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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Old Businesses

Part of any city's history is its stock of local businesses--the kind that have remained planted despite decades of, for lack of a more colorful yet still bi-directional word, change.

St. Louis has plenty of ancient businesses still hanging on. Sadly, Hamilton Jewelers, formerly located downtown, is no longer one of them.

Can you help me expand my list? It doesn't even attempt to be exhaustive. Just a couple that came to my head and still more that I found through Googling something to the effect of "old" or "historic businesses in St. Louis"...

Name / Date / Current Neighborhood (may not be original)

John Baumann Safe Company / 1843 / Midtown on Locust

A.E. Schmidt Billiards Company / 1850 / The Patch (720 Koeln)

Luytie's Pharmacal Company / 1853 / Central West End (4200 Laclede)*
Note from reader: This business closed in 2001 and was turned into condos in 2004.

Hoffmeister Funeral Company / 1858 / Not sure where they're based currently...

South Public Super Market / 1870 / The Patch (7701 S. Broadway)

Fehlig Brothers Box and Lumber Co. / 1873 / Carr Square (1909 Cole)*

Carondelet Bakery / 1875 / The Patch (7726 Virginia)

Marx Hardware and Paint Company / 1875 (1891 at current location / Old North St. Louis (2501 North 14th)*

Hopmann Cornice Company / 1883 / St. Louis Place (2573 Benton Street)*

Rathbone Hardware / 1885 / The Patch (7625 S. Broadway)

Levine Hats / 1887 (at 923 Washington) / Garment District (1416 Washington Since 1987)*

Southern Commercial Bank / 1891 / Carondelet (7201 S. Broadway)

New Market Hardware / 1910 / Central West End (4064 Laclede Ave)*

Crown Candy Kitchen / 1913 / Old North St. Louis (1401 Saint Louis Ave.)

Gioia's Deli / 1918 / The Hill (1934 Macklind)

Gus' Pretzels / 1920 / Benton Park (1820 Lemp)^

The Hi-Pointe Theater / 1922 / Hi-Pointe (1005 McCausland)

Merb's Candies / circa 1930 / Dutchtown (4000 S. Grand)^

Trader Bob's Tattooing / 1930s / Fox Park (2529 S. Jefferson)

Dad's Cookie Company / 1938 / Dutchtown South (3854 Louisiana)^
Note: This one is interesting. This was actually a national franchise (I never knew) with over a dozen location in major cities across the country. Dad's St. Louis is the only one remaining as an independent business. All others have been closed or bought up by a larger company.

Globe Drugs Stores / 1939 / Gravois Park (2626 Cherokee)^

As I said, please help me add to my list! I'll update the post and give you credit.

UPDATE - Reader Submissions

* = Contributed by Andrew Faulkner. Read his excellent blog, Exquisite Struggle, here.

^ = Contributed by Toby Weiss. She, too, has an excellent blog, B.E.L.T..

St. Louis Photography Projects Capture the Soul of the City

The Urban St. Louis Forum's famed member "JuiceinDogtown" unearthed this gem of a project: Forest Park 365. Photographer Edward Crim has pledged to visit what he continually refers to as America's greatest urban park every single day of this year. His photography is spectacular, capturing flora, fauna, architecture, weather, and the human activities that enliven the park. If you didn't already appreciate Forest Park, this photography project should give you a boost.

Here's an example, from March 29, 2009:

As if this weren't enough St. Louis photography, yet another Urban STL forumer (DeBaliviere, or Brian, author of Downtown St. Louis Business Blog) alerted us to dArt St. Louis.

From their website:

On April 30th, 2009, one hundred St Louisians stepped up to the line and threw their dart at the giant map of St Louis City. They then had a month to visit the block where their dart landed and make a photograph. And here are the results!

And here's a sample shot, from Curt von Diest, of Kennerly and North Taylor, his dart throw's chosen block.

