Preservation Board Agenda

What's happening in our built environment.
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I thought that readers would be interested in the agenda of the Preservation Board at their monthly meetings. As such, I will try to post the full agenda here when it comes out from now on. The meeting today contains two proposed demolitions that are, strangely, being endorsed by the Cultural Resources Office (CRO). The first is along Jefferson between Ann and Russell where historic buildings in the Fox Park Local Historic District are to be destroyed to build a parking lot for a daycare center whose design does not comply with standards for mass or proportion for new construction according to the CRO's analysis. The next is a large early 20th century industrial complex at 169 E. Grand, which is clearly eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and which contains multiple buildings deemed by the CRO itself to be "sound" and of "High Merit." Strangely, despite the fact that the ordinance the CRO is tasked with interpreting states specifically "DEMOLITION OF SOUND HIGH MERIT STRUCTURES SHALL NOT BE APPROVED BY THE OFFICE" the office is endorsing demolition. As always, the meeting is open to the public for comment, 4:00 this afternoon on the 12th floor of 1015 Locust (across from Bridge Taproom). Agenda: http://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/planning/cultural-resources/documents/preservation-board-final-agenda-4-april-2011.cfm
^Thanks!

These demolitions are truly baffling.
The project on Jefferson in Fox Park has the support of the Fox Park Neighborhood Association under the assumption that the new building would comply with the historic district standards and especially those for new construction and new buildings.
from the agenda:

2125‐27 S. Jefferson is not Sound under the definition of the Ordinance. The
other two buildings are considered to be Sound, with no serious structural
failure... The potential for the reuse of 2123 S. Jefferson as a commercial venture
appears possible, but unlikely given the loss of the corner structure to which it
is attached, and its location along Jefferson. Reuse of 2605 Ann Avenue seems
more possible, as it was recently occupied and is in good structural condition.


Prior to its collapse, 2125‐27 S. Jefferson was under consideration to be
rehabilitated by the Community Development Administration. With its loss,
the viability of the adjacent buildings for reuse is more questionable, as their
historic context would be further compromised.


The block face in this area is not good; demolition of the two commercial
buildings will have a small affect upon the streetscape and quality of the area.

The loss of three historic buildings is regrettable, but the more architecturally significant structure of the three, 2125‐27 S. Jefferson, has deteriorated to the point that rehabilitation is infeasible. Once gone, the remaining
building at 2123 S. Jefferson would be isolated and without context. 2605 Ann is separated by an alley from the other residential buildings along Ann and with the loss of 2125‐27, would also be disconnected from its historic context.


I'm no architectural engineer, but only the rear wall of 2125-27 has suffered collapse. Saying that it is "not sound" and that rehab is "infeasible" seems dishonest and intentionally misleading. What's infuriating is that they use this one issue to argue that the rest of the buildings don't matter because, well, there just won't be any context once the corner building is gone! ARE YOU SERIOUS? NO CONTEXT? LOOK AROUND! I completely disagree that the demolition will have a small effect on the streetscape, as the renderings for the new building are crap and completely disregard the context they're supposedly worried about. ONLY the Ann Ave. elevation comes anywhere near the historic context. I just don't understand why we even have a review board and preservation ordinances if they're going to be ignored or rationalized away whenever it's convenient.
Just because a building could be restored -- and we should keep in mind that the CRO doesn't believe that to be the case for all the buildings here -- doesn't mean someone is willing to spend the money to do so. It seems like an occupied building is better than an abandoned building, so perhaps we should embrace a little pragmatism in this case. That said, I hope there's a way to ensure that this demolition doesn't occur without some kind of guarantee that the planned new development will actually occur.
^ if the daycare was not willing to spend the money to restore the buildings, then they should not have been allowed to purchase them in the first place. as landmarks pointed out, the ordinance CLEARLY states "DEMOLITION OF SOUND HIGH MERIT STRUCTURES SHALL NOT BE APPROVED BY THE OFFICE". it is stated on page 4 of the agenda that

Buildings which were built before 1929 are considered historically significant to the character and integrity of the Fox Park Historic District. These buildings are an irreplaceable asset, and as such, their demolition is strictly limited.


and goes on to say

2123 and 2125‐27 S Jefferson are both good examples of commercial buildings from
the late 19th through the early 20th century; 2605 Ann is a representative four‐family
building with modest exterior detail. All are considered Qualifying buildings under the
definition of Ordinance 64689.


and

2125‐27 S. Jefferson is not Sound under the definition of the Ordinance. The
other two buildings are considered to be Sound, with no serious structural
failure. They are deteriorated and suffer from a lack of maintenance.
The potential for the reuse of 2123 S. Jefferson as a commercial venture
appears possible, but unlikely given the loss of the corner structure to which it
is attached, and its location along Jefferson. Reuse of 2605 Ann Avenue seems
more possible, as it was recently occupied and is in good structural condition.


