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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cochran Gardens Demolition Nearing Completion

Demolition work at the Cochran Gardens housing complex north of downtown is nearing completion. After demolition of three low-rise buildings, wreckers are working to finish demolition of one of the two tall buildings at the former public housing complex.


Completed in 1953 and designed by architect George Hellmuth, Cochran Gardens was the first project built by the St. Louis Housing Authority that made use of "high-rise" buildings. However, the complex balanced two 12-story buildings with four wide six-story buildings. Nevertheless, Cochran Gardens set the stage for the Pruitt-Igoe, Darst-Webbe, Vaughn and Blumeyer housing complexes that were composed exclusively of tall buildings. In time, all of these projects have been cleared and redeveloped, most using the federal HOPE VI program.


Cochran Gardens will retain its second tower, transformed in the 1980s into elderly housing. That tower will remain as the first and last tall public housing building in St. Louis.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good riddance.

Chris said...

Wow, that is one of the most striking ruins I have ever seen. Is that safe to leave one wall standing?

john w. said...

Heading on westbound I-70 past downtown on Sunday, I saw the headache ball dropping on this building. The low rise social housing building dating to the WPA years that's recently been rehabbed is quite nice though, and I'm happy to see it saved. I don't recall the name of the project, but it appears in the Landmarks St. Louis book recently published. The textile details are exquisite, and the steel casement windows reminiscent of the era make me happy to see such a great project. Regarding the remaining undeveloped 33 acres of brownfield at Pruitt-Igoe, Steve Patterson had posted a thread back in July asserting that this LCRA site should be developed into a LEED-ND project, and with McKee's bounty expanding this discussion is really critical now.

Jeff V. said...

Don't the old Bluemeyer buildings in Midtown also qualify as high-rise projects?

http://www.urban-photos.com/gallery/albums/city_galleries/stlouis/stlouis_8098.jpg
(photo courtesy of urban-photos.com)

john w. said...

Neighborhood Gardens is the fantastic housing project I was referring to, and can in fact be seen (low buildings in background)in the demolition photo of the Cochran Gardens tower. Neighborhood Gardens is a veritable gold mine of what's right about urban architecture, and is one of my favorite urban projects in the city of St. Louis. It's salvation over more likely demolition serves at least as redemtion for a [city asministration] seemingly more interested in removing its irreplaceable history than retaining it. There should be projects like Neighborhood Gardens in many of our neighborhoods in need of affordable and well-designed housing, b/c without affordable housing in good supply urban revitalization is simply not possible. Here is a link to the Built St. Louis blog segment dedicated to this great St. Louis treasure: http://www.builtstlouis.net/neighborhood_gardens1.html

Michael R. Allen said...

The two remaining Blumeyer towers -- and the one remaining at Vaughn -- finally came down last year.

Anonymous said...

"It's salvation over more likely demolition serves at least as redemtion for a [city asministration] seemingly more interested in removing its irreplaceable history than retaining it."

The fact of the matter is that St. Louis has always been one of the nation's leading city's for historic rehab.

Can we please stop beating ourselves over the head?

Doug Duckworth said...

HOPE VI makes some liberals feel better about the poor, as they are making yet another "valiant" effort, but are they going to live there?

How will "mixed income communities" exist when the area around Blumeyer certainly isn't. Will whites, even the poorest, want to live there? No. When given other housing options they will take them. Pruitt-Igoe was supposed to be racially mixed, yet that didn't happen. Whites chose to live elsewhere.

Blumeyer isn't located in Chesterfield or some inner ring suburb with more economic options and a tax yield able to provide quality services. It's located in an economically depressed area of St. Louis City. Moreover, the schools are equipping children for employment in the service, or informal, economies.

Urban design with project housing is like installing a body kit on a Honda Civic. Despite the aesthetic changes, it's still a Honda Civic.

HOPE VI is an example of incrementalism: a small rehash of an already failed concept. Urban design alone cannot remedy the structural inequalities rooted in our capitalistic state. Exclusionary zoning and spatial mismatch/structural unemployment will continue to keep the dangerous classes in line despite the intent of certain upper class white liberals.

If liberals want actual progress when it comes to housing the poor then they need to address the broader, systemic root causes of this problem. Few do as it's much easier, and politically safer, to advocate for incrementalism.

john w. said...

I can assure you that HOPE VI is not every liberal's dream, and physical form can only provide some of the necessary tools for economic recovery and certainly not all of them. What seems eminently clear, however, is that without available, affordable and QUALITY housing there will not be a population numerous enough to justify the administration of municipal services let alone amass revenue resource through levying taxes. Obviously there are larger global economic issues that could render all of the efforts of the civic and preservation-minded immaterial, but I don't really see much concert in efforts by even us (liberal or otherwise) that is visible outside of blogs. Though the broader, systemic root problems clearly must EVENTUALLY be addressed formally and by way of urban policy, there must be stabilization of target areas otherwise there'll be nothing left to fight for. Since it appears non-liberals have little interest in urban revitalization beyond comfortable investment opportunities from a distance, and that they're perfectly happy to let their dollars do their walking and talking, I'll be happy to continue to work for what I believe is important and not wait around for rich, white liberals to address the broader, systemic root causes of economic disparity. While HOPE VI is an example of incrementalism, as are MANY other attemps at revitalization and stabilization of historic or struggling neighborhoods that are as well. I don't think we'll likely find the leadership from the top, but rather the leadership will recognize the desires and efforts from the bottom and then assume ownership of that issue. Most leaders at the top are not starters of movements, but rather grab a baton and jump in front of a parade of marchers and declare that "this is my parade!". The buildings in Michael's most recent brick rustling post and the many others like it that have fallen or are waiting to fall don't have the kind of advocacy that could be provided by those who can make visible examples of their worth, and then explain why they believe they should be saved. I, for one, feel no contented complacency about HOPE VI projects nor shame, because that is such an infintessimally small fraction of the total picture. It seems there are at least a few great topics to tackle at the Drinks and Mortar meet-up tonight.

john w. said...

To anonymous: I'm not beating myself over the head for the obvious bad decisions of city administrations past and present. There is a litany of issues that could be recalled that have decimated much of this city's urban vitality. As far as St. Louis being one of the nation's leading cities for historic rehab, are you referring to private development efforts or direct actions of city government of St. Louis?