Adaptive Reuse Downtown Historic Preservation

This Building Matters #6: Cupples Station Building 7

Media attention on the Powell Square demolition ought to point us toward a historic warehouse we can save: Cupples Station Building 7 or “Cupples 7” at 11th and Spruce Streets. Built in 1907 and designed by Eames & Young as part of an 18-building complex, the historic warehouse is the last of the surviving buildings to stand empty. The city of St. Louis now controls the building. We asked Andrew Weil, director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, about the status and the potential of a building whose architecture inspired the design of the current Busch Stadium.

Adaptive Reuse Midtown This Building Matters

This Building Matters #4: Morgan Linen (Old Building, New Business)

This Building Matters last visited the demolition site of the Powell Square building near downtown. Everything that Ryan Albritton said about buildings having economic value for entrepreneurs rings true in our latest episode, in which we visited with Amber Giessmann and Christopher Janson of The Space at Morgan Linen.

The Space at Morgan Linen will be a new event space in the historic Dinks Parrish Laundry Building at 3124 Olive Street in Midtown. As the video shows, the Morgan Linen crew was drawn to all of the details that preservationists have long admired. We all see beauty, but some see an excellent place for a new business. Seems that old buildings are good for the local economy.

Adaptive Reuse South St. Louis

SLU Says It Can’t Reuse the Pevely Buildings; Local Designers Beg to Differ

by Lindsey Derrington

Saint Louis University recently stated that it has “studied the Pevely buildings extensively and determined they [do] not meet the needs of a modern health care facility,” effectively justifying its proposed demolition of the entire National Register-listed complex at Grand and Chouteau avenues for a new doctor’s building. Yet the original 1915 Pevely corner building and 1943 Pevely smokestack — the two structures the Pevely Preservation Coalition seeks to preserve — occupy a mere sliver of the university’s nearly 10 acre site between Grand and Chouteau Avenues and 39th and Rutger Streets. This begs the question: “Why?”

Charrette participants working at Landmarks Association's office.

This past Saturday, November 19, the Preservation Research Office, Landmarks Association of St. Louis and nextSTL took on this question with the Pevely Dairy Design Charrette. The four hour charrette proved an incredibly positive event aimed at finding practical solutions for the university to incorporate these historic buildings into its medical campus. The event far exceeded our expectations, with a pool of sixteen diverse participants consisting of architects, graduate students from SLU’s urban planning program, a mechanical engineer, and even a SLU doctor weighing in.

After a thorough discussion of the site’s dimensions, SLU’s extensive landholdings in the area, and the university’s probable needs, participants subdivided into four groups. Each focused on a different approach, including converting the corner building into doctors’ offices with a larger modern addition, adapting it into market-rate housing and ancillary facilities for the medical school, finding additional on-site locations for new buildings, and generating an overall site plan to connect this corner to the rest of the university.

Discussing ideas at the charrette.

The charrette was characterized by the matter-of-fact study that its designers bring to the workplace and classroom on a regular basis. Idealistic, or even hopeful rhetoric was wholly absent, because it turns out that this design “problem” is no problem at all. Each group presented multiple scenarios of how to preserve these buildings while still accommodating the university’s needs. The take-away was that the task is almost too easy, and that given more time, even more solutions could be found.

Their plans will be presented at the Preservation Board meeting on Monday, November 28. Hopefully board members will see past SLU’s influence and political clout to what is so clearly apparent: these structures can and should be incorporated into the university’s larger medical campus to serve patients, doctors, and students in a manner that enhances the built environment rather than destroys it.

Adaptive Reuse Hyde Park North St. Louis

Films in the Night on Mallinckrodt Street

by Michael R. Allen

Hopefully some readers are aware of the worthy efforts of the Rebuild Foundation to transform historic buildings in Hyde Park into creative spaces where art and community converge. So far, the Foundation has purchased three buildings around Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, and work is well underway on two of the buildings.

