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Centene will move headquarters downtown


St. Louis, MO – Construction could start next spring on Centene Corporation's new headquarters building in downtown St. Louis, after the health care company announced plans Sunday to move from Clayton to Ballpark Village.

Two city blocks near Busch Stadium will house the company's $250 million project. Leaders estimate the move will mean 1,200 new jobs for the city.

"It became clear that by moving downtown, it would help the entire region," said Centene's Chief Executive Officer Michael Neidorff.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said it was the first time in decades a major business moved from the suburbs to downtown. Over the last half-century, St. Louis has lost much of its population and economic base to thriving townships in surrounding St. Louis County.

"We've created a climate of confidence," Slay said, referring to several redevelopment projects that have brought loft apartments, shops and businesses downtown during the last five years. "Centene's presence ... will send a very strong signal to others."

Centene became embroiled in a legal fight when it initially tried to build a new headquarters in its current location of Clayton.

The city council there voted to give Centene Plaza Redevelopment Corp. the power of eminent domain to condemn buildings in the wealthy town to make space for a new office complex. In June, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected that decision, saying the area wasn't "blighted" enough to justify condemnation.

Centene now plans to buy two city blocks in the new Ballpark Village development being built near Busch Stadium. Centene plans to build an office building with 700,000 square feet of space with retail shops on the street level. A second phase of the project could add 550,000 square feet of space as needed.

The $250 million project could begin as early as spring 2008, but requires approval of state and local incentives.

The city of St. Louis has pledged $78 million in incentives, in the form of various tax abatements. The city also promised to locate a police substation in the Centene building.

Other incentives will need state approval. The city will seek an unspecified amount of incentives under the state's Downtown Economic Stimulus Act. The deal also calls for $24 million in new markets tax credits.

Centene was founded in 1984 and has 2,600 full time employees. The company provides Medicaid and Medicaid-related health plan coverage to individuals, through government subsidized programs. It also offers some specialty health care services through primary and specialty care physicians and hospitals.