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No Deed Restriction Requiring Demolition of St. Aloysius

December 20, 2005 History/Preservation, Politics/Policy, Religion, South City 17 Comments

At last night’s Preservation Board hearing it was repeatedly stated by developer Jim Wohlert and Father Vince Bommarito that the sale contract required the demolition of the church buildings. This has also been told to parishioners and neighbors to get their support. Today I have documented proof this was false.

The Archdiocese has a standard contract and a standard attachment with only two restrictions. Such requirements become part of a deed on a property as “deed restrictions.” This is what was used in the sale of St. Aloysius back on 10/27/05 and recorded on 11/1/05. How do I know? Simple, a few minutes and $11.00 at the Recorder of Deeds’ office and I was able to get a copy of the 5-page document. It is called public records.

Again, the recorded deed only has two restrictions, the same they are using for all recent church sales. The first is the name of the church “or any derivative” cannot be used on the property. This means you couldn’t have the St. Aloysius Bed & Breakfast, the St. Aloysius Lofts or the St. Aloysius Manor subdivision. This restriction makes sense to protect the memories associated with the name of the closed parish.

The second restriction limits the use only while the church building remains standing. This prevents their church from being used as a place that would perform abortions, give tattoos or a club that sells alcohol. It also prohibits another church promoted as “Roman Catholic , but not possessing the express ecclesiastical approval of the Roman Catholic Church” from occupying the property. Again, this second restriction would be removed once the church was razed leaving only the first restriction of the name intact.

Earlier today I hand delivered a copy of the deed to Rollin Stanley, Director of the City’s Planning & Urban Design Agency. I also submitted a “Freedom of Information Act” request for the audio recording of the hearing.

If you’d like to read the deed yourself, just click here (PDF). The restrictions are on page five of the document.

The scary part is Mary “One” Johnson was ready to approve the demolition based on a contractually required deed restriction that, as it turns out, doesn’t exist. Even more scary is that I hear she may be the next chair of the Preservation Board.

[UPDATED 12/21/05 @ 8:45AM – I want to clarify a couple of points. I’m not a real estate attorney but I do have some experience in this areas. Agreements are placed in real estate contracts all the time and not every detail is recorded as a deed restriction. For example, the standard contract they are using to sell the churches permits the church to remove the stained glass windows and other artifacts “prior to closing” and then requires the church to replace the stained glass windows with glass windows. These types of things that affect a transaction prior to closing do not typically get recorded with the deed. What does get recorded as a deed restrictions are those actions that need to be enforceable after the sale has closed. In most cases, a deed restriction is the only way to guarantee the wishes of a seller.

But the seller typically cannot use a deed restriction to require a buyer to do something after they’ve bought a property as that is impossible to enforce. Futhermore, a deed restriction that is not legal (such as prohibiting a race from buying the property) cannot be enforced. Even if the church had included a deed restriction to require the demolition of the buildings, which they did not, it is highly doubtful in my mind they’d be able to enforce that requirement given that it is not up to them to legally determine if the buildings can be razed. – SLP]

– Steve


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jack says:

    So, does that make Bommarito a liar? Perhaps he shouldn’t have purjured himself. He did swear to tell the truth — after all. A “higher authority” may forgive him (he’s kinda connected) but the prosecuting attorney may not.

  2. MH says:


    Thank you for taking your time to pursue this and other interests in the name of good development in St. Louis city. You do what a lot of people just unfortunately don’t have time to do. This is very important, although city leadership probably figures it is simply one little block to be demolished, and that can’t hurt the overall character of the city, right? You would think that somewhere along the line of our city’s history in “urban development”, somebody would have learned SOMETHING.

  3. anon says:

    Great Job SLP. If Mary One who makes me think of Nell Carter everytime I see her public bench ads becomes Chair, I am afraid of the consequences. One must think logically in these types of positions. I hope you consider joining this board, if you don’t have too much on your plate.

  4. anon says:

    What does it take to join the preservation board?

  5. Judy says:

    What? Only $600,000 for the sale on 10/27/05 as stated on the Realist.com of public record.
    Wait until former church parishioners and neighbors find out the sale of the entire St Aloysius complex (an entire square block including 6 buildings near the Hill) SOLD for $600,000. The fair market value is closer to $2,600,000. Where did $2 million go ?

  6. Brian says:

    Each of the 25 homes would likely be priced about $200,000 or more, so you’re talking about a huge profit margin for a site bought for only $600,000. Sure, demolition and construction costs have to be added to acquisition, but it appears the City will help offset that with new alleys, sewers and tax abatement.

    Two things bother me about this development team. Their materials appear cheap and their homes sit on the market. Using cheap materials, one could increase their profit margin even more, by lowering construction costs. But obviously, buyers are not being fooled, as overpriced homes built with cheap materials can sit months on the market.

