Home » Downtown »History/Preservation »Homeless »Planning & Design » Currently Reading:

Interco Plaza, An Ugly Reminder of Past Mistakes

December 21, 2007 Downtown, History/Preservation, Homeless, Planning & Design 24 Comments

St. Louis, like many other older industrial cities, has made numerous mistakes in the past decades. One of those is a city park, known as Interco Plaza, located at Tucker and Dr. Martin Luther King. The city’s lists of parks simply indicates it is 0.71 acres and has a single fountain. However, the fountain no longer exists. From the City Journal on May 14, 2002 I see the Board of Public voted to approve “Demolition of the High Wall of Interco Plaza Fountain, Tucker Street & Dr. Martin Luther King.”

When proposed I’m sure the artist rendering showed many people conversing around the now-removed fountain. Politicos probably wax poetically about how this new investment in the city was going to do wonders for the area as nothing else had. It may have worked, for a while. Today it stands (barely) as a relic of the brutalist concrete movement.
Although I had been past it hundreds of times I had never stopped and taken a closer look. On a hot day this past August, I did stop and take in the beauty of all the broken up concrete:


So who is this Interco Incorporated? Their long standing name was the International Shoe Company and currently they are known as Furniture Brands. Furniture Brands is based in Clayton, in the Interco Tower which opened in 1985. Click here for a company history.


Interco Plaza is located at the SE corner of Tucker and Dr. Martin Luther King — between the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to the North, the St. Louis Public Schools HQ to the East and St. Patrick Center to the South. The balance of the area is parking. Hadley Street to the East was cut off to through traffic and Dr. King Drive between Hadley and 10th were also removed. Just as well, the Convention Center cuts off through access on Dr. King.

Getting in closer we see the Plaza before the removal of the fountain and the high wall near it. The green spaces (left & bottom) shown above are holes to the tunnel below. The balance of the green, basically the NE corner, are at grade. Still doing research but I guess that a building and basement were razed at this site and the plaza was the replacement.

A few images:












This park is such a horrible space, even the homeless will not use it! Well, at least not the top. Homeless do use the space underneath and the tunnel under Tucker for shelter. A Post-Dispatch article from October indicated the city estimates the cost to replace Tucker (either by filling in the tunnel or building a new tunnel) will cost $30 million, they are seeking federal assistance. Unclear to me is the future of Interco Plaza.

It really needs to go away.

Does Furniture Brands still own the land under the air rights? Can we re-open the closed streets in the area? What about building an SRO (Single Room Occupancy) on a portion of the land? What will become of those living underneath?
I just watched a documentary, about the homeless in an abandoned Amtrak tunnel, filmed in the late 1990s in NYC. The film, Dark Days, was very moving. The homeless themselves were the film crew. This documentary, the first for Marc Singer, received several awards, including a couple at the Sundance Film Festival in 2000.

Here is a brief intro:

Like the rest of our city, we have many forgotten areas between areas being revitalized. We need to learn what we can from past mistakes such as brutal concrete plazas and resolve to reconnect and heal the entire city.


Currently there are "24 comments" on this Article:

  1. DeBaliviere says:

    Not only did Interco build that crappy plaza, they left downtown for Clayton as well. Thanks for the double-whammy, Interco!

    Aside from the P-D, Globe and St. Patrick’s buildings, that whole area is absolutely horrible. Tacky suburban office buildings in the CBD – ugh!

  2. john says:

    Learn from past mistakes…are you kidding? We’re too busy repeating them (TIFs, more parking lots, unkept sidewalks, underwriting sprawl, Page extension, the New 64, the list goes on) and the common theme is favoring/supporting motor vehicles over people.
    – –
    Decades ago, leadership and the citizens worked to create a prosperous and livable city. Between the late ninetheenth century and early ’60s, beautiful buildings, homes, parks, businesses, were created, Gaslight Sq was hopping with hip entertainment, and StL was considered an international travel and business hub.
    – –
    Since? Numerous businesses have been sold and even Interco is rumored to be in line. Divided communities are more divided than before and the need for future tax receipts will burden a smaller population base. Leaders like Stanley saw the obvious, felt that he was a progressive in a decidedly backward city and state, and said “If you can’t get out of your damn car for a hamburger, something’s wrong,” Exactly, will locals ever wake up?

