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Preservation Board to Orchard: Move Those Meters!

The Preservation Board had many agenda items on their plate last night. The following is a run down of each item and how they voted. If you want to know about the Lafayette Square gas meter issue scroll down, it is the last item.

The first item up for review was approval of an encroachment on the public right of way for a sculpture along the riverfront (agenda item A). The sculpture titled, The Captains’ Return, depicts the “arrival of Captains Lewis and Clark and their dog Searnan, at the St. Louis Levee after the completion of the ‘Corps of Discovery’ expedition of 1804-1806. The idea is to have the sculpture installed by September 23, the date in which Lewis & Clark returned from their expedition.

Two guys off on a journey with their dog, how very Brokeback Mountain. The Preservation Board unanimously approved the temporary encroachment with conditions as noted in the agenda.

Next up was an encroachment at 2028 Lafayette Avenue, a new gazebo/pergola in Lafayette Park. This structure would be attached to the west side of the Park House and visible from Lafayette near Mississippi. From the staff report:

Staff has worked with the designer of the proejct to make the pergola smaller in scale and more compatible with the adjacent historic Park House. The columns on the pergola are still too neo-classical and should be simplified, and the cupola on the roof is still too tall and ornate for the period.

The Preservation Board approved the encroachment with conditions as noted in the agenda.

In an attempt to dress up one of our many new parking garages a piece of public art, entitled Walking Figure, is proposed for the corner of Olive & 7th. The sculpture is owned by the Gateway Foundation. Rollin Stanley testified about how great our sidewalks are but that we need more public sculpture — I agree on both accounts. He also said the sculpture is not liked by all, but that is what makes good public art. Anything to take your eye off the wheel cover motif on the parkign garage is a good thing in my book! The Preservation Board approved the encroachment

A very vocal resident spoke passionately against this sculpture, saying “this is a scheme, who is getting the tax write-off?” He indicated this sculpture has been shopped around quite a bit with the last location where the sculpture was placed was in Europe, but “nobody wants it.” Speaking of the artist, this resident said “he can’t draw, he can’t sculpt.” The Preservation Board approved the public encroachment by a vote of 4-2.

The St. Louis Zoo is proposing a plaza & prominent sculpture (Animals Always) at the corner of Wells and Concourse Drive (basically the entrance from Hampton). HNTB is the engineering firm on the project. This will not be a new pedestrian entrance to the zoo so I am a little confused who will actually use the plaza. The sculpture looks pretty cool, it is made of core-ten steel which will intentionally rust. PB member Luis Porrello abstained from the vote since he works for HNTB. One interesting note, when the I-64 project is done this intersection will become a roundabout. The Preservation Board approved the encroachment with one abstention.

Fourth Ward Alderman O.L. Shelton requested the city expand the boundaries of The Ville local historic district, including the historic design standards. The process to research and recommend the approval was about a two year process. The Ville is the only historic district that currently doesn’t qualify for tax credits. This was due to the fact the that when the district was first approved in the late 80s it was thought nationally that districts of varied architecture shouldn’t qualify. Cultural Resources director Kathleen Shea indicated expanding the boundaries should help qualify the area for tax credits.

A couple of residents spoke in favor of the expanded district, including one woman that rehabs properties in the area. She indicated she has lived in The Ville since 1964. PB member Richard Callow moved that the board approve the petition to expand the district, request staff to prepare legislation to submit to the board of aldermen and that one member of the PB speak at the public hearing in favor of the bill.

The Preservation Board unanimously approved the motion.

Another district was up for discussion, this was an expansion of the Benton Park local historic district. A number of residents were present to speak in favor of the expansion although a couple left early because at this point we are already two and a half hours into the meeting. Preservation Board Chair Tim Mulligan recused himself as he lives in the area to be affected.

Todd Brandt,VP of the Benton Park Neighborhood Association, spoke in favor of the expanded boundaries. He mentioned renovated and newly constructed homes that are of questionable aesthetics. They are seeking some control to protect the value of the neighborhood. Some examples shown by the staff in their report

A number of residents spoke in opposition to the expanded district. One has lived in the neighborhood for 42 years (since birth). She was very passionate in her testimony. Her basic concern was the standards would force out low income residents such as herself.

This is a common problem where you are trying to get design standards implemented. She said people “try to make their properties presentable.” My view is often it is the people trying to “make improvements” that end up spending lots of money destroying the historic character of their homes. The Preservation Board unanimously approved the petition to expand the boundaries. Like The Ville previously, this goes next to the Board of Aldermen.

