Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Cutting Corners - Another Driveway Plaza for Downtown?
Just a few weeks after the announcement that yet another parking garage will be built Downtown on the site of the current US Bank plaza/driveway at 7th & Locust, The Roberts Brothers are proposing a similar but smaller driveway/plaza cutting away the corner of 10th & Locust just three blocks west.
The proposal includes demolition of two buildings at the northeast corner of the intersection. 923 Locust at the corner has a false stucco and half timbered exterior that has been on the building for several decades, and 919 Locust, a four story structure with a buff brick facade which was built in 1916. City records list the corner building as being constructed in 1890. Several cast iron columns which appear to be original are visible at the ground floor.
An Indigo Hotel, which is the same flag that the Roberts are using to re-vamp the MCM Days Inn at Lindell & Euclid, would occupy the historic Scruggs Vandervoort Barney Annex at 917 Locust, the small Moderne faced building at 913 and a new two story structure containing lobby would be built occupying the 919 site. Most of the corner 923 site however would remain un-built and occupied by a circle drive off 10th Street.
My issue with this proposal is not preservation of the buildings, it is about urban design. Neither building is of spectacular merit, and while the building at 919 adjacent to what would be the hotel tower in the Scruggs Annex is an attractive building, it's floors are far out of alignment with the Annex, which would make it difficult to tie the buildings together. The issue though is about holding the corner of the intersection in a dense central business district environment. If the proposal called for a new structure built to the corner of the intersection, I would not have a problem with it.
The western half of the CBD of Downtown St. Louis has been so badly eroded by parking lots, plazas, driveways, and needless building setbacks (at&t buildings) that only one other intersection between 8th and Tucker besides 10th & Locust retains four buildings built up to the corner at the intersection. This occurs at 9th & Washington (The Old Post office was historically set back on all sides). This proposal would continue this erosion and set bad precedent for future developments.
The proposal is up for review by the City's Preservation Board at their monthly meeting next Monday, October 27th at 4:00pm. Preservation Board meetings are held at 1015 Locust (one block west of the proposal site), suite 1200. Meetings are open to the public and anyone can sign up to give testimony for or against any agenda item. I encourage anyone with an opinion about this to show up and speak.
The developer will likely claim that Indigo is requiring the driveway in front of the hotel. Like many similar hotels in it's class, Indigo's new-build prototype does have a driveway at the entrance, yet in several cities Indigo Hotel's have opened in existing structures, and in one case a new building, which are all built up to the property line without a driveway in front of the entrance. These include: Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Nashville; Rahway, New Jersey and Ottowa, Ontario.
Don't get me wrong, I would love to see Indigo go into this location, as it would bring desperately needed activity to Locust Street. I feel however that the hotel can be done, and in fact would be better without cutting out the corner of the block for a driveway.