*NOTE – This article was originally written in July of 2006 for the newsletter. The gasometer has since been wrecked down.
You might not know what its called or what its for, but chances are, you have seen it before. The Laclede Gas Gasometer has been a St. Louis landmark for over 100 years. Since the natural gas storage tank was retired a few years ago, the site has grown increasingly attractive to developers.
With the recent resurgence of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, many developers are salivating at the opportunity to acquire the site, located near the intersection of Newstead and Choteau. Early last month, the St. Louis Post Dispatch revealed that developers Jerry King and Stephen Trampe have been trying to acquire the 3.5 acre site from Laclede Gas for years. Details are sketchy, but the plan seems to lean toward leveling the area and installing new residential housing. The plan, which would infuse life into the generally industrial area of the neighborhood, has been generally well received.
Not surprisingly, with the recent attention drawn to the area, some developers and preservationists are calling for a creative reuse project rather than a raze and rebuild. They site the Gasometer project in Vienna, Austria as an example.
After being retired in 1984, Vienna’s four brick gasometers were in danger of being razed to make way for a new development. However, city officials realized the reuse potential of the storage tanks, and in 1995 called upon architects to submit their ideas on how to utilize the structures.
The mixed-use development was completed in 2001, based off the designs of four different architects. Each individual gasometer was handled by a different firm. Today, these facilites house a music hall, movie theater, student dormitory, municipal archive and over 800 apartments.
Although the Vienna Gasometers feature a more attractive design, a similar reuse attempt in St. Louis would likely be possible. One suggested design would feature a glass façade surrounding the metal frame with a large atrium in the center.
At this point, however, this plan is merely conceptual and has not been officially proposed. Additionally, Laclede Gas has thus far been reluctant to part with this former storage site. But with as development continues in Forest Park Southeast, they will likely give way to pressure to sell. The question is whether the site will remade with new infill housing or be home to a renewed St. Louis icon: the Gasometer.