We've Moved

Ecology of Absence now resides at www.preservationresearch.com. Please change your links and feeds.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wm. Stage at Mad Art this Thursday !

Readers of this blog might be interested to know that local photographer, journalist, writer, and practitioner of St. Louis-ism Wm. Stage is having a photo exhibit opening and booksigning tomorrow night from 7-10 at Mad Art. Once again, 52nd City's got the write-up.

As Thomas notes at 52nd, Wm. Stage is probably best known for having done the Street Talk column in the RFT for years and years. But he's done other work, as well. His 1989 book Ghost Signs is a standout in my mind.

But when I think of Wm. Stage, gotta say the first thing that springs to mind is not a book or some big project, but something small and simple. Floating around in StL are postcards of photos he's taken over the years. One of them is a black and white image of an old, turreted, brick building. It's a nice, clean, eye-catching shot. One can't tell whether the building is in use or not, but visible across its facade are big, white ghost signs: "BIRD HOSPITAL" "BIRDS BOARDED AND CARED FOR" "EXPERIMENTAL CANARY FEEDING STATION".* The questionable occupancy or vacancy of the building, the huge bold words slowly washing away, the sheer quixoticness of the advertisements, and the fact that in 1989 such a curious anachronism had still survived here, all of that says a lot about St. Louis. The photo is absolutely simple but nonetheless dense and rich with information, and both beautiful and haunting** to boot. And I have to say, if I had to pick just one postcard of our city to send to an out-of-town friend to explain what is so special about StL, and to explain why it's worthy not only as a place to live but as a place to be obsessed and in love with, that would probably be the image. So, I'm really looking forward to seeing his photos of people tomorrow night.

*I'm ashamed not to have a link-able version of the image, but last time I checked, there were postcards of it for the buying at Washington Avenue Post.
** Had to track down the building. It's an LRA vacant lot now, sadly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sculpture Garden Plan Underscores Futility of the Gateway Mall

Last week, the St. Louis Preservation Board unanimously granted preliminary approval to the Gateway Foundation's plan to convert two blocks of the Gateway Mall into a sculpture garden. These are the two very formal blocks between Eighth and Tenth streets that were completed in 1993. The garden, which would include landscaping coordinated by the Missouri Botanical Gardens, is actually a good plan in itself. In fact, there is a level of thoughtfulness to the plan that I confess comes as surprise to me. The principal architects, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, looked outside of the mall for inspiration.

The architects cast aside the impossible dreams of formal symmetry, civic grandiosity and identity-making that have plagued the mall's cast of prior architects. Rather than waste half of each block on passive lawn space, as the current design for those blocks does, the architects instead realize the number of intricate details that a city park can have. There are rows of trees along Market Street (for some reason widely viewed as a grand formal drive), and paved "plaza" areas. There is a fountain. But there also are limestone walls (faced in actual limestone on the plans the Board approved), flower beds, smaller lawns and a cafe building at the corner of Chestnut and 8th. Most important to the design are contrasting axes. A central linear axis on the western block abruptly bends on the eastern block, defying the forced sight lines of the mall. A wide arc forms an axis that spans both blocks on the northern side. A meandering curve runs across the southern end of both blocks, suggesting the lines used to demarcate creeks and rivers on state maps.

In fact, the whole concoction has pronounced map-like influences. While the translation of the logical god's-eye view to actual pedestrian experience may muddle the intent, at least the plans celebrate the often conflicting lines that compose our physical and political geography. One of the architects told the Preservation Board that the linear axis follows the footprint of the actual alley that once existed on the blocks, joined with perpendicular lines drawn from old lot lines. This architect actually stated that his inspiration was an old Sanborn fire insurance map of the blocks.

The parks design succeeds inasmuch as it does not attempt to impose a particular experience on an urban space, but rather presents possibilities for user-directed action. However, there are drawbacks. On the plan, Ninth Street looks too narrow to accommodate its current four lanes. Likewise, Market Street appears to lose its northern lane. These losses eliminate metered parking -- a necessity for a healthy downtown block.

