Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Boindi's Legacy of Midtown Devestation

Biondi's Legacy
When the news of Biondi's recently announced resignation filtered through St. Louis, preservationists across the City no doubt cheered and/or let out a sigh of relief. It seemed appropriate though to take a look back at 20 years of demolitions brought about the wave of Biondi's hand. This is by no means a complete summary, and list of buildings that fell under his reign that I don't have photos for is probably as long (or longer) than this post. 

While Biondi can be credited with creating in some fashion a more unified campus setting for St. Louis University, the planning or lack thereof and a penchant for the 1960's style "wipe the slate clean" urban renewal mentality has resulted in buildings and a campus, especially south of the valley, that is far removed from its urban context on an isolated island. Hopefully his replacement will see things differently, that a college campus in an urban setting is a positive attribute, not one to fear.

Olympia demo July 93 001
The Olympia Apartments at the northeast corner of West Pine and Vandeventer - Demolished in almost 20 years ago in June 1993. The building was listed on the National Register and would have made an excellent conversion to student apartments. Fortunately SLU decided to divest itself from the much larger Coronado Hotel around the corner on Lindell at Spring.

Vesper Buick
Vesper Buick Building - Demolished in 1995 for a surface parking lot kitty corner to the surface parking lot on the Olympia site. This National Register listed building by architect Preston Bradshaw was an unusual example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style.

3740 Lindell Boulevard - Demolished in 2008 to provide an open space in front of a proposed expansion of the School of Law that never happened on the main campus. The law school will soon be moving into a donated office building on Tucker Boulevard that is nearing completion of a full renovation for its new use. 3740 Lindell is yet another case for holding the demolition permit until a building permit for the replacement is issued.

Marina Building - August 1977.jpg
Marina Building at the northeast corner of Grand and Lindell - Demolished by SLU in 2002. In 2004 SLU put out an RFP for redevelopment of the site but passed on all of the submissions. It remains a one acre combination sculpture and unofficial dog park at one of the more high profile intersections in the City. 

Locust Livery Stable at 3401 Locust - Demolished by SLU in 2007, this historic building built in 1885 fell to enlarge a surface parking lot in an area that has no lack of surface parking lots and is a block away from SLU's huge Compton Garage.

Wagner House.jpg
Wagner House at 3438 Samuel Shepard - Demolished by SLU in 2008 and remains a vacant lot just east of the beautifully rehabbed Stockton House.

4040 Washington - Demolished in 1999 and replaced with green space and a small parking lot near the alley (that could have easily fit on adjacent vacant parcels).

4068washington demo jan 2004 01.jpg
4068 Washington - demolished in 2004. Owned for many years and actually marketed by LRA until SLU purchased it... still a vacant lot at the corner of Washington and Sarah today.

4056 Washington - This large mansion had been a run-down boarding house for many years but was purchase and almost completely rehabbed (minus some interior finish work) in 2004. Four years later, SLU purchased the home and immediately demolished it. It is worth noting that the three homes above were less than 500 feet from the homebuilders "Citirama at Gaslight Square", an entire street of new homes that were built and sold (many upwards of $400,000+) starting in late 2004. Many homes in the block of Washington west of Sarah have been fully rehabbed since this development.

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Pevely Dairy complex - Demolished in 2012 after the St. Louis Preservation Board denied demolition, but SLU appealed to the St. Louis Planning Commission, who ruled un SLU's favor. The office building at the corner remains as SLU has yet to move forward with the ambulatory care center which it argues absolutely requires every part of the Pevely complex to be obliterated. The complex, which was listed on the National Register had previously been purchased by a developer who planned to convert the buildings into loft apartments. Photo above by Underground Ozarks.

The former Pevely delivery truck garage, one of the buildings demolished.

36xx Hickory & Rutger aerial2.jpg
Single family homes in the 36xx blocks of Hickory and Rutger - Demolished by SLU in 2011  for an initial plan for a new ambulatory care center. When SLU was then able to acquire the Pevely Dairy complex, plans for the yet to be built ambulatory care center moved north. How long will this ground sit vacant? More photos of the homes below.

IMG_102936xx Rutger3659-61 Hickory

Wohl Institute
David P. Wohl Sr. Mental Health Institute - Demolished in late 2011. Just east of the homes above, this was another casualty of the mythical ambulatory care center plan. With its landscaped interior courtyards, this building by architect Gyo Obata was considered cutting edge for the treatment of psychiatric patients when it was opened in 1962, and still served this purpose well until just a few years ago.


Leo said...

Hopefully the next president could stop future demolishing of that area.

Anonymous said...

What about all the good he has done? Without his courage and vision, SLU would not be national research university, and Midtown would be one big ghetto that no one would dare travel to. Because of Biondi, SLU has a beautiful urban campus that is safe, walkable, and is 100% responsible for the revitalization of midtown. If these properties you displayed pictures of had any value they would occupied. Buy them yourself if they can be restored. You wont though because it doesn't make sense.

CFR said...

Anonymous, you really are ignorant. How does one describe a campus/neighborhood as "walkable" when a pedestrian has to walk past several blocks of parking lots and green space to get to and from individual buildings? Midtown will only become MORE "ghetto" as a result of the fragmenting of the neighborhood, and the lost of so much housing. Seriously. Additionally, I love when people say "why don't you buy it then if you love it so much?" it really exposes their ignorance. Biondi may have done a lot of improvements to the campus, but the city has suffered because of it; I'm certain that had it not been him, someone else would have filled the void and probably done something similar. Good riddance to him.

