Dear Opus, About Your Recent Rejection… An Open Letter to Opus Development

Dear Opus

Dear Opus Development,

I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathy for the unfortunate treatment you have received recently as you have attempted to invest 61 million of your hard-earned dollars building a 217-unit residential tower at the corner of Euclid and Lindell in the Central West End. We understand that certain of our quasi-public neighborhood volunteers have been asking you by telephone and in person to change your plans for the site. We also understand that they have convinced the Preservation Board to hold up approval of the project, at least for the moment.

This is disappointing.

Most of us who live nearby were quite excited to see your most recent proposal. I think you felt that excitement at the neighborhood meeting earlier this month. We also understand that the city staff in the Cultural Affairs Office also liked your proposal. They recommended the design receive preliminary approval from the Preservation Board. We were surprised when the Board refused the recommendation of its staff and denied that conditional approval.

Still, you are business people.  We are sure you understand that our neighbors are concerned only that you fulfill the requirements of the neighborhood’s Form Based Code and the standards of our Historic District. We are certain that no other concern would get in the way of those stated concerns. Indeed, we adopted Form Based Code precisely so that personal aesthetic preferences would not be used to impede development that meets the code’s criteria. We hope you can appreciate how these new standards have now made this a more objective process.

I hesitate to offer unsolicited advice. But just this once, I will suggest (against my better judgment) that there are three concerns you simply must address. Please understand that my only desire is to help you. We have reviewed the demands of our good friends in the neighborhood, and so please hear me out. This may be hard for you to read.

1 You simply must increase your retail parking to Zero

Our dear, dear neighbors are flummoxed about the insufficient parking for the retail portion of your development. And because we believe in doing all things by the book, we have searched our Form Based Code to find a way forward in this weighty matter. We regret to inform you, Dearest Opus, that the code does mandate a certain minimum level of parking for the retail portion of your development. As we read the code, it does require you to have at least 0 (zero) parking spaces dedicated to that portion of your development. Should you—as feared—have fewer than zero parking spots, then we must conclude that our neighbors are in fact completely justified in their concerns… and that the Preservation Board is warranted in its withholding approval for your project. Consider our voices joined with theirs in demanding that you include at least zero parking spaces. We will not tolerate anything less than zero, Dear Opus. This is our last and final offer. Zero, and nothing less.

2. Please respect the big “Yes” next to Balconies

Please also note the bewilderment our friends feel when they consider your plan to include balconies (…gasp…) on your building. Out of our endless concern that all things be done decently and in order, we have checked and re-checked the Form Based Code for this location. We regret to inform you of our discoveries, and we hope you will adjust your project to comply. Specifically, we found that the code lists the word “Yes” next to the word “Balconies” in its discussion of the building types for your specific site. We wonder how you can justify your intention to include balconies when the code is so clear in explicitly saying “Yes” when asked whether balconies are permitted. Indeed, the Code gives us a picture of 4545 Lindell as a model example for your location. I therefore hope you will look at 4545 Lindell and consider its design— and only then ask yourself the question, “Should I or should I not allow non-recessed balconies to project out from the building? (right: 4545 Lindell)

3. And instead of concrete, please use the materials they used next door

Few things have my neighbors so discombobulated as your desire to include exterior concrete panels in your design. We have the greatest sympathy for our neighbors. With them, our only desire is that you follow the standards of our historic district. Our dear friends have reminded us that the materials you use in your building must be the same as those used in the adjacent buildings. Please respect that this is mandated by the standards of our Historic District.

Furthermore, after close inspection, we have discerned that there is precisely one adjacent building to your specific site. That would be the Bank of America tower on Lindell. Instead of using concrete, we urge you to use the same materials as that building. This is not an option, we remind you, but is a requirement of the standards. I believe you will find that that building is composed of a heavy, rough mixture of sand, cement and water that was poured into molds to harden. We encourage you to consider that material instead of using concrete. Or, if you prefer, you might want to use the same material as the other recent tower on Lindell—again, that model example of 4545 Lindell.

{the standards of the Historic District stipulate that the project should use the same exterior materials as this adjacent building… not concrete}

Or, if you truly want to fulfill the spirit as well as the letter of the historic district, then you might resurrect the materials that were used in dear departed San Luis Apartments, formerly the Hotel de Ville. I believe that building used an aqueous material of gravel and crushed rock which was poured on site and solidified. That option would be far more contextual than using concrete. We hope you will consider our appeals. If our Form Based Code and Historic District are worth the keyboards they were written on, then we simply must let them guide our decision, and not the subjective preferences of mere mortals.

{alternately, opus could go ultra-historic and use the materials from the demolished San Luis Apartments – image via VanishingSTL}

It is our belief, Dear Opus, that should you work with us on these three demands, then the remainder of our neighbors’ demands will be easy to address. Pick a different brick. Let them see the window finishes. Send each of them a years’ worth of Teleflora so they can imagine a big, grassy yard in front. But as for the three core demands listed above, we simply must insist that you comply with the objective design standards and give us at least zero parking spaces, respect the “Yes” next to balconies, and use the same material they used on the Bank of America building. Should you comply with these demands, we simply cannot see any legal or moral basis for the Preservation Board holding up your approval too much longer.

Again, please receive our deepest condolences and understand that our desire is only to help. If there is anything I can do, please do not hesitate to call.

Thank you.

For more on this project visit Nicki’s Central West End Guide and read this past nextSTL story.