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Word Police: Vacant vs Abandoned

People often refer to vacant properties as abandoned.  Though abandoned properties are usually vacant – unless a squatter has occupied it – a vacant property isn’t necessarily abandoned. Take the beloved Laclede Power building (1246 Lewis St) as an example.

The Laclede Power building, just North of the Ashley Street Power House, a contributing building in the , would be razed
The historic Laclede Power building on the North Riverfront has been vacant for many years, but it’s hardly “abandoned”

This building, long been identified as a trailhead for the north riverfront trail, has been vacant for years, it’s boarded and has missing windows. Classic abandoned building, right? Wrong!  Anyone who knows the history wouldn’t describe it as abandoned:

In 2001, Trigen St. Louis Energy Corp. donated the 45,000-square-foot Laclede Power Center at 1246 Lewis St., valued at $150,000, to Trailnet.

Trailnet plans to develop the building to serve as a gathering place for cyclists using the St. Louis Riverfront Trail. Originally, Trailnet sought to develop the building alone, but the group now plans to partner on the site with a for-profit developer. Tucker said the organization will have a request for proposals available in early June; it’s already spent about $1.5 million on property repair and environmental cleanup. (St. Louis Business Journal)

The building is now owned by Great Rivers Greenway District:

Our History

In the year 2000, the people of the greater St. Louis area voted to create the Great Rivers Greenway District. By exercising their voice and their vote, the residents of the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County made it clear that they wanted to make the St. Louis region a better place to live. Since that time, the Great Rivers Greenway District has been working to carry out the vision of the people.

Our Mission

The fundamental purpose of the Great Rivers Greenway District is to make the St. Louis region an even better place to live by creating a clean, green and connected region.

Lots of effort & money have gone into this building over the years, including a new roof, waterproofing, etc. to stabilize it. It’s one of my favorites, so much so we have a large framed photo from the interior in our entryway.

Another example is the closed Jamestown Mall.

The Jamestown Mall food court in 2011
The Jamestown Mall food court in 2011, only four stalls were open

Yesterday:

FLORISSANT, Mo. (KMOV.com) – St. Louis County Police were searching the abandoned Jamestown Mall early Monday morning after a break-in was reported. (KMOV –Police respond after break-in reported at abandoned North County mall)

It’s closed, but not abandoned! The building still has power & water, the owner is presumably paid the property taxes. Saturday afternoon Fox2 posted the story ‘Take a creepy trip into the abandoned Jamestown Mall‘, featuring this video (some language NSFW):

At the 11 minute mark the urban explorer reaches the mall office — the lights are on in the hallway, a chime goes off and he says, “I have a feeling I should not be in here.”  Though the video includes “abandoned” in the title the description on YouTube is:

Published on Dec 15, 2014
Exploring a certain StL mall upon popular request. The power is still on here and it is alarmed. DO NOT attempt to trespass here; you will be caught and charged. Armed guards patrol the mall 24/7. 

A vacant building with power, water, alarm, security guards, etc isn’t abandoned!

So why am I playing the role of word police? Words influence perceptions and perceptions can influence action — or inaction.

Please don’t call a building abandoned unless you know for sure the legal owner has walked away from the property.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis’ Latest Folly: New NFL Stadium

The Rams Task Force unveiled its proposal for a new open-air stadium in downtown St. Louis last Friday:

The proposed location of the new stadium is on the North Riverfront, adjacent to Laclede’s Landing, sitting on over 90 acres of privately and publicly owned property. The completion date would be set no later than 2020. (KSDK)

The reactions to Friday’s announcement of a proposal for a new stadium were swift and varied; some liked it, others habte it. It was suggested it’ll never happen, it’s just a way for politicians to say they tried their best to keep the Rams from leaving or Kroenke is set on LA, he’ll never go for it. Unlike when we failed to get an NFL expansion team and we had to attract an existing team, now all we need to do make the proposal attractive enough so the NFL owners don’t vote to allow the Rams to leave — except that Kroenke seems willing to build a new LA stadium, move the team, and fight his fellow NFL owners in court. The truth is likely a combination of all these.