  3. Jim Zavist says:

    I’d guess the lower level is/was related to the old railroad access in the area, serving the P-D, among others. This is also a classic example of politicians willing to do ribbon cuttings, but not to fund ongoing maintenance. Without judging the original design (tastes change, and this was mainstream 30-40 years ago), if public infrastructure is not maintained, it serves little real long-term use, and it’s a true waste of our limited tax revenues.

  4. john w. says:

    The small art museums and exhibition rooms around this city should be constantly filled with work representing the musings of us all regarding urban issues in St. Louis. These spaces provide venue for local voices, and after months of reading posts and comments on this blog I honestly cannot think of a better way to get the ideas off of this site and into the larger public forum. Given the opportunity to propose even fictitious projects on designated sites or of even larger scope might just the budge monstrous boulder of apathy and provide some opportunity. You never, never know.

  5. citizen says:

    Better to rehab a vacant loft building to an SRO, and use this site for a new high rise office (doubtful) or condo tower. Enough of the historic lofts have gone yuppie. Save a couple for affordable housing. Ironically, it was affordable housing developments in these projects (ArtLoft, Merchandize Building), that really got the Loft District off the ground. Now it’s all yuppies, white, or empty nesters, mostly. That article in the PD was a real eye opener, the one about how the face of DT is so different from the face of the rest of the city. Wanna preserve diversity downtown? Better keep building affordable housing.

  6. Brian says:

    This “park” is a great example of why it shouldn’t require a citywide vote to sell or lease such land.

  7. Chris says:

    The hole in question is definitely the remains of the infamous Tucker Street railroad tunnel. Check out the webpage of someone who explored it:


  8. Jim Zavist says:

    Brian – I disagree, sort of. Yes, government, needs some flexibility to manage its resources wisely. But no, government shouldn’t be free to neglect existing resources while spending money on new monuments to politicians’ egos. Bottom line, it’s usually less expensive (but a lot more boring) in the long run to maintain an investment than to replace it.
    Here, it wasn’t the wisest investment by the city in the first place (limited public use, more of a way to have the city, instead of the developer, convert uncovered tracks into a “plaza” that benefitted adjacent buildings ). I just have a problem with the concept of “letting it rot away” serving any real purpose. Yes, the area needs help and revitalization (again). So do other parts of St. Louis. Do we let parks elsewhere fall into decline, as well, under the assumption that a pile of money will be found to rebuild and reinvent them?! Or do we pick and choose which sites to walk away from? In some areas, city investment (and maintenance) is essentially the only investment currently happening. Do we give up, or do we hold out hope?

  9. Jon B says:

    It seems a little short-sighted to blame a stylistic movement like brutalism (or poor little concrete for that matter) for a poorly designed public space. This courtyard is just a symptom of a larger disease that is bad city planning, and ill-thought-out pedestrian scale spaces….which in my view stems just as much from large-scale urban planning as it does from capitalistic ventures or ignorance.

    What makes the space so dismal is not its design or construction (as an entity), it is the context in which it sits. One could easily imagine a space of this scale and construction being somewhat of an oasis in a densely populated urban fabric that does not exist anywhere in St. Louis. The fact that people do not populate it has nothing to do with the design of the “park”. It is bordered on one side by an 8-lane highway and surrounded by nothing but paved areas for parking!

    Poor little park never stood a chance……

  10. John W. says:


    The absent context you are describing actually WAS there at the time of the construction of the PD building, however the space that is now the decrepit Interco Plaza was not open at that time. Open spaces such as plazas and parks generally don’t beget meaningful development in modern cities, but rather the opposite is typical. The only context that would really have been necessary to constitute an open space as a plaza or green associated with this context is publicness of the context. Assuming the prevalent mode of transit at the time of the PD building construction was the streetcar, and assuming principal approach to the assemblage of buildings still standing was by foot there would be sufficient publicness to the assemblage to constitute an associated plaza or green. This also assumes there is an importance to at least a particular building in the assemblage that would affront a plaza, because the plaza would announce arrival and confer some sort of civic rank to the assemblage. One would be arriving at civic destination point and understand the relevance of the assemblage around the plaza or green, sort of like a mini district.

