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Friday, September 28, 2007

A few more notes on the demolition permits on MLK

I was disappointed that we lost not one, but five buildings on MLK at the Preservation Board on Monday.

4222 Martin Luther King had to go. I watched it burn--it was terrible and thorough, and complete with a huge collapse. That building was not a building anymore afterwards.

4149-53 MLK had to go, too. They were pretty much just front facades. They were in the kind of state that only heavy subsidy or some wealthy angel of rehab could have turned around, and I didn't see either touching down on that block any time soon, sadly.

4220 and 4224 could have been saved. I really, really think so, call me crazy. (I call your attention to the fact that I just said I'm okay with the other three demolitions--I'm not THAT crazy!) After questioning whether to vote on the buildings individually, the board voted on all five buildings at once. The vote to grant the demo permit was unanimous (with Richardson, Callow, Robinson, Killeen, and Kennedy in attendance).

The first time I went along the length of MLK after moving back to St. Louis several years ago, I was struck by what a beautiful street it was, and how surprisingly intact and varied its collection of storefront buildings was. Going down a street like that, you can just tell from the landscape that it was and is an important place. As I've watched disappearances on the street since that day, one little storefront here, another little storefront there, I just keep thinking This street will be gone before I turn thirty. I mentioned this in my testimony to the Board on Monday. Asked how old I was, I answered: "Twenty-three."

"You've got time," came the answer.

"It won't take that long," I replied.

Making the loss of the buildings of the 4400 block especially sad was the testimony of Alderman Moore, who had brought the buildings up for demolition in the first place. He said he saw people run out of 4222 shortly before it started visibly burning. He said that he just knew they had to be brick rustlers. Brick rustlers have been setting fires in his area and letting the flames and the fire department be the demo crew--the wood is eliminated, and you get loose bricks and conditions where people are less likely to be suspicious if you're palletizing. Sure enough, Alderman Moore said, he went to the building at 8am the next day, and at 9am the brick rustlers showed up and started picking out the good bricks, throwing broken brickbats back into the remains of the ruined building. The Alderman called the police, and he said they showed up briefly but then left without doing anything, letting the brick rustlers go. What I want to know is: If the cops won't even help AN ALDERMAN arrest brick rustlers (9am the morning after a fire! When no demo permit could have possibly been issued yet!), how the hell do the rest of us in the community even stand a chance at stopping brick rustling?


Anonymous said...

This post is spicy.


Anonymous said...

dThe son of Dr. Martin Luther King is a nationwide tour regarding the blighted condition of most streets carrying his father's name. He sees the situation as a national disgrace.

Long abandoned and severely neglected buildings contribute to the blighted appearance.

Newly built strip centers are generally considered progress and a major improvement to burned out and abandoned old buildings.

There has been too much waiting. Patience is gone. The strip needs action and visible results.

For the people living adjacent MLK, there is little appreciation for the deteriorated and abandoned buildings. They are stark daily reminders of the blighted condition of their community.

When you have the alderman pushing for demolition, that pretty well sums up the situation.

Winston Smith said...

"Newly built strip centers are generally considered progress and a major improvement to burned out and abandoned old buildings."

This passive-voice sentence does not attribute the sentiment to any group.

"Generally considered" progress by whom?

There is a big different between an anonymous comment like this one and one signed with a real name that states:

"People in the Ville want strip centers."

Of course, to make that statement you probably should be a person living in the Ville.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of people you could ask. Here are few names and organizations.

Alderman Moore. Former Alderman Shelton. Directors of the Historic Ville Alliance. Directors of the Ville Area Neighborhood Housing Association. People with Northside Community Center.

What we do know is the current alderman supports the demolitions.

If people want to do something to personally help, here's a group seeking your support: VAHNA

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The street won't be gone, but it will definitely be different.

DeBaliviere said...

I wish at least the facades could be saved (and incorporated into future developments), if not the entire buildings themselves.