Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ettrick to be replaced by hi-rise, Shoenberg by park!

Rendering of the new tower that would replace the Ettrick
from the Preservation Board agenda

The full agenda for Monday's Preservation Board meeting was finally online late yesterday. Revealed were BJC's plans to replace the Ettrick Building at Forest Park and Euclid as well as a smaller building just north with a 12 story hi-rise to house outpatient clinics and doctor's offices. Additionally, just a half block west at 4949 Forest Park, just east of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, BJC plans to demolish the Shoenberg Nurses Residence for a park! That's right, a park that will be a mere 475 feet from Forest Park!
Rendering of the park proposed to replace the Shoenberg Building

The Cultural Resources staff report gives the lame excuse that the destruction of the Shoenburg building is needed as the only area available for construction staging for the new hi-rise. This simply is not justified. Hi-rises are built on a regular basis in urban areas with little extra construction staging area. Like in any big city, the sidewalk area, treelawn and parking lane could be blocked off for staging with a temporary covered walkway along the street from pedestrians. Additional materials could be stored on the ground floor of the adjacent BJC North Parking Garage. The rendering makes it unclear if the new hi-rise setback will be aligned with the garage to the west or with the Metro Lofts east of Euclid. I would hope for the latter from an urban standpoint, but whatever setback there is should be used for staging as well.
The Shoeberg & Ettrick building locations. Forest Park is at the left.

The staff report also states the Shoenberg Nurses Residence could be eligible for listing on the Narional Register if paired with the Jewish School of Nursing on Kingshighway, which BJC has recognized as an important historic building and will now save instead of demolishing as was previously considered. So why not list them both, and if they do not need the Shoenberg Building, sell it to a developer. With that location, apartments or even condos would be very desirable, and contribute to the tax base unlike a needless park.
The Jewish School of Nursing which will apparently be spared.

As for whether the Ettrick should be demolished, I admit I have mixed opinions. On one, as I have mentioned previously, the retial spaces in the Ettrick and the building to the north are marginalized by the fact that they ar half a level below the sidewalk. The moat that has been created around the Ettrick to deal with this is awkward at best. From an urbanistic standpoint we will be losing a three and half story building for a twelve story building, which is not a bad trade-off. The building north of the Ettrick has no historic character left, and is fairly unattractive in its current rendition (although I guess it could be re-skinned a fourth time).

On the other hand, the Ettrick is a very attractive building that although slightly altered retains a rich level of detail which is difficult to attain with new construction, especially with several generations of architects who were trained that such beauty in architecture is nonsense. While the overall design of the new tower is not unattractive, it seems too similar to the Siteman Center and Parkway Hotel, and I a quite concerned about its ability to fit in with the streetscape of Euclid. The Central West End is known for its attractive and varied buildings and storefronts. The street level rendering of the new hi-rise however has all the ambiance of a suburban Barnes & Noble store.
Rendering of the tower at street level along Euclid

One could also ask the question: Why jump the Parkway with this building at all? This tower could be built just east of Parkway Hotel and connect to the large adjacent garage there, or it could be built on on of several parking lots east of Taylor that are both adjacent to parking structures and closer to MetroLink.

The Preservation Board meeting begins at 4:00 at 1215 Locust, Suite 1200. I encourage anyone with strong feelings about this proposal to come testify. Alternately, your testimony can be emailed in advance of the meeting to Adonna Buford:


Angelo said...

Oh god, the hideousness. What is with modern architecture and its desire to replace class with complete crap?

I mean, at least there was some sort of point behind the modernist movement....but this is just cheap and simple for cheap and simple's sake.

Anonymous said...

i love how they've conveniently angled the rendering of the new park to hide the fact that there is another great swath of empty space directly behind it (i.e. the parking lot directly behind the shoenburg building off of laclede).
the demo of the shoenburg is completely unjustified. the reality is BJC just doesn't want to pay for upkeep and "staging" offers a convenient excuse to get rid of it and retain land.


Anonymous said...

That's right, a park that will be a mere 475 feet from Forest Park!
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