What great, yet divergent, windows into our photogenic city.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Homegrown Art to Come to Southwest Garden's Streets

As part of the Southwest Garden Streetscape improvements along Vandeventer and Southwest, local artists Agnieszka Gradzik and Wiktor Szostalo will be providing the Southwest Garden neighborhood with one of their famed TreeHugger art installations.

From the artists:

The Tree Hugger project is an ongoing work of Environmental Art designed to help us re-discover our relationship with nature at a very personal and intimate level. Made from twigs, branches, sticks, vines, and other natural materials, these playful sculptures remind us that we humans are still very much a part of our natural surroundings.

The Southwest Garden's Communicator reports that the neighborhood will be purchasing one (they cost $1,500 each) while seeking donations to provide more throughout the neighborhood.

I am excited to see St. Louis artists' work being featured internationally. I've seen a TreeHugger at Forest Park's Earth Day Festival and found it intriguing and whimsical. It would be even better to see this art on a city street, where it would by default make St. Louisans stop and consider the wonderful effects of trees on their city. Whether it's shade, beautification, energy cost reduction, urban runoff collection, protection of pedestrians on sidewalks, raised property values, cleaner air...trees are heavy on benefits and low on costs.

I'm no tree expert, but the TreeHugger project forces me to ponder the state of St. Louis trees. The trees imported to the soon-to-be-opened Citygarden were relatively large. Yet the typical streetscape project includes trees so small and young that they're easily destroyed by the elements or vandalism. This is especially a problem on some of St. Louis's main streets. Ever see an aerial of the city? You can spot Kingshighway, Gravois, and others by their uninterrupted expanse of gray, contrasted from surrounding verdant residential neighborhoods.

Maybe the TreeHuggers can convince the city to spend the extra amount for more mature street trees that will one day tower over the streetscapes they're meant to improve.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kentucky Fried Chicken to Fill City Potholes Via Competitive Bid Process (?)

File this one under bizarre.

Via a press release from Kentucky Fried Chicken:

LOUISVILLE, KY – For more than half a century, KFC has “filled up” its fans with the Colonel’s world famous, freshly prepared fried chicken. Today, in a marketing first, KFC is celebrating its continued dedication to freshness by launching a pilot infrastructure renewal program, becoming the first-ever corporate sponsor of “fresh”ly “filled up” potholes in up to five major cities across the U.S.

The press release continues:

The KFC Colonel and his professional road repair crew got started in their hometown of Louisville by filling up potholes and re-freshing roads around the city. KFC also issued an open offer to mayors of cities nationwide, asking them to describe their city streets’ state of disrepair. Four of these lucky cities, chosen at random, will receive KFC’s road re-“fresh”ment, promising citizens a smooth drive that is fit for a Colonel.

Will St. Louis be one of the lucky few cities to benefit from the Colonel's gracious pothole filling/mini-2-D-on-the-ground-billboard promotion? Time will tell.

I'll tell you one thing: New Orleans should get a nod! Anyone thinking St. Louis has bad roads should visit down New Orleans. Some roads are death traps for bikes, scooters, etc.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Archdiocese says the San Luis could be gone in two weeks

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Building Blocks Blog comes this quote re: demolition of the San Luis Apartments on Lindell:

Dan Jay, the architect on the archdiocese’s plan to replace the building with a parking lot, said today a demolition contractor could be hired by the end of the week. And after utility connections are cut, demolition could begin in about two weeks, he said.

Despite this statement, there still might be time. The Preservation Ordinance states the following:

SECTION FORTY-FOUR. Appeal on actions or determinations: Demolition, Construction,
Alteration - Historic District or Landmark/Landmark Site.
Any person aggrieved by, or any officer, department, board, bureau or commission of the City affected by, the action of the building Commissioner with respect to a requested permit based on the Cultural Resources Office’s application of the Landmark or Historic District standards to a requested permit or based on the recommendations or determinations by the Preservation Board or Cultural Resources Office pursuant to Sections Thirty-Nine through Forty-Three, may appeal the action of the building commissioner to the Preservation Board for review and hearing. Such appeal shall be known as a preservation appeal and shall be taken within thirty (30) days after the action of the building commissioner by filing a notice of appeal with the Cultural Resources Office specifying the grounds of such appeal.

