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Glad At Least A Few Blocks Of Grand Were Saved From Demolition

March 15, 2012 Education, Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design 11 Comments

I was in the Grand Center part of Midtown Thursday night. Grand Center is centered on a too short 3-4 block stretch of North Grand that was not razed for urban renewal to the north of Delmar or grass south of Olive. Many buildings stood vacant for years, some remain vacant today. One recently occupied is the former headquarters of Carter Carburator at 711 North Grand.

ABOVE: Entrance to the Grand Center Arts Academy

The Grand Center Arts Academy is “a charter school for visual and performing arts.”  The school moved into the building last year. I’m grateful buildings like this weren’t razed by short sided people so it could contribute to the streetscape along Grand and provide comfort to me as I waited on Delmar for the bus home. Hopefully I’ll get  a tour of the inside soon.

 – Steve Patterson


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    That auto-correct seems to be getting the better of you.  A couple of days ago, it was “sorted details” (should be sordid), today, it’s “short-sided people” (should be short-sighted).  Anyhow, you’re right, the Carter Carb Building is a cool one, and I’m glad it’s been saved and a viable reuse found for it.

  2. Rick says:

    St. Louis has had a lot of demo, but even after all the demo, it still has more early 20th and 19th century architecture than most US cities.  Ask any out of towner.  If they have a good guide, they are blown away.

  3. Rick says:

    or maybe that should say, “more 19th and early 20th century architecture…” anyhow, you get the idea.  A half full glass in STL has more in it than full glasses in most other US cities.

  4. GMichaud says:

    Trouble is that City officials continue to wreck old St. Louis. Pretty soon more early 19th and 20th century buildings will turn into fewer. There is no rime or reason about what the City allows. It is a random, anything goes, planning philosophy.
    The sixth floor of the school is part of an old parking garage on Grandel. It is a two story room with a mezzanine that is some sort of Spanish revival design. Ornate iron surrounds the space on balconies. The first floor office is the original parking garage office, you know, the old wood ones. In general the architects did a good job, although there are things I don’t like, the library space for instance. They where respectful of what was there and did a good job of upgrading it.  (I think I can arrange a tour if you want it)

  5. Rick says:

    Demolition usually happens at the end of a trail of demolition by neglect.  Blame it on the last private owner.  Or series of owners.  Or out of town lender/speculator.  The city usually ends up more in the role of medical examiner, cleaning up after the victim is already dead.

  6. GMichaud says:

    Please don’t apologize for city government, their incompetence is well known. There is much they can do to correct the situation, but they choose not to. How do other cities get it right? God offers urban plans? Please, I am tired of the excuses.

    • JZ71 says:

      Simple, people want to be there.  Any city that loses more than HALF of its population over fifty years is going to end up hollowed out, less dense and with too many vacant buildings.  You can “plan” all you want, but you need to move past the hermit crab stage and create demand for both new developments and the redevelopment of existing structures.  What makes Toronto, Portland, Austin and Pittsburgh places people want to be, while places like Detroit, St. Louis, Wellston, Granite City and East St. Louis continue to fade away?  Are the reasons we’re here (the rivers and the railroads) no longer relevent or unique?  Have improvements in water supply and HVAC made desert cities more attractive?  It’s obviously not affordability.  It costs twice as much to live in places like NYC or Boulder than it does here, yet people willingly choose to do so.  The obvious answer is jobs. The less obvious ones are racism and weather, along with the, at times, suffocating presence of the Catholic church and the frustration of trying to change things when everyone else around you seems satisfied with the status quo.

      • Douglas Duckworth says:

        I believe St. Louis lost 62.7% of its population from peak: more than any other city including Detroit.

        What did the city do to incentivize such population loss? Let’s think. Perhaps the demolition of entire neighborhoods, removing the streetcar system, highways through the city, parking everywhere, cutting services in areas which needed it most, and failed to reform government in the face of such decline? These are a few outcomes which government and the private sector made happen. St. Louis was rather concerned with preventing decentralization, but took steps which made that outcome even more possible.

