Monday, July 6, 2015

City Destroys Banner Iron Works Warehouse on Shaw Blvd.

Banner Iron Works demolition
Kingshighway will close today for reconstruction of the viaduct between Shaw Blvd. & Vandeventer, but the City's Board of Public Service has already been busy spending your tax dollars to demolish a three story brick warehouse as part of an ill-conceived plan to re-align Shaw Blvd. at Kingshighway (which makes sense), but to also keep the present Shaw Blvd. (which doesn't make sense). By doing so, O'Connell's Pub loses some of its existing parking lot, so the City is demolishing the warehouse to pave additional spots to make up for the lost parking. The warehouse building was in good condition and was occupied until it was purchased by the City.

Next STL brought this plan to light over 3 years ago, and showed how eliminating the existing Shaw Blvd. would regain the lost parking spaces and avoid a needless demolition. It is apparent that the City has not made any major changes and is moving forward. A demolition permit was issued on June 23rd and as of yesterday, the building was already gone (photo above).

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The plan above shows how Shaw Blvd. will split with two separate roadways that will intersect Kingshighway. Eliminating the original roadway and adding an access drive or a short spur road providing access to the Botanical Garden lot off shaw north of O'Connell's would have provided space for additional parking spaces and would have allowed the warehouse building (outlined in red) to remain. See Next STL's plan for this here.

Banner Iron Works warehouse
The warehouse building had been constructed in 1911 as an expansion of the Banner Iron works complex, which had been established on Shaw on property adjacent to the rail crossing to the east in 1901. Banner Iron Works was a foundry and fabricator of cast iron and steel for the construction business, producing cast iron storefronts and other building components, manhole covers, street signal boxes as well as the iconic gas lamp poles that were installed in many areas of St. Louis. One of these poles was recently exhibited in Missouri History Museum's St. Louis 250/250 exhibit. Banner also designed and fabricated the structural frame of the Admiral river boat, which was destroyed for scrap in 2011. 

Banner Iron Works postcard
This postcard shows the entire Banner Iron Works complex with the recently demolished warehouse in the upper right corner. The company closed in 1986, and most of the complex east of the warehouse had already been demolished. The large three story building at the top center of the postcard is still in use by Lunar tool.

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A rendering of the flawed dual Shaw Boulevards, which not only resulted in demolition of the Banner Iron Works warehouse, but is sure to cause confusion for drivers.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cortex Begins Demolition of the Brauer Supply Building

Brauer demo 6-9-15
This week demolition began on the Brauer Supply building at the southeast corner of Forest Park and Boyle in the Cortex district. A gaping hole is visible at the back of the Brauer building to the left and beyond the rehabilitated @4240 building which opened last summer and has already and recently achieved 90% occupancy.

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A view of the Brauer Supply building from Forest Park. Back in April 2011 the St. Louis Preservation Board was to consider three buildings for listing on the National Register: the @4240 building, built as a SWB Telephone Distribution House, the Crescent building on Duncan west of Boyle, built as a printing facility for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and the Brauer Supply building, which was constructed in 1919 as the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company Branch House. This presumably was a sign that the three buildings would be rehabilitated using historic tax credits to serve new functions. 

Brauer Supply
Unfortunately the Brauer Supply building was not listed and no listing seems to be present for the Crescent building either, although I have heard people say that it is earmarked for renovation.

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Instead of renovation, the Brauer Supply building will be demolished for a new 3-story 60,000 s.f. building to be built by Cortex. The new building cuts and pastes designs from the Cortex I building across Boyle that opened in 2006 and the BJC Commons building to the south that opened in 2013. So much for innovative architecture in an innovation district!

Brauer Building
According to a story by Maria Altman of St. Louis Public Radio, there where no less than two assessments of the Brauer Building with intentions of rehabilitation, but the decision to demolish and build new apparently came down to costs. Above is a reuse study completed by Cross Street Partners which included concept plans for rehabilitation of the Brauer building and a series of adjacent one-story historic buildings on the north side of Duncan with a total of 95,000 s.f. of renovated space.

TechShop SF Exterior
I find it odd that Cortex's CEO stated in the STL Public Radio story said that the Brauer Building would have been difficult to make work for Tech Shop, who will be an anchor tenant in the new building. The Streetview shot above is of Tech Shop's San Francisco location, which is housed in an old warehouse building in the SOMA district that appears to date from the 1920's or 1930's.

