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Monday, April 7, 2008

Demolition Comes Twofold to Page Boulevard


On March 19, the Building Division issued an emergency demolition order for the corner commercial building at 5100-02 Page Boulevard, owned by Rosie Love. Love had applied for a permit late last year, and the city's Preservation Board denied her permit in February. The building is a contributing resource to the Mt. Cabanne-Raymond Place National Historic District, hence review by the Preservation Board. Apparently, the Preservation Board made the matter only a trifle harder for Love, an investor who ownes properties across Missouri. Demolition is well underway.

Eastward, at the southeast corner of Page and Kingshighway, demolition will soon commence on a large three-story building owned by Roberts Brothers Properties. A motorist struck the corner column in the notched-out storeftont entrance, leaving the upper two floors unsupported. Rather than repair the damage, the owners let gravity do the work. Brick began falling last week, and now the Building Division has granted a demolition order. A wrecker's signs adorn the plywood fence around the site, including sections in front of two adjacent buildings that have no structural damage.

More wealth drained from north St. Louis...

30 comments:

Vanishing STL said...

This is FUCKING BULLSHIT! Why do we even have a Preservation Board if the Building Division does not heed their rulings?

I think several of us, including reps from Landmarks and if possible someone from the Preservation Board, or maybe Kate Shae need to get together and have a meeting with the Building Division ASAP.

Matt Fernandez said...

I agree

Seeing St. Louis said...

I've driven by the building at Kingshighway and Page and it looks to be in fantastic shape with the exception of the corner. To use that as an excuse for tearing down a huge, gorgeous building is disgraceful.

Doug Duckworth said...

Basically St. Louis is full of assholes (Aldermen) who would rather have a vinyl siding tract housing development, or a fucking QT, or possibly a vacant lot rather than a viable commercial structure.

Sadly the problem is us. We have not changed the options. We need to enter the debate and make this an unacceptable option through advocacy and education.

Anonymous said...

Doug,

You're finally figuring it out. Not everyone agrees with you!

Doug Duckworth said...

Why should they disagree? Do you justify this heinous act?

john w. said...

Hey anon, why don't you consider moving out to the county where your preferred type of land development prevails? In a city, we must cherish what irreplaceable history makes our seasoned urban conditions worth saving, and if trading that craft and history for quick-ups on the cheap, effectively rendering the urban quality of historic neighborhoods irretrievably gone is acceptable to you than I believe it's you that is in the minority, not Doug. I don't seem to see many corroborative comments here resembling your point of view, so maybe you could tell us all why tearing down our urban history is such a good thing for the future of these neighborhoods.

john w. said...

If we can meet on this madness, them let's meet. I've read some cries for help from a few of those in the neighborhood (likely also present at the meeting at the Sts. Bridget and Theresa church meeting last month) that would like some advocacy.

john w. said...

...driving by this morning and seeing that wooden chair sitting right on the edge of the 2nd floor platform, awaiting the spectactular cascade of masonry to take the rest of the building corner down made me think there'd be a post this morning. The corner has actually been in this condition for over a week, but the driving rain into the exposed building just made me think about how incredibly irresponsible a building owner (a well-known commercial land developer in this case) has to be to allow this to occur at such a visibly prominent corner. Police tape and a few sheets of plywood will not save the curiousity seeker from pulverization there is such a collapse, and this is unacceptable. There is another similar corner building (commercial ground floor with flats above) several blocks to the north (on Kingshighway) that is boarded up. It dates to the 1920s and may suffer the same indignity if there isn't an effort to identify what is so important to the urban landscape and why it should be preserved. We need that conference table at the Grind to become the war room.

Doug Duckworth said...

The war room? I like that idea.

I have no problem meeting regularly to discuss these issues and ways to address them.

john w. said...

I mentioned the war room idea to Matt during the last Drinks and Mortar, and it seems with the cohesion of last meeting of minds on San Luis that this central location makes so much sense. We can reserve the conference room in advance, and show them our appreciation by patronizing their cool establishment. The Barista needs to learn a few more things about their coffee though.

Anonymous said...

Where are the local neighborhood activists pushing for the preservation of this building? Why don't we read their names on the blogs? What are their names? Who are they?

Bloggers and urbanists would be better served trying to wake up the neighbors than fighting each falling down building.

What if they tried, and found the neighbors didn't care, or wanted a new QT?

Would they then also be considered "assholes"?

Chris said...

There might not be any neighborhood activists near there.

Anonymous said...

There are and they are more interested in basic survival than worrying about old empty buildings.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone catch Matt Mourning's post that included FPSE residents' opinions on the demolition of the gasometer?

Illuminating -- seems that "poor people" aren't all opposed to preservation of old buildings. the opinions Matt recorded were fairly evenly mixed.

Doug Duckworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug Duckworth said...

