Photographs by Michael R. Allen
Photographs by Michael R. Allen
by Michael R. Allen
Published in The Commonspace, December 2004.
Many readers know that with the ongoing demolition of the Century Building, downtown Saint Louis has been altered forever. With each swing of the wrecking ball comes another dislocated load of precious marble, steel and other parts of a formidable building that refuses to die easily. Each swing, however, takes this city closer to the sad day on which nothing resembling the great Century Building will stand on Ninth Street. The ruptured streetscape will only get worse as the demolition progresses and, inevitably, the replacement structure—a dull and lifeless parking garage to serve Steve Stogel and the DFC Group’s Old Post Office renovation—begins to rise.
Everyone knows that the Century Building will never return. Few realize that something even greater disappears with the Century Building: the last intact district of great office buildings in all of downtown and the city.
That’s right; after the demolition is finished, there will be no spot anywhere in St. Louis where one can stand and be completely surrounded by the magnificent historic office buildings that made this city’s downtown a worthy—and perhaps superior—architectural competitor to Chicago’s. Nowhere. There are other impressive parts of downtown, notably along Washington Avenue, where one can stand and be surrounded by grand late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century wholesale commercial buildings, remnants of America’s second-largest garment district. Yet there is not a single district like the Old Post Office office building district, the definite core of downtown since the 1880’s.
Throughout the debate over preserving the Century Building, no one made this point very well. Many people mentioned other sound reasons for preserving the Century Building: old building are superior to parking garages and bland new construction; its date of construction, 1896, makes it one of the oldest downtown office buildings; its marble facade is a singularity in the Midwest, if not in America; its history as one of the first hybrid office buildings in St. Louis, replete with theater; home to the famous Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney department store and the local White Star Line—remember the R.M.S. Titanic?—office; its undeniably majestic beauty; and the fact that the Century Building generates more street-level activity than a huge and disruptive parking garage.
While these are great arguments for preserving the Century Building, they are but elements of a larger argument for retaining the architectural integrity of the Old Post Office district. At the Ninth and Olive intersection stands an amazing array of buildings: Alfred B. Mullett’s Old Post Office, the visual anchor of eastern downtown since its completion in 1882 and the current rationale for the Century Building’s woes; the 1906 Frisco Building, by one of St. Louis’s most prolific and important architectural firms, Eames and Young; the 1926 Paul Brown Building by Preston Bradshaw, currently under renovation; and the Century Building, by the Chicago firm of Raeder and Coffin. Up and down Ninth Street are the Mark Twain (formerly Maryland) Hotel, by St. Louisan Albert Groves and featuring some of the most whimsical ornamental pieces made by local Winkle Terra Cotta Company, and the 1891 Board of Education Building by Issac Taylor, a highly prolific and important local architect.
Along Olive, of course, is a lovely canyon that is no longer architecturally intact but still retains a highly urban scale. Immediate to the Ninth and Olive intersection are H.E. Roach’s 1906 Syndicate Trust Building, joined to the Century since 1912; the combined landmarks of the 1906 Wright Building by Eames and Young and the 1918 Arcade Building by Tom Barnett; and the stunning Romanesque Revival first headquarters of Bell Telephone, from 1888 and designed by the firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge. To both east and west along Olive, other landmarks abound. Many of these buildings replaced earlier spectacular office buildings.
This district earlier lost some of its coherence with the 1969 addition of the towering Laclede Gas Building at Eighth and Olive as well as with the 1971 demolition of the Victoria Building, which was the rebuilt 1893 St. Nicholas Hotel by none other than Louis Sullivan and the pointless removal of the upper floors of Isaac Taylor’s 1891 Columbia Building (now Hamilton Jewelers). Both of these buildings were at the corner of Eighth and Locust. Also lost on this corner was the entire row of small commercial buildings that stood north of the Victoria Building along Locust, the last of which was demolished in 2001. Still, the Old Post Office core remains incredibly intact, especially around the corner of Ninth and Olive.
I offer all of these names and dates not only to catalog the importance of the intersection but also to offer glimpses into the larger interplay of St. Louis architectural history in which the Century Building is situated. Of course, the Century Building is an inherently valuable structure, but its value is enhanced by its neighborhood—just as it enhances its neighbors’ value. Each of the collection of buildings near Ninth and Olive exhibits a remarkable sympathy to the others, with elegant variations in materials, color, style and massing.
