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Plaintiffs Delay Century Case Again

After demolition of the historic Century Building began in the Fall of 2004, the lawsuits by two downtown residents seeking to prevent the demolition became a moot point.  On April 19, 2005 the State of Missouri and the City of St. Louis, through entities, joined with the developer of the Ninth Street Parking Garage and filed a Malicious Prosecution claim against Marcia Behrendt & Roger Plackemeier. The plaintiffs are seeking $1,000,000.

After numerous delays the trial was scheduled to finally get underway tomorrow ( 9/14/2009) at 9am.  But last Friday, at the request of the Plaintiffs, the case was again delayed.  The parties have a new date of 10/26/2009 — that date is just to determine the future trial date.  Most likely we are looking at 2010 for the trial.   When your motivation is to discourage public participation it makes sense to drag these things out.

I should disclose that I personally know both Marcia Behrendt & Roger Plackemeier.  Marcia was the person that found me after my stroke on 2/1/2008.  So I’m not an impartial observer in this issue.  To file such a claim and then delay for years is just wrong.

MISSOURI DEVELOPMENT FINANCE BOARD VS BEHRENDT, Case #22052-01373, can be viewed at http://www.courts.mo.gov/casenet.  The poll this week asks your view on the city & state suing these two for the last four + years.   Right or wrong?

– Steve Patterson


National Trust Opposes SLAPP Suit Against Two St. Louis Residents

A lawsuit against two downtown St. Louis residents has been ongoing now in excess of four years.  Recently (8/11/09) another St. Louis resident posted a question on the Facebook page of The National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Could you please ask your redevelopment corporation to drop the lawsuit against the two St. Louis citizens who filed suit to save the 1896 Century Building?

Nine days later (8/20/09) the National Trust for Historic Preservation posted the following response:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is not a party to this litigation and has no control over it. Our subsidiary investment arm holds only a .01% stake in the project, and all authority to pursue litigation of this type lies in the limited partnership’s general partner alone. We have urged that party to reconsider their actions, but to date they have not heeded our request. We believe there are ways to learn from the Century Building controversy and advance the cause of historic preservation and community revitalization. This lawsuit is not the way to achieve those goals.

Agreed, this lawsuit is not about advancing anything other than instilling fear in the public so they won’t challenge the status quo, such as awarding a historic building to a connected developer without putting the building out for proposals.

The trial date is currently set for September 14, 2009.  The plaintiffs have asked for yet another delay.  Sorry good ole boys, no matter how long you delay your case won’t get any better.

– Steve Patterson


24/7 Old Post Office District Closed on the Weekends

Part of the justification offered for razing the Century Building, that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was that it had to be sacrificed for parking for the Old Post Office  – the centerpiece of a 24/7 district.

It has been a couple of years now and I’m still waiting for the area to get beyond 11/5:

The Pasta House Pronto,  located in the Old Post Office, is not offering 24/7 fare.  Granted, the customers are not there.  But if they were, they’ve got plenty of parking.  Most of the exciting 24/7 areas I know of in other cities are known for their numerous businesses and shortage of parking.

Non-profit, government  & library tenants also aren’t known for their contribution to 24/7 living.

When the Schnuck’s grocery store, Culinaria, opens next week I hope they maintain at least the daily 7am to 9pm hours that City Grocers has had for years.  My fear is they will cut back on days and hours within a year.  I hope my fears prove unfounded.

Maybe they will be open 24/7?

– Steve Patterson


Downtown Gets Yet Another Plaza

Today (4/3/09) at 4pm Mayor Slay will officially open The Old Post Office Plaza. This is more open space in a downtown with too much open space but not enough quality urban public space.  And though it may look like it, this plaza is not public.

This 3/4-acre plaza is owned, not by the city, but Downtown Now/The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis.  The plaza is to the North of the Old Post Office, across Locust between 8th & 9th (map).

Don’t confuse this new private plaza with the private plaza one block East, that unused plaza will soon become another parking garage.

