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The Lewis & Clark Tower and Vicinity

May 6, 2014 Featured, Planning & Design, St. Louis County 3 Comments

In my post last week on the Lewis and Clark Library one person voiced an objection to the line, “This part of St. Louis County has few structures on which residents can take pride.” In the objection the Lewis and Clark Tower, just north of the library, was specifically mentioned. To clarify my original point, there are too few public buildings in North County to be proud of.  There are great private buildings throughout the region, including North County, but few you can spend time in. The Lewis and Clark Tower is one of those buildings, it is private condos. The restaurant at the top has been closed for years, and it isn’t in great condition. In January the building was condemned:

The St. Louis County Department of Public Works posted violation notices last week on the elevators, and the city condemned the building. The city also had ordered residents to vacate the premises within 48 hours, citing dangers, especially to children and people in wheelchairs. The mayor on Monday said that the city wasn’t strictly enforcing the evacuation and that the order was meant to draw attention to urgent dangers. (stltoday.com — Agreement reached to repair condemned Lewis & Clark Tower)

The 96-unit tower is owned by 36 condo owners, the commercial wing is owned separately.

The Lewis & Clark Tower on 367 at Jennings Station
The Lewis & Clark Tower on 367 at Chambers Rd
Aerial of Tower and site from Apple Maps, click to view in Google Maps
Aerial of Lewis & Clark Tower and Lewis & Clark Library (bottom) from Apple Maps, click to view in Google Maps

Few have written more about North County than my friend Toby Weiss, from October 2007:

In 1966, the place was 100% jumping with at least 7 floors of wedge-shaped residential apartments (now condominiums,) each with two sliding doors out to the continuous balcony, with its own swimming pool and gym in the basement. Businesses on the first two floors of the Tower included Alpha Interior Designer, Donton & Sons Tile Co., Figure Trim Reducing, King’s Tower Pharmacy and a Missouri State License office. (Top of the Towers)

In October 2011 she showed us the vacant interior of the former restaurant at the top, then in November 2012 renderings of the original concept with twin towers as well as images of the restaurant in it heyday.

Looking north toward the tower, the parking lot goes down to reveal the lower level that faces west
Looking north toward the tower, the parking lot goes down to reveal the lower level that faces west
The asphalt is in very poor condition
The asphalt is in very poor condition
The west entry to the Lewis & Clark Condo tower, one level below the east main entry
The west entry to the Lewis & Clark Condo tower, one level below the east main entry
A one-story commercial center faces Lewis & Clark Blvd (367)
A one-story commercial center faces Lewis & Clark Blvd (367)
Stelmacki is a small but clean store, the first I've seen selling greens by the case
Stelmacki is a small but clean store, the first I’ve seen selling greens by the case
View from near Chambers Rd
View from near Chambers Rd, my suspicion is the vacant lot on the right was intended for a future 2nd tower.
Completing the trip back in time is a pay phone, but I failed to check if it had a dial tone
Completing the trip back in time is a pay phone, but I failed to check if it had a dial tone. A 2nd tower would’ve fit on this site
From Chambers Rd we see the west/lower side of the retail
From Chambers Rd we see the west/lower side of the retail
According to Toby Weiss' 2007 post the lower level contained a bowling alley and a movie theater, now only a flea market exists
According to Toby Weiss’ 2007 post the lower level contained a bowling alley and a movie theater, now only a flea market operates
View looking back toward Chambers Rd
View looking back toward Chambers Rd, the former retail center across the street is now a self storage
Former theater, now flea market
Former theater, now flea market
Looking out at the massive parking lot
Looking out at the massive parking lot, most part of the commercial part
Looking at the tower from Chambers Rd & Castle Dr
Looking at the tower from Chambers Rd & Castle Dr
This former Denny's was built in 1976, not sure how long it has been closed.
This former Denny’s was built in 1976, not sure how long it has been closed.

The thing I observed is the commercial arterials in this part of North St. Louis County are pretty depressed, but the adjacent residential streets are still nice.  However, I can’t see the neighborhoods remaining nice forever with such awful commercial property surrounding them. How do you attract a commercial developer to the area when the condo owners are struggling to keep the tower habitable? In the early 20th Century planners in St. Louis viewed the poor condition of tenements much the same way — a blight that’ll continue to spread. Their solution was Urban Renewal — demolition and start over, an expensive flop.  So what then?

Before the residential neighborhoods deteriorate I think the “retrofitting suburbia” way of thinking should be applied to the commercial areas. This starts with public planning to attract & guide private development, likely subsidized to some degree. The costs of not doing anything at all will be much higher.

— Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Scott Jones says:

    I’d love to see some suburban retrofitting in North County. However, the is little market for any new development there especially for retail. Any new development would have to be HEAVILY subsidized. The “solution” in most places in NoCo has been to bulldoze the empty retail (see Spanish Lake along 270).

     
    • I disagree, that’s the same negative outlook that led the city to be under-retailed. The big national chains obviously couldn’t get the volume to meet their targets, but people still live here.

      The development model needs to be rethought, perhaps using non-profits in combination with job training education programs.

       
  2. tpekren says:

    I’m with Scott, I just don’t see a re-purpose of this building and most of the surrounding retail with out a significant financial subsidy. Heck, how much Historic Tax Credits has it taken to re purpose Washington Ave and there you actually have an urban form in an urban context. Not a stand alone tower surrounded by single family homes. Even if you do try to bring back retail, you get a re-shuffle of retail in North County. Where as the immediate area can support addition single residential but only needs a much smaller foot print. It goes back to one simple fact that Steve ignores in these posts. There is way way too much commercial square footage in the region too urbanize everything!!
    .
    Once they agree to downsize retail here, Look hard at Jamestown mall.

     

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