As an aside, I plan to look at some of the recent rehabs and new construction in the near future.

It is now three and a half ours into the meeting and the next issue is a proposed new home at 1419 Dolman in the Lafayette Square Local Historic District. Staff had issues with a few items in the design such as the building width and some window placement. The foundation material was unknown.

The applicant indicated a willingness to address concerns of the Preservation Board and the neighborhood. The building is on the Lafayette Square agenda for March 7, 2006. The Board gave preliminary approval.

A very interesting project was next on the agenda. The applicant is seeking to purchase a city-owned property that is a serious state of deterioration. The building is a short two-story structure with not much left. The applicant is seeking to add a third floor with a second empire mansard roof. The staff feels this building never had a third floor and it should not be added.

I see both arguments. A good question came up, do the remaining brick walls indicate brick pockets for a level third floor or a sloping roof? Nobody seemed to know. I’m torn on holding to what would have been built vs what makes sense today.

Discussion among board members centered on making sure the renovated structure “blended in.” But staff’s point is that it didn’t blend in when originally built and therefore we should not re-write history a hundred years later.

The Board gave preliminary approval as indicated in the agenda.

Must have food…

One of my favorite subjects began shortly after 8pm, replacement windows in a historic district without a permit. Basically the owner replaced a two wide double hung with some awning windows.

Time for this owner to go back to the window company that should have obtained the proper permits because the board denied approval of the non-conforming replacement windows already installed.

A new in-fill project is Soulard looked good but had a couple of small issues with the staff. The biggest issue was a request for a new curb cut on the side street. This odd site only has 14 ft along the alley.

Board approved the project with two conditions, one being that the project have a “Baltimore Chimney” on the south elevation as indicated on the north elevation. The other is that it not have the curb cut.

Another Soulard project is the expansion of Molly’s at 816 Geyer. The board approved the project with the condition the east elevation either be all brick or have windows.

This project has additions to two sides of an existing structure. It is intended to give the appearance of several buildings. However, the new facades do not have any front doors, either useable or fixed for appearance sake.

More new construction, this time in Lafayette Square. Staff had no major issues with the design. However, the neighborhood spoke against the project simply on the basis that neither the architect or owner submitted their proposal to the neighborhood.

The board gave preliminary approval.


And finally, the gas meters in front issue!!!! Take a look at the last item on the agenda (linked above) for more info and photos. The project, called Lafayette Walk, includes 37 units in a total of six buildings. Building #1 is the first built, located at the corner of Mississippi and Chouteau. Building #2, not yet built, will be the other one facing Mississippi.

This item took a lot of time and I’m not going to go through all the points. Here are the highlights:

  • Staff indicated the issue of utilities has never come up before but will require utility locations on future drawings. Laclede Gas would not return their calls. Front doors & transoms are possibly not as indicated on final approved drawings but it is hard to tell because the drawings were photo reduced.
  • Developer admitted they could have done a better job in working with utility companies to locate the utilities. Sought to create a compromise by modifying the front stairs to help hide the electric meters. Gas meters, while still located in front, would be lowered and the pipe into the house would go through the foundation wall and not the more visible brick wall. They indicated they would have the electric installed on the side of the buildings on those not yet constructed. I felt the developer made a very professional presentation and took appropriate blame.
  • Discussion and debate from staff, the board members, developer and area residents focused on the electric and natural gas utility companies, AmerenUE and Laclede Gas, respectively. Mary One Johnson kept harping on “the law” requiring utilities in front even though that is most likely not the case. Building codes will indicate what cannot be done such as running utilities through units but otherwise it often comes down to what the local utility company is willing to do. Based on my experience this can come down to who you talk to from the utility, how you ask them, how insistent you are about a better solution and finally it often comes back to money in the form of paying additional fees to get the best look. Staff admitted they are not aware of all the rules regarding utility requirements but in their defense I’ve known utilities to make up frequent new rules.
  • About four Lafayette Square residents spoke on the issue. They were adamant the situation be corrected, not just allowed to remain. They were organized and concise. Basically they said the neighborhoods design standard (which are a city ordinance) should be strictly enforced. They also asked that city building inspectors be aware of historic standards and not approve mechanical work such as these utilities that do not comply with historic standards. The neighborhood indicated a willingness to look at compromises.
  • One of the best points made by the neighborhood regarding the developers, “they are big boys, this is what they do for a living.” Ouch. Sadly I think this is a valid point. They indicated the developer screwed up and therefore they should be required to correct the mistakes, regardless of cost.
  • Density came up as an issue with this project. The neighborhood said a number of times, “too much in too small a space.” Well, yes and no. I don’t think 37 units on that site is too many, it just depends upon how you arrange the units. In this case they went for two-story row houses and as a result you’ve got some narrow alleys and many units face a pedestrian walkway rather than a public street. A mixed-use plan with a 3-4 story corner building would have allowed for as many units (maybe more) without the feeling of being a bunch of row houses wedged into the space. Remember, density is not the issue. We need density and lots of it. It just has to be done right.
  • “Forgiveness should not be easy,” said one resident. Well, it was not. The Preservation Board took the most strict route they could. Anthony Robinson, an architect, moved they require all utilities (including those already installed on building #1) to be relocated to a semi-public facade. This sets up a conflict between the city, developer and utilities. Perhaps if Laclede Gas wants to serve this site they’ll now have to return a few phone calls.
  • The other piece of the picture was the front doors to the units. They were thought to be too short (standard 6ft 8 in) rather than a better proportioned 7ft tall. The transoms over the doors were also thought to be out of proportion to what is acceptable for the standards. The motion also requires the developer to change the doors and transoms, even on the completed units.
  • A stop work order was discussed but I’m not quite clear if they are allowed to proceed or not.
  • Interestingly the grand open house for Lafayette Walk is Thursday 3/1/06 from 4pm to 8pm.

