St. Louis University Seeks Demolition for Historic Pevely Dairy Complex

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Tiffany neighborhood - STLIf Saint Louis University gets it's way, the 10-acre Pevely Dairy complex that has dominated the southwest corner of Chouteau and Grand Avenues will be demolished. The complex's marquee building was built in 1915 and operated until 2008, when it abruptly closed.

Rick Yackey and Bruce Development had the property under contract with an asking price of $5.9M when a fire destroyed one of the larger buildings in 2009. They eventually bought the building in April, 2010 for $2.2M.  Redevelopment plans for 165 market-rate apartments and retail were announced and quickly fell through, though the project can still be found on the Bruce Development website. St. Louis University purchased the property earlier this year for an undisclosed amount and has made no public statement regarding its future.

Pevely Dairy rendering Pevely Dairy rendering
{renderings of past proposal for residential and retail redevelopment}

After nearly a century in operation, the site's recent history has been dramatic and perhaps, now, tragic. In an extraordinarily short time span, the complex was closed, burned, purchased, to much praise announced as residential redevelopment, then sold and now possibly demolished. According the Post-Dispatch, he demolition permit will likely be reviewed by the city's Preservation Board at the scheduled November 28 meeting.

The Yackey name will be familiar to those following historic preservation and development in St. Louis. Rick has partnered with Bruce Development on several very nice projects in St. Louis, including recently the West End Lofts at Sarah and Forest Park Avenue. He's also the owner of the iconic saucer-shaped Phillips 66/Del Taco building several blocks north on Grand. His announced intention to demolish that building was met with significant opposition. He currently states that he is exploring renovation and reuse of the structure. 

Tiffany neighborhood - STL

St. Louis University has acquired significant land holdings surrounding their South Grand medical campus in recent years. Demolition of housing and other buildings has proceeded quickly. The west side of Grand is part of the city's 17th Ward. Alderman Joe Roddy will have a chance to voice his opinion on the matter before a final decision is made. Roddy recently made a rare appearance at a neighborhood development committee meeting to endorse demolition to make way for a new QuickTrip gas station.

More than 30 homes were recently demolished by university on Rutger and Hickory Streets and another dozen will soon be gone on the north side of Hickory. Read the excellent story at Vanishing STL. East of Grand, the university has acquired and cleared nearly a dozen city blocks, erected parking garages, built a new intramural sports field and track and left other blocks empty. The Doisey research center on the southeast corner of Chouteau and Grand occupies a very small area of its site, giving the attractive, rather urban, building a rather suburban setting. It would appear that the goal is create another campus similar to the very anti-urban SLU campus east of Grand at Lindell.

The new Grand Avenue viaduct will make the Pevely complex and critical anchor and the corner an even more significant landmark along Grand Avenue. This is the only building at this corner that provides a human-scale place, a sense of being somewhere in a city. The disturbing trend of demolishing significant corner buildings continues nearly unabated in the City of St. Louis. To let your thoughts be known, contact members of the Preservation Board, 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy and Saint Louis University President Lawrence Biondi ([email protected]). Lighting up Mayor Slay's Twitter feed never hurts either.

*UPDATE 11/3/2011
The Post-Dispatch is now reporting that Saint Louis University would consider preserving the smokestack and facade of the corner building in a redevelopment plan. Planned is a new physician's building. A SLU spokesperson is quoted as saying, "In general, the site's industrial buildings are not suited to developing the kind of state-of-the-art, patient-centered facility needed for SLUCare." One is left to wonder if the numerous nearby vacant lots are also not suited for new construction. The corner building occupies a very small portion of the site. Creative incorporation of the corner (and other) structures would set a positive precedent of preservation and reuse.

{Pevely site shown in blue, recent residential demolition in yellow, Doisy building, parking and intramural field to the right}

Tiffany neighborhood - STL
{this building to the south of Pevely is a longtime office furniture warehouse, currently on the market for $650K}

Tiffany neighborhood - STL
{former Pevely Dairy retail entrance}

{interior of former Pevely Dairy retail space – photo by Michael Allen of the Preservation Research Office}

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  • Guest

    My email to Father Biondi.