SECTION FORTY-FIVE. Hearing on filed appeal: Demolition, Construction, Alteration -
Historic District or Landmark/Landmark Site. Within forty five (45) days after the filing of appeal to the Preservation Board, the Preservation Board shall hold a hearing thereon. The Preservation Board shall hear the recommendations and evidence submitted by the Cultural Resources Office and by any officer, department, board, bureau or commission desiring to be heard thereon and shall permit the appellant and other parties to the appeal an opportunity to appear and be heard by the Preservation Board and to submit evidence. The Preservation Board may permit any other interested person an opportunity to appear and be heard by the Preservation Board. The Preservation Board may continue or adjourn the hearing or schedule additional hearings to permit a full hearing of the appeal. The Preservation Board shall cause all proceedings in a preservation appeal to be suitably recorded and preserved.

If the appeal fails, the aggrieved party can always take the case to the Circuit Court. Apparently, this all needs to happen fast!

Monday, June 22, 2009

San Luis Demolition Approved

According to a Tweet by Steve Patterson around 9:45 p.m. tonight, the Preservation Board has approved demolition of the San Luis Apartments for a surface lot.

I am more than interested to hear how this lot adheres to ordinance standards.

Is a lawsuit possible?

Updates to come...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

7 Reasons to Save the San Luis: #1 Increasing St. Louis's Civic Awareness

There's just one more day before the Preservation Board meets to decide the fate of the San Luis Apartments on Lindell Boulevard. And now I'm up to my #1 reason that the San Luis should NOT be demolished for a parking lot.

One thing I have noticed with the San Luis controversy is the idea that St. Louisans can rise up and demand a better physical environment in their city. We do have a say in decisions that make our city less livable in the long run.

A successful defeat of a very ill-conceived parking lot at a high profile corner in the city will send the message to developers, politicians, and other residents that St. Louis is no longer operating in the old manner. No longer will citizens put up with bad plans hatched by people with no clue about what makes great cities--and what unmakes them.

The San Luis controversy is a part of a fledgling movement in St. Louis of urbanists, preservationists, and other civic activists affirming and reclaiming the squandered urbanism of the city. A victory is important in conveying that we're serious, we're dedicated--yet we won't stop even in the face of defeat. Cities, after all, aren't made or broken by a single corner or intersection--it's the whole panache, the tableau. But we recognize that those corners are crucial in painting the whole image. We will no longer accept people carelessly extracting the myriad images that make up our urban mosaic.

The San Luis has already been instrumental in increasing St. Louis's civic awareness and confidence. A victory in defeating a bad plan to replace a monument with asphalt will only broaden the stride.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

7 Reasons to Save the San Luis: #2 The Parking "Problem" Has a Solution

Too often scenarios such as the proposed demolition of the San Luis Apartments seem to present a dichotomy wherein one of the two neatly defined "sides" must win; the other must therefore lose.

But opponents of the San Luis demolition do not wish to block the Archdiocese's plans to supply parking, necessarily. It's the idea of tearing down a perfectly habitable building in order to construct a surface parking lot. If there's a way to supply their parking desires without demolition, that's great. Why not consider alternatives? The Archdiocese claims they've explored them all without offering a concerned public any specifics.

Considering the cost of the San Luis demolition, it might be wise for the A-D to consider using a shuttle service for patrons at various pick-up points. A shuttle could also be used to bring church-goers to the Cathedral from the Euclid/Lindell garage, which is rarely full.

A glaring alternative is to allow the San Luis to stand--it has built in parking spaces that exceed the number requested by the A-D for their new lot.

Since sensible alternatives exist, it's up to you to show your support for one of those and not for the demolition of the San Luis Apartments for a surface lot.

The Preservation Board meets on Monday (June 22) at 4pm. The location is 1015 Locust, Suite 1200.