1415 Mallinckrodt Street

The Rebuild Foundation’s adaptive reuse philosophy is rooted in great respect for the historic materials and craftsmanship found in Hyde Park’s architecture. Yet the Foundation, under the direction of artist Theaster Gates and project manager Charlie Vinz, has embraced the potential to transform tradition. That is, their rehabilitation work in interpretive instead of restorative. Since they are working on damaged, vacant buildings, the approach seems correct. These are not buildings in pristine repair with all of their features intact.

Instead, these buildings offer a narrative of decline through their distressed conditions. Rebuild Foundation uses what is left of the original fabric to forge a new architectural story of rebirth — one told through leaving some things in place, reworking others and bringing new materials and designs into the mix. The buildings gain a temporal relationship to the larger arc of the neighborhood, and their details do not mask that.

Preservation Research Office has been a supporter of the Foundation’s work, and we have twice provided curated film screenings for Foundation staff and volunteers. Our most recent night took place at the end of a work day on Saturday. To tired and productive workers we offered a selection of 16mm educational films — including the dazzling Bakery Beat — once part of the St. Louis Public Schools’ library. This is the same collection once used for the cine16 series, but now it is under our stewardship.

We hope to expand programming from the collection in the future, but in the mean time we enjoy opportunities to connect it to new audiences. The cultural heritage of the city can create unexpected moments as it is redeployed and reinterpreted today. Old buildings, old films, old craftsmanship — all continuous threads that make our city a remarkable and living place.

Adaptive Reuse Mid-Century Modern Midtown

Saucer Saved!

by Lindsey Derrington

Despite the rain and cold, a small group of students, news outlets, and supporters — including the building’s original architect, Richard Henmi — gathered at the former Del Taco saucer this afternoon to hear current plans for the building from developer Rick Yackey and Alderwoman Marlene Davis. The news was good – with the help of Klitzing Welsh Associates, an architectural firm specializing in historic rehabilitation (including the mid-century modern Washington Avenue Apartments at Tucker and Washington), Yackey will restore the saucer back to its historic 1967 appearance to accommodate two national tenants.

While reluctant to state which ones, the developer said he is in negotiation with chains of a far “higher caliber” than the building’s former occupant, but which would include “food and coffee” amongst their offerings. Simple renderings showed the saucer’s original rounded storefront restored in place of the current drive-thru to expand the interior to 4,800 square feet. Yackey also plans to rework the surrounding, which will hopefully include improving access from Grand Avenue and Forest Park Boulevard. And while the renderings failed to show outdoor seating beneath the saucer’s cantilevered roof, he said that a patio is definitely part of the plan.

Yackey is seeking Missouri historic rehabilitation tax credits for the project so all renovation plans will go through the State Historic Preservation Office. This means the building will be in good hands, and that all alterations made to its exterior will be in keeping with its historic appearance. These will surely include the now painted-over clerestory windows wrapping around the saucer’s rear which are not reflected in current renderings. Apart from this temporary oversight, we can hope to see a restored and fully occupied saucer next year — ideally, according to Yackey, by March 2012 when the new Grand Avenue bridge is set to open.

South elevation drawing by Schwarz & Van Hoefen, 1966.

When asked, architect Richard Henmi, who designed the saucer in the mid-1960s while an associate with the firm of Schwarz & Van Hoefen, replied, “I think it’s good. I like it. It pretty much keeps the original intent of the building.” In light of renderings which essentially show the saucer returned to the same striking design he envisioned almost fifty years ago, there wasn’t much more for him to say. But hopefully, come next year, we’ll all being saying much more than that as we’re riding our bikes, walking our dogs, and strolling our kids to have lunch and cup of coffee at the coolest mid-century modern patio this side of the Mississippi. And for St. Louis, that’s saying a lot.

Adaptive Reuse Historic Preservation Mid-Century Modern Midtown New York City

New York Project Suggests Direction for Hotel on Forest Park

by Michael R. Allen

Today The Architect’s Newspaper carried a story that poses a suggestion to St. Louis, by way of New York. In “Tower Twists and Preservationists Shout”, Alan G. Brake tells the tale of a proposed design by architect Morris Adjmi in the Gansevoort Market Historic District on Manhattan.

