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Mayor Slay Says Century Would Have Crumbled in an Earthquake

May 10, 2006 Downtown, History/Preservation, Media 10 Comments

I love the earthquake defense. Numerous times I’ve heard property owners seeking to raze their buildings tell the Preservation Board it should be torn down because it wouldn’t survive an earthquake, that unreinforced masonry buildings don’t perform well in earthquakes. I’ve yet to see the Preservation Board fall for such an argument because, if they did, they’d have to allow nearly every building in St. Louis be razed. The argument just doesn’t fly.

So you can understand how shocked I was when I heard Mayor Slay use the argument regarding the Century building during a phone interview on KDHX’s The Wire:

It was a beautiful building, although I did talk to one of the engineers that went in there and said, “You know if that building…if there’d been an earthquake of not even a major significance, that building would have crumbled.”

Wow, that is a pretty big claim. Usually people trying to justify an unnecessary demolition say it will take a major earthquake but here we had the major stating “of not even a major significance.” So basically he did the public a service by demolishing it. But the Century, and someone please correct me if I am wrong, was not an unreinforced masonry building.

I’m really curious now to uncover this engineer’s report making such a claim as this is news to me. Perhaps it is still being written?

The April 24, 2006 interview is still available on KDHX.

– Steve


Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. Paul says:

    Steve, you are 100% correct. The building was NOT unreinforeced masonry, it had a steel (or iron) skeleton buried in the exterior masonry (which provided fireproofing), so it would not have performed any worse than many other downtown buildings of similar construction such as the Frisco building across the street.

  2. Patrick Wessel says:

    wouldn’t it be nice if the highways collapsed from an earthquake…

  3. publiceye says:

    The Century had a lot more engineering documentation about its structure than most buildings. Some people forget that its previous owner had successfully gone to court to win the right to demolish it and its neighbor.

  4. phil says:

    Francis, what a tool. It took over four months to demolish that building. A quake wouldn’t have budged it. I’d like to see how that sandstone City Hall would fare in a tremor. THAT would crumble.

  5. awb says:

    Public eye said:

    “Some people forget that its previous owner had successfully gone to court to win the right to demolish it and its neighbor.”

    So why was the Century torn down and not the Syndicate? Would the Syndicate have been torn down if it faced the OPO? Is the Syndicate going to crumble in a minor tremor?

  6. publiceye says:

    There isn’t enough bandwidth to exchange old (or new) arguments on the Century demo. We’re not going to agree.

    My point was a factual one: the Century’s structural condition was better documented than most other buildings’.

  7. Matt says:

    I believe the buildings the Westin is now in also would have crumbled because there was literally no foundation left. There are plenty of other examples too. The fact is that a new structural frame could have been built inside the building. It’s been done countless times throughout the country. But no matter what, you can’t be against it because it would go against the Mayor’s agenda. I’ve never had a lot of problems with the mayor, (more and more so recently) but he made a gigantic mistake here just so his political supporters would be happy and make money for not really doing much. Don’t tell me that crooked financing plan was very nimble and the whole thing would not have happened if it was delayed any longer. Anyone with half a brain can see through most of what is spewed out by the mayors office when it comes to things like this.

  8. Brian says:

    The previous owner of the Century AND Syndicate-Trust may have tried to document some legal rationale for their demise. But lest we forget what party actually first fought this private owner from executing his plans, anyone in court, including those pursuing a SLAPP suit against resident preservationists, should know de jure ain’t de facto.

  9. Jon says:

    There is no doubt in my mind the building in its current state before being torn down would have fall apart if there were ever an earthquake. The real question is if that mattered…

  10. Benjamin Dover says:

    ^You are right — it didn’t matter. What mattered was Steve Stogel wanted it gone and he is a powerful contribtor to politics at many levels.

    I am not sure how you are so confident that it would have tumbled in a temblor though. Are you a structural engineer that personally evaluated the structure? I doubt it. There are many factors that lead to the failure of a structure in a seismic event. Most notably: magnitude, direction, soil conditions AND construction type. Would it have faired worse than a building built today given identical factors? Sure. Does that mean it should be torn down? ABSOLUTELY NOT.


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