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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Odds and Ends

MCPHEETERS WAREHOUSES NEARLY GONE: The McPheeters Warehouses on Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, subject of a Vital Voice column of mine published in June, are nearly gone. Demolition started two weeks ago, and now the one-story cold storage warehouse and most of the center building are gone.

SHANK SONS HONOR ISADORE: Peter and Stephen Shank have published Firbeams, a lovely website featuring the residential architecture of father Isadore Shank.

KIEL PROGRESS: In the St. Louis Beacon, Charlene Prost reports on progress in the plan by SCP Worldwide and McEagle Properties to re-open the Kiel Opera House.

VACANT BUILDING INITIATIVE: As featured in a story on KSDK TV this week, Alderman Kacie Starr Triplett (D-6th) has introduced Board Bill 174, which would require owners of vacant buildings to pay an annual registration fee, carry liability insurance and secure all openings, among other requirements. Church and nonprofit property is exempt, but Land Reutilization Authority property is not. More later.

STATEWIDE PRESERVATION CONFERENCE SEPTEMBER 10-13 IN ST. CHARLES: The 2008 Annual Statewide Preservation Conference begins on Wednesday, September 10 in St. Charles. I am co-presenting a workshop with Jan Cameron of the St. Louis Cultural Resources Office entitled "Vernacular Architecture from the Stone Age to the Space Age." Details here.

DRURY WANTS TO DO WHAT?: At Vanishing STL, Paul Hohmann reports on a bizarre plan by Drury Hotels to demolish the northwest corner of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood for a new hotel. The plan threatens the Lambskin Temple and many historic homes. Drury will present the plans tonight at the Gibson Heights Neighborhood Association meeting, 7:00 p.m. at 1034 S. Kingshighway.


Anonymous said...

Church property should not be exempt. Churches are some of this city's most notorious slum landlords.

Anonymous said...

Normally you're pretty even-handed, but you're just being an idiot with this post. No one is going to demolish the Northeast corner of FPSE. You make it sound like everything west of Newstead would be gone! Take off the tin foil hat and be honest.

Anonymous said...

Michael's right - there will be significant loss of historic fabric on the western/Kingsighway edge of the National Register district.

No one knows how far east the loss will extend since the site plan is not public. Well, except for what was shown at the neighborhood meeting last night.

On the other hand, it looks like Drury - and its supporters - care more about commercial/hotel/motel development than historic preservation.

Life is full of choices. Historic preservation is not always the first choice.

Should it be?

Anonymous said...

I think anonymous has multiple personality disorder; I better get home and take my pills.

Anonymous said...

Well, no - historic preservation should always be the first choice. In this case there is land that is best suited for commercial development. I guess we could debate "significant loss" of historic fabric, but I don't think we agree. In this case the "historic fabric" is a set of badly muddled, vacant homes on one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city. Let's stop treating streets as barriers and start using them as corridors.

Anonymous said...

Why is the plan "bizarre"? Drury clearly sees the plan as a profitable business opportunity.

If the properties are not zoned for a hotel, then the plan will require rezoning or a variance. Demolitions in a historic district require further governmental approvals.

If the plan is bizarre, then surely it will be turned down at the public hearing level. If it's approved, then maybe it's not so bizarre?

What is the alderman's position?

Michael R. Allen said...

To the second Anonymous, it sure is easy to call someone an idiot from a veil of anonymity. Do you feel good now that you called me a name?

There is no site plan for the hotel project. Last night, the Drurys showed a 3-D rendering (no site plan!) that was short on specifics but they definitely stated their intention to buy and demolish 5-6 houmes and one church that contribute to the Forest Park Southeast Historic District. Their plan hinges on getting land from MODOT that may not be available to them. If they don't get the land, they may or may not look east for more homes to buy out. If that isn't a threat to the corner of the district, what is?

Even if the Drurys end up taking down only five houses, the hotels will spawn more development. People think the Drurys are looking at the houses on Kingshighway with the "City U" signs -- that's not true. They are looking north of Arco, on that section of Kingshighway that's cut off from the rest.

But another developer is looking at a medical office building on the site of the "City U" houses. This is a slippery slope. No, the Drurys aren't going after everything west of Newstead, but they have not drawn definite boundaries for this project.

Anonymous said...

^ And I'll be there with you and others to protest and act against any plan that goes east of what the rendering shows.

Look - your first post was just dishonest, that's all.

Anonymous said...

^ Dishonest about what?

The post is simply reporting on a preliminary proposal. It is what it is.

Where's the misrepresentation? There isn't any.

Again, what is the alderman's position? What is the neighborhood's? What is the position of the FPSE Development Corporation?

What is the position of the Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation?

What is the postion of Forest Park Forever? What is the position of SLUH?

Ain't it a bitch doing deals in the city? So many friggin' stakeholders to deal with!

No kidding...I bet McKee is wishing he never started buying land in North St. Louis!

Anonymous said...

I found this to be dishonest: "At Vanishing STL, Paul Hohmann reports on a bizarre plan by Drury Hotels to demolish the northwest corner of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood for a new hotel. "

The problem with "discussions" like this is that people exaggerate and don't use facts. If someone were to read that Drury is going to "demolish the northwest corner of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood" that gives a vastly different impression than "Drury Inn may demolish several houses in FPSE." Of course MAYBE they plan to buy everything and demolish it - but there's no reason to think that other than cynical paranoia.

