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Preservation Board To Decide Fate of San Luis Today (Updated)

St. Louis’ Preservation Board will, later today, hear a request by the St. Louis Archdiocese to raze the San Luis.  Built as the DeVille Motor Hotel in the early 1960s, the Archdiocese wants parking rather than a hotel or apartments.  I’m not a fan of the building, but even vacant it is preferable to a parking lot.

The Archdiocese must demonstrate that it is not feasible to rehab the structure. Most likely they will present information to this effect.  The full criteria is in the City’s report to the Preservation Board.  Opponents of the demolition need to stick to the established criteria in the applicable ordinances.

The Preservation Board meeting is scheduled to start at 4pm today (6/22/2009) at 1015 Locust Suite 1200.  This item is the 5th on the agenda.  Those wishing to address the Preservation Board must arrive early and sign in.  I have a presentation in class tonight so I will not be able to attend.  I may stop by after class.

If I were a gambling man I’d say they vote to permit demolition.  It somewhat depends upon which members are absent from the meeting.

– Steve Patterson

Update 6/22/2009 @ 10:30pm — The Preservation Board tonight just before 10pm voted 3-2 to grant preliminary approval to the demolition and construction of a surface parking lot.  I’ve never felt any passion for the building but I do feel strongly against surface parking at this location.  In the end it came down to the fact the Archdioses refused to consider anything other than what they wanted.  I would have denied their request — eventually they would be willing to compromise — getting the parking they want in a renovated & occupuied building.

 

Street Performers in the CWE

One of my wishes for St. Louis is to have more street performers.  I included this on my list on Monday, prompting an email from a reader.

Here is the text from the announcement:

Join your friends and neighbors for Fabulous Fridays!
The North Euclid Merchants
put together this great promotion
Every Friday from 5:00 to 10:00!

Alternating Entertainment which will include:

  • Classical Guitarists
  • Portrait Painters and other Artists
  • Fire Dancers
  • Jugglers and Dancers

Enjoy dining in the neighborhood and extended shopping hours too!

See you on Fabulous Fridays!

For more information, contact David Richardson at 314-361-4870
or [email protected]

I’d like to see us get to the point where street performers randomly appear in busy areas rather than have to be something staged by merchants.  This is the correct first step to get to that point.  More merchant groups should look at hiring street performers & vendors to bring the sidewalks to life.  I may not get the Euclid & McPherson tonight but you can be assured I will soon.

Follow UrbanReviewSTL on Twitter

 

The Case for the San Luis Apartments

Last April I did a post about the now shuttered San Luis Apartments on Lindell, just West of the New Cathedral (map). My position was, and is, that the 1960s modern former hotel is not a good urban building – that it doesn’t relate well to the adjacent sidewalks. The St. Louis Archdiocese wants to raze the structure for a surface parking lot.  I visited the site last June, ariving via wheelchair.

View of San Luis from the Lindell sidewalk

So while I’m not fond of the building, it is way better than a surface parking lot. Razing it to build a good mixed use structure would have my full support. Razing it for a parking lot gets my full opposition.

View of San Luis from across Lindell & Taylor
View of San Luis from across Lindell & Taylor

Here are some additional resources and viewpoints on this structure and the plans for its demise:

This building is intact & sound. We should not be so wasteful a society where we can toss aside a structurally sound building for a surface parking lot.

I’d like to see the relationship with the public sidewalk improved upon.  “Preservation” of the existing relationship is not good enough.  Despite the shortcoming on how it doesn’t relate to the sidewalk, the overall massing of the building is pleasant and would be sorely missed.

 

New Arby’s has Required ADA Access Route

For a couple of years now I’ve showed project after project lacking a federally mandated ADA-compliant access route. The biggest culprits are often fast food joints with drive-throughs taking priority over the pedestrian (see post on recent Starbuck’s locations). Shopping centers are no exception and it wasn’t until I began highlighting the flaws at Loughborough Commons did they make changes to the original access plans. To date there is still not proper access to the Lowe’s. Granted a person in a wheelchair doesn’t come off the street to take home drywall but smaller items like light bulbs are still in need when you are disable.
I think the city’s former commissioner on the disabled used to just count the number of disabled parking spaces and give projects an OK if it met the required number. But I can assure you that not everyone arrives by car which means if they are not bicycling they are walking or using a wheelchair. And the ADA access route provides equally good access for those who are able bodied and those that are not. Those who are out pushing a baby stroller will appreciate the provisions as much as the person in a wheelchair.

So when the Arby’s on Lindell was rebuilt following the fire at the construction project next door (see post) I was not optimistic about what sort of pedestrian access they would provide. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the final outcome:

 

As you can see above it doesn’t take much — just a way to get from the public sidewalk to the main accessible entrance. Clearly here the pedestrian was given due consideration.

Given the urbanity of the apartment project next door it would have been nice to see the Arby’s be less suburban in nature — closer to the street, fewer auto drives, etc but at least they got the pedestrian access right. So if we are going to continue to build more suburban structures in the city, such as this Arby’s, we need to ensure they all have pedestrian access to the public sidewalk as this does.  Anything less is unacceptable.

 

San Luis Apartments Not A Good Urban Building

The St. Louis Archdiocese wants to raze the San Luis Apartments next door to The New Cathedral for a 150-car surface parking lot. Local efforts to save the building from the wrecking ball give it more urban credit than it deserves. Yes, it is far more urban than any surface parking lot would ever hope to be.

From a recent West End Word article:

A statement issued by Landmarks’ Board of Directors argued that, “Through curvilinear forms and differentiation of wall materials, the hotel possesses a striking geometric presence. With covered parking placed in the rear away from Lindell Boulevard, the Hotel de Ville promotes the pedestrian-friendly quality of the Lindell streetscape.

This building does nothing to promote pedestrian anything. Parking is actually close to the sidewalk —- the fact the building hovers over the parking doesn’t improve the pedestrian experience in the least. Walk along the sidewalk in front of the building — as you would expect from a structure that started life as a 1960’s motor hotel, the pedestrian is not really considered. You look under the building at parking and the entry is set back behind an auto drive.

The best I can say is that the mass of the building does help anchor that corner — a surface parking lot would simply create a big hole in an area lacking holes in the urban fabric. The forms of the building are pleasant enough but I would not lose any sleep over its demolition.

Asked if the proposal on Lindell Boulevard is an example of the Central West End going backward, Thomas Richter, the archdiocese’s director of buildings and real estate, said, “We don’t think it is a step backward.”

The proposed parking lot “represents an investment in the Central West End” because it shows that Rosati-Kain intends to be in the CWE for the long haul, he said.

A surface parking lot is not an investment! To use such valuable real estate to store cars is such a waste. To spend the kind of dough it will take to buy out the HUD contract, raze and pave the land just for parking is shameful. Is this really the best use of the church’s resources?

There was a time not that long ago when churches were an important part of building the physical community and now all over this city we see church leaders worshiping the automobile by razing structures for parking. How much transportation could the church provide by not razing this structure and instead selling the land. If anything they should seek a developer to build low-income housing to help diversify the neighborhood and provided needed affordable housing.

 

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