Central West End Century Building Downtown North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Update on Preservation-Related Legal Cases

by Michael R. Allen

San Luis Apartments

On May 5, the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals will hear the Friends of San Luis, Inc. v. The Archdiocese of St. Louis. (Disclosure: This writer is president of the Friends of the San Luis.) The Friends of the San Luis sought an injunction against demolition of the mid-century modern San Luis Apartments so that it could appeal Preservation Board approval of the demolition.

The San Luis Apartments (originally the DeVille Motor Hotel) in 2007.
Circuit Court Judge Robert Dierker, Jr. dismissed the case with prejudice, claiming that citizens who cannot demonstrate financial grievance have no right to appeal actions by the Preservation Board! The building was subsequently demolished but the Friends decided to appeal Dierker’s anti-citizen ruling. The city’s preservation ordinance, after all, was enacted by the Board Aldermen for the general benefit of all citizens.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals will consider oral arguments from both sides on May 5 and issue a ruling at a later date. Jonathan Beck and Ian Simmons represent the Friends of the San Luis, while Edward Goldenhersh and David Niemeier of Greensfelder, Hemke and Gale represent the Archdiocese.

Century Building

A case now five years old, Missouri Development Finance Board vs. Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier, just took a predictable turn. The cause was set to commence trial on March 15, but the plaintiffs again requested a continuance. Judge Mark Neill granted a continuance, and trial is now set for August 9, 2010.

Vintage postcard view of the Century Building, c. 1910
The plaintiffs — and this writer himself needed a refresher after such a long time — are the Missouri Development Finance Board, Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, NSG Developers LLC, St. Louis Custom and Post Office Building and Associates. Their cause? Even a refresher won’t quite make that clear. The allegation is that by being willing to file suit against the Old Post Office project to stop the Century Building demolition — a Dierkerian filing predicated on injury to personal property value — Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier somehow were being malicious. Never mind that Behrendt and Plackemeier’s suit was dismissed and had no effect on the outcome of the Old Post Office project (although shoddy construction work did).

The seriousness of the plaintiff’s allegation keeps getting undermined by constant requests for continuance. Is the goal to be vindicated by a jury or to harass citizens for exercising their legal rights? And why are our city and state governmental bodies still enjoined as plaintiffs, wasting taxpayer money at a time when both levels of government need every cent they can get? Time to drop the suit.


Last week Judge Dierker — one tie that binds all three cases — issued the following order extending for one week the deadlines for brief in the suit against the city over the NorthSide redevelopment ordinances:

Upon the request of defendant Northside Regeneration, LLC, and with the consent of the parties, the post-trial briefing schedule is hereby amended to provide as follows: Brief Due Plaintiffs’/Intervenors’ briefs 3/26/10 Defendants’ briefs 4/12/10 Plaintiffs’/Intervenors’ reply briefs 4/22/10.

Plaintiffs can expect a lengthy, colorful ruling from Dierker. Otherwise, speculation is useless. Dierker has a narrow view of citizen rights under development law, so his basis will be whether the plaintiffs have proven that their real estate is harmed or devalued under the blighting enacted by the redevelopment ordinance. Dierker has stated in trial that he is not prepared to consider condemnation that has yet to be authorized, and the ordinance avoids explicit authorization.

Century Building Downtown

I Support Marcia and Roger!

by Michael R. Allen

Often I think that preservationists may be the only people who have moved on from the loss of the Century Building. We have found new projects, new hope and new ways of using media to spread appreciation for the St. Louis built environment. The Old Post Office developers are realizing the final part of their project, with the Culinaria opening tomorrow and Old Post Office Plaza now the scene of theater and concerts. Landmarks Association of St. Louis even quietly renewed its membership in the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

All should be well in St. Louis nearly five years after the last scrap of building material was moved off site. Then why does the lawsuit against Roger Plackemeier and Marcia Behrendt persist?

That lawsuit is a pointless lingering thread that threatens the livelihood of two citizens who fought a gallant fight and did not prevail. The suit’s plaintiffs include the Old Post Office development company formed by DESCO and DFC Group, the Missouri Development Finance Board and the city via the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority. Perhaps the developers have an axe to grind, but why do the public entities persist?

Citizen participation is an important right in our democratic system, and its exercise unfortunately often is fruitless. Such was the case here, at least in terms of preserving a building. The citizens who fought to save the Century Building renewed the energy and relevance of historic preservation and urban design in St. Louis, providing encouragement to a new generation of advocates.

The counter-suit against Marcia and Roger is set for trial on September 14, and they need help raising funds for their legal defense. I plan to give generously, and urge all those who want to truly move past the Century Building battle to do the same. Details follow.

The Royale Treatment
Wednesday, August 12 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
The Royale, 3132 S. Kingshighway

The Century Building may be gone, but not forgotten! Preservationists Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier are defendants in a SLAPP suit from the City of St. Louis and the State of Missouri over the demolition of this historic landmark. You can aid their defense and show a support for St. Louis’ architectural treasures.

Dave Drebes Players will be the featured entertainment. Complimentary appetizers will be provided by the Royale. Suggested donation of $5 at the door.

Downtown residents, Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier, took action in attempt to save the Century Building. They were plaintiffs in litigation that, among other things, sought to prevent its demolition and save our city’s architectural heritage. The City of St. Louis, the State of Missouri and the project developers filed a counter lawsuit against them, alleging malicious prosecution — and seeking actual damages exceeding $1.5 million, plus punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to deter said defendants and others from like conduct.”

This malicious prosecution has continued for over four years and the trial is set for September 14, 2009.

Marcia and Roger took a stand for their neighborhood – downtown – and all who love our City’s architectural heritage. The lawsuit against them is a classic SLAPP suit – a strategic lawsuit against public participation. Presumably the city and state, through agencies, have unlimited funds to pursue these two individuals for years. This is where you can help! Marcia and Roger need assistance with their legal costs. Your donation will help.

Please come and support Marcia and Roger and learn more about the status of the litigation and what you can do to help.

All donations will be accepted and are tax-deductible. Check or money orders should be payable to ReVitalize St. Louis and mailed to:

Royale Treatment – Downtown Defense Fund
C/o ReVitalize St. Louis
PO Box 771751
St. Louis, MO 63177

Royale Treatment – Downtown Defense Fund is sponsored by ReVitalize St. Louis and the Royale. ReVitalize St. Louis is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. For more information, please visit To learn more about the Royale, please visit

Century Building Downtown Historic Preservation

Richard Moe on Obama’s List for Secretary of Interior

by Michael R. Allen

National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe is reported to be on a short list of candidates for the position of Secretary of the Interior in Barack Obama’s administration.

St. Louisans best remember Moe for his role in directing the National Trust to allocate New Market tax credits to the Old Post Office rehabilitation project while supporting demolition of the historic Century Building. This unprecedented move — having the National Trust actively support demolition of a historic building against the stance of a local preservation organization — cost the Trust hundreds of members around the nation. The National Trust has not condemned a pending lawsuit filed by the Old Post Office developers against citizen preservation activists Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier, whose own lawsuit to halt the Old Post Office project was rejected in 2004.

Last month, Moe pleased St. Louis preservationists by sending a strongly-worded letter to Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill calling for preservation of the intregrity of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds and opposing HR 7252, a bill that would have leased the Memorial grounds to a private group.

Century Building Downtown People

That’s Mickey McTague

by Michael R. Allen

Today I was walking down Ninth Street when I ran into someone who was eager to tell me something about the Ninth Street Garage, the jaundiced hulk that is finally nearing completion.

“Look at that new building. I hear it’s called the Century Building,” he said

“Is that a fact? I swear that the Century Building would be marble clad. This appears to be a concrete building — perhaps they upgraded the plans,” I replied.

