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Surplus School Buildings Open For Tours

Part of the problem of losing hundreds of thousands of residents over a half century is a surplus of buildings. One property owner — The St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) — still has buildings they need to unload. Over the years some former schools have found new owners and new uses. For example, Franklin School:

March 2006
In March 2006 the school looked rough
October 2007
By October 2007 Franklin School reopened as affordable senior apartments

To facilitate getting other surplus school buildings rehabbed the SLPS has started offering tours of 27 of the buildings they have for sale, from their website:

The Saint Louis Public Schools (SLPS) Building Revitalization Collaborative was established in 2015 to promote the redevelopment of District-owned properties no longer in use as schools. 

In the spring and summer of 2015, SLPS will be scheduling a series of public open houses at the closed schools and community forums to discuss possible repurposing scenarios for each property. 

By bringing together community stakeholders and a technical advisory committee (TAC) comprised of a variety of experts, SLPS hopes to find creative solutions for these properties that will benefit the District and the St. Louis community as a whole. 

TAC members include architects, building planners, preservationists, real estate developers, and representatives from the fields of finance, education, construction and healthcare.

and…

The SLPS Building Revitalization Collaborative is holding a series of open houses starting in April. All tours start at 5:30 p.m. and run approximately one hour. Please check the website often, as dates and times of tours are subject to change.

If you’d like to plan ahead, please print and fill out the required RELEASE/WAIVER and bring it with you to the tour.

The buildings are not air-conditioned and have no water or electrical service. Debris and standing water may be present in some areas. Wear appropriate footwear.

The dates for the first 8 have passed, but 19 more remain:

  1. April 8, 2015: Baden
  2. April 9, 2015: Walnut Park
  3. April 13, 2015: Shepard
  4. April 15, 2015: Cleveland
  5. April 16, 2015: Stowe
  6. April 20, 2015: Ford Branch
  7. April 22, 2015: DeAndreis/Bunche
  8. April 23, 2015: Ashland Branch
  9. April 29, 2015: Turner
  10. April 30, 2015: Cook
  11. May 4, 2015: Clark
  12. May 6, 2015: Webster
  13. May 7, 2015: Jackson
  14. May 11, 2015: Mark Twain
  15. May 12, 2015: Scullin
  16. May 14, 2015: Lyon
  17. May 18, 2015: Lafayette
  18. May 19, 2015: Gundlach
  19. May 26, 2015: Cupples
  20. May 29, 2015: Williams
  21. June 1, 2015: Sherman
  22. June 3, 2015: Marshall
  23. June 4, 2015: Eliot
  24. June 8, 2015: Gratiot
  25. June 10, 2015: Wilkinson
  26. June 11, 2015: Euclid
  27. June 15, 2015: Banneker

Check out their website for more details, including a map.

— Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. John R says:

    I believe relatively recent changes in the state affordable housing program makes it much more difficult for proposed projects like the Franklin School senior living conversion you highlighted. Interested developers for 4 or 5 schools applied for tax credits the last round but all were denied and I don’t know if any will be able to move forward without them.

     
  2. gmichaud says:

    Franklin School looks to be a nice building. Here are some interior shoots I found when looking for the address (814 N 19th), from the architects site
    http://www.klitzingwelsch.com/projects.php?pid=123

    And yes tax credits being lost will likely impact the future as JZ points out. What has McKee been given for his project 40 million or so? That would have funded some construction.

    The issue though is creating conditions and environments that make reuse of these schools possible in the first place. The city has to go back to its strengths, transit and walkable neighborhoods.

    Good design has made Franklin School a desirable and attractive building, yet the city refuses to surround this and the other schools with good urban policy that can support densities and urban life.
    McKee and his project is in the process of failing in part because of this aimless urban planning perpetuated by the City of St. Louis governance. The business and political establishment continues to fail and St. Louis continues to flounder. The number of available schools listed above indicates this reality more than any other factor.