Don't get me wrong. I really like Michael as a person and for what he does. I simply think that we all benefit from dealing with what we actually know.

Anonymous said...

A corner is a point. Michael's post is true: the proposal is to redevelop the corner-and land adjacent to it.

How big is this project? I'm hearing now the plan includes two sixteen-story towers. That's mega!

Imagine you're arriving in St. Louis for the very first time.
You approach Kingshighway from the west, and stretched out in front of you is the whole highrise med center on the north side of Highway 40, and new Drury Towers on the southside of 40.

It would be like arriving at Oz! Especially if the buildings were bathed in green light! Ooooh!

Anonymous said...

^ His diction may be correct, but it obviously does not give the right impression. It's not an accurate portrayal of what's happening, but instead an exaggeration presumably meant to be shocking or grab attention.

Anonymous said...

An appraiser when asked about this plan would wonder, what is the highest and best use for this site?

Guessing here - 25,000 cars per day on Kingshighway (maybe more), and 80,000 cars per day on Interstate 64.

10,000 + hospital beds within one half mile of the site.

X number of hotel rooms/Y square feet of available retail space to serve this 1-mile radius area, home to (?) 30,000 residents.

Should it remain residential, or rezoned to allow a more intense use.

The question goes far beyond historic preservation.

The real issue is, what's best for the long term future of the city?

Corollary: Is Drury seeking any sort of public financing/subsidy? Is the project feasible without it?

Given that Drury is pushing this project, and the city is not driving it through its own RFP/redevelopment efforts (read old MSD/Street Department site), the presumption is, Drury is "all-in" on this deal.

If he's asking for millions in TIF, tax abatement, or other public incentives, that'd change the picture.

Anonymous said...

Obviously anonymous didn't make it home to take his meds.

Anonymous said...

i'm hungry

Anonymous said...

No, I'm thirsty.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'll just have yogurt. :I

Anonymous said...

By the way - even though "corner" may be a point, no one would consider the corner of a neighborhood to be a single point, but the section of a neighborhood. Would you say "this corner of St. Louis is doing well" and literally mean a single point? I sure hope not.

Doug Duckworth said...

The project has a Le Corbusier-style site plan and it's in a National Register Historic District. People with sanity would laugh it out of the room.

Anonymous said...

Drury is trying to take $2 or $3 mil worth of real estate and turn it into $30 or $40 million worth. What's crazy about that?

Chris said...

What's wrong with turning $2-3 million worth of real estate into $30-40 million of real estate? Nothing, when you make the argument that simplistic. But when you factor in the "human factor"--the people who will be E.D.ed out of their homes for a rich developer, it becomes much less black and white.

There is so much vacant land in St. Louis in prime locations that not a single occupied house needs to be demolished any time soon.

Where should Drury put his hotel if he can't put in Forest Park Southeast? I don't know, he's the businessman; he can find someone who can. How about the San Luis?

Anonymous said...

From reports so far, supposedly there won't be any eminent domain. The only stumbling block is acquiring old highway 40 right of way that is reverting back to the City of St. Louis.

If it reverts back to Forest Park, it would take a public vote. Maybe there will be an effort made to have the property revert to the city, but not the park? That would be an intersting twist.

Who would make that call? After all, the City owns the park, not the other way around.

When the deed was signed, surely the grantor was "City of St. Louis" and not "Forest Park".

Anonymous said...

I heard a rumor that if the Dury doesn't buy the land that is for sale. And there is land for sale. That MacDonalds wants to build there. They have a small enough foot-print that they won't need the five houses or the piece of land that belongs to Forest Park. They could just build.

Chris said...

Hmm, I read recently that McDonald's corporate office believes that the market is oversaturated. It would interesting if they wanted to build a new restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Which would be better?

A new McDonald's?

A new hotel complex?

Nothing at all?

New hotels would certainly create the most employment.

Chris said...

Considering that the current situation is A) Forest Park parkland returned to the people of the city (Ok, ok, it's not prime parkland, but it's greenspace nonetheless) and B) mostly owner occupied, medium density and humanly scaled, I think doing nothing is perfectly fine. Like I said before, there is plenty of vacant land in prime locations--if a developer is creative.

As Doug D said, the current design looks like something out of Sim City.

BTW, why has no one brought up the possibility of McEagle renovating Kiel Opera House? Talk about a strange turn of events considering the whole Blairmont controversy.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a buffer between my house and Kingshighway. I live on 4500 block of Gibson. I don't think anyone is being forced out of their homes. I know everyone of the homes they are interested in.
All of that land is not Forest Park only a portion of it. The rest the city owns.

Joe said...

Originally, Kingshighway adjacent to Forest Park was two separate roads -- the street, to the east; and an internal park road, to the west. The median in the middle of Kingshighway is therefore, technically, part of Forest Park.

But as far as this strip of land, post highway reconstruction, anything could happen. The little side street there called "S. Kingshighway from Arco to Chouteau curves off to the east, following the old on-ramp design as an outer road. As I recall from walking that area some years back, it looks like one of the houses on Gibson may have been moved a few feet south when the highway was built; but probably several were demolished. If they can do it by taking five houses or fewer, slightly realign the street, and consolidate property, I'd be ok with the concept. It would provide a buffer between the residences and the road noise of the interchange complex, which is significant.

But then, so would a sound wall.