The Old Post Office district, however grand, takes a definite second place behind the even grander office building district that radiated from the corner of Seventh and Olive. That district, of course, is long gone. Steady demolition along Seventh ensured that a good deal of it was gone before I was born in 1980, and almost all of it was gone before I was old enough to pay serious attention. Many of us watched in agony in 1997 as Mercantile Bank attacked one of its last survivors, the ornate Ambassador Building, to build a bland plaza that has become a driveway. Others may recall the earlier and still greater loss in this district in the early 1980’s, which shares some similarities with the Century Building demolition.
In the early 1980’s, St. Louis civic leaders lead by H. Edwin Trusheim promoted one of the worst designs ever to hit downtown: that of the “half-mall” completion of the Gateway Mall, that band of parkland stretching west between Market and Chestnut Streets from the Arch grounds to 22nd Street. This half-mall plan resulted not only in the destruction of one of the key blocks in the Seventh Street district but also in the construction of the horribly ugly Gateway One building right where older, more dignified buildings sat.
As in the case of the Century Building, civic leaders claimed—in the face of intense opposition from preservationists and the general public—that the demolition of significant historic office buildings actually helped save other buildings by making downtown as a whole more vital. Just like the Century Building demolition, this demolition led to the construction of an ugly structure that killed sidewalk life on its block. And, as with the Century Building case, the demolition did nothing to help revive downtown—it effected the reverse by destroying one of the most important architectural blocks and eliminating one of the last bits of vibrant street life south of Chestnut.
Back then, the victims were the stunning collection of buildings on the block bounded by Seventh and Eighth streets on the east and west and Market and Chestnut streets on the south and north, respectively. These were the 1898 Lincoln Trust (Title Guaranty) Building, by Eames and Young; the 1902 Missouri Pacific (Buder) Building, by William Swasey; and the 1906 Liggett (International) Building, also by Eames and Young. I won’t even get into the merits of these great buildings here. All three were gone by 1984.
Suffice to say, these buildings worked with each other and others—a few gone even before these—to form a harmonious and picturesque district of great office buildings centered around Louis Sullivan’s pioneering achievement, the 1891 Wainwright Building. These buildings expanded upon Sullivan’s ingenious triumph without overwhelming it. From the Buder Building at Seventh and Market up to the Ambassador Building at Seventh and Locust, this district’s buildings complimented each other through sophisticated variety of materials and colors, structural and stylistic experimentation and density of construction. This district served as a majestic corridor of commerce linking the northern downtown core, centered around the Old Post Office, with the southern Cupples Station warehouse district—which has been horribly devastated since the construction of Busch Stadium claimed half of the district and current “revitalization” plans have led to another demolition.
All that’s left today are the two downtown Sullivan buildings, the Wainright and the 1893 Union Trust Building at Seventh and Olive and two white terra cotta survivors also at Seventh and Olive, the looming 1914 Railway Exchange Building by Mauran, Russell and Garden, and the diminutive 1910 Louis Curtiss-designed Gill Building, which faces an uncertain future. That’s all. The fourth building at the corner of Seventh and Olive is a new, grossly overstated new parking garage that sits empty most of the time.
The Old Post Office district has not lost as many component buildings as the Seventh Street corridor. The fact that the Century Building was seriously considered for demolition in order to build an adjunct parking garage for another building is outrageous if one assumes that things are very good for downtown. If one instead assumes that downtown is caught in another speculation-driven bubble like the one that burst in the mid-1980s—not to mention the earlier bubble of the late 1960’s—the demolition makes sense. Recall that there was much talk about renovation and widespread support for preservation then, but stupid demolition decisions were still common.
One can also recall the 1998 demolition of the Marquette Building Annex on Broadway, which produced a bulky parking garage that stole sidewalk space and did nothing to further the renovation of the attached Marquette Building, which remains largely empty. This blunder pales in comparison to the Gateway Mall destruction, but serves as a direct and recent parable for the future of the Old Post Office project. The hype of the Marquette Garage’s saving power was totally false.
I’ll admit that the hype of the earlier waves of downtown reinvestment led to the renovation of many buildings, but only those deemed affordable to save. Many others were torn down, with horrible consequences. Somehow, the Old Post Office core made it out of the demolition spree to survive as the last place downtown where anyone could experience the elegant office building core as a living environment. Now, it becomes a memory—an abstract greatness that future generations may never believe existed.
