That’s What Happens Without Demolition Review

by Michael R. Allen

Earlier this year.

Yesterday.

This week, the city said farewell to the Midtown commercial building at 3714 Olive Street just west of Spring Avenue. Sitting behind the massive Coronado Hotel on a block nearly devoid of historic buildings, the two-story building has been a fairly anonymous part of the urban fabric for most of its years. However, as its context diminished, the building became a more important part of potential development of small businesses in Grand Center. The arts district had become a plane of parking space and institutional users, with nary a spot for a coffee or cocktail aside from a few places on Grand Avenue.

The loss of this building makes the dichotomy between Grand Center’s super-scale and its cultural pretensions (“art” and “life” of the sort one finds on, say, Cherokee Street require storefronts) even more stark. Yet the bigger issue is that the building’s demolition never received review by the Cultural Resources Office. This block is outside of the Midtown Historic District, and located in the 19th Ward. the 19th Ward does not have demolition review aside from historic districts and official landmarks.

Now the south side of the 3700-3800 block of Olive Street is down to just four historic buildi ngs, including the National Register-listed William Cuthbert Jones House at 3724 Olive Street and the Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge-designed Wolfner Memorial Library for the Blind (originally Southwestern Bell’s Lindell Exchange) at 3842-44 Olive Street. Two buildings with storefront additions, including one at 3808 Olive Street, also remain. The north side of the street has also been a mess, especially after the demolition of the Central Apartments in 2007.

The alien landscape of this block is the definite result of a once-curable lack of preservation planning. Hence, demolition of 3714 Olive Street makes a strange sort of sense.

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11 Responses to That’s What Happens Without Demolition Review

  1. Jeffvstl says:

    Sad.  The western part of Midtown continues to erode into forgettable nothingness.  This building on Laclede east of Vandeventer is coming down as I type: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=laclede+%26+vandeventer,+st.+louis,+mo&hl=en&ll=38.635822,-90.240412&spn=0.004702,0.010568&sll=38.636105,-90.241836&sspn=0.006295,0.006295&layer=c&cbp=13,159.99,,0,3.11&cbll=38.63571,-90.239848&hnear=N+Vandeventer+Ave+%26+Laclede+Ave,+St+Louis,+Missouri+63108&t=m&z=17&vpsrc=0&panoid=YZ2qvSJFJikSTmS2hXCL4w

  2. Eliebson says:

    and once Fr. Biondi trumpeted his plans to make SLU ‘the greatest Jesuit university in the U.S.’  Not when pulling these stunts

  3. Jeffvstl says:

    I was mistaken.  It’s THESE buildings that were demolished today:http://maps.google.com/maps?q=laclede+%26+vandeventer,+st.+louis,+mo&hl=en&ll=38.635855,-90.240551&spn=0.004702,0.010568&sll=38.636105,-90.241836&sspn=0.006295,0.006295&layer=c&cbp=13,155.93,,0,-1.73&cbll=38.635944,-90.241018&hnear=N+Vandeventer+Ave+%26+Laclede+Ave,+St+Louis,+Missouri+63108&t=m&z=17&vpsrc=0&panoid=0zoW61ZB4i8_OTDC41OxmA  …not the one I linked to before.

  4. Douglas Duckworth says:

    Biondi should visit the University of Toronto to see what a real urban campus looks like.

  5. jeffvstl says:

    Or Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh. 

  6. samizdat says:

    Pffft! Even with pres. rev. overlay, someone still can demo a structure. Case(s) in point: Here in Dutchtown, two houses within 150ft of one another were razed within the last two weeks. One, a two-story duplex on Louisiana, one of a row of four nearly identical buildings, and the other a single-family just around the corner, on Meramec. I’m going to make inquiries today to see what the H went on, but I suspect there have been some shenanigans.

    To be sure, the duplex on Louisiana Avenue had some fairly prominent facade parapet damage, which occurred about two years ago, but from this I can’t see how the entire structure could have been gifted with emergency demo just on that alone. Like I said, something rotten in Denmark.

    As for the one on Meramec, same story, except no damage was visible at all. The second story windows, including the brick molding and sash casing, had been completely stripped out (failed reno, anyone? Idiot), but again, no apparent bowing or distortion to the outer (face) brick could  be discerned, nor could any damage be spied on the foundation or in the rear of the house. However, as one of the next-door houses had recently been “updated” in some way, and occupied, I suspect some squeaky wheel got greased.

    In addition to these two, two more multi-families were razed over on the 4100 block of VIrginia, though there were definitely structural issues with at least one of them. Looked to be major subsidence had taken a toll on the rear of that structure. 

    All of this occurred in a National Historic district with pres. review, so it would seem if someone wants a building down, it’ll come down, whether or not it’s a contributing presence. The demo cos. are running out of supply, and I would bet that pressure is being applied, or palms getting “greased”, in order to maintain failing business plans.

    Hmm, I think my tin-foil hat needs some maintenance…

  7. samizdat says:

    Well, he’s doing it by turning the SLU campus and the surrounding blocks into a whites-only ghetto, for the sake of the parents and potential contributing alumni. Fewer um,  “dark” blocks mean that he can assuage the fears of the idiot and racist parents that their precious little spawn won’t need to worry about getting victimized by any of the neighborhood residents, because not only are there no neighbors, their is no neighborhood to worry about, except for the res halls and the occasional rehabbed factory or upstairs storefront apt.

    The Rev’s a real pious Catholic, he is. Frankly, this exCatholic–and now, nontheist–found people like him all over the Church, which is one of the reasons I left, amongst others. Christians…my arse.

  8. Douglas Duckworth says:

    True! This guy is crazy.

  9. Chris says:

    Or George Washington Univeristy in Washington, DC.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Demolition is a last resort, but that does not mean everything should be preserved. The preservation review is too narrow. The review should also include a city planning review. If plans are not public then it means insiders already know what is going to happen.
    This building, like many others, are also part of a larger context of the city. If tearing the building down is not backed with a public urban plan, then it is another example of the system of governance taking the public for a ride.
    If there is a plan, it should be transparent and open for discussion. Without a public plan the building should not have come down.
    By the way you didn’t expect them to follow their own laws did you? They are better than everyone else.
    The whole city should be under preservation/urban planning review, screw the wards.

  11. Adam says:

    i’ve been wondering what was going on with those… thank god they’re going to be replaced with another cheap-looking, soulless f*cking jimmy johns! with a drive through of course because god forbid anyone in saint louis ever f*cking walk anywhere! and i’m sure there’s just no way any of those buildings could have been rehabbed to house a f*cking sandwich shop – sandwiches are so complex and require state-of-the-art suburban construction! f*ck you, joe roddy, and f*ck biondi for good measure.

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