TechShop SF Interior
Here is a photo of the interior of the SF Tech Shop from their website.

Case Threshing Machine Co - Fargo
In Fargo, North Dakota another J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company Branch House with almost the exact same footprint of the Brauer building continues service as an office building. It will soon lose its sister in St. Louis.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Laclede Gas Demolition Completes Suburbanization of Ikea Site

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Demolition has begun on the Laclede Gas field office building on Forest Park Boulevard west of Vandeventer. Clearance of the 2-story building building just several feet from the sidewalk along Forest Park will complete the suburbanization of the Ikea site, leaving only the big new blue box that will sit 500 feet back behind a sea of surface parking. 

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A view along Forest Park from earlier this year. The building, according to City records was constructed in 1936, and exhibits spare stream line detailing common for the period. 

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This demolition is less about the loss of the office building and accompanying garage to the west, which was very utilitarian in style, than it is about the loss of an urban character along this stretch of the broad boulevard. Directly across the street a large grassy field still sits at the northwest corner of Forest Park & Vandeventer where the Welle-Boettler Baking Company complex was needlessly demolished by CORTEX in 2011.

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A view of the Ikea site from a point near the corner at Vandeventer.

IKEA Site Plan
The suburban style Ikea site plan with parking in front and a three lane access road running parallel to Forest Park and Vandeventer. Like most Ikea stores, the new St. Louis store will also have parking under the building.

Atlanta Ikea aerial
As NextSTL illustrated last year, the Ikea in Atlanta is in similar proximity to the center of the city as ours but has a better plan. Although the site is somewhat less urban due to interruptions of the street grid, the store and garage extending out below are packed onto a much tighter site. Instead of a 3-lane mall style ring road, the city street is fronted on the other side by two new multi-story apartment buildings. The ensemble is a much more urban solution fitting into an urban environment, and would fit entirely on the Forest Park & Vandeventer site. 

IKEA STL Alternate Site Plan
Even if the Ikea St. Louis was not fronted by a large apartment complex, another solution would be to include a row of smaller retail stores along Forest Park Boulevard. Through selective demolition the the front wing of the Laclede Gas offices, which was the same was 60 feet depth as a typical strip retail building, could have housed 10,800 s.f. of retail space. The upper level could have housed the same amount of office space for companies wanting to be in the CORTEX area. Instead of surface parking, an additional parking level would be built in the middle (shown in blue).

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The garage building west of the office structure, which was demolished earlier this year, could have housed an additional 19,600 s.f. of retail stores in 70 foot deep column free space under the large trusses seen above. East of the office building a new retail building could be 18,000 built for additional small stores (shown orange above) or a medium size 20-25,000 s.f. junior anchor could be built. 

Market at McKnight Aerial
The concept of lining the street with smaller stores is nothing new and a local example was built several years ago at the southwest corner of Manchester and Rock Hill Roads. 

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From Manchester Road, the Market at McKnight is an attractive window lined pedestrian friendly experience. Yes, this corner of suburban Rock Hill is more urban than Midtown's Ikea site. Oh wait, they tore down a historic church for a gas station right across the street. 

Like everyone else, I'm thrilled an Ikea is about to open in the center of the City of St. Louis, but it could be much more. Additional development could always happen in the future on the parking lot in front of Ikea as was shown on an old CORTEX master plan, but what would be their incentive since they own the entire site? 

The site to the west bounded by the Ikea, the grain elevator, Sarah Street and Forest Park Boulevard is owned by CORTEX, who put out an RFP last year for a mixed use development. Hopefully this site will be fully built-up and not be a continuation of the suburban Ikea model.

Gas Lamp Parking Lot
Probably the only parking lot in the region lit entirely by gas lamps is also gone.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Clearance of Empire Brewery Office First of Two CORTEX Demolitions

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The first of two planned demolitions in the CORTEX district began last week with the destruction of this small but ornate buff brick building on Sarah Street that is part if the former US Steel complex. The complex is being demolished by CORTEX to make way for a multi-building project to be developed by Wexford Science & Technology. As reported last year by NextSTL, the development will include research, laboratory and residential buildings. In a rendering that was part of the TIGER grant application for a new Metrolink station just east of Boyle, the corner of Sarah and Duncan that includes the footprint of the building above is shown with a building labeled "Build to Suit". This makes it seem like this will be a later phase of the development and that they have no idea what will be built there. In other words, the decision to take down the building or possibly incorporate it or part of it into something new could have been made later by Wexford or a future user of that portion of the site.