and then they contradict themselves and say

These buildings represent the original historic development along Jefferson
and to some extent at Ann Avenue. They cannot individually be considered
unique or significant, and the Jefferson block face has been greatly
compromised.


in one breath the CRO states that these are significant, irreplaceable buildings - all but one of which are sound - and then in the next breath claims that they're not significant and that it's not worth keeping any of them because ONE is unsound? THAT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE! i especially love how "reuse... appears... unlikely given the loss of the corner structure" GIVEN THAT IT'S NOT LOST UNLESS THE BOARD ALLOWS DEMOLITION! It sounds to me like they're talking in circles to arrive at whatever conclusion they had already decided upon.
^ Could not agree more. At times I feel that we're witnessing institutional blockbusting. We wait until one building is unsound, it's demolished and we're told that we no longer have a unified street wall. Then a corner building goes and we're told other buildings have now lost context and can be demolished. Remaining buildings ARE the context. Look, I understand the rationalization made by the CRO, but it's this type of process and thinking that allows for any demolition to occur if three people can find anyway at all to rationalize it.
I attended the meeting tonight as an observer: the system is officially bullsh*t. The preservation ordinance means nothing because decisions cannot be appealed. Tonight saw flagrant violations of the ordinances demonstrated under oath, acknowledged, and ignored. All demos approved. This board is a joke and every last board member knows it. I love St. Louis, but this particular apple is rotten to the core. Congratulations--RIP to your last tattered shreds of credibility presbo.
i really question the integrity of some of the board members. the chairman, Mr. Callow, seems particularly trigger happy and not particularly qualified to be on the board. there needs to be a way to recall board members who demonstrate a disregard for the ordinances. what would it take to make that happen? charter reform? i mean, what's to keep them from passing out favors to the corporate donors (like, say, Proctor and Gamble) of the man who appointed them (i.e. Slay). i'm not saying that demolition should never be allowed, but in the case of the Waltke building P&G doesn't even have a plan for the site! and in the case of the day-care on Jefferson the architects have offered up a cheap-looking design that doesn't conform to historic district standards and doesn't even come close to recreating the context that will most likely be okay'd for demolition.

EDIT: ... the context that HAS BEEN okay'd for demolition, per previous post.
i think i'm going to make it my mission to implement recall of preservation board members when i get back...
tge-atw wrote:
I attended the meeting tonight as an observer: the system is officially bullsh*t. The preservation ordinance means nothing because decisions cannot be appealed. Tonight saw flagrant violations of the ordinances demonstrated under oath, acknowledged, and ignored. All demos approved. This board is a joke and every last board member knows it. I love St. Louis, but this particular apple is rotten to the core. Congratulations--RIP to your last tattered shreds of credibility presbo.


I've long thought that the title "Preservation Board" was sadly ironic. And I couldn't agree more with the statement you made that I put in bold/italics.

urban_dilletante wrote:
The chairman, Mr. Callow, seems particularly trigger happy and not particularly qualified to be on the board.


I've also thought this for a very long time- he's the root of this problem in my opinion. I guess when you're the mayor's mouthpiece, you get a cushy position as the Chairman of the Preservation Board and no one in city government ever questions your motives, even if many citizens like us know better.
I also attended the sham yesterday. If you're wondering how St. Louis became the nation's most depopulated city, the Preservation Board meetings will offer a snapshot. This city bends over for empty promises from big business-- it's no wonder St. Louis has become a laughing stock to the rest of the country.
Wow...It was that bad...? That's ashame...

...I'm not sure what preservation efforts have to do with shrinking population base, though...People moved out of four-family flats and businesses relocated to newer campuses because the old buildings were better cared for in the county and points elsewhere?
RobbyD-- Here's my point. St. Louis has a track record of caving in to big corporations' "conditions" to the detriment of our built environment. US Bank wanted a "plaza" next to their downtown skyscraper. So we tore down the beautifully ornate Ambassador Theater and are left with a empty driveway that is blocked off to cars AND pedestrians. Examples like this can be found all over the city. It's disgusting. American Airlines extolled their commitment to St. Louis as a hub city, so we plowed down entire neighborhoods, built a new runway, and American left anyway. P&G has offered no assurance that they will build ANYTHING in place of these soon-to-be-lost historic buildings.

As we continue to destroy our historic built environment for speculative plans (or in this case, no plans at all!), we are eroding our single biggest competitive advantage. Our urban fabric is what sets St. Louis apart from other cities. It's our soul and our identity. Without our historic buildings, we offer nothing over the Sunbelt. Old buildings are to St. Louis what mountains are to Denver and what beaches are to San Diego. If we had more respect for our historic built environment, maybe we'd be the kind of city that would attract new business and talent.

