by Michael R. Allen
The recent resignation of Alderman Stephen Gregali (D-14th) could have an impact on the future of the Avalon Theater at 4225 S. Kingshighway in Southampton. The languishing Art Deco neighborhood movie house, built in 1937 and designed by A.F. and Arthur Stauder, faces an uncertain fate. The owner is a defunct corporation, the Sopo Corporation, although for years Greg Tsevis — son of the deceased Sopo Corporation owners — asserted ownership rights. The last film screening at the Avalon was in 1999, and in subsequent years damage to the roof and terra cotta on the north parapet has occurred. Alderman Gregali and the city’s counselor’s office pushed forward a suit in 2009 that sought to name the City of St. Louis as successor trustee for the Sopo Corporation and give the city power to dispose of the property. (The judge named an individual as successor.)
On April 20, 2010, Judge Robert Dierker, Jr. entered an order in the case that the parties were willing to settle for a quit-claim deed of the Avalon to the city. However, the deed was not filed by a July 12 deadline. Judge Dierker has set a hearing in the case for August 30th.
If the settlement can be reaches, or if the case results in the city’s being names successor trustee, the future of the Avalon rests with city government. And that means that Gregali’s successor, who will be elected this November in a special election, will have substantial power to determine the fate of one of our city’s few remaining Depression-era neighborhood movie houses.