Commerce’s new building epitomizes its commitment to the St. Louis business community.
In an era when many companies are downsizing the amount of office space they occupy, Commerce Bank is celebrating a milestone that some might find surprising: the opening of Commerce Bank Tower, its new office building in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton.
The new facility sits across the street from Commerce’s existing office building, which the bank will continue to own and occupy. “It’s a truly modern structure with great amenities, and really, there’s no better office space in St. Louis,” says CFO and executive vice president Chuck Kim, who has been heavily involved in the project from the beginning.
Kim notes that the bank had owned the real estate on which Commerce Bank Tower was built for years and saw great potential in the location. “We knew we had a unique opportunity to create something exciting on a block that was underdeveloped,” he says. “And we had really outgrown our existing office space across the street. A local developer we know well had some ideas that we thought were fantastic, and it felt like the stars had really aligned for us to do something great.”
The new tower represents Commerce’s continued commitment to the St. Louis community. “There’s a lot of energy associated with this development,” Kim says.
“It will bring more vitality to the area. It’s good for all the nearby businesses and restaurants, and since it has retail space at street level, it will bring new businesses to the block. It’s a huge investment in the St. Louis community, and it shows that we believe in the community here.”
The project was started prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the initial stages of demolition taking place in March 2020, right before the massive shift to remote work began. Despite these changes, moving forward with the development was never in question.
“We always want to take a long-term view,” says Kim. “In fact, that’s one of our core values. That long-term perspective really comes into play when you talk about the benefit to the area and the business community. The rise of hybrid and remote work that occurred due to the pandemic really didn’t impact our commitment to the project. We did make some changes to how we built out the floors we’re occupying — adjusting for the way people are working today and building in more collaboration space, more shared desks, and that sort of thing.”
Commerce Bank Tower will feature artwork throughout the facility, including elements at street level that pedestrians can enjoy. One of these pieces is “Two Forms (Divided Circle),” a 1969 bronze sculpture from noted British artist Barbara Hepworth installed outside the main entrance to the Tower.
“It’s a powerful work from a prominent 20th century sculptor,” says Robin Trafton, Commerce’s art curator. “Barbara Hepworth achieved international recognition in her lifetime, and today, her work is featured in many museum collections. This abstract piece reflects the artist’s interest in volume and space. The artist wanted viewers to walk around the piece to view it from different perspectives.”
Trafton adds that the work is an appropriate fit for the part of town it’s in. “Clayton is a community known for its support of the arts — in fact, we’ve been a proud sponsor of the Clayton Art Fair since its inception in 1994,” she says. “Public art is an important part of defining a city’s personality, and we think this sculpture will be a meaningful addition.”
The tower will also feature commissioned art by artist Jennifer Steinkamp in its lobby. Titled “Renewal 1,” the video art depicts a colorful pre-settlement Missouri prairie on LED screens and will be visible to pedestrians. “Steinkamp is a pioneer in the field of 3D animated art,” says Trafton. “This contemporary, site-specific installation about Missouri’s history showcases the artist’s ability to bridge past and future, nature and tech.”
The piece, which is 48 feet long and more than 7 feet tall, depicts a flower-filled prairie landscape based on Steinkamp’s extensive research into the state’s natural history and the native plants that were here before the land was settled. “On a computer, the artist hand-drew indigenous plants, then animated the prairie field as it if were swaying in the breeze,” she says.
“The work also draws inspiration from the long tradition of prairie burning, a natural part of the prairie’s life cycle which ensures the health of the prairie and is a conservation practice still used today. The work’s inspirational themes of resilience and renewal seem perfectly suited for our times.”
Trafton says it was important to include art in the building’s design that could be enjoyed by passers-by as well as building visitors and Commerce team members. “It adds to the culture and visual environment of the city,” she says. “These pieces are another example of the way Commerce support the arts, and in the case of the digital animation art, it also reflects the Bank’s focus on innovation.”
The tower also includes a wide variety of modern features, such as touchless elevators that only require an employee badge to operate, a full fitness center, and an open-air garden terrace, which offers team members the ability to get outside and enjoy a peaceful environment.
“People have a more positive experience at work when they have access to a green space like the garden terrace,” says Denny Hoelzer, vice president of design and construction. We really wanted to be forward-thinking and include this kind of element, creating a healthy workplace experience. It’s a great space for people to relax, eat lunch, or have a meeting.”
Hoelzer says the building will also feature green elements at street level, with a pedestrian-friendly treescape along the adjacent sidewalk. “There will be retail spaces along Forsyth and Meramec, so people can enjoy shopping or dining under the arcade shaded by the street trees, creating an unparalleled experience,” he says. “The project was developed to include great elements of urbanism and human scale within its design, creating an environment that works well for businesses and for residents in the community.”
Kim believes Commerce Bank Tower will be a significant addition to an already vibrant area. “Between the artwork, the terrace, and the restaurants and shops at street level, I think people are going to really appreciate what this building has to offer,” he says. “It shows our commitment to making the area even more enjoyable for everyone. It’s an investment in the St. Louis community — and in our Commerce team members — that everyone can be proud of.”
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