exists a new open and innovative spirit ... especially among its younger generation,” notes Fred Powers, principal at local firm Powers Bowersox Associates. “St. Louis is well positioned to be optimistic about its future for the next five to 10 years and beyond.”