Redefining 909 Chestnut (AT&T Tower)? Plans Present New Vision for Downtown Tower

NOTE: Story will be updated when comments from the leasing agent are returned.

Photo of 909 Chestnut (AT&T Tower) in December 2015

It has been a year and a half since AT&T said goodbye to their 909 Chestnut building in Downtown. Since then, the building has been the center of woes for future Downtown development. It's hulking 45 floors and 1.4 Million square feet of office space makes it the largest abandoned building in Downtown, St. Louis and the State of Missouri, not to mention the second tallest building in St. Louis and largest office building by square footage in the state. So, it has been a problem that many have said is holding back Downtown development. 909 Chestnut is also one of the last remaining abandoned Downtown buildings without a plan. It is joined only by the Butler Brothers Building, old Police HQ and the Millennium Hotel which all have no redevelopment plans at this time.


Since the building's abandonment in September 2017, it has been the subject of St. Louis' Amazon HQ2 Proposal and a failed redevelopment bid by Clayco's Bob Clark. While the Clayco proposal never came to light, it was said it would've been a mixed use proposal. Now, Colliers is marketing the office building with promises of lobby renovations, lighting additions and redevelopment opportunities to meet the standards of office buildings today.


The plans specify that lobby renovations are definitely happening along with a concept that is supposed to make the building more prominent in the skyline at night, accent lighting.

According to Colliers, the accent lighting is to...

  • Illuminate the top and pedestrian areas.

  • Highlight recesses.

  • Wash the outline.

So, this part of the redevelopment plan is definitely going to happen due to it making the building more visible at night. In addition to this, signage opportunities remain available for prospective tenants.


Now comes the more interesting aspects of the plan. The building's owner, and Colliers, tapped 4 local architecture firms (Nehring Design, Christner, Forum and HOK) to design lobby and "podium" concepts for the building. Based on the descriptions and the website for 909 Chestnut, one of these podium plans will be selected and built at a later date but correspond to the planned "luxurious" lobby renovations.


Let me give you the rundown here starting with Nehring Design's.


NEHRING DESIGN

Perhaps the simplest of the podium base ideas, Nehring envisions utilizing the building's niches fronting Chestnut, to create retail spaces with outdoor seating and light landscaping work to better connect the City Garden to the tower. On the Pine Street side, the niches there will provide access to additional retail space creating a more inviting atmosphere on what is currently a dead side. As with the City Garden facing side, light landscaping work will be done over here along with a few more windows being cut.


Up top, it appears Nehring envisions redesigning the crown of the building and turning it into glass rather than retaining the tan granite. This is meant to be a beacon of light for all of St. Louis to see. Inside, the lobby area becomes a commons area with seating for a small café, new security desk and new access to the elevators. Further, hardwood and brick accenting will be placed around the lobby.


CHRISTNER ARCHITECTS

Unlike Nehring Design's simple reutilization of the existing floor plan at the ground level, Christner spruces things up a bit. Gone is the dark black glass entry way, which is clearly straight out of the 80s, and in is a large glass box that extends closer to Chestnut and creates a much brighter lobby area. Suspended from the ceiling are live plants and other public art. however, the lobby becomes more of a priovate area with access appearing to be solely for building occupants and not a commons area.


On the Pine Street side, things change a bit. The entrances at the Northwest and Northeast corners, are redesigned to include large glassy entrances and be a simpler version of the main entrance on Chestnut. Retail spaces are also included in the same areas that Nehring Design touched on and the concept remains similar, only more glass is added along Pine.


FORUM STUDIO

Perhaps the simplest, yet most interesting design so far, is Forum Studio's lobby and entryway vision. A large, glass pavilion replaced the 4 story atrium section of 909 Chestnut creating a modern entry into the 80s building. Further, trees can grow inside of the pavilion area bringing the outside in. Unlike Christner's or Nehring's utilization of the niches created by the 4 story atrium as retail space, Forum envisions moving the retail spaces to the diagonal corners of the building, which, in the building's current state, does not exist. This provides for a larger outdoor seating area and the creation of landscaped plazas fronting the City Garden.


As stated above, Forum's plans bring the outside in but also create a greater connection between the City Garden and the Greater Gateway mall. On Pine Street, retail spaces are added in in a similar fashion to Christner's and Nehring's designs.


Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum (HOK)

Perhaps the most ambitious plans on this list, and the final to be presented, is HOK's design for the podium base. HOK designed the building originally so t is no wonder why they were asked to envision an idea for the ground floor of the building. Their plan creates a welcoming front door on both Pine Street and Chestnut Street. HOK's plan does away with the 4 story atrium for a newly constructed 4 floor podium base with shops and multiple entrances into the 909 Chestnut Tower. complete with public areas and a rock climbing wall, the podium base is designed to be the hub of activity for the area surrounding the city Garden.


Rooftop trees allow for natural shade to a terrace located on the 3rd floor and tie the psoium base into the City Garden.


On the Pine Street side, the vibe and looks of the building change. Tons of granite is removed for large, glassy additions that stretch 6 floors high. The glassy additions allow for tons of natural light to fill the lower portion of the tower and add more window space for the lobby and the first few floors. Retail spaces will also benefit from this glass as their entrances will be more prominent than the other 3 architecture firm's plans. Finally, the two entrances along Pine will be renovated to reflect the glassy design and a new, central entrance will be located to prepare for whatever pother types of developments come along Pine.


The HOK plan resembles a far cheaper version than the Sear's Tower (Willis Tower's) expansion on the first few levels.

The plan in Chicago is being built by Clayco and was designed by Gensler. The building's improvements include new elevators, an expanded observatory, shops and other things for a grand total of $500 Million. For St. Louis, I guarantee it won't be close to that much.


Overall, the HOK plan creates a vibrant, urban design that greatly improves the aesthetics of the 1980s era tower and creates a modern meeting place for all of Downtown.


WHAT NOW?

Colliers' representatives have yet to return my messages on things such as cost and when they expect to at least have this project begin it's early phases. I know that they are not the developer, but they could hold that information or at least lead me into the direction of the developer. Until then, the concepts remain out there and I'll do my part to push for potential companies to move into the building.


Below are multiple links and resources for those interested in the building and those who are just nosy. first in a marketing video published in November. Second is a link to the building's website and third is a link to the leasing document.

Website: https://www.909stl.com

Leasing Document: https://909stl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/909-Chestnut_Leasing-Brochure-Nov2018.pdf


Below is a photo of 909 Chestnut in the Summer of 2015 from the Metropolitan Square Building.


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