Planning Commission Reverses Preservation Board to Allow Demolition of Pevely Buildings

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Just one vote was tallied to uphold the City of St. Louis Preservation Board decision from late last year. That decision maintained the corner Pevely office building, the signature building of a complex listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The rest of the Planning Commission decided that the Preservation Board had somehow erred in its decision and tonight decided to allow Saint Louis University to demolish the three Pevely buildings and smokestack. SLU previously stated that a fourth building facing Grand Avenue has a pending contract. A demolition permit request for that building is imminent and devoid of the complex currently surrounding it, will surely be allowed to fall as well.


{the Preservation Board preserved building in blue and allowed demolition of those in red – building in green has a contract pending and will be demolished – building in yellow was lost to fire}

It's unclear what factors led to the reversal. No explanation from the Planning Commission has been forthcoming. The argument from SLU was a familiar one: that a new building was needed to offer healthcare to the underserved and that demolition was necessary as SLU competes with hospitals in St. Louis County and beyond. SLU explicitly stated that it wants patients to be able to take a walk in a park setting. The university also stated that their recent decision to move the law school within the city from the Frost Campus to downtown demonstrated their commitment to the city.

It was reported by Michael Calhoun of KMOX that SLU President Father Lawrence Biondi stated if Pevely demolition were denied, SLU medical school would be shut down and moved to St. Louis County, claiming that the university had been offered land near Maryville University. When Calhoun followed up, asking for more detail after the decision, Biondi flatly stated, "Well, this is now approved so that point is moot."

{SLU's plans for a new building are set to move forward}

{red x's mark the Pevely site – a "?" marks additional recently purchased land}

{rendering of proposed SLU facility – the Pevely smokestack will not be preserved}

This issue has been extensively covered here at nextSTL:

St. Louis University Seeks Demolition for Historic Pevely Dairy Complex

Split Decision Denies St. Louis University Demolition of Iconic Pevely Building, Smokestack

More on Pevely: False Choices, Media Coverage & A New Paradigm in Preservation

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  • Kyle_AS

    I live in Alderman Roddy’s ward. Can anything be done on my part to get Roddy off his butt and get involved in SLU’s design for a new building? Keep in mind I don’t have deep pockets.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Call your Alderman. He’s easy to find.

  • Douglas Duckworth

    Historic buildings are one of Saint Louis’ few remaining resources.   They are the reason people moved back to the City.  I believe there was a proposal to make this building residential a few years back.

    SLU was never going to move to the County.  The City has no capacity at negotiating these deals because people in office rely upon relationships with the private sector — so they can get jobs when they are out of office. 

  • Well, here’s hoping the owner of the lone building on the Pevely site that isn’t a part of SLU Holdings is as upset at this decision as we are. Without that building gone, SLU’s whole “plan” can’t work.

    Once I get that winning lottery ticket…

    • Alex Ihnen

      SLU has an option pending on that building.

  • Guest

    Tit for tat. SLU Law goes downtown, SLU gets their midtown plan. It’s how things work. This whole thing would be a lesser issue if there was a lot more more money being thrown around and a strong regional economic engine doing big bold shiny urban things. So we perseverate over things like this – don’t get me wrong I’m on the preservation side.

    • Alex Ihnen

      And yet, moving the Law School downtown displaced existing tax-paying business and removed the building from the tax roll. The move results in a net-negative in jobs. SLU did the city no favor by moving within the city limits. Was SLU threatening to take their Law School to the County?

  • Steve Kluth

    Alternative to tearing down Pevely Building. Pevely building becomes
    core of new ambulatory center (pink outline), with the smokestack
    becoming the front symbol as you enter the building from the drop off or
    parking lot. Parking lot and car access in purple with traffic flow
    shown with white arrows. The two back buildings (in yellow and red)
    become potential expansion and could be torn down or preferably
    rehabbed. Pevely site alternative

    • Eric Matthew Wilkinson

      There is to much money in the materials they can sell off.  Also, there are many people who I’m convinced actually find the history of the city and its architecture disturbing.  They are the ones with the money so they can buy whatever demo permit they want.  And they did, clearly.  There is no point in denying that or saying, “we don’t’ have evidence of that.”  Weather it was through threats, intimidation, payoff, or all of the above, SLU has bought this demo permit just as the shady “rehabber” who worked on a house behind mine hasn’t even followed the site plans he himself submitted…and I can’t get Betsy Bradly or anyone else to do anything about it.  The city is dysfunctional.

      Will they get tax credits for a new building?

      • Steve Kluth

        What on earth are you talking about? I offer a plan to save the building and the Pevely smokestack, incorporating it into plan SLU can still use, and I get slammed by some incoherent rant. People are not going to save the Pevely Building as is, hoping that somebody comes along and fixes it to be just like it used to be. Unless that person is you, it ain’t happening. I don’t need this sort of grief. I deal with enough self-centered idiots without searching for it. 

  • Daniel L.

    Is there any way the Alderman can override this clearly corrupt decision? I wrote an e-mail to mine, but I’m not sure they could do anything if they wanted to.

    • Steve Kluth

      When I’ve followed these issues in the past, only the alderman of the district where the building is located has any serious input to the decision (if he/she is interested). The mayor could also get involved, but given Slay’s relationship with Biondi I doubt that would happen. 

      • Alex Ihnen

        At the Preservation Board hearing, 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy said he would lobby SLU to build a more urban building.

        • Daniel L.

           A elected official lobbying a private institution? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around!? That seems pretty half-assed to me.

          • Kyle_AS

             Alderman Roddy already allowed the corner of Chouteau and Vandeventer to be destroyed. He seems to be as greedy as the rest of them.