    Of course anyone can see from the arial photo of the site in context that the context, like much of the rest of urban St. Louis, has been decimated and replaced with surface parking lots. As can be seen immediately to west across Tucker from Interco Plaza is a wasteland of surface parking, and given the volume and speed of traffic of Tucker, and the fact that the streetcars are now decades gone, and there is little reason for the public to go there, this context is as inhospitable as imaginable.

  11. Jon B says:

    John – I am not exactly sure what you mean. The point of my response was that it is unneccesary to judge the plaza based on a sytlistic quality such as brutalism in the context of this particular urban fabric. Not that I want to in any way be a defender of brutalist designs, but it seems a moot point as to the success of this plaza.

    I am also unsure what your definition of a “modern city” is. If you mean that placing a useless plaza in an already empty or rapidly declining city is the height of stupidity then I would agree with you. But I would say that open space and parkland in a “modern city” environment is essential to a thriving pedestrian friendly environment…and successful implementation of this strategy is nothing but beneficial to the development of the type of city I think we all would like to live in.

    What Stl needs is smart development that takes advantage of what is there to develop a new model for the way things can work, instead of trying to be something it is not and will never become…..which is a dense urban environment where a design like Interco Plaza has a fighting chance at being successful.

  12. John W. says:

    I don’t believe I was referring to Brutalism or any other architectural sytle, but about the relevance of intended open spaces in an urban context. Unfortunately, my definition of a modern city is one of a general lack of respect for historic precedent or legible meaning in planning decisions such as the siting of a building or deliberate open space. I couldn’t agree more with your final point, but I suppose what I was ultimately trying to say originally was that the poor little park never stood a chance because BECAUSE of its incidental nature. It wasn’t a product of the era of the PD building and streetcars, where it would at least have been more heavily traversed and therefore an integral part of an assemblage of buildings. Absent of that all-important context the park, of any style, is just a place for pigeons and hobos.

  13. John M. says:

    Minus a few buildings this area is a blight compared to Washington just around the corner, an abrupt change from the beauty of that street. An idea I have floated and recieved some feedback on is the replacement of those obviously needed parking lots with rehab that has to come in the way of reconstruction of this very old illinois railway bridge that dead ends near Washington.

    My idea is this, we continue to rehab the old rail bridge under Tucker to accomodate parking. Therefore eliminating the need for those surface lots and opening up more ‘percieved’ parking for Washington Avenue. Opening the surface lots up for development, by coordinating with current landowners that utilize their property for such and incentivize the sale or development for commercial, industrial, whatever.

    I say if the city can find the money to fix the bridge and then lease it out to an interested party for the accomodation of cars, it may recoup some or all of its investment over time, an if, but possible. As it costs in the neighborhood of $15-20K per space to aquire and build subterranean parking this might actually be an awesome reusable structure. If we could fit 1000 ( my first estimate says about 1,200 cars down there, more if you include the old Globe Dem garage), and there is no reason why we couldn’t, as it could acomodate two levels of parking based on the height. And it extends all of the way to Cass by the Greyhound Bus terminal and the old and abandoned Schnucks Store. Cass of course could take the parker in from Illinois or allow a person out by taking a right on cass and going down to the on ramp to Highway 70. or take a left out of cass and go to Florrisant road via tucker/aka 13thst. there and onto the McKinley Bridge.

    While I know parking is usually not a precursor for development, tying at least one parking entrance into the area around Tucker and Washington could help tie the area north of Washington in with it. Additional secure pedestian and or vehicular entrances could be utilized as well. Perhaps there at Cole Street.

