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?