Ironically, part of the earlier hype in downtown St. Louis was the renovation of the Old Post Office, reopened triumphantly in 1982. By 1996, the building’s doors were locked on weekends and the building fell into such disuse that less than 25 years after its grand re-opening it is once again the subject of redevelopment. This time, though, the Old Post Office will reopen slightly out of context and more than a little less elegant with a hulking concrete garage glaring from where solid Georgia marble once responded to the its ornate Second Empire lines. The old context—a relationship between buildings—will no longer exist in the same way as before.
Such beautiful contexts are the results of consistent accumulation of design choices. When planners make these choices carefully, districts like the Old Post Office core and the Seventh Street corridor emerge. When planners consistently make careless choices when altering existing districts, these districts become diminished over time until they become crude and disjointed collections of buildings. So goes downtown Saint Louis.
by Michael R. Allen
I visited Saint Louis last week, and spent some time in the Century Building. Yes, I was inside of the remains of the grandest marble building ever built. The experience was chilling, bizarre and intense. It would have been even more intense if I had made the visit with my colleague Claire Nowak-Boyd, but she had obligations that kept her home in Chicago while I went ahead with a truly terrible trip.
Last Wednesday morning, I was downtown in St. Louis, walking without an umbrella in the near-freezing rain to go to the Century. No one was there to let me in, so I wandered around and come back in an hour via MetroLink. As I ascended from the Eighth and Pine station, I heard a crack overhead and suddenly a light shower of glass mingled with the rain literally falling around me. I saw a set of vertical blinds flying in the strong wind many stories above. My first thought is that the workers at the Paul Brown Building had knocked their boom crane against the Arcade Building, causing a window to break. Then, a quick glance above revealed that a window had broken out in the Laclede Gas Building above.
A worker walking by turned to me and said, “That’s the problem with those windows. They don’t open and close, so they make a vacuum and the wind just sucks them out.”
Right on. Needless to say, the window now sports a plywood bandage.
I kept walking and, a few moments later, was inside of the fence at the Century Building, meeting up with salvager Larry Giles to get my hard hat. Then I went inside of the gruesome wreckage of the old gem. I watched as Larry and his two workers desparately began assembling bracing for the Ninth Street arch that he is trying to preserve in its entirety.
Water dripped consistently above the spot where Larry and his workers were working. The roof was removed weeks ago and there are some holes in the second floor due to the wrecking activities. Otherwise, the structure is fine even if slightly weakened. I believe that one could devise a workable plan to rebuild the building even in this late stage of demolition. The street frame with its exterior concrete piers is holding up well, as is the facade. Demolition of the corners has not damaged the intergrity of other spots in the building. Oh, well.
(The next day, another worker headed to the Board of Education Building rehab walks by and states to me that he thinks that the Century Building could be saved as-is if demolition stopped, and glass structures were built to encapsulate the corner areas and roof. Hmmm.)
At any rate, Larry informed me that the wrecking plan was altered to accomodate complaints from the Bell Lofts at Tenth and Olive; now, wrecking has to proceed from Locust to Olive, catching the arch in the middle. The original plan called for wrecking the corners first and then wrecking the building from the Syndicate Trust Building wall eastward toward the Ninth Street elevation. The arch would have been in the last area to be wrecked.
Hopefully, though, the salvage efforts will be completed without interference. Saving the entire arched entrance ornament system is a remarkable achievement that could only be bested by saving the entire building on-site.
Wednesday’s weather escalated into snow by mid-day, so the wreckers and Larry’s crew both stopped work after lunch.
When I returned to the site on Friday, the weather had improved and both operations were back in action, as they had been on Thanksgiving (hopefully Saint Louisans are thankful that Larry and his crew have been working seven days a week on this important and grueling task). I was able to take many good photographs that I will share on the EOA site later this week.
While the work was going on, I shuffled around the columns, open elevator shafts — some still framed with original Winslow Brothers cast iron framing — and piles of debris from the upper floors (the whole building is considerably smashed and somewhat unstable). The old Walgreens’ store space still sported macabre signs, one almost reading “BEAUTY” but missing some letters because the wall had been smashed out. The upper floors have been thoroughly gutted, but the ground floor’s shops paces are still full of furniture and a few old computers, buried under debris.
Being inside of the Century Building during demolition was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was plainly terrible to observe the signs of structural ingenuity exposed before destruction in addition to seeing the decorative beauty trampled. As the building continues to fall, more of the things that made it great are exposed in a grim irony.
As I said to Larry Giles while looking up through the archway at the Old Post Office as snow fell, this view never existed before and it’s beautiful as much as it is gruesome. But I never, ever wanted to even know that such a view existed.
Photographs by Michael R. Allen
by Michael R. Allen
The silver lining to the Century Building demolition is that salvage rights belong to the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation, the non-profit set up by salvage expert Larry Giles to create a museum of American architecture. Not only will the Century’s unique marble and iron pieces be used for educational purposes, but also they will be removed by someone who has the experience, knowledge and love of the building to ensure that we won’t lose anything important.
Right now Larry and his crew are at work dismantling the entire Ninth Street entrance to the building — a massive undertaking that is a race against the wrecking ball.
Images from October 29-30, 2004
We visited the Century Building roughly one week after demolition work began. These photos depict the building with its corners destroyed beyond repair, its solid form marred forever. The last two photographs show cast iron spandrel panels removed for safekeeping by the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation. The Building Arts Foundation is also removing the full assembly of the Ninth Street entry arch.
by Michael R. Allen
As wreckers race to destroy the landmark Century Building, Ecology of Absence pauses to recall how it once appeared in this vintage postcard.
Such a memory bring to mind another downtown office building now lost. Correction; we recall several buildings now lost that once formed the most spectacular commercial group in the city. These were the buildings on Seventh Street between Market and Locust, as depicted in this other postcard.
From left, the Missouri Pacific, Lincoln Trust, Fullerton and Holland Buildings have all fallen to the callous plans of our civic leaders and property owners. The last of these buildings disappeared in 1982, suggesting that 22 years is not enough time for a Saint Louis civic leader to learn good urban planning.
To contemplate the existence of a commercial corridor and an individual building so graceful that someone sold postcard images of both leads to a massive shudder as one considers what has replaced and will replace these buildings.
by Michael R. Allen
Originally published by the St. Louis Independent Media Center, April 1, 2002.
The city of St. Louis has handed Mark Finney and his Conlon Group what is perhaps the biggest real estate windfall in city history: the opportunity to make nearly ten times the purchase price on two buildings that Finney exploited and blighted. Recently purchased by the city for $6.5 million, Syndicate Trust and Century buildings on Olive Street between 9th and 10th Streets were moderately occupied when the Conlon Group purchased them in 1993 for $625,000. Now, the buildings sit behind a plywood fence and house only a corner Walgreens — the result of willful neglect amid a nearly seven-year effort by Finney to demolish them.
Not only is the city handing the Conlon Group ten times what his building cost him, but it is doing so precisely to facilitate the demolition of the 1896 Century Building. Once the foe of Finney’s demolition, the city’s new plans call for renovation of the already Protected Old Post Office, which is being arranged by the state of Missouri and the DESCO Group. In doing so, the adjacent Century Building has become a plum site for a 1,050-car parking garage. Despite the fact that Loftworks LLC, McGowan Brothers Development and Mansur Real Estate Services unveiled an $81 million plan in February for the buildings that would provide needed parking and preserve the historic, stately Century Building, the plan was withdrawn because it received no support from a City Hall intent on proving that it can complete a major downtown development.
Never mind the other available sites for parking within a block from the Old Post Office — this site is the only one the state is considering. In fact, it is unlikely that the city would have even purchased the buildings at all if it were not for the Old Post Office redevelopment. After opposing Finney’s demolition plan and allowing him to let the buildings sit in disrepair, the city now has rewarded him for his stalwart insistence on leveling one of downtown’s most unique blocks. Neighboring buildings have lost tenants as the deteriorating Syndicate Trust and Century buildings have waited for a future. The cost to the neighborhood of the vacancy has been enormous. Why did the city give a multimillion dollar payoff to the developer who speculated on the buildings and then left them moribund when they cost too much?
Postcard view of the Century Building. Collection of the author.
In short, Finney’s speculation turned into a windfall aided by the city government, which had opposed him. Because of the intervention of a judge in Jefferson City, Finney was able to have the courts set a price for the buildings only the city could afford to pay–and that is exactly what happened. A preservationist would argue that if the city is willing to hand Finney his outrageous profit, at least such a payment should be for the preservation of these important buildings. The city has a responsibility to its citizens to respect its own preservation standards, which after all it insisted that Finney himself uphold. If the city allows the Century Building to be wrecked, the folly of Finney’s enormous profit will be topped by the irresponsibility of the demolition.