Anonymous said...

Ignorant? You people think that anything made from brick needs saving. If you really want progress you need to be open to new ideas. Biondi did a lot of great things: Chaifetz Arena, the business school, new and old law school, and he's pumped millions into renovating older historic properties all over campus. Heck, Biondi was a major player in saving the Continental Life Building. The only reason people are actually starting to invest in Midtown again is because of what Biondi spearheaded. So what if he knocked down a couple of buildings that have no historic significance other than being made of brick. Would you rather have empty buildings that are falling apart? I wouldn't want to invest in that neighborhood and I sure as heck wouldn't want to live around that. The only thing those empty boarded up buildings bring is crime and eye sores. It scares people away from the neighborhood. Like you, I want an urban, dense, and walkable neighborhood, but you all are getting in the way of progress. Get out of the way or buck up some cash to to do it yourself. It's not ignorant. People want a return on their investment. And your ideas aren't doing it. Good riddance to you.

Anonymous said...

Great quote I heard recently was that Biondi turned mid-town into West County.

Anonymous said...

I think the writer clearly established misplaced and unnecessary destruction of buildings nationally recognized. Your reaction is childish and simple minded. At very least you should retract your silly reaction to a serious issue. Destroying architecturely significant buildings in St. Louis is not a sign of progress but rather a sign of foolishness. Rehabbing these buildings is an option that Biondi had and instead he took the wrecking ball to a lot of great buildings. That is short sighted and foolish.

Anonymous said...

Why are you blaming Biondi for the recent demolitions to clear space for SLU Hospital's ambulatory care center, when SLU sold SLU Hospital to Tenet in 1998?

Vanishing STL said...

SLU mau have sold the hospital, but at least under Biondi's reign it was very clear that Biondi and SLU were in charge. It was Biondi who threatened to close the South Grand operation and move the to west St. Louis County if he didn't get his way with the demolition of Pevely. Also Biondi attended and spoke at the demolition hearings.

Robert Bieser, Jr. said...

A "beautiful campus" does not make the school a "good school!" When Biondi purchased, then demolished buildings, all in the name of "progress," that "progress" was superficial. Sadly, many of the faculty and staff were "forced" to agree, or faced "dismissal." Example: When he was selling the hospital, the Student Newspaper published an op-ed against it. The paper was threatened eviction from campus and the Editor was threatened to lose his stipend. The Editor took his story to the Post-Dispatch and Biondi withdrew his threats. Fr. Michael Doody, S.J. was Director of Campus Ministry at that time and sided with the students. He was fired and replaced by a laywoman. When I spent two semesters in the school, I experienced problematic professors and a severely divided Student Body. There was an obvious lack of "Jesuit Spirituality of Peace and Justice" on campus. I experienced "walls" between the various races of students that I had never experienced before in my academic life (from Mercy High School, Forest Park Community College and UMSL). It was most disappointing! There is much more to schools than a "beautiful" building or campus! What is happening within the walls of those "beautiful buildings" should always be the focus of the Administration and sadly, Biondi failed to see that in his tenure.

Robert Bieser, Jr. said...

P.S. When the hospital was up for sale, Biondi's reasoning was because he feared that he would have to close the School of Medicine. The truth is, many of the students in the Medical School were from foreign countries where their own governments were paying the tuition and other bills. The School of Medicine was not in peril whatsoever! And his very act of selling the hospital was against the Roman Catholic Church's Canon Laws, which requires any Catholic institution that is sold or changed hands have to havee the permission of the local Ordinary (bishop) and the Vatican. He sought neither! Archbishop Justin Regali, who is a Canon Lawyer, cautioned Biondi about this rule. Biondi ignored him. Regali wrote a letter to the Superior General of the Jesuits with the complaint of illegally selling the Catholic Hospital. The Superior sent a letter to the Provincial who called Biondi on "the carpet" and advised him to make peace with Regali. The agreement for the sale was very weak: 1. A significant presence of the Jesuits on the Hospital Board; and 2. To give the same "level of care for the uninsured" at the time of the sale. Sadly, this "flattens" the level of care with the "demands" for care of the uninsured would continue to increase. Since the sale, the SLU Campus Public Safety officers had been replaced by an unarmed private security company. I have spoken to many employees of the School of Medicine and the Hospital over the years. They indicate to me that the Research Building (located on the corner of Grand Avenue and Chouteau Street) was poorly designed and has very limited space for extensive research. I have heard from a Hospital employee that since Tenant, Corporation take over of the institution, that care of the patients have deteriorated considerably. My step dad had ankle surgery and was bedridden. Since he had Alzheimer's, his appreciation of pain was diminished. He tried to climb over the bed rails to use the bathroom. I tried to get the nursing staff to stop him. He was half-way over the rails, when the nurse finally entered the room. Their excuse was that they were "so understaffed!" That is not my dad's problem, nor mine as well. I could tell horror stories of the Emergency Department, but that will be for another time!

Anonymous said...

Ummmmmm............ I don't agree with Biondi on much, but old abandoned vacant buildings being demolished doesn't bother me one bit. SLU is building in St. Louis. (Few others are building in St. Louis these days.)We need to make St. Louis nicer. I believe it already is a stagnant city growing older and dirtier.