Taconic Investments hired Adjmi to design a seven-story condominium-and-retail structure placed on top of an art moderne market building. The building, dating to 1938 and enjoying no singular official distinction, is at 13th and Washington inside of a local historic district. Hence, Adjmi’s plan for a slightly twisted tower with sloped grid walls had to be approved by the Landmark Preservation Commission last month. The Commission debated the proposal but failed to find a majority for or against the plan.

What was reassuring was that the Commission spent time debating how appropriate the tower was to the area, which is a former meat market district with mostly low-rise buildings (except for the tower straddling the High Line across the street, outside of the historic district boundary). This is why I thought about St. Louis as I read the article.

Twice in the last two years, our Preservation Board considered the demolition of a simple two-story art moderne building, the old Raiffie Vending Building at 3663 Forest Park Boulevard in Midtown. The two-story building dates to 1948 and has a handsome, plain buff brick face. The building is a fine contributing player in the industrial district of Forest Park Boulevard west of Grand, but it has little individual historic or architectural distinction.

The Sask Corporation has owned the building for several years and bought it to build a chain motel on the site. In August 2009, the Sasak Corporation proposed the design shown above to the Preservation Board ( see “More Urban Is Not Always Better”, August 11, 2009). The Board denied demolition on a preliminary basis. While the Raiffie building is not in any historic districts, it is in a Preservation Review area, the 17th Ward.

In September 2010, Sasak Corporation came back to the Preservation Board with an even less inspired plan, shown above. The Best Western had “better” materials than the 2009 plan, although its red brick panels, stucco corner and strange stone base were a regression from the previous rendering.  The Preservation Board approved demolition contingent on Sasak securing a building permit for the Best Western.  That has not happened, although Sasak applied for a demolition permit on November 15th.

Morris Adjmi may have to tone down his Manhattan design, but he would be welcome to try it at 3663 Forest Park in St. Louis. Here we have a building without singular significance outside of a local historic district that has already been approved for demolition. What a great candidate it would be for a thoughtful, provocative building rising from its center or rear. Midtown has a small skyline of tall buildings in which a new high-rise would not be inappropriate. In the case of the Best Western, the most elegant and expensive-looking front — cost of the hotel has been a concern among Midtown players — is the building that is already there. The hotel developers could very well use it, and do something imaginative above.

A parting thought on the subject: The Moonrise Hotel on Delmar already attempted to use an existing facade to hide a rather programmatic hotel high-rise from a smaller-scaled business district. This was not a very successful endeavor. The hotel and the old Ronald L. Jones Funeral Home building have little real relationship, and besides, the funeral home itself was actually demolished and imprecisely reconstructed. The reconstruction shows, and something modern would have been better.

On Forest Park, a modern high-rise addition to the old Raiffie Vending building could avoid the mistakes of the Moonrise by leaving whatever part of the building to be retained in place, to keep its historic character as best as possible. If New York turns down Morris Adjmi, maybe St. Louis would welcome his work here — or elsewhere.

Adaptive Reuse North St. Louis Old North

14th Street Mall in 1991

by Michael R. Allen

On Thursday, July 29th, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance will cut the ribbon on Crown Square, the new name for the former 14th Street Mall. The public is invited to the celebratory event, which runs as a street party until 8:00 p.m. Indeed, there will be an actual paved street on the two blocks of 14th and Montgomery streets for the first time since 1976.

Not much time passed after the 14th Street Mall grand opening on March 21, 1977 before the street closure started having negative impacts on the businesses of the dense commercial district. Storefronts devolved to lesser uses and ultimately entire buildings went vacant. Within ten years, the 14th Street Mall was a failure, and by the early 1990s was a symbol of the decay of the near north side. No longer.

A look back at photographs taken in 1991 by Cindi Longwisch, then Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, shows dire conditions. That we are celebrating rebirth of the collection of historic buildings 19 years later is nothing short of miraculous. A few of the buildings on 14th Street in the two blocks did not survive the mall years, but most did.