The largest problem is not the fault of the designers but of our continued political cowardice: the city won't will itself to erase the Gateway Mall idea from its mind. We are committing political will and civic endowment to major changes for these two blocks, but once completed they sit amid one of the most unintelligible urban landscapes in the nation. These blocks can counteract all of the problems of the mall, but without visual reinforcement their statement will be lost. They will be surrounded by the mediocrity of anti-urban 1980s buildings, which draw their users inside and away from even the best parks. The blocks will still be segments of a string of parks that are mostly useless and unattractive. With so much open space and inhospitable built surroundings, the sculpture garden will still function more as a self-contained destination than a component of a healthy downtown.

Instead of next turning to renovation plans for the rest of the Gateway Mall, city leaders should work to enclose the sculpture garden with good design. The Gateway Foundation is doing a huge service to the city by financing the construction and upkeep. That service should be matched with a program to enhance the context: renovate the block containing "Twain" (or even move "Twain" and build on that block); build on the block of Market between Ninth and Tenth where the second IBM Plaza tower was intended; rework the base of the first IBM Plaza tower; build a new building or even just shops on Chestnut south of the original Southwestern Bell building; redesign the base of the hideous Data Building. In short, we need to fulfill the premise that $20 million invested in the Gateway Mall will make a functional difference for this part of downtown.

Givens Row Loses Two of Its Three Houses

Read the story on the Landmarks Association of St. Louis website. (Thanks to Paul Hohmann for documenting this travesty.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Living together, working together, etc.

Yesterday, I got a text message from Frippy:
"Blighthaven: Like St. Charles, only blander"

I responded:
"PruIgHaven.... It can't possibly fail!"

She shot back:
"Followed up decades later by PruIgHavenMont: Third time's the charm!"

Friday, October 26, 2007

MCU Needs to Get McKee to Appear in Public

Rose Willis speaks at last night's meeting. Photo by the author.

Developer Paul J. McKee's plans for north St. Louis were the subject of last night's packed public meeting of Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU), held at Holy Trinity Church in Hyde Park. Although invited, McKee did not attend.

The tenor of the meeting surprised critics -- MCU's leaders were openly critical of McKee. Although the matter was only discussed for 20 minutes, and no questions from the crowd entertained, MCU laid out their action plan on the issue. Lead speaker Roger Duncan laid out MCU's four development principles: community input (an item that received thunderous applause), creation of housing at prices all can afford, no displacement of residents, respect for existing character and street grid. Duncan and Father Rich Creason, pastor of Holy Trinity, made clear that MCU was not claiming that McKee had agreed to these principles. They admitted that McKee did not accept their invitation, and that they were unsure of his intent.

While few residents of the near north side actually attended the meeting (out of the few aware of the meeting), one of their biggest concerns was discussed. 19th Ward Block Captain Rose Willis spoke about living next door to a run-down McKee-owned property and the developer's pattern of negligence.

Creason unveiled a community stakeholders' table that MCU is assembling to build community consensus on a development agenda for the area McKee is targeting. This group includes organizations like the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, the JeffVanderLou Initiative and the Third Ward neighborhood Council. the group also includes the St. Louis Development Corporation, the quasi-governmental corporation that encompasses the city's alphabet soup of development entities. Even stranger was that mayoral Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford was on hand to represent SLDC.

Creason ended the meeting by urging all in attendance to send to McKee a signed copy of a card that MCU distributed urging the developer to meet with the MCU stakeholders' group. Creason stated that he wanted McKee to receive 2,000 cards in the mail.

MCU has put itself in a difficult spot by trying to forge communication between stakeholders and McKee. I commend MCU for making the attempt. However, I think that the process could be fruitless without real public engagement. McKee has already met with representatives of the stakeholders' group; as part of city government, SLDC will be involved no matter what. McKee has not met with rank-and-file members of neighborhood groups. These stakeholder groups have not necessarily even communicated to members their involvement in discussions with McKee. Some stakeholder groups are missing, such as those concerned with urban design, green space and mass transit.