HISTORY OF THE BUILDINGS
When Finney bought the Syndicate Trust and Century buildings in 1993, the buildings had been through a nearly one hundred year progression from vitality to lethargic vacancy. The elegant Century Building, designed by Raeder, Coffin & Crocker of Chicago and built in 1896 across Ninth Street from the Old Post Office, incorporated the entrance to the defunct Century Theater and housed the local offices of the White Star Line — the agents for the R.M.S. Titanic–in the space now occupied by Walgreens. The elaborate Syndicate Trust Building, designed by Harry Roach, was constructed next door in 1906. The two buildings were joined in 1912 to become the headquarters for the Scruggs, Vandervoort and Barney department store, which remained there until its closure in 1967.
After the department store’s close, the buildings fell from being a familiar downtown address to a difficult space to market. The floors housing the store had no interior natural lighting and were virtually unusable for office uses, although Southwestern Bell’s data division occupied some of the space briefly. With a total of 705,000 square feet, the buildings were a formidable challenge that few tenants wanted to take. Two renovation plans–one in 1968 and another in 1986–failed to revive the buildings. The owner prior to Finney, Allan Pullman, a Philadelphia dentist who had bought the buildings using an inflated appraisal, defaulted on his loan in 1988 and lost the buildings to the FDIC.
When the FDIC held an auction in 1993, there was only one bid for $625,000 — less than one dollar per square foot — from Mark Finney, head of the Conlon Group of Saint Louis. Although Pullman’s inflated appraisal held the buildings to be worth $41 million, the FDIC had determined that their worth was close to $16 million. Finney got a bargain–but a costly one.
He was also prepared to invest money in a $2.6 million renovation plan sponsored through a voluntary contract with the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Agency. This contract — which Finney later distorted–bound Finney to renovate the buildings and prevented their demolition, in exchange for financial and legal help from city agencies. This contract alone should have prevented the actions Finney would take over the next eight years.
With the designs of architect Richard Claybour, Finney planned to use most of the bottom six floors of the building — the department store space — for parking with office space above. He began gutting the buildings when an apparent insurmountable structural deficiency emerged.
Finney claims that a Bobcat loader broke through a floor of the Century Building. Claybour argues that a wheel got stuck in a weak spot on a floor section that was going to be removed for a garage ramp. Claybour told the Riverfront Times that “what really happened was that the owner lost interest in the project” Work stopped immediately, and never resumed.
Finney immediately sought a demolition permit — no surprise to some people involved in the project. The Heritage and Urban Design Commission twice rejected his application, citing the possibility of finishing the renovation. After trying unsuccessfully to sell the buildings, Finney and his brother, attorney Daniel P. Finney of Maplewood, took advantage of a strange possibility in state law: they filed an appeal in a court in Cole County, where the capital of Jefferson City is located.
The possibility panned out well — in March 1995 Cole County Circuit Judge Byron Kinder ordered the city to issue the demolition permit. The city filed an appeal in state court, and the resulting legal fight dragged on for months, costing both sides enough money to refurbish a floor or two of the buildings.
Meanwhile, all of the tenants were forced out except the Walgreens at Ninth and Olive, which had a 15-year lease that could not be legally terminated without consent of both parties. Walgreens refused to move out, even after Finney erected a wide fence on all four sides of the block, with scaffolding from the middle of Olive Street to the door of Walgreens.
Finney’s chain-link fence — built to protect pedestrians from “falling objects” from the buildings — blocked two lanes of traffic on all sides, causing a nuisance suit to be filed by neighboring building owners and shopkeepers. Instead of ordering Finney to make the same necessary repairs to his property required of even the poorest homeowners, the city Circuit Court simply ordered the fence taken down. Finney complied half-way: he built a new plywood fence on the sidewalks only.
That fence still stands, successfully impeding pedestrians for nearly five years now–despite its as illegality. Finney then sued the city in city courts for a staggering $14 million in damages, a vague figure never fully substantiated. He said the city was guilty of inverse condemnation, claiming that the city was preventing his rightful use of the property: demolition. Of course, the fight over Finney’s “rightful use” was possibly impairing neighboring buildings from retaining tenants. During the legal wrangling, the nearby renovated Paul Brown Building at 818 Olive Street closed and the Frisco Building at 906 Olive Street lost many of its tenants.
