John Cochran Veterans Hospital Wants To Expand South Into Grand Center, Raze Historic Palladium Music Hall
The Veterans Administration operates two facilities in the St. Louis area:
The VA St. Louis Health Care System provides inpatient and ambulatory care in medicine, surgery, psychiatry, neurology, and rehabilitation, and many other subspecialty areas. It is a two-division facility that serves veterans and their families in east central Missouri and southwestern Illinois.
The John Cochran Division, named after the late Missouri congressman, is located in midtown St. Louis and has all of the medical center’s operative surgical capabilities, the ambulatory care unit, intensive care units, outpatient psychiatry clinics, and expanded laboratory.
The Jefferson Barracks Division is a multi-building complex overlooking the Mississippi River in south St. Louis County. It provides psychiatric treatment, spinal cord injury treatment, a nursing home care unit, geriatric health care, rehabilitation services, and a rehabilitation domiciliary program for homeless veterans. (source)
The John Cochran facility, located in midtown, was built in the 1950s, on the site of the once-opulant Vandeventer Place private street:
Founder, Peter Lewis Vandeventer, came to St. Louis in the 1860s with brothers William and Henry Barnum Vandeventer. Peter Lewis Vandeventer and Henry Barnum Vandeventer were Wall Street stockbrokers with a firm located at 6 Wall St., New York City. They made their money from selling stocks and took the train west to St. Louis to invest it in land.
Peter Lewis Vandeventer died in 1879, during the development of Vandeventer Place, a gated, luxurious private place in the neighborhood with stately mansions and a beautiful fountain as its centerpiece. His Missouri estate was managed by several corrupt lawyers, who stole much of the money from the sale of the lots at Vandeventer Place. His family remained in St. Louis for some time after his death, living in Vandeventer Place in a large mansion.
Vandeventer Place met with its demise in 1947, when the eastern half was demolished for the Veterans’ Administration’s new hospital. The western portion was demolished about ten years later, when the City acquired it as the site for a children’s detention home. The fountain and east gates survive in Forest Park. (Wikipedia)
The formerly secluded street on the western edge of the city had fallen out of favor among the wealthy, they sought to buy or build mansions even further west in the city or into St. Louis County. John Cochran Hospital has always remained within its original 11+ acre site of Grand on the East, Enright (formerly Morgan) on the South, Spring on the West, and Bell on the North. Granted, the VA has various surface parking lots beyond this.
Now the VA is looking to expand , funding for a new tower was included in a 2009 spending bill:
A $44 million appropriation included in a new $447 billion spending bill approved by Congress this week will provide seed money for a 262,000-square-foot hospital tower for the midtown facility.
The proposed VA medical center expansion will feature a larger emergency room, wings for spinal cord injury and mental health patients needing immediate medical treatment, more private bedrooms and better room structures for medical equipment and records. (stltoday.com)
Why hasn’t this moved forward in the last four years? If you’ll recall, John Cochran VA soon had some very bad PR issues:
- June 2010: VA hospital may have infected 1,800 veterans with HIV
- February 2011: Surgeries are suspended at Cochran center
- April 2012: Issues go unsolved at St. Louis VA medical center
Then in June 2012 an expansion story ran once again:
An expansion is planned for the John Cochran VA Medical Center, but it could affect a new, widely popular soul food restaurant. The expansion would increase the facility by 60 percent. The “Sweetie Pies Upper Crust Eatery” sits on land that is being looked at for the expansion project. (Fox2: Could VA Hospital Expansion Force Sweetie Pies Upper Crust Out?)
So they want to expand South to Delmar, closing Enright and razing some buildings. What impact would this have on Grand Center? What buildings would need to be razed? Is there a better option for expansion?
Only four buildings are on the thin block bounded by Enright, Grand, Delmar, and Spring:
- a vacant former gas station already owned by the VA,
- Laborer’ Local 42 union hall,
- Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust,
- Vacant former HHV Thrift Plus (aka The Palladium, Club Plantation)
Here’s a look at these four:
Interesting, 66 years ago the VA wanted a hotel and a club razed or they wouldn’t build and “the VA itself is prohibited by law from buying the block because it is not contiguous to its hospital site.” Not sure when the hotel was razed, but the club remains — for now.
So we have a newly built & popular restaurant that faces Delmar, a 1970s union hall and a historic 1912-13 musical hall facing Enright, all in the path of the Veterans Administration. The VA owns the tiny 1950 gas station, the other three are privately owned.
Tomorrow I’ll suggest how to expand the VA hospital while also improving, not hurting, Grand Center.
— Steve Patterson