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Monday, October 22, 2007

Three Buildings in the Ville Coming Down -- For New Houses?

Today the City of St. Louis Preservation Board voted to approve demolition of three buildings in the Ville at 1820, 1822 and 1826 Annie Malone (see the Cultural Resources Office staff report here). Given the spate of demolition in the Ville since Alderman Sam Moore (D-4th) took office earlier this year, sadly that's not noteworthy. In fact, the Board already considered and denied permits for two of these buildings just three months ago.

What is interesting is that during testimony Alderman Moore made several puzzling statements. Generally, the alderman was hostile to Cultural Resources Director Kate Shea, who supported demolition although with a noticeable lack of conviction. Shea recommended approval of the demolition with the stipulation that the alderman and neighborhood groups work with her office to create a preservation plan. In response, Moore said that he would come back every month until all of the derelict buildings in the Ville were demolished. Moore stated that residents of new homes in nearby Ville Phillips Estates demanded the demolition. He went on to say that the cleared lots where the three buildings stood would become part of the subdivision.

The original developers of Ville Phillips Estates were none other than Taylor Morley Homes and Preservation Board Vice Chair Mary "One" Johnson, who did not recuse herself from the consideration of this item. (Johnson is no longer involved with the project.) In fact, Johnson made the motion to accept staff recommendation and demolish the buildings. Her motion was approved with dissenting votes from John Burse and David Richardson.

Shea had recommended including the three buildings in a national historic district centered on the home of Peter Humphries Clark, an African-American educator who helped found one of the first black public school systems in the United States in Cincinnati and successfully fought for the repeal of Ohio's anti-black laws. Shea and her staff secured listing of the house on the National Register of Historic Places last year. Alderman Moore stated that he did not know who Clark was, but that the new subdivision on the site of the buildings would be named for him.

Citizens Anthony Coffin and Barbara Manzara testified in opposition to the demolition. Manzara recommended abolishing the local historic district ordinance in the Ville if there was no community support for historic preservation in the neighborhood. Notably, aside from the alderman, no residents of the Ville testified or sent letters supporting the demolition.

In July, Steve Patterson wrote about the incomplete state of Ville Phillips Estates. Read more: "Ville Phillips Estates Remains Unfinished Months After New Alderman Takes Office"

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did Alderman Moore pay much attention to Barbara and Anthony? It must have surprised him to have people from outside the ward tell him how he should run his business.

Moore doesn't sound too interested in historic preservation. He sounds like a pro-demolition, clean-up-the-ward, style alderman.

It sounds like he's pushing for new homes in place of abandoned derelicts. He is the alderman.

Has anyone proposed rehabbing these buildings?

barbara_on_19th said...

Anonymous, the alderman is not a king, and a ward is not a kingdom.

I live on the northside and am in the Ville twice a week. Every neighborhood north of Delmar has high rates of vacant historic buildings, and small clumps of new homes. Every night when I come home from work I too have to look at vacant derelict buildings across the street. But in my little corner of bliss, we have a plan, and we are out pounding the bricks finding buyers and developers for them. By "we" I mean the Alderwoman, the non-profits, the for-profits, the rehabbers, the new homeowners and the long-time residents. All working together on the plan.

Why? Not because we are all brick-huggers north of Delmar, and not because we all see eye-to-eye on historic preservation vs new homes, but because these buildings are WORTH MONEY to a cash-strapped community. We can all agree on the value of the almighty dollar!

The "historic" designation is not just a nice name -- it is a strong development tool which can bring state and federal dollars into the area. But, you have to develop a *plan* to use it. There is no point having a historic designation which eats up CRO and Pres. Board resources if the alderman is not interested in this development tool. For instance, pursuing the HTC dollars wherever possible, or at least working WITH the CRO to target areas for HTC development and decide which areas will be clear-cut.

Then, if the plan turns out to be bulldoze some large area, pass an ordinance to lift the local historic designation so you don't waste everyone's time with individual requests to waive the existing no-demo ordinance for sound buildings. A previous alderman put that ordinance in place with a plan to go after HTC dollars. If there is a new plan, approach this from the ordinance and planning standpoint and don't keep asking a preservation body to do one-off bulldozings for you over and over again. My tax dollars pay for Pres Board and I like to see it following the ordinances, NOT waiving them for an alderman in lieu of a plan.

Also, anonymous, you would be much more interesting to talk to if you'd do some version of this... these are my opinions and you can call and talk to me about them.

Barbara Manzara
3202N 19th St
314-238-4032
manzarbe@hotmail.com

If it's too scary to be "out" or if you aren't allowed to blog at work, make yourself a cute handle so I can tell you aren't a sock puppet.

UrbanReviewSTL said...

The building at 1826 is one of the most attractive in the entire city. At this point I have little hope for The Ville except perhaps as an unfinished suburban subdivision complete with tacky suburban retail stores with large parking lots out front.

It is funny, the alderman certainly wants help from outside groups to build new projects --- the new housing, the new retail, the planned farmers' market, the planned business incubator are all from outside entities. Outsiders are welcomed as long as you agree with the King of the ward (which keeps changing).

Doug Duckworth said...

From the position of Moore, Mary One's ugly shitboxes are far better than some historic homes because Mary One's aren't going to collapse, at least while he is in office. To him, perhaps a vacant lot, or new vinyl, is simply politically a better outcome. He sees the hedonistic short term results, not a future, higher return down the road. He has no vision.

Regardless, the tragedy is that these architecturally and historically significant homes could have been saved if the LRA, and a community development corporation, would simply market these homes! It is ridiculous that in a local Historic District there is not an effort made to stimulate demand for regionally unique housing. The economic incentive is already there through historical tax credits, however I wonder who is aware? With marketing and a community effort to redefine these neighborhoods, giving them a sense of place, perhaps there could be a turnaround. But it is very unlikely when aldermen simply take the easy road.

