Preservation Board Names Archdiocese Urban Planner for City’s Historic Central West End

Preservation Board Names Archdiocese Urban Planner for City’s Historic Central West End

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Late Monday evening the oxymoronic St. Louis Preservation Board voted 3-2 in favor of preliminary approval for a surface parking lot to replace the San Luis Apartments building at Taylor and Lindell. Though the vote is a step back for many hoping to preserve the city’s most dense, urban neighborhood, the issue appears some way from being resolved. For background and more click over to Ecology of Absence and the Building Blocks blog.

Below is a section of what was to be considered yesterday (per the official application). The bold is my own. Clearly these statements give plenty of justification for anyone who wanted to preserve the San Luis. The fact is that too many on the board are indifferent. Perhaps having an even more clear zoning ordinance (one’s in the works by the way) for the CWE would have offered more guidance to the Board. Regardless, in the end we need people who are looking for reasons to preserve and not looking for reasons to approve demolition – which is what we have now.

In its review of the proposed construction, alteration or demolition, the Preservation Board shall consider whether the proposed work would violate the intent of this ordinance and the intent of the applicable Historic District or Landmark or Landmark Site designation ordinance as reflected in the Historic District or Landmark preservation plan, whether the proposed work would adversely affect the characteristics of the district or site which were the basis for the Historic District, Landmark or Landmark Site designation, whether there have been changes in the circumstances or conditions in or affecting the Historic District, Landmark or Landmark Site 8 since its designation, and other relevant considerations, such as the availability of economically feasible alternatives to the proposed work.

Those on the Preservation Board appear to have relied on the fact that in 1974 the San Luis was not considered a contributing building to the Central West End Historic Disctrict. No surprise there. At that date the building was just 11 years old and Mid-Century Modern was not generally a moniker of appreciation. Very clearly the San Luis would be eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places soon. In fact there’s a perfect example of just with Hotel Indigo just down the block.

With their vote, the Preservation Board is saying that nothing has changed since 1974. They are also ignoring commercial rehabilitation interest in the building by a respected and experienced developer and they are ignoring the best example of Mid-Century Modern reuse that sits one block away!

So the Preservation Board chose to ignore all of the above. However, it’s still unclear if the plan for a surface parking lot will go forward as the City Ordinances relevant to the San Luis property state:

The San Luis Apartments are zoned as part of a “neighborhood preservation area”. The City defines this as:

Areas where the existing housing and corner commercial building stock will be preserved and augmented with new infill residential and corner commercial development physically integrated with, and primarily serving the immediate neighborhood. These areas generally consist of stable residential areas of the City, including but not limited to historic districts, where the character of the neighborhood is currently well preserved with relatively few vacant lots and abandoned buildings. The plan contemplates continued preservation and improvement, with quality rehabilitation and infill new construction that is sensitive to the character of existing residences. Commercial and institutional uses catering to the immediate needs of the neighborhood are acceptable and reflect the traditional role such activity has played in the history of the City.

And further states:

A building or premises shall be utilized only for the uses permitted in the zoning district within which the building or premises is located


Willful attempts to undermine preservation by allowing buildings to deteriorate will place the property owner in immediate and continued danger of citation under the city’s Minimum Housing Code or Non-Residential Standards Code.

Lastly, though this should not apply because the San Luis is not zoned “Commerical”, if it were:

All off-street parking shall be located behind or to the side of commercial structures. Where visible from the street, screening with visually opaque landscaping or 5′ minimum high masonry or concrete wall shall be necessary.

Clearly there will be much more to this story. Anyone out there want to contribute their legal skills to the effort?


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