Essentially, the stakeholders could end up being a nice compartment for negotiations already underway outside of the public eye. What MCU needs to do is to get McKee to make good on his promise to explain himself in public -- to the residents of the area he wants to develop. Anything short of that is not the starting point of a new direction, but one more step down a path without a clear end.

McKee had a great opportunity last night to make a public appearance before a tame crowd. With few affected residents present, vocal antagonism was unlikely. The developer could have cut through the polarization with even a silent appearance, and demonstrated the leadership that defenders attribute to him. He did not make that first move to address the public. If MCU wants to help, it needs to continue to urge him to do so. All residents of the near north side are at the stakeholders' table by default. Solutions start with them, and with McKee. As long as those parties remain apart, all we have is uncertainty, fear and cynicism. We need hope.

Detroit Park Sale Plan is Hasty

The administration of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is proposing selling off 92 of the city's 367 parks. Most of the parks on the sale list are pocket parks and small playgrounds, many of which are surrounded by vacant lots and some of which are in severe disrepair. Kilpatrick seems to think that some of the park sites would be ripe for new development. The plan raises the issue of public space planning in deindustrialized cities. The amount of park space in Detroit reflects peak density that has not existed in decades. Does the city need so much park space when so much of the city itself is green ghetto land?

Maybe not. Detroit is seeing redevelopment right now. Kilpatrick's interest in selling the parks shows confidence in their having some market value as lots. The city has shrunk, but as it grows it may need the parks. While there are many of the 92 parks that probably will never be useful, there are some that are useful now and would be useful in neighborhoods where infill construction will lead to higher density. Staking out public space now will ensure that neighborhoods don't lack amenities that belong to all residents.

Detroit might consider holding off on a massive sale, and releasing the parks one by one after further community input and investigation of development activity. Perhaps some parks should just be mothballed -- infrastructure demolished and grass planted. One thing we learn from cities like Detroit is the inherent power of a vacant urban lot. From the vacant lots will spring the development of the future -- and public space needs to be part of that.

Media Coverage of MCU Meeting

KMOV Channel 4: North St. Louis developer under fire from religious group

From the transcript: A spokesman for Paul McKee told News 4 it would be premature to talk to the public because "we really don't have any plans."

Pub Def: VIDEO: McKee a No-Show at Meeting

Thursday, October 25, 2007

McKee Purchases Building on Stable Block in Old North

Photo by the author.

Defying promises to neighborhood leaders, developer Paul J. McKee, Jr. has purchased another historic building in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood. Last Tuesday at a Sheriff's auction, McKee's holding company Babcock Resources LLC purchased the home at 1412 Sullivan Avenue, pictured above. Babcock's bid was around $8,000 with bidding starting at $900.

The 1400 block of Sullivan Avenue is one of the most stable and intact blocks in the neighborhood, with only two missing buildings. Since renovation work began on another empty building on the block, the house at 1412 Sullivan is the only vacant building on the block.

McKee also owns three buildings on the 1400 block of Hebert Street, one block to the north, and a building at 2900 N. 14th street, one block east.

Since September 6, 2007, Babcock Resources LLC has been used to purchase at least nine properties with total recorded sales prices of $380,600. Eagle Realty Company owner Harvey Noble as well as Roberta M. Defiore have signed the deeds for the company. Deeds of trust report that Rice Capital Group LLC and Salvador Equity Management LLC have loaned money for the purchases.

Tonight at a public meeting Metropolitan Congregations United will be discussing McKee's north side land acquisition project. McKee is an invited guest. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Holy Trinity Church, 3518 N. 14th Street in Hyde Park.

Statewide Preservation Conference Coverage

I have published a summary of the Statewide Preservation Conference held October 18-20 in Jefferson City over on the new website of Landmarks Association of St. Louis.

Read it here.

I would have called it "Ben Joravsky is all in a TIFf"

There's a nice lil' piece about TIFs and Chicago city government by Ramsin Canon over at Gaper's Block. Behold: Why is Ben Joravsky So Mad? For those of you not so keen on reading about development financing, I assure you this is a nicely readable essay.