  • The meeting concluded at 10:25pm. This is way too long. As the amount of development in the city continues to rise and as more and more historic districts are established something needs to give. A 3-minute policy may need to be implemented for all speakers or they may need to meet twice per month if they have many items to review.

    – Steve


    Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

    1. Susan says:

      Thanks Steve for posting all of this! Michael and I were just talking about how difficult it is to find out what happened at the preservation board meeting- they post the agenda but not the results or how the board members voted. And then they change the agenda at the last minute, without any notification.

      Just to clarify- Benton Park Local district is a newly created local district. Not an expansion of boundaries.

    2. Who voted against the statue at 7th and Olive?

    3. Dustin says:

      ^If I would have had a vote it would have been me.

    4. Joe Frank says:

      Yes, the much-debated new Benton Park Local Historic District has now made it to the Preservation Board.

      The boundaries are (roughly) I-55 on the east, the alley north of Cherokee on the south, Jefferson on the west, and the alley behind Gravois on the north.

      Since Antique Row already has a Local Historic District called Cherokee-Lemp, it had to be excluded.

      There had been debate about including the section of Marine Villa that’s within the boundaries of the Benton Park National Historic District. That’s south of Cherokee but north of S Broadway. I guess that didn’t happen.

      Also, the zoo does have a pedestrian EXIT at Hampton/Concourse and Wells. There’s a #90 Hampton bus stop adjacent. Hopefully they will at least keep that exit. But I think the statuary is more about making the Zoo access route more visible after folks exit I-64 at Hampton. Not such a bad thing.

    5. Susan says:

      ^ Don’t get me started on the boundaries of the Benton Park district. Since I live a half block south of Cherokee I’m cut out of the BP local dist. and the Cherokee-Lemp local district, even though I’m in the Benton Park National Register district. And like all of Benton Park we have had some unfortunate rehabs going on in our neighborhood, like people wanting to add second stories to one-story brick homes built in 1890.

      Anyway, the triangle south of Cherokee Street isn’t a local district YET. We’ve got Ken Ortmann’s support, we have residents who want it, we’ve got problems that are causing some motivation, and we’re clearly eligible, so it is going to happen. There will be issues to deal with, like do we adapt Benton Park’s codes? Do we form our own “Marine Villa” local dist. or do we try to extend the boundary of Benton Park’s local district? Are we part of the Cherokee-Lemp district and if so what to do about the rather dated ordinances they follow?

    6. Jon says:

      Its called development. It’s nice to want to freeze the city in time and have nothing change, but really I think the numerous historic districts are a major draw back to living in the city.

      [REPLY – This is nice in theory Jon but the last 30+ years has proved it is often these standards which gave stability to neighborhoods; basically keeping them from being razed in the name of progress. – SLP]

    7. Jon says:

      Steve, this is not to say that historic standards do not have a place in the world. But at the same time, once an area has been stablized or is on the rebound, it is important that the regs offer enough flexablity to allow for new development that both honors the area, but also makes an effort to improve the quality of the area.