Rather than rush out a post, I wanted to visit the area again in person before putting my thoughts down. My previous visit was in May 2012, passing through on Amtrak.

The Cotton Belt is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, click image to see nomination.
The Cotton Belt is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, click image to see nomination.

Hopefully this won’t go forward, but we must act as if it will to help block it.

The good:

  • Proposed stadium not within the CBD (Central Business District): I’ve been posting for years that NFL has no place in a CBD, they play too few games and the tailgate tradition means surface parking — both bad if you desire a 24/7 downtown.  For these reasons, other cities have placed their stadiums just outside their CBD
  • Recognition of need to connect two areas long separated by highway: Two long-neglected areas on each side of I-44, previously I-70, each need investment and access to each other.
  • Open-air, dual use for soccer: Open air is much nicer than dark and closed (EJD), weather permitting. Major League Soccer (MLS) is expanding, we could get an expansion team if we build a stadium. This sounds vaguely familiar…
  • Would retain the Ashley Street Power House, a city landmark.

And the bad:

  • Bad use of public resources, see Nicklaus: Stadium may sparkle, but it’s not an investment“St. Louis is being asked to pay dearly for the prestige of remaining an NFL city, so I think Peacock described his stadium plan accurately when he called it a “crown jewel.” A jewel can sparkle and make its owner feel good, but it’s hardly a productive use of half a billion dollars.”
  • Would destroy recently completed (April 2013) $10 million+ transitional housing project called Stamping Lofts, halt plans for future phase to create urban farming jobs know as FarmWorks.
  • Would destroy the unique Cotton Belt building (shown above), individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places for over a decade.
  • Would destroy the William Kerr Foundation building, a state of the art green building.
  • Would destroy the Laclede Power building.
  • Would wipe out most of the North Riverfront Industrial Historic District & the North Broadway Wholesale and Warehouse District, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places,in 2003 & 2010, respectively.
  • Would  destroy numerous vacant warehouses that could be used for offices and/or residential.
  • Would force numerous businesses to close or relocate.
  • The railroad isn’t likely to agree to routing their track to the West of this new stadium, in a ditch.  Leaders must’ve forgotten about the legal battles won by the railroad when designers want the track moved for the Arch, see tunnel.
  • Although MetroBus service exists, light rail isn’t close.

Let’s take a look:

The Laclede Power building, just North of the Ashley Street Power House, a contributing building in the , would be razed
The Laclede Power building, just North of the Ashley Street Power House, a contributing building in the North Riverfront Industrial Historic District, would be razed. Considerable money has been spent over the years to stabilize the building so it might be rehabbed in the future.
Warehouses in the along Ashley between 2nd and Lewis.
Warehouses, contributing buildings in the North Riverfront Industrial Historic District along Ashley St between 2nd and Lewis.
These buildings along North Broadway are the main part of the Wholesale & Warehouse Historic District, the Shady Jacks  Saloon is located in part
These buildings along North Broadway are the main part of the Wholesale & Warehouse Historic District, the Shady Jacks Saloon is located in part
These buildings are part of the same district on the National Register.
These buildings are part of the same district on the National Register.
After a $10 million dollar investment, the Stamping Lofts opened in April 2013. Also part of the same historic district.
After a $10 million dollar investment, the Stamping Lofts opened in April 2013. Also part of the same historic district.

For years now this area has been coming together, with two National Register historic districts and one individually-listed building, substantial investments have been made to numerous buildings as a result. Don’t our leadership care about the investments, businesses, and year-round jobs? Sadly, as I pointed out yesterday, St. Louis began planning to raze a hotel less than a decade after it opened.

It also seems like every decade our leadership wants to raze a historic building — this would let them take away two entire districts and an individually-listed building. It’s been just over a decade since the wrecking ball began taking down the Century Building, so they’re on schedule I suppose.  This area is also likely targeted because the owners of Lumière Place Casino and Hotels and Bissinger’s don’t like the rest of the area between them.

