by Michael R. Allen
Jim Shrewsbury, President of the Board of Aldermen, and Barb Geisman, Deputy Mayor for Development want to help preserve the Mullanphy Emigrant Home and the Nord St. Louis Turnverein. Geisman should be commended for stepping in to hold off on the emergency demolition that the Building Division seeks.
The cost of demolishing the Mullanphy Emigrant Home and the cost of rebuilding the wall seem to be the same, and slightly less that the $100,000 that owner Paul Hopkins seeks for a sales price. The results of either approach could not be more different: the loss of a historic building that enhances the near north side and also is a valuable economic asset, or demolition for a relatively worthless vacant lot.
Either way, the city fronts the money for work costing less than the money the owner seeks. How does demolition make sense?
If the owner’s insurance will pick up the demolition cost, it could pick up the cost of rebuilding the wall and enhancing the value of a historic building. However, without a development plan the building may face similar hurdles in the future. What it needs most of all is a change in ownership. Hopkins will have to take a loss to keep the building standing.
As for the Turnverein, there is less certainty on its future but no immediate danger of further collapse, since all that fell were walls already destabilized by a roof collapse. Some bracing on the remaining ports on those walls and removal of the building material inside would buy some time — but, again, we must not stop working to find a real future.
Time is of the essence for a historic assets that are worth something to more people than just the owners. I am glad that some city officials understand what needs to be done.