Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SLU Med Plows Down Blocks of Nearby Homes

36xx Hickory & Rutger aerial2.jpg
Several weeks ago a friend tipped me off that St. Louis University Medical Center was in the process of demolishing houses on the 36xx blocks of Hickory and Rutger. He had correctly predicted several years ago that the isolated little neighborhood of houses, immediately north of SLU's main hospital towers, would eventually meet their demise.

The small homes on both blocks appeared to have been well kept. They were mostly one story all brick single family homes. When I arrived to photograph, several were already gone and several more were in the process of demolition.

These three buildings on Hickory were two-families with side by side shotgun style units.

One of the smallest homes on Hickory with SLU looming large in the background.

These homes on the north side of Hickory are among 10 that are still in private ownership. The tap destroys are for the houses on the south side of the street. I spoke briefly with a woman who live in one of the houses and owns another one as a rental. She said she had not yet been approached about being bought out. She said she likes living there, and prefers not to move because the location is very good. SLU has purchased and is demolishing four houses on this side of the street though, so it is likely only a matter of time until they take the whole block.

3659-61 Hickory
Two houses in the middle of the north side of Hickory that are being demolished and a Google Streetview of what they looked like as of a few months ago.

At the end of the north side of Hickory near Grand is a lodging facility for families of people in the hospital. Ironically the architect chose to take cues from the context that is now being destroyed around it.

Over on Rutger there were two houses that had been remodeled in the bungalow style, with one expanded with a second floor, probably sometime in the 1920's.

Only the front wall and porch were left of the one story bungalow.

36xx Rutger
Just west of the bungalows only a stone porch of the home in the Streetview shot above remains. The brick work on many of these small houses was beautiful.

At the east end of Rutger there was a row of several two story Dutch Colonials. They were the largest homes in the area and like the smaller ones, all in great shape.

Looking like the scene from some natural disaster, most of the homes had large X's spray painted on them. I am guessing the colors represent that each utility has been cut off from the house.

Hickory-Rutger Context 1909 Sanborn
The small neighborhood has always been isolated. Many of the houses had been there since before almost anything that exists in the area today, including St. Louis University Hospital, which did not open until 1933. In 1909, according to the Sanborn map above, the present hospital site between Rutger and Vista contained some small houses along Rutger, the Bethesda Incurables Hospital and some larger residences on Grand Boulevard. South of Vista, the only building that existed was the United Railways Employees Hall, which appeared to have been added to the rear of a large home on Grand. The massive United Railways streetcar complex was located just west of Spring Avenue. Even the Pevely Dairy site is labeled as a quarry on this map. Amid the mix of commercial, institutional and industrial uses, a large concentration of residential only began south of Park Avenue. Thus these few blocks of homes on Hickory and Rutger were likely doomed from the very beginning.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Saucer is Saved!... Hopefully


The Post Dispatch is reporting this morning that developer Rick Yackey is backing off his initial plans to demolish the Flying Saucer at Grand and Forest Park Boulevards! In a statement sent to the Post, Yackey said he would hire an architect to explore alternatives for expanding the leasable square footage of space while keeping the concrete saucer structure. He said he is talking with the the neighboring property about space for additional parking. Yackey also said that he is talking with potential tenants about re-using the building. The investigation process to see if re-use is viable will take about 2-3 months.

Hopefully by then his architect will have shown him that there are many ways to adapt this iconic structure for use by a new tenant. Sometimes it just takes a creative mind though to think outside the box.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nothing Left at Forest Park and Vandeventer

3901 Forest Park Gone
Demolition of the Welle-Boettler - American Bakery Company building at Forest Park and Vandeventer which started over a month ago was complete as of last week. At first the demolition went along at a normal pace, but with the large one story section coming down within a few weeks. The three story section on the corner then sat for several weeks with the top floor lopped off before the rest disappeared. Now that the building is gone, the vastness of the 1.6 acre site with 400 feet of frontage along Forest Park is more apparent.

IMG_1145 1
Strange new views have now opened up across the emptiness of the site.

As I looked at the rubble I was shocked to see the decorative egg and dart brick that once created a band around the street facades of both the one and three story sections were laying around in the piles as if they were trash. The common brick were all neatly pallated up and taken away.

Most shocking though during the demolition was seeing the decorative terra cotta entrance on Vandeventer get battered to pieces. It was obvious no attempt at salvage of the building's only terra cotta was made.

The bones of our City neatly piled up to be hauled far away.

Someday maybe Cortex might add the word "buildings" to this sign.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Better AAA-CVS Plan

Lindell AAA-CVS Better Plan
Last week I posted about how it is very possible to build a new CVS store on Lindell Boulevard and still preserve the unique AAA building. While it works, I was not very happy with what I had come up with from an urban design standpoint, with the new store set back from the street and parking in front. I also felt that the new building crowded the AAA.

