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Doering Mansion Sacrificed for Disappointing Mississippi Bluffs Developments

South Broadway once had some stately homes, with great views overlooking the Mississippi River. In early 2006 one was gone — razed for a multi-building condo project known as Mississippi Bluffs.

The former Doering Mansion
The former Doering Mansion
The River facade
The river facade

Most of the site for Mississippi Bluffs was to come from the former Good Samaritan Home, the Doering Mansion to the North, was included in the sale of the closed retirement home. The developer wanted just the retirement home site, but the seller wouldn’t split them up. Rather than market the Doering Mansion himself, the developer incorporated that land into his plans:

He’s building an oasis of 34 high-end condominiums on the Mississippi, each with its own garage and surrounded by 6.2 acres of park, sidewalks for dog walking and jogging, and a large pool. It sits on the city’s only mile of terrain above the flood plain, 80 feet above the Mississippi, perfectly positioned for views of the barge industry to the north, vast river to the south and Illinois forest to the east. 

Now, if only he could sell that idea to everyone else.

The land Curran is so fond of was once the site of a retirement home run by the Good Samaritans. The nonprofit organization also owned the adjacent Doering Mansion, which sat unused for 30 years. When the complex went up for sale in 2003, the owners’ only stipulation was that the mansion and the home could not be sold separately—no exceptions. Thus both buildings just sat. And sat. (St. Louis Magazine — September 2007)

I wrote about this project quite a bit at the time:

Many questioned the plan and the developer’s ability to perform. See map.

Only one of the planned buildings was built -- on the south end of the site. As promised, the garage doors weren't visible from Broadway
Only one of the planned buildings was built — on the south end of the site. As promised, the garage doors weren’t visible from Broadway

But the balance of the site remained vacant for years. Now the plan has changed — not for the better.

The view from the North entry, where the Doering once stood. Garage doors are highly visible from Broadway.  
The view from the North entry, where the Doering once stood. Garage doors are highly visible from Broadway.
Up close the garages are very prominent. The original condo plan had the tuck-under garages.
Up close the garages are very prominent. The original condo plan had the tuck-under garages. Click image for the official website

Their views of the river are stunning.

It’s certainly possible had the Doering Mansion not been razed it would still be vacant and falling apart, but it’s also possible it would’ve been renovated and occupied years ago. A trusted politically-connected developer was allowed to raze one the few remaining mansions in a historic district because his project would fail without doing so. It failed anyway.

If only the Doering Mansion had been offered for sale on its own, only then would we have known if anyone would’ve been interested in renovating it. I’m just glad I don’t get down to this area very much anymore, I’d hate to see these garages on a regular basis.

— Steve Patterson

 

What Will Become of the Historic Former Arsenal Site Once the National Geospatial-Intellegence Agency Relocates?

The battle over where the National Geospatial-Intellegence Agency (NGA) will relocate intensified recently when Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner stepped late in the game with a bid across the Mississippi River:

St. Clair County has agreed to donate land near Scott Air Force Base and MidAmerica Airport to the combined defense and intelligence agency, which provides mapping support for the U.S. military  and employs 3,000 people locally.

The agency is also considering two sites in St. Louis County and one in north St. Louis as it looks to move from its current location near the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Missouri. (KMOX)

Here’s more about the NGA:

NGA is headquartered in Springfield, Va. and has two major locations in St. Louis and Arnold, Mo. Hundreds of NGA employees serve on support teams at U.S. military, diplomatic and allied locations around the world. (NGA

I’ve questioned the wisdom of the city site from a design viewpoint, see St. Louis’ Low Standards Turns A Once-Proud City Into A Suburban Office Park. Keeping these jobs in the city makes sense financially, though employees who also live in the city will still pay earnings tax.

This post, however, isn’t about the new site — it’s about the current site and what will become of it once the NGA relocates.

3200 S. 2nd
NGA, located at 2nd & Arsenal St, as seen from Lyon Park. The grounds include historic 19th century structures and some very large newer structures
I arrived on the #30 MetroBus
I arrived on the #30 MetroBus, the #40 goes by on Broadway
The site is well protected.
The site is well protected, the cannonballs on top of the stone posts pay tribute to the days when this was a federal arsenal  — hence Arsenal St.
A
An employee leaving the site to catch the next bus.

City records don’t list any information about any of the buildings on the site — makes sense since it’s a spy agency located on Air Force property. Thankfully the St. Louis Air Force Station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in January 1975.

Within the confines of this acreage are ten buildings with erection dates from 1830 to 1906. These buildings are of Federal architecture, and are arranged in such a manner that gives an excellent example of the building prac tices and a remnant layout of a major arsenal of the early 19th Century.

Of particular interest are buildings #4 and #5, which are two of the oldest and best preserved buildings on base. Both are constructed of limestone walls over stone foundations, and their site and architectural integrity has not been altered since they were built in the l830’s. These buildings are built in the Federal style of architecture, which characterizes the majority of the other buildings except buildings 20 and 22 which are of modified Federal architecture. A further exception to this style is evident in building #25, which was constructed in 1906, and is believed to be of modified French Colonial architecture. It should also be noted that building #1 has lost its architectural integrity through extensive modification, but it was of modified Federal architecture before remodeling.

Site alterations have occurred to buildings #12 and #13. Each were originally built as three separate buildings in the form of a “Cross”, but during the early 1920’s, the middle building was removed, rebuilt, and connected in a straight line with the other two buildings. The integrity of the end sections of each building was maintained. Also, building #1 had considerable architectural alteration in January 1963. The building origin ally had three floors, but the second and third floors were rer.ovedj and the first floor was rebuilt. Site integrity was preserved. (St. Louis Air Force Station nomination)

One large multi-story building on the site was built after 1975. What will become of this property once the NGA vacates?