    How long before they understand what they are doing isn’t working?

     
    • JZ71 says:

      Demand drives urban planning, not the other way around. You can “plan” until you’re blue in the face, but unless there are investors willing to invest in your vision, it ain’t gonna happen! Denver and St. Louis were at similar points 35 years ago, yet one city changed direction and prospered and one remains stagnant. Similarities incude(d) a fixed city-county boundary, poor (in retrospect) urban renewal efforts, investments in both new light rail transit and new freeways, underlying racism and not being on any coast. These two articles address two tangential issues, that density and congestion are a good thing, and that vacant lots can be (and are being) converted to higher-density, urban solutions. Both are driven primarily by demand, by people wanting to be there. Urban design and planning shaped the outcome, but did little to create the demand.

      Until people are clamoring to be in the city, outside of the central corridor and parts of south city, the city, especially north city, will remain stuck in neutral, or worse. In a perfect world, the best reuse of these schools would be as, duh, schools! The surrounding neighborhods would be seeing their vacant lots replaced with mid-rise housing and new families. And while it’s easy to blame McKee for doing little, at least he is trying to put together a package that balances possibility and reality. What the city really needs to do is to change the underlying perceptions (realities?) that continue to discourage people – rolling gun battles, daily murders, old-school racism, declining property values and fewer and fewer resources to invest in new projects (not just keeping a sinking ship afloat). We need to be seeing multiple bids on homes for sale, 90%+ occupancy levels in apartments and office buildings and far fewer vacant storefronts:

      http://insiderealestatenews.com/2015/04/24/guest-column-density-makes-denver-a-better-place/

      http://denverinfill.com/blog/2015/04/ballpark-legacy-22nd-final-update.html

       
      • What you’re missing is the drivers of demand itself! Lack of good planning drives demand down, while good planning can drive demand up.

         
        • JZ71 says:

          Huh? Yes, good planning can help both shape and drive demand, but there are far bigger issues than poor “planning” that are holding St. Louis back. We have the bones of a great city and we have plenty of vacant and nearly-vacant land just waiting for new construction. Still, people are continuing to choose to leave the city (as they have for decades) and they’re choosing to move to the suburbs, surrounding counties and other states for some pretty basic reasons, jobs, personal safety and public education. Better planning, alone, won’t replace thousands of lost industrial jobs, better planning, alone, won’t fix our unaccredited schools, and better planning, alone, sure won’t fix the racist thug culture that is resulting in dozens of murders in the city (and NOT in surrounding areas) every year!

          You’re right, we need to figure out “the drivers of demand”, or more precisely, what’s scaring people off, from (re)investing in the city. Places like Denver and Portland and Austin apprently have, we apparently continue to remain clueless.

          Here are a few other other articles about the flip side of “planning”, managing booming growth:

          http://www.westword.com/arts/whats-developing-in-denver-isnt-pretty-6658488

          http://www.denverpost.com/entertainment/ci_27882894/denver-architecture-why-you-should-email-jeff-sheppard

          http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_27843517/great-city-bad-buildings

           
          • Ah yes, the “we’ve got big issues, we can’t plan.” That’s the failed thinking that’s compounded our problems! You’re right in that other cities like Denver, Portland, & Austin figured out how to drive demand to their cities. My observations of Denver is it invested in public transit and didn’t cut up the CBD street grid the way we did — check mark for good urban planning in Denver. Oregon identified suburban sprawl from Portland as a threat to both the city and rural surrounds and enacted their Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) in the early 70s, updating it every six years to account for changing conditions. Portland also focused on bicyclists, pedestrians, and public transit. Streetcars and form-based codes have also been part of their toolbox. Check for good urban planning in Portland. I haven’t been to Austin since the late 80s, but even then they had a lot of activity on sixth street — today is remains an active entertainment destination. So they capitalized on interest in a downtown street, evolving into a major district. Check mark for good planning in Austin!

