Serving Those with Developmental Disabilities
Shaelene Plank is a licensed professional counselor and has spent the last 25 years working in various roles for those with mental health issues and developmental disabilities. Her background makes her a perfect fit for the role of Executive Director at the St. Louis Office for Developmental Disability Resources (STLDD), a position she accepted in 2017.
Founded in 1980, the organization is the intermediary for tax dollars earmarked by Missouri Senate Bill 40. STLDD distributes money to those that serve St. Louis City residents living with:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Cerebral Palsy
- Intellectual Disability
They also engage in targeted case management, helping match specific individuals with the services they need to live a full and productive life. Similar offices exist throughout the state (one per county) but operate independently from each other.
The agencies who receive program funds help those with developmental disabilities in numerous ways: through supportive living, employment, job training, socialization, and transportation.
A well-functioning STLDD is crucial to the health of our city.
Re-Evaluation and Future Strategy
For many years, STLDD operated out of a single building in the heart of downtown St. Louis. But to handle a steadily growing number of office staff, onsite programs, and file storage, they ended up purchasing two more nearby buildings. Clients had gotten used to the three locations, and each was customized to ADA accessibility guidelines.
However, in 2016 STLDD downsized some of its staff and programs. Owning three buildings didn’t make sense anymore.
There were other limiting factors as well. Separate buildings did not allow the staff to function as a cohesive team, and the aging buildings were becoming a financial strain. Each needed serious renovation, and STLDD was reluctant to divert funds from their primary purpose.
The Board of Directors determined it made more sense to divest themselves of their current three buildings and find a quality long-term lease.
They listed the buildings for sale in early 2017, but after a year on the market, only one had sold. There was little interest in the other two: 2345 Pine Street and 2334 Olive Street.
Originally, the properties had been listed as a rehab and development opportunity, but Ball and McKay said, “These are office buildings that someone will want as office space. We believe if you market them that way, they’ll sell.”
The strategy worked. Within months, both properties had signed contracts with solid buyers.
All that Plank and STLDD needed now was a new home. McKay and Ball negotiated a leaseback agreement with the buyers so STLDD could continue operating from their original offices until they found the perfect St. Louis City Office Space.
The Search for St. Louis City Office Space
The leaseback agreement gave Plank, Ball, and McKay a short time to find a new property for lease.
As a St. Louis City agency, they had to stay inside city limits, so the boundaries for their search were clear. They toured several different office spaces, but the team was insistent on specific features that were not widely available.
First, though they had enjoyed being in downtown St. Louis, parking was limited. They wanted property with a dedicated lot for staff, clients, and partners to use without searching for a space. As they looked, they discovered many leases would only include parking at an additional cost, asking STLDD to pay a per-space premium.
Second, the building had to be compliant—or easily made compliant—with ADA accessibility guidelines. Finally, Plank wanted the staff to be together comfortably with plenty of room for meetings and programs.
She believed 10,000 square feet would be sufficient. After touring several properties that didn’t check all three boxes, McKay and Ball finally found such a space at 2121 Hampton Avenue.
Tighter Team, More Parking, and Freed-Up Funds
At 11,000 square feet, 2121 Hampton was large enough for the entire STLDD staff. Consolidating to one space, they feel they’ll be able to use their finances in a more directed way, serving those with developmental disabilities better.
The space required some remodeling before STLDD could move in, and Ball and McKay negotiated for significant changes to the building into the lease. Lauren Talley of Cushman Wakefield operated as the landlord’s project manager. Braun Construction Management Service was the contractor.
The move also meant they could make some badly needed technological updates: The staff will be able to replace computers that had reached end-of-life, and the conference room will gain a projector for board and partner meetings.
Plank said, “Hal and Patrick were both great. They were very responsive and really understood what we needed.”
Mayor Lyda Krewson has taken notice as well. She attended STLDD’s open house on September 12, 2019.
Is Your Building Still Serving Your Company?
Not every upgrade means “bigger” or “more.” Sometimes the biggest upgrade you can make for your company and your staff means “tighter,” “smarter,” or “more efficient.”
When you look at your real estate, is it optimized for your business as it stands today? Will the size, price, and location allow you to grow into the future?
If you need to re-assess your property, talk to one of Hilliker Corporation’s Commercial Real Estate Experts. We’ll help you take a holistic look at your current property and options. If it makes sense to move, we’ll work as consultants all the way through the process.