Friday, June 19, 2009

7 Reasons to Save the San Luis: #3 Preserving the Streetscape

It's not just about the building itself when it comes to preservation. Let's say you detest modern architecture and the daring modernist vision of the San Luis doesn't really appeal to you.

Keep in mind; there will be no building on this site for years, possibly decades, if the San Luis comes down. The dream of the Archdiocese is a "green" parking lot.

Lindell Boulevard has a magnificent street wall, especially between Taylor and Euclid. Yet the entire stretch in the Central West End is full of surprises. Most of all, it's an architectural museum with most of St. Louis's heyday represented. Check out this unbelievable post by B.E.L.T.'s Toby Weiss if you don't believe me.

And I would say "imagine" what a parking lot would look like in this space, but you don't have to, because the folks at No Parking Lot on Lindell have produced a rendering.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

7 Reasons to Save the San Luis: #4 Autocentric Infrastructure is Ugly

It doesn't matter how many trees you plant or what signs you install. Nor does it matter if you sub out the signs for a triumphal arch as St. Louis University is wont to do.

Parking lots are ugly barriers.

This topic is explored pretty well in the wonderful short documentary on the San Luis entitled "This Was the Future". Check it out below if you've not yet seen it.

In the meantime, I hope you're ready to speak at the upcoming Preservation Board meeting June 22, at 4pm. What's the location, you ask? Central to all--at 1015 Locust, Suite 1200. Please testify on the San Luis's behalf that parking lots are lifeless, ugly, inhibitors to urbanism.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

7 Reasons to Save the San Luis: #4.5 Mid-Century Motels are Sexy; Ask Miami

Sadly, and mistakenly, when most people think of "sexy" cities, St. Louis ranks behind Miami.

This would not be so if we took a cue from Miami and cherished our sexy, if awkward, space age buildings like the San Luis Apartments. Miami has a whole historic district full of mid-century office buildings, commercial buildings, and, most prominently, hotels. The so-called MiMo Historic District (that stands for Miami Modern--an indigenous style that dresses up modernism with all sorts of unexpected colors) is the first of its kind in the country. Slowly, but surely, mid-century modern motels from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s are being restored and seen as economic and cultural assets to the city of Miami.

With the Bel-Air West Motel on Lindell already redeveloped, and with a refurbished San Luis (hey--some color could be added to the original design too, right?), we have the beginnings of our own SLoMo Historic District (ahem...St. Louis Modern).

Check out these examples from Miami:

The Davis Motel (1953), courtesy of electrofloss

Vintage shot of the former Stardust Motel, now the Biscayne Inn and Apartments (1956), courtesy of naslrogues

The Seven Seas Motel, at night (1955), courtesy of nazaret

Shalimar Motel (1950), courtesy of kleesohn

So these are mostly 1950s motel. What about something more comparable to our 1960s San Luis?

Check out this 1960s-era hotel overlooking the Atlantic in North Miami Beach: the Golden Strand Hotel and Resort

View Larger Map

I know beaches are sexy, but San Luis's restored pool should evoke about the same coolness, right? It sure looks like it from this vintage photograph (thanks to UMSL's Mercantile Library collection for the photo, and No Parking Lot on Lindell for finding it)...

There you have it. Proceed now to the Preservation Board on June 22, 2009 at 4pm, located at 1015 Locust, Suite 1200 and tell them that this building is too sexy for the wrecking ball.

7 Reasons to Save the San Luis: #5 It's my Birthday!

Look. I really don't want to go back home and find a parking lot in place of one of my favorite mid-century landmarks. That would upset me.

Why care about my feelings?

Well, today, June 17th, is my 24th birthday.

