Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of three articles that will explore the lack of non-retail business development in Florissant and how that may impact commuters, employment and economic growth.
Florissant is many things: a close-knit community with an old-town feel at its core, a shopping hub, and home to schools, activities and events for families.
What it's not is a magnet for companies looking for office space.
Despite being one of the largest municipalities in St. Louis County (population 52,158), the community does not attract high-rise office buildings and developments that could spur job growth. In fact, there are offices sitting empty in low-rise buildings.
“There are a lot of open north offices right now,” Florissant Economic Development Director Bob Russell said. “Demand for office space determines if someone would build it. It’s all tied to demand.”
Russell said the physical layout of Florissant coupled with the city’s economic base have given rise to smaller offices and businesses in strip malls throughout the city.
“Florissant’s economy is based on retail,” Russell said. “A bulk of the economy is right along Lindbergh (Boulevard).”
Florissant Shoppes at Cross Keys and Florissant Meadows are two successful cases in point.
The makings of the community
Russell and Vice President of Office Sales for Cassidy Turley Terry McCaffrey described Florissant as a “bedroom community,” which explains the lack of office buildings.
According to HGTV, bedroom communities flourished after World War II. They surround cities such as St. Louis and provide places where people sleep, live and eat. Many resident commute to the city for work.
HGTV also narrowed down some characteristics of bedroom communities, which match Florissant, including:
- Residential areas offering basic retail and shopping stores and usually not supporting a single industry
- Commuting outside of the community for work
- Areas made up of single-family homes
While residents of bedroom communities normally commute into a city, McCaffrey pointed to the major employers that once flourished in the North County area, allowing Florissant residents to work close to home.
Once the Ford plant shuttered in 2006 and McDonnell Douglass merged into Boeing in the late 1990s, the dynamic of the area changed.
McCaffrey said offices for manufacturers entities that used to reside near the large corporations are no longer there.
Still, he said that Florissant never has been a community bustling with high-rise developments.
“Generally, it’s not a high-rise area, but it’s more two or three-story (buildings),” McCaffrey said.
Location, location, location
Geography also plays a role in Florissant's lack of office developments.
McCaffrey points out that other municipalities such as Maryland Heights (which boasts Westport) and Chesterfield have features that Florissant cannot match.
“Westport is popular because it’s been centrally located,” he said.
McCaffrey points to Maryland Heights and Chesterfield being between Highway 40 and Interstate 70 as well as close to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
The communities also have a number of service industries, such as insurance and technology companies, which do business in those communities as well as hotels to accommodate traveling business people.
The economic outlook
Florissant is suffering along with several other communities from the nationwide recession.
McCaffrey, who’s been in the real estate profession for more than 20 years, said that the entire metropolitan area of St. Louis is undergoing a redevelopment process.
“We lost a lot of our corporate headquarters,” he said. “St. Louis, as a whole, we haven’t been growing. We’re in a transition.”
Signs of life
The question remains: Can retail and restaurants provide the kinds of jobs and incomes Florissant residents need?
Look for part two of this series next week on Florissant Patch.