Sorry I rambled so long-- I need coffee.
The results were disappointing indeed, but not unexpected. When the neighborhood and the alderman come out in favor of a demolition and a new development, it is basically a done deal before it gets to the preservation board. I do however hope that Fox Park sticks to their guns with regard to making the new construction adhere to the design guidelines they spent so much time writing and adopting. To allow the building to be built as is would send the message that the local district and its guidelines mean nothing.

The P&G site is also very disturbing, but expected. As others have said, a business need only hint that they might leave St. Louis if they don't get their way, and all regulations and thoughts of long-term impact on the built environment go out the window. Don't be surprised if P&G actually clears the site to make it easier to sell, and then packs up their bags. St. Louis will be left in the same position, except we will have been robbed of a huge complex of sound, beautiful, industrial buildings dating back to the 1870s. In other words, the city will have been robbed of another piece of its unique architectural heritage, one of its strongest assets and a point where it can successfully compete with any city in the country.
^ I couldn't agree more with everything said. I think the structure is absolutely broken. The question is: How do we attack it?
^
If you're talking about a citywide effort, the "plan of attack" would be getting citywide preservation review as a first step; then working on a stronger, more clearly defined preservation ordinance with each of the 28 aldermen.

If you're talking about your own ward/neighborhood, it's all about the alderman and the strength of neighborhood organization(s). Getting involved with the latter or getting familiar with (or becoming?) the former are the ways to go.

As long as cities are not able to take on debt, expect a single-minded "development" focus that disregards long-term costs--or any goals that are hard to quantify, such as "sound urban design", "pedestrian friendliness", and "historic preservation". Cities are extremely limited in their abilities to raise revenue and are extremely leery of scaring investment away. This is not a justification. It just shows that those in favor of preservation have to demonstrate to leadership that economic benefits derive from it. The tax credit program has done a bit of that, but only in areas that are likely to preserve sound structures anyway. North Riverfront industrial buildings? They don't stand a chance, especially since many are not "public buildings" in the truest sense anyway.

This isn't the first industrial complex to take a hit either. The much more visible complex at 5570 Manchester is undergoing demolition, too. That was approved back in February--unanimously. The owners said they couldn't operate the plant effectively with the old buildings, which was a winning argument: http://stlouis-mo.gov/government/depart ... 8-2011.pdf

Also, the industrial complex at 150 Victor in Kosciusko is getting demolished for a big garage-looking structure, too: http://stlouis-mo.gov/government/depart ... -24-11.pdf.

So I suppose I should back and up and say the first step is: get involved and informed!
stlgasm wrote:
RobbyD-- Here's my point. St. Louis has a track record of caving in to big corporations' "conditions" to the detriment of our built environment. US Bank wanted a "plaza" next to their downtown skyscraper. So we tore down the beautifully ornate Ambassador Theater and are left with a empty driveway that is blocked off to cars AND pedestrians. Examples like this can be found all over the city. It's disgusting. American Airlines extolled their commitment to St. Louis as a hub city, so we plowed down entire neighborhoods, built a new runway, and American left anyway. P&G has offered no assurance that they will build ANYTHING in place of these soon-to-be-lost historic buildings.

As we continue to destroy our historic built environment for speculative plans (or in this case, no plans at all!), we are eroding our single biggest competitive advantage. Our urban fabric is what sets St. Louis apart from other cities. It's our soul and our identity. Without our historic buildings, we offer nothing over the Sunbelt. Old buildings are to St. Louis what mountains are to Denver and what beaches are to San Diego. If we had more respect for our historic built environment, maybe we'd be the kind of city that would attract new business and talent.

Sorry I rambled so long-- I need coffee.


Wow...Well when you put it that way... =>

I agree with your views of our historic built environment...I don't think that that is our only advantage, but it is a real one and important one IMO...

IMO the efforts in general to preserve buildings is not meaningless or a waste of energy though it often may seem that way...Obviously, the best way to save these structures is to create a city that attracts residents and businesses...To be honest, who cares if these buildings are saved if no one is here to live and work in them...

The mayor's efforts to jumpstart charter schools and the archbishop's efforts to refocus and reinvigorate the vision for our Catholic school system are two of the most effective ways to preserve our historic architecture...Because better schools encourage economic growth and vibrant communities which are more likely to preserve these beautiful buildings...Our historic buildings were built because they made sense for the businesses that built them...We have to make that true again...
malbrite10 wrote:
^
If you're talking about a citywide effort, the "plan of attack" would be getting citywide preservation review as a first step; then working on a stronger, more clearly defined preservation ordinance with each of the 28 aldermen.