  7. Matt says:

    The Journal is still reporting in their article today that the deed restriction requiring demo is in fact their. Bad journalism or ignorance. You decide. Since it’s the journal I will cut them a little slack.

    [REPLY – The reporter’s deadline was about the same time as the meeting on Monday. Since they print that Journal last he was able to rush back to the office to submit the story for printing on Tuesday and distribution on Wednesday. It just shows how blogs can be more timely than a weekly paper. – SLP]

  8. Shawn says:

    Just to clarify — in the nut graph, the next paragraph after the story lede, I wrote that the Archdiocese had required the buildings to be demolished as part of the deal. A nut graph is another summary paragraph, like the story lede, that is meant to be snappy without getting into too many details. It is meant to entice readers to read on. Therefore, attribution to the information was not provided until later in the story, when I attributed it to Father Vince Bommarito, who did in fact say that the Archdiocese was requiring it. As Steve said, at our deadline the document which he later acquired was not on hand. If I were writing at a daily newspaper, the updated information would have come in a follow-up story the next day, but this is a weekly, so I work with the timetable I have been given.

    Fortunately for St. Louis preservationists who surf the web, Steve has this site and Michael Allen has his site. But not everyone in South City goes to the Internet for such information, so I am able to provide it to them through the South Journals.

    Shawn Clubb
    Southwest City Editor
    Suburban Journals

  9. Matt says:

    ^Sorry, I had only read the first little bit of the article before I had to leave. Thanks, for responding.

  10. Margie says:

    Steve, another great piece of internet journalism.

    Another Mary “One” warm fuzzy: she also voted against recommending the Century building for listing on the National Register. She entered the meeting after all testimony was delivered, but who needs testimony when you already know how you’re going to vote?

    Richard Callow said it best: what’s wrong with voting the way the person who appointed you to the board wants you to vote? (That would be the mayor, of course.)

    Steve, keep up the good work. You rock!

  11. rel says:

    Regarding the development of St. Aloysius, I want to comment on several fronts. I am not opposed to the conversion of existing structures into condos or lofts (Lafayette Square, The Georgian, Washington Ave. loft district, etc). Such usage, as determined by developers where conditions would warrant such conversion are justified. Their willingness to make substantial investment in the property should allow them great latitude to shape the project as they see fit. The project should also be within proper guidelines and be compatible and complimentary with the existing neighborhood. That being said, I find it incredulous that you and others would be so presumptious to try to force your views on the way the property should be developed. Your assertions to “save the church” and “the west half of the property should be single family homes” though may be well intentioned in your mind, are outrageous since you have no standing in this matter.
    Don’t blame the developer. Although he is not building half million dollar homes, his properties are priced accordingly for the area. The fact that some do not sell quickly is in no way a reflection on the quality of their construction. Ask those customers who have purchased his properties about quality and value. He should be lauded for his commitment to the area.
    Don’t blame the church. While some of the closed parish buildings in the archdiocese will remain standing, others are being torn down for future development.
    Don’t blame the alderman. He does an admirable job to maintain the overall integity and character of the ward while looking to the future to enhance the area and the quality of life for the residents. This is not an issue of eminent domain or an act to further private interest at the expense of taxpayers. Threats of aldermanic recall are lewd and tasteless.
    If you or your group of preservationists felt so strongly about this property, why didn’t you put together an investment group to buy St. Aloysius and develop it according to your “vision”? Once again as so often happens in society, this is an example of do-gooders, know it alls, and busybodies sticking their noses in matters where they don’t belong. Behind the mantle of “urban review”, you spout your venom towards the developer, the church, the alderman, and anyone else you disagree with on this issue.
    Your narrow minded views are obvious as your statement on your web site indicates that “the suburbs, like most American cities, are depressing”. When you get the drive, ambition and business acumen to combine as one, then maybe you’ll put your money where your mouth is.

    [REPLY – 12/22/05 4:45pm – Geez, where do I begin? The next commentor has already done a good job of responding but I’ll add a few bits.

    No standing? Last time I checked I am a resident and property owner in the City of St. Louis. Everyone that spoke at the preservation board meeting in opposition to the demolition are residents and property owners. We have every right to be concerned about development in our city as the affects of bad development extend beyond arbitrary ward boundaries. Indeed, bad development decisions extend beyond municipal boundaries as well.

    And who is forcing views? Since when is asking an appointed body to follow the applicable ordinance that has been in affect since 1999 forcing viewpoints? Read the ordinance and the criteria by which demolition permits are judged.

    The time frame in which a new project will be built is one of the criteria by which the Preservation Board is supposed to use to determine if they should issue a demolition permit. The fact other lots are vacant and homes are not selling is quite germain to the issue. If you don’t think so drive by Keystone Place.

