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The Last Public Housing Complex Tower in St. Louis

March 12, 2012 Featured, Midtown, North City, Planning & Design, Urban Renewal 11 Comments

Decades ago many high rise public housing towers existed in numerous large scale public housing projects in St. Louis. The most infamous were the Wendell Oliver Pruitt and William L. Igoe Homes, better known simply as Pruitt-Igoe. Friday marks the 40th anniversary of the demolition of the first of its 33 buildings.

ABOVE: The Darst-Webbe towers on the near south side circa 1990-91, razed
ABOVE: The last Vaughn tower being razed in October 2006
ABOVE: The last tower from Cochran Gardens was razed in 2011

In the Fall it was announced the last of four towers at the former Blumeyer complex would be razed after new low-rise housing is built:

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded the city of St. Louis $7.8 million to help redevelop the area around the city’s last public housing tower for families. (St. Louis Public Radio)

The last tower was part of the Blumeyer complex.

ABOVE: Blumeyer Elderly Apartments being prepped for demolition, October 2006
ABOVE: Low-rise & high-rise buildings at Blumeyer before being razed, October 2006

By the time Blumeyer was built in 1967 problems were becoming clear at older public housing complexes such as Cochran Gardens and Pruitt-Igoe. The latter only had high rise towers but the former had  a mix of low-rise and high rise buildings. Blumeyer had just four towers, not grouped together.

ABOVE: Blumeyer Elderly Apartments, January 2007

Growing up in a largely white middle-class area of suburban Oklahoma City the closest I’d come to a high-rise public housing tower was watching Good Times (1974-79).I knew I had to see this last complex tower — completed the year I was born. The last tower is located at 3501 Franklin.

ABOVE: Looking east across Grand at the last Blumeyer tower
ABOVE: 3501 Franklin approached from Franklin & Theresa
ABOVE: Looking north on Theresa from Franklin
ABOVE: The NE corner of the tower
ABOVE: Looking north at the west side of the tower
ABOVE: Walled courtyard, unfurnished, on the south end of the tower
ABOVE: The building is full but the directory is empty
ABOVE: Looking north from the lobby toward the management office
ABOVE: The only community space is the laundry room
ABOVE: Hallway on an upper floor

Management was unable to show me an apartment, they don’t have a display. I was able to talk a young man to show me the 2-bedroom apartment where he lives with his family. The apartment was small but clean, nothing fancy. Good storage. I wish I had written down his name to thank him for allowing me in his place.

A few other high rise public housing towers remain in the city but those weren’t part of larger complexes that have been rebuilt under the federal Hope VI program.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jeffvstl says:

    Hey Steve,
    Isn’t this tower slated for demolition as well?  I believe Michael Allen mentioned that sometime ago.   It looks to be very well-maintained, so demolishing it seems like a waste.  It would also be a big loss for the midtown skyline.

    • Yes, I mention it will be razed. I don’t think it will be a great loss. It doesn’t relate well to the public sidewalks and it likely needs major mechanical updating.

      • JZ71 says:

        If we tear down every building that “needs major mechanical updating”, we’re going to look a lot like St. Charles County.

        • True, but many buildings are worth the investment in new mechanical infrastructure. This building would also need major changes at grade to relate to the sidewalks.

          • JZ71 says:

            Why?  It appears to function well.  The apartments are “small but clean, nothing fancy.”  The photos show that it is well-maintained.  Relating to the sidewalk is an admirable goal, and definitely something that should have been done better when it was built decades ago, and should be done better if and when the structure is replaced, but using it as the primary justification for demolishing a major public investment is assinine.  We simply can’t tear down every structure that misses the mark in your urban paradigm! 

            We need to learn from past mistakes, we need to do better going forward, but we also need to be wise stewards of limited public resources.  IF the financial analysis shows that it will cost less over the next twenty years to remove and replace, then we should do so.  But if we’re tearing down the buildings just to provide something marginally “better”, for MORE money, we need to remember that these are public resources, not private ones, being wasted.

          • I’m not opposed to not razing the building, I don’t think there is anything specific planned for the site. I heard a park which seems silly given it backs up to a Church’s Chicken. The structure is likely very sound. Unsure about plumbing, heating and electrical. A/C is via window units. Relating to the sidewalk might even be accomplished through sitework rather than enclosed space.

  2. Parisgillespie says:

    what are they going to do with the people on the list for this building

  3. Parisgillespie says:

    what are they going to do with the people on the list for this building

  4. lashay says:

    question for Steve Patterson if the high rise is gonna be tore down..sometime in the near furture then why is management still placing new residents in the building?


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