I read two articles this week that are encouraging about the future of Downtown St. Louis.  The first was an article about a new movie theater coming to Washington Ave. in 2012.  The owners of 2 other boutique theaters in St. Louis City are opening a 3rd location in the 11 story Mercantile Exchange Building at 6th and Washington.  St. Louis Cinemas who already own the theaters at the Chase, Moolah, and Galleria will own and operate the new theater in the Mercantile Exchange.  The theater will have an adults only entrance policy.  Those who have patronized the Moolah since its opening over the last few years will have a pretty good idea of that will be offered at the mercantile exchange.  You can expect leather couches, balcony seating, and alcohol to be available at the concessions.  Moolah has been great for a similar new and young population that moved just north of the SLU’s campus as the Coronado and Moolah apartments were rehabbed and filled with students around the already bustling Lindell Towers apartments.

Upscale movie theater coming to downtown

This brings me to the 2nd article that I noticed.  The Laurel (Old Dillards Building) across the street from the Mercantile Exchange is beginning to take reservations for it 205 apartments that will be available in the coming year.  It appears that all will be rental, a far cry from the original project that Pyramid planned before the company went under.  Nevertheless, adding over 200 households to Downtown in a matter of several months will go a long way to help Downtown to continue to make strides as a livable urban area within the region.  The more foot traffic and commerce that takes place by local residents the better.  In short, developments like The Laurel and a movie theater will continue to change the trend of out Downtown being a ghost town after 5:30PM on weekdays (except when the Cardinals are playing).

Laurel Apartments to start leasing

The reason that the movie theater parallel between midtown and downtown is interesting is that a movie theater arrived in this particular part of midtown right as a year round permanent population began to cement itself in the area.  It has thrived over the last few years and is one of the staple of midtown along with long time fixtures in Grand Center such as The Fox and Powell Hall.  Nearly the entire population of the Coronado, Moolah, and Lindell Towers are students, and thus, renters.  The Laurel was originally supposed to be a loft/condo development and when that plan was scrapped for apartments I think many were disappointed at the prospect.  In hindsight, over the last few years I think most who are familiar with the loft market Downtown would admit that it was oversaturated.  The answer may be more mid market to luxury renters like we will see in this incarnation of The Laurel.  If projects like this allow us to continue to grow the population of Downtown and the business community within it then I’m all for it.  The landscape of midtown was drastically altered for the better when the Coronado and Moolah Temple were completed in the middle of this decade.  Its quite possible that projects like the Mercantile Exchange and The Laurel could have a similar affect on the center of Downtown St. Louis.