Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Century - Four Years Later

It was a little after 5:00 exactly four years ago as I was sitting in a late afternoon meeting in what was then Paric's office at the corner of 9th and Olive when the pounding started. The floor tremored slightly under our feet. It was the beginning of the demolition of the Century Building. The pounding continued seemingly non-stop for three and a half months until the afternoon of February 3rd, 2005 when the final section, the center wing of the E shaped building which had been reduced to what looked like a giant game of Jenga, came crashing down. The loud rumble and earthquake like jolt inducing a few shrill screams through our 6th floor office in Frisco Building across the street.
Four years later several floors of the 1000 parking spaces that were claimed to be needed to serve the Old Post Office and surrounding buildings sit empty on a regular basis. Although it was announced with great fanfare several months ago that Schnucks will open in the ground floor space, construction has yet to begin on the build-out. The Old Post Office itself, which we were told would be activated day and night by throngs of new Webster University students, as well as retail and restaurant spaces throughout the ground floor reminds me more of the days in the late 1980's after the last renovation had long fizzled.
The still empty "future" Schnucks space

The East entrance is closed due to to perceived security issues. Webster does occupy the entire 1st lower level, but there does not seem to be the level of activity one would expect at a college satellite campus. While the Library and Pasta House provide an activated north end, the entire south half of the first floor was turned into office space, which adds nothing to Olive Street and leaves the enlarged plaza area (which took away valuable street parking) dead and empty. Apparently the building management does not want anyone hanging around on the interior either since the giant atrium space in the center of the first floor contains not one, that's right, zero! furnishings. Not one bench, not one table... please pass through and get out!

Ironically, on this fourth anniversary of the destruction of the original half of the flagship Scruggs Vandervoort Barney department store, the Post announced that this week Centene is to start demolition of the first Vandervoort's branch store in Clayton, the Harris Armstrong masterpiece known to most in my generation at the Library Limited Building. On the west half of the block, in stark contrast to the lifelessness of the 9th Street Garage, final touches are being completed on The Syndicate. Like the Paul Brown, The Syndicate renovation was designed to accommodate most if not all of it's parking needs within the existing building.
So four years later, we must ask ourselves: Is the Old Post Office District better off today? Was the "garage mahal" and the destruction of the Century really needed?

1 comment:

Chris said...

No, it would be luxury condos right now if it had survived long enough to be renovated along with the Syndicate. There might have even been a sidewalk cafe in front of the Century, bringing life to Post Office Square.