Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Preservation Board Upholds Denial of Demolition for Cupples 7

Cupples 7 43
Last evening the Preservation Board unanimously upheld the Cultural Resources Office denial of the permit for demolition of Cupples Station warehouse #7. The preservation board raised many concerns over application including the lack of details establishing financial hardship and the fact that the owner, a partnership of Kevin McGowan and Nat Walsh, has owned the structure since 2006 and did nothing to stop the acceleration of deterioration.

Cupples Building 7 Aerial 2011
Aerial of Cupples Station #7 from 2011 showing extensive collapse.

Cupples 7 Aerial 2006
Aerial from 2006 when McGowan Walsh bought the building shows a much smaller holes on the east side and possibly one small hole on the west side. At this point creating inexpensive temporary structures to span over the holes and keep water out of the building would have still been feasible.

The estimated cost of demolition was stated as being $675,000. Preservation Board member Alderman Antiono French brought up that the owner has not paid taxes on the building for the last three years, and there was also mention that the owners had lost Cupples buildings 8 & 9 to foreclosure. This makes one wonder how they planned to pay for the demolition cost.

One of the more intriguing testimony statements came from a lawyer for the St. Louis Treasurers office. He said that the Treasurer has been in discussions with the current owners of Cupples #7 about purchasing the property to protect their investment in the parking garage that the Treasurer built south of buildings 7 & 8. In this scenario the building would be gone, but he said they would also be happy if the exterior walls were stabilized so that the barriers could be removed from the streets. He did not indicate whether the Treasurer would buy the building at that point.

At the end of the testimony, the Board ultimately agreed with Betsy Bradley's assessment that the exterior walls should be stabilized to preserve the outer significant masonry structure. The question now becomes how that happens and who pays for it? Would the Treasurer be willing to chip in, or maybe the City which had offered up a $3,000,000 TIF for the redevelopment? Ultimately McGowan & Walsh should be forced to pay at least the amount they were going to spend for demolition.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Loss of Cupples 7 Would Further Deplete a Sparse Section of Downtown St. Louis

South of Market Parking & Open Space
Yesterday St. Louis University pulled its proposed demolition of the Pevely Dairy from this months Preservation Board meeting, but the proposed demolition of Cupples Warehouse #7 is still on the final agenda for next Monday the 28th.

The graphic above shows starkly how Downtown south of Market still bears the scars of devastation from Urban Renewal planning of the middle part of the last century. Compounded with the fortress like structures dating from the 1960's through 1990's including the Ballpark Hilton, Bank Of America, the US Federal Courthouse and others, result in an urban landscape that is bleak at best (magenta is parking lots and garages and yellow is vacant land, parks & plazas).

The fact that this portion of Downtown is so fragile is reason enough that we cannot lose another major historic structure to demolition. For the area to continue toward a critical mass of life and activity from what has been gained over the last decade through renovation of the Cupples warehouses along Spruce, Building 7 must be retained, stabilized, and eventually re-built from the inside.

Cupples Warehouse District 1932
Beyond the potential to reinvigorate the area, demolition of Cupples Building #7 would push the total loss of the Cupples Warehouses to over half the original content (magenta = 1960's demolition, yellow = 2001 demolition, cyan = warehouse #7). This would not trigger a de-listing from the National Register of the remaining buildings, but from an architectural standpoint reduces the overall significance and cohesion of the district (all designed by Eames & Young) that made this collection of buildings unmatchable in St. Louis and arguably the entire midwest.

Cupples Elevations 1907
Elevations of the original district along the south side of Spruce. The first pair of buildings tied together by a multistory connector over an alley and the next long building tied by two bridges over what are now the Metrolink tracks comprised a massive complex within the overall district. The single elevation below (longer than any two of the other buildings combined) was along 8th south of Spruce. This complex was lost to demolition for the construction of Busch Stadium which was completed in 1966.

The fourth building in the row is Warehouse #9 which is scheduled for renovation by the Koman Group for offices and retail to be completed in 2012. The fifth building was demolished for highway ramps to and from Highway 40/64. The sixth is Warehouse #8 for which renovation into the Ballpark Lofts by Kevin McGowan's Blue Urban partnership was completed in 2008. The last in the row is Warehouse #7. If it is demolished, there would only be two building's left of the original seven along the south side of Spruce.

Cupples west from 8th
Looking west along the south side of Spruce from 8th Street (photo from the 1928 publication Missouri's Contribution to American Architecture). The building in the foreground, had it survived, would be across from the Westin Hotel.

Cupples 10th Street
A view looking south along 10th Street from just south of Clark Street (photo from Geo St. Louis). The center building in this photo was allowed to be demolished due to what were claimed to be structural problems as part of an ill-fated plan to turn the entire block into a four building office complex linked by a giant curved glass atrium. This would have involved new buildings at 10th & Spruce and 11th & Clark.

Cupples Plan & Reality
A rendering of the four building scheme inset into the reality of what we ended up with. Several years after that deal fell through, Conrad Properties renovated the historic building at 1000 Clark Street into office space a ground floor restaurant, but the site of the demolished building remains a surface parking lot. HRI renovated the warehouse at 11th & Spruce across from #7 into apartments completed in 2006.

10th & Spruce Parking Lot
The northwest corner of 10th & Spruce today. We cannot allow this to happen to Warehouse #7! Please attend the Preservation Board meeting next Monday, November 28th a 4:00 pm at 1015 Locust Street, suite 1200 and tell the Preservation Board to say NO to demolition. If you cannot attend, please email your comments to the board's administrative assistant at BufordA@stlouiscity.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

CORTEX clearing land north of Pevely Dairy

As concerned citizens gathered Saturday afternoon to rally for preservation of the Pevely Dairy, we noticed that demolition of some small industrial buildings was occurring directly across Chouteau from the Pevely Dairy. Several of us had heard that SLU had acquired the property and we assumed they were behind the demolition.

After rechecking City real estate records, it appears that an entity associated with CORTEX owns the large site along Chouteau that is currently being cleared. The entity is SLLC Real Estate EI LLC, and a related company SLLC Real Estate LLC, whose address is the CORTEX building at 4320 Forest Park, owns five smaller parcels at the corner of Chouteau and Grand. Directly north, SLU does own two large parcels the abut the south end of the Grand Boulevard bridge.

Exactly what CORTEX has in mind for the site, which is somewhat distant from it's current focus of development, is unknown. Overall plans for the ultimate build-out of the CORTEX technopolis do include linking BJC/Wash U medical center with SLU's medial campus and possibly further down the Chouteau corridor.

Demolition of one of the buildings underway Saturday.

The buildings were utilitarian truck freight transfer stations set far away from Chouteau, so their demolition is inconsequential.

SLU Land North of Chouteau
An aerial view shows the site and structures being cleared including the three long buildings and the double barrel vaulted building. The site right across from the Pevely Dairy and specifically the portion fronting Grand Boulevard would be an ideal location for a new SLUCare facility. Siting the building right on Grand would give greater access to patients arriving by Metrolink and walking over the new Pedestrian friendly bridge, as well as the 70 Grand bus while allowing easy vehicular access for drop-off and parking off Chouteau.

Cortex Grand Demolitions
City records show that these three structures fronting Grand Boulevard just south of the foot of the bridge were demolished earlier this year. While these structures are not very historically significant, the relationship they have with the street is exactly what is needed for people going back and forth from SLU's main and medical campuses or from Metrolink to make it feel like they are not walking in an urban desert.

Pevely Preservation Rally 11.19.11
Keeping a significant structure like the Pevely Dairy on the street and especially at the corner of Grand & Chouteau is one of the many reasons that 30-40 people including myself showed up Saturday afternoon to show our support for preservation and re-use of Pevely.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cupples Building 7 CAN and SHOULD be Saved!

Cupples 7 02
Last week Kevin McGowan applied for a permit demolish Cupples Building #7 saying "he had not choice". Whether he gets a demolition permit will be decided by the Preservation Board on Monday, November 28th, the same night that the fate of the Pevely Dairy will be decided.

There are however other choices besides demolition for Cupples 7. McGowan says that it would be $2 million cheaper to demolish the building than to stabilize it. As someone who works on historic renovation projects for a living, I understand that fully stabilizing the collapsing interior structure would be an expensive endeavor. There is however an alternative that would be significantly less costly than fully re-building the interior timber structure, which is something that should eventually be done as part of the building's redevelopment.

Russia Wharf Facade Bracing - Boston
Erecting structural steel bracing on the exterior is something that is often done to stabilize unreinforced masonry facades. On Boston's Russia Wharf the facades of two warehouses were braced while the interior of the buildings were dismantled to make way for a new hi-rise development that incorporates the facades. In the case of Cupples 7, the four exterior masonry walls would be braced and the collapsing interior left as-is, to be stabilized in the future.

