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Artist’s Studios Open This Weekend!

This weekend take a tour of studios of local artists:

The Contemporary is thrilled to present the Second Annual City-Wide Open Studios Weekend on July 21 and 22, 2007. This event is FREE and open to the public, offering the St. Louis community the unique opportunity to experience art being created in many of St. Louis’ most diverse and energetic neighborhoods.

This can be a great way to meet local artists, see interesting spaces and explore parts of the city and region that you’ve not seen yet. For more information, including the official tour map, see the event website at openstudiosonline.com.

Friends of mine, each with corner storefronts, will be on the tour Saturday at the intersection of Idaho & Eiler (see map). A few blocks away I will have my listings at 3459 & 3463 Itaska open for viewing from 11am-1pm on Saturday (and 1-3pm on Sunday, see 3459Itaska.com and 3463Itaska.com for more detail).


Today; Protest & March Over Midtown Demolitions

You are invited to participate in a protest and march today, July 17th. The press release says it best:

Contact: Anthony Coffin

Phone: 314-498-0483

Email: cowpuppyproductions@hotmail.com

Date: July 17th

A RALLY IN RESPONSE TO THE DEMOLITION OF THE LOCUST STREET LIVERY STABLE The Disconnection of the Locust Business District from Grand Center

On Thursday July 19th at 5:30pm there will be a rally protesting St Louis University’s continuing demolition of historic structures. The rally will take place at the intersection of Locust St and Josephine Baker Blvd. [map]. At approximately 6:00pm we will march from the remains of the livery stable to the soon to be demolished mansion at 3740 Lindell. Specifically, we are opposing the current demolition and any future demolitions that will further disconnect the Locust business district from Grand Center. At the same time we would like to promote the adaptive reuse of all historic structures in Midtown.

To the east of Josephine Baker, Locust has undergone an amazing transformation in the last several years with almost every building undergoing renovation with beautiful facade restorations, and they are being filled with creative firms, offices, restaurants, etc. The block between Josephine Baker and Theresa however is quite desolate. The Drake Plaza while beautiful has no storefronts or offices facing Locust. Around the corner on Theresa however, is the new Moto Museum and west of that on Olive, the recently completed Centene Center for the Arts and the Metropolitan is undergoing renovation into a hotel and retail. The livery stable, along with other surrounding buildings, held a key ingredient to tying the Locust Street corridor with Grand Center to the west.

Directly across Josephine Baker from the livery stable, SLU owns two more buildings that may be threatened with demolition. 3331, and 3327 Locust are buildings that if rehabbed could lessen the negative impact of a parking lot on the site of the livery stable. If these buildings are razed the result will be even greater disconnectedness in midtown and a slap in the face to the pioneers of Locust street.

As buildings such as the former Woolworth (see post) get new investment other buildings get taken out for increasingly large parking areas. While areas do evolve and change over time I believe it is important for us to voice exactly how it is these areas change. I share the concern about how the emerging Locust Business District is being separated from the activity on Grand, a disservice to both areas.


Above, Saint Louis University owns all but two buildings in the above picture (beige and 2-story to the right). If SLU razes their buildings for additional parking it will destroy the wonderful character of this block.


The old livery building just prior to demolition. It once concealed surface parking behind, now fully exposed to the area. For my earlier take on the livery and the buildings along Locust click here.

Above, next on the chopping block at St. Louis University. The march will end at this building.


Cycling Organization Giving Away Kids Bike Helmets at Farmers Market

The St. Louis Regional Bike Federation will be holding an interesting event on the east side of the river Saturday morning:

Bike Smart – Edwardsville on Saturday, July 7
Join us on July 7 from 8:00 a.m. – noon at the Land of Goshen Farmers’ Market in downtown Edwardsville, IL for helmet fitting, bike education, and mechanical safety checks for your bike! Helmets First will be there offering 50 free helmets for kids. When the free helmets run out you can buy one for just $7! In addition St. Louis Recumbent Bicycles will provide a bicycle mechanic to check your bike and make minor repairs or adjustments and help you learn how to check your bike before you ride. We’ll have experienced riders on hand to answer your questions about bike commuting, riding safely in traffic, and your rights and responsibilities on the roads.

Bike helmets are very important for safety — having them properly fitted it critical.  I see way too many kids wearing helmets that are angled way back exposing their foreheads (some adults wear helmets this way too).  Please folks, check your helmet for proper fit — go to an event like this or go into nearly any bike shop and talk to them about how to properly adjust your helmet.

It looks like the Bike Fed already made an appearance at the Tower Grove market but I have suggested they do a fitting at the Old North St. Louis Farmers’ Market.

Happy eating and riding!


Alderman Conway Calls Meeting on Halliday Parking

Earlier this month I reported on a controversial, and not approved by the city, parking lot that was paved at a condo project in Tower Grove East (see post). After a long Board of Adjustment hearing, all sides met and thought they had reached a compromise — the concrete would be torn out in favor of angled parking on the street.


When I was told everything had been settled I knew it had not been. Why? Because the developer had not withdrawn his appeal for the denial of the permit to construct the parking pad which he had alread built.

Residents on the street received a hand delivered letter yesterday regarding a last-minute meeting on the site organized by Alderman Conway (D-8th Ward). Unfortunately I cannot make this meeting. Too bad really, I hear Conway can get a bit hot at these events. He should have to walk through the nearby intersection at Magnolia (see post).

Click here to view letter w/drawings from Ald. Conway on this issue — giving current residents two choices, keep the parking and stain the concrete or rip it out and do angled parking. Of course, in my view, this is a bigger issue than simply this block — others walk from adjacent blocks to get to Grand. The meeting is scheduled to take place on the concrete pad in question at 5:45pm today!