            Planning is never a silver bullet — nothing ever is. There was consumer interest (aka demand) for lofts in the early 90s but it didn’t happen then — private developers couldn’t meet consumer demand. Two things came together to make it work — historic rehab tax credits and the Washington Ave road diet/streetscape project. Both were a funtion of government that helped private developers meet the built-up consumer demand and spur new demand.

            Good planning has an impact on suburbia too. The areas that are better planned remain in demand long after other areas have declined. Good planning, like good architecture, is more sustainable. Bad planning and bad architecture, are good forgotten and discarded.

             
      • gmichaud says:

        Where you and I differ is that I believe public policy can and does influence outcomes while you prefer to do nothing and wait for some sort of magic to occur before there is positive change.
        You are a status quo protector and apparently believe humans have no choice and cannot act to change their situation.
        Steve has already made some good points on how urban policy has influenced the shape of cities like Portland, Oregon. I know I have mentioned many successful urban policies in the past, but facts do not seem to matter
        I agree with Steve that urban policy is not a silver bullet, but what is troubling at this juncture is that this is about more than just quality of life. A warming earth is a serious problem. The design of the city has a role in addressing the impacts of carbon pollution.
        These 27 schools are part of 27 neighborhoods where the city has failed to do its job. Despite the critical need for new thinking and new policies, it is business as usual.on the part of the political and business leadership of St. Louis.

         
        • Well said! Just as good planning/policy can influence in the positive direction, bad planning/policy has disastrous long-term consequences. St. Louis is suffering from decades of bad planning/policy — each compounding the problems. To dig ourselves out of this mess, decades in the making, good planning/policy is no longer good enough. We must have the best. The region must work together.

          But with all the status quo protectors and fiefdom defenders I just don’t see it happening.

           
          • JZ71 says:

            Until recently (and for the past two decades), St. Louis had more miles of new light rail than Denver (while Denver had far more buses in their system than St. Louis has). But you have nailed one big issue / challenge: “The region must work together.” That’s why the urban growth boundary worked in Portland, and that’s why Denver is investing bilions of dollars in new public transit. And unlike either city, St. Louis has the basic framework, the street grid, already in place. We just can’t figure out how to a) keep existing neighboods intact, and b) integrate new uses into the existing grid. And as much as you (used to) rail against Loughborough Commons, taking an industrial site that had a slim, at best, chance of remaining industrial, and repurposing it for big box retail, it sure beats the Brentwood or Richmond Heights solution of wiping out entire neighborhoods, just to capture more sales taxes.

            As long as governments (and their residents) are more focused on protecting their own turf, even at the expense of regional success, we’re going to be condemned. here, to more of the same. As long as residents of south city and south county are willing to ignore (and essentially write off) most of north city and north county, we’re not going to see any substantive changes. And while both Denver and Austin are poised to add 100,000 residents, each, in this decade, and St. Louis will be lucky to break even, planning, here, will remain primarily an academic exercise. It takes growth and investments to make plans “real”, and that’s the point I’m trying to make – planning is a part of the larger solution, but we need to embrace and encourge immigration, both white and non-white, into both the city and the larger region.

             
          • I agree with most everything you’ve said. St. Louis has a long history of moving bad plans forward while letting others sit on a shelf. Don’t blame planning for lack of execution.

            Yes, we had many miles of light rail. Still, in nearly 22 years we’ve yet to see new development around the stations. Why? We used your laissez-faire attitude rather than plan for new development. Lack of planning resulted in lack of development — exactly what I’ve been saying!

             
          • JZ71 says:

            No, a lack of TOD in the St. Louis region is primarily because much of Metrolink operates in areas where new development, of any kind, is simply not happening. We can argue that (some of?) what’s happening around the Loop, Cortex, downtown and the BJC campus is transit driven, as is some of the retail around the Brentwood, Richmond Heights and Maplewood stations, but north of the Loop, south of Maplewood and east of East St. Louis, transit and development patterns remain highly disconnected. Shrewsbury’s new Walmart would be a great TOD anchor (as it is in Englewood, Colorado), but the site is a mile (or more) away from the nearest station, so it’s another missed opportunity, just like it is in Maplewood and Bridgeton, as is the new IKEA.

            You want to argue a lack of planning and I’m going to argue a lack of demand – why build stuff if it won’t get rented or sold?! The “suburban” model of lower densities and free parking is the de facto “safe” answer, here, for what development is happening. TOD, locally, is the great unknown – developers have liitle confidence that it can work, so they don’t even try! Combine that with the (irrational?) fear that criminals choose Metrolink over stolen cars to perpetrate their crimes, and you have some serious hurdles to overcome, plans or no plans.

             
          • Again, good planning can set a new vision for an area. This new vision can create demand or even make it possible for the private sector to respond to unmet demand. My earlier example of Washington Ave. Illustrates how private developers couldn’t turn empty warehouses into lofts. Government planning of, and identifying, a “loft district” complete with a highly-visible streetscape, made it possible — this was reflected in the 2010 census. Without this planning downtown wouldn’t be what it is today.

            If we’d followed your line of reasoning we’d still have many vacant buildings, fewer employers, etc.

             
          • JZ71 says:

            The big reason lofts happened were the advent of historic tax credits. When the government (and the 99%) are picking up 25% of the cost (and assuming 25% of the risk), yes, you have a “plan”! And when you skew the market, through government intervention (like TIF’s and tax credits), yes, you do get “change”. Much like subsidies for electric vehicles, where the majority is subsidizing the idealism of the minority, it all boils down to if you’re on the taking end or the receiving end!

            https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/sldc/economic-development/financing/histtaxcredit.cfm

             
          • There you go thinking the tax credits were silver bullet. They were a factor, as I previously noted. But to discount the district plan capital investment in the streetscape is short-sided. All were necessary components!

             
          • gmichaud says:

            Your arguments are laughable, you don’t think oil, agriculture, Wal Mart, Ford Inc and a whole host of corporations are getting handouts from the government? You act like there is a conspiracy by the minority, whoever in the hell that is, I guess that’s people that don’t agree with you.

             
          • Kinda like Mitt Romney when he argued to let Detroit die. He didn’t understand the problem!

            “Ultimately, along with getting nearly $80 billion in loans and other assistance from the Bush and Obama administrations, GM and Chrysler did go through a managed bankruptcy. But many independent analysts have concluded that taking the approach recommended by Romney would not have worked in 2008, simply because the credit markets were so frozen that a bankruptcy was not a viable option.”
            http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2012/09/06/fact-checker-did-romney-really-say-let-detroit-go-bankrupt/

             
          • JZ71 says:

            I’m glad I could put a smile on your face . . .

             
  3. Joseph Frank says:

    Seeing Wilkinson and Euclid vacant is so depressing and bizarre. Wilkinson is in a great neighborhood, on the border of the city with Maplewood. In the ’80s it was the foreign language magnet school, and a huge draw for kids from the county (in particular, from MRH school district). I went to Mallinckrodt from way out in Oakville, but almost all the other kids on my bus (which traversed all over South County, Webster Groves, Kirkwood, and Maplewood) were going to Wilkinson.

    Euclid Montessori was where I got my first teaching experience, of a sort – I was a high school student-teacher from the Botanical Garden ECO-ACT program, in Ms. Bejolais’ 4th/5th grade class. (I remember teaching them how to write a letter to Mayor Bosley. His office was Room 200, of course — and their classroom was also Room 200!)

    I also spent a lot of time in other buildings that have since been sold and rehabbed, such as Enright CJA (5351 Enright but I think the address is on Clemens now), and Metro (5017 Washington). So I am hopeful these buildings can be repurposed, even as the memories fade.

     

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