I do question the ability and also legitimacy of the black leadership when they aggressively destroy their own history. Leaders who cry "Team Four Plan" and "the white devil" do not seem to hesitate when they are given the option of demolition in historically black neighborhoods. They seem to be rather complicit. One would expect quite the opposite.

Mary One Johnson should be removed from the Preservation Board due to a conflict of interest, but given the other conflicts we see, like the Deputy Mayor and a certain consultant, I doubt that will occur.

Anonymous said...

Doug,

You're not looking at this issue from the standpoint of longtime area residents who have lived with abandonment, crime, and trash filled vacant lots for too long. Historic district concerns are at the bottom of their priority list.

Also, the Ville does not have the correct historic district designation to qualify for historic tax credits.

And Barbara, sorry, but aldermen are "King" or "Queen" of their wards. Cross them at your peril. Their political machines depend on loyalty to their leadership.

They have worked for years to establish their position. They certainly won't let a few derelict buildings weaken their political power.

If their residents aren't clamoring for historic preservation, it doesn't matter what non-ward residents tell them. They answer to their constituents, not you or me.

And Doug, it ain't "Team 4", if the plan is to build new housing in place of abandoned buildings. "Team 4" called for denying the area of public services. New development is the opposite of that.

Sherman said...

Anonymous,

While your apologies for the status quo are eloquent, you ignore a key part of the status quo -- the fact that the city's Preservation Ordinance is law.

In the face of law, it does not matter what an alderman wants, or even what residents want. If they want to tear down buildings in a local historic district, they have to follow the legal process for demolition review -- and live with the result.

The law is King.

Anonymous said...

Who suggested anything illegal? The alderman is working to protect the interests of his residents. He's doing his job as he sees it.

barbara_on_19th said...

Anonymous, despite a strong tradition of aldermanic courtesy, the Alderman is still not King. This particular alderman is new, and does not have a lot of power. He also does not know the ropes. You don't see Boz showing up to petulantly demand that the Pres Board waive the law for him time after time when he wants to demo an area for a developer. He works WITH the system. Believe me, I am not a fan of our incredibly medieval system, but it sure does not improve anything to go around it.

And please start using a handle, it is pretty easy. How about stl_anon? That won't give you away. Most comment sites won't even let you comment with plain old anonymous anymore.

Anonymous said...

Barbara, he does have all the power of an alderman. He doesn't need to have plumb committee assignments or chairmanships. Bottom line, he is the master of his domain.

He and his inner circle have the power of the purse. They decide where to target ward money for demolitions, capital improvements, new development, everything.

The Fourth Ward is political quicksand, and he may not be alderman for long. But he's alderman now, so he pulls the strings.

barbara_on_19th said...

Anonymous -- So, going back to your first comment, if you are the same anonymous throughout... You think that a neighbor and concerned citizen like me has no right to show up to Pres Board to testify that I disagree with the alderman's misuse of a community resource (CRO) to continually ask to be allowed to waive the local ordinance in his own district, where he is in a unique position to rewrite the ordinance?

Sorry, it's still a free country. Sure, I know that the alderman has a lot of power and control. I also have a little tiny bit of power, which is to speak my mind in the correct public venue designed to allow the citizenry to comment on the official acts. That is the way this country is supposed to work -- informed and active democracy. When you give up, all is lost.

Anonymous said...

Barbara,

Of course you are free to testify at public meetings. And the alderman is free to do the same.

The fact that he hasn't removed the local historic district is his business. He probably hasn't given the idea much thought.

He probably thinks, yeah, the Ville has important history, so we don't want to remove our historic district status. But don't stop me when we need to tear down derelict buildings.

If you're looking for efficiency in city government at the ward decision making level, you're gonna go crazy.

Michael R. Allen said...

Bottom line: The city's preservation ordinances are citywide law. Aldermen have to follow due process like anyone else. The Preservation Board is charged with upholding the citywide and localized preservation ordinances, none of which follow ward boundaries. Members of the board who concerned themselves and their decisions with ward-based processes are not doing their jobs.

In the case of the Ville buildings, and any others facing demolition and going through the preservation review process, precedent is important. All citizens have a right to speak out on the interpretation of the laws that govern their quality of life.

Barbara was not speaking out against demolition at a $th Ward Democrats meeting. She was speaking out against demolition at and statutory administrative meeting where the actual demolition permits were being considered. I am glad she did so. We have many people who bemoan the destruction of the city who do not intervene in the one place where they can affect a binding difference -- the preservation review process. Barbara and others are matching rhetoric with an actual personal investment in the process.

Anonymous said...

Where has Moore not followed due process?

Let's cut to the chase...should Moore's next move be to push for removal of the local historic district in the Ville?

Does every demolition in the city require approval of the Cultural Resources board, or only those in designated historic districts?

And while most areas push to preserve or expand their historic districts (Carondelet, ONSL for example), what if a neighborhood wanted to get rid of its?

How would they do that?

Chris said...

I wish anonymous would sign their real name, like many other people on this website.

Chris Naffziger

Anonymous said...

Keeping it anonymous makes it harder to shoot the messenger.

barbara_on_19th said...

Anonymous, to answer your questions --
CRO and Preservation Board only review demolitions in historic districts, both national and local.

The way to remove a local historic ordinance is to propose a new ordinance repealing the old one.

About the handle -- Keeping it "Anonymous" makes it harder for anyone to take you seriously. If you are afraid of being shot down, grow a thicker skin and learn to enjoy the give & take. You didn't seem worried about casting barbs when you waded in with a little personally-aimed snark at the top of this thread.

Anonymous said...

Just to set the record straight,the dissenting votes were from John Burse and David Richardson