If you'd like to give me the greatest birthday gift of all, please testify that it's my birth month and this building is important to me at the upcoming Preservation Board meeting:

June 22, 2009
1015 Locust
Suite 1600
4pm - ?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

7 Reasons to Save the San Luis: #6 Rehabilitation is Definitely Feasible

Ultimately, the San Luis is an easy building to rehabilitate. It was occupied as recently as 2007 and is now, under the Archdiocese's control, in its worst shape yet due to deferred maintenance. But these problems aren't serious. Despite the testimony of the architect on the project, Dan Jay, the interior simply could not be in as bad of shape as has been described. In a worst case scenario, the building's innards could be gutted anyhow. It seems hard to make the "unsalvageable" claim for a building so recently occupied--especially when, across town in Old North St. Louis, buildings with just two walls standing have been completely reconstructed.

The Missouri State Historic Preservation Office has indicated that this building would be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Already located within a local historic district, this building would be eligible for a 20 percent investment tax credit if listed on the Register and a 25 percent state credit if the work began before the end of the year. That makes rehabilitation very feasible.

Further, the Roberts Brothers have transformed a mid-century modern hotel--the former Bel Air West--into a Hotel Indigo just a block away.

The building's in decent shape, is open to substantial tax credits for rehabilitation, and there is a precedent for restoring buildings of its era back to use almost on the same block. I'd say the San Luis is more than salvageable.

But, since I'm in New Orleans, why don't you head over to the Preservation Board meeting on Monday June 22, 2009 at 4 pm (1015 Locust, Suite 1200) and testify on my behalf that this demolition is unnecessary? I'd really appreciate it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

7 Reasons to Save the San Luis: #7 Sustainability

Sure. It’s an odd modern building that doesn’t appeal to everyone’s Victorian design sensibilities. Isn’t the replacement parking lot being proposed a “green” parking lot anyway? Why not tear the building down?

The fact is that San Luis demolition will cost millions and will send heaps of concrete to a landfill near you. The number one saying of the green building movement is that “the greenest building is the one already standing”. Parking lots, which discourage walking to your destination and contribute to urban runoff and water contamination, are inherently un-green (and anti-urban). Rehabilitating the San Luis would be a much greener effort than a parking lot or even a new building. The footprint of the magnificent modern structure is simply too large to justify sacking it for a surface lot.

Please visit No Parking Lot on Lindell to learn how you can help the effort to Save the San Luis! The Preservation Board meets on June 22--a week from today--at 4pm to decide the fate of the building. Please testify that demolition of the San Luis is not in sync with today's push for sustainability.

Save the San Luis--Next Monday, June 22!

Thanks go to Kara for producing this lovely flier!

On June 22, the Preservation Board will decided the fate of the mid-century modern San Luis Apartments (AKA the DeVille Motor Hotel). If the Board allows the demolition to go through, a surface parking lot will cover the northeast corner of the intersection of Taylor and Lindell Boulevards.

Your testimony against demolition and for sound planning and urban design is critical to keeping this building standing! In case you need some talking points, I'll be posting some over the next couple days. The meeting details are listed below:

Preservation Board Meeting
June 22, 2009
4pm - ?
1015 Locust
Suite 1200

If you absolutely can't make the meeting, at least shoot an email over to the Board at

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Key to CityGarden's Success?

The Riverfront Times has reported that Jim Fiala, of Liluma/Acero fame, will manage the restaurant at the new CityGarden in the Gateway Mall between 8th and 10th Streets on the east and west, Market and Chestnut on the south and north. The restaurant will be called "Terrace View" and will offer indoor and outdoor seating, taking advantage of Garden views.

If I'm not mistaken, the restaurant will flank the northeast corner of the site (Chestnut and 8th). There are some pictures of the in-progress garden courtesy of Toby Weiss's B.E.L.T., but none specifically of the restaurant space.

Regardless, what I've seen I like. The restaurant, depending upon hours, will infuse a rather dead space with a good degree of life and activity. Short of reconstructing the north block face of Chestnut Street a couple blocks down where the parking garages face Kiener Plaza with high rise residential/offices--this is a great way to bring an active edge to the newly programmed CityGarden.

