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Build-A Bear turns 20

FILE PHOTO: "I dropped off my boyfriend at 6:45 am then came straight here. I am a Build-A-Bear addict," said Rhiannon Zoppe of Imperial, who communicates via video chat with her boyfriend telling him she was the first in line to receive a bear at the Build-A-Bear Workshop located inside the Saint Louis Science Center on Friday, Oct. 27 2017. To mark its' 20th anniversary, Build-A-Bear Workshop gave away 20 free bears to the first 20 customers at each of its' St. Louis area stores. To the left is Carlene Conarroe. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Build-A-Bear Workshop is considering a move to downtown St. Louis from its current headquarters in Overland that could reshuffle about 200 jobs in the region.

“We are excited with the prospect of relocating our global headquarters to the dynamic downtown St. Louis area; at this point, nothing has been finalized as we await details from the city on an incentive package and continue to work through important points for a lease,” said Build-A-Bear president and CEO Sharon Price John. “We will not have further comment until we have additional information required to make a final decision.”

St. Louis’ Enhanced Enterprise Board last week approved a 10-year, 75 percent property tax abatement for the building at 415 South 18th Street near Union Station in anticipation of potentially luring 200 “headquarters” jobs to the building. Officials declined to reveal the company they were in discussions with.

But Build-A-Bear confirmed Friday that it is the company looking at 415 South 18th Street, the former headquarters of the Missouri Foundation for Health. Build-A-Bear said the area’s development as a tourist and entertainment area, specifically at the adjacent Union Station, was a strategic fit with its business.

Union Station owner Lodging Hospitality Management is turning the historic property into an aquarium and considering other entertainment attractions such as a Ferris Wheel, ropes course and mini golf. Union Station’s grand hall has been renovated into a bar and meeting area with regular light shows on its high ceiling.

A Major League Soccer Stadium is also planned just to the west of Union Station, and St. Louis has been all but assured they will win an expansion franchise.

Build-A-Bear said if the deal goes through, the company would include a retail store and “other experiential offerings fitting for the surrounding tourist and entertainment setting.”

Currently, the company’s headquarters, at 1954 Innerbelt Business Center Drive, is a suburban office park at the northwest intersection of Page Avenue and Interstate 170.

City economic development officials say the 415 South 18th Street property’s owner, Woodcrest Capital of the Fort Worth, Texas, plans $3 million in improvements to the vacant building. The potential tenant would put in $1 million and possibly move 200 jobs to the spot, according to the city report on the incentives.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen may also be asked to approve additional incentives.

With vacancy rates that exceed other submarkets in the region, downtown office rents are among the cheapest in the area.

Also on Friday, Build-A-Bear reported a fiscal first quarter profit of $1.2 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with $354,000, or 2 cents a share, a year earlier. The retailer posted $84.4 million in revenue for the quarter that ended May 4, up from $83.2 million a year earlier.

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