I had initially thought that setting back was the only option to achieve a decent parking configuration due to the odd shape of the site which has the garage from the mixed use retail/apartment building to the west jutting into it leaving a shallow area at the west side. After thinking about a friends idea about the site layout, I took another look to see if I could improve things. What I found was that turning the new store sideways allows it to fit into the shallow part of the site with little setback at the sidewalk and still have a drive-thru. This places the building in line with the mixed use building to the west, places most of the parking in back (total 62 spaces) and gives the AAA building more breathing room.

CVS modern

Ideally, the new building might start with no setback at the west end, aligning with the adjacent retail/apartment building then curve or angle back towards the AAA building which is set back from the sidewalk. CVS however likes their box floor plans and the constraints of the site would not allow the building to be rotated without losing parking. A box though can be well designed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CVS and the AAA Building CAN Coexist

Lindell AAA-CVS

Last week it was announced that the unique oval shaped AAA building on Lindell Boulevard just west of Vandeventer would be demolished and replaced with a new CVS pharmacy. AAA would move to a new smaller building to be built adjacent to the new CVS. When asked about the possibility of CVS using the existing AAA building, an obvious candidate for a Lindell Boulevard MCM historic district, the developer responded that CVS has "a prototype building that they like to build" (quote from the Post-Dispatch story). No surprise there.

Looking at the existing AAA site though some may be surprised to learn that the land west of the oval shaped AAA building (all owned by AAA) is large enough to accommodate a full size 13,800 s.f. CVS prototype store including the drive-thru AND the SAME number of parking spaces as their prototype.

In the photoshopped site plan above, I used the relatively new 13,800 s.f. CVS store located at Gravois and Hampton/Germania near the River Des Peres as the model (the Post reported that a 13,000 s.f. store would be built). Using standard parking stalls and drive dimensions, I was able to fit 65 spaces, which is equal to the the Gravois model store. While I normally would never put the parking in front of the building, in this particular case, the odd shape of the parcel combined with the desire to keep the parking contiguous dictated the layout. Also, lets face it, while the AAA building is great, its location on the site, with an approximately 55 foot setback, is very suburban in nature. Pulling the new CVS building back would better preserve sight lines to the AAA building from Lindell.

In addition to the standard 65 parking spaces (4.71 spaces per thousand square feet of retail, which is generous by City standards) street parking is available on Lindell, McPherson and some spaces can be added behind the AAA building off an existing drive. Combined, a total of 30 additional spaces are available to serve the existing AAA building, which would more than accommodate AAA's needs. The City's Geo St. Louis site lists the AAA building as being only 6,544 s.f. With AAA's setback, it would be possible to get another 12-15 spaces in front of their building, but with ample parking already, I thought it was best to not destroy the view to the building and preserve some green space.

McPherson Street Parking
Street parking on McPherson west of the AAA property

You may think the spaces on McPherson are a bit odd, but this exact configuration is found on McPherson behind the 4 story mixed use apartment and retail building just to the west. This block of Mcpherson gets little traffic, with Metro High School, a Mormon meeting house, which happens to have two large highly underutilized parking lots, and the apartment building as the only properties fronting the street, so in this instance, the odd configuration works fine.

Meeting House Parking Lot
View east on McPherson along the AAA property

This site plan is far from perfect, in fact as I was completing it I was thinking it would be better to mirror the CVS so that the drive-thru is on the west and parking to the east, which would open up better sight lines to the AAA from Lindell. It shows though that CVS can have their prototype store, their parking and their drive-thru without destroying the unique AAA building. Sometimes its possible to have your cake and eat it too!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rally this Wednesday Evening to SAVE OUR SAUCER!

Save Our Saucer lime

Join us this Wednesday, July 6th at 6:00 pm at the southeast corner of Grand and Forest Park Boulevards to show your love for the Flying Saucer (formerly Del Taco). We will be gathering to celebrate this unique piece of googie architecture that is currently threatened with demolition.

Please bring your friends, kids, parents and anyone who thinks that this unique vestige of space-age architecture should not be demolished to make way for a boring new chain restaurant box. We need to show the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, Mayor Slay and the developer, Rick Yackey, that St. Louis LOVES this building! The building is part of the Council Plaza National Register Historic District, and holds many possibilities for remodeling or adaptation for a new tenant (or tenants), while still retaining it's unmistakable style.

Please visit our Facebook event page and let us know if you can attend and please share the event invitation with all your friends. The rally will go from 6:00 to 8:00, so if you can't make it there at 6:00, please come later. At 7:00 there will be some brief statements about the building and our cause to save it. A limited number of STL Style t-shirts featuring the awesome artwork above by Kara Clark Holland will be available at the rally.