But it shouldn't stop there. The block where the Serra Sculpture (AKA the Twain) rests could fit some light construction as well. One could see a really small bar, a la the Log Cabin Inn at the City Museum, becoming a new entryway to the Serra Sculpture space.

Another bolder proposal would be to close the westbound lanes of Market Street and build a new streetwall of buildings on this newly acquired land, possibly all the way from Tucker to Broadway. The portion fronting the Gateway Mall/City Garden could provide that needed human scale street wall combined with pockets of activity that will keep the space alive throughout most of the day (and night?). I might try to render some of this in Google Sketchup. Don't hold me to it.

The Mayor's Stance on Preservation of the Police Headquarters

From today's Post-Dispatch article:

Jeff Rainford, chief of staff for Mayor Francis Slay, said the mayor "will be for the most cost-effective option that is the most beneficial option to the Police Department and we don't know what that is yet." He said the mayor was not interested in a temporary solution.

Those options are to A) rehabilitate the 1927 structure, B) demolish and rebuild, or C) relocate altogether. Somehow I doubt that the quote from Jeff Rainford indicates that the city will look at what the effects of losing a solid, historic structure would be when you have a surface lot across the street. Or the value of embodied energy. Or how to build a better building than what's already there.

Option B is ludicrous.

Why They Love Detroit

CNN has a great series in which they speak to 13 Detroiters (fitting number, huh?) about, well, why they love Detroit despite all of its economic calamities and widely publicized urban problems.

Of course, as St. Louisans, we can relate. The 13 individuals' passion and dedication to their struggling city is inspiring and yet so familiar to me. My love for St. Louis is etched into my brain and only a hardcore lobotomy could ever take it from me.

Here is just one quote from the series:

Frankie Darcell:
Why I Love Detroit:
I love this community. There are people here trying to save the city. I stay here for them, because I know I have a big voice here. Someone needs to speak for the people who are excited about the future of this city. That excitement is infectious.

Check it out for yourself here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The legacy of density in North St. Louis

This beautiful three story Italianate home on Finney Avenue just west of Grand was probably unique in its height for the surrounding low rise residential neighborhood even when it was built. Today, it's one of the few survivors of such an era. Sitting just west of McEagle's proposed North Side project, it's likely safe from any clear-cutting that may occur. Whether Urban Assets tries to do anything with the area, though, is another story.

These time tested structures are integral in conveying St. Louis's heritage. They're great blueprints for how to rebuild tattered neighborhoods like St. Louis Place, which used to contain a lot of this very building type. McKee should take note of such properties in tackling new residential development in the NorthSide project. The new need not mock or imitate the old, but could take cues from the massing, density, and scale of these older buildings.

Lafayette Square is another neighborhood with a notable concentration of impressive three story Italianate buildings. With cutting edge new construction that is able to complement such great historic buildings, neighborhoods like St. Louis Place and Covenant Blu/Grand Center could be emblematic for their contrasting eras of architecture.

At the University of New Orleans, I'm currently enrolled in a class entitled Urbanism and Urban Design, which will verse me in the basics of Google Sketchup. I hope to produce my own ideas for complementary infill by the end of the summer semester, for what it's worth.

Monday, June 8, 2009

June Preservation Board, Proposed Demolition: 2100-02 Destrehan

Photograph obtained from the City of St. Louis

2100-02 Destrehan is yet another Hyde Park structure to be threatened over the past couple months. This is another LRA-owned building, who is also proposing its demolition. Recently, the city demolished a group of handsome commercial buildings for a surface parking lot (for the Treasurer's Office).

Is the city wanting the sensitive Hyde Park historic district to further empty? You can count out an Old North-inspired revitalization of Hyde Park if the southern part of Hyde Park (adjacent to Old North) is fallow land.

June Preservation Board, Proposed Demolition: 4646-48 St. Ferdinand

Photograph obtained from the City of St. Louis

4646-48 St. Ferdinand is located in the Greater Ville neighborhood. The proposed demolition is requested by the city's Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), not coincidentally one of the largest landowners in the city. While I'm sure this property has not been fun to live adjacent to, one has to wonder: could the city not better secure its own property? Why are the second floor windows open to the elements? Could this have contributed to a quicker demolition-by-neglect?

