SLU Acquires Missouri Belting Building, Demolition Expected

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Reddit0Share on LinkedIn0Print this pageEmail this to someone

Belting Building aerial_logo

In November 2014, we reported that the owner of the Missouri Belting Building on Grand Avenue was seeking approval for demolition. At that time, the building was owned by Bill Rainen and MCOD Investments, LLC. The St. Louis City Preservation Board upheld the Cultural Resources Office Director’s denial of a demolition permit. The property is now owned by Saint Louis University. No sale price has been made available for the long expected purchase.

Voting unanimously to uphold the CRO denial, the Preservation Board found that while reuse of the building faced challenges such as being surrounded by SLU-owned property and vacated streets reducing access, there was no compelling reason for demolition. The owner did not present evidence of financial hardship and no record of attempts to sell or lease the property was presented. Additionally, no development plan existed for the site.

All of this is about to be moot. In 2012, when the city’s Planning Commission overruled the Preservation Board’s denial of SLU’s application to demolish the Pevely complex, the building’s fate was largely sealed. That decision left the corner Pevely building standing, but isolated. In denying demolition of the Belting Building, the Preservation Board did find that it and the remaining Pevely building provided context to one another.

Missouri Belting and Pevely buildings{the Missouri Belting and Pevely buildings on Grand Boulevard}

Missouri Belting_Pevely{the Missouri Belting building looking north from Hickory Street near Grand}

However, deliberations in 2012 included significant consideration of a supposed redevelopment plan by the university. The school’s argument was that the Pevely site was needed for a new ambulatory care center. If SLU had been able to produce a plan and have a building permit approved, the buildings would have been gone. But the ambulatory care center proved to be fiction. And so one Pevely building, and the Missouri Belting Building still stand.

A lot has changed in four years. This past June we were first to report that SSM Health was planning a $500M investment following its acquisition of Saint Louis University Hospital from Tenet Healthcare. Just this month SSM announced it had selected The Lawrence Group in partnership with Hammel, Green and Abrahamson (HGA) as architects for a new $500M hospital and ambulatory care center. No site plans or designs have been released, but statement offered that the project would be built “in the immediate vicinity of the current hospital.” The new buildings are expected to be completed by fall 2020.

Missouri Belting and Pevely complex{Missouri Belting building in blue, demolished Pevely buildings in red}

The Lawrence Group completed the transformation of a forgettable office building in downtown St. Louis to the new home of the Saint Louis University School of Law. This month the design and development company announced it had purchased the long vacant Federal Mogul industrial site near the Saint Louis University Frost Campus, with plans for a $100M redevelopment. The company is also remaking the Missouri Theatre Building in nearby Grand Center, with eyes on a larger development.

With a new owner and firm development commitment, and now ownership of a massive contiguous largely vacant parcel of land (virtually everything in the top image), we expect a renewed demolition request to made soon. This time is appears clear that demolition approval will be granted to make way for the SSM investment. More demolition along Hickory Street is likely as well.

In 2012, when asked if the university had received feedback from the neighborhood regarding its wish to demolish the Pevely complex, a representative of the school answer, “what neighborhood?” If the current project comes to pass, it will mark the final moment in the long process of a city neighborhood being extinguished. At least this time it appears something will replace it.

More on the history of the Missouri Belting Company here: Demolition Sought for Missouri Belting Company Building at Pevely Site

Missouri Belting{the Missouri Belting building}

Images of demolition on Rutger and Hickory Streets:

SLU demoltion

The view looking east on Chouteau Avenue toward the remaining Pevely building:

 

SLU desolate

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Reddit0Share on LinkedIn0Print this pageEmail this to someone
  • gmichaud

    A serious consideration is the huge public investment in metrolink, the viaduct built for transit and the heavy bus traffic on Grand. The city should be demanding an urban design that compliments this huge economic investment in transit.
    While I think the Pevely building is a nice piece of architecture, I wouldn’t necessarily object if it was replaced with an attractive urban orientated project.
    The problem is SLU already screwed up with the Doisy High Rise across the street, leaving a huge vacant “garden” no one uses. It is more suitable for a herd of cows.
    As I taxpayer along with many others, have invested millions of dollars in successful transit. SLU must comply with issues of density and pedestrian access, both of which the current Pevely and Belt Buildings provide.
    This area has a huge public investment that requires the City of St. Louis to demand walkability and density to compliment the transit.

