UPDATE 4:03PM : That was quick. Not only have local news sources from Fox2now to The Beacon and STL Business Journal picked up on this story (call it the Del Taco effect, perhaps), but City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has weighed in for the second time in two weeks regarding a sought-after demolition of a distinctive building in his city. On his blog Mayor Slay wrote, in part: "Later today, the Planning Commission will consider a proposal to construct a new business – a chain pharmacy – on Lindell… I believe that the loss of any distinctive element of our built environment must be justified by a new good at least its equal. It is not my current impression that the amenity of a new chain drug store within blocks of a couple of existing ones or the very ordinary design of the proposed building is such a good. I will, therefore, ask my office’s representative on the Planning Commission to cast a vote against the project today." We'll have to wait and see if the Mayor's word carries any weight in this process.
The circular AAA building at 3917 Lindell Boulevard will be demolished for a CVS Pharmacy. At least that's the intention of CVS as the demolition request appears on this month's agenda of the City of St. Louis Planning Commission. Before you plot and scheme to wage a battle to save this jewel of Mid-Century Modern architecture, don't. If CVS wants it, they'll have it. Why? The building holds no official historic status and is located in the 18th Ward of the city, a ward represented by Terry Kennedy, that has opted out of mandatory demolition review. Two blocks east and it's in the 19th Ward and must be reviewed. Were it located on the south and not the north side of Lindell it would be in the 17th Ward and would therefore be subject to review. See the issue here?
To put a very bright highlighter on the issue, CVS had pursued a site one long block to the west for some time (in the 17th Ward). Why did they abandon that pursuit? The Park Central Development Corporation, neighborhood residents, and 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy had the temerity to require a more urban design than the stock store. The demands were rather meager: no 24 liquor sales, push drive-through access to the alley and build a facade a bit higher than a single-story. Too much, CVS concluded, especially when they could move down the block to another ward with fewer demands and no demolition review.
In case I'm not being explicit enough, CVS played the St. Louis Ward game here and the result will be the demolition of the unique AAA office building. This building and the process that will lead to its demolition is a loss for the city and its residents. Ward by ward development is not the proper way to build a city. Some policies need to be city-wide, including historic preservation and demolition review. Otherwise, those wards (the segments of the city with 11,000 residents on average) that seek better design, those that work hard to relay resident's concerns regarding development, will lose to wards with fewer…suggestions. Beginning to understand the problem?
*photo of AAA building and 4100 Lindell by Toby Weiss. Please visit her excellent B.E.L.T. blog!