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Proposed CWE Tower Dividing Area Residents

A group from the Urban St. Louis discussion forums are gathering this weekend to counter the recent efforts of a group opposing a new high-rise residential tower. Here is the notice added in the comments to a prior post:

NOTICE: A small but fierce coalition is holding pro-density, pro-city meeting in support of a controversial condo tower that is proposed for the corner of Lindell & Euclid in the CWE.

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 26, 1:00pm

WHERE: The Grind Coffeehouse, 56 Maryland Plaza.

WHO: Anyone who is sick of seeing underutilized land sit and wither in high-profile sections of our grand city. The West End Word will be there to cover the meeting, as well as Alderwoman Lyda Krewson. Be there!

In November I did an article in the West End Word on this very proposed tower. At that time my basic argument was the height didn’t matter as much as the base:

The first 30 feet of building height adjacent to sidewalks should be active. We’ll call this the pedestrian zone – the portion of the building perceived by a person walking by. This might take the form of multiple-level retail space such as often employed by the likes of Urban Outfitters. It might take the form of two-story residential units over one floor of retail. Second- and third-floor balconies with their associated plants and umbrellas do wonders for visually animating a streetscape.

Opponents of the high-rise are objecting solely on its height. One wonders if it met the hight requirement of the local historic standards if they even care about other, more important, design issues. The pro-tower supports, in the same vein, seem to be supportive without any caveats for good street-level design.

I’m planning to attend the meeting on Sunday, I think it promises to be interesting at the very least. I wonder if Mike Owens will be covering this on the news?

– Steve


Currently there are "16 comments" on this Article:

  1. JivecitySTL says:

    For the record: We pro-tower constituents support and encourage good urban design. We do not support any arbitrary construction that does not consider its relationship with the context around it, especially with regards to pedestrian friendliness. Given the attractiveness of this particular developer’s other project (the Park East), we feel that this proposal will be a wonderful addition to the CWE, even if it requires a little tweaking. We are not motivated by kissing ass of The Man, local politicians or any company or individual who stands to gain from a mega-structure. Many of us are the same people who were on the frontlines of the fight to save the Century Building from the wrecking ball. We are urban advocates for good design. We feel that many cities similar to St. Louis would love to have a building like this built in their boundaries. It has the opportunity to become a true landmark in the neighborhood, while adding hundreds of new residents who in turn support neighborhood vitality and the city’s tax base.

    This “battle” is less about the height of a proposed tower than it is about the mentality which threatens its construction. The rampant NIMBYism which pervades the CWE is unacceptable in our view. This is everyone’s neighborhood, and the long-term benefits of high-density development far outweigh any drawbacks.

    [REPLY – We probably do need to draw a line in the sand somewhere. For example, would replacing say the SW corner of Maryland & Euclid (the Coffee Cartel corner) with a more dense high-rise similar to these others be worth the loss of smaller, more detailed buildings? – SLP]

  2. JivecitySTL says:

    ^Definitely not. We are preservationists at heart. We advocate maximizing the use of underutilized urban land. A building like the American Heart Association will not be missed by anyone. That’s why this is such a beguiling controversy. How will a tall building full of new residents somehow detract from an adjacent historic district that will remain intact? I think it will only make Maryland Plaza more vibrant, as there will be hundreds of new people nearby to enjoy the beautifully historic buildings that stand proudly next door.

  3. samizdat says:

    There is one question I have not seen posed on any of the sites dedicated to design/planning which I have been visiting: Where are all the potential residents of these proposed and under-construction buildings coming from? To wit, are they coming from outside the STL area, from STL county, or from within the city of STL? If they are coming from (emigrating) from other areas, then this is a concrete sign that STL is reviving from its’ 50 slumber and is on its’ way to a new and rejuvinated future. However, if in fact, these new tower or loft residents are merely moving from within the city limits, then the developers are simply cannibalizing other neighborhoods in order to fill their units. If a resident is moving from STL Hills to the WE or downtown, who will replace her? If you extrapolate from that premise, all we have is a bunch of checker pieces moving around on a board. I would like to see a break-down of all the figures regarding the origins of these “new” residents. I don’t want to be a Cassandra, but I remain skeptical of many of the claims by Hizzoner regarding increases in population.