    Father Biondi,

    I am assuming that you missed my last email.  Well, I come to you with another idea.  As you’ve already destroyed four perfectly good blocks to build the Doisy Center, why not build SLUCare at the Eastern corner of South Grand and Chouteau in front of that building?  All it takes is a look at a satellite view of the area and you can see that you could easily fit a building on that corner.  Not to mention, SLU already owns this land.  This way, the beautiful Doisy Center would have a nice anchor building on the corner and gives it a sense of urban place.  Currently, the Doisy Center is almost in a suburban setting.  This doesn’t belong in an urban context, it belongs in Chesterfield.

    If the plan above were to be realized, developer Rick Yackey could continue with his plan to build 165 market rate apartments at the Pevely Complex, which is something your medical students might enjoy.  Something that would be good for the neighborhood – Jesuit tradition no less – instead of destroying the corner of S. Grand and Chouteau.  And what do you know?  The intersection of these two major streets would have beautiful corner buildings anchored by the soon to be great Grand Blvd. Viaduct.  If you don’t want to put it in front of the Doisy Center then build it behind it.  There is plenty of space there, too.

    Please look at a satellite view.  There you’ll find plenty of empty fields where SLU has demolished buildings, not to mention the sheer amount of surface and garage parking.  Use one of these lots.  There is NO reason to demolish the Pevely building.  A building that is on the National Register of Historic Places, no less.  I included some links to articles so you can see what the RESIDENTS of this City think about your plan, be sure to read the comments.  I would hope you heed their advice.  After all, we will still be around once you’re long gone from St. Louis University.

    I would also encourage you to take a look at what your sister school, Rockhurst University, in Kansas City, is doing while we expand our campus.  Rockhurst wants to build a new residence hall and a new academic building.  Luckily, RU isn’t going to destroy any of the already very fragile neighborhood.  We have several surface parking lots, so the University decided to build there.  To make up for the loss of parking, Rockhurst is building a LEED parking garage on one of the underused surface lots elsewhere on Campus.  This garage will have 1st floor retail as well.  From what I hear, a health clinic has signed on to be one of the tenants.  With this garage, Rockhurst continues with their Master Plan to build the two new buildings without destroying so much as a single house or business in the neighborhood.  This is how a Jesuit school is supposed to expand; while helping the neighborhood, not killing it.  Notice I said “Master Plan” – something that seems lost at St. Louis University.  I would encourage you to get in contact with Father Curran at Rockhurst University.  He could provide some suggestions as to go about doing this appropriately.

    I hope you will listen.  You have a chance to right several wrongs you have committed in the past.  Take a second look before ripping out another piece of the urban fabric in St. Louis.  We can’t afford to let our history slip away.  Please, we beg you, at least try to come up with another alternative.  Believe me, there are other ways of doing this.  I, as well as several other St. Louisans, would be MORE than happy to help you find another alternative.  If you keep heading down this destructive path, you run the risk of tarnishing your legacy.  

    Links can be found at the bottom of this message.

    Jason Hoffmann
    Class of 2011-2012
    Rockhurst University
    St. Louis Resident

    *I didn’t include the links in this comment post.*

    • gmichaud

      Nice letter. It is time for SLU and City Government to become real
      leaders and remake this complex in a way that addresses energy efficiency, sustainability and as a result creates walkable environments, with transit and
      density to support those concerns.
      A good architect could create the medical facilities at the
      foot of the Doisy Building and turn it into a world class project. Along with
      the Pevely complex rehabbed for workers and students it becomes a marriage of
      successful planning elements.

