by Michael R. Allen
On Monday, the St. Louis Preservation Board unanimously voted to uphold the Cultural Resources Office’s denial of an application to demolish the commercial buildings at 2612-30 Chouteau Avenue. The applicant, Crown 40, Inc., was represented in testimony by Charles Mace of Chuck’s Brick and Demo and John Zumwalt of Crown 40. Speaking against demolition — briefly, because the Board already seemed ready to reject the appeal — were Andrew Weil of Landmarks Association, Lafayette Square resident Jason Stokes and myself.
Zumwalt testified that Crown 40 purchased the properties to prevent a competitor from purchasing the buildings and opening a gas station that might compete with Crown 40’s new Crown Mart gas station near I-44 and Jefferson Avenue. Crown 40 has no intention of building a gas station on the site but — and this gets weird — wants to buy the two buildings to the east, demolish all of them and some day build something new there. This desire is odd because the corner building is occupied by a dental clinic that was not represented in Monday’s proceedings. The other building is for sale.
Perhaps 2626-30 Chouteau (the large wagon company warehouse at right in the photograph above) is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. In my professional opinion, the other buildings are not — not even as a district. The alterations have damaged historic integrity, and there is not sufficient context for a larger listing.
Of course, many buildings are preserved without official landmark designation and without tax credits. Can these be? Sure, but the owner doesn’t seem interested. What can change his mind?