Lindell Avenue AAA In Need of Roadside Assistance, to be Demolished for CVS

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AAA_Toby Weiss_1UPDATE 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.
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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.

AAA_CVS
{sought after CVS location in 17th Ward center-left, AAA in 18th Ward center-right}

AAA_ward map

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?

CWE_CVSCVS Site Plan

CVS rendering
{4100 Lindell and a rendering of CVS once sought in the 17th Ward}

*photo of AAA building and 4100 Lindell by Toby Weiss. Please visit her excellent B.E.L.T. blog!

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  • Paul

    Do you know if AAA is staying in the area?

    • Billiken Rich

      According to AAA management we will be in new construction on the same site 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=183400036 Pat Howard

    We need another CVS like we need a hole in the head. Why are companies so resistant to using existing buildings?

    • Alex Ihnen

      They have a set store plan that makes more money for them as everything is standardized. The existing building would make for an interesting CVS, right?

    • samizdat

      Branding, as in, the Marketing/PR(opaganda) whores have dictated to the management of various cos. that this standardization, in addition to having the benefit of reducing costs associated with design, also sets up a visual cue to the public that this is a ___________ (insert retail name here). I believe the branding is primary to the homogenization of our built environment, and why cities are beginning to look like each other in many respects.

  • Rich

    If the proposed CVS could be moved to the site to the west and south it could then be connected to the nearby Walgreen’s with some type of pedestrian bridge or elevated monorail in order to encourage comparative shopping.

  • Burtabraham

    We need someone to step up and run against Kennedy in the next election. He is a nice enough guy but has 0 vision. There are also rumors that he does not live in his ward.

  • http://twitter.com/kattattacks Kat

    what about the dmv office in there? will there be no place in cwe/midtown to get license plates renewed?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=567210521 Dana Geister

    How do you “opt out” of something that is mandatory? I’m sorry, but I moved away from StL and was gone for a decade. I feel like I came back to city that I barely recognize, and have little respect for the majority of the people running things.

  • karla

    a walgreen’s in oak park, illinois recently re-used an existing building.  why can’t this be done here as well?  what a great mid-century building!

    http://www.garreteakin.com/Wednesday_Journal/revival.html

    http://constructbirmingham.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/walgreens-oak-park.jpg

    • Lalucedm

      Likely the reason why Walgreens used an existing building in Oak Park is that it has EXTREMELY strong historic preservation laws, and they cover the entire city. Because of its Frank Lloyd Wright buildings (and many others by less-known good architects), there has been a very strong and long-lived support for preservation there. Oak Park is also one of the densest and most affluent suburbs of Chicago, making it a very attractive market for Walgreens, and has a very vocal group of very (overly?) educated hippie architects that fight any intrusion into the built fabric. It was likely a combination of strong regulations and a very active citizenry.

  • dylanized

    CVS deserves to be publicly flogged for this one. How are you gonna capitalize on Midtown’s growing density by destroying a Midtown landmark. So dumb.

    Not the way to compete with Walgreens

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sean-Duchinsky/1287163605 Sean Duchinsky

    why are we demolishing buildings in such haste? it is not that cvs pharmacy has so much to give to the neighborhood-both pharmacy chains in question are sprouting up like acne-hey, at least i will know where to shop when it hits me! 

  • Cluemarket

    Dana Geister:  What in the world are you thinking?  Such an “avant garde” building in St. Louis?   Please?  Just build another drug store.  No one will notice.  Trust me.   Oh, yes, why in the hell did you move back?  Didn’t you expect more of the same?  It’s like deciding to make love to a corpse.