Home » Big Box »Downtown »History/Preservation »Politics/Policy »Suburban Sprawl » Currently Reading:

St. Louis Likes to Raze Buildings on October 20th

One year ago today developers building the unnecessary parking garage in the Old Post Office District began demolishing the Century Building while a judge was considering a temporary restraining order against demolition. Clearly they wanted to damage the building before a TRO was issued. Ultimately the TRO was not issued. It was a very sad day.

Heard on discussion forums on Wednesday evening, 10/20/2004:

The SE corner is getting a good beating, with small pieces coming down for now. The demo guy explained that they are “laying down a base” of small pieces in the street to protect the pavement, then they’ll start giving it bigger hits.

The next day:

I drove downtown at 10:30pm Wednesday night to take a peek at progress, St. Louis style. The southeast corner of the Century’s top floor certainly had Geisman’s signature on it, but the wrecking ball was idle – at least for the half hour I was there. I asked a construction worker what was going on and he said they were just taking a break at that moment, had been delayed while adding another section to the crane, planned on continuing the demo all night long and that it would take about 4 months to complete the job. I wonder if all-nighters, such as this are budgeted for the entire 4 month term or limited to only the wee hours of evenings preceding a judge’s ruling on a petition for a TRO. Does the side opposing the motion for a TRO in this case, gain leverage by rendering the building beyond redemption? Geez, given the issues being heard by a judge concurrently, ! wouldn’t such a blatant and vitriolic action be considered Contempt of Court?

From another on 10/21/2004:

As far as I could tell, the pounding stopped around 2 am. I finally got back to sleep close to 4 am and never heard any destruction noise after that.

The mood for many in the city was low. In time the “establishment” will realize the error of razing the Century Building.

Fast forward to present…

Last night the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Houston Astros, ending their 2005 season. Demolition will now begin on the old Busch Stadium. Originally they had planned to implode the 40 year old structure but they will instead use more conventional demolition techniques.

When they were discussing imploding the stadium I began a post I was going to title, “Top Ten Buildings I’d Implode Before Busch Stadium.” I didn’t want my work to go to waste so here is the list:

  • 10 – Indoor malls, starting with Westfield “Shopping Towns”
  • 9 – Chesterfield Commons, sprawling strip/big box center in flood plain
  • 8 – St. Louis Marketplace, nearly vacant strip/big box center
  • 7 – Interstate highways in the City of St. Louis (I-44, I-55 and I-70)
  • 6 – Westport Plaza, a make believe city.
  • 5 – A. G. Edwards Complex (link w/strong language)
  • 4 – All parking garages lacking street level retail (quite a few)
  • 3 – Pet Building
  • 2 – Adams Mark Hotel
  • 1 – Gateway One
  • While I like the arches of the “old” stadium I can live without the rest of it. The building to sidewalk relationship is dismal. The new stadium shows more promise from an urban perspective although the whole red brick retro thing is a predictable.

    – Steve

    PS @ 10:45am: It was 11 days later, on October 31, 2004, that I started Urban Review – St. Louis.


    Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

    1. bprop says:

      Why the Adams Mark?

      [REPLY – Have you actually seen the Adams Mark? It is butt ugly!!! It is glossy and dated. The relationship to the sidewalk is almost non-existent. The site deserves at least two buildings with more street level activity. – SLP]

    2. Brian says:

      And why the Pet Building? Sure, its Brutalist design gives off the fortress feeling at street level, but considering it’s very close to a major crossroads of multiple interstates, I think its new life as high-end residential will be at least be more 24/7 than its old life as a corporate headquarters.

      [REPLY – Brian you answered your own question. Fortress feeling at the sidewalk is reason enough not like the building. Converting it to residential will not suddenly make this a 24/7 area of bustling activity. The base of the Pet could be transformed into a more vibrant area but it would need the support of activity from surrounding blocks. – SLP]

    3. Brian S. says:

      I’m probably the only person in St. Louis who feels this way, but I don’t think Gateway One is all that bad. Sure, its design is a bit bland, but if the blocks to the west of it were developed with new buildings (which they should be), I don’t think G1 would be a problem.

      [REPLY – Yes, if we improve the general area its lack of urban connection won’t be such an issue. I guess it could have been worse but overall it really doesn’t relate to a sidewalk or the spaces around it. The lush landscaping is attractive but doens’t encourage anyone to approach the building on foot. – SLP]

      One building I’ve always disliked is the short, round building that is part of the Sheraton Four Points hotel – I believe it’s right at Walnut and Fourth, just north of the Pet Building. Talk about “fortress-like.” The hotel also is a complete waste of space, with a long, one-story entrance/lobby section connecting the small round building with the larger hotel tower.

      [REPLY – Agreed, that should have been on my list! – SLP]

    4. Joe Frank says:

      At least the Adam’s Mark, when built, did reuse the existing Pierce Building as part of the new hotel.

      While it’s certainly not pretty, at least it’s an urban building that runs right up to the sidewalk. It may be a little dated, as in 1980s, but not really worthy of much rage.

      OTOH, the racist management practices of HBE, Fred Kummer and Adam’s Mark are well-documented. For that reason, I could see disliking the company, not necessarily the building itself.

      [REPLY – Up to the sidewalk does not an urban building make. The blank sides of the convention center are up to the sidewalk – does this make it urban? Ditto for numerous buildings downtown, including the Adams Mark. – SLP]

    5. Michael says:

      I showed a group of middle schoolers the Adam’s Mark on a tour the other day and told them the use of the Pierce Building structure — they were shocked. While I think that the form of the Adam’s Mark isn’t horrifying, its expression and fenestration are poorly-conceived. The big, sidewalk-hugging form almost looks worse with so many small windows and the blank walls at sidewalk level than it would had the building been less site-sensitive.

      [REPLY – Does anyone know if the Pierce Building looked original when it was refaced as part of the Adams Mark? That would have been a shame. I agree that sometimes it is better to be back from the sidewalk – when you are doing a windowless building. At least then we can throw in some plantings to soften visual impact on the pedestrian.

      Sure, the Adam’s Mark doesn’t neec to be razed but it does need serious help to be a positive contribution to the city.

      – SLP]

    6. Paul Hohmann says:

      Built St. Louis has several images of the Pierce Building prior to its defacement and transformation to the current abomination that is the Adam’s Mark. There is an image from 1977, which shows that the original massive cornice at the top, a secondary cornice three floors from the top, as well as smaller projecting bands above the 2nd and 3rd floors had been removed. Other than that, the building retained its original fenestration and other details. here is a link to the photos.

    7. Brian says:

      Style and activity are often independent factors in how a building contributes to street life. Generally, older buildings look better up-close, and newer buildings from afar. But as a pedestrian, all buildings still function as a sidewalk-abutting use (or hopefully mix of uses) at street level.

      The Wainwright, a beautiful old building, is pretty lifeless (except M-F/8-5) as a state office building, especially with its campus addition. The Millenium at 6th/Olive is Modernist ugly and plain (IMHO), yet adds to street life by only occupying part of its diverse block, and more importantly, having a florist and coffee shop along the sidewalks at street level.

      Mixing uses and reorienting street-level spaces of existing downtown buildings could be the saving grace of many of our downtown buildings, whether old or new, ugly or beautiful.


    Comment on this Article: