Saturday, February 25, 2012

Did We Mention There Will Be FREE BEER!!!

TRIVIA NIGHT for Luminary Center for the Arts
Sometimes I feel the need to break from keeping one of the most depressing blogs in St. Louis, so here's something uplifting for a change: On Friday, March 9th, City Affair will be hosting a Trivia Night to benefit the Luminary Center For the Arts move to Cherokee Street! Join us at the Luminary's current building at 4900 Reber Place (across Kingshighway from the west gates of Tower Grove Park) for a fun filled evening of trivia, prizes, a silent auction, and of course FREE BEER!

Reserve your table today by calling 314.609.2564. Also, please RSVP on Facebook and invite all your friends!

This great storefront space at 2700 Cherokee will become the Luminary's gallery and venue/event space!

Luminary Axon Of Building Interior
Here's a 3d view of how the Luminary's spaces will fill both floors and the basement level, greatly expanding their capacity from their current location.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Dark Night for Preservation in St. Louis

Dark Night for Pevely
By now most of you have heard the news that the St. Louis Planning Commission overturned the Preservation Board decision that called for preserving the Pevely Dairy office building at the corner of Grand and Chouteau.

This act is just one more example that the City's archaic myriad of governmental departments, agencies and fiefdoms are devoid of visionary thinking, much less even basic planning… in short designed for failure. We all know this and we put up with it on a daily basis, but what the Planning Commission did tonight is the kind of shit that drives people away. There's a reason people move away from St. Louis, because there's not enough people who care about the City as a place. Even the Mayor's one direct representative on the Planning Commission, who voted to uphold the Preservation Board decision, could not overcome the votes of the other members nor the bullshit rhetoric and blatant threats from SLU and their paid representatives. 

I hate to bring religion into this, or anything for that matter, but it seems that there is an unwritten rule that the Catholics get their fucking way with whatever they want to do in this small minded town. The St. Aloysius Gonzaga parish complex was demolished, the Cathedral got their un-needed parking lot on Lindell at the cost of a mid century landmark, now SLU, which has been on a seemingly endless demolition roll gets the Pevely Dairy complex clear cut for an ambulatory care center that could be built on any of several vacant sites, including a large site right across the street or even part of the Pevely site itself. These were not the first, and pobably won't be the last 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cleveland Planning Commission Rejects May Company Parking Proposal

Yesterday Rustwire posted on Facebook that the Cleveland City Planning Commission has rejected a plan to turn four floors of the May Company building, located on Public Square, into a parking garage. A rendering from the Planning Commission agenda shows how the building owner had proposed to remove window glass from the four parking floors for ventilation, which could have potentially jeopardized the ability to use Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits for renovation of the remainder of the building. Anthony Coyne, chairman of the planning commission said that given the amount of private investment happening in surrounding buildings on Public Square, the parking garage proposal was "an under-performing repurposing of the building". If only we had such thoughtful analysis of development proposals here in St. Louis!

Thursday I had posted about the proposal in reference to a similar proposal (without window removal) that was offered up here in St. Louis to prevent the demolition of the Century Building, but was rejected by the Slay administration and developers of the Old Post Office. Just to be clear, I was not so much advocating for what is being proposed for the May Company building as much as lamenting that this was not done in St. Louis which would have preserved at least the exterior of an amazing building that we lost.

May Company Cleveland Aerial
As seen from this aerial view, the floor plate of the May Company building is HUGE! 200' x almost 500'. The west side of the building is blocked-in by a large attached parking garage. The west side of the building is relatively open with a smaller building adjoining it.

A commenter on Facebook mentioned that apartment occupancy in Downtown Cleveland is 93.2% and rising and several others agreed that that there is no shortage of public parking in the district. If apartments are in demand, then a smart developer would build them on the ends and the one open side of all floors to take advantage of the views onto Public Square and not have a dead looking building (like we have in St. Louis with the 9th Street Garage).

