Coordinated Effort to Save “Spaceship”
| 212 South Grand Avenue|
* Update: The Board of Alderman just called our office with news regarding the second reading of Board Bill 118 today. At the meeting a motion was moved to suspend the rules and request perfection. The bill was amended adding the stipulation that if any application for demolition of the existing building must be reviewed by the Cultural Resource Office and the St. Louis Preservation Board. Concerned over the use of the word demolition, the bill was amended to include the word "If" before the statement "demolition is necessary and desirable". It was further amended to remove the word "necessary". After the changes were made a voice vote was taken and all in attendance agreed on the changes. It appears the bill now stipulates that if demolition is desired for redevelopment any application for a demolition permit must be reviewed by the Cultural Resource Office and voted on by the Preservation Board. A third reading will occur at City Hall on Friday, July 8th. Your voice is being heard! Keep calling your alderman! If this does reach the St. Louis Preservation Board, make sure to attend. Public opinion will be heard.
On Wednesday, June 21st the Land Clearance and Redevelopment Authority of St. Louis approved a Blighting Study and Redevelopment Plan enabling the demoliton of a landmark mid-century building at 212 South Grand (used for years as a Del Taco restaurant). Once the story broke, Landmarks began contacting local, regional and national preservation groups to create a united front opposing the proposed demolition of the South Grand "Spaceship". The follow day a group of preservationist and preservation-minded individuals assembled and began drafting a letter of consensus opposing demolition of the building. On Friday, June 23rd, legislation (Board Bill 188) that would approve the redevelopment plan was filed by 19th Ward alderwoman, Marlene Davis and set to go before the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee. Time being of the essence, the coordinated group opposing demolition found agreement and finalized the following letter that was read and submitted to the committee and the Board of Aldermen.
The Council Plaza National Register District was constructed between 1964 and 1968 by the Teamster Local 688 as a community development intended to serve the city's elderly population. Council Plaza was designed as a total concept community, providing residential living, retail shopping, office space, a restaurant, and medical and automotive services for tenants. The complex consists of two residential towers, a commercial building and a gas station. The design concept of Council Plaza fulfilled a critical need in the city's senior housing accommodations and contributed to the stabilization of local public housing as well as the health and vitality of its residents and the surrounding area.
A recent study executed by the St. Louis LCRA identified one or more criteria listed in LCRA Law Section 99.320 designating the former gas station associated with Council Plaza - currently a Del Taco restaurant - as blighted and insanitary. Contrary to the blighted and insanitary designation, it is obvious that Del Taco is well maintained and contributes economically to the surrounding community. The architectural character of the building is not affecting the quality of life. In fact, public outcry opposing demolition indicates the opposite is true.
We the undersigned strongly oppose Board Bill 118 that would enable the demolition of 212 South Grand Avenue. This modern concrete and steel building is an intricate piece of Council Plaza complex. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, the loss of this building has the potential to compromise Council Plaza's designation as a historic district. Given the strong public response against demolition, the Board of Aldermen should not circumvent the demolition review of 212 South Grand. Not only does Del Taco serve as a community landmark in its own right, it is a visible part of the Council Plaza Historic District.
Jefferson Mansell Executive Director, Landmarks Association of St. Louis
Michael Allen President, Modern STL
Karen Baxter President, Missouri Preservation
Paul Hohmann Vice President, Society of Architectural Historians, St. Louis Chapter
Adrian Luchini Professor of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Art and Visual Design, Washington University
Eric Mumford Professor of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Art and Visual Design, Washington University
Royce Yeater Director, Midwest Office, National Trust for Historic Preservation
During the committee meeting concern was voiced about the demolition of the 212 South Grand. Alderwoman Davis, who introduced the bill, stated several times that the bill was only to pave the way for tax abatement and not demolition. Davis even stated that "someone has been stirring the pot and stirring it unnecessarily" in regard to demolition concerns. However, on page 4 of the bill it states: "SECTION THREE. The Area qualifies as a redevelopment area in need of redevelopment under the provision of the Statute, and the Area is blighted as defined in Section 99.320 of the Statute. Demolition of the existing building in the Area is necessary and desirable to allow for redevelopment of the Area in accordance with the Plan." Rick Yackey, the developer of the site, was called to explain his plan for 212 South Grand. Alderwoman Florida asked if Yackey had a course of action planned for an adaptive reuse of the unique historic structure. Yackey stated that the current building has limited parking and square footage and finding another entity to occupy the space would be a challenge. He stated that he wanted to create something that would be more compatible for new tenants. Yackey stated that he envisioned a building with a larger setback for parking and ample square footage.
Aldermen Ogilvie asked both the developer and Alderwoman Davis several detailed questions about the bill and the fact that it appeared to enable demolition. Ogilvie even sited the irony that the developer received $27 million dollars in state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits for his rehab of other buildings in the Council Plaza Historic District, and now was proposing a demolition that would irrevocably damage the integrity of the historic district. Alderman Cohn, who had to leave due to a previous engagement, stated that he supported preservation and adaptive reuse of the building. Two former gas stations in his ward, the 25th Ward, have been rehabbed and adaptively reused.
After many fiery public comments in opposition of Bill Board 118, a vote was taken and the bill was passed. Voting in favor of the bill: Alderman Troupe (1st Ward), Alderwoman Griffin (5th Ward), Alderman Boyd (22nd Ward), Alderman Ortmann (9th Ward) and Aldermwoman Davis (19th Ward). Opposing the bill: Alderwoman Florida (15th Ward) and Alderman Wessels (13th Ward). Contact your aldermen and let them know you oppose this bill.