    I love the very tried “why didn’t you buy it yourself” argument. How do you know I or others didn’t try to buy it? Do you have access to the sealed bids that were submitted on this property?

    I’ve heard very good things about Alderman Vollmer. I feel his is on the wrong side of this issue by supporting demolitoin. I hope he will bring the developer to the table with the city to look at alternative concepts.

    The beauty of having my own site is I get to share my own views. That is my right as an American? You’ve had a chance to offer a different perspective. However, I stuck to material facts related to the issue and displeasure with Vollmer. You’ve attacked me personally rather than make a rational argument based on the facts related to the ordinance and a participatory government. – SLP]

  12. member of society says:

    rel says that steve has “no standing in this matter” — but rel is wrong. the demolition required to make the development happen is governed by city law. this is not simply a matter of a contract, or a ward policy or a neighborhood. the preservation review ordinance is a city law. when someone tries to tear down a building of merit governed under the ordinance, citizens from all over the city have a role in asking that their appointed representatives enforce relevant city law. steve doesn’t have to have the money to buy the land — although with the steal wohlert got at $600,000 many people could — to ask that laws be enforced. we live in a society, after all.

  13. Mike Dunn says:

    What’s the use of keeping an outdated Church around when we could build some cookie cutter ugly as hell houses in it’s place. After all it would generate more income. All in all we are only talking about a structure that held a neighborhood together for well over a hundred years. This is the new millenium I thought we were supposed to remove historical structure’s such as these from our community. Let’s get it done. Tear the church down and make way for the waves of cash to flow into Alderman Villa’s and Slay’s pocket’s. Remember the Century Building. Out Mike Dunn

  14. Mike Dunn says:

    Correction to my my ignorence. Alderman Vollmer’s Pocket. I live in Carondelet So every time I hear about a historic structure being torn down I think of Villa. I didn’t want to go political with my comment’s but as a hard core democrat I will be taking note on the positions of my locally supported politicians. I will be looking for an alternative.Remember the Century Building. Out Mike Dunn

  15. unpopular says:


    The problem with the system is ALDERMANIC COURTESY.

    That is why no other elected official spoke out against the Century demolition.

    With aldermanic courtesy, an alderman is crowned “king or queen” of his or her ward.

    According to some, the recourse citizens have against an alderman making a bad decision is to recall the alderman or vote them out of office.

    Of course this is very convenient for other elected officials, because it takes the oweness off of them to speak out against an alderman with a bad idea.

    So yes, according to those defending the archaic tradition of aldermanic courtesy, the opponents of the St. Al’s or Century demolitions, have no standing because they are not ward residents.

    I disagree. With aldermanic courtesy, aldermen are allowed to remain silent when bad things are done by other aldermen. So they keep their political noses clean, while the city is damaged.

    Anyone who supports this view is part of the problem.

    Hold all 29 aldermen accountable (they will hate that).

    The only solution is to END ALDERMANIC COURTESY.

  16. Brian says:

    Don’t forget that the Cultural Resource Office conditionally okayed demolition to the Preservation Board. The petitioner just failed to meet those conditions. In other words, you don’t draft your engineer’s report the day of your hearing, and you don’t cite age, masonary construction and the New Madrid fault zone as your lame excuses.

    The Preservation Board is following a City review process. What went wrong was that the development team felt having the Church and the Alderman on their side meant they didn’t have to follow the same process applied to most areas of the City.

    The Church may have said okay to demolition, but the City still has legal purview. And any good developer would have done their homework before reaching the Board, especially when CRO shared conditions in advance of the meeting.

    Myself, I went from initially supporting this development (albeit wanting less suburban model homes) to now asking the developer to show why the church and other buildings are beyond saving or creative reuse. As much as the preservation interests have been perceived as a thorn in the side of this proposal, ultimately, this project stalled because the developers themselves did not take this stage of the process seriously.

  17. unpopular says:

    One more thing about aldermanic courtesy. Back when the city was young, and the neighborhoods were being built up (before it was historic)aldermanic courtesy worked fine.

    In those days, aldermen were more concerned with the doling out of city jobs through patronage or the doling out of city services to their supporters (loyal residents).

    Now times have changed. Aldermen are making once in a lifetime decisions about the development of historic properties in their wards.

    These are much more far reaching decisions than the doling out of patronage jobs.

    Should the decisions be driven by the purview of one alderman (backed up by his/her unaccountable fellow aldermen)?

    The only way to fix the problem Mike is concerned about is to end the tradition of aldermanic courtesy.

    [REPLY – Very good points! I’m in total agreement. I’ve got some ideas around this too. Watch this space in 2006. – SLP]


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