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Preservation Board To Consider Demolition Request For Historic Block On South Broadway In Carondelet Neighborhood

October 23, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation No Comments

This afternoon the St. Louis Preservation Board will consider a request for demolition. an appeal, because the Cultural Resources director initially denied the request. The request is to raze an entire block of historic buildings on South Broadway. Broadway is one of the few streets in St. Louis that runs from far North to far South, so South Broadway isn’t specific enough. The East side of Busch Stadium is bounded by South Broadway. There’s an interesting stretch of South Broadway East of Soulard, in the Kosciusko neighborhood. The old Lemp Brewery complex is along South Broadway. The block being considered today is quite a bit further South, in the Central Carondelet Historic District. Most buildings in the district are residential, but the nomination mentions commercial as well:

Most of the commercial buildings in the district are located on Broadway, which supported an established business district long before the turn of the century. These buildings are grouped together by both use, stores and offices, and basic architectural form. Nearly all of the Commercial buildings in the district sit on the sidewalk line of their lots and are of one to three stories. Many of the commercial buildings employ similar stylistic characteristics as do residences in the district, such as parapet walls, similar cornice and window treatments and mansard roofs. Still,CommercialBuildings are in their own category,andwhen the building clearly shows the influence of a particular style it is placed in a sub-category of Classical Revival, Italianate, Second EmpireIMansard, or Art Deco.

Watkins family history on this block goes back to 1879!

Last week I shared a NextSTL post about the proposed demolition on this blog’s Facebook page, writing:

Very familiar with this part of South Broadway. It has some great old buildings, but little else. It’s just a pass through. 

Still, these should be kept and someone work turning the area into a place where people want to be.

The 2nd pair of what I wrote, about place was missed by someone, who commented:

 “Little else” besides eight bars (including two of the most vibrant live music venues to open in the City in the past two years), four antique stores, a bank, one of the oldest independent hardware stores in the City, the oldest convenience store in the City, and a gift shop recently named the 11th Ward business of the year. All in less than a one mile stretch on Broadway with this block in the direct center. It sounds like you don’t know too much about this stretch at all, particularly the reinvestment over the past few years.

I attempted to explain I was talking about the public realm, not private businesses by providing this definition and link:

Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, Placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. More than just promoting better urban design, Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution. (Project for Public Spaces)

This person instead I didn’t know the area, even though I had an office two blocks South for years. I knew all too well the pervasive thinking and poor quality of the public realm. However, I did learn through Googling they South Broadway Merchants Association changed its name to Carondelet Business Association.

Business districts, shopping centers, malls, etc must market themselves to attract businesses and visitors. The Carondelet Business Association, like the South Broadway Merchants Association fails to understand this reality. Commercial streets like Delmar and South Grand are commonly known as The Delmar Loop and Grand South Grand, respectively. These and other districts do a good job of marketing themselves.

What does the Carondelet Business Association do?  It’s easy to find out about becoming a business member but trying to find a place to eat requires finding a 52-page PDF directory, restaurant listings begin on page 32. The CBA website was created and maintained by the owner who wants to raze an entire block of structures contributions to a historic district.

Like many, I’d driven through lately, but not stopped. So I took the MetroBus down to see what, if anything, had changed about the public realm — not what bars were now open.

I got off at Fillmore St, taking 90 photos as I traveled South 1.3 miles. I got back on the bus at Primm St (map). Here’s a few of the photos I took on the morning of October 18th:

A mural & community garden was new to me.
The used car lots weren’t new
A building in the middle of another block had recently been razed.
The bank building was boarded. This is across Broadway from the proposed demolition
The sidewalks the entire 1.3 mile distance I traveled were in poor condition
A historic structure onion a small park is one of the few bright spots for public space in the area.

I don’t doubt many have worked hard, have good intentions.  This stretch of South Broadway in Carondelet has great bones — unrealized potential. Place-making and business district marketing both take lots of skill to do successfully. Both need to happen or it’ll continue to struggle.

The Preservation Board meeting begins at 4pm, this is the 3rd item on the agenda.


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