  • ShawResident

    As Shaw resident, this is in my neighborhood. I drive past it almost daily and walk past it on my way to the Grand metro link stop. I am a staunch proponent to have both the Belting and Pevely buildings demolished. Preservation for the sake of preservation is not good policy. These buildings stand in the way of an entrenched St. Louis City institution with arguably a nationwide/world wide draw of talent in STL from investing hundreds of millions of dollars into St. Louis City. How may historic homes in the neighborhood are preserved/bought with new employment generated? How may of the vacant boarded up retail storefronts in the are are opened when there is new daytime population to serve. How much safer and more walkable could Grand Ave be if the gap from South Grand to Grand center was further filled in by SLU. I am not advocating a free for all to all developers and institutions to demolish historic buildings, but lets not let the preservation board or CRO’s mandate to preserve any and all buildings at all costs (a noble mandate and one that is needed) get in the way of real institutional level investment in our City. I echo, blindly advocating preservation solely for the sake of preservation is not good policy

    • Alex Ihnen

      No one thinks that “preservation for the sake of preservation” is a good policy. The buildings don’t stand in the way of anything. If SLU had had a real plan to build years ago, the buildings would already be gone. The only thing the city asked SLU to do was have a real building plan in place before demolition. That’s a pretty small obstacle.

      To your other questions, the blocks developed by SLU are pretty dead and uninviting to walk. Most likely, this corner will become a driveway or parking lot – not exactly a safe or enjoyable place to walk.

      It’s relatively easy to make a argument against the re-use of buildings if one paints others as “blindly advocating preservation solely for the sake of preservation.” That description describes literally no one.

      • John R

        Another way to look at things is if the planned circa 2006 redevelopment of the area had occurred (as depicted in the post above) that would have been one heck of a nicer walk to the metrolink station with perhaps a coffee shop or similar to enjoy along the way and with room left over for SLU to still build south of it.

      • onecity

        Here’s the problem with the entire Pevely/MoBelt site: the med center site across the street EASILY has room for another 5-10 buildings on it, before there is even a need to expand to this site. SLU’s concept of land use is so insanely poor, and their poverty of thinking destroyed a complex that could have had many nice adaptive reuses, not to mention the adjoining residential block….

        • Alex Ihnen

          It’s pretty easy to imagine this complex as something very similar to what is now said to be planned for the Federal Mogul sight on FP Avenue nearby.

  • tbatts666

    There is an enormous amount of blank space around SLU med campus and hospital.

    They already land banked a lot. Why do they need more?

    Can anyone explain SLU’s possible motive for desolation of more land?

    • SLU banks land for the long term- they’re planning for their needs a century or more from now. They pretty much buy and clear anything that becomes available adjacent to campus, since they might want it someday.

      • tbatts666

        Isn’t that like shooting themselves in the foot? They’ve turned there part of the city into nowhere. People don’t put a high value on nowhere.

        And as a non-profit don’t I’d figure part of their mission should be uplifting of the city. What they are doing appears to be diluting the tax pool, although I’m too busy to do the math with the property tax numbers.

        Does WashU do this? Do most non-profit campuses do this?

        • rgbose

          WashU put the apt buildings it rehabbed in SkinkerD on the tax roles in order to get Historic Tax Credits, demoed buildings for its Lofts in the Loop project, demoed a apt building at McPherson and Des Peres, spent $2M on lights on Skinker, participates in the trolley tax, and will pay into the proposed east loop CID

          • moorlander

            SLU should really be embarrassed that a secular school is doing so much more to improve the community around the university than they are. Ya know, given the whole Christian call to serve….

          • tbatts666

            SLU is amazing. I’m a med student there and love the community and culture (really they are dedicated to service), but I bike in every day and see the desolation, the blocks of NO TRESPASSING signs… I feel we are failing the city of St Louis in a systematic way.

            How can I help inform my institution. People get it when I talk about it, but no one seems to understand how we can fix it.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/849a80a88b39bb3d10c0baf2744e1d790a2fda89a8422ca8e0f78d596766c39e.jpg

            I think it has less to do with https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e6ea9e76c2b0015108af249e3ec2117bda4450751f4bb87d15106aace8753e83.jpg

          • gmichaud

            Probably the simplest thing to do is ask the university to put pedestrians and bicycles on equal footing with the automobile in their plans.
            Even the Doisy center is salvageable with those concerns in mind. Create density in the Pevely block and then across Chouteau, over to Captains Johns and down Chouteau and then up Carr Lane.

            That would help enclose the south end of Doisy creating a public space rather than the dead space it is now. The Belt and Pevely would be needed for that density. Pedestrians end up with a nice public space at their feet.
            Pedestrians close to transit, school and work together to form a quality environment. The University should also know possible bicycle routes prior to development. The painted lanes on busy routes are not always safe. Each part of the University offers different opportunities.

            I have no idea what SLU does now to insure a balance between auto, pedestrian and bicycle with transit in a supporting role. The evidence is not much.
            Doesn’t SLU have an Urban Planning Department?