St. Louisans, some of the stuff outlined in the article about Chicago shore sounds familiar, hm?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

McKee May Not Attend MCU Meeting

According to rumors, developer Paul J. McKee will not be appearing in person at Thursday's public meeting at Holy Trinity Church sponsored by Metropolitan Congregations United.

"What is the City?" Conference at UMSL This Week

Did you know that UMSL is hosting a conference entitled "What is the City?" this Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26? The conference examines "urban perspectives in film, fiction, and photography" and is free with advance registration.

Here's the full description:

The Center for the Humanities invites you to join speakers from around the country and St. Louis in examining urban life in contemporary and historical films, fiction, television, and photography. We will discuss examples from London, Chicago, Sarasota, Paris, Los Angeles, Florence, St. Louis, and small towns. The conference presenters are historians, geographers, photographers, film critics, community activists, literary experts, and writers. Engaging in discussion across many disciplines, they will consider ways artistic images and writings shape how we see our cities and those of others.

The schedule and registration form are here.

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"

Log Cabin for Sale

From an ad on CraigsList posted in the "materials" section:

1860's Missouri Log Cabin, dismantled, tagged and diagrammed for sale. Pictures available by request. Original cabin 15X16 with an addition of 15X16, all log. Please respond to judy249@centurytel.net

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A building as useful as it was beautiful: Losing Riis School

My heart broke this morning when I saw this image on Gaper's Block:


Jacob Riis School in Chicago is finally on its way down. Didn't quite make it to 100.

A 2004 article by Ben Joravsky in The Chicago Reader noted that Mayor Daley plans to build 100 new schools within Chicago in the next several years. Why not make that 99, and revive this sturdy gem? Demolition of such a beautiful and solid building is plainly, foolishly, callously wasteful. The Reader article also noted that the building can't be condo-ized essentially because it's too well built--the internal walls are masonry, and therefore make it tricky to reconfigure. Not only does that mean the building is amazingly structurally tough, but it also means that the structure ought to be used for what it was built to do: Be. a. school.

With Hull House and Maxwell Street already gone (or, um, demolished and repeatedly relocated, at any rate) thanks to my alma mater, the University of Indifferent Commuters, it seems extra cruel somehow to tear down a school named after Jacob Riis. The name of the school always had seemed to me like a nice nod to the area's heritage as a neighborhood of tenements and poor immigrants, and also as a place that had been home to some of the greatest social institutions for the poor in the history of the city of Chicago. In his day, Jacob Riis's photographs brought to light the conditions in which many of New York's poorest immigrants in the later 19th and early 20th century lived. He is probably best known for his book How the Other Half Lives. One more nod to the area's actual heritage, wiped off the map. But I'm sure Chicago needs another faceless, flimsy condo development much more than it needs a sturdy, beautiful brick public school named after a man who devoted his life to improving the lives of the poor.

More Riis shots from Carey Primeau here.

And thanks to David Schalliol for confirming my "Please don't tell me this is what I think it is."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Setting a Precedent in Old North

Photo by the author.

Meet the building at 2817 N. 14th Street. This is the sort of buildings that many preservationists would hem and haw about when asked if it would be expendable to redevelopment. This is the sort of building that many Old North St. Louis residents would defend to the moment before the bulldozer arrived.

This 1860s-era row house has some noticeable problems. It's owned by the city's Land Reutilization Authority. The front wall is bulged outward, necessitating the bracing that was installed only recently. The roof is sagging inward. Bricks routinely fall from its parapets. The interior is barely recognizable as anything other than a tangle of water-damaged wood. The floors have collapsed, and the walls have descended.

Yet the building still shows its elegant Greek Revival brickwork. Simple segmental arches are repeated over the windows and doorway. A dentillated brick cornice creates a stately crown to the front elevation. The front-gabled roof draws the passer-by's eye upwards to a small dormer. Long ago, chimneys would have provided more visual interest at the roof.

