Ready. Set. StartUp St. Louis.

The Railway Exchange Building is a 21-story building Downtown St. Louis, connected to the now-defunct One City Center mall. The building was the tallest in St. Louis when it opened in 1914. It was also home to the May Department Headquarters and Famous-Barr flagship store for years, until the brand was bought by Macy’s when it became home of its Midwest Headquarters until 2008. Macy’s sold the building in 2010 and is now utilizing only three floors versus the previous seven leaving the majority of this historic building vacant.

What’s a Downtown to do? Join Forces.

The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, the St. Louis Development Corporation, the Regional Chamber and Growth Association, and Capital Innovators developed StartUp St. Louis, a technology mentorship program. Capital Innovators, a venture capital fund, is providing seed money to technology companies in St. Louis and recently announced the first five companies that will receive $50,000 and be mentored in this fall’s Accelerator Program. For 12 weeks, they’ll receive:

  • Free office space
  • Free web hosting
  • Free legal advice and,
  • other free services

The idea is that after a concentrated period of nurturing, the fledgling firms should be able to find other investors and stand on their own.

Ultimately, the hope is that the graduates will stay in the Railway Exchange and better yet, in St. Louis. With money from the city, the Regional Chamber and Growth Association and the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, the StartUp group has leased half of the building’s 12th floor for the technology incubator. The group hopes to extend the concept to the fashion and design industry as well as the prepared foods industry.

Just think …if the technology-accelerator concept works here like has in Chicago and Boulder, the Railway Exchange may soon be the hub of the region’s new economy and the start-up capital of the Midwest.

Whats old is new again in Downtown St. Louis.