“And that nice archway there that leads to the Century Theater,” pointed out the guide with a case of gallows humor.

This guide was none other than Mickey McTague, a resilient wit and storyteller who is always a welcome surprise on the downtown streets. His family ran a basement restaurant — McTague’s Cafe — in the fallen Century Building, so he’s understandably upset by its demolition. Yet he’s quick to find something amusing and poignant in all of the terrible decisions he’s seen in his years watching city politics, and he’s perhaps even quicker to point that out to a friend.

I walked away from seeing with a smile when before I had a scowl as I examined the garage’s hideous interplay with the graceful Frisco Building across Olive. If I could turn that thought into a good joke, I’d have life made.

Century Building Downtown Parking

Shouldn’t This Be Done By Now?

by Michael R. Allen

Progress on the century Building Memorial Parking Garage has been slow, although parts of it have reached a height above the Century Building’s roof. This photograph from June 2006, looking northwest from the corner of Olive and Ninth, makes one wonder why the garage project is taking so long. The view also shows how the choice of pigment for the cast concrete cladding may not have been the best, to say the least.

The post-modern hulk slowly rises.

Century Building Downtown

Scrappin’ on Locust

by Michael R. Allen

Several days a week, pedestrians on Locust Street will see a battered red GMC pick-up truck of a late 1960s or early 1970s vintage with its bed overfilled with scrap metal. The truck is parked outside of the Old Post Office, and its driver is a scrapper with great tenacity. He will go through the considerable debris created by various projects at the Old Post Office, which have gotten few and far between since the formal opening on the Ides of March. There is some metal coming from the ongoing construction of the Century Building’s tombstone, though, and with the mishaps and delays plaguing that project, the metal will be coming for awhile.

The scrappy scrapper is friendly and energetic — and motivated, since this work is the only job he holds at the moment. Thankfully, the construction workers and guards at the Old Post Office never interfere with his pursuit of enough money to buy a few meals. In fact, the workers frequently separate metal and give it directly to him.

Century Building Downtown Parking

Channel 5 Covered Bad Piers on Ninth Street Garage

by Michael R. Allen

Piers Being Re-Worked on Snakebit Site – Mike Owens of TV station KSDK Channel 5 reported on the delays in the Ninth Street Garage on the Wednesday, November 23, newscast. Watch the report on the KSDK website.

Here’s a story that broke first in the blogs and was picked up on television news. I feel good about helping get the story to the attention of news organizations with wider audiences. (Note that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has yet to report the problems with the parking garage gone wrong.)

Century Building Downtown Parking

Bad Piers

From the minutes of the October 4 meeting of the Missouri Development Finance Board:

“Mr. Miserez asked Ms. Kathleen Barney to give a project status update on the Ninth Street Garage construction issues. Ms. Barney reported there were deficiencies in many of the piers poured and that with a total of 56 piers, 16 of the poured 37 piers were discovered to be substandard. The Office of Administration monitors the construction for MDFB and is considering that all the piers are bad. The developers of the project have hired experts to evaluate the piers, which has caused a delay to the project. Ms. Barney reported that the problem is the developer’s responsibility and there will be no additional costs to MDFB.”

We reported the news about the concrete pouring on August 16.

(Thanks to Arch City Chronicle for the link.)

Century Building Downtown People

Update on the Century Building Legal Battle

From Roger Plackemeier:

To the curious and interested…..

awhile back I sent out an update message on the Century Building malicious prosecution suit. At the time I reported that we had had a hearing on the motion made by the plaintiffs to disqualify Matt Ghio as our attorney. During a hearing on Friday for another matter we learned that Judge Ohmer had denied the disqualification motion back on September 30th, but neither side had been notified. Chalk one up for the good guys!

Thanks to all who sent messages of inquiry and support.

Century Building Downtown Parking

The Concrete Shaft

Looking northwest toward the site of the Century Building on November 5, 2005.

Image taken by Claire Nowak-Boyd from a neighboring building that is not being demolished.