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Saaman To Raze Three Large Homes in Central West End

April 27, 2006 Central West End, History/Preservation 18 Comments

Local Architect Paul Hohmann recently sent me pictures of three homes that Saaman Development LLC plans to raze. These are all located on Washington between Vandeventer and Sarah. Since they are not located within a historic district or preservation review district the Preservation Board did not get any review, the demolition permits have already been issued by the city. All three are located in the 18th Ward where Terry Kennedy is Alderman.

4011 Washington

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Here was Paul’s take on this property:

4011 is in the worst shape, with the floors sinking down at the center of the house. There is heavy visible deterioration of the joists and wall studs. Its hard to say if this one is too far gone without further investigation. The damage appeared to be concentrated at the center but extensive enough to make the floors unstable.

Re-building would involve extensive temporary shoring, sistering the joists and replacing the beams, re-building portions of the interior walls, not to mention jacking everything back up to level position.

That is a lot of work but we are seeing entirely new wood structures built within old masonry walls so it may be worth considering.

saaman_wash - 04.jpgNot only is the exterior impressive but so is some of the interior woodwork. I just love grand staircases such as this one.

City records show 4011 Washington was built in 1889.

4019 Washington

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This stonework on this house is stunning. You just don’t see many of these and the new houses getting built just can’t come close to this. The following was Architect Paul Hohmann’s thoughts:

4019 is the one that has the partially collapsed front bay. Other than that, there is absolutely nothing structurally wrong with the house. The joists run east/west, so the collapsed bay although masonry was not a bearing wall, so the house is in no imminent danger of further collapse. Obviously the bay needs to be re-built above the first floor, but there is certainly no need for total demolition. The house has an absolutely beautiful stair and many of the rooms have beautiful woodwork (un-painted) and hardwood floors in excellent condition. With a little bit of work, this could be a fantastic house. I briefly considered the idea of making an offer on it myself.

So it has a missing bay. I would certainly think it would be more prudent to rebuild the bay and renovate the house than to raze then entire thing and start over. This house looks much worse than it really is. Think about the horrible house on Arsenal in Benton Park that was renovated and sold last year for in excess of $700K (see prior post). That house had a collapsed front wall that was meticulously rebuilt.

saaman_wash - 08.jpgI just can’t fathom looking at this entry and stair and coming to the conclusion it should be destroyed.

City records show this home was built in 1900.

4021 Washington

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4021 is a bit of a mixed bag. The huge main portion of the house seems to be in pretty good shape, with no visible water damage or settling. The stair needs some work, but structurally, everything looks good. The rear wing however is heavily water damaged and floors are settling due to the deterioration, but the exterior shell is structurally sound. I would say that this one is still a good candidate for rehab by either re-building the damaged portions, or by removing the rear wing (with over 4000 s.f., losing the wing would still leave a large house.

The city records show this home was built in 1883. It is a massive 4,837sf!

It is a shame that great structures like this in an up and coming area cannot be saved.

– Steve


Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ted says:

    What is going in their place? I hope they aren’t tearing them down to speculate on the land.

  2. Tyson says:

    At first I thought these were being demolished as part of some impending project, but I don’t see that mentioned. I guess it’s just because they’re old, damaged buildings. Jeez, aren’t there better buildings the city could tear down? Renovation of this neighborhood might be a few years downt the line…but I would hate to see these gems survive for over 100 years and then be demolished within a few years of being renovated.

  3. Tyson says:

    oh I see now Saaman development is doing the razing, I wonder what’s going in their place?

  4. I’m so tired of these “structurally unsound” arguments. In old north, we are rehabbing buildings that most developers would normally tear down:

    Like this one. | And this one.

    The more projects like these we do in St. Louis, the harder it will be for developers to use these baseless arguments to defend their suburban infill bulls*it.

  5. Stef says:

    Isn’t Samaam a “flipping” co, like HomeVestors?
    I’ve been really worried about the effects flipping would have on this city … I am afraid we are finally seeing the effects full on in situations like this …

  6. rl'e says:

    Yes, it is sad to see these buildings torn down. To replace such a structure,meaning to rebuild what is there, would surely cost close to a million dollars (they just don’t build them like that anymore!)

    If a developer such as Saaman were to undertake the restoration/renovation of such a building the cost is around $150 a square foot (I am going by numbers we used when I worked on a project in Old North St. Louis a few years ago.) So, 4,337 square feet would cost: $650,550. IF you get historic tax credits (which it does not appear would apply here, you could take 25% of the development costs: $162,637, still over $500,000 to develop.)