          • gmichaud

            I answered my own question. It turns out SLU offers a Masters in Urban Planning and Development out of their Center for Sustainability. They also offer a MS in Sustainability among other degrees.
            As a student you should be able to approach them with some of your concerns.
            I wonder how the Center for Sustainability would consider the Doisy Center a sustainable design? I guess the academic program doesn’t talk much to the administration.
            Truthfully, I don’t get it. If SLU is emphasizing sustainability……….how…..why…. the condition of the urban environment midtown doesn’t make sense.
            On top of that SLU had a proposal for another suburban style, anti-urban, anti-transit, anti-pedestrian unsustainable project across the street from Doisy Center in the recent past (as reported by Nextstl).
            I wonder what they are teaching at the Center for Sustainability?

          • tbatts666

            Thanks rgbose, how do you know so much? It sounds like you’re saying WashU/BJC does participate in desolation to plan for future expansion. But they also do smart development when incentives are right.

          • rgbose

            I make it my business to know! WashU does much better IMO. Neighbors are perpetually nervous that they’ll clear cut the buildings they own to expand the campus. Not only in SD, but west and Northwest of campus. This hasn’t come to pass. The demo on for the Lofts was immediately replaced. The demo on McPherson was a really crappy building that the neighborhood plan called for to become a community garden.
            I forgot to mention the demo at Clayton and Taylor. It’s been nothing for years. Shouldn’t have happened

  • Imran

    A ‘What should be’ post is needed. And mail it to the Lawrence Group and SSM. My blood is preemtively boiling at the thought of all the winding heavily landscaped driveways they are going to propose.

  • GraniteState

    And the people running St. Louis wonder why people (especially young people) are leaving.

    What will it take for them to get a clue?

  • Matt

    I would have more problem with this demolition if the plot had any density of historic structures but it looks like a desert now. If this is the sacrifice that needs to be made to save the Desloge I think it’s worthy. I mean the Pevely building is already half gone… This fight has been fought.

    • Adam

      They’re building the new hospital on the giant empty lot just north of the Pevely site. This has nothing to do with saving Desolage unless they leverage it that way in an attempt to extort the CRO again like they did last time.

      • Adam

        Correction: just south.

    • Adam

      I also don’t get why a “density of historic structures” is somehow necessary to warrant saving/reusing a particular historic structure. It’s not. It’s just a convenient excuse used to raze buildings that big institutions find inconvenient.

  • kjohnson04

    They should deny any future requests for demolition. They can integrate the existing structures into any projects they are planning. Heck, the image that highlights what’s been demoed and what’s being kept shows a tasteful keeping of both buildings. Do that.

  • Guest

    Isn’t it rather odd that an urban university (especially in a city with such a rich architectural history) doesn’t understand the importance of architectural preservation? I find it odd…extremely odd…and inexcusably shameful.

  • Presbyterian

    I wonder whether Biondi’s absence will make any difference. The latest SLU dorm does show marked improvement over the school’s previous projects.

    • Alex Ihnen

      The presence of the new dorm may be a sign that Biondi’s absence has already made a difference.

  • Timm

    Forgive my ignorance…so SLU owns all the property but this is where the SSM development will go?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Yes. It’s a partnership. SLU also maintains a governing role with the hospital.

  • Adam

    So can we expect to lose Pevely as well?

    • Imran

      And we will finally get that grand driveway instead (eye roll)
      So far every hospital SSM has built has been car-centric and suburban in design. Hoping for better this time but getting tired of the limp leadership in the City.

      • Adam

        Yep, and the same firm designing the new SSM SLU hospital also designed the St. Clare abortion out in Fenton.

        • Chris

          There is only one provider of abortions in Missouri. It’s on Forest Park Parkway in the city. Not Fenton. Columbia, Missouri will be the 2nd location once it’s admitting privelages are renewed. What information do you have to indicate otherwise?

          • Alex Ihnen

            I think he is saying that this building is atrocious. Perhaps a poor use of “abortion”.

          • Adam

            Yeah, what Alex said. I maintain, though, that it was a great use of “abortion”. 😉

  • matimal

    St. Louis University & Wrecking Company! I wonder which side of the business is more important to the board, the University side or the Wrecking Company side.

  • Brian

    Oh, goody! Now we will have a dense, street-oriented development in the manner of the SLU research building across the street. Going back 50 years, SLU has replaced more buildings with parking lots and open fields than any entity in the region. It makes one wonder what Midtown would look like had Fr. Fitzgerald decided back in the 1960’s against keeping SLU in the city.

  • Daron

    Was there no 2015 rephoto? Desolation is still the word.

    • rgbose

      Put a futbol stadium on the left.

      • John R

        That would be neat location however it also has a tremendous amount of potential for mixed-use development that would provide some of the most amazing, panoramic views of the Central Corridor. We’ll see if SLU has the sense to make it happen.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Ha. Fixed.