Home » Events/Meetings »History/Preservation »Religion »South City » Currently Reading:

SW Garden Neighborhood Association Didn’t Know About Preservation Review Process!

December 16, 2005 Events/Meetings, History/Preservation, Religion, South City 7 Comments


The Southwest Garden Neighborhood Association, where St. Aloysius is located for now, was unaware the City’s Preservation Board would make a decision on wether to grant the demolition permit or not. The association was told the Archdiocese was insisting the buildings be torn down. Some time back they gave their approval to the new home proposal.

I see this all too often, a volunteer association gives their approval for a redevelopment only because they think no alternative exists. Today they are realizing the process was not as it was explained to them.

First, we have the idea that it would be too painful for the neighbors if the church was reused. This is partially true, the neighbors don’t want any sort of institutional use on the site (either in the existing buildings or in new). This has some validity due to parking & traffic concerns on the narrow streets. But the question of Eastern half of the site being renovated with the Western half receiving new construction was never discussed as an option.

If the church really wanted the buildings razed why didn’t they apply to the City of St. Louis for a demolition permit? They didn’t do that, instead they sold the land and buildings intact to a private developer. This is now a former church owned by a private company.

The whole mess leading up to this smells of business as usual backroom politics. This is because the players involved know the proposal cannot stand on its own against the criteria of the City’s 6 year-old Preservation Review Ordinance. To get their way they had no choice but to manipulate the process in their favor. The staff recommendation to the Preservation Board for Monday’s meeting is not the staff recommendation they’d give without political pressure. This is the ugly St. Louis politics that disgusts me.

When it comes to renovating and attracting new residents to St. Louis we are our own worst enemy.

[UPDATE 12/17/05 @ 7:30PM – It seems the SW Garden Neighborhood Association gave their approval not recently, but back around April or May of this year. Those who have followed the church closings will note this and other churches weren’t “suppressed” until the end of June. The properties were then put up for sale. But the deal for the new homes was already done prior to the sale process. Basically, the opportunity for a rehab-minded developer to buy the properties never existed.]

– Steve


Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. poster says:


    Who would have been the one to inform the volunteer neighborhood organization of the preservation ordinance? It wouldn’t surprise me if the alderman wasn’t even aware of it.

    And besides, like I mentioned before, once you move west of Kingshighway, there’s a whole different mindset at work in the city.

    “….Let’s face it…those are the “suburbs”. They’re not the “cool” neighborhoods. And they’re certainly not “historic”.

    And besides, I’m only interested in stuff from where I live *east*. There is nothing cool west of me…”

    Factor that in with a dose of good ol’ Catholic submissiveness to church authority, and you see the results.

  2. Judy says:

    Steve – I am on the board of the Southwest Garden neighborhood assoc and you have eloquently explained the problem EXACTLY! ! ! Thank you for writing this. I will make suggestions to the SWGNA board to prevent this mistake in the future! I was duped on once, but shame on me if you do it to us the second time.
    Judy Lewin

  3. Brian says:

    I think there is common misperception that a building must be part of a historic district or near a park to trigger CRO review. Even if St. Al’s comes down, hopefully more City stakeholders will now realize that all older structures are evaluated for merit, structural soundess, and reuse potential. Despite such broader awareness, however, St. Al’s will more likely let folks have a better understanding of how our preservation review is only followed on a political basis.

  4. Joe Frank says:

    “all older structures are evaluated for merit, structural soundess, and reuse potential.”

    But, actually, if you’re in one of the ten wards which do not have preservation review at all, that’s not the case.

    Somehow, the “new” 10th Ward where St. Al’s is located got preservation review. But if you go a few blocks west, across Hampton, the 24th Ward does not have it (thanks to Tom Bauer).

    I wish the Truman Restorative Center hadn’t been sacrified for new homes, either. Sure, it was an ugly building, with little to no historic merit; but why couldn’t it have been privatized and kept open as a nursing home? Sigh.

  5. Brian says:

    St. Al’s used to be in the 24th ward, and the 10th ward used to be east of Grand. But these developers are applying for demolition permits within the present 10th ward, and as such, preservation review applies.

    The Archdiocese did okay the demolition of their former property, but maybe such Church approval was misrepresented as City approval to some area residents to gain their support. Many did not know that the City had yet to approve any demolition. And evidently, many didn’t even know the 10th ward fell under a fairly city-wide (18 of 28 wards) process carefully reviewing older structures prior to demolition.

  6. Paul says:


    The sale of the church was listed in the Business Journal this weekend. Sale Price: $600,000. Seems like a steal to me. Incidentally, the sale of St. Boniface was also listed. Sold to Rothschild Allen LLC for $1,150,000. I would guess they will propose a conversion to condos or apartments, as Rothschild had proposed for a church at Kingshighway & Washington (although that one has not occured). Also listed was the sale of Lindenwood school for $950,000 to Rothschild as well.

  7. Brian says:

    Obviously, the developer feels he can make a profit. As with any project, there will be construction costs with each new home, but the sale price will also need to cover site acquisition and site preparation (demolition).

    If acquisition was only $600,000, that is $24,000 added on average for each of the 25 homes in their sale price. However, tax abatement allows the developer to sell at a higher list price, since any buyer might qualify for more, with fewer taxes going to escrow on their home loan.

    And if the developer only paid $600,000 for the entire block, the public should know how much of the site preparation, specifically new alleys and sewer lines will be subsidized by our City and MSD. If such subsidies exceed the cost of demolition, this developer is essentially getting a whole block of City land for free– the acquisition subsidized by tax abatement and the demolition subsidized by alley and sewer work.

    With such subsidies, the profit margin on this project is likely very large. If starting on the western end of the block, but with narrower lots (each 30-32′ wide), the developer could then easily sell the remaining eastern end for $600,000 or more to another developer, still making a sizeable profit.


Comment on this Article: