Yesterday Alderwoman Marlene Davis introduced Board Bill 118, a proposed ordinance to approve a redevelopment plan for the Flying Saucer at 212 S. Grand Boulevard, which is part of the Council Plaza National Register Historic District. The redevelopment plan calls for demolition of the iconic Flying Saucer that was constructed in 1967 as a Phillips 66, and has since been home to Naugles and then Del Taco over the past 25+ years. The Flying Saucer, according to developer and owner Rick Yackey would supposedly be replaced with a new "pedestrian friendly" chain restaurant building, which would likely be more pedestrian in its design.
As with most redevelopment plans, this one is predicated on the finding of "blight", and thus the desire and mandate to rid the area of "blight". Attached to Board Bill 118 is the Blighting Study and Plan prepared by the LCRA (embedded below). The actual Blighting Report is a barely 1 1/3 page checklist at the end of the document. Each statement checked yes or indicating the presence of a condition contributing to "blight".
Four of the seven individual items checked give the explanation that the "area" has or is conducive to crime. The very ironic thing about this is that Rick Yackey was a partner in the redevelopment of the long vacant union hall portion of Council Plaza, immediately south of the Flying Saucer, into The Flats at 374, which is stylish high-end student housing for SLU that opened in 2009. He is also partnering in the current rehabilitation of senior housing in the two high-rises underway immediately east. One would think that completion of these two developments, which were blighted themselves for their redevelopment would rid the "area" of "blight" and crime. Maybe criminals are simply attracted to tacos?
In any case, the logic of declaring "blight" is fuzzy a best. Even if "blight" does exist, demolition is not the cure. The existing building, which has been continuously occupied and is in no way structurally unsound. Any building that has had basically the same tenant for 25+ years is going to need some polishing. Of course bogus blighting studies are nothing new. Remember when West County Shopping Center was "blighted"?
Bogus or not, Board Bill 118 passed its first read, and is on to the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee, which will meet this Wednesday, June 29th at 10:00 am in room 208 of City Hall. This hearing will be the public ONLY opportunity to comment on the proposed redevelopment plan, so please put this in your calendar, plan to attend, and get up to speak out. In the mean time, email or call Marlene Davis. More importantly, email or call your alderman and tell her/him to throw courtesy out the window.