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City Posts Agenda Regarding St. Aloysius Gonzaga

staloytree.jpgThe City’s Cultural Resources office has posted the agenda for Monday’s Preservation Board meeting. This includes an application to demolish the beautiful former church complex known as St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Click here to see the detailed review of this loved complex and how the applicable Preservation Review Ordinance applies (including drawings of proposed houses and site plan).

Couple of facts to keep in mind:

  • The citizens of St. Louis, through an appointed body called the Preservation Board, determine if buildings within a Preservation Review District should be allowed to be forever destroyed.
  • The Preservation Board does not act until they have received an application from a property owner or person that has a contract on a property. They are prevented from taking action prior to the property owner requesting a review.
  • In submitting for a demolition permit, the applicant is required to submit a proposal for what they intended to with the land. Thus, while it may appear like a project is a “done deal” is is not, unless politics interferes with the open due process.
  • The Preservation Review ordinance clearly prohibits the demolition of those structures deemed to be “high merit.” The City of St. Louis, through the Cultural Resources Office, has determined these structures (later school building excepted) as being of “high merit” and would likely qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • From the enabling legislation: “Sound structures with apparent potential for adaptive reuse, reuse and or resale shall generally not be approved for demolition unless application of criteria in subsections A, D, F and G, four, six and seven indicates demolition is appropriate.”Subsection “A” & “G” are not applicable in this case. Subsection “D” does not warrant demolition because reuse potential does exist for the structures and the developer has not demonstrated any financial hardship. Subsection “F” also does not make demolition appropriate as the new project does not exceed the quality of the existing structures.

  • It is in the financial interest of all St. Louis property owners to protect our property values and it has been demonstrated through countless projects that people are interested in historic rehab projects.

  • staloytree2.jpg

  • The developer, prior to purchasing this property, should have done due diligence to determine what laws were applicable to the proposed project. Preservation laws, just like zoning and occupancy laws, must be considered prior to purchasing any real estate. The developer took this risk and in doing so assumes all responsibility if the final determination is the buildings, when weighed against the criteria set forth in the Preservation Review ordinance, must remain standing. The city has no legal obligation to allow the owner to destroy the buildings.
  • Any property owner seeking to raze a sound structure must prove his/her case why the buildings cannot be reused. In past cases the Preservation Board has reviewed engineering reports and/or cost estimates to makes its decision. In cases where the political machine is forcing a demolition these requirements are often ignored.
  • The public is not privy to offers submitted in private real estate transactions. We do not know who submitted offers on this property and what there intended use was. One private land owner, the St. Louis Archdiocese, sold land to another private owner. No public participation happened in the transaction.
  • The alderman cannot legally guarantee a developer the right to raze a structure. So while months may have passed while a proposal was prepared, it falls to the Preservation Board to reach this decision. As the meeting has not yet taken place it is impossible for it to be a done deal.
  • Politics as usual is the only way this may be a done deal and sadly that will likely be the case on Monday. If so, by ignoring the city’s ordinances, our elected and appointed officials are not serving the public but their own self interests. If they cannot uphold the city’s ordinances they don’t belong in the offices they hold. If we allow them to do so then ultimately we are to blame.
  • Sadly, in what appears to be a spiteful act, the mature trees that make up the site were being cleared today.

    – Steve


    Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

    1. Matt says:

      Went by tonight and noticed the trees down. So far they are only Sycamores down, the Oaks lining the street are still there. Hopefully they will not come down, as that would be an enormous loss that could help if the board makes the decision we think they will. The PDF makes note that all attempts should be made to save the mature street trees during construction.

      The site plan already has a T alley, so why not just make it shorter with denser houses, and a more dense development with the reuse of the current buildings. Density is not evil, unlike some members of the preservation board.

    2. Matt says:

      Another note Steve, You should try to get on Channel 2 news about this site too.

    3. Brian says:

      Indeed, the proposed development does have a T-alley. From the size of the lots, it looks like only those along January, the far west end of the block away from the present church would have the suburban split-level homes. These are the least compatible homes of the proposed models.

      Of course, the developer could consider attached homes, but even if desiring detached single-families, there is a way. He could shorten the T-alley to behind the church, convent and rectory, plus change January to the smaller lots as he has already proposed on Pearl. More homes on January, plus the relatively easy rehab of the convent and rectory as homes (they were just occupied within the last year), should more than compensate for the loss of lots corresponding to the eastern end of this “town square” block.

      And this block is indeed of greater “high merit” than Doering, in that it was a social center shared by many, and thereby more strongly part of the area’s identity than a single private residence. The compromise of only the most urban model homes on the western end of the block, combined with rehabbed rectory and convent as the prized homes, should help finance the trickier conversion of the church. And the church should have a condo market, as Shaw and Lafayette Square examples have shown. If this developer doesn’t want to tackle the church directly, find a partner willing to buy it for obviously a lesser price than what the developer is paying for the whole complex.

      The Cultural Resource Office already admits that the former parish hall turned gym has been greatly altered. I think many could see the loss of one unusual building for saving three others a good compromise. Then too, the developer can’t argue that he’s left without any new lots to develop his single-family subdivision concept. He just needs to rethink the largest lots, if going with a shortened T-alley.

    4. The “parish hall” is the incomplete original church building. The parish hired Joseph Conradi to design their first building, and he came up with plans far too lavish for the young parish to build. The cornerstone was laid in 1898 and the foundation completed, but that’s as far as the original plan went. The parish roofed the incomplete structure and began using it as the church.

      Had the original building been finsihed, it would have had a massive and unappealing setback from Pearl. The Ludwig and Dreisoerner-designed 1925 building’s siting is a dramatic improvement.

      Both buildings are of historical and architectural interest, although the 1898 structure is more of a curiosity than an attractive building. The 1925 church is clearly an important building.


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