  4. trent says:

    I think the collection of new residents is a combo. For one, I would never worry about the residential numbers in the WE. This neighborhood is one that will always be highly desired for people in and around the area. Filled with students, families, gays, and more, the CWE is just one of those cities in St. Louis that will never have problems finding residents.

    I’m more concerned about the high rise developments downtown, as downtown tends to be a more risky and progressive place to live and develop.

  5. JivecitySTL says:

    samizdat– I’m not really following your logic. I understand your question though: are new city residents going to fill these highrises or will it just be people moving from other city neighborhoods? The answer is most likely both. But even if it were just city folk moving to a different ‘hood, do we not accommodate demand? Wouldn’t they just move out of their old neighborhood anyway? Wouldn’t you rather those residents stay in the City rather than seek their new digs in Clayton? The mere fact that accomplished developers are investing in St. Louis City is proof enough that we have turned the corner. This wasn’t happening 5 or 6 years ago. It’s okay to remain skeptical of city growth and boosterism, but as someone who lived here in the ’90s, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the population of STL City is on the rise again. It is certainly in much, much better shape than it was several years ago.

    [REPLY – Agreed. The folks moving into the tower may have moved to St. Louis Hills 10 years ago and now they are ready for something different. Still others are moving from somewhere else and are happy to buy their home in St. Louis Hills. It is not like they are just walking away from their current city home for a “deluxe apartment in the sky.” – SLP]

  6. Even if we cannot agree on the design of the high-rise, we can agree that it will be historical if it survives 50 or 75 years, thus this building is reflecting the style of our time period. We are leaving a legacy for our children by ‘allowing’ developers to build responsible, urbanistic, high-rises. A neighborhood that sees no new development is boring, and stagnant. I think we should think about this, and the future impact of not allowing developments to continue.

    It really does not matter where the residents come from. If they come from other neighborhoods, then that is a signal that the original neighborhood needs to reconsider what they offer their residents. Competition is an aspect of the free market, and neighborhoods should ‘fight’ for citizens, this way the quality of life stays high, and innovation is present. No neighborhood can afford to be stagnant, because they could loose residents to other more attractive areas. Thus this atmosphere prevents complacency and laziness, and promotes progress.

  7. The historic district standards exist for a reason. They do not apply to the entire city, or even to the entire area that is the official Central West End neighborhood. The standards exist to ensure that design within the historic district remains sensitive to the architectural context. These standards have protected the CWE from a lot of bad development.

    The height restriction is a good thing that can be challenged on a case by case basis. I do not think that many variances should be granted; the standards should be meaningful. There are many locations in the city where tall buildings would enhance the urban environment; the CWE historic district does not really seem greatly suited to high rises. I would favor extreme caution in granting variances in the CWE, although I do favor greater densities citywide. The general visual composition of the neighborhood is a valuable asset that will be threatened if multiple variances for undistinguished high buildings are granted. Rollin Stanley told the Preservation Board that he wants a high rise on each of the four corners at Lindell and Euclid — how attractive would that be, given how poor the design of these towers generally have been? Even good towers need careful placement to enhance the urban fabric, which thrives on complexity and layering.

    While I have no firm opinion on this proposed tower, I am concerned that the CWE historic district standards may be trampled to death by variances. Careful urban planning would resapect the standards and result in well-designed, well-placed tall buildings. This ain’t it — yet.

  8. JivecitySTL says:

    The CWE’s historic district guidelines are wonderful when it comes to scrutinizing the design of new construction, but I think they should be reexamined with regard to height. I do not understand how a tastefully done highrise would suddenly make the adjacent historic district non-historic. If you can’t build highrises in the CWE, where can you build them? How long are we going to prohibit bold new construction for the sake of “respecting” the old? Can’t they both coexist to complement one another, just as they do in major cities across this country?

    I wonder who was bitching and screaming when the Park Plaza was proposed in the mid-1920s. I’m the biggest preservationist there is, but come on– some of these guidelines are downright stifling.

