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Keep Your Enemies…In the Same Restaurant?

I feel like Deb Peterson reporting on who is spotted dining out…


Tonight I walked into 10th Street Italian for a light dinner (yes, a Caesar salad and soup) and I spot Marcia Behrendt, a co-defendant in a $1.5 million lawsuit brought by the city, state and local developers over the fight to save the Century Building from needless demolition. Marcia was enjoying dinner with three neighbors.

At the only other occupied table was Otis Williams, the Deputy Director of the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC). The SLDC is a plaintiff in the case against Marcia and another downtown resident, Roger Plackemeier. He got his order to go…

[CORRECTION 6/22 10:45am – per Richard Callow the SLDC is not a plaintiff against Marcia & Roger. In reviewing an April Biz Journal story I see that it is the LCRA (Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority) that is a plaintiff. The LCRA is one of seven board listed under the SLDC. So technically the SLDC is not a plaintiff but that to me is a minor distinction. – SLP]

Which leads me into a reminder about the “Downtown Defense Fund” fundraiser on Saturday night at 7:30pm. For more information go to www.downtowndefensefund.com.

After dinner I walked over to City Grocers to get a few things and spotted a great bumper sticker on a Jetta, “Blunt Trauma.” I loved it! I need to find out where I can get one (or twenty).

Interesting, the St. Louis Log Cabin Republicans (that is gay republicans for those not in the know) are upset with the Gov because of statements he made as reasons for not supporting the Pride festivities this weekend in Tower Grove Park. Duh! Don’t act so shocked guys…

– Steve


St. Louis Citizens Form the ‘Downtown Defense Fund’ to Fend Off Slap Suit

Dear Fellow Citizens:

As you know, the National Register-listed Century Building in downtown St. Louis was recently demolished to make way for a parking garage. We thought this tragic demolition was the end of an ugly chapter in St. Louis’ history. Now, it’s gotten uglier.

Before the demolition, two Downtown residents, Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier, took principled action to try to save the Century Building. They were plaintiffs in two legal cases that sought to keep this historic building as part of our architectural heritage. But the buildings came down anyway.

Now, the City of St. Louis, the State of Missouri and the project developers have filed a lawsuit against them, alleging malicious prosecution — and seeking actual damages exceeding $1.5 million, plus punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to deter said defendants and others from like conduct.”

Should the City, State and developers prevail, Marcia and Roger could lose all of their assets. Just to defend themselves will cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs, even if lawyers donate some services.

Marcia and Roger stood up for us and for our community. Now, it’s up to us to stand with them.

You can help in one of three ways:

Write a check for any amount to help with legal costs. Make it payable to Downtown Defense Fund, and mail it to:

Downtown Defense Fund
c/o Scott Kluesner, Treasurer
7480 Cornell Avenue
St. Louis MO 63130

Funds received by the end of June are most important.

Attend a free fundraiser on Saturday, June 25, 7:30 p.m. at Gallery Urbis Orbis, 419 N. Tenth Street.
Bring cash or check in any amount to add to the pot, and enjoy music and good food and the company of people who care about our architectural heritage. No need to purchase tickets — but please do RSVP to mmnewman@earthlink.net so we can plan refreshments.

[UPDATE 6/8/05 – 2:45PM – You can also donate via PayPal at downtowndefensefund.com.]

Let’s show our support for preservation and for citizen action. Let’s show it big.

Best regards,

Margie Newman
Amanda Doyle
Fundraising Co-Chairs, Downtown Defense Fund

PS Note that donations are NOT tax-deductible. Should the lawsuit be resolved before the money raised is spent, remaining funds will be donated to a group or groups dedicated to architectural preservation.

From Steve @ Urban Review – St. Louis:
On a personal note I know both Roger and Marcia. They are very good people that I consider to be trusted friends. They did a good thing in trying to stop the razing of this great building for an unnecessary parking garage. The developers prevailed and the current and future citizens of St. Louis lost that battle. We are getting yet another parking garage. But the powers that be are trying to make an example out of Roger and Marcia by filing slap suits against them. This is supposed to send a message to all the rest of us not to get involved.