If you're talking about your own ward/neighborhood, it's all about the alderman and the strength of neighborhood organization(s). Getting involved with the latter or getting familiar with (or becoming?) the former are the ways to go.


hopefully i'm not putting words in Alex's mouth, but i think he means how do we attack this issue of the preservation board essentially ignoring ordinances and rationalizing whatever results they want. an ordinance doesn't get any clearer than "DEMOLITION OF SOUND HIGH MERIT STRUCTURES SHALL NOT BE APPROVED BY THE OFFICE", and the CRO clearly states in the most recent agenda that several of the buildings that were approved for demolition are sound, high merit structures. in light of these kinds of betrayals, what good will it do to have city-wide preservation review or clearer ordinances? what we need is a way for citizens to evaluate the performance of the board and remove those members that are, to be frank, violating the law.
Looks like Killeen is on the Preservation board. I thought he was pretty progressive?

Organizationally speaking, all the members, with the exception of the Chairman, are appointed by the Mayor. Seems as though the only way to dispute the will of the Preservation Board is to follow the Appeals process. And, correct if I'm wrong, it looks as though that process is vetted through the CRO?

In other words: What a complete lop-sided kluge.
http://stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/planning/

Looks like all of the major offices coalesce under Planning and Urban Design. Question: do they actually work together?

In other words, shouldn't Urban Design and Planning weigh in on any demolition reviewed by the Preservation Board? Does that already happen?
Can we take a step back here? If you look at the proposal it is pretty clear to me why the alderman and neighborhood organization supported the demolition.

The context provided in the original post says basically "historical buildings to be demolished for daycare center parking lot." But the larger plan shows that an 80s era vacant Taco Bell building will be demolished and a large surface parking lot will be replaced by a new modern daycare facility with outdoor playground.

The design of the facility is attractive and urban and built to the sidewalk along most of Jefferson (more street wall even after the demolition). It will clearly bring more activity to a largely vacant block with parents coming and going and the sounds of children playing throughout the day. Plus it makes the neighborhood more walkable with a new large non-profit daycare facility in a neighborhood that currently doesn't have one.

These are the types of things that people in these forums strive for... knocking down drive-thru restaurants, building on surface parking lots, activating the street, making neighborhoods more walkable and family friendly, adding quality educational opportunities. But knocking down two vacant historic buildings throws all of that out the window?

Could some changes be made to make this better? Perhaps. But overall the project has to be seen as a net positive for the neighborhood, so it is not baffling why local stakeholders supported the demolitions and they were approved.
The Fox Park issue was indeed a more reasonable proposition, and thus was endorsed by the neighborhood association. The problem was that the CRO didn't do its job by reviewing the proposed plans based on a "model example" as specified by the Fox Park standards, and endorsed a non-compliant plan. The neighborhood didn't do its job, arguably, because they didn't make sure the CRO took their planning documents seriously and also by betraying the spirit of those documents by caving to a proposal that degrades their historic infrastructure (especially corner commercial buildings which are singled out for special protection) rather than trying to hold the developer to a higher standard. It is my position that if Fox Park had followed up with the CRO and made them enforce their local ordinance, and if they had stuck to their guns and tried to hold the developer to a higher standard, the neighborhood would be getting a better deal. In the end we are talking about precedent. This deal clearly states to all future developers that the Fox Park standards, in the eyes of the NA and the CRO, are merely suggestions rather than binding ordinances. True, nobody cared about the Taco Bell, or the vacant lot.
I can agree with that.
mattonarsenal wrote:
The design of the facility is attractive and urban and built to the sidewalk along most of Jefferson (more street wall even after the demolition).


"attractive" and "urban" are subjective, of course, but with the exception of the Ann-facing elevation i have to disagree that the design is either attractive or urban. it looks like standard strip mall architecture, replaces a corner building with a parking lot (why they can't place the parking behind the building is mystery, considering there's already an alley that could be used for access) and erects a block-long, doorless, mostly-featureless wall along Jefferson.

mattonarsenal wrote:
Plus it makes the neighborhood more walkable with a new large non-profit daycare facility in a neighborhood that currently doesn't have one.


i don't understand how a block-long wall makes a neighborhood more walkable.

mattonarsenal wrote:
...so it is not baffling why local stakeholders supported the demolitions and they were approved.


but the review board are not "local stakeholders". their job is to uphold ordinances that carry the weight of law. in this case the merit of the buildings was clearly stated by the CRO and the ordinance was clear yet the board disregarded it.

the proctor and gamble fiasco is even more egregious as the neighborhood got nothing. they don't have a plan to build anything they just didn't want to take care of the buildings. according to the CRO, those were high merit and protected under the ordinance as well.

again, what is the point of having ordinances if they're going to be ignored?