Saturday, March 29, 2008

Archdiocese wants to create a "campus" in the CWE

Proposed site plan at Lindell and Taylor

This morning at the CWEA Planning and Development Committee meeting, the architect hired by the Archdiocese of St. Louis explained that the Archdiocese wants to create a "campus" by demolishing the San Luis Apartments at Lindell and Taylor and building a surface parking lot in its place. Yes that's right they used the "C" word! As if that was not bad enough, the next words spewed from the architect's mouth were that the "campus" would make the Archdiocese collection of buildings "not a hodge podge that happened over time"!

WTF! "a hodge podge that happened over time"!!?? uh... most of us call that a CITY! To complete the campus look, for "security" purposes, the surface parking lot would be surrounded by a SLU style black iron fence. So... will they eventually want to fence the Catholic Center, the Cathedral, and Rosati Kain?

Rendering of the proposed surface lot from the corner of Lindell & Taylor

The parking lot would have 150 spaces (although about 20 of these would be lost to a request from the CWEA
Planning and Development Committee request to respect the Lindell building set back line) as compared to 180 spaces that exist in the 3 levels of structured parking in the San Luis building... not exactly a net gain.

The architect pointed out that the existing apartments that were originally hotel rooms are only 240 square feet. If these were combined to create actual one bedroom apartments, with some two bedrooms mixed in, the unit count could reduce from 226 to about 100. If one parking space were allocated to each still relatively small unit, there would be 80 spaces left over for daily use by staff at Rosati Kain.

A representative of Rosati Kain explained their need for additional parking by staff and students. To gain additional parking without demolition, the Archdiocese could put some parking for students on the large grounds of St. Elizabeth Hall, which is directly north of the cathedral across Maryland. To minimize the effects on the grounds, they should use a product called Grasspave2, which uses interlocking plastic rings in real grass to provide the structural capacity to park on the grass. A double loaded row of parking along the Newstead edge of the property could yield about 70 spaces. The combination of this with excess parking at the San Luis would provide more parking than the current demolition proposal.

Grasspave2 product used on each side of a drive aisle

This proposal will need to go before the City's Preservation Board, so it is far from too late to prevent this slap in the face proposal form being executed.


Anonymous said...

So, then, what do we do? It seems that without an array of visual aids to accompany the strong verbal arguments that have already been very eloquently made, the resistance to the Archdiecesan proposal will be weak. With the ability to articulate an argument for alternate proposals graphically as well as verbally, there is likely a greater chance at persuading those in the community and perhaps a few in the church administration. Obviously a senior apartment use is excellent, but an SRO may also be a consideration as neither occupancy would require much resident parking, if any. Market rate apartments would be more difficult without available on-site resident parking (an in violation of zoning laws), though plausible. Is there a plan for a more concerted effort to preserve the building moving forward?

Anonymous said...

I am still fuming from yesterday's meeting. The entire proposal is thoroughly insulting and offensive on so many levels. A surface parking lot in place of the San Luis will be a major setback for the Central West End.

I personally find it insulting that residents are expected to cave into the intentions of the Archdiocese no matter what-- as if they are the lifeblood of the neighborhood? There is a lot more to the CWE than the Cathedral.

Anonymous said...

We can at least counter their insulting land use proposal with some much more reasonable ones. I think we can pull together some alternates that would give the apartment building some genuine advocacy. There seemed to be no shortage of sincerely opposed to the parking lot plan in attendance at the meeting, and I think they'd agree that some fight is better than no fight.

LisaS said...

I have a friend who lives right behind Rosati-Kain and they do have a parking problem, which is a huge a traffic/safety issue for the neighborhood and Cathedral school. Putting more parking at St. Elizabeth Hall creates more danger not only for Cathedral students, but for the students at the Preschool within the SEH property itself. Not a good plan, IMHO.

Does that mean this is a good solution? No. There's two sides to this problem: supply and demand. Rosati needs about 50 spaces for staff and ~200 for students (410 students, juniors and seniors old enough to drive). One of the high schools I went to had resident parking established on the adjacent streets and required students to have a parking pass for campus. These were allocated by class: seniors, then juniors, etc. For Rosati, maybe students who carpool from the suburbs could have priority? And dedicated scooter parking for City residents?

Is there serious consideration of keeping this as apartments? it seems strange to me that the architect would know this bit of information if it weren't a serious option, but this is the first I've heard of it.

And john w--an SRO would never fly in this neighborhood. Never.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, SRO hotels take on more forms than what you may believe is the only sort. I agree that this proposal would be a very tough sell, but it is only one of at least a handful of alternate solutions that are certainly better than a surface parking lot. If I could ask you to check out the SRO hotels of San Diego designed by architect Rob Wellington Quigley, I think you may be surprised at the urban quality of such an amenity. There are many others in San Fransisco as well. Not all SRO hotels are the flophouses of old, and the examples throughout the more desireable urban neighborhoods of San Diego will demonstrate the steet-level commercial features that pedestrians expect to encounter in a walkable urban neighborhood. 'Never' is rather absolute term.

Anonymous said...

Rosati Kain students can take the bus to school; that's what I did and that's what millions of other Americans have done over the last century--and we all survived. It took forever, but that's life; if you want a short commute, live near where you work/go to school.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The San Luis Apartments already offer a lot in its present form, and if some alternate proposals can demonstrate that not much is required to revitalize this building then the argument for preservation is stronger.

LisaS said...

Actually, john, I'm familiar with Quigley's buiding as eye candy ... well designed like most of his work. I haven't been to SD or SF in years so I can't speak to the success of those developments.

The problem is more of a linguistic and perceptual one, and the word SRO is a dangerous one in that regard. Many people in the CWE are the most tenuous of City residents, especially the newcomers. Thought: the executive apartments (short term leases for visiting faculty, consultants, etc.) have largely been forced out of the Chase for condos ... developing something to fill that market could be a possibility. Concierge apartments, if you will. The building lends itself to something hip and fun. Yes, it's all spin.

Anon, I agree completely in principle, but the reality is somewhat different. According to their web site, RK students come from all over the place--88 parishes from St. Chuck to IL. Ever tried to take a bus to/from West County on a regular basis? Not an easy thing to do, and not something most parents -- particularly those sending their daughter to an all-girls school -- would feel comfortable allowing their teen to do. They have to market region wide to survive, so we have to find the middle ground, protecting the neighborhood and the urban fabric as well as thier concerns.

Anonymous said...


Would you be interested in being part of a more detailed discussion of alternate uses? I've spoken with a few fellow urbanist bloggers, and there seems to be some genuine interest beyond the meeting of 3/29.

LisaS said...

john, what did you have in mind? a set of blog entries on the same day? a meeting? ?

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking a meeting somewhere out in the urban world would be good. A few others would be interested as well. Besides, it's hard to drink good coffee in a blog.

LisaS said...

well, I'm always game for liquid refreshment. Email me: 47thoughts at Gmail