This building demonstrates the craftsmanship of vernacular architecture from an era with relatively little traces. How can Old North St. Louis tell its story to future generations without it? The neighborhood is unwilling to try.

This building joins over 25 other historic buildings to form the $32 million "Crown Square" project in Old North. This project is spearheaded by the Old North St. Louis Restoration group and the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance -- a neighborhood group and a not-for-profit. These are organizations whose missions allow them to take the risk to tell the neighborhood's story. These are organizations acting long ahead of any moment at which a private developer would dare spend $32 million in Old North. If that day comes, the developer spending that money may own a building like this one. That developer may look for a precedent on how to handle the thorny question of what to do with a half-collapsed old brick tenement.

By then, projects like Crown Village and the investment of the community in its history will set a pretty strong precedent for doing the right thing. The right thing here is to safeguard the traces of a community's heritage that will inform future generations who will live inside and alongside historic buildings in Old North.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

McKee May Appear at Metropolitan Congregations United Meeting at Holy Trinity Church

Developer Paul J. McKee, Jr. may speak about his acquisitions in north St. Louis in public next Thursday, October 25 at Holy Trinity Church in Hyde Park. McKee is an invited guest to the next regular public meeting of Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU), the interdenominational Christian alliance formed to promote social justice and high quality of life for the region's urban core. According to MCU members, if he appears, McKee will state his agreement to a number of conditions MCU has set for their endorsement of his plans for north St. Louis.

While McKee's willingness to make a public appearance is laudable -- and some might say is an appropriate response to recent criticism of his silence -- the fact is that the meeting is not a public forum intended to expose affected north side residents to the developers whose plans have altered their neighborhoods.

Given the format of MCU's public meetings, a reasonable expectation is that McKee will make a brief statement of his intention and why he needs MCU support. A representative from MCU will list their conditions for support, which had been agreed upon by McKee and MCU prior to the meeting. McKee will state that he will abide by the four standard MCU conditions for supporting development: respect for urban character, not displacing people, affordable housing, and community participation.

Hence, the format does not allow McKee to present any substantial information. He will not be taking questions, or listening to comments. The audience will be composed mostly of MCU members, with a smattering of any near north side residents who manage to learn about the event and bother to attend. Residents whose homes are within McKee's project area had a greater chance for engagement at the public meeting hosted by elected officials on August 30 at Vashon High School. McKee is not coming to the north side to address residents; he is coming to symbolically accept the political support of the influential MCU. Residents of north St. Louis will have to keep waiting for a meeting with McKee that is truly public.

In the meantime, perhaps MCU can consider the message sent by endorsing plans with details are unknown to the residents of the areas the plans affected; with an acquisition program fraught with allegations of fraud and deception; that has created nuisance properties on healthy blocks, driven down property values and led to displacement of poor residents; and that has created a climate of uncertainty and resignation in an area showing strong signs of revival. Does it not bother MCU leaders to endorse a development plan long before people affected by it eren know what it is?

MCU missed the chance to hold out their endorsement until McKee gave affected residents a chance for real dialog. Instead, MCU is stepping over residents of Old North St. Louis, St. Louis Place and JeffVanderLou. Hopefully McKee won't do the same, and will meet directly with residents.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hemmed In

A resident of north St. Louis is heading south to see a friend. He drives south on Florissant Avenue but then remembers that the section of Florissant/13th/Tucker over the old Illinois Termianl Railroad tunnel is closed indefinitely. So he makes a left turn on Cass Avenue, figuring that he can useBroadway to head south and bypass downtown. oops! The bridge over I-70 is closed indefinitely. So he turns around, heads west on Cass and then south on Jefferson. That is fine until he passes I-64. Jefferson is closed.

In the kind of city where north-south connectivity is easy, this driver would not be having so much trouble. But in a city with fewer than a half-dozen north-south streets that actually connect downtown to the city south of it, he's in a bind due to some coincidental road repairs.