Preservation Board to Hear Appeal to Raze 19th Century House (Updated)

A first glance, it doesn’t look like much. Perhaps even the second and third glance you may not see the appeal. The home at 4716/4722 Tennessee in the 25th Ward should not be razed.


The above home is on today’s agenda at the Preservation Board, a developer seeks to raze the home. In its current state, it looks pretty rough. For years this home was covered in a newer “low maintenance” siding which is now half removed. With the lower windows boarded and the dormer windows removed the home looks much worse than it really is.

As I had long suspected, the original clapboard siding was hiding under the newer siding and remains in amazingly good condition. The porch is original.


Even though the front door is now boarded you can see the original transom peaking out above the red partical board. The original porch detailing is a rare find these days. A portion of the rear foundation is damaged but certainly repairable.


A later back stoop is falling down, as it has been doing for years. You see, I know this particular building better than most as I lived next door for 10 years.


Above is the 2-family I purchased in August 1994 and sold in January 2006 after having moved into my current place a few blocks away in the fall of 2004. Having lived next door, I knew the owners of the property during this period and through many conversations, much of the history of the structure. I have attempted to reach the prior owners but I could not track down them down.
Before I explain some of the interesting history, however, I want to talk about the demolition review process and where things have gone wrong. Ald. Kirner, whom I challenged in the March 2005 election, is under the impression it is her responsibility to broker deals and if she can’t make a deal for a purchaser then it is OK to allow a building to be razed. Aldermen should not be brokering real estate deals. Demolitions should not hinge on their ability to make a deal or not.

The Preservation Review ordinance has a number of criteria which must be met in order to permit a building within Preservation Review Districts to be razed. We will see if the appliant provides sufficient information to meet the criteria. I believe if the house were sold by itself, without the extra building lots between it and my old place, that someone would be interested in buying and rehabbing it. I attempted to explain this concept to Ald. Kirner a couple of weeks ago but I don’t think she got it — she kept talking about trying to see if a previous guy was interested in buying it. Remember, I am the licensed real estate salesperson, not her.

Back to the history.

When I purchased my 2-family in 1994 I bought it from John Held, of Held Florist next door. His grandfather had purchased the old frame house along with quite a bit of land on both sides in 1904. The only thing on the land, besides the frame house, were some greenhouses — the house and greenhouses dated to the 19th century. The Held’s continued the tradition of raising & selling the plants on this land. Over time the business passed to John’s father who built my 2-family in 1924. I was the first person, outside the Held family, to own this 2-family. At the time, in 1994, the frame house, extra lots, greenhouses with storefront and florist business were all for sale. John Held was ready to retire and his kids didn’t want to continue the business. For a brief time I considered buying the whole mess and going into the nursery business — but as a group it was way too much for me to take on. It was too much for anyone really as it had not been as cared for as it should have.

The entire collection sold in 1998 — about five years after he started selling it. The new owner, Michael Dunham, bought the property and business and did a good job starting to clean the place up until he became ill. He was in recovery in the country for a few years and the future of the property was uncertain. He was not able to return to the business and once again the entire collection of real estate was put on the market. Last year it sold but this time a new step was taken – the commercial storefront with greenhouse was legally separated from the frame house and adjacent vacant lots. An excellent move in my view, allowing the new owner of the storefront and greenhouse to renovate that structure (which she has done) without the burden of the rest.

And now a developer wants to raze the frame house and construct three new houses on the site. Although I was sitting in Ald. Kirner’s office at city hall, I was not shown any drawings of the proposed houses. The agenda for tonight’s meeting is not yet posted so I do not know what is planned for the site — other than three new houses. I just cannot support razing a viable 19th century house for some as yet unseen project from unknown developers with an unknown track record — neither should the Preservation Board. As many of you will recall, it has been 18 months since the Preservation Board approved razing the Doering Mansion on Broadway and yet construction has not begun on the replacement project — and that was with a well-known developer with an excellent track record.

I believe the current owners need to plan for two new homes on the vacant land while marketing the existing home with a narrow yard. With alley access new owners of the old frame house could construct a garage out back. If more living space is required, a new addition to the rear could easily be blended in with this frame structure. Again, I’m just saying before we toss the building aside see if anyone is interested — the house has never once been for sale by itself — it has always been part of a bigger ensemble.

The home is a classic center stair house — very 19th century. The kitchen, located in the south end, was remodeled in the 1950s I would guess. The north end is a living room. Upstairs are two rooms. The basement is the best part — it contains a brick barrel vaulted meat locker which would make an excellent wine cellar. The home has a nice presence on the street which is a hodge podge of various styles and periods although most date to the early 20th century. Three new homes were constructed in the late 1990s on the south end of the street at Delor.

Once again we are going about this all wrong. The proposed development is a secret, the elected legislator is playing real estate deal maker and lack of any real design standards could mean a proposal for front-garage houses despite an alley serving the land. I doubt we will have much more information at 4pm when the Preservation Board takes up this and other matters. The meeting is held on the 12th floor of 1015 Locust.
CORRECTION: Today’s meeting will be held at 4pm in Room 208 (Kennedy Hearing Room) in city hall.
Ald Kirner can be contacted here. The Preservation Board can be reached via the Cultural Resources staff here.

UPDATE 6/25/07 @ 10:15pm

This evening the Preservation upheld the staff denial of the demolition request — the house is safe for now. I will use this as a case study in a separate post to talk about some of the issues this brings up as they relate to the Preservation Review ordinance. In short, the appliant failed to meet the various requirements in the ordinance necessary to justify the demolition. The big question is what next? Hopefully the house can get rehabbed (by current or future owner) and a couple of new houses can get constructed on the balance of the site.
In preparing for today’s meeting I ran across a picture I took in March 1994 when I was looking to buy the place next door: