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St. Louis Cardinals plan for spring opening of Ballpark Village mixed-use project

When the new

Busch Stadium

opened in 2006, the occasional mudhole along adjacent property symbolized the failure of a planned companion project aimed at reviving downtown St. Louis.

The

St. Louis Cardinals

had proposed the $650 million mixed-use project, known as Ballpark Village, for the 10 acres north of the new stadium. But those grand plans were thwarted by the combination of the financial crisis, the recession and a soft real estate market, making development feasible for only a softball field and a parking lot, leaving bare ground that became the object of widespread ridicule.

By next season’s opening day, however, the Cardinals and their development partner, the Baltimore-based

Cordish Cos.

, hope to open the first phase of Ballpark Village, a $100 million entertainment, restaurant and retail project, just beyond the stadium’s left center field wall.

“I always have said that if we could just get it going, all the heartache would be worth it,” said William O. DeWitt III, president of the Cardinals. “I still feel that way.”

The project with Cordish, the developer for Kansas City’s Power Light District, has a chance to give downtown St. Louis one more reason to cheer outside the ballpark. Population in the urban center has grown to 14,000, from 9,600 in 2005, and apartment occupancy exceeds 90 percent, says the

Partnership for Downtown St. Louis

.

In turn, that is spurring more residential and retail development. An affiliate of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners of Norwalk, Conn., for example, has largely completed a $250 million conversion of an old mall and surrounding buildings into an entertainment, retail, residential and hotel district.

By taking advantage of the Cardinals as an anchor tenant and creating a buzz with the first phase, Ballpark Village could help encourage additional renewal in the city, said Andrew S. Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., who specializes in economic development and sports economics.

He pointed to Petco Park in

San Diego

, which helped attract billions of dollars in private investment in the surrounding area over the last few years.

The 100,000-square-foot first phase of

Ballpark Village

will feature a fresh-air pavilion with a retractable canopy for year-round events. The retail and restaurant part is building on St. Louis institutions: the Cardinals, of course, and Budweiser, the signature beer of Anheuser-Busch, now part of Belgian-based

Anheuser-Busch InBev

.

Both organizations will showcase their brands in themed restaurants: Cardinals Nation and Budweiser Brew House. Cardinals Nation will also have a hall of fame and museum. Both restaurants will include rooftop decks that look into Busch Stadium.

Creating a development that provided such views was top of mind for Cardinals officials as they planned the new stadium and Ballpark Village, DeWitt said.

The vision stemmed from the residential rooftops that overlook Wrigley Field in Chicago, he added, which to him integrated the stadium into the fabric of the city.

“We wanted that interaction,” said DeWitt, whose father bought the team in 1995. “I’ve always been fascinated by having something across the street and creating a window into the ballpark.”

The way that the first phase was financed may ensure construction of later phases, said Chase Martin, development director for Cordish, which besides the Power Light District has completed entertainment and mixed-use projects in Louisville, Ky., Philadelphia and other markets.

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