      This is where the districts in St. Louis fall short time and time again. They treat all historic districts the same, when that is not the case. Some, like Lafeyett Square, are a good choice for Museum like preservation and new construction guidelines. Others, like Soulard, should allow for more flexablity, which it currently does not.

      And this lack of distinction is a draw back to city living, at least for me. I would love to live in soulard or somewhere similar, but I find that too often good developments for the area (particuarly commerical) are blocked by the board in the name of standards that do not benefit the area.

      It’s all about balance and more should be done by the board and the city to meet this balance by understanding that not all historic districts are the same.

    8. Susan says:

      Actually each local historic district has their own standards and ordinances that the neighborhood approves, so I don’t think they are treated the same at all. Lafayette Square and Soulard are more strict than Benton Park.

      I think it is a real mis-conception that preservation is about freezing neighborhoods in time. Preservation philosophy has changed in the last 20-30 years, it is not the same as preservation in the 1950s and 60s, when one or two buildings were landmarked and treated as museum pieces. Most preservationists would only recommend strict restoration for a house or living history museum. Historic districts aren’t restorations but rehabilitations, adapting historic buildings for our modern day uses.

    9. The historic district standards in Lafayette Square allowed for the construction of the building that houses Soda Fountain Square! They are lenient enough, I would say. Every local historic district ordinance allows for variance, too. The variances can be granted by the staff of the Cultural Resources Office and, if denied, brought before the city’s Preservation Board. The Preservation Board, although appointe dby the mayor, is a deliberative body and often makes decisions that a strict preservationist would not. The process does allow for new development and modern deign in keeping with these districts’ standards.

      I would point out that local historic districts with standards tend to have very high property values. Standards are obviously not blocking development in Soulard, Lafayette Square, the CWE or Benton Park.

      [REPLY – Good points. The other thing is even though developers bitch about the standards it is often the very standards that bring them to the neighborhood. That is, the increased value from the standards make new construction projects feasible. – SLP]

    10. Joe Frank says:

      Just to be clear:

      Benton Park is being proposed as a local historic district, which would involve an ordinance setting design standards. Each local district has its own separate ordinance enumerating design standards, which are in turn enforced by CRO.

      Currently, BP is only a National Historic District. You only have to meet design standards if you want tax credits.

      I agree with Susan: some of the infill built in northern Marine Villa on Missouri and Illinois Aves. is decidedly sub-par in terms of urban design. The windows are really wrong on a lot of them.

      But I still want selected blocks in the southern part of Marine Villa to become part of an historic district, too!

      Most of the 2000 block of Chippewa, 3800 blocks of Indiana and S Broadway, and surrounding areas dates to the 1880s and 1890s. Several backyard houses still stand. Yet this area (where I lived from 2001 to 2003) is not part of either the Benton Park NHD nor the new Gravois-Jefferson Streetcar Suburb NHD. Hence, not eligible for historic tax credits.

      It would take time and money, but I would love to see this district added to one of the existing NHD areas. Unfortunately, it probably can’t be nominated on its own. It’s too small and doesn’t have any major landmarks. *Sigh*

    11. Susan says:

      Joe- I agree I’d love to see southern Marine Villa listed in a historic district as well. There are some amazing buildings there and it is obviously National Register eligible- even as a small district, and I’ve seen small districts get listed, so I don’t think that is such a long shot. I hate that the area was cut out of both the Benton Park and Gravios-Jefferson NR districts, but districts have to stop somewhere and S. Broadway is the very natural stopping point.

      The way I understand it- an area has to be surveyed before it can be listed as a local district. It’s unfortunate but the area south of Broadway has never been surveyed, and there’s nothing in the works. So I think the already surveyed area in the BP NR district needs to get locally listed asap. If Schmid had a survey in the works for the rest of the area or even the money set aside I’d say wait, so we could get as much of the neighborhood in the district as possible, but he’s got nothing. I know from working on surveys that they can take years to complete, and I don’t think the area north of Broadway, already surveyed and NR listed, should wait any longer than necessary. I have to look at those lousy houses on Missouri Ave. everyday, and I’m not happy about it!

    12. I’d like to add that smaller districts have a better chance of getting listed, because the coherence of their boundaries and significance are easier to defend.


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