Sunday, April 5, 2009

4608 Washington was not Bowood's first demolition

4569 Washington - demolished January 2009
Photo by Marjie Kennedy

Thursday morning I was photographing Bowood Farms' demolition of 4608 Washington when I got that erie sensation that something was missing. As I was photographing the homes and and large lot across where a gas station had been I realized that the 3 story house with the odd looking roof line was gone. It had probably been a year or so since I had been on that block and I could not remember its exact location, but it was definitely no where in sight. I noticed that the lot between the former gas station and the large 2 1/2 story home to the east looked like it had been recently graded and surmised that the home had been located there.
The vacant lot (behind the tree) where 4569 stood.

Since Bowood owns the large lot next door, I suspected that they had bought the home and had it demolished. Later, I checked the City's property database and confirmed my suspicions. John McPheeters, Bowood's owner had acquired 4569 Washington in November 2005 and applied for a demolition permit on January 15th of this year. The building data, which is usually taken off the site after demolition showed that the 3,522 square foot home had been built in 1892. A later alteration to the third floor accounts for the odd roof line, which would have likely been a hipped originally. Despite the alteration, the home was in sound condition, and a candidate for renovation, not destruction.
This aerial photo shows Bowood's ownership in the area
including 4569 Washington and 4608, now under demolition.

In 2006, three blocks of Washington between Pendleton and Walton had been proposed to be included in an expansion of the adjacent Central West End Historic District. Unfortunately Alderman Terry Kennedy requested that they be removed from the expansion of the local district, leaving the blocks historic homes open for demolition at will. Last month, when the Preservation Board took up review of 4608 Washington, currently under demolition, they ruled that their jurisdiction did not apply, since the block had been removed from from the proposed district expansion. According to the Board Agenda, the entire expansion could be in jeopardy due to the removal of the Washington blocks. I am not sure why 4608 went before the Preservation Board but 4569 did not.
4608 Washington

Beyond the two historic homes already lost, Bowood owns 4621 Washington, one of a striking row of alternating stone and brown brick homes with two story front bays. They also own another vacant lot in this row where a matching stone fronted home had been demolished prior to their acquisition, which leads me to believe that Bowood intends to eventually acquire the entire row. Does Bowood plan to demolish the home and eventually it's neighbors? Apparently no one knows. The business has been given two demolition permits without any clear plan of what they ultimately have planned for the area. They have applied to build a greenhouse on some long vacant lots on Olive south of their main building, and have indicated that they would use 4608 for storage and display of landscape materials. What is to occur to the north is unclear.
4621 Washington, which still has it's original Jefferson
window over the porch, the last one intact in the row.

4608 Washington currently being demolished as well as all of the property on the north side of Washington are all zoned B-Two Family Residential, which allows for the following uses (text copied directly from the ordinance):

1. Any use permitted in the "A" Single-Family Dwelling District; 2. Two-family dwellings; 3. Semi-detached two-family dwellings or multiple-family dwellings for not more than four families, which comply with the area and parking regulations of the "C" Multiple-Family Dwelling District, where 40 percent or more of the frontage of a street is occupied by semi-detached two-family or multiple family dwellings; 4. Conversion town houses; 5. Accessory structures and uses customarily incidental to any of the above uses; 6. Temporary buildings for use incident to construction work, which buildings shall be removed upon the completion or abandonment of the construction. (Ord. 64868 § 5, 2000: prior: Ord. 59979 § 7 (part), 1986.)

Several conditional uses are allowed, including:

E. Farming and truck gardening; F. Governmental buildings; G. Greenhouses, providing no product is sold on the premises;

It is unclear to me if the expansion of a nursery would fall within the allowed uses, but this seems worthy of questioning. In any case, the City of St. Louis needs to stop handing out demolition permits without firm redevelopment plans.
Several homes farther east on the block have been recently
renovated without the use of Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits.

If Bowood does need further space to show and store landscaping, how about using the large parking lot east of their building. Do they really need that much parking? With ownership fronting Washington, Walton, both sides of Olive, as well as owning half of Walton south of Olive which has been vacated (shortsightedly severing ties with the heart of the CWE to the south), Bowood should have plenty of street parking to serve their clientele without the need for an off-street lot. Bayer's Garden Shop on Hampton Avenue, where we will be returning for all of our future gardening needs, seems to get by just fine without any off street parking.
Bayer's Garden Shop on Hampton has no off street parking.

4 comments: said...

Oh, I am soooo glad you brought up the example of Bayer's on Hampton.

They face the same situation as Bowood, if even a bit more hemmed in. Yet they are better citizens of their community and do way more business with far less s.f. and far more goodwill.

Money talks: if you don't like Bowood's free ride in the demolition office, take your business to Bayer.

Lindsey said...

This is a great post. Yes, go to Bayer - you can shop at a neighborhood nursery with far less pretensions and without the incredible gall and sense of entitlement that seems to dominate Bowood's attitude towards the community.

John said...

I would like to offer a couple of clarifications to your recent post.
4569 Washington was condemned by the City because of structural damage and the collapse of a major portion of the West wall of the building.
Bowood does not own the gravel lot to the East of the 4605 Olive store front, as indicated by the lines on your aerial photo.
Bowood does not intend to demolish 4621 Washington and recently put a new roof on the building as well as retrieving, restoring and reinstalling the Jefferson window on the front of the building. The renovation of the building will continue as funds are available.
Bowood does not own the remaining buildings in the row on Washington. It is encouraging to see the significant renovation that has occurred in the block of Washington between Walton and Taylor in the last two years.
There is a plan in place for new residential construction on the vacant land on the North side of Washington, awaiting a more favorable economic climate and bank lending policies.
4608 and 4612 Washington will become a new "courtyard" with similar design elements and uses to the courtyard that was created from the shell of the condemned building at 4605 Olive.
Bowood does not have any off street parking for customers. The only off street parking is for employees on the lot paved with permeable pavers and buffalo grass created on the site of the former Sinclear station at 4662 Washington where the gas tanks were removed and remediated.
The structure of 4608 Washington had been severely compromised by neglect over the decades and had become a hazard to life and property.

Alex Ihnen said...

^ Thank you for the additional information. However, we have all seen buildings that have been condemned or had a wall collapse that have been brought back. The fact is that Bowood is not being a good steward of this part of the Central West End.