  9. Brian says:

    The American Heart Association building is neither contributing nor conforming to its surrounding historic district. In other words, the building proposed to be replaced lacks historic value, doesn’t currently well respect its neighborhood context, and likely could not even be built today per the district’s standards.

    On the other hand, the corner of Euclid and Maryland (one block north) does have contributing and conforming structures of historic value and could be replicated today per the district’s guidelines– the complete opposite of the American Heart Association site on Lindell at Euclid.

    Besides, having a height restriction on Lindell, a boulevard historically lined with high-rises seems blantantly counter-intuitive. And that’s why I can’t understand the opposition, when we’re talking about Lindell, not Maryland Plaza?!

  10. A tastefully designed high-rise deserves variance. When will we get one?

    I would love to see someone design a good high-rise. The three towers proposed or under construction on Lindell are quite retrogressive and make some of the new BJC buildings seem world-class by comparison.

    Even with good design, I would not want to see clusters of similarly-sized high-rises. That would make for a very bland city, just as uniform low densities make some parts of the city seem pretty boring.

  11. Michael Allen says:

    Oops — I meant Euclid, not Lindell.

  12. JivecitySTL says:

    I for one think the Park East at Euclid & Laclede is an AWESOME building. I love its modern-yet-classic design. What exactly is so “retrogressive” about the Park East?

    [REPLY – I Can’t speak for Michael Allen but here is my take. The tower is great. Love the glass, the balconies and the very interesting way they’ve finished the top. Again, the tower is great. The base, however, sucks IMHO. It is boring, massive and overpowering to the sidewalk. Blank walls and mirrored glass does not a pedestrian-friendly base make. – SLP]

  13. JivecitySTL says:

    As an urbanist who is not formally trained in the field of urban planning or design, I think the base is fine. There could probably some improvements made, but I think you could pretty much criticize something about everything. Besides, I’m not sure how much money it would cost the developers to make everything absolutely 100% perfect and acceptable to everyone. Corners have to be cut here and there, it’s just the nature of big business today. Overall, I think it’s a first-class design from top to bottom.

  14. birdman says:

    Wasn’t there a previous, more slender skyscraper design, about as tall, with less total square footage proposed for this same site?

    It looked like a classic, sleek, Manhattan-esque skyscraper (think Chrysler or Empire State).

    The current plan seems much bulkier (more fitting for tubby STL perhaps?).

    (Wasn’t the sleek building plan the project originally proposed by Mr. Saller?)

    If the now-bigger project is the current version of the more slender original, I much preferred the original plan.

  15. Jason says:

    I originally was going to post the other night but got called away. I was going to repeat what Brian said about its location and contribution to the historic district. If this building is 5′ closer to the street that would be fine with me. Right now all that is at that corner is a large parking lot. I have not seen the tower, but would welcome any new retail space that occurs at this corner. I really hope they get rid of the drive through lanes to the two ATM’s also. the existing 3 entrance/exit lanes adjacent to the heart assoc parking access seems a little excessive. People put up a fuss when the buildings on the adjacent corner were torn down for the library. The buildings that were at that location definitely needed some attention, but I am not sure they needed to come down. Now you dont hear anything about it, and the library seems to be a welcome addition to the neighborhood as well as the additional parking. I think the neighborhood business will welcome this because it will increase pedestrian traffic at all times of the week, not just at lunch and on the weekends.

  16. Maybe Steve can speak for me — his reply to JivecitySTL is what I would have written.

    I don’t think that we should accept corner-cutting on issues like lower-floor parking. The appearance of the Park East’s lower floors may seriously keep that corner from realizing its potential. Same for the proposed Opus tower at Lindell and Euclid. The potential for a great, vital new building to bring the corner much-needed vitality exists; the current plans don’t realize that potential.

    I would probably support a building taller than the Opus tower were it sleek, slender and wonderfully designed. While the site isn’t the best, a slim tower might actually make the height pleasant and a pleasant complement to the mansions and lawns of the CWE. The Park Plaza Hotel does exactly that.


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