June Preservation Board, Proposed Demolition: 5846 W. Florissant

Photograph obtained from the City of St. Louis

5846 W. Florissant, in the Walnut Park East neighborhood, is another property proposed for demolition by the City of St. Louis Department of Public Safety.

June Preservation Board, Proposed Demolition: 3020 California

Photograph obtained from the City of St. Louis.

3020 California, in the Benton Park West neighborhood, is a resource within the Gravois-Jefferson Streetcar Suburb National Register District.

It is up for demolition on this month's Preservation Board Agenda, prompted by none other than the City of St. Louis Department of Public Safety.

This multi-family unit is exactly the type of property that made mass transit work so well in the City of St. Louis's heyday. Today, in an emptied city, density is vilified and multi-unit properties are seen as unsavory attractors of low income persons, and by extension crime. Many sit vacant, as the costs to redevelop are higher in such large structures and the payout for a rehabilitated building is lower than a single-family home.

Let's hope that 3020 California, located in the oldest section of the Benton Park West neighborhood, can survive to see a time where its density will be welcomed and its location near transit lines celebrated.

San Luis to be Considered for Demolition in June Preservation Board Meeting!

The San Luis, or DeVille Motor Hotel, is on this month's agenda for the Preservation Board. There is a bunch of others up for demolition consideration as well.

On a preliminary note, burn this date into your head:

MONDAY, June 22, 2009 at 4pm
1015 Locust
Suite 1200

That's the time and location of the Preservation Board meeting where your voice will be needed to avoid the egregious idiocy of demolishing a landmark for a surface parking lot.

Updates to come soon.

Friday, June 5, 2009

More Times of Skinker DeBaliviere: the long gone DeBaliviere Strip

Thanks to Brian of the excellent and informative Downtown St. Louis Business Blog for a) reading the previous post and b) finding a better thing to blog about than I had selected.

Below is a shot of the so-called DeBaliviere Strip, prior to its demolition (the view is looking northeast, standing from the northeast corner of Pershing and DeBaliviere). This February 1985 Times of Skinker DeBaliviere article, in fact, details a proposed redevelopment that would have saved the strip. Click the link to see the rendering. I wish it would have come to fruition.

This is the site today:

Which would you rather have at the foot of a transit stop?

Skinker-DeBaliviere's community newspaper places its archives online

Neighborhood newsletters provide a unique opportunity to view history at the micro-level. Often reporting news too localized for the major daily (or dailies, as used to be the case) to cover, they therefore allow an intimate look into the past.

The Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood's newspaper--The Times of Skinker DeBaliviere--is now available online dating back to 1970. The Times is one of St. Louis's most substantial neighborhood newspapers and is religiously updated and posted to the website. Don't miss the current issues even if I'm only highlighting their archives here.

I selected one of the newspapers to get a look at the news of the day--December 1970.

On the first page is a plan to reinvigorate the West End by "retain[ing] and strengthen[ing] the single family character of the area and [replacing] delapidated apartment houses with new developments."

This plan also included turning DeBaliviere into a pedestrian parkway, with east-west alleys that touch it becoming dedicated through-streets. This would ostensibly benefit the ailing shopping center at DeBaliviere and Pershing.

Yet another portion of the plan was to realign DeBaliviere to connect with Goodfellow to the west.

A part of the plan that seems to have been adopted was the proposal to close most of the streets to through-traffic.

Two blocks were targeted for reconstruction due to their deteriorating, multi-family make-up: 5700 Kingsbury and 5800 Washington. Today, 5700 Kingsbury is indeed a smattering of relatively newly constructed housing units whose design flaws are partially forgiven by generous tree cover. Most of 5800 Washington disappeared as well. In the captures below, you can view both blocks. See how Washington was cut off to make open space for the nearby school? Well, it appears that they left the last building on Washington before its intersection with DeGiverville standing.

