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Monday, January 25, 2010

How Many Buildings Did St. Louis Demolish in the 2000s?

According to Building Division statistics, 7,960.

Just for reference, the Benton Park National Register Historic District included 1,168 "contributing" buildings (those said to contribute to the character of the historic district).

Demolishing 796 buildings a year is short-sighted, in my opinion. In all my urban exploration, St. Louis is one of the emptiest cities I've been to. Detroit certainly takes the cake, but few other places are quite so deurbanized as St. Louis or Detroit. Typically, in St. Louis, demolitions are merely to provide more parking or drive-throughs or for the owner of a vacant building to reduce his/her liability or taxes. I understand taking down buildings when solid new construction pressures exist, but clearly, in emptying St. Louis, this is not the case.

The demolition budget of the City of St. Louis should not be used so freely. More money should go into the stabilization of buildings rather than their demolition. This is especially true of neighborhood commercial buildings, the spine of many neighborhoods. There is not much of an excuse for the present state of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and especially its run through the historic Ville. Beyond stabilization, "demolition" funds should go to facade preservation and other measures that protect a sense of place in St. Louis's long stagnant or declining urban neighborhoods.


Anonymous said...

how does this compare to other cities - say baltimore or cleveland? any idea?

Chris said...

Baltimore is desolate in many areas; so is the West Side of Chicago. The Bronx and North Philadelphia all have similar levels of demolition/desolation as North St. Louis. I've been to all those places and seen it myself.

Rick Bonasch said...


It would be good to map the city and show percentages of original building stock. In a way, this has already been done.

If you look at the city's strategic land use plan, there is a designation called "Neighborhood Preservation Area".

The city has a substantial amount of its area designated for neighborhood preservation, and within those areas, building loss is generally very minimal.

Michael R. Allen said...


Is that figure for all demolition permits (which would include outbuildings and interior demolition) or for total demolitions of primary resources?

Matt M. said...

Adam --

I am not sure how to compare the figure to other cities. You have to account for city size, density, and, I believe, new construction replacing old in order to really make a comparison. That would be difficult. Just comparing raw numbers of demolition permits probably wouldn't tell you that much.


Where in Baltimore is as desolate (read: empty) as Old North, St. Louis Place, Jeff Vanderlou, Vandeventer, the Ville, the West End, etc.)? I would like to go and visit to see it.


I think you're right on. The Strategic Land Use Plan, though, merely categorized stable neighborhoods as "preservation areas", doing so expecting these neighborhoods would not face extreme demolition pressures anyway. But you are right.


I spoke with my dad in the Building Division. According to him, his stats would NOT include interior demos but may include garages. However, the vast majority of addresses I have researched show a demolition permit for the main structure.

Paul Wilham said...

I knew it was bad in St Louis with demos nut not that bad. Cinncinnati demoed 179 in 2009. That figure doesn't include owner demos which often happens when the city puts orders against them.

We have learned our city was not a doing proper section 106 reviews with no public input and our neighborhood group Knox Hill formally complained to HUD and we are awaiting their action.

Even though we have had some losses, We are relatively intact by comparison. Unfortunately many cities are using stimulus dollars for "nuisance abatment' We hope the public section 106 review will slow the process here.

Michael R. Allen said...

Statistics show that 13% of the demolitions in the city since 2000 have been in National Register of Historic Places districts.

I haven't done further analysis, but I would guess that the majority of demolitions in the city are coming from areas without preservation review -- in particular the 1st, 4th, 5th, 18th, 19th and 22nd wards in north city.

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