    While touring this site the other day, I realized that underneath those old terminal platforms were still there for the Globe Dem, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. So if the post ever leaves or gets redeveloped, a parking structure would exist without the surface lots or a new garage and have access to the building via the basement. As a matter of fact I think the st. patricks Center and the Board of education complex also have subterranean access to it.

    The open surface lots are now open for good development. Put an entrance to the garage right there on the street, european style, in between the Lucas street and Globe Building. Restore one minor train line underneath to allow for full utilization of the space. Similiar to a setup in the vegas airport inbetween the terminals. An automated people mover that makes two or three stops in the tunnel or at the buildings discussed. Vehicular access at the front and rear with a bit of immediate up front overflow into the underutilized Old Globe dem building garage.

    When you look at an satellite google map, there is no doubt parking is needed in the area. So if we could put it underground for smaller invetment than if we started from scatch, perhaps it may fly? obviously I am biased, since I see things with parking eyes, due to my chosen career path.

    I have gotten a warm reception on it so far. The only two plans on the table for this tunnel include filling it with gravel or MSD has potential use as a strormwater retention tank area.

    If there is a better use out there, I would love to hear it.

  14. john w. says:

    As a repurpose proposal, it sounds as good as any other, however, it rests on the assumption that the scale of redevelopment that [should] take place in the immediately surroundly blocks would justify the need for this conversion. I would like to think that the need for parking is not so great as public transit would be relied upon and we’d already be moving in the direction of a new (or revived) transport paradigm. The proposal of ANY significant parking in a dense urban area seems to indicate that we’ve resigned ourselves to inescapable auto-centrism. Bad.

  15. John M. says:

    True on both points to you and I appreciate a response. Thank you. I was merely pointing out that looking at the neighborhood, it could use something to bring it closer to Washington Avenue in some ways. I myself moved my business into the well preserved, but not renovated, old Globe Democrat building. Prices in the $598 for 1200sf brought me in. And trust me I looked. They act like a business incubator without any tax subsidy. And No CAM either, very nice.

    The addition of parking into an underground environment would allow for those surface parking lots to be put to better use. In addition, the fact that the buildings on the East of Tucker have access to it through their basements only benefits the idea immediately. Seeing as everyone, not just here, but definitely here in St. Louis, likes to park at the front door. This would conform to that unfortunate norm.

    Like I said I would love to hear of another idea. However I thought the parking idea was consistent to the complaints heard. Where is everyone going to park? Opening up those surface lots for better use on the West side of Tucker would help stabilize this part of the city.

    I myself would like to see the type of residential development that Toronto offers, build smaller units for the young people. Bring that vibrancy into a price range that will make them a part of the fabric of DT. Creating alternatives to renting by establishing starter condo/loft living at a price consistent with an average young persons meager salary. And they may just stay long enough to make DT better. And the desire is strong in youth to be a part of “the scene,” I know I did and still do for that matter. I want to be an extra in the Drama of DT living. Kids like drama, just look at their relationships if you don’t believe me.

    By building the smaller units, 500-650 square feet, the kind developers like to ignore for the pricey ones a new market would open up that is as untraditional in St. Louis as you can get, but might be accepted by the open minds of youth. Every major development DT sold out of reasonable units, $130K and below. Some in the first weekend of making them available, example, Lucas Lofts.

    The small size alone and amenities designed for first home buyer of a certain age. Just enough space to call home. Young people go out. Young people inhabit the streets with life. They don’t cook at home, besides noodles, salads and snakcs usually. So restaurants, coffeeshops and bars in the area would benefit. But they would still have cars! That is true in Toronto as well, people like their cars, even if they ran on water vapor, people like the independence.

    In fact the only show I ever liked on the HG channel was, forgive me if I get the title wrong, small places, big spaces, or something like that. I am single, I like small and affordable. I would have bought one like this myself. I know there is a developer that could make a go at this. Bringing young single people into the buying market. And with that youthful energy comes creativity as well.

    Besides how else do you make a 24 hour city, the old farts, myself included, go to bed eventually. When I was in my twenties, I’d stay out all night and still go to work. I can’t do that anymore.

