Square, Build-A-Bear, and Nitrous Effect Set the Tone for Downtown St. Louis

“The core of the region is Downtown St. Louis.”

That’s not marketing speak from Downtown cheerleaders—that’s a direct quote from the Mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson.

In years past, naysayers have questioned the potential for Downtown St. Louis to function as the region’s hub, specifically as it pertains to business. But within a two-week period, those seeds of doubt were all but cast out.

On July 29, news broke that Square signed a 15-year lease for the former Post-Dispatch building. 48 hours later, Nitrous Effect inked a deal to expand into the St. Louis Place Building at 200 North Broadway. And one week after that, Build-a-Bear Workshop confirmed the relocation of its global headquarters to 18th Street.

If Downtown can grow that quickly in two weeks, imagine what can happen in two years. But for now, let’s break down each of these three big moves.

Square Expands In Co-Founders’ Hometown

Rumors of Square, the fintech giant, moving into Downtown have been bubbling up for months. But on July 29, those rumors became a reality as Square signed a 15-year lease to occupy the former Post-Dispatch headquarters at 900 North Tucker.

“St. Louis has been an amazing home and partner to us,” said Square CEO and St. Louis native Jack Dorsey. “This city has so much energy, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.”

Square already employs about 500 people in the Cortex district, but the move Downtown will enable Square to expand to as many as 1,400 local employees.

“St. Louis is full of talent and economic opportunity, so it should come as no surprise that we’re continuing to grow in our hometown,” said co-founder Jim McKelvey, also a St. Louis native.

Square isn’t the only company that wants to tap into Downtown’s potential, though—McKelvey and Dorsey started a trend.

Nitrous Effect Widens Its Footprint Downtown

While the community was riding the high of Square’s expansion, the paperwork for another key deal Downtown was being finalized. Nitrous Effect—a 10-year-old collection of eight marketing, tech, and creative firms—inked a deal for 35,000 square feet in the St. Louis Place building at 200 North Broadway. Keith Alper, Nitrous Effect’s CEO, confirmed the move just two days following Square’s announcement.

“We’re in the thick of things,” said Alper of the decision to tap into Downtown’s creative ecosystem.

“The tech and creative sectors continue to grow Downtown, and Nitrous is part of that,” Missy Kelley, CEO of Downtown STL Inc., said in a statement. “Creative people increasingly want to work in walkable, dynamic environments with beautiful spaces, entertainment and dining options.”

Build-A-Bear Builds Upon Downtown’s Momentum

Build-A-Bear planted its roots in the Gateway City in 1997 with its first store at the St. Louis Galleria. 12 years later, the beloved brand is relocating its global headquarters to Downtown St. Louis.

“We are thrilled to be joining the thriving business community in Downtown St. Louis and look forward to offering world-class facilities for our associates and business partners,” said Sharon Price John, president and CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Build-A-Bear will move to 415 South 18th Street in the spring of 2020. The new location will feature a public-facing store, a Build-A-Bear Radio studio, and “other experiential elements” to pull in visitors.

This isn’t just exciting news for eager kids, though. Civic leaders love the idea of 200 more jobs coming Downtown.

The Downtown Domino Effect

Square. Nitrous Effect. Build-A-Bear. What’s next?

When tech companies from Silicon Valley and global consumer brands decide that Downtown will be their next home, it sends a message not only to other massive brands, but startups and mid-size companies as well.

The recent new business surge is nothing short of inspiring. But if this momentum is any indication, the best is yet to come.

About the author

Dominic Vaiana

Dominic Vaiana is a writer in St. Louis.


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