In December 1997, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Margaret Neil ordered the city of St. Louis to pay Finney $4.2 million for his buildings. The city refused, calling the price excessive. Although the city was legally bound to respect the decision of the Heritage and Urban Design Commission, its development agencies did not pursue developers for the buildings. If Finney’s combative style hadn’t run off potential buyers, his inflated asking price had.
The city did continue to mount legal challenges to Finney, and eventually won a victory. On September 1, 1998, the Missouri Appellate Court overturned Kinder’s ruling and Neil’s $4.2 million price. The reason behind the decision was very simple: Finney had breached his contract with the LCRA, and thus still owed the city renovation of the buildings. The meaning of the decision was not as simple, because neither Finney nor the city had a plan for the buildings. Finney could not even afford to demolish them, let alone renovate them. Neither could the city.
The city under mayor Clarence Harmon tried to broker a voluntary use of eminent domain in 1999, whereby the city would purchase the buildings. Not surprisingly, Finney would not budge from his price. Finney now demanded $9 million, and the city was willing to spend $2 million. The St. Louis Circuit Court appointed a three-member commission to hear the case, which decided that the fair compromise was $6.2 million. The city balked, and the buildings continued to sit empty–as well as stripped of many ornaments that Finney sold.
More of the same back-and-forth legal maneuvers happened throughout 2000, too. In September, city Circuit Judge Robert Dierker, Jr., declared the buildings a “public nuisance” and ordered their demolition. Then, developer John Steffen came forward with a proposal to renovate both buildings for residential uses. The hitch: he only could pay $5 million for the buildings, and Finney would not accept that amount. Steffen walked away and Finney blamed the business booster group Downtown Now — skeptical of the Steffen plan — for not coming up with financing for Steffen to pay full price.
Of course, had Steffen paid the full amount, he would most likely have been unable to finance any work on the buildings. In order for the damaged buildings to be renovated — or demolished for that matter — a party with nearly unlimited financing would have to buy the buildings.
That’s exactly what happened. After the state’s Missouri Development Finance Board announced plans to renovate the Old Post Office to house a state court and Webster University, the city offered to but the Syndicate Trust and Century buildings for adjacent parking — as long as the state agreed to reimburse the city. Plans call for demolishing the Century Building and selling the Syndicate Trust Building — hopefully at a non-Finney price — to a developer for renovation.
No one mentioned Finney’s contract with the LCRA, or the city’s earlier position in favor of preservation. Now that the state was calling the shots and mayor Francis Slay needed the publicity of a downtown redevelopment project, the profit was quickly arranged.
SAME DEMOLITION, NEW OWNER
In February of this year, the LCRA paid Finney a $3.5 million down payment on the buildings with the promise of delivering $3 million more to him later.
Meanwhile, a proposal to save the entire block for residential use and for 700 parking spaces — more than enough for the required spaces for Webster University and the court — was given no serious attention by city development agencies. Loftworks LLC, McGowan Brothers Development and Mansur Real Estate Services unveiled in February a $81 million plan for the buildings that would provide needed parking and preserve the historic, stately Century Building.
Mayoral spokesperson Ed Rhode called that plan an “11th hour proposal.”
On March 2, the Loftworks group withdrew its plan and oddly endorsed the plan to demolish the Century Building. One reason for the withdrawal was that the buildings are not eligible for much-needed state historic tax credits since they are not listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In February the city’s Preservation Board rejected, 6-1, an application to place both buildings on the National Register. The majority say that they will approve listing the Syndicate Trust Building after the Century is demolished. [N.B. The heroic Melanie Fathman was the lone “nay” vote.]
One need not be a preservationist to remember the failure of a similar project completed by the City Treasurer’s office in 1998 at the Marquette Building, in which the less significant portion was demolished for an adjoining garage. Both the Marquette Building and the garage are largely unoccupied, and plans to restore the building fizzled within months of the garage’s opening.
The city has a responsibility to its citizens to respect its own preservation standards, which after all it insisted that Finney himself uphold. If the city allows the Century Building to be wrecked, the folly of the windfall profit will be topped by the irresponsibility of the demolition.