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St. Louis Likes to Raze Buildings on October 20th

One year ago today developers building the unnecessary parking garage in the Old Post Office District began demolishing the Century Building while a judge was considering a temporary restraining order against demolition. Clearly they wanted to damage the building before a TRO was issued. Ultimately the TRO was not issued. It was a very sad day.

Heard on discussion forums on Wednesday evening, 10/20/2004:

The SE corner is getting a good beating, with small pieces coming down for now. The demo guy explained that they are “laying down a base” of small pieces in the street to protect the pavement, then they’ll start giving it bigger hits.

The next day:

I drove downtown at 10:30pm Wednesday night to take a peek at progress, St. Louis style. The southeast corner of the Century’s top floor certainly had Geisman’s signature on it, but the wrecking ball was idle – at least for the half hour I was there. I asked a construction worker what was going on and he said they were just taking a break at that moment, had been delayed while adding another section to the crane, planned on continuing the demo all night long and that it would take about 4 months to complete the job. I wonder if all-nighters, such as this are budgeted for the entire 4 month term or limited to only the wee hours of evenings preceding a judge’s ruling on a petition for a TRO. Does the side opposing the motion for a TRO in this case, gain leverage by rendering the building beyond redemption? Geez, given the issues being heard by a judge concurrently, ! wouldn’t such a blatant and vitriolic action be considered Contempt of Court?

From another on 10/21/2004:

As far as I could tell, the pounding stopped around 2 am. I finally got back to sleep close to 4 am and never heard any destruction noise after that.

The mood for many in the city was low. In time the “establishment” will realize the error of razing the Century Building.

Fast forward to present…

Last night the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Houston Astros, ending their 2005 season. Demolition will now begin on the old Busch Stadium. Originally they had planned to implode the 40 year old structure but they will instead use more conventional demolition techniques.

When they were discussing imploding the stadium I began a post I was going to title, “Top Ten Buildings I’d Implode Before Busch Stadium.” I didn’t want my work to go to waste so here is the list:

  • 10 – Indoor malls, starting with Westfield “Shopping Towns”
  • 9 – Chesterfield Commons, sprawling strip/big box center in flood plain
  • 8 – St. Louis Marketplace, nearly vacant strip/big box center
  • 7 – Interstate highways in the City of St. Louis (I-44, I-55 and I-70)
  • 6 – Westport Plaza, a make believe city.
  • 5 – A. G. Edwards Complex (link w/strong language)
  • 4 – All parking garages lacking street level retail (quite a few)
  • 3 – Pet Building
  • 2 – Adams Mark Hotel
  • 1 – Gateway One
  • While I like the arches of the “old” stadium I can live without the rest of it. The building to sidewalk relationship is dismal. The new stadium shows more promise from an urban perspective although the whole red brick retro thing is a predictable.

    – Steve

    PS @ 10:45am: It was 11 days later, on October 31, 2004, that I started Urban Review – St. Louis.

     

    This Eminent Domain Thing Is Fun

    ivanhoecommons.jpg

    I got to thinking more about eminent domain and decided to play developer. How fun! Someone should make a board game version.

    So where would be a good spot for a new sprawl center I thought? They love highway access so I-44 came to mind. The area South of Arsenal seems perfect with good on and off ramps and being close to Watson as well. High traffic count on Arsenal was also a plus.

    The image at right shows the area I had in mind. It is bordered on the North by Arsenal Street, Leona Ave on the East, Bradley Ave on the South and I-44 on the West. Just the right size for a typical development.

    I’m sure the people that live there wouldn’t mind moving. After all, this is the kind of thing that is good for the city — taking homes for big boxes. The owners will get settlements for more than their properties are worth so they shouldn’t complain.

    The businesses located along Ivanhoe can also relocate or perhaps lease space in one of the new outlot parcels. They are just small potatoes anyway — not as important as national big box chains. Hey — I’m really getting the hang of this game! Did you notice how the name of Ivanhoe Commons is a play on the street being destroyed — that earns me bonus points.

    But I’m willing to bet the Mayor won’t be too thrilled about this development. Why not you ask? Simple, I doubt he’d want to tell his parents that a Circuit City is more important than their family home.

    – Steve

     

    St. Louis Mayor Is Wrong on Eminent Domain

    The following was a message from The Mayor’s Desk today:

    Ban Would Harm the City

    A group of outstate legislators has proposed a ban on eminent domain for all but the most basic public purposes.

    I agree that the state’s laws regarding eminent domain should be changed. The changes should make the process fairer for property owners and return eminent domain to its original purpose of re-development, rather than the development of virgin land. That’s why I’ve been working with the Governor’s Committee on Eminent Domain and with state legislators to make adjustments to state law that will continue to allow eminent domain to be used appropriately in places like the City of St. Louis, while preventing the types of abuses that have made headlines over the past several months.

    Why should the City keep the tool of eminent domain?

    The City of St. Louis has plenty of abandoned and deteriorating buildings and lots that are privately owned. These abandoned properties wreak havoc with our economy, havoc with quality of life in our neighborhoods, and havoc with our City budget. The City spends millions of dollars each year demolishing some vacant buildings and boarding up others, cutting weeds on vacant lots, attempting to keep vandals from committing various crimes on these properties, and citing properties for code violations — the same properties, again and again and again. We must be able to acquire these properties to assemble sites and put them back into productive use. We cannot afford to let them continue as economic and social liabilities.