Ive not been around very long and I don't know a whole lot, but well my name is right here. Why is it first assumed that people have to live there to have any legitimacy?

While taking photos I talked to a guy who lives in Fountain Park. He was pissed. He said that the White House and City Hall cares more about Iraq than Black America, otherwise they would rehab this building.

The area is severely downtrodden due to planned underdevelopment. Black People aren't lazy and apathetic, not caring about their neighborhood. This area is poor and has seen a lot of depopulation, thus the flight of potential neighborhood activists. Many got tired of City Hall and other levels of government not giving a damn. Political participation correlates with socioeconomic status. Many that remain are trying to pay the bills, not save a building. For further reading please check out Manning Marable and Willian Julius Wilson.

Anonymous said...

The prorities cited by most African Americans activists are economic opportunity, education, and civl rights, not preserving old empty buildings. Please don't spin this to say preserving old empty buildings is a civil rights or economic opportunity. That old empty building ain't working for anybody, and if it comes down in favor of a new strip center or gas station, there will be jobs and shopping opportunities.

john w. said...

And it's just that sort of one dimensional view "Anon", that will cement these old neighborhoods into the blandness and mediocrity that plagues the county. The historic architecture is the gold in the mine. Your comments reflect the attitude that the mine should be buried and all should settle for fleeting, low-wage and untenable service positions and cheap discount product. The mining of the gold will take some effort, but will pay enourmous dividends in comparison to the low-value sprawl pattern that will be targeted for struggling neighborhoods. I'm not one for trading a $50 bill for $10 bill, but apparently you are.

Anonymous said...

^ that last post is pure romantic hyperbolae.

The depression which has been visited upon North City has been decades in its impact. Looking at individual building losses is not seeing the forest for the trees.

Dramatic save gut rehabs are not the usual businiess model for most property owners. The resources it takes to develop such projects (primarily the low income housing tax credit), make it possible to do maybe 2 or 3 significant rehab deals in the city per year.

Low rents and a bad economy make the prospects for long vacant buildings to be economically viable rehabs more difficult.

Weak credit markets and higher lending standards make it harder for average people to get loans on commercial property.

Urbanists need to take a much longer view, a much more financially technical view, and a much more neighborhood sensitive view prior to drawing any conclusions about individual buildings and their specific situations.

Doug Duckworth said...

We are not disputing the externalities which make rehab difficult. I'm saying the Robert's Brothers have the capacity to fix this building and there's no reason they shouldn't. If they couldn't get a loan then at least stabilize the building and secure it properly until rehab is possible.

If they can't get a loan for rehab, will they get a loan for a strip mall? Due to the tight money market, nothing is going to be built at this site anytime soon. Why rush for demolition?

In 1975 the General Services Administration found that "a million dollars for repairing, restoring, and improving an existing old federal building produces five times as many jobs as does the construction of a new building." Moreover, when Real Estate Row was demolished Downtown, Union leaders were actually in favor of Don Lipton's plan for Rehabilitation. They supported rehabilitation because the Unions believed it would "create more jobs quicker" than new construction.

Refer to Larry Giles' Gateway Mall Scrapbook pages 7 and 37.

We are seeing the Mullanphy Emigrant Home rise from the ashes of decay through community support. This shows the capacity of community organizations on the North Side. I find it hard to believe that when people are organized for a goal, and elites like the Robert's Brothers are involved, it can't be done. Of course things are not equal as Fountain Park isn't Old North. But I think it's a goal worth achieving. Demolitions like these squander opportunities for economic empowerment which areas like Fountain Park require.

Bob J. said...

Anonymous,

Your arguments are horseshit. This building isn't owned by some poor rube, but by wealthy developers who have shown an ability to do historic rehab projects in this area. You talk about that neighborhood and what it wants -- live there?

Didn't think so.

Anonymous said...

"I'm saying the Robert's Brothers have the capacity to fix this building and there's no reason they shouldn't."

Maybe they simply don't want to.

"If they can't get a loan for rehab, will they get a loan for a strip mall?"

The answer to this question is a definite maybe. Commercial loans are tied to leasing commitments. It's a lot easier to get leasing commitments for commercial spaces in a new strip mall than it is an old building.

"We are seeing the Mullanphy Emigrant Home rise from the ashes of decay through community support. This shows the capacity of community organizations on the North Side.

Understand that the efforts of the ONSLRG were over 20 years in the making. Remember, urbanists need to take a long view. Over that 20 years, Old North lost a lot of buildings. If it wasn't for a long view, there'd be no 14th Street mall project today.

"I find it hard to believe that when people are organized for a goal, and elites like the Robert's Brothers are involved, it can't be done."

Sure, anything can be done when everyone is on the same page. That's where the hard work comes in. That's when it stops making sense to call aldermen and the mayor "idiots" and the Robertses "fuckers".

