Developer Seeks Demolition for Historic Station G

What was once to be the historic centerpiece of several significant developments on the north side of Forest Park Southeast is now threatened with demolition. Jerry Hochman of the Chouteau Building Group is the owner of the property which was until recently in the hands of developer Jerry King. The Geo St. Louis site has no recorded sales for the property. Hochman proposes to demolish the Station G building to build a three-story condo building. The proposed demolition is simply an awful idea and the neighborhood and city should loudly say “no”.

The Station G building is worth saving on its own merit. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in February, 2007 (application below). Station G is the only remaining building standing on the north side of the 4400 and 4300 blocks of Chouteau and its facade contributes well to the streetscape.

{Station G is the last remaining for two blocks on Chouteau Avenue}

{the address is wrong (4427 Chouteau), but it’s easy to find as the only building on the block}

The area has a recent history of false starts on big projects. The adjacent gasometer was demolished in 2007 and was to be the site of a $8.2M, 28-unit townhome project. The Saaman group folded and the site is currently for sale. Across Newstead Avenue to the east, buildings were cleared for what will be Chouteau Park (design by H3 Studio – PDF). Needed or not, the currently vacant block is the product of a deal resulting from the extended and modified lease by BJC on Hudlin Park, a corner of Forest Park on the east side of Kingshighway. Those opposed to that deal, which will allow BJC to build on the park, demanded park land in return. The Chouteau Park plan has been finalized and funding exists to grade the park and begin adding amenities.

{Station G with future Chouteau Park to the right}

To the west of Station G, a entirely separate proposal for a 4-story, 200-unit apartment building sits dormant and is likely dead as a long effort to secure HUD financing has not been successful. In May 2009, the neighborhood development committee (on which I serve) denied a demolition permit for a three-family building at 921 S. Taylor, near Chouteau and Taylor Avenues, for a parking lot. In November 2010, the committee supported a request for emergency demolition for several shotgun homes on Arco. As of March 20, 2011, the buildings remain standing.

Demolition of Station G will not improve Forest Park Southeast, or the City of St. Louis. It’s unfortunate that several projects have stalled, but there remain several opportunities to build on vacant land in FPSE if a developer wants to build. When there are vacant blocks and several vacant residential lots immediately adjacent to this site, the correct solution is not to demolish the one remaining, historic, placemaking building. An aspiring or revitalizing neighborhood should always be doing more to retain its historic fabric, its identity, not less. It may be time to oppose all demolition in the neighborhood simply on principal.

Preliminary review of the request for demolition will occur at the Preservation Board Meeting, Monday, March 28 at 4:00 p.m. at 1015 Locust, #200. Click here for the meeting agenda.

{proposal for northeast corner of Chouteau and Taylor Avenues (independent of Station G)}

{Station G building outline is shown at far right of siteplan (independent of Station G)}

Station G National Register of Historic Places Application by on Scribd

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  • Alex Ihnen

    FYI: I have received confirmation that the demolition request has been pulled from this month’s agenda. Now maybe we’ll find out what the developer is up to.

  • facehead

    Looks like a positive development. It would be much better if the designers had considered restoring the existing building and used it as an anchor for future phases to be built around. But the intended use makes much more sense than a big empty lot as is the current state.

    I’m not sure I understand the problem. Improved site,an old building that no one apparently is doing anything with gets removed, and more people move into the city. We need density not immobile people harping about the past. This is why St. Louis will never move forward.

    Granted the proposal isn’t exactly an iconic building of the future or even current good design. But a typical development project like this looks a hell of a lot better than an empty trash collecting lot with a single little dilapidated building. I would much rather see this typical looking development than nothing at all. It’s not like we’re bringing great architecture to the city in mass. There is no reason to thwart progress in any form. Who knows, if we start building something, anything!, we might start to see people moving back. Maybe we can even persuade people to bring good design back to the city?

