Historic Preservation JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Pruitt Igoe

The Urban Character of Eastern JeffVanderLou

by Michael R. Allen

Looking east toward the Pruitt-Igoe site on James Cool Papa Bell Avenue.

One of the characterizations often raised about the area of north St. Louis included in the McEagle project is that it is “urban prairie” where few houses remain. The area is marked by only a handful of historic buildings, vacant land, and people who are unseemly and whose eviction will only benefit the area. There are many vacant lots and houses (too many) and a few bad apples, but by and large the persistence of these neighborhoods is contrary to the word on the street. The worst parts happen to be very photogenic examples of disinvestment, but the best parts show resilience and an urban character impossible to recreate.

St. Louis Place and JeffVanderLou are amazingly rich with fine architecture, caring residents and many efforts at neighborhood improvement. These neighborhoods could use a boost — the bigger the better. However, that boost must complement what is already there.

Here are photographs of the rich architectural character of the part of JeffVanderLou just west of an admitted urban forest, the site of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project. These photographs show that historic preservation and sensitivity to existing residents must be part of the McEagle plan — there is critical mass here.

2713 and 2715 Mills Street

2834-42 Gamble Street

2820-34 Thomas Street

2700 Block of James Cool Papa Bell Avenue

2623 James Cool Papa Bell Avenue

2627-31 Madison Street

2626-28 Howard Street

2946 & 2950 Thomas Street

2703 and 2707 Stoddard Street

These houses date from 1870 through 1910, and span a wide stylistic range. There has not yet been a comprehensive architectural survey of the area, but a cursory examination shows much remaining building stock with strong significance. The building density in JeffVanderLou is higher than that of Old North St. Louis — there is tremendous opportunity for preservation-oriented development. Many individuals and the St. Louis Equity Fund have invested in historic buildings, but a lot of work remains. Listing as much of the neighborhood as possible on the National Register of Historic Places would help bring economic development incentives and recognition of the unique architecture that remains.

Of course, photographs only tell part of the story. In JeffVanderLou, one also can find the photographs that would prove an “urban prairie” theory. The truth is complex, and best experienced in person away from the manipulations of photographs and aerial plans. One will find a neighborhood — flawed, deprived, lively and urban. New investment must face this reality and work with it.

JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Old North St. Louis Place

Aldermen Talk About McEagle "Concept"

by Michael R. Allen

Yesterday the Beacon published an interesting article on the McEagle project by reporter Dale Singer. The article is relevant because it includes the most substantial remarks by aldermen April Ford-Griffin (D-5th) and Marlene Davis (D-19th) on the plan that I have read. Oddly, the article makes no mention of Alderman Kacie Starr Triplett (D-6th), whose ward includes a substantial part of the project’s southern end, where development will likely begin.

The article also mentions the date and time of the next meeting on the plans, but does not indicate that the meeting will be open to the public or the press — just a “wider audience.”

That meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 21 at Central Baptist Church (2842 Washington Avenue).

JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

McEagle Shows the Plan

by Michael R. Allen

Yesterday evening at Central Baptist Church, Aldermen Marlene Davis (D-19th) and April Ford-Griffin (D-5th) held a meeting on McEagle Properties’ large-scale redevelopment project centered around St. Louis Place and JeffVanderLou. McEagle’s representatives made a presentation, including slides showing proposed land uses, before taking spirited questions from the crowd.

The bombshell dropped was that McEagle plans to submit a financial plan and tax increment financing plan to the city by May 26, and hopes to have a redevelopment ordinance approved by the Board of Aldermen by the end of the year. This project is on a fast track all of a sudden.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an account here: “Residents get briefing on developer’s long-awaited plan”

I’m going to withhold comment now and turn this post over to readers and people who attended last night’s meeting.

What are your thoughts about the McEagle project, the proposed timeline and the forthcoming request for more public incentives?

Flounder House JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Storefront Addition

Storefront Addition to Flounder House

by Michael R. Allen

Just west of the Pruitt-Igoe Nature Reserve at 2719 James Cool Papa Bell Avenue in JeffVanderLou is this fine storefront addition dating to 1912. Now used as a residence, the structure is attached to a two-story flounder house! No attempt to match that house’s dentillated cornice was made by the builders of the addition.

Housing JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Refaced House on James Cool Papa Bell

by Michael R. Allen

This small refaced house at 2911 James Cool Papa Bell in JeffVanderLou attracts my attention. (The fact that it is owned by one of Paul McKee’s holding companies doesn’t hurt.) Although the new jack-arched window opening is a bit small, the polychrome brickwork is done well. There is even a recurring pattern in the bond found at the roof line and on each side of the window. There are many examples of historic houses being refaced with inappropriate materials, covered with paint that damages the face brick and partly relayed with new brick that doesn’t match. Then there are houses like this one, built in 1890 and refaced after World War II, where the changes add a new and interesting dimension. Perhaps my outlook reflects the fact that I read How Buildings Learn long before I read the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. So be it.

JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Storefront Addition

Storefront Addition: A Corner in JeffVanderLou

by Michael R. Allen

Here is another corner storefront addition in located at 2800 James Cool Papa Bell (at Leffingwell) JeffVanderLou. This is made for high density, with a storefront on James Cool papa Bell and two additional (although now filled) storefront bays on Leffingwell. Although vacant and now owned by Union Martin LLC, the house and the addition are in good condition. Note the dentillated cornice on the storefront, and the intact dormer details on the main house.

Demolition JeffVanderLou North St. Louis

Corner Storefront No More

by Michael R. Allen

The corner storefront at 2742 Cass Avenue, subject of the previous post “Corner Storefront on Cass Avenue” (May 14, 2008), is under demolition.

There is little left of the once-beautiful building.

JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Storefront Addition

Storefront Addition: 2546 N. Grand

by Michael R. Allen

2546 N. Grand

The vacant storefront addition and its parent building at 2546 N. Grand Avenue in JeffVanderLou once housed the Upper Level club. The three lunette transom windows and the basket-weave belt course below are notable features.

Historic Preservation JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Not Long for This World?

by Michael R. Allen

The house at 2719 Madison Street (left), owned by N & G Ventures since 2006, is obviously facing serious problems. The front wall collapsed in early 2008. While the joists run parallel to the front wall and are in no way compromised by the wall collapse, the roof structure is clearly sagging. The old house in JeffVanderLou dates to 1879 and managed to dodge decades of area decline. Two blocks east is the Pruitt-Igoe site. All around this block are vacant lots and derelict historic buildings. In the past five years, the speed of abandonment has rapidly increased, but the worst toll hit this area between 1950-1980.

The surviving buildings hung on, due to better ownership or physical condition than neighbors. Will the survival of remaining resources be only momentary? That’s up to current owners and political leaders — especially the aldermen who have the power to craft a redevelopment ordinance that will detail requirements for preservation, land use and eminent domain. For every house with a wall collapse is one like the next-door neighbor here, which is vacant but as solid as ever. No matter what, this poor house at 2719 Madison Street does not seem long for the world.

Abandonment Housing JeffVanderLou LRA North St. Louis Planning

Side by Side on Sheridan Avenue

by Michael R. Allen

Left: 2944 Sheridan Avenue, abandoned and owned by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority. Right: 2946 Sheridan, privately owned and well maintained. Left to right: one historic building in the city’s JeffVanderLou neighborhood.