There is definitely a spatial dimension to our city's polarization between north and south. I sure hope that Richard Baron is thinking about this fact as he contemplates Chouteau Lake.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

MayorSlay.com Posts Video on Old North

Carson Minow's latest video for St. Louis Traffic is about Old North St. Louis. Check it out here.

Thus continues the continued interest in Old North by the editors of MayorSlay.com. Hopefully that is an indication that our current mayor understands a thing or two about the urban character of the near north side.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mullanphy Foundation Reconstruction Underway

Photo from What's New in Old North.

Old North St. Louis has made a big step in the effort to stabilize the imperiled Mullanphy Emigrant Home. The foundation of the south wall of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home is in the midst of reconstruction this week. Once the foundation work is completed, masons can begin laying the block that will form the new inner wythes of the walls; face brick will come later. Hopefully by winter's onset the roof of the building will be supported by masonry walls.

Remember that the greater the progress made, the greater the cost. The effort to stabilize the landmark continues to seek donations.

More from What's New in Old North: Mullanphy Foundation Begins to Rise

Monday, October 8, 2007

East Side Sprawl Connector Stalled

Gateway Connector Lacks Funding - Nicholas J.C. Pistor (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 8)

Apparently, the State of Illinois lacks funding for a $500 million east side highway that would connect Troy and Columbia. Plans aren't dead, though -- and that's a bad thing for the character of the small towns in Illinois that it would "connect."

Proponents of the connector call it a boon to the growing cities of the metro east. Careful scrutiny might show that the cities are losing investment and residents in their core areas while using annexation of placeless sprawl to offset the losses. The road would reward and subsidize an a trend that is slowly killing the small urban areas of the metro east.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Model Project

Photograph by the author.

At last week's grand opening for "The Laurel" condominiums in the former Grand Leader Department Store Building on Washington Avenue, the Pyramid Companies unveiled this model of the building.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Emergency Demolition Order for Midtown's Central Apartments

Paul Hohmann reports that the city Building Division has granted an emergency demolition order for the Central Apartments at 3727 Olive Street in Midtown.

The building is owned by Grand Center, Inc. Brick spalling has beset the wesetrn wall for the past three years, and the owner has not performed preventative maintenance despite obvious trouble. Still, the Central Apartments are structurally sound in fact and under the terms of the city's Preservation Ordinance, which stipulates that the building must be stable enough to stand for at least another six months to be deemed stable. Clearly, there is no emergency here.

Denial of "Original Restaurant" Building Demolition Permit Upheld

Photograph by author.

At last week's meeting of the Preservation Board, the board considered the appeal of a Cultural Resources Office Staff denial of an application for demolition of a two-story commercial building downtown located at 2217-19 Olive Street. The board unanimously upheld the denial.

The owners of the building, Gary and Gail Andrews, have owned the building since 1977 but have failed to maintain the building according to city building codes. A section of the roof of the building collapsed several years ago, causing parapet damage, but the building is stable. The owners seek to to demolish the building, replacing it with a lawn and eventually a surface parking lot to serve a building that they own at 2206 Locust Street. (Read the CRO report here.)

The building is a contributing resource to a pending national historic district, the Olive and Locust Historic Business District. The nomination is awaiting final approval from the National Park Service. According to the nomination, prepared by Melinda Winchester:

The residential character of both Olive and Locust easily gave way to commercial activity, as many people converted homes into first floor shops with apartments above. An example of this is the building at 2217 Olive. Constructed as a home for Margaret Hilton in 1888, the first floor was converted into Walter C. Persons Photo Supplies Company in 1929 by William Duerback.

Examples of such conversion on Olive and Locust east of Jefferson are nearly extinct. The nomination does not identify a single other example of the converted residence within the historic district boundaries.

Once the building is listed on the National Register as part of the district, its rehabilitation will be eligible for state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. This building and others on the block have not been eligible for the tax credits before. With the availability of the credit, these buildings should be attractive investments.

I concur with Cultural Resources staff that replacement of a historic downtown building with a grassy lot substitutes a high land use with an inappropriately low land use.