The building at2709 N. 14th Street, shown above, was one that did not survive. However, the buildings to either side have been fully rehabilitated as part of Crown Square.

The Eugene Building at the southwest corner of 14th and Monthgomery has an ornate entrance and extensive colorful catalog terra cotta ornament. The building is now fully rehabilitated as part of Crown Square.

The building across the street from the Eugene Building, at the northwest corner of the intersection, as been extensively rehabilitated by owner Peter Sparks. Work is not yet complete, but the transformation is beautiful.

Demolition of the building at 2715 N. 14th Street was underway with Cindi Longwisch took this shot. The heavily altered one-story building at left, 2713 N. 14th Street, was demolished as part of the Crown Square project.

Adaptive Reuse North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

Why Save This Building?

by Michael R. Allen

This two-story reinforced concrete industrial building stands on N. 25th Street just north of Sullivan Avenue in St. Louis Place. It is owned by Northside Regeneration LLC. Beyond some concrete block infill of first floor window openings and a painted southern elevation, the building does not look much different than it did when built some 90 years ago. In the parlance of the National Register for Historic Places, the building substantially retains its integrity.

Of course, the building is more isolated than ever, and across 25th Street is the hulking Sullivan Place building with its gated grounds. No one could claim that the building is essential to preserving a historic built landscape. So why would anyone preserve it?

The first reason would be moral imperative. One version of that is tracing the building’s use to a significant company or product. That is unlikely. Another moral imperative, which all good people now claim to endorse, is the mantra of “sustainability”: demolition is like driving an Escalade to work every day. Right? A tangential moral imperative is that with each demolition, we lose more of St. Louis itself, thus diminishing the physical city itself. Readers know that I meditate on this idea frequently, and sometimes inconclusively.

The other reason that this building would be saved is economic. Someone may find a new purpose, or resurrect an old purpose, for the building. Reuse of this building might reduce capital needs of start-up. That’s the kind of reuse that I would love to see envisioned for a relic like this. More likely, though, redevelopment here will be incentive-driven. In fact, it already is.

The irony is that not long ago this building was still in continuous use, despite loss of context, age and general neighborhood decline. It was just an industrial building in a neighborhood. Now, due to conjoined acts of government and capital, its existence is in question. Many prettier buildings are in the same situation, but advocacy is far easier for them. Who sees the potential here? Well, the potential was already realized. Don’t forget that. Jobs were located here. Taxes generated. Not much is required to return the building to taxable production. Perhaps in our political economy those facts justify preservation better than any other.

Adaptive Reuse Missouri

House-Turned-Bank in Daisy, Missouri to be Auctioned on Memorial Day

by Michael R. Allen

The so-called Daisy Bank House in Daisy, Missouri (located not far south of Perryville) will be auctioned on Memorial Day. From the website advertising the site:

This historic structure in the tiny town of Daisy, Missouri was built in 1918 as the new home of the Farmers’ Bank of Daisy (1913-1924). After the bank closed, the building was vacant until 1939 when Delos Sebaugh purchased it and converted it into Sebaugh’s Store selling groceries and other supplies. In 1947 an addition was built on the north side of the building. The original portion of the building was remodeled (modified to allow second floor and dormers added) and converted into a living space for the Sebaugh family. The store closed in 1956, but the commercial space remained open as home of the Delos Sebaugh Insurance Agency for Citizens Mutual Insurance through the late 1970s. Since then the building has functioned as home to the Sebaugh family.

Check out the website for more information and photographs.

Adaptive Reuse Downtown Events

Free Tour of Paradowski’s New Digs

On Saturday, April 24, Landmarks Association of St. Louis offers a free tour of the impressive new home of Paradowski Creative. Paradowski is located in the former Missouri Electric Light and Power Company plant at the southeast corner of 20th and Locust streets. Details are available in the organization’s latest newsletter. RSVP requested; 314-421-6474 or