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The facade of the building that fronted on Sarah Street. The building was originally constructed as the office and bottling department for the Empire Brewery, a branch of the Independent Breweries Association. The building shows up on a 1909 Sanborn map below. The larger light blue metal building that was built for US Steel will also be cleared. 

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When I photographed the building a few weeks ago, the terra cotta loin heads that graced the corners of the building and flanked the entrance had already been chiseled out and were sitting on pallets next to the building. St. Louis Patina has some nice photos of the building when it was fully intact. 

Sarah-Duncan-Scott 1909 Sanborn
The 1909 Sanborn map showing the L shaped building just south of Duncan on Sarah.

Empire Brewery rubble
By late Friday there was nothing left of the building but some rubble. The other planned COTEX demolition that will likely be occurring soon is the Brauer Supply Building at the southeast corner of Forest Park Blvd. & Boyle Avenue. More on that soon. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ten Years Ago This Month: The Crime of The Century

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As this bitter cold and snowy February draws to a close I was reminded a few times that the last of Century Building fell ten years ago this month. In early February 2005, I was sitting in the small conference room of Pyramid Companies offices on the 6th floor of the Frisco Building when conversation was suddenly interrupted by a gigantic crash followed by a few screams. I knew it could only be one thing. Like a giant game of Jenga, the last remains of the Century Building had fallen. We went running out of the room into the open office where everyone by now was crowded at the windows staring into the giant cloud of dust that had engulfed Olive Street. The photo above is from October 2004 as demolition began.

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Late December 2004... a holiday season to forget.

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Veins of grey and white Georgia marble revealed the beauty that had been covered with layers of paint. The facades of the Century were entirely clad with solid blocks marble.

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A view of the destruction from the top of the Paul Brown Building, which at the same time was being transformed by Pyramid into loft apartments.

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Near the end in early February 2005. More demolition and pre-demolition photos can be found here on Built St. Louis.

Syndicate - Century Building Alternative Proposal
Craig Heller had proposed a compromise that would save the Century and provide almost 700 parking spaces in the basement and lower floors of the Century and adjoining Syndicate Trust, but the powers that be would have nothing to do with this great idea.

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Ten years later the upper half of the Garage Mahal that went up in place of the Century sits mostly empty on a daily basis.

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Shortly before the construction fence went up around the Paul Brown to start the renovation, someone scrawled this on a dusty storefront window. It remains to be seen whether the demolition of the Century in 2004-2005 will continue to hod the title of the greatest crime against architecture in this century.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Stadium Plan that Doesn't Blitz the North Riverfront

Blitzed
This is the first thing I thought of when I saw the site plan for the proposed new NFL stadium on the North Riverfront announced in early January by David Peacock and Robert Blitz of the St. Louis NFL Task Force. I immediately started thinking of an alternative plan for a new stadium that doesn't require such wanton destruction.

North Riverfront Stadium Site Plan
As currently proposed, the stadium and its surrounding sea of surface parking lots, walkways and parking structures would completely wipe out the North Riverfront Industrial Historic District with exception of the Ashley Street Power Plant, which is still used by Trigen to feed the Downtown St. Louis steam loop. Also to be demolished would be the south half of the North Broadway Wholesale & Warehouse Historic District including Shady Jack's Saloon as well as Farmworks, a transitional housing development by Craig Heller and the Cotton Belt Freight Depot, both individual National Register historic properties.

North Riverfront Historic Districts & Buildings
An aerial view of the historic districts and individual National Register historic buildings (outlined in red) that would be demolished by the current stadium proposal (outlined in yellow). Below is a graphic provided by the NFL Task Force that overlays the stadium over the existing context of the North Riverfront. I have highlighted the buildings that would be demolished.

Stadium Site Plan Demolition Overlay

The alternative plan would build the same open air stadium as proposed by the NFL Task Force, but would simply move it just south of the Ashley Street Power Plant and across 2nd Street from Lumiere Casino and the Four Seasons Hotel. Loading and services would access the stadium via Leonor K Sullivan from the south and Lewis Street from the north under a pedestrian promenade that would extend all the way around the stadium and out over the river. The existing railroad tracks would also be re-routed on a new trestle around the east side of the stadium (the current plan re-routes the tracks west of the stadium).
No-Blitz STL Stadium PlanNo Blitz STL Stadium Legend
This stadium plan would not only significantly reduce the $90-$110 million estimated budget for demolition, environmental remediation and land purchase, but by moving it 1,600 feet south, would also better integrate the stadium with Downtown St. Louis and Lacledes Landing, positioning it to better take advantage of MetroLink and the plethora of existing parking infrastructure that is already present near the Edward Jones Dome.

The south end of the alternate stadium location would be only about 1,125 feet from the Lacledes Landing MetroLink station, well within the 1/4 mile considered to be a comfortable walk. The current planned location would be 2,725 feet or over over a half mile from the station, which could deter some from taking the train. 

The same goes for existing parking infrastructure. Why waste millions of dollars duplicating existing parking spaces when a closer stadium location would put existing garages near the Edward Jones Dome and some garages in the Central Business District, including the large garage at Broadway & Locust and the MX Garage (former St. Louis Centre) nearly as close or closer than the Kiener East & West Garages are to the Dome?
Locating the stadium nearly 1/3 mile farther north would leave garages in the CBD sitting largely empty, not to mention the area restaurants that currently fill with fans before and after football games, and other events at the Dome. 

Similar to the present proposal, the alternate plan would include some new structured parking with mixed use buildings built around the perimeter. Locating these farther south as well would allow them to be better utilized on a regular basis, serving Lacledes Landing, Lumiere Place and events at the convention center.

Locating the stadium just east of Lumiere Place could also help jump-start redevelopment of several historic buildings in the North Riverfront Industrial Historic District as well as the Cotton Belt building. Using Historic Tax Credits, these buildings could become residential and office lofts with ground floor spaces for restaurants, bars and other commercial uses... instead of becoming landfill.

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Shapleigh Hardware Warehouse #3 built in 1903 & 1906 fills the entire block between 1st, 2nd, Ashley and O'Fallon Streets. This view showing window detailing similar to some of the Cupples warehouses is along Ashley looking toward the river. Just beyond is a smaller 6 story warehouse built in 1903 for the Beck & Corbitt Iron Company.

O'Fallon Street
Looking east on O'Fallon Street, the small building on the left was built in 1894 for the Belcher Water Bath Company in 1894 and is now the home of the William A. Kerr Foundation.

Kerr Foundation green roof
Rehabilitation of the building in 2004 for the foundation achieved LEED Platinum Certification and includes a plethora of green building features including a green roof. It wouldn't be very sustainable to bulldoze it into the ground now, would it? Photo from the Kerr Foundation website.

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The Laclede Power Company Building was built in 1901 at Lewis and O'Fallon Streets just north of the Ashley Street Power Plant and was later used by Union Electric for electricity generation. More recently, in the mid 2000's, Trailnet proposed renovating the building as a multi-use facility that would include a trailhead for the North Riverfront Trail, a restaurant, bike shop, event and office space. Unfortunately the project was not completed.
1322 Lewis
This castle-like building was built in 1900 for the St. Louis Cold Storage Company at 1312-22 Lewis Street. It is one of several buildings in the district that has been proposed for residential rehabilitation in the last dozen years, but still waits.

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Measuring 750 in length, the massive Cotton Belt Freight Depot Building was built adjacent to the Cotton Belt Line railroad in 1913 entirely of site-formed concrete. Although still vacant, the building has been used for the last dozen years for the annual Artica arts festival.

Cotton Belt Mural
The east side of the Cotten Belt Building was recently transformed into a giant mural called Migrate, which is highly visible to drivers crossing the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Farmworks
Developed by Craig Heller's Loftworks, FarmWorks is a multi-use facility that streches across five buildings along Cass Avenue between 1st Street and Collins Avenue. It includes the St. Louis Stamping Lofts, which provides transitional housing with supportive services and job training, and urban farm with indoor and outdoor growing facilities, a green business incubator focusing on locally grown foods, an educational facility, an anaerobic digester that turns food waste into methane, and a CNG fueling station.

Farmworks floor plan
A floor plan rendering of FarmWorks from their website.

Shady Jacks
Along north Broadway is a series of buildings that are mostly occupied buildings that comprise the southern half of the North Broadway Wholesale & Warehouse Historic District. Probably the most well known business in this row is Shady Jack's Saloon, which has to be the worlds friendliest biker bar. If you have never been, you should go have their Simple Breakfast, which comes with 2 eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast and on weekends a complimentary bloody mary, all for $6.95! We cannot lose this for another parking lot! Photo by Paul Sableman