To everyone behind these suits – FU!!!!!!

This whole thing just pisses me off big time. I’ve got a long list of people and explicatives to describe them but I fear if I did I’d get sued as well. You all know who you are and you know what you are. You also know where you can go!

For everyone else when you stop into the “friendliest” grocery stores in town just remember that you are helping to fund the destruction of downtown St. Louis as well as suing two good people trying to protect the city and their personal investments. This is a black and white issue. You either stand for saving downtown, our urbanity and helping people like Roger and Marcia. Those doing these evil deeds are at the very least making their views known.

All of you, elected or in a position to help, that remain silent are wimps. Grow a spine and take a position. I cannot respect someone that refuses to take on important issues such as this. For once think of the city over yourself. The old idea that you keep quite now so you can get more power so you can do things later doesn’t fly with me — the later never comes because you are always worried about the next thing. This city needs people willing to stand up and be counted. The Downtown Defense Fund is a good start. Many of us are about to stand up and be counted and all of you back room people had better keep a look out because we are going to out number you. Your days of keeping quiet are over!

F@ck this makes me so angry!!!! Taking blood pressure pills now…

– Steve


I’m still too angry to talk about the Century Building

Last month demolition began on the historic Century Building in downtown St. Louis. The failure of the city to recognize the value of saving this building serves as a turning point for myself and others. Mark my words – Mayor Slay will be remembered for letting this happen on his watch. Even though time has passed, I am still too angry to dedicate an entire post to this tragedy.

Instead I want to share another turning point in my life involving the demolition of a historic building – The Biltmore Hotel in Oklahoma City in October 1977. Unlike the Century Building, the Biltmore Hotel was imploded in a highly dramatic fashion. Explosive experts had little concern for collateral damage because the city had already cleared adjacent blocks downtown. Four city blocks, including the block with the Biltmore, were razed to construct a single super-block (read: too big) containing a $39 million botanical garden. Yes, a downtown botanical garden adjacent to the Myriad Gardens convention center – a typical 70’s bland concrete mass on another super-block.

The Oklahoma Biltmore Hotel, built in 1932 at a cost of $4 million, was the tallest building in Oklahoma for many years at roughly 245ft containing 28 floors. Although short compared to the Empire State Building which opened a year earlier in NYC, the Biltmore was as costly on a per-foot in height basis. Amenities included 17 full-time elevator operators for seven elevators, five telephone operators, its own ice plant producing 110 tons of ice daily and three radio channels in every room. When imploded on Sunday October 17, 1977 it was the largest steel framed to be demolished with explosives. In 1995 another explosion occurred in downtown OKC – this time from homegrown terrorists. Since September 11th, many comparisons have been made between the planned demolition of the Biltmore to the collapse of the Twin Towers (due to similar steel structure & colapse pattern).

I still recall that Sunday when the building was imploded. I knew instinctively it was wrong. I cried that day. Nearly 30 years later it still brings tears to my eyes. The following day the Daily Oklahoman printed a story titled, “Youngsters Feel Sorry for Biltmore.” Four 8-year old boys were interviewed for the story. One said, “If all downtown looked like that old hotel it would look a lot better than all these dumb new buildings that reflect light.” This boy, Rodney Ferguson, was referring to the popularity of mirrored buildings. Rodney’s friend Daryl Osmus said, “I think they should fix up these old buildings. They could fix them up and make them better.” Rodney concluded, “In a way I’m glad I came [to see the demo] and in another I’m not.”

The promise of a renewed downtown for Oklahoma City did not appear as a result of the urban renewal project. Other areas are showing signs of life but this area remains devoid of life. Somehow I knew at the young age of 10 the demolition of this great building and the construction of the urban renewal project was a bankrupt idea. I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to express why.

Today I have the vocabulary, forum and passion to express what should and shouldn’t be done to cities. I also have nearly 30 years of seeing cities unnecessarily torn apart in the name of progress.

I intend to do my part to help build better places.

– Steve

Vintage Postcard of Biltmore Hotel

Picture of Implosion
Oklahoma City National Memorial