Wrecking ball rant

It’s no secret that far too many quality buildings in the City of St. Louis fall victim to the wrecking ball. With some buildings, only the most die-hard preservationists take notice and offense. But every once in a while something is torn down that raises the “What were they thinking?” flag.

Case in point, 2001 South Jefferson, in the Fox Park Neighborhood. The property is located at the southwest corner of Jefferson and Allen, directly south of the McDonald’s. Not unlike many properties along this stretch of Jefferson, this one could use some work. It’s clearly been idle for some time and needs reinvestment. The forces of renovation, however, are close at hand. Many of the commercial and mixed-use properties in the area have been renovated in recent years and it seemed like a matter of time before this one joined the mix.

A few days ago a banner for New Vision Contracting, noting an upcoming demolition, appeared on the property. Clever name for a demo company. Checking up on the matter, it seems the City had some major concerns over structural issues and issued a rush demo order. Before berating the powers-that-be over this seemingly unnecessary move, I drove by the property this morning. It seems that the rear porch was removed in the past few years (verified through Geo St. Louis permit records) and the building wasn’t properly reinforced. Weather and time finally took their toll and part of the rear wall collapsed. You can see a picture for yourself in the gallery below.

Does this damage require attention? Yes is does. To leave it be would invite a lawsuit. That doesn’t mean the property needs to be torn down. Why not sell the property off to a developer who will fix the issue. Sell it to them for $1. What is there to lose? That would save the building and improve the area in one stroke. Instead we’ll be left with another vacant city lot that will erode the streetscape. Now that’s forward thinking action.

The sad thing is that this kind of thing happens every day. Its just that many of these properties are in North City or more isolated areas so they aren’t as significant on the cultural radar. But don’t follow yourself. St. Louis is allowing itself to be torn down brick for brick. Who can tell what agenda is being satisfied here, but it clearly isn’t the agenda of common sense. Nice going City.

If you’re into the historic preservation issues, I recommend check out the Ecology of Absence blog.

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4 Responses to Wrecking ball rant

  1. Brian S. February 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    This one really irritates me, and I drive by it every day. There are already way too many gaps on Jefferson – both vacant lots and fast food joints – and I’m concerned that they’ll never be filled in to create a cohesive retail district.

    • Matt Kastner February 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

      Agreed. Jefferson, from Gravois to 44, needs to retain every intact building it has.

  2. Rex W. S. April 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    Something that’s even more appalling and alarming to me that seems to be a growing trend out here in Mid-County are the structurally sound homes that are being bought strictly for their land. The new owners tear down the existing “out-dated” home only to make way for a sterile “faux-old-world” monstrosity that barely fits on the lot and is disproportionate to the rest of the neighborhood (..untill the remaining homes are torn down and rebuilt as well.)

    One said property to keep your eye on, recently sold in February (’09) is a home located on Clayton Rd. (63124). Designed by the late William Bernoudy, and built in 1951, this home is a fine example of Modern Mid 20th Century Architecture, I fear the current owners are going to sacrifice this home for its spacious lot. Bernoudy was an apprentice to the great Frank Lloyd Wright and designed several homes in the Mid-County region. Another, currently listed on Suemac Lane (63124) Sits in the shadow of 3 newly constructed homes that drown out the character and charm of this home, and one other designed by Bernoudy that sits at the end of the cul-de-sac, these are two of the three homes that were original to this cozy lane that are still in tact… what a pity.

    Matt, as you had mentioned in your article regarding the Botanical Heights infill project, this really dose show the major void of creativeness and originality in St. Louis’ Modern Architecture scene, not only are we willing to compromise the architectural styles of newly constructed homes but, how about we destroy a few good works of art in the process and rape our neighborhoods of whatever shred of character and charm they have left. Disgraceful.

    • Matt Kastner April 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

      You’re spot on about this being a problem elsewhere. I have heard a lot of people mention that very issue. As for the City, if any South City neighborhood was to be cleared, McKree Town wasn’t a bad choice. A lot of those buildings weren’t too nice. Still, I hate Eminent Domain! An even better example of horrible urban designs is in Dogtown. It is shocking how many riciulous infill project have been given the green-light there.

      As for this building, it actually looks like it has been saved, for now at least. THe demo sign is gone and it still stands over a month later. I have been planning to post that, but it has been a hectic couple of weeks. Not all news is bad news.

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