— Steve Patterson

 

Repurposing Gas Stations As Restaurants

The other day, while waiting at a red light, I noticed a business had opened in an old filling station at Eichelberger & S. Kingshighway. The ice cream shop is called The Filling Station.

The Filling Station opened in 2013, click image to see entry on Yelp.
The Filling Station opened in 2013, click image to see entry on Yelp.

I haven’t patronized the business so I can’t speak to the food or service. However, I can say I love the building and its use as a restaurant. Before the light turned green I was thinking about the lunch my husband and I had in Kansas City, at a place I thought was a former gas station.

Joe's Kansas City, formerly Oklahoma Joe's, is among the most popular BBQ restaurants in Kansas City.
Joe’s Kansas City, formerly Oklahoma Joe’s, is among the most popular BBQ restaurants in Kansas City, thankfully we arrived before the line was out the door.
Inside the former service bays
Inside the former service bays
It was after we ate that I realized this was still a functional gas station!
It was after we ate that I realized this was still a functional gas station!

A hugely popular restaurant operating out of a current gas station? Here’s part of their story:

Later that year [1996], experience and commitment intersected with opportunity and serendipity at the corner of 47th Avenue and Mission Road in Kansas City, Kansas, where the owner of a little neighborhood gas station and convenience store, not far from the Stehneys’ house, closed the little fried chicken counter he had been operating inside the store. “It seemed like a pretty good place for a barbecue joint,” Jeff says. “Inside a gas station. Plus there was a liquor store next door, in the same building, which was kind of cool. But the main thing was that it was close to home. I knew we’d be putting in some long hours, and being close to home would be a really good thing. We put together a proposal, made an offer, and all of a sudden we were not only in the barbecue business, but also in the gas station business.” (Joe’s KC)

As a vegetarian I don’t visit BBQ places, but I’d read about their portobello sandwich: The Portobello Z-Man Sandwich $7.39 (smoked portobella, smoked provolone cheese, topped with two crispy onion rings, on a toasted Kaiser roll).

The operating gas station in KC doesn’t have the architectural charm of the older & smaller building in south St. Louis, but the idea is great. What a great way for someone wanting to get into the restaurant business — opening up inside an existing gas station. I’m curious how many gas stations we have in the region that have lunch counters inside. If you’ve got a great product, you could do well.

Have a great weekend, see you at 8am Sunday for a one day poll (8am-8pm).

— Steve Patterson

 

Reminder: 15th Ward Candidate Forum Tonight; Another Thursday October 2nd

September 29, 2014 Board of Aldermen, Events/Meetings, Featured, South City Comments Off on Reminder: 15th Ward Candidate Forum Tonight; Another Thursday October 2nd
A candidate forum will be held on Monday September 29, 2014 at the Carpenter Library, 7pm
A candidate forum will be held at 7pm tonight, Monday September 29, 2014, at the Carpenter Library

If you’re a registered voter in the 15th ward I urge you to attend the candidate forum at 7pm tonight, Monday September 29, 2014, Carpenter Library, lower level, 3309 S. Grand

Here are the four candidates, in reverse ballot order:

The special election is a week from tomorrow, Tuesday October 7, 2014. Previous post: Upcoming 15th Ward Special Election In Three Weeks; Candidate Forum Monday September 29, 2014.

Can’t make it tonight but want to meet the candidates?  The Royale St. Louis Bar & Grill has another forum on Thursday, October 2nd 9pm-10:30pm. Here’s the description of the Facebook event as of 9/18:

Megan Ellyia-Green (independent) – confirmed
Missy Pinkerton McDaniel (Democrat) – invited
Joshua Simpson (Republican) – confirmed
Rhonda Smythe (Independent) – confirmed

Michael R. Allen, moderator

In a special election on October 7, voters if the 15th Ward will elect a new alderperson. Three candidates are running for the open seat, and this event will allow them to share their views and passions. The format will be simple: the moderator will pose questions with yes or no answers, and then allow each candidate time for the short one-word answer and an elaboration. People will leave knowing without a doubt where these candidates stand. Clear answers make informed voters who make a stronger city.

The Royale is a great venue because it serves Tower Grove South, the ward’s largest neighborhood. While currently located in the 10th ward, the Royale has been previously included in other wards before including the 15th, and has many patrons within the 15th. In 2023, when the city reduces from 28 to 14 wards, who knows — the Royale could be represented by one of the four stars of this evening’s event!

Neither the Royale nor the moderator have endorsed or otherwise supported any of the four candidates, or any committee that has endorsed or supported them. Fair and impartial, y’all.

If you’re a 15th ward voter please try to attend one or both of these events.

— Steve Patterson

 

Jefferson & Russell Intersection Improved, Far From Perfect

A year ago I posted about a need to improve the pedestrian experience at Jefferson & Russell (map), see Jefferson Avenue Needs A Road Diet, Corridor Study Part 1.

A female pedestrian makes her way across Jefferson at Russell
September 2013: a female pedestrian makes her way across Jefferson at Russell
September 2014: Within the last year automatic pedestrian signals have been added (circled in red) and the crosswalks made more visible.
September 2014: Within the last year automatic pedestrian signals have been added (circled in red) and the crosswalks made more visible.

It’s a small start, a few low-cost improvements until a new streetscape can be planned and funded. For those who cross Jefferson at Russell these are welcomed changes.

— Steve Patterson

 

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