Russia Wharf Facade Bracing - Boston
Another view of Russia Wharf showing that the scale of the facades is similar to that of Cupples 7. While the cost of this type of bracing would not be chump change, neither would demolition of a massive masonry building. In 2001, according to City records, the unfortunate demolition of another Cupples warehouse (#4) across the street at 10th & Spruce cost $147,760.00. Cupples 7 is at least 1 1/2 times the size of the demolished warehouse and with 10 years of inflation, the cost of demolition for Cupples 7 could be at least twice as much. It should be noted that demolition of the Cupples #4 building was done under the auspices that the building was "structurally unsound" AND would be replaced with a similar scaled office building instead of the parking lot that eventually replaced it.

Church with facade bracing
The exterior walls of the United Methodist Church in Burlington, Iowa were braced after a devastating fire gutted the building. The congregation plans to re-build and expand into an adjacent vacant downtown department store.

Some might argue that bracing the facades of Cupples 7 would render portions of Spruce and 11th Streets as well as sidewalks unusable for years.

braced building facade
This does not necessarily need to be the case as with this example in Memphis (photo by Cathy Jones). The sidewalk is fully usable and there are even temporary displays in the storefronts! In Washington DC, where this technique has been used many times for various projects, the exterior of the former Gales School was structurally braced while awaiting renovation.

While this method may not be a familiar sight in St. Louis, it is a proven way to preserve at least the exterior of historic structures that otherwise would be lost forever. In the case of Cupples 7, while much of the interior is crumbling, you might be surprised how it is possible to save portions of the timber that remain and rebuild what is collapsed.

My first loft project was a building that had suffered what would appear to be catastrophic damage but was resurrected into the M-Lofts, which consists of 40 apartments and commercial space in Lafayette Square. In 1999, the former factory building of the International Shoe Company had seen better days. Almost 30% of the floors of the building were collapsed in the basement, and about 80% of the roof structure had fallen to the floor below.
Looking into the one of the debris pits at the west end of the building
Floors bending down into the hole
Much of the roof and clerestories had collapsed onto the floor below
Portions of the interior structure that had collapsed were carefully cut away and removed, then re-building began from the first floor up. All of the interior rebuilding was eligible for Missouri and Federal Historic Tax Credits because it was a restoration of existing building elements. This made what otherwise would not have been affordable workable for the projects proforma. In the case of Cupples 7, which has a larger floor plate, planning an atrium in one of the collapsed areas could further reduce the cost of re-building the interior structure.
Massive new timbers replicating the originals were imported from Canada
The completed building shows how something that looks insurmountable can be accomplished successfully. If Kevin McGowan is not up to the task of rebuilding Cupples Building 7, then he should sell the building to someone who is willing to do so. In the mean time, structurally bracing the walls from the exterior is the best solution for stabilization so that this National Register landmark can be preserved for the future.

McGowan said himself that "millions of people walk by that building every year going those Cardinals games, going to the hockey games, going to the various courthouses, even living across the street and next to the building in apartment buildings", which is all the more reason that Cupples 7 should not become yet another giant vacant lot like the Ballpark Village site.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pevely Preservation Rally this Saturday at 2:30 pm

Pevely Dairy from Grand

This Saturday afternoon please join the Pevely Preservation Coalition to show your support for preservation of the Pevely Dairy building and smoke stack at Grand & Chouteau.

Bring your friends, family signs and enthusiasm to celebrate your affection for the Gateway to the South Side. Lets come together to support PRESERVATION over demolition!

Here is the Facebook event page so you can RSVP. Hope to see you Saturday!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Charrette and Rally for Preservation of Pevely Dairy next Saturday, November 19th


Calling all architects, artists, designers, preservationists, urbanists, and concerned citizens: Next Saturday, November 19th, a design charrette will be held at Landmarks Association's offices to envision solutions for the preservation and re-use of the Pevely Dairy building at Grand & Chouteau, SLU wants to demolish this National Register landmark saying they need the space to construct a new medical office building for SLUCare.

Please join us next Saturday morning to show SLU that demolition is NOT necessary for construction of a new SLUCare facility. Following the charrette, the Pevely Preservation Coalition will be a holding a rally for preservation in front of the Pevely Dairy building at Grand & Chouteau. Further details about the rally will be forthcoming.

SLU Med Buildable Land

With literally acres of open available land on both sides of Grand Boulevard, the possibilities for a new SLUCare facility either free-standing or incorporating the dairy building are literally endless. Come share your ideas next Saturday!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Brownhurst was Demolished Early This Month

The senseless demolition of Brownhurst began on the first of this month. I did not venture out to see the carnage, but this video and photos below were captured by Wampa-One. you can see his set of demolition and before shots on Flickr.