    In addition, the City needs new retail, business and residential development. And economic development these days means sites of 10-15 acres, not the 25-foot lots in which most of our City was originally developed.

    A significant portion of the massive amounts of redevelopment activity that we have seen in here in the past four years would not have been possible without the use of eminent domain.

    The City uses eminent domain sparingly, mostly to address problem properties and to clear up the titles of abandoned properties. We use it to assemble small lots into useful sites. Very rarely, we use it to acquire a non-problem property that is critical to a large development in an area plagued by problems.

    Keep in mind:

    Eminent domain is usually expensive. Property owners are often compensated with amounts far in excess of the value of their properties.
    It is time consuming. It often takes years for the court process to be concluded.
    And it is unpredictable.

    As a result, eminent domain is only used in the City when it’s the only way to complete site assembly at a semi-reasonable price. And in most eminent domain cases, generous settlements are achieved prior to the court outcome.

    Here’s the bottom line on eminent domain for the City: Any ban that failed to preserve the sorts of uses the City requires would stop our revitalization in its tracks.

    Wow, we’d better not oppose eminent domain or we’ll be responsible for halting the revitalization of the city! What a threat! Politician’s and their yes men (and women) love to make controversial issues like this into a black in white issue (so to speak). They make it all cut and dry and then attempt to paint the opposition as being the ones stifling progress. Classic, very classic.

    Everyone knows the mere threat of eminent domain is enough to scare most people away. The city blights an area and property owners see the writing on the wall. So they sell out rather than spend their life savings on a lawyer in an attempt to save their home or business.

    The Mayor does have a valid point about properties that are a vacant and a continuing nuisance. But the city already can’t handle the vacant buildings and lots it owns through tax foreclosure so to acquire more through eminent domain seems to be a stretch of already limited funds. Yes, keeping eminent domain for long vacant or properties with a long history of building violations makes sense. Everything else is questionable.

    The Mayor would love for you to believe this is about vacant buildings and protecting the public safety from crimes. In truth this is about giving private property to big money developers for shopping, research centers, biomed complexes or QuikTrip gas stations.

    But the part that really got me was this sentence:

    In addition, the City needs new retail, business and residential development. And economic development these days means sites of 10-15 acres, not the 25-foot lots in which most of our City was originally developed

    If only they went after 10-15 acres. The sprawl center known as Loughborough Commons is 30 acres and took nice occupied homes. The new SLU research tower is only on 9 acres but that is for a single building, a major waste of land that forced the relocation of longtime city business Peerless Restaurant Supply. But the grand daddy of all is the current attempt to grab 173 acres for a biomed center (article) at the request of a collaboration of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Washington University and the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Fighting any one of these would be a formidable task but put them together and any property owner might as well bend over. Add to the mix ribbon cutting happy elected officials and you can kiss your personal property goodbye.

    Urban hating developers and elected officials want to convince everyone that 25ft wide lots are obsolete. Nothing can be done unless you have 10-173 acres. Never mind that civilizations have existed for centuries without such massive sites. Major cities where land is valuable and urban density is even more valuable just don’t advocate for such massive projects. Sure, Lowe’s isn’t going to build on a 25ft wide lot but in a city with all the vacant lots owned by the city you’d think this administration could find a way to bring investment without needing to take people’s homes and businesses. Pity all those vacant lots aren’t near highway interchanges or the big cats. You’d think the city would be more practical about these matters!

    But, this is the same city that told a property owner he couldn’t tear down the Century Building for parking, acquired the property, and then proceeded to raze the building for parking. Maybe this is just par for the course.

    – Steve

     

    JibJab’s Big Box Mart

    October 15, 2005 Big Box Comments Off on JibJab’s Big Box Mart

    I’m going to have to learn to check the JibJab site on a regular basis because their cartoons always seem to do a great job of getting right to the point. Such is the case with their latest titled Big Box Mart, an excellent commentary on Wal-Mart. Click here to view the video which runs just over 2 minutes.

    – Steve

     

    New “Urban” Target An Improvement, Not Far Off The Mark

    target_mainentry.jpg

    Less than a year after the old Target store was closed and razed the new store has opened with much anticipation. Today I visited the store to check it out.

    I’ve posted twice before on the new Target. First was in April and the second was in July. You might want to read those to get caught up.

    Before I go any further I should state a few things:

  • The new store looks better than the old store. But, it would have been really sad if the new building didn’t look better than a 60’s cinder block building.
  • The brick colors are quite nice. Thankfully they avoided any sort of retro look for the building.
  • Target is the most attractive of all the big box retailers. Their merchandising is always top notch. They have a great selection of products at reasonable prices.
  • It is good they didn’t build a new store just outside the city.
  • I think I’ve covered all the basis with the above statements. Yet as you might expect, I have some critical thoughts on the project. I offer these as something to keep in mind for future projects in an urban area. Yes, I got a bit of a thrill walking into a store that had been open less than 48 hours but it still just a retail store. Let’s get started.



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