Monday, April 27, 2009

Preservation Board Spares 4100 DeTonty

4100 DeTonty - photo from Geo St. Louis

The St. Louis Preservation Board voted this afternoon to require rehabilitation of 4100 DeTonty as part of a larger redevelopment proposal to build new houses on adjacent vacant land. The applicant, Delmar Enterprises LLC had proposed demolishing the home for new construction. The house lies within the Shaw Historic District, making it eligible for Historic Tax Credits. The would-be developer however showed his lack of experience with rehab when he testified that saving the home would be unfeasible because he would need to re-build the front porch and would not be able to match the unusual brick. Funny thing is that if the house were demolished, the brick would be salvaged, sold for re-use, in other words use the same brick to re-build the porch (if it needs re-building).

Side and rear of 4100 DeTonty along Thurman. Wouldn't that have been lovely
to have a new house here with siding along Thurman? Photo from Geo St. Louis.

Fortunately, the preservation board did not buy the argument and in fact even did some quick math for the developer showing that rehab would be feasible with what the $200,000 estimated he would need to put into it, the 25% Missouri tax credit, and the estimated base sale price of $250-275,000.

The new construction designs do not look too bad, although the windows are too small and the porches are not well proportioned. See the proposed designs here on the Preservation Board agenda. Above are some townhomes that Delmar Enterprises completed just before the real estate crash, and as you can see the porch columns are too tall, and the entire porch roof is too high. Also, notice how there are more windows on this design than on the newly proposed design.

The real interesting thing about this proposal though is that the vacant land on DeTonty is still owned by Millennium Restoration & Development. Their development director first found out about this proposal on a post a few weeks ago by Dotage St. Louis. It seems that Alderman Conway went behind their back with another developer, who by the way mentioned at the meeting that he does not have financing in place.  Don't you just love St. Louis politics?!


john w. said...

Though the windows are a bit smaller than they could be, I don't find this particular example to be out of order with respect to the historic context. The porch columns are too narrow for the overall height of the porch, however I think the disproportionate height is a result of the narrowness of the columns and lack of material substance at the guardrail base. On a more contemporary or modernist example, the lightness of the porch would be very appropriate, but the adherence to esthetic strictures of the historic district ordinance should have demanded a more 'true' semblance of precendent. This is of course another reason to be heavily crictical of clunky historic district overly restrictions, because if the result is what we see, then of course, what is the damned point after all?

Zoning ordinance workarounds invariably result in laughable attempts to ape certain historic features, then lazily just quit trying to 'fit in' when 10-15 feet past the front corner. Slavish devotion results in lifeless bots, sapping the energy from what could easily have been a more vibrant example of design, augmenting an already rich historic neighborhood through complementary references to context. Zombie architecture hurts historic districts every bit as much as reckless, disrespectful slag, and architects ought to be counseling clients, neighborhood associations and jurisdictions as to why this is true. Undeniable quality design and traditional vernacular, or special historic architecture are not mutually exclusive, and so if historicizing design is the intent, then demand high quality results. Otherwise, allow designers to demonstrate how high quality complementary design can both respect the past and move into the future.

Anonymous said...

I actually sold one of the condos on Botanical.

I think I went through 40 homes with him. Lots of the rehabs were not done well. I was glad that these were built to satisfy a buyer who would only be satisfied with new construction.

There really is hardly any new construction in the Tower Grove area to sell other than the St. Charles-like homes in Botanical Heights.

I wish they would tear down some of the boxy 50's ranch in-fill homes that you see in Tower Grove and put up homes that fit better into the streetscape.

CH84 said...

I live very nearby this location (the 4100 Detonty block) in the Southwest Garden neighborhood in a 4-family flat apartment.

I want to see all the land next to this building turned into an urban agriculture site and the 1 building restored for use as a home/store building for the land on the same block. Forget building new homes... we have enough buildings/homes in the city.

This is a perfect location for a farm -- free of buildings and trees, visible from the highway (perfect for commerce), within VERY close proximity of a school (great learning possibilities), and also very near the Botanical Garden (great partnership possibilities), and a straight shot down 44 to the Soulard Farmer's Market. AGRICULTURE!!!!

If the land were donated to me I would gladly become it's caretaker :P hahaha.