This was certainly a late urban renewal project that was probably a net loss for the neighborhood in the long run. I also think it's time to consider reopening streets to through traffic, since closed off streets give off a vibe of privacy that impedes pedestrian as well as vehicular flow.

[Click to Expand]

See what interesting historical stuff you can find from these newspapers? Check them out for yourself.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Paul McKee, Urban Assets Both on List of May Demolition Permits

Of 10 completed emergency demolition permits in May, 9 were North Side addresses and 1 was a Central Corridor address.

More interestingly, a company controlled by Paul McKee, Jr. of "NorthSide" fame saw the demolition of at least one more property. The firm Urban Assets that has been covered by Michael Allen as another potential Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act recipient demolished two in May.

Here's the list:

5031 Claxton - Mark Twain Neighborhood
Emergency Demolition of a One-Story Single-Family House
Owner: Bryce Peters Financial Corporation

5052 Kensington - Academy Neighborhood
From Montly Demo Permits

Owner: Urban Assets

Urban Assets owned this lovely St. Louis foursquare that the city says was built in 1896. Located within the Mount Cabanne-Raymond Place National Register District, this demolition should have gone before the Preservation Board, which has jurisdiction over demolition permits in National Register districts. Emergency demo permits bypass this review. This is yet another demonstration that emergency demolition permits should be reviewed by the Preservation Board. Not processing these emergency permits undermines the process of preservation. This block of Kensington has suffered an unusually high level of demolition for its relatively intact host neighborhood. Urban Assets is hopefully not starting the same process of real estate speculation and expedited decline that has earned McKee so much distrust.

4643 San Francisco - Penrose Neighborhood
Owner: Frances May

2507 Slattery - JeffVanderLou Neighborhood
Owner: Babcock Resources, LLC, linked to Paul McKee, Jr.

If you recall one of my earlier posts, McKee's companies have now demolished several buildings on this same block. This site sits several blocks west of one of McKee's proposed job centers (at Jefferson and Cass). Still, could they be clearing anything adjacent to the proposed job center site early on? It's possible.

4335 Evans - Vandeventer Neighborhood
From Montly Demo Permits

In the Bing Maps capture provided above, 4335 Evans is the house just to the left (west) of the multi-family property.

Owner: DHP Investments

Con artist Doug Hartmann incorporated DHP with the stated intention of renovating hundreds of properties across the city. These renovations never materialized for most properties. One high profile DHP holding was the now mostly destroyed Nord St. Louis Turnverein in Hyde Park. For more reading, click here. The future of their current holdings remains up in the air. This one received an emergency demolition permit.

1456 Hamilton - Hamilton Heights Neighborhood

Photograph provided by the City of St. Louis.

Owner: LRA

5900 Kennerly - Wells Goodfellow Neighborhood
Owner: John A. Davis

5858 Lotus - Wells Goodfellow Neighborhood

Photograph provided by the City of St. Louis

Owner: Urban Assets

Yet another Urban Assets property. Hmm...

528-34 North Newstead - Central West End Neighborhood

Photograph provided by the City of St. Louis

It tooks like this spare but attractive CWE multi-family building has been felled for a potential new townhouse development, as seen in the picture below (also from the City):

4216 N. 20th Street in Hyde Park is also on my list, but Michael Allen has already lamented this senseless loss.

I will be tracking demolition permits monthly to see if there is an uptick or a pattern in McKee- or Urban Assets-related demolitions.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What Will Become of 5286 Page in Academy?

Photograph courtesy of Ecology of Absence.

5286 Page will be a topic of discussion at a June 3 Planning Commission public meeting.

If you recall, the Berean Seventh Day Adventist Church wants the building demolished and has repeatedly sought the permit to do so through the Preservation Board. They were most recently denied in January of 2008.

So why is this back up for discussion? Is the church trying to circumvent the Preservation Board decision without appealing or sending the case to court?

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