I’ll end with an open note to Rams owner Stan Kroenke:

Mr. Kroenke:

There are lots of large vacant sites in the St. Louis region where you could build a stadium. I say you build it because you’re a real estate developer, you know the value of owning the real estate. More importantly, I want you to own any new stadium so you’ll reinvest your profits in it as you see fit, also making it harder to walk away in 10-20 years.

You can do something else with your property in Inglewood, CA, but I think you already know prime property like that has many potential projects. Hell, build a stadium on it for another NFL team. But please, don’t accept the task force proposal — we’d lose too much and gain…more public debt.

So build elsewhere in the region or move the team back to LA!

 — Steve Patterson

 

State & Local Leadership Have Failed To Learn From Mistakes Of The Last 75+ Years

I’d like to think that after decades of leadership pushing projects that clear many acres of buildings, streets, sidewalks, utilities, etc., that someone in city hall or Jefferson City would realize that such projects are costly follies that never live up to the promises. Some examples:

mage from Jefferson National Expansion Memorial archives.
Forty city blocks sat vacant for over 3 decades, helping to drag down downtown. In the late 60s the Arch opened and in the 70s the site was landscaped. Currently we’re spending hundreds of millions more to correct design flaws that separated the Arch grounds from downtown.   Image from Jefferson National Expansion Memorial archives.
The failed Pruitt-Igoe project is still studied all over the world, the site has been vacant now twice as long as the 33 buildings stood.
The failed Pruitt-Igoe project is still studied all over the world, the site has been vacant now twice as long as the 33 buildings stood.
The Darst-Webbe towers on the near south side circa 1990-91, razed
The Darst-Webbe towers on the near south side circa 1990-91, razed
The last high-rise tower from the Cochran Gardens project was razed in 2011
The last high-rise tower from the Cochran Gardens project was razed in 2011
The last Blumeyer tower starting to be razed,, November 2014
The last Blumeyer tower starting to be razed,, November 2014
Aloe Plaza across from Union Station cleared away "undesirable"  buildings, followed by decades more demolition creating the largely failed Gateway Mall
Aloe Plaza across from Union Station cleared away “undesirable” buildings, followed by decades more demolition creating the largely failed Gateway Mall
The historic Western Union building at 9th % Chestnut was razed in 1993 for a 2-block passive green space as part pf the Gateway Mall.
The historic Western Union building at 9th % Chestnut was razed in 1993 for a 2-block passive green space as part of the Gateway Mall.  Just 15 years later we realized more passive space was a huge mistake, so we got the active 2-block Citygarden.
Looking east along Washington Ave from 7th, February 2006
St. Louis Centre was a huge internally focused indoor mall downtown between two department stores, the mall is now a parking garage
ABOVE: The 8th Street face of the Stadium West garage. The pedestrian ramp to the street crossing isn't ADA-compliant, Stadium East doesn't have a similar ramp.
In 1966 Busch Stadium II project wiped out our Chinatown district, 4 decades later we started over again
Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis
All over the city we tore off the fronts of buildings to widen streets, 4 decades later everything you see was razed for the Cervantes Convention Center. Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis
Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D'Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.
Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

There have been countless other projects; including highways that separated neighborhoods, warehouses that destroyed the street grid, etc. In 1988 the city began discussing buying the Sheraton Hotel, located immediately east of the Cervantes Convention Center to expand and build a football stadium, the 600+ room hotel wasn’t even a decade old when talk began of razing it to expand the convention center and build a domed stadium.