Demolition of Brownhurst Mansion in Kirkwood, MO_PB040357
Before demolition I visited Brownhurst twice to photograph. Both times I found the door into the basement from outside wide open, so I was lucky enough to see the beautiful interior before its destruction.

Demolition of Brownhurst Mansion in Kirkwood, MO_PB040444
A member of the Kirkwood Landmarks Commission who was working actively to save the mansion requested that I hide my interior photos from public view to keep vandals from pillaging the amazing architectural details. I did so and also said the house had been secured, which was a lie. Its owner the Society of Mary at Vianny High School didn't give a shit who went in or what happened to the interior, which highlights the hypocrisy of the situation since the claimed the mansion was a threat to their students! All my photos, including interior can now be seen again on Flickr now that there is nothing left to protect. I understand that some interior elements were salvaged legally.

Demolition of Brownhurst Mansion in Kirkwood, MO_PB040455

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hey SLU: Historic Buildings CAN be Renovated for Medical Offices

Vernon Manor
Last Thursday SLU announced intentions to demolish the Pevely Dairy complex to construct a new medical office building on the site. A university spokesman claims that the dairy buildings are not suited for "state of the art" medical office use. Looking around the country however, one can find many examples of historic buildings that have or are currently being renovated for medical office use.

In Cincinnati the historic Vernon Manor Hotel near Children's Hospital Medical Center is currently being renovated for medical office space. The 171,000 square foot building is considered a regional landmark due to its location at the top of one of Cincinnati's Seven Hills. Photo above from the website of LISC, who provided a bridge loan for state historic tax credits for the project. New Market Tax Credits were also used on this project.

Holyoke Health Center Exterior
In Holyoke MA two historic downtown commercial buildings have been renovated and joined together to create medical office space for the Holyoke Health Center. Photos from the website of Kirchhoff Consigli, who provided construction management for the project.

Holyoke Health Center Interior
The two historic buildings were joined by building a contemporary structure between containing lobby space and an open stair.

Holyoke Health Center Corridor
A typical corridor in the Holyoke Health Center. Note how the historic features of the building were left exposed above the new walls.

Johnston Hall 1888 - Faribault, Minnesota
Here is another example of medical offices located in a circa 1888 structure in Faribault, Minnesota. Photo by Jonathunder from Wikimedia Commons.

Long Beach Professional Building
In downtown Long Beach, California, this striking Art Deco gem has been a medical office building since its construction in 1929. The building has been beautifully maintained and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, November 4, 2011

SLU Aims to Continue its Landhogging Ways

Pevely Dairy from Grand
Yesterday's announcement that SLU intends to demolish the entire Pevely Dairy complex defies all logic. This should come as no Surprise though as SLU's modus operandi under Biondi's leadership has been: Acquire, Demolish, Fence then figure out what we're doing years (or decades) later. If there is a master plan to this madness, it is certainly not apparent. It is simply dominate at will.

SLUCare Vista Building

The stltoday article about the Pevely proposal mentions the intent to replace an existing medical office building on Vista (photo above) with a new larger building. The 3-story building on Vista though is roughly 46,500 square feet (about 15,500 s.f./floor). The Pevely site, according to City of St. Louis property records, totals 9.85 acres, which comes out to almost 429,000 square feet of land. Added to this acreage is the area of single family homes that were recently demolished on Hickory and Rutger Streets between SLU Hospital and the Pevely Dairy.

SLU Med - Pevely Aerial

Even if SLU were to double the size of SLUCare to a 3-story 93,000 square foot building and includes surface parking built to suburban standards (which they shouldn't), the land area used would be only about 180,000 square feet, which is less than half the site. This wasteful landhogging and unsustainable development pattern exhibited across Grand with the Doisy Research Building MUST BE STOPPED!

SLU is arguing that the old dairy buildings are not suited for use as a modern medical office building. When it comes to the landmark building at the corner of Grand and Chouteau, I don't argue with this because of the building's narrow footprint which is only 60 feet wide.
So what should SLU do? Expand the existing building of course!

Pevely South Elevation

The south facade of the corner building was not meant to be the final elevation of the building. The concrete brackets protruding out at every bay on every floor indicate that the building was designed to be expanded to the south.

St. Louis Community College Downtown St. Louis

A local example of what could be done can be seen directly across from Busch Stadium Downtown. The building that houses St. Louis Community College's Downtown administration offices and education center was doubled in size. The original building 3-bays wide on Broadway was built around 1900. The 3-bay addition was built in the 1980's. The same thing could easily be done with the Pevely Dairy, whether the addition is contemporary or a replica of the original as seen above.