The plaza is considered a key piece of the emerging Old Post Office Square, which includes the renovated Old Post Office building across the street at 815 Olive St. and Roberts Brothers Properties’ planned $70 million, 24-story residential tower adjacent to the Roberts-owned Mayfair Hotel at Locust and Eighth streets. (source, August 2007)

The plaza’s designers, BSN Architects of Toronto, describe the project:

The winner of an invited architectural competition, this new public Plaza celebrates the adjacent historic Old Post Office of St. Louis and actively engages the surrounding urban form.  A dramatic three dimensional armature is proposed to provide substantive user amenity and involve the public in the unfolding urban drama of the revitalized downtown. Its morphology incorporates surrounding built features into a dynamic stage for public life inspired by an operatic interpretation of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus.

Yes, some architects actually talk like that.

A year ago the project hit a snag which delayed completion:

Underground construction debris has caused design changes and a three-month delay of the Old Post Office Plaza.

Construction crews working on the $8.2 million Old Post Office Plaza at Ninth and Locust streets downtown hit a snag in recent months when they uncovered concrete, steel and other debris beneath the ground.

The St. Nicholas Hotel, built in the 1850s, was formerly located on the site. The hotel was demolished in 1974, but remnants were left behind. “They simply let it collapse into the ground,” said Kozeny-Wagner President Pat Kozeny. “There’s structural steel, even the building’s elevator.” (source, March 2008)

In August 2008 construction was well underway:

A couple of days ago it now looked like:

As you can see it is mostly a hard surface plaza.  This, I believe, is appropriate for an urban context.  Except for the fact we already have the Arch grounds, Kiener Plaza, Gateway Mall, Baer Plaza, etc…  We need less open space to help create more urban space.  This block, like all the others, used to be filled with buildings.

When it came time to renovate the Old Post Office a 2nd time, the need for immediately adjacent parking was cited by potential tenants.  So although this site existed to the North of the Old Post Office, we instead raze the marble-clad Century Building which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Some said a garage could not be built on this site.  I say BS.

Hardscape plazas can be interesting.  No doubt Dundas Square (Wikipedia, map) in Toronto was an inspiration:

Above: Dundas Square in July 2006
Dundas Square is a wonderful urban space – very dynamic.  When I visited Toronto in July 2006 my hotel was just a couple of blocks away.  I saw the space on normal days as well as packed for a large annual event.
I haven’t been in the Old Post Office Plaza yet because it has been fenced off as construction was being completed.  I’m looking forward to experiencing the space this afternoon.  I did roll by along the sidewalk on the South edge:
It is shiny & new.  It is more interesting than the old collection of surface parking lots.  But from the outside looking in I could see (not see?) one glaring omission: bike parking.  Holding large events in a vibrant urban area naturally draws crowds on bikes.  Well designed spaces make sure cyclists have a place to secure their bikes.  Such was the case at Dundas Square:

Yet this new $8 million + facility doesn’t have a single bike rack that I could see.  I guess everyone is expected to drive to the plaza to help justify the garage that replaced the historic Century Building?

The ribbon cutting is 4pm today with activities this weekend.


Mayor Slay, Geisman, & Rainford To Be Deposed in Century Case

February 19, 2009 Century Building 4 Comments

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, Deputy Mayor Barb Geisman and chief of staff (now campaign manager) Jeff Rainford have all been served subpoenas to be deposed in Century case against my friends Roger Plackemier & Marcia Behrendt.

Plackemeier & Behrendt have been accused of “malicious prosecution” over their previous legal challenges to the Old Post Office redevelopment project, which included preventing the historic Century Building from being razed and replaced by a parking garage.  The deposition date is February 27th.  The lawsuit,  first filed on April 19, 2005, will begin over four years later on Monday April 27, 2009.

I personally believe the case to be a SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation, see Wikepidia).  Slay, Geisman & Rainford will be questioned about the withdrawal of an alternative plan for the redevelopment of the Syndicate Trust/Century Building by a development team that included Craig Heller and Kevin McGowan.  Heller was later able to obtain and renovate the Syndicate Trust.

Both sides will be presenting motions before the court this morning at 9am.  See all my Century Building related posts dating back to 2004 here.