    So the question is, how does the parking factor into this idea that conforms with everything I see here? The city is going to repair the street, that is a given. Whether that is good or bad I reserve judgement. So if the best idea on the table is backed up stormwater from MSD for the old tunnel, I say as long as we have a hole to fill, let’s fill it with those ‘despicable’ cars that are taking all of the room on the West side of Tucker and put in some nice “shrubbery.” Okay that was a joke.

    When I rented DT while working at MAY CO; I had a car, but it stayed parked in the garage below the building all week and sometimes the weekend depending on what was going on. I put on about 6-8,000 miles each year I was there, A far cry from my usual 14-15,000 miles, as I do now.

    Thanks again John W. for allowing me to expand my thoughts on the subject, you see I don’t need much prompting and I am glad I found a place where adults come to talk, very nice indeed.

  16. John M. says:

    I know this is an oversimplification on every thing in the following, to help stress my point and using Lucas Lofts as an example, if they can make a profit off of $130K for 766SF, then a 500sf place is approximately 65% of that total. So at 65%, we would be talking an $85,000 place. Which would put the mortgage at or around 7% interest for $565.61 for thirty years. THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE.

    This is a reasonable amount even in the eyes of young people. And as I said, the $130K moved quickly, right when the building opened, while in March of this year I think, the remainder of Lucas Lofts unsold units, some of the pricey ones, were bought by one company. I know one example does not cut it.

    But just imagine for a minute. DT St. Louis could proceed with a product not available anywhere else in the region. Heck not many places anywhere for that matter. And that is what St. Louis needs, a good risk. I will not impart all of the lessons of ownership versus renting here, but you know the drill. The city would be wise to invest in this youth market. Do what auto manufacturers and many companies are doing; go after them and create that loyalty. Just think how proud a young professional would feel owning a place just a few blocks from all of the action in an otherwise sleepy little midwestern city. THE VIBE would be here. Everyone would benefit. Employers would want to be near the young professional, to drain them of their soul, but that is blog issue.

    You could help create that sidewalk pedestrian even though they would probably own a car. Not too far from the intermodal hub and other mass transit options. We could give the whole area a name, with a history all of its own. Something to do with education and newspapers I say. But whatever.

    Okay I admit I am dreaming now. But what better time to dream than when there are problems abound. Problems call for solutions and St. Louis City should be those solutions. We want this City to lead the region? Let’s take another risk.

  17. john w. says:

    Have you ever thought of getting into the development game? You should come to meet-ups like Drinks & Mortar because you obviously have a lot to say, and have some pretty detailed thoughts. You’re probably still young enough to throw back a Guiness or two, as am I, and it never hurts to mix it up with likeminded complainers and dreamers.

  18. John M. says:

    At 37, I can still handle a night out. Speaking of rubbing elbows, I was at the Grand Opening of Chaefitz arena, wherein I spotted Spoonhour, I walked up to him and he indicated his hands were dirty or something, but he then sticks out his elbow, I recipricate and laughed at the literal elbow rub I got with Charlie. He is a funny guy.

    I love DT St. Louis just like most people do here. Or they love something about its potential. I would like to join in on any chance to learn something I am interested in. I would like to know when a group such as that meets? Sounds like an opportunity to meet people interested in the evolution of DT St. Louis in becoming the core it needs to be for a healthier region.

    Yeah I always have much to say, it is kind of an illness. When I was young it was called diareah of the mouth, that is how the nuns put it anyway. So I guess I am young enough to have a drink but old enough to have been taught by nuns in full habits. Perhaps they were right though, as the diareah has spread.

  19. john w. says:

    John M- The meet-ups occur once monthly, and the April event just happened last Thursday, 4/24. They are scheduled on Thursday evenings, and you can find out a bit more at the Ecology of Absence and Curious Feet St. Louis blogs. There should be links to upcoming dates provided on the sidebars.

  20. John M. says:

    Thank you John W., I look forward to meeting some of you. I must admit, I have devoured this site. To use slang not native to me, I found my peeps. Getting feedback and information from all those that obviously have the same interest as me is just plain exciting. I love this tired old city and like many here have foresaked larger incomes in other cities to stay here. If that isn’t love, what is?

