by Michael R. Allen
Perhaps the most precious architectural resources in our neighborhoods are corner buildings. When the ends of a block are vacant, a street’s urban character takes a huge hit. Empty corners signify distress and disuse. Corner buildings in full use show the world the lifeblood of an urban area, and in vacancy at least carry the promise of renewal to come. If the corner building is commercial the potential is particularly rich: there could be a place of commerce, a generator of city revenues and a point of presence that dampens crime.
To cut to the chase, I have been concerned about the corner commercial building at the northeast corner of Michigan and Arsenal streets for some time now. The building, which dates to 1905, has lost some of its character through relaying of the upper part. Consequently it is a bit plain, but still sturdy, well-built and suited for a corner store. When I first moved to Tower Grove East last year, the building was already vacant. City records show that the building has been listed as vacant since 2008. Not good.
Then, this summer, the outer wythe of brick on the first floor collapsed. On July 26, the Building Division condemned the building for demolition. The only action taken then by owner, Yee Real Estate LLC of Chesterfield, was to prop up the remaining part of the wythe with lumber. Again, not good. Tower Grove East is a great neighborhood because it has lost so few buildings, and has few empty corners. That should not change.
Some relief came this week when Yee Real Estate LLC applied for a building permit on December 29 for stabilization work to rebuild the collapsed masonry. Hopefully the job is done well and soon, and the building is put back to use.
Attention developers: Just across the street at to the east, the residential building at 3114-16 Arsenal Street remains vacant and for sale. Built in two sections, the building has a dentillated brick cornice and, on the east, flat stone lintels. These are signs that this building precedes much of the surrounding city fabric. Indeed the eastern half of the building appears to be a building seen in Compton and Dry’s 1875 Pictorial St. Louis.
Nearby Grant School at 3009 Pennsylvania Avenue would not be completed until 1893.