May Company development concept
 There would still be plenty of room in the middle of some of the lower floors to do parking for the residents, and maybe some extra if needed. The center of the upper floors could be amenity spaces for the residents including a community room, fitness center, or galleries and open studio space like that found in the Syndicate Trust here is St. Louis. Putting parking in the basement and the center of a building while keeping the perimeter windows for residential use would not be a problem for historic tax credit purposes assuming there are no historically significant atrium spaces. This is a common scenario for redeveloping large historic buildings and has been done in many St. Louis buildings.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cleveland Does't Make Our Mistake: Remembering the Century

Century Demolition
It's hard to believe that it has been over seven years since I stood on the roof of the Paul Brown Building (then under renovation) and captured this image of the Century Building on a quiet snowy day. Its hard to forget when you walk by the Garage Mahal every day on the way to your office, but most days its just "that thing" in the background. 

Yesterday though Rustwire posted a story about the a proposal to fill four floors of the empty May Company department store building in Cleveland with parking, and all the memories of trying to convince those making the decisions that this very concept could have worked here came rushing back.

The former May Company department store building in Downtown Cleveland
Photo from the Cleveland Planning Commission.

The funny thing is that the commenters from Cleveland were outraged at the idea, which is when I then commented that what is being proposed there is by far better in the long run. While putting parking on the floors of a historic building is never an enticing thought, at least the building is still there. In the future, if the demand for the parking diminishes, you can always convert the space back to office, housing, or whatever use is needed.

Syndicate - Century Building Alternative Proposal
The alternate proposal for the Century and the connected Syndicate Trust presented by Craig Heller and Kevin McGowan would have created about 700 parking spaces on four floors and the basement to serve residents of apartments and condos above as well as providing over 500 spaces for use by surrounding buildings.

The proposal which would have left three faces of Post Office Square with its historic buildings was resoundingly rejected by the developers of the Old Post Office and Slay's administration which controlled the Century & Syndicate at the time. The only proposal that they would consider was demolition of the Century and a construction of an expensive new 1000 car parking garage. 

Artist Alan Brunittin created this documentary of the destruction called Remember the Century, which was posted on a website of the same name for several years and now can be found on Youtube. More info about the demolition of the Century can be found on Built St. Louis.

To this day several upper floors of the 9th Street garage rarely have more than a scattering of cars. Unfortunately the way the structure was boult with sloping floors along 9th Street, the garage does not lend itself to conversion of the unused floors for other uses.

Craig Heller of LoftWorks partnered with Sherman Associates of Minneapolis to renovate the Syndicate Trust for apartments and condos, which opened several years ago. The building has indoor parking in the basement and on the second floor to serve residents.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

City Should Not Sell McKee ANY More Buildings!

1930 St. Louis.jpg
1930-36 St. Louis Avenue as it appeared just prior to purchase by McKee

This morning the Post-Dispatch reported that Paul McKee wants to buy an additional 1,233 parcels of City owned property in the NorthSide area where he already owns about 800 parcels containing vacant land and vacant buildings. According to the Post article by Tim Logan, the land includes individual vacant lots and buildings scattered across McKee's NorthSide redevelopment area. McKee's past purchases indicate that the presence of structures regardless of historic value, is of little consequence to the desire to control the land.


1930-36 St. Louis Avenue under the stewardship of Paul McKee

Over the last 7+ years, Paul McKee with his pocket full of LLCs has proven to be one of the most notorious landlords in St. Louis history, leaving a wake of negligence and destruction of historic buildings. As has been well documented by Preservation Research Office/Ecology of Absence, Built St. Louis and others, the typical scenario of a buildings acquisition and control by McKee involves the emptying of any tenants, the mysterious disappearance of windows and doors, leaving the properties vulnerable to vandalism, fires, brick theft and eventually total demolition.

This unique row at St. Louis and Glasgow Avenues was also fully intact prior to purchase by McKee.

Although they do not offer much protection and they don't have any tenants (legally), the City's Land Reutilization Authority at least makes a valid attempt to keep their buildings boarded and secured. While brick thieves have not spared LRA properties, keeping the areas scattered remaining vacant building stock in the ownership of the City at least theoretically preserves the opportunity for other developers or individuals to purchase and rehab the properties. Of course this would require changes to some current LRA policies, but the chances would probably be better than getting McKee to let go of buildings. A great examples of this potential is currently underway with the Hyde Park South development.


The rear of the St. Louis & Glasgow buildings after prior to demolition in 2008.

McKee can have as much vacant land (or even buildings with no historic value) as he wants, but until concrete plans and financing are presented by McKee, the City should retain ownership and control over the fragile fabric of vacant historic homes that dot the landscape of NorthSide.