Monday, November 12, 2007

The Syndicate-Century Three Years Later

The title of this post could have easily been "life and death on block 273". Like day and night, the contrast of the two halves of the black are stark. On the west half, the beautifully restored Syndicate Trust is closing in on completion. Apartments on the lower floors appear to be ready for occupancy. The building's exterior is freshly painted (the building had been painted long ago), windows are in, and new storefront is finished on Olive Street.

To the east stands the 9th Street Garage, completed earlier this year, where demolition of the Century Building began a little over three years ago. At night harsh bright light floods the empty sloped concrete floors and spills out onto Olive and Locust Streets through the unscreened openings. The ground floor is still dark and empty months after the space was ready for its supposed tenant Schnucks, who seems to be playing the "I'm afraid to commit game", leaving City Grocer's earlier announced expansion plans in limbo.

Across 9th street is stands the Old Post Office, which has turned out to be largely lifeless itself. While the Library and Pasta House bring are a pleasant additions along Locust, but instead of retail as was originally promised, the remainder of the ground floor was given over to office space, which does nothing to activate the streets around it. Even the lobby off Olive and the grand sky lit atrium space at the center are completely void of any furniture, sending the message that the State of Missouri does not want anyone spending any more time in the building than absolutely necessary.

So after more than three years since the pounding of the headache ball against grey Georgian marble began, we must ask ourselves: Is downtown really better now?


Anonymous said...

This is one of those sad situations where there is absolutely no fix; the Century isn't coming back. It sickens me to even think about it. Still!

Doug Duckworth said...

This area of Downtown is as dead on the weekends as ever. OPO is depressing and lifeless, the only difference is now we have an even greater surplus of parking. Downtown is not back and the signs are everywhere.

Anonymous said...

One of the worst moves in the past 4 years. Webster Univ. should be ashamed of itself for supporting destruction of that historic building/block for a half-assed used parking did I guess little or no retail would pop up there. Same old story. The City needs to get in writing, concrete plans from developers before they continue the wild cat destruction of historic buildings in exchange for the 'hope' that they might move downtown. Can anyone explain why most downtowns have multiple Walgreens but STL has none; their corporation must not agree with the numbers of people moving into the downtown lofts. Just some rambling thoughts........A.T.

Chris said...

Ironically, if I remember correctly, the Century Building had a Walgreens years ago, didn't it? I could be thinking of another building.

The thing I still can't get over is that the National Trust for Historic Preservation fought for the destruction of the Century Building.

And to add insult to injury, the new parking garage is a piece of junk, already showing the signs of poor construction that usually takes a couple of years to appear in even the most mediocre buildings.

And it sits pretty much empty the entire week.

LisaS said...

What now, naysayers, isn't a new parking garage the ultimate symbol of progress? Why would any sane American argue for the retention of another worn-out old building when the same space could hold hundreds of beautiful, shiny cars? The problem isn't the garage, it's that we haven't extended the Truman Parkway to serve it directly.

And of course downtown is better: we've invested millions and millions of dollars in (future) tax revenue to ensure that large corporations like Desco, the Cardinals, and Centene can decrease their operating expenses and increase their profit. Who cares if they don't execute what they said they'd do in their proposals--they're making money and that's great for everyone!

(and btw .... I've got a bridge to sell you ...)