By Chris Eichhorn
On Thursday, ground broke on the new Ballpark Village “Phase 2” of development. And while this news may initially seem less exciting to you than the origins of Ballpark Village just 4 years ago, this newest development is far more significant for the area.
Ballpark Village Phase 1 does quite a lot of business: that much cannot be contested. However, because most of this business consists of bars, restaurants, and even more bars, these developments do not add a great deal of new business to the area. There already were bars downtown – and in fact, the locus of night life for the city in 2012 was on Washington Avenue, just a half mile away from Ballpark Village. Many of those bars (for example, the former Dubliner on 11th and Washington) are now closed, beaten out by the glitzier, newer competition seen at downtown’s new bar hotspot. There is nothing inherently wrong with this: new businesses open and best their competitors all the time. However, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t represent new business or revenue in any meaningful way. This is often referred to as migrational development, and can be best understood by imagining a small company located on one side of a street moving to other side. Were any new jobs created? Did the street prosper more than it had previously? Not particularly. Similarly, downtown Saint Louis saw the opening of new bars at Ballpark Village Phase 1 and the closure of other bars nearby.
Ballpark Village Phase 2, however, is quite another animal. Instead of a series of bars and snack shops, the Cardinals’ new development project brings office space, a hotel, and a 28 story residential tower: these represent real growth, developments which can legitimately increase revenue for the area and spur further development down the line. Unlike bars and clubs, differing residential developments are not inherently in competition -- often proving the opposite, with more people wanting to move near growing, pre-existing population centers. Ballpark Village Phase 2, in other words, does not simply shift the economic value from one part of downtown to another, as was mostly the case for Phase 1; it grows the pie. That’s significant, and hopefully Saint Louisans appreciate this distinction.