Will Forest Park Southeast Demolish Occupied Residential for 18 Parking Spaces?

Will Forest Park Southeast Demolish Occupied Residential for 18 Parking Spaces?
Here’s the choice: keep an occupied, historic (though unexceptional) three-unit residential building in Forest Park Southeast or demolish it for an 18-space parking lot. Alderman Joe Roddy has indicated that he will support demolition if the FPSE Development Corporation offers its support. Full disclosure: I am a member of the that group’s Development Committee and will be reviewing the application for support. A majority vote will decide the fate of this building and a bit of the urban fabric of the city.

18 cars will easily fit on just the east side of this block of Taylor Avenue. If we can permanently close streets at the request of Washington University and BJC, surely we can allocate 18 parking spaces for the College in order to preserve housing in FPSE. These same spots are currently occupied each day by WU/BJC employees and students who simply leave their cars on the street for eight hours or more. We must demand solutions other than demolition in order to create a better neighborhood and better city.

Below is my original post written after observing a surveying crew at 919-921 South Taylor in early March. This morning while walking to the CWE Metrolink stop I found myself bantering with a man walking to catch a bus for work. He said he was in demolition and wished his uncle would get the job to tear down his building. He rents at 919 South Taylor and has been told that he must be out by June 15 so that the building can be demolished and the St. Louis College of Health Careers can expand the parking lot fronting Taylor Avenue. I’ve detailed in my previous post how important these mid-block buildings are to the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood and other options for parking. A lot of good things have happened in the neighborhood and further demolition is simply unwarranted. We should be debating what type of infill to build on the lot marked in purple below. We should not be giving more of the neighborhood to surface parking. This is a great mistake and I’ll be doing what I can to make sure all alternatives have been considered. Stay tuned . . .

{919-921 South Taylor Avenue and COHC entrance and parking}

Walking by 1919-1921 South Taylor Avenue this past week I observed a team of two surveyors laying out neon orange paint lines and flag markers. These guys are often short on information and simply stated that some project was going to happen on the site. This is nearly complete speculation on my part, but looking at property records the St. Louis College of Health Careers (COHC) owns property on both sides of this two-family building – the existing parking lot to the north and the vacant parcel to the south. The building itself was purchased for $198,000 in the fall of 2007 and is owned by an indiviual with a very modest St. Louis County address. My fear is that the home will be demolished for parking.

{red=former site of Magee’s, blue=919-921 South Taylor, purple=lot owned by COHC, yellow=proposed Station G development, green=where COHC should expand parking if needed}

This building should be allowed to stand. It’s occupied and in good condition, it also serves a greater purpose to the neighborhood than the average residential building. Along with the now demolished Magee’s Bar on the southeast corner of Clayton and Taylor, 919-921 South Taylor serves to connect FPSE to the medical campus on a human scale.

Walking south on Taylor you had a neighborhood scale building in Magee’s, then you crossed the Interstate and after the COHC parking entrance there’s the 919-921 S. Taylor two-family mid-block. Without either of them you walk past several very large surface parking lots on Taylor, a grass lot (the former site of Magee’s), the Interstate and what may now become another parking lot. All of the sudden FPSE feels blocks away from the medical campus. There’s little if nothing to tie them together.

These human scale connections are very important for a neighborhood. To see another example look at the Taylor facing building on the west side of Taylor between Chouteau and Gibson contributes disproportionately to the streetscape. Without it one feels themselves between parts of the neighborhood, in a dead zone between blocks. If done well the Station G project aid in this connection and a new wide and well lit Taylor Avenue bridge would be a big improvement.

919-921 South Taylor Avenue should remain and residential infill should be added to the adjacent vacant lot. If COHC needs additional parking it should be expanded to the north in the same method the Central Institute for the Deaf has done on the north side of I-64.

{additional example of mid-block residential building contribution to streetscape in FPSE}


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