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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Preservation Board Agenda for October

It's that time again--Preservation Board agenda time. Typically, I navigate to the website and almost immediately cringe. Usually, there's an item or two in a stable neighborhood (Lafayette Square or Soulard, to name two instances), which, before opening their individual reports, I assume that they're either new construction or rehabilitations--not demolitions.

Then I see the various North Side neighborhoods and fear the worst. Is it another church sacking historic resources for a parking lot? Is it a non-profit who wants to tear down a block face to provide new affordable housing? Is it an alderman weary of complaints about a particularly troublesome vacant house in a rundown neighborhood? Regardless, I figure another tooth will be punched out, and the overall smile will suffer.

So I opened this latest agenda, and, shockingly, no demolitions were immediately apparent. (For some reason, this month's agenda does not allow you to click each property and see a PDF file. Maybe they just haven't put the reports up yet?).

In fact, there seems to be some good news.

National Register nominations make me very happy. Sure, they don't protect a neighborhood from demolitions directly, but they do offer tax incentives and a(n often) coveted "historic" label that can be used to market a neighborhood to buyers. This month, there appear to be two districts being considered: Marine Villa and the Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish Historic District" at 6304 Minnesota.

Streetview of Marine Villa - 20xx Chippewa Streetscape:

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Streetview of Sts. Mary and Joseph:

View Larger Map

There are also two single-structure nominations: the Cheshire Inn and Lodge (partly in Clayton) and the Railway Exchange Building, a.k.a. Famous Barr Building a.k.a. Macy's.

That's all excellent.

But some major demolitions did slip in there: sneakily, they're hiding underneath the item on the "Restoration of the Board of Education Building...".

Downtown St. Louis Business blog has already covered the impending demolition of two handsome, historic, human scale buildings that are increasingly rare in downtown St. Louis (they're on Locust Street). And he hit all the points I was going to, including this gratingly obvious one: these buildings should not be felled for a turnabout. Remember the Ambassador Building anyone? It is unconscionable to allow such a needless autocentric use to take out two usable, rehab-friendly historic structures that could actually be incorporated into the proposed hotel anyway. DTSTL Biz also points out that no one's sure how much another downtown hotel is even needed.

Should we really be tearing down anything historic in a downtown whose resurgence has been almost solely based on its remaining historic stock of buildings? I say no, and so does Brian at the DTSTL Business blog.

This one's worthy of an email/call combo to Alderperson Phyllis Young of the Seventh Ward. Please contact her to express your disapproval of the needless demolition of two historic buildings downtown for a turnaround/cab stand.

National Register nominations = good.

Demolition of National Register eligible buildings = bad.

Simple as that. Right?


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