    [slp — I am pleased you enjoy the site — we have some good discussions.] 

  21. john w. says:

    blogging rules, and people who don’t agree are probably wrong.

  22. John M. says:

    I had dinner with Martin Duggan and his lovely wife. He worked at the Globe democrat for 45 years, host of donny brook, when he is up to it now I think. We didn’t really get into it, the show that is. But at least now I understand the relationship that existed between him and Ray hartman. I wondered that pair, as there politics are so different.

    Ray Hartman was a copyboy at the Old Globe Democrat and looked at Martin Duggan, an editor at the Globe, as a mentor of sorts. Mr. Duggan said he was Really an unusally gifted kid. Sending Mr. Duggan copies of the school newspaper for his thoughts. Ray had lost his parents early in life. I don’t know how, but that is what was stated. That explains his reaching out to others and how unusual that really is at that age.

    Mark Vittert, the owner and editor of the St. Louis Business Journal, before he sold out, helped finance the formation of the RFT. Which eventually sold as well. That is how that group of newspaper men became involved with DonnyBrook. That is the short version anyway.

    He had a wealth of information about the area that I speak of in the above posts. At one point, there was The St. Louis Star, where the St. Patrick Center is now, the Globe Democrat was in the present day Post Dispatch as well as the three floors of the Globe Building. The Illinois terminal Railroad was used as far away as Springfield, Illinois. So you could board there at the Globe Building and go to the Illinois capital, that is cool. Most people used it to go Alton and places currently covered by car as you have pointed out to me.

    They were more like streetcars than traditional rail lines, the engines bringing in freight were usually a few cars long, if that. carrying all of the paper rolls. The passenger lines consisted mainly of one or two, to the best of his knowledge. But he said at one point, it was a very active rail line, handling thousands daily. He couldn’t recall ever having used it himself though.

    While the information dispensed may have little use other than historical, I bounced my thoughts on the area off of him. They didn’t stick well, but that’s okay I was just happy to be talking to him. I don’t agree with his very conservative politics, but I genuinly like him and his wife. Awesome, awesome lady. She is so funny. She talked about his lifestyle back then and how he would leave at 4-5:30 am and return at Midnight and how she had wanted a girl so badly, and on the fifth and last child recieved one, Mary. She just moved back from Texas, and now lives in an old mansion in CWE.

    The man at 90 is still going at it. Amazing. I wish to be so fortunate. She had a joke about her husband being given the “Fountain of Wisdom” award and he told his kids, “See, I told you I was.”

    Waxing nostalgic about local theaters in the 1920’s, and local grocery stores at the corner, they recalled the first Schnucks store and many others I had never heard of, along with stories that acompanied them. That came up because my family had owned a grocery store on the North side at the same time. There is just so much history in this city, it is a sin/crime, whatever, to let those that don’t have it’s best interest at heart, have their way.

  23. ed hardy clothing says:

    We'r ed hardy outlet one of the most profession
    of the coolest and latest ed hardy apparel, such as
    ed hardy tee ,ed hardy bags,
    ed hardy bathing suits, ed hardy shoes,
    ed hardy board shorts , don ed hardyt,ed hardy tank tops, ed hardy for women,
    ed hardy swimwearand more,
    ed hardy clothing. We offers a wide selection of fashion
    cheap ed hardyproducts. Welcome to our shop or just enjoy browsing through our stunning collection available wholesale ed hardy in our shop.

    our goal is to delight you with our distinctive collection of mindful ed hardy products while providing value and excellent service. Our goal is 100% customer satisfaction and we offer only 100% satisfacted service and ed hardy products. Please feel free to contact us at any time; we are committed to your 100% customer satisfaction. If you're looking for the best service and best selection, stay right where you are and continue shopping at here is your best online choice for the reasonable prices. So why not buy your ed hardy now, I am sure they we won’t let you down.

  24. majorshadow says:

    Song Title: “Blood is thicker than water”
    Hear @ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    A song about estranged loved ones who may or may not be homeless


Comment on this Article: