Preservation Board Considering Cupples Station Building 7 Demolition

by Michael R. Allen

The Graham Paper Company Building (now known as Cupples Station Building 7) shown in a photograph in the Station Masters files in the collection of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation.

On November 9, Kevin McGowan applied for a demolition permit for Building 7 at Cupples Station (originally the Graham Paper Company Building). The city’s Cultural Resources Office denied the permit, and McGowan appealed the denial to the Preservation Board. The appeal will be considered at the Board’s meeting on November 28. Since it is an appeal, the matter requires a quorum of Preservation Board members to be present for any vote. (Currently eight of the nine spots are filled.)

On appeal, the threshold for approval of demolition is high. The Preservation Board will face arguments from McGowan that the building cannot be stabilized at a reasonable cost, including his recent assertion that demolition costs $2 million less than stabilization. Board members might hear that the building was far too gone to be saved when McGowan originally purchased it in 2004, despite the fact that his company purchased it for rehabilitation.

The burden of proof rests with the appellant, so Preservation Board members need to dig deep in learning the facts. What was the condition of the roof and collapsed structure when McGowan purchased it? What measures has his company taken to prevent the spread of damage? How many building code violations have been found, and when, and did McGowan’s company ever take steps to comply with the code? Have there been offers from other developers to purchase the building, and, if so, why has a sale not taken place? And, of course: How much money does stabilization really cost, and can it be phased?

Cupples Station is an architectural treasure that has faced countless threats over the years. In fact, over half of its original warehouses are gone, leaving just eight remaining. Yet the importance of the remaining buildings has been recognized by St. Louis mayors going back to Vincent Schoemehl, who rescued the complex from demolition to build a new hockey arena.

Preservation of the warehouses has been a goal of nearly every city administration since then, and now only two warehouses are vacant. One of these is slated for rehabilitation, and the other should be. Assembling a workable plan for Cupples Station Building 7 with an intractable owner will be difficult, and will take time. Preservation Board denial of the appeal is a first step in making sure that a plan emerges. Yet Mayor Francis Slay needs to go further and protect the building from an emergency demolition order from the Building Commissioner — a step that would thwart the Preservation Board’s authority.

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3 Responses to Preservation Board Considering Cupples Station Building 7 Demolition

  1. Toho317 says:

    St. Louis is its own worse enemy.  So much of our history has been destroyed AND would have made the city a more attractive place to visit.  When I travel and see other preserved areas I just shake my head because those idiots running the city of St. Louis couldn’t plan their way out of a box.

  2. Robin Woll says:

    In a city that touts itself as so steeped and rich in tradition…It boggles my mind that we continue to destroy our history. Please, don’t tear down yet another piece of our past!

  3. L Smith says:

    This building is garbage. While i recognize the need for preserving historical sites, this building in particular is in horrible shape beyond repair. The owner is in bad financial shape and even if the money was invested to make it livable, it would never be profitable and no one would move into it anyways. Cupples 8 is only 30-40% occupied, so there isn’t a need for more residential space. I say tear it down and the rest of my colleagues agree. While it’s important to preserve history, it’s also important to have a safe environment. This building is not safe and looks like it could crumble any minute. I should know- I have to work next door to it.

    Set up a Park instead in the empty lot- you can never have too much Green space in an urban area.

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