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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Corner-hugging buildings to be extinct in St. Louis?

The latest from VanishingSTL: a North Side building demo'd for no apparent reason in July 2004. But take a look at the subject.

And another heartbreaker:

Look at the carefully calculated recess from public to private space that these units offer. It is not just a cynical statement to say that nothing with such attention to delightful nuance will ever occupy this spot again.

These cleverly curvaceous buildings remind me of the Fountain Park beauty rightfully lauded once upon a time by B.E.L.T.'s Toby Weiss:

Thank the heavens that this one has not yet seen "emergency" demolition! The pleasant building seems to literally embrace the oblong Fountain Park that is its neighbor. With any luck, it will get snapped up by some enterprising developer or some passionate resident with some spare change and time.

Let's jump back to the first example, located at MLK Jr. Blvd. and Glasgow:

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Take a look around. The city has respected the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. enough to repave the street, replace sidewalks, introduce ADA compliance, and add historic-esque street lighting.

Do these infrastructure improvements even matter when we erase places, when we pull down old buildings for no reason, with no plans?

More innovative leadership is needed to deal with a decaying, but irreplaceable stock of buildings in the city of St. Louis. A passive Building Division cannot engage in preservation advocacy, and our Preservation Board was designed to be "balanced" (meaning that there would have to be members whose interests are seen as counter to preservation--like realtor Mary "One" Johnson). Therefore, citizens need to both demand better leadership that has a better grip on what type of future residents want for their city AND to lead by example themselves.

That vacant lot at Glasgow and MLK, Jr. was a clear net loss for the city.

So why are we silent?

I am going to do a bit of research on the myriad ways other cities deal with vacant, but historic buildings. Look for a series in the future from me about "unlikely" preservation successes--that is, when people see potential and do not let it slip away. Perhaps in light of the 2008 presidential election, and specifically its Democratic nominee's slogan, I'll call the series, "Yes, We Can!"


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