by Michael R. Allen
Yesterday, the Preservation Board unanimously approved demolition of four buildings on the south side of Chouteau Avenue just west of Jefferson Avenue. Last April, the Board had unanimously denied demolition to owner Crown Mart 40 (See “Preservation Board Spares Chouteau Avenue Buildings; Now What?”, April 30, 2010.) The meager silver lining here is that the Cultural Resources Office, whose staff recommended denial of the permits, gets to approve a landscaping and fencing plan for the site before a demolition plan goes through.
Landmarks Association placed the buildings on its 2010 Most Endangered Places list with the strong statement that “the idea that rows of historic buildings can be plowed under as collateral damage in a short-term cat and mouse game between business competitors, is treated with the contempt that it deserves.” However not one person testified against demolition yesterday, nor did any person send a letter. two Gate District residents and a neighboring business owner either testified or sent letters supporting demolition, and Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett (D-6th) made a personal appearance supporting demolition.
The larger issue for time-ravaged Chouteau Avenue is that there is precious little historic context left, and many vacant lots. While these buildings are lost, the character of the street will remain inconsistent and graceless. Perhaps Chouteau between Broadway and Grand Avenue needs a zoning overlay to guide future development. A major artery running alongside densely-populated neighborhoods south of downtown ought to look a lot better that Chouteau does.