      The connection across the new Grand Bridge to the main
      campus is  enhanced and it would help initiate improvements along Grand up
      to Lindell.  In turn these efforts will support
      the considerable investment in the Grand Center Arts District.
      Failure to pursue a city plan that moves St. Louis towards building
      a livable, sustainable city would be a serious offense on the part of SLU and
      the City Government. They should be held accountable for their actions.  This is not some minor decision we are talking
      about, but one that has major impacts on the health and welfare of the public, today
      and in the future.


  • Jacob

    It seems like most of the anger here is that it is SLU that plans on tearing it down. Would there be this outcry of indignation if it was someone else that wanted to tear this down?

    Also, is there anything really about this building that makes it deserve to be saved? Some comments lament the destruction of this “historical” building, what is historic about it? There isn’t anything architecturally outstanding about it, nothing historic, as far as I know, has happened there. Is it only historic because it is 100 years old. It seems to be a theme on this site that things should be saved just because they are old.

    Has anyone here seen an engineering analysis of the building? Do we know for sure that it is just a quick matter of converting the interior of the building? How badly did that fire damage the structural integrity of the building? I am really asking, because it seems like there has been a lot of jumping to conclusions that it would be super easy to just convert the building.

    I’m not saying I’m against the reuse of the building, it just seems that this board sometimes gets angry at anything SLU does because it is SLU. 

    • rbeedee

      I think there would be an outcry if anyone proposed to demolish the Pevely building without spelling out in detail what would replace it and why it was necessary, but there’s no doubt that people on the forum no longer give SLU the benefit of the doubt. One reason is that SLU has a poor track record of promoting dense development on/around its campus. Prominent parcels of land are held on to with no short-term plans for development, buildings come down without replacement, and the buildings that are built are placed inexplicably (e.g. the Doisy building). Making things worse, planning proceeds without public notice or opportunity for comment. They don’t seem to see the need or value in seeking community input on their development plans. Surely they have a master development plan for the area, if you’re really interested in persuading people to see your vision, why not release it? The only reason I can see is that you don’t really care about persuading people because the community’s opinions aren’t of interest to you, but that may just be me being cynical. I guess the short answer is that people don’t trust that SLU’s proposed developments will make St. Louis a better place, and they think it will actually be worse. I don’t think people have an irrational anti-SLU bias, though. The Hotel Ignacio rehab, for example, has gone over well with everyone I’m aware of, and I think people are excited about the proposed law school expansion on to some surface lots.

      As for the “historical” nature of the building, it’s historic enough to be on the National Register of Historic Places (nomination here, if you want to read more: Cities aren’t museums, and not everything can or should be preserved, but in an area as desolate as this one, any demolition is a loss. There are plenty of lots around that are available to build on, so leave this one alone unless there’s some reason it HAS to be here (I can’t see one, but I’m open to listening). Maybe someone will buy it and convert to something (the fact that there were recent apartment plans floated is promising). Maybe it will still be unused 20 years from now and further expansion of the dense and bustling Grand corridor will make demolition of the Pevely building and it’s replacement by a denser, more urban structure more reasonable. That’s a far cry from where we are now, though.

      • Alex Ihnen

        I’ll add that the building was not touched by the fire. That occurred in a separate building within the complex and it has already been demolished.

        The issue for many is that preservation in the city is arbitrary. Some buildings lacking any exceptional merit within blighted areas are saved and converted to lofts or entrepreneurial incubators (proving that such buildings can be reused) while it seems any building, regardless of history/merit/reuse potential is leveled when a powerful developer (this time SLU) wants it gone. We see this over and over again. It means that the only part of our incredible built history in St. Louis that is safe is that which is unwanted. That doesn’t seem right, does it?

        It’s also a problem that no redevelopment plan exists – not publicly. How is anyone supposed to judge whether a new building is worth destroying an old one? SLU only announced a new doctor’s building after the demolition application was made public. If they had (or do) show plans for a significant and urban building, there will likely be quite a bit of support, even here, for it. However, the fact remains that the desirable sites in St. Louis are not protected – no matter what the historic nature or reuse potential may be, if someone with enough money and political power wants it.

    • Guest

      What is historic about it is that it is on the National Register of Historic Places.  If it is demolished what was the point of putting it on the NRHP in the first place?  We need to set a precedent that already protected buildings (aka. Pevely) need to be saved or else we are just wasting money on a preservation board that can’t even save a building that is ALREADY PROTECTED.

  • Eric Matthew Wilkinson

    Dear Father Biondi,

    I just wanted to write you a note to let you know how much I support your ongoing destruction of the crappy architecture around your campuses at SLU.  Keep on tearing down buildings!  See, I asked myself, “What would Jesus destroy?” and the voice responded, “Everything!  Destroy everything, including the Peavly Dairy complex!”  When I asked him why, he just said, “I am Jesus, fear me!!!”

    My conversation with him continued, even though he seemed slightly sociopathic and not at all like the jesus I knew from 12 years of catholic school.  Jesus informed me that the old buildings were not built in god’s image, and that their existence was an insult to god.  He told me that only a man like you, a man of the cloth, had the ability to realize god’s vision for an urban core that was 100% unwalkable and completely devoid of the non-god-fearing architecture that our lord so hates.

    I know that “respecting the world and its history and mystery” is part of your educational ideals.  I can think of no better way to do this than by removing this history and mystery; you see, there is no better way to demonstrate respect than to destroy the things that you don’t understand or that are hard to think about. You might as well let the dead past be dead and not disturb it by trying to do silly things like acknowledge it, right?  Your lengthy christian history speaks to this matter quite well.

    Another thing I know about jesus is that he wants very much for institutions that carry his name — like yours — to buy as much land as possible, thereby preventing anyone but you from doing anything with it.  I know he wants you to do this whether or not you have any need for the land you are purchasing.

    I can only assume, given your aggressive trend towards tearing down all of the historical buildings in mid-town and around your campus to the south, that you have been in contact with jesus as well.  I am so glad we are both in contact with the “real” jesus and not the fake jesus that talks to all those preservationist do-gooders and the dirty hippies who want to keep the old buildings that god so despises.  At some point we will all pass away.  Some of us will be lucky enough to be called back to heaven by god.  I’m sure that you and I will be among those lucky souls who will be seated at the right hand of the father.  Together we can watch all of those bad people — those who would see such architectural atrocities stay in our city —  burn in hell for their heathenism.  Just be sure you have the pope bless the bulldozers and everything will be wonderful!


    Eric Matthew

    • Adam

      don’t forget to mention how jesus wants us to waste resources by dumping all of our demolished buildings in land fills!

    • Eric Matthew Wilkinson

      I received the following response…I can only imagine that he spent as much time considering the options for the building as he did on his grammar and spelling in this letter.  From there I assume we all know why he will tear the buildings down.  Would anyone like to compose a list of buildings SLU has torn down?


      Dea Eric: 

      Thanks for your sarcastic letter, your wit is tedious.


      1. Pevely was purchased to replace the site with an outpatient healthcare building for sick adult and children. 

      2. Archetects, engineers, and contractors studied Pevely to see if it can be modified or rehabed for an outpatient building. 

      3. After hours of studying the options and pros and cons, I decided that this building cannot be used for the purpose for which it was purchased.

       4. I am considerng retaining and preserving the Pevely smoke stack as a historic landmark. 

      5. I invite you to visit our Midtown SLU buildings to see the number of older preserved buildings: e.g., Cupples House, Queen’s Daughters, Jesuit Hall, Biomedical building, Hotel Ignacio, Cartier Hall, O’Brien Hall, Pruellage Hall. 

      6.  I hope to see you at the dedication of the new outpatient center in late 2013. Sincerely yours, L Biondi, PresidentSLU.

      • Guest

        Email this idiot back and tell him that there is enough empty space in front of the Doisy Center to build SLUCare.

  • MattH

    Anytime I see SLU/Biondi’s idea of urban planning, in planned projects or built projects, I still always think of the video (link below) that I first saw on urbanreviewstl years ago.  It still applies today (make sure to click the “heaven” option at the last scene, it is the most appropriate scene for the urban planning discussions and hysterical to say the least).

  • MattH

    The views from this corner alone, not to mention location and transit options, should make it one of the most prominent development spots in the city……yet this is St. Louis and SLU reigns supreme over Grand (North and South).

    Cultural Resources is supposedly already reviewing the demolition permit.  If that office approves of the demolition of this building/complex, it should be disbanded and eliminated immediately.  There is no use wasting any more taxpayer money to fund an office that does so little for the city as a whole.

  • gmichaud

    The first question to ask is what the role of transit on Grand?
     It is already clear Grand is a heavily
    used transit corridor.  Thus the
    statement that Grand Avenue, throughout its length in the city, should be a
    designated pedestrian and transit corridor is true.

    If anyone at SLU or city government does not agree with this
    then they should publically state their case.  The implication is that the Doisy Center, the
    high rise site, is slated for redevelopment due to its palcement.

    So one design solution would be to take the new medical
    center and build it on the south east corner as an L or U shaped building,
    creating a nice square and a dramatic entrance to Doisy Center. That way the Pevely
    building could become housing as projected and along the street south of  the Pevely building, new housing and shops
    could be built, creating an attractive walk, reinforcing transit and giving
    workers and students places to stay, close to the campus.

    A walking, transit enhanced environment would humanize the
    whole environment of the area and would improve the image of SLU and the City in
    the region.  Nothing less should be accepted.


    • Guest

      I hope SLU sees this.  Building on the completely EMPTY block in front of the Doisy Center is a great idea.  That way both corners of Grand and Chouteau would have pretty corner buildings.

    • RobbyD

      Boy, this makes sense to me…

  • Ashlyn Brewer

    Thanks for following this story. I live in this area, and part of the reason I moved to it is for the history and architecture. Sad to see it depleted.

  • Homer

    let them tear it down
    If you like it the way it is then you should have bought it 

    • rbeedee

      That’s not the way cities are built and maintained. Cities are built on the premises of density, interaction, and a larger civic community. What one entity does has a serious impact on surrounding entities and the city at large. Cities require cooperation, vision, and an acknowledgment of the connections that exist. That’s why we have zoning regulations, preservation review, and the opportunity for citizen input on major changes to the city’s fabric. You can disagree with the current form of these, but they or something like them is required to set the ground rules for how participants in the city consider their impact on their surroundings and the entire city. Our failure to do that in the past is partly responsible for St. Louis’ current predicament.

    • Alex Ihnen

      ^ and if you disagree with preserving the building you should have written an article expressing such, instead of commenting here. Your viewpoint is asinine. That’s not to say one is right or wrong about whether it should be torn down, only that your premise is irrational and dysfunctional.

    • Guest

      Anyone want to bet this guy is an active member on the comment boards?

  • Brian Marston
    • Alex Ihnen

      Here’s the nextSTL story:

      There weren’t demo’d by SLU, but it certainly had their blessing. If SLU wanted those buildings to stay, they’d still be there.

  • Benjamin Aronov

    That’s it! I can’t take this anymore. Between this and other recent news about SLU, the China deal going sour, the rehab credits, ballpark village, and all the other idiocy we’ve seen over the last few years. I’m ready to make a stand!

    I want to start a movement, ala occupy wall street. But focused on local political/economic issues.

    Would anyone be surprised if the economic stratification in st. louis was worse than the national? And what does it get us? An addiction to big business, a corrupt government, a toxic environment for entrepreneurship.

    If anyone else is interested, contact me. I will post with more information later.

    • john w.

      Benjamin, what do you plan to do?

      • Guest

        What do you plan to do John?

        • john w.

          Jason, the reason I asked Benjamin is that he said “I want to start a movement”. I was curious as to what he envisioned as an activist movement… it was not a challenge.

          • Guest

            Well then I was mistaken, my apologizes.  Hopefully the residents of Midtown and South Grand will step up and put this Biondi “person” on his ass.