    The funding for residential development is dwindling. Many of the traditional sources have been slashed by the current administration. Funding that is available is strict and often set-aside for low-income home owners (50% of median on average.) A low-income person cannot afford a $650,000 home. Even if the developer broke it into condos, the price point needed to get back development costs and make some money may not be feasible.

    One would think with the current interest in thate area a renovation into condos may be feasible. I am not familiar with what is going on in this ward or with the development activity there so I cannot even offer a guess as to why this decision has been made to tear these down.


    [REPLY The City and Landmarks are working on expanding the CWE Historic District. Razing houses such as these make it more difficult to expand districts and make tax credits available for renovation.

    The best house of the three is the stone one located in the middle at 4019. It is “only” 3,196sf. Using your numbers that is less than $480,000 which is inline with new houses being built in the immediate area. – SLP]

  7. RL'E says:

    P.S. Saaman is a development company among other things… they are responsible for a bulk of the new housing in Gaslight Square and they have some very nice inner-ring developments underway. They are a big company with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. They are also working on a much needed condo conversion project on the 6100 block of Washington Blvd.

    I am only posting what I know about their developmnet work which I see as positive, someone else may know about the other pies!


  8. Paul Knittel says:

    I wonder how much the land would be worth if all three lots are combined into a single parcel, I think Samaam would be able to make a lot of money off of this they already have lots for sale in Southwest Garden, Shaw, and Dogtown where they tore down the buildings that where there before.

  9. RL'E says:

    Steve – While $480,000 may be consistent the sales prices the development costs at $480,000 would command a higher sales price. For a business person, leveraging the funds to develop a project at 1/2 million dollars is a risky prospect. Then there are holding costs and commissions and all that jazz that goes into marketing a home…

    IF an individual could tackle this project and get a construction loan to do it, it becomes more realistic. I guess finding the right buyer is the issue here.

    Also, Steve, you are right, as the buildings get torn down, the area is less likely to be made an historic district. . . they faced this issue in Old North at one point… which leads me to my next comments…

    I do want to comment briefly on Nate Sprehe’s post (who by the way needs to contact me!) He is right, they have worked hard to save buildings in Old North but the fruit is ripe there with a strong, smart community that gets involved and seeks out good partners to carry out development. But the projects that Nate cites in his post took years and a very sophisiticated development plan to put together (I know because I worked on the project.) The funding sources leveraged for this project took RHCDA more than two years to secure, including tax credits and bank loans. The buildings are being developed into rental units, not owner-occupied (correct me if this has changed.) This is not a project even your average developer could handle, my old boss at RHCDA was the master-mind behind it and he worked long, long hours and negotiated with a lot of stakeholders to get everyone on board. It was one pitfall after an other, it is a [blankety blank] miracle that these buildings are being rehabbed.


    [REPLY – Thanks for the comments. Yes, as you indicate sometimes these are best tackled by someone seeking the finished project as their own home so the issue of profit is not part of the formula. That said, so many buildings get razed rather than being offered to individuals. If the property was in a preservation review district it would be up to the owner to prove the building could not feasibly be rehabbed. – SLP]

  10. MKD says:

    Question: the architect writes that he was considering making an offer himself. To whom could we make an offer, and how much would it take to keep, say, 4019 from the wrecking ball?

  11. JivecitySTL says:

    This is a crime. I thought the age of senseless destruction was over. Especially homes like these with such intricate architectural details. What replacement could possibly be worthy?

    [REPLY – I know! It seems like irresponsible development to me. We really need a group of citizens to advocate for responsible development… Oh wait, that is right, we do have such a group. But they are busy at the moment protesting the very urban replacment of a horrible office building while these stunning buildings only have days left after being around for each over 100 years. Priorities. – SLP]

  12. Doug Duckworth says:

    I am utterly appalled. I cannot believe this kind of wanton demolition is occurring in an area that has so much potential.

    BTW, this is not the Central West End, this is SLU/Midtown.

    [REPLY – The City classifies all three properties as being in neighborhood #38 — The Central West End. I had to look it up to make sure. I think the general acceptance of Mid-Town is Jefferson to Vandeventer. – SLP]

  13. Karl Z says:

    Who would spend 400-600K on a property, in an area that might or might not make…. people’s intelligence amazes me…. There old houses. The floors collapsing into the next floor. Its not like their Victorian or anything special. If you build a 600K home in an area where you can buy crack 2 blocks away, your a moron…..

  14. Seriously awesome, thanks!

  15. I'm so tired of these “structurally unsound” arguments.

  16. I wonder how much the land would be worth if all three lots are combined into a single parcel, I think Samaam would be able to make a lot of money off of this they already have lots for sale in Southwest Garden.

  17. 4019 Washington is a great house.thanks for the post .

  18. Great post, I concur completely and appreciate the time you took to write it. Cheers!


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