    • Alex Ihnen

      You’ve misunderstood the issue, so your comments are quite off-base. The problem isn’t with the proposal shown. That’s an entirely separate development altogether. It’s not either-or. That now-dead proposal doesn’t replace Station G. The point is that there is a lot of vacant land and stalled proposals on both sides and someone wants to tear down the historic building that past proposals would leave in place.

      • facehead

        Sorry. Next time I will read the whole article before commenting. I just saw the renderings and made the immediate connection.

        • facehead

          I still hold strong to the fact that this city has it ass-backwards. Most of the new building projects in historic neighborhoods try to look like something they’re not. A cheap mimicry of the past. We need current design and architects pushing the limit. St. Louis is in a constant state of architectural retardation.

          • Alex Ihnen

            We can agree about that!

  • Scott Ogilvie

    I’ve been patiently waiting for 10 years to see this building redeveloped. As it sits on such a large site, I can’t imagine how a larger project can’t be built around it. Historic renovation + new housing + new park perfectly ties together FPSE with the CWE. Demolition is going to drive neighborhood resistance and possibly stall another project – its clear what the right path for the neighborhood is – and that path is also the most commercially viable. A Station G rehab would lend serious credibility and desirability to a larger apartment development.

  • samizdat

    Wow. Just, wow. This proposal makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. And if one looks at the developer’s site, they don’t exactly have an extensive body of work. It may be that this is what they consider their best work, but if they were trying to impress people who are skeptical regarding this demo, you’d think they would post more than just one extant house. A handful of renos and additions does not make you a kingmaker. I fear that this sparse track record may backfire on the Chouteau Building Group, and we would have yet another vacant lot, with no plans, and a wonderful building sitting in a landfill somewhere in Illinois. Not acceptable. Of course, Roddy will be absolutely for this, since, jerbs, and the usual self-aggrandizing “Oh, looky what I helped do here” BS most of the alderfool tossers practice. Spit.

  • Douglas Duckworth

    St. Louis has a lot of what Robert Tranick calls “lost space,” mostly in the case of vacant lots or planned yet underutilized public spaces like the Gateway Mall. It’s completely ridiculous for a City as depopulated as St. Louis to be thinking about intensification (increasing density) through demolition before other vacant areas are first built out. If we think about the New Urbanist transect planning ideal, it would be more appropriate to remove the incompatible suburban/rural elements of our City before pushing higher density through demolition of lower intensity buildings — at least in neighborhoods which have more of the former than the latter.

    I wonder why these condos cannot go around the existing building? I am betting developers say that will increase the cost of the project too much and it’s cheaper to start over from a clean slate. That’s certainly why McKee prefers to bulldoze the entire North Side. I can understand this argument in Toronto where incentives do not exist for historic rehabilitation, land values are extremely high, and parcels are often small with separate owners. That is an impediment to the preservation of historic buildings, especially commercial corridors where it makes a lot more sense to acquire many parcels, demolish them, and build well above 6 storeys . Yet this is St. Louis. Given the amount of decline I think it’s even more important to thus plan with greater sensitivity to context as to not erode what works in the few areas that are turning around.

    Alex, where did you get the rendering and site plan? Will you post links? I don’t quite understand what’s up with that site plan. Housing units with private space in the middle (if so why since there’s going to be a park next door)? I assume a parking structure between both (if so isn’t there enough on street)? If Station G is at the far right why do they need to demolish it as it appears to be outside the plan area?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Sorry if there’s confusion. The development at Taylor/Chouteau is a long-standing separate proposal. With 200 units, there isn’t room for street parking. That development would have apartments facing in and out and the parking garage would be hidden. The Station G building sits next to this development. I hope that answers the question. There are currently no renderings available for what may replace the Station G building.

      • Douglas Duckworth

        Sorry my brain is shot from classes today. It’s a dumb idea regardless.

  • quincunx

    The supply of vacant land and parking lots is horrific. Why add more?

  • STLgasm

    Idiotic. I will be at this Preservation Board hearing.