        • Adam

           Roddy’s not going to do a damn thing. If SLU were willing to change anything about their plan they would have done it already. No, Biondi will stomp his foot and scream and threaten, as he always does, and Roddy will bow down.

  • Benya31

    LET THEM GO! SLU cannot leave midtown if biondi wants to fulfill his goal about being a top 50 university. The Law school and Med school would both be far away from campus. That has a huge effect on the school. The better prof. wouldnt be teaching hardly any undergrad classes. Every top private school in the country is going greaner and hipsterer, the kids that go to these schools will not want to be in West Co. One of my undergraduate buddies is in one of the SLU health majors, he takes most of his classes on the med campus. NO WAY CAN BIONDI LEAVE THE CITY. Even if he does, perfect fit for UMSL to takeover. We can have one of the top urban public universities. The biggest complaint about UMSL is it has a terrible campus.. perfect solution. Actually can St. Louis just offer to trade UMSL for SLU campus? 

  • AJS

    I haven’t really been involved in the process, so feel free to correct me if my assessment is completely off, but it sure seemed from observing the process tonight from a distance that the urbanist community (who I really admire) was playing a much different game than Biondi, and one destined to lose.  From my vantage point, you were engaging in the following: “Let’s put together the most rational argument using the best available evidence and then use social media, public presentations, etc. to share this argument with the world.”  On the other hand, Biondi was playing this game: “Make sure the people who have the power to make decisions make the decision in my favor.”  

    I noticed that several people who I think were closely involved in this effort did not even know who all of the members of the Planning Commission were, even after the meeting was over.  I’m curious: do you think there’s much of a chance that Biondi, or the people working for him, went into that meeting without knowing who were the people with the power to make the decision? I guess it’s possible, but I kinda doubt that would happen.

    I submit that if you don’t know anything about 11 of the 13 people who actually have the power to make the decision, then having the most rational, most-supported-by-the-available-evidence argument will not be enough. Now I realize there weren’t public comments allowed at this meeting, but that just pushes the issue back a stage.  How can you expect to win when you don’t even have a clear sense of who has the power to make the decision?  

    • Alex Ihnen

      You make a good point. However, at the Preservation Board meeting where public testimony was taken, approximately a dozen individuals testified in support of denying demolition. Another 50 individuals submitted like testimony via email or letter. 1 person submitted testimony in favor of demolition and SLU had several employees testify in support of demolition. Betsy Bradley, Director of the city’s Cultural Resources Office stated to the Planning Commission that this issue had the highest level of public opposition she’s seen for a demolition request.

  • Chris

    I call BS on the Maryville location; where is it?

  • Disgusted

    Didn’t Biondi say that they wanted to build this center so it could be close to those who need it most…and yet when he doesn’t get his way he threatens to move things even further away from those same people?

    We might as well just tear down the whole City. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in power willing to fight for it. Why do we even bother fighting for our built enviornment, what’s the freaking point…?

  • GMichaud

    Here is a comment I just made over ar Urban Review. I appreciate your careful analysis. This is nothing but another chapter in the rape of St. Louis. I am now convinced the people running things, and I mean all of the corporate or political leadership are nothing but complete greedy whores, who have no idea how to build cities, but instead use St. Louis to fatten their ego’s and bottom line. I am so disgusted.. My comment is as follows.
    The SLU plan is nothing more than a glorified Walgreens site plan. The
    whole problem here is that preservation aside, the real question is why
    the urban planning is not the center point of discussion. (refer to
    for detailed site plans and other
    info). Allowing the demolition of the
    Pevely Building has little to do with Historic Preservation and
    everything to do with the significant public investment in transit along
    Grand, including light rail. SLU has basically said screw the public,
    the city and the future of the city. SLU would rather replicate
    Chesterfield with the Doisy Center and now the latest suburban
    monstrosity across the street.
    Ultimately the failure is on the
    Mayor, the Board of Alderman and the rest of the lackeys in City Hall. 
    The decision making of the bankrupt Democratic Party that has overseen
    the past 50 year decline of St. Louis continues. Unfortunately the
    current Republican Party is no opposition with their main concern being
    governing the vaginas of women.
    St. Louis is never going to rebound
    with this kind of crap. It is the usual kiss my ass bribe, donation,
    culture that is running things for the imagined benefit of the corporate
    That is the irony. Bernie Miklasz had a story last week
    complaining that no one was showing up to SLU basketball games at the
    new, shiny Chaifetz Arena, what he missed is how poor site planning has
    contributed to the lack of attendance at the Arena.
    Poor site planning is hurting SLU and the City of St. Louis. And it will continue to do so, including tourism, making the City a desirable place to move and so on.
    cities have mechanisms beyond preservation to ensure viable patterns of
    urban development take place. Although in most cases the developer is
    anxious to serve not only the auto centric public, but the transit
    riding public also so it is usually not an issue. Any sane developer
    would want to enhance their civic importance designing projects for
    success and profit by courting both autos and transit.
    It is only the
    head up their ass civic and political leadership of the City of St.
    Louis that prefers their personal desires gratified over the public
    good. They all need to go. Period.

    • Chris

       “Bernie Miklasz had a story last week
      complaining that no one was showing up to SLU basketball games at the
      new, shiny Chaifetz Arena, what he missed is how poor site planning has
      contributed to the lack of attendance at the Arena.”

      Amen!  No one has put two and two together and realized the totally hostile environment SLU created around the arena could affect attendance.

  • Daniel L.

    Ugh. Why must they turn the city into the county. 

  • Adam

    this could be contested in court, and likely won, since the planning commission clearly overstepped their authority. however, it won’t be because nobody has the time or money to take SLU to court, and Biondi knows it. he is a conniving pile of shit. period.