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Sunday, October 1, 2006

University City Approves Washington University's Demolition Permits

From the September 29 Weekly Update from University City by Julie Feier, City Manager:

Washington University submitted requests for demolition permits on 9/25/2006 for 701 Eastgate and 707 Eastgate and on 9/26/2006 for 6654 Washington. The permits were authorized on 9/28/2006. Under the relevant sections of the Zoning Code, Article 6 Section 34-77.2 and 34-78.2 the issuance of these permits is an administrative function not requiring review by the Historic Preservation Commission because the properties are not located in historic districts.

According to former University City resident Jon Galloway, who has worked to prevent these demolitions for months, it's a case of demolition without formal review -- despite definite historic significance and the apartment buildings' being part of a national historic district -- and without a redevelopment plan. Washington University purchased the apartment building at 701 Eastgate in 2000 for $456,000, and let it slide downhill until the university recently purchased 707 Eastgate next door. The university wasted no time in applying for a demolition permit for these buildings and a house on Washington that it also owned, supposedly "cost prohibitive" to rehab.

Where is the outcry or awareness? Good question. These apartment buildings, built in 1925, are character-defining buildings just north of Delmar Boulevard, sitting on one of several streets ringed by post-World War I era multi-story brick apartment buildings. The house, built in 1918, is earlier than most of its neighbors, and an unusual example of a frame building that has persisted in the core of University City.

Washington University could have sold these buildings to numerous developers eager to carry out historic tax-credit rehabilitation; all of the buildings are already listed as significant on a county historic building survey, and the apartment buildings are contributing resources to the Parkview Gardens National Register of Historic Places district. The university also could have established a for-profit entity to rehab the buildings, so that it could get the tax credits that may have made renovation feasible.

Of course, as Galloway says, the university would not have purchased the buildings for such high prices if they really didn't have a plan for the sites.

The Buildings

The house at 6654 Washington (Jon Galloway).

The buildings on Eastgate (Jon Galloway).

701 Eastgate (Jon Galloway).

707 Eastgate (Jon Galloway).


DeBaliviere said...

Not good. Has Wash U. announced any plans for new construction?

Jon Galloway said...

Per Cheryl Adelstein, the Director of Community Relations and Local Governmental Affairs for Wash. U. and sent by e-mail to various city council, the city manager and mayor, "I am writing to let you know that Washington University is planning to demolish three properties that it owns in University City. They are: 701 Eastgate and 707 Eastgate, north of Delmar, and 6654 Washington, south of Delmar. These are all buildings that are in poor condition and the cost of rehabbing them exceed the potential market return. The Eastgate properties have been vacant for a few years. The Washington property is a small single family home that had housed students until this spring. The University has no immediate plans to redevelopment these lots but will consider them as we develop our long term housing strategy. The lots will be seeded and maintained as open space."

Of course, not many organizations spend $1 million on buildings and land with no plan.

Jon Galloway said...

Councilmember Michael Glickert of the 2nd Ward in U. City is reporting that Wash. U. is already tearing down the Eastgate buildings. It only took two days to find a wrecking crew. Oh, that's right, there was never any doubt that the city would be more than happy to have the buildings torn down. Thanks Planning Department.