        Toronto, good sir, was not always an economic powerhouse. It had a lot of banks, but really lucked out when the Bloc was thinking of leaving Canada. Then it usurped Montreal. It was an accident and leadership in Toronto had nothing to do with it. Mind you the city has always had an engaged even activist planning community, which placed the foundation for good planning when capital arrived. They, oh yeah, stopped a few highways, didn’t thrown their PPC’s into the Lake (many of which were built by the St. Louis Car Company), and even though they had a lot of parking downtown, they built these things called subways when others were doing highways.

        Condos and more offices filled in the gaps through immigration and the arrival of more capital.  Now Toronto has more cranes on the skyline than any other city in North America. It was several factors, and some of them were not planned, but critical infrastructure choices played a huge role, as well as a strong reaction against modernist planning, and an engaged community willing to invest in downtown.  Oh wait I forgot the region had this thing called Metropolitan Toronto.  Yeah that’s what some people call ‘regional government’.  Toronto prevented leapfrog sprawl by tying land use to utility expansion.  This is something many advocates of smart growth support, yet Toronto did it way back before that term even existed. 

        Government can’t do everything, but Saint Louis’ definitely went down the wrong path. Remove the highway and maybe things will change.

      • GMichaud says:

         I guess you figure on fairy dust to be the answer. It is naive not to understand the impact government policies and planning have on the hollowing out of cities. Doug Duckworth makes good arguments. I just want to add that it is no accident that the tremendous urban sprawl in the region benefits big oil and big corporate interests the most. That sprawl required destroying the City of St. Louis.
         How do you get people to move? Make their environment undesirable. Not all cities of the world experienced the decline of St. Louis. Even today the politicians and their insider buddies are still getting it wrong. The urban planning disaster propagated by SLU on the corner of Grand on Chouteau is a perfect example of faux progress. In the long run it makes the city less desirable for transit, walking and urban living while building a new, shiny building completely and utterly orientated towards the automobile.
        Jobs are a problem, but it is not why St. Louis City has been devastated.
         We have burned up easy sources of oil and are now moving on to tar sands and deep water drilling. The free ride is about over. City leadership is too incompetent to position the city for the future. What is required are sound urban planning principles that have evolved from classical times. A good supply of fairy dust, excuses and the anything goes city planning policies that are currently in use will not do the job.

  7. Moe says:

    It’s easy to blame the City when there is no one else left.  The City has too many vacant buildings to maintain all properly…..unless people want to pay more taxes.  Between needed services such as trash, water, police, fire or maintaining abandoned property by a worthless landlord…I’ll take the services.

  8. Msrdls says:

    The City has at least three ongoing problems to deal with when speculators invest in  existing structures: 1) The speculator’s failure to follow through with a redevelopment plan. Case in point: Jefferson Hotel. (Maybe developers need to provide a bond when occupied buildings are emptied prior to reconstruction, and even when unoccupied buildings are purchased for reconstruction, so that the buildings are not allowed to further deteriorate before things begin to happen—if they do happen!)  2) The speculator’s failure to provide a quality renovation, one that meets industry standards for re-construction. Cases in point:  the several  “renovated” loft buildings along Washington Avenue that were superficially tuckpointed (skim coated) during the “renovation”. This condition and similar shortcuts taken by developers will result in ongoing/long-term expenses for those loft residents who purchased units in buildings that fail to meet industry standards. Since loft/condo buildings often appeal to individuals who lack construction knowledge and/or even have an interest in those sorts of things, the city needs to provide some level of oversight (beyond current levels) to assure potential under-informed residents that their investments are safe. Perhaps the developer would put a 2-year bond in place, which would provide condo boards with some level of recourse to assure punch-list completion/warranty responsibility. Without these assurances, the loft district will soon become a money pit. Downtown will become a ghost town again if this is allowed to happen.  3) The City needs to make it very clear that if you buy an existing structure, YOU WILL REDEVELOP IT WITHIN A CERTAIN TIME FRAME. Developers would be required to put up a bond, which the City would collect on if the developer fails to comply.   Bonds are inexpensive. If you’re a legitimate developer/contractor, you can get one. If you are a successful developer/contractor, then you will pay less for a bond than the guy without expertise/ experience.The City currently requires all contractors to purchase bonds so that if the the contractor goes south on a project, the City can recover with minimal losses. Why not extend the bond requirement to protect the City and its residents from all levels of financial loss and downright fraud?


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