  • And I don’t think it needs to be stated, but the previous plans shown on here for mixed residential are really, really good. Why, oh why, does this ever happen when a very actionable (and potentially successful) design plan has already conceived?
    Deep, cleansing breaths and all that, but this is a HUGE slap in the face to all the positive preservation work being done and the fights being passionately fought in all districts surrounding the SLU campus.Preservation Review Board, I implore you — take a stand against this demolition permit. You saw what happened with the Saucer…the only reason this is allowed to happen is because those doing it have been allowed to destroy, destroy, destroy almost anonymously over the past three decades. When these people are forced to look into a camera and have their names actually attached to a destructive act, they WILL back down and weigh alternatives. “Save our Saucer” worked, now let’s “Protect our Pevely.”

  • raedeke

    Biondi has been on a power trip for years- knocking down anything in his path…this is just insanity.  

  • Guest

    This is absurd.  I am a student at SLU’s sister school in Kansas City.  Rockhurst University.  We were told that the Jesuit tradition is to develop and foster clean, safe, and BUILT neighborhood around various Jesuit campuses.  At Rockhurst we are building a new parking structure along Troost Ave (long considered a dilapidated, dangerous street).  So when we decided to do this we didn’t destroy anymore of the already extremely fragile neighborhood surrounding our school.  We put it on top of one of our underused surface lots and it has 1st floor retail, a health clinic has already signed on. (HUGE for the n’hood)  This is how Jesuit schools are supposed to support neighborhoods.  Not ripping out perfectly good buildings for an empty lot or surface lot.  Also Rockhurst supported a BRT line down Troost, and KCATA listened.  It’s one of the most successful BRT lines in the US, and has began to foster economic growth on other areas of Troost.  This is how it’s done SLU.  Your losing sight of your original Mission.  Your doing exactly what you originally set out to stop.  It’s time for Father Bondi to leave, or be forced out.  SAVE MIDTOWN!

  • I am juussstttt about done with Saint Louis University. Where is the commitment to community that is, from what I understand, a pretty big part of the Jesuit principle? Forget the Jesuit principles for a moment — where, at least, is its pride in the city and community?

    At this intersection, you have an historic structure and a widely-recognized landmark in the Peveley building. It’s a proud example of this city’s industrial past. It’s at the intersection of Grand, arguably our strongest (and most intact) north-south connector, and Chouteau, which has the potential of being a great east-west street for Downtown and Downtown West. The Central West End, South Grand

    Without having heard/seen any plans for what they would intend to put in its place, I can tell you that it’s inferior to what’s there now. And what’s there now is a boarded-up, old building. Just across Grand Blvd. to the north, there is the EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF LAND, most of which is vacant. The very few structures that are still there don’t have anywhere near the presence, history or beauty of the Peveley campus.

    I can see what SLU is trying to do…they want to own a continuous stretch all the way down to the medical campus and past to the hospital and I-44. Yes, it’s understandable to want to have a strong connection between your components, but there are certainly better ways — less destructive ways — of doing it. A lot of that connectivity comes from planting your roots in the community and helping it stabilize, not pruning and tearing until there is no sense of community left.

    What then would be next for SLU? From I-44, it’s only a short step to get to Compton Hill. Will SLU then extend south even further and try to systematically dismantle yet another St. Louis landmark? I hope the Preservation Review Board will red-stamp this demolition in short-order. Even though it’s just one set of buildings, it’s important to recognize the whole of SLU’s work when it comes to loss of building stock, and the structures (if any) that are built in its stead.

  • Adam

    huh… considering they already demolished the 30 homes adjacent to the complex, that says to me that Biondi has already brokered a back-room deal to get rid of Pevely. why would they have wasted time and money clearing the homes if they didn’t already have this demo wrapped up? i would wager that he’s already got the preservation board votes that he needs in his pocket. i’m thinking legal action is the only thing that’s going to save this building. and a new law that prevents not-for-profits from land banking.

  • Will Fru