FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Douglas Charles Duckworth
Date: July 26th 2007
Once again there will be a rally protesting Lawrence Biondi’s demolition of historical buildings within Midtown and the burgeoning Locust Business District. The last two attempts at dissent were cut short due to inclement weather; however this Thursday the 26th many will rally at the intersection of Locust and Josephine Baker Boulevard. Please arrive by 5:30 PM. At 6PM we will be walking from the remnants of the Livery Stable to the soon to be demolished Second Empire mansion at 3740 Lindell. Show your opposition to the annihilation of historical buildings as they represent St. Louis’ unique built environment and history! Inform Biondi and the political machine that needlessly bulldozing the built environment is not a policy which will revitalize St. Louis.
St. Louis City has a precedent of demolition extending back decades. The practice is ingrained within its political culture. The argument for demolition, specifically of large areas, was that certain neighborhoods were blighted slums thus their redevelopment was in the interest of the City. In fact Soulard was supposed to be demolished per the 1947 City Plan. These large scale projects, called “urban renewal,” were designed to provide new housing, office space, and industrial, that would allegedly offset population losses due to suburbanization. They failed miserably as the City continued its depopulation.
Considering the former Livery Stable, the argument for demolition was that surface parking must be provided for SLU’s new arena. In reality, there is plenty of parking available via on-street, surface, and garage parking. Moreover, the benefit of providing parking does not outweigh the loss of St. Louis’ unique built environment. Readily apparent throughout St. Louis City is our plethora of parking garages and lots, many of which supplanted a historical building through demolition. Suburbanites visit the City for a ball game, concert, or other event; yet afterwards the sidewalks are devoid of pedestrian life. The goal of the establishment should be a change of policy. Both large scale urban renewal and demolition for parking are failed policies. What didn’t work in the past should not be repeated.
There is a better solution. The City will gain residents by concentrating resources on rehabbing the built environment. Ironically, after decades of decline, Mayor Francis G. Slay and others in power cite the Washington Avenue rehab boom, and other transitioning neighborhoods, as explanation for the City’s recent population increase. Why is needless demolition acceptable in some areas when rehabilitation of the built environment has had such positive benefits elsewhere? Specifically, within Grand Center, concentration on rehabilitation and new infill construction would bring pedestrian life. With such activity comes a market for storefront retail and commerce. The end result is that Grand Center lives up to its official name, The Intersection of Art and Life, rather than its current reality: The Intersection of Art and Death.
Pedestrian traffic facilitated through urban residential and commercial development provides SLU with patrons to their new arena without the construction of parking. Individuals would simply walk from where they live or work. They could even use a bike. Finally, the rehabilitation of our built environment would provide the City a higher tax yield. These monies could fund mass transit expansion within the City, thus lessening the need for parking. The possibilities are endless, yet are utterly destroyed when a viable historical building is demolished. The Livery Stable is gone, but the mansion at 3740 Lindell, which contributes to the Midtown National Register Historic District, can be saved. Moreover, a message must be sent: St. Louis should have higher standards.
After the rally we will be walking across Lindell to the Moolah, which was masterfully rehabbed in 2004, for our monthly discussion of politics, urbanism, preservation, and architecture. This is the perfect opportunity to meet fellow activists and make new friends. Be sure to attend the rally and the social gathering afterwards. The future of St. Louis City is being decided today. Make sure it does not look like O’Fallon. Your children will thank you.