"Of course things are not equal as Fountain Park isn't Old North."

Thank you for noticing all things are not equal.

"But I think it's a goal worth achieving. Demolitions like these squander opportunities for economic empowerment which areas like Fountain Park require."

Great. That's the comment of one person from outside the neighborhood. Create a balanced, effective coalition that agrees with you (hundreds or thousands of hours of work in the trenches) and then you'll have something to pursue.

That won't happen in blogs.

Doug Duckworth said...

I'm not quite sure but from what I've been told the Roberts Brothers are members of the local African American business elite. If anyone could bring back the African American middle class it's them.

These buildings are well suited for such a task. For example there could be office space above, with retail on the first floor. Urban design is the long term trend. Leaders with vision, shall we call them entrepreneurs, would recognize these trends.

Building green downtown and demolishing historic buildings on the North Side is rather ironic. Is it green to expel more resources by demolishing an existing building then constructing an autocentric strip mall? I ask the Roberts Brothers, and other elites, to take the long view, especially when addressing impoverished neighborhoods. These are valuable means for economic and social reinvestment.

Anonymous said...

Doug,

You're missing the point. The issue is not what the Robertses can or cannot do and it's not what you think they should do.

You plus the Robertses equals three people. Toss in some urbanist blog readers and maybe you have ten or thirty.

The challenge is setting a community vision with a diverse group of stakeholders engaged to implement the vision.

That takes time and effort, and is about a lot more than urban design, one building's fate, or how much money the Roberts brothers have.

For example, it might be hard to get the Robertses to the table (or if not the Roberstes, then pick another absentee owner of a vacant building).

That's where the community response matters. If there is a clear policy for preservation established by community stakeholders, even including a fund for stabilization or preservation, then lots of things can happen.

Berating aldermen, the mayor, or individual property owners while everyone operates in the midst of a policy vacuum on such issues (beyond historic district status), results in little getting done beyond kvetching.

john w. said...

No shit Anon, what do you think we're all trying to do? If your attempting to play devil's advocate in order to test the convictions of one's beliefs, knowledge or intent, it's not necessary because that sort of patronizing crap is not productive. Clearly, you've not been part of any positive solution as things continue to stagnate or worsen. If you've got something of value to offer a meeting of urbanists, why don't you actually show up and present your case? I simply don't understand why your condescending bullshit attitude continues to pop up in these threads, unless you are in fact attemping to expose some weakness in the cause of urbanism you feel is there by playing devil's advocate. If you think you know all the right answers, than offer them, come to meeting, or show others how it's done BY DOING IT. Anything less is simply more of the same tiresome bullshit you've been spewing since posting as "anonymous".

Anonymous said...

John,

Here's a piece of advice: quit spending so much time talking and meeting with blogger/urbanist types and actually go sit down and meet with the people in the neighborhoods.

john w. said...

I was in attendance most recently at the activism meeting held at Sts. Bridgett and Theresa Church. The meeting, as you can imagine, was filled with those from the 5th ward neighborhoods (and a few from the 19th). I'll admit that I am neither from any other these neighborhoods, nor did I offer an y comments during the meeting, which was addressed by April F-G who spoke at length. Many in attendance spoke about the destruction occuring in their neighborhoods (the point of this particular meeting), and also about the need for new development. I don't recall any of the those who spoke declaring the vacant historic structures as worthless and part of the problem, save for a few that obviously pose serious crime and collapse threat. The problems of those who live in these struggling neighborhoods are certainly beside the salvation of historic structures, but to remove and then replace the inherent high architectural value with lower quality fixtures in the interim is not demonstrating a desire for long term stability. Anon, here's a piece of advice: stop spending so much time assailing bloggers by way of 'anonymous' comment, and show up at one of the next well-advertised meetings of urbanists and state your views, in person, where they can be registered and valued. Tell us why you think we're all full of crap, and then show us exactly what you think needs to be done. To date, you offered only the suggestion of meeting and speaking with these people, and I have already moved in that direction, and also meet with urbanists who not only live in these neighborhoods and know the neighbors well, but are visibly active in the community. I suspect you already know this, but you seem more interested in criticizing urbanists than much else.

Anonymous said...

This post is about buildings on Page, and a photo of one owned by the Robertses.

One of the challenges for urbanists is to have an impact across the wide array of neighborhoods.

What folks are doing in ONSL, the 5th and 19th ward is distinct from what happens on Kingshighway.

Yeah, it's a time consuming pain in the ass keeping up with all the different neighborhoods, people, community organizations, streets, buildings, trash, crime, street trees, and on, and on, and on....

Anonymous said...

"The problems of those who live in these struggling neighborhoods are certainly beside the salvation of historic structures",

Regrettably, for a want of things less complicated, they are inextricably linked.