As politicians smiled and sweated in Monday morning’s 89-degree heat, ground was broken for the $260 million stadium expansion of Cervantes Convention Center.  The building, scheduled for completion by October 1995, will seat 70,000 for professional football. With 177,000  square feet of exhibit space on one level, it will accommodate events as large as national political conventions.  During the hour-long ceremonial groundbreaking at Seventh Street and Convention Plaza, demolition crews began swinging a giant ”headache ball” at the old Sheraton Hotel, one block north. Each swipe at the 13-year-old hotel, which sits near the 50-yard-line of the stadium expansion, brought cheers.  But the sturdily built hotel was slow to succumb to the headache ball. (Post-Dispatch Tuesday, July 14, 1992)

I was just 25 when demolition began on a tall hotel that wasn’t even 15 years old, but it was worth a couple of shots on my roll of film.

The Sheraton Hotel being razed in July 1992
The 13 year old Sheraton Hotel being razed in July 1992

Razing the hotel built to serve conventions meant we had to build another convention hotel, the Renaissance Grand has lost money since opening.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

— Albert Einstein

Tomorrow I’ll post about the particulars of the latest St. Louis folly: last friday’s proposal for a new NFL/MLS stadium to convince billionaire Stan Kroenke from moving the Rams back to Los Angeles.

— Steve Patterson

 

1893 House on Delmar Blvd Getting Rehabbed

I like to end each week with a positive post and nothing is more positive than a favorite building, long written off, getting rehabbed. A large house on Delmar, with unique dormers, has been in disrepair for years.  A few months ago a friend posted on Facebook that work was starting on the building. Earlier this month I took the #97 MetroBus to photograph the progress.

Work was still ongoing on my December 12th visit.
Work was still ongoing on my December 12th visit.
Diagonally across Delmar & Pendleton
Diagonally across Delmar & Pendleton, click image for map
This March 2014 photo from GEO St. Louis shows the old fire escape from when the house was divided into multiple units.
This March 2014 photo from GEO St. Louis shows the old fire escape from when the house was divided into multiple units.

City records indicate 4270 Delmar Blvd was built in 1893 and contains 5,687 sq ft. This property is just a couple of blocks West of another favorite building, that also recently got rehabbed, now known as Freedom Place. Fingers crossed someone will take on the building at the East end of Fountain Park.

— Steve Patterson

 

Heating With Soft Coal Caused Black Tuesday 75 Years Ago Today

"Mist and smoke hung over St. Louis on this day in January more than year after Black Tuesday however the smoke lifted within a hour." Missouri Department of Natural Resources
“Mist and smoke hung over St. Louis on this day in January more than year after Black Tuesday however the smoke lifted within a hour.” Missouri Department of Natural Resources

During the 1930s the population of St. Louis was declining, no doubt in part due to the unhealthy air during the winter months when soft coal was used to heat nearly every building.

In February 1937 a smoke ordinance was passed creating a “Division of Smoke Regulation in the Department of Public Safety”, forcing larger businesses to burn only clean coal and setting standards for smoke emission and inspection. By 1938 emissions from commercial smokestacks had been reduced by two-thirds. (Wikipedia)

Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann, the first Democratic Mayor in decades, put Raymond Tucker in charge of cleaning the air. In 1941 Dickmann lost the race for a third term, defeated by Republican William F. Becker:

 

Perhaps the most significant development during Becker’s term as mayor was the adoption of a civil service amendment to the City Charter. The amendment enacted a merit system for the hiring of city employees. Prior to that time, a political patronage system prevailed in which all city employees could be replaced with a change of partisan administration. Becker supported the civil service reform and it was approved by the voters in September 1941. Becker also retained Raymond Tucker who had been appointed Smoke Commissioner by Mayor Dickmann, and supported his efforts to reduce air pollution within the city. (Wikipedia)

Becker was killed in a glider accident just two years later, he was succeeded by the Republican President of the Board of Aldermen Aloys P. Kaufmann.  Kaufmann was elected to a full term in 1945, he was the last Republican mayor in St. Louis.

I’m glad the citizens of St. Louis in the 30s & 40s took the big steps they did to clean the air. Today I don’t think we have the kind of political leadership that it takes to achieve such change.

— Steve Patterson

 

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