Friday, November 16, 2012
A few months ago Craig Heller tipped me that Larry Deutsch had recently out-bid him to purchase the five-story building at 1107 Olive Street. Most who work or live Downtown know it as the building as the Mauritzio's building for the greasy pizza & pasta lunch / late night buffet with an in-restaurant package liquor store (who doesn't love that combination!). Craig mentioned that it was likely that Deutsch had intensions of demolishing the building for a private surface parking lot to serve the LGL Center, the former Laclede Gas Light building at the northeast corner of 11th & Olive that Deutsch has been slowly renovating over the last few years.
Having not heard anything for a while, I was wondering if this ludicrous idea had been quashed, when a friend who lives in the nearby Louderman Lofts on 11th Street called me this week to say that the proposed demolition was on this months Preservation Board agenda.
Anyone familiar with Downtown knows that Eleventh Street is a virtual wasteland of parking lots stretching uninterrupted on one side or the other (and sometimes both) from Pine Street six blocks north to Convention Plaza with the exception of the one half block south of Locust where the 12-story Louderman Lofts faces the 14-story former DeSoto Hotel across the street. To say that there are not a plethora of parking options for tenants of Deutsch's LGL Center in almost all directions would be crazy. While some of the surface lots, such as those directly across Olive are private, there are several general use lots within a block on Locust and on Pine. Then there is the garage on Locust less than 300 feet west of 11th Street (where many co-workers in the Ludwig Lofts building park) as well as the underutilized giant 9th Street Garage about 350 feet east of the LGL Center.
Deutsch will no doubt try to convince the Preservation Board that the former Maurizio's building was damaged beyond repair when an underground garage was installed just east of the building in 2003. Thats funny since Mauizio's restaurant continued to occupy the first floor until earlier this year, and there has been no condemnation of the building. In May of this year, a jury did agree that HBD Contracting is responsible for settling that caused a crack the full height of the building and awarded the former owner $1.3 million to cover the damage. At the time of the verdict, the owner told his layer he was happy with the verdict, which was over the $1 million that he had estimated it would take to repair the building. He also said he would like to do something with the upper floors if it weren't for tough residential condo market. See this RFT blog post for the full story.
Deutsch has been an owner of many buildings Downtown for decades with a mixed track record of care and respect for them Some may recall that when he owned the Merchandise Mart on Washington, he once proposed to demolish most of the building for parking. He also apparently did demolish the rear portion of the former Lindell Real Estate Company building at 1015 Washington himself! In the remaining portion and the adjoining Dorsa Building he built a haphazard array of apartments that Pyramid Companies later altered converted to condos with a full rehabilitation of the buildings.
If Craig Heller had purchased the building, there is no doubt that he would rehabilitate it with a mix of ground floor retail and office and/or apartments above, a combination with which he has had success with in several buildings in the immediate area. When he renovated the Louderman Building, Heller had the underground garage at the northeast corner of 11th and Olive structured to carry new construction when the market was right for it. Owning the Maurizio's building would allow Craig to build on the corner, connect the floors to the existing building and share the cost of an elevator and stairs between the two. Interestingly, the former Maurizio's building extended to the corner of 11th & Olive when it was built in 1881.
This Sanborn map shows the configuration of the building, which may have been built in stages.
This postcard image from the Mercantile Library collection shows the building in its original state with two additional bays at the running to the corner and three additional bays to the west of the remaining building. As I recall, the portion at the corner had been clad in shiny aluminum siding at some point and according to City property records, was demolished after an emergency condemnation in 1998. The three western bays of the building would have been demolished to make way for the International Style Post-Dispatch Printing Plant that opened at 1111 Olive in 1941.
Although the building at 1107 Olive has been attacked from both ends and its storefront closed in with non-matching brick, the building still retains a substantial amount of character. The two story expanse of what appears in the postcard to be mostly glass storefront was a significant achievement for that time period.
This building simply should not be demolished for yet another surface parking lot. The Preservation Board will meet on Monday, November 26th at 4:00 pm in the 2nd floor board room at 1520 Market Street just west of the Opera House. The plaza in front of the building is currently being re-done, but the Market Street entrance is open. If you cannot attend the meeting, please send your comments to Betsy Bradley, Director of the Cultural Resources Office: firstname.lastname@example.org