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“A Brief Plea” Submitted For Preservation and Reuse of Desloge Tower

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SSM SLU

The Foundation for Commercial Philanthropy, a private foundation associated with the Desloge family has presented SSM Health with a proposal to preserve and re-use the historic Firmin Desloge Hospital Tower and Desloge Chapel.

In June of last year, we reported that SSM had reached a deal to purchase St. Louis University Hospital and was in the early stages of planning a $500M investment. The future of the skyline defining Desloge Tower was uncertain then, and remains unresolved as SSM has not made a commitment to retaining the building.

The proposal by the foundation asks SSM and SLU to consider the building to be repurposed as serve as the home for a new non-profit incubator. It even has a name, The Hive. The idea would be to provide start-up assistance and ongoing support for local nonprofit and charitable groups much as business incubators due for for-profit business – a non-profit version of Cortex, if you will.

The proposal itself argues for the preservation and reuse of the Desloge Tower for several purposes. Guest housing for SSM patient families, student housing for Saint Louis University Medical School students, or teaching or office space would occupy the building. Other ideas include senior living, childcare, and a museum dedicated to African Americans in healthcare. The proposal cites Homer G. Phillips hospital, and City Hospital as local examples of medical building reuse. The full proposal is below.

Earlier this year, SLU acquired the Missouri Belting building, the last parcel remaining between Chouteau Avenue and the existing hospital several blocks to the south, not owned by the university or SSM. A new hospital is expected to be constructed on land cleared adjacent to Desloge Tower.

SLU SSM Grand

Desloge Tower served as the main hospital building of the Saint Louis University Medical Center until a reorganization in 1959 resulted in a new official name, SLU Hospital. Much of the currently modern campus is composed of structures constructed during a 1986 addition to Firmin Desloge Hospital. Michael Allen of the Preservation Research Office suggested the city would gain two new assets with a new medical center that featured a historic residential tower for employees and staff.

“I would hope that there could be consideration of saving the historic Firmin Desloge Hospital with its exceptional chapel by nationally-acclaimed architect Ralph Adams Cram.” Allen continued, “No one will cry if the ungainly addition is demolished and replaced — in fact it would improve the city’s skyline and the historic hospital building to be free from that dull form.”

The Foundation For Commercial Philanthropy (FCP) was launched in St. Louis earlier this year to help other nonprofit organizations strengthen their operations and fulfill their missions while simultaneously generating new funding for organizations dedicated to fighting homelessness and poverty. FCP offers cost-effective professional services to help a wide variety of nonprofit organizations to succeed while also utilizing business management and brokerage services to operate social enterprises and fund humanitarian work primarily benefitting women and children in homelessness and deep poverty.

Desloge Tower Proposal for Preservation and Reuse – The Foundation for Commercial Philanthropy by nextSTL.com

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  • kjohnson04

    Does it help that a Desloge is making a plea to keep the tower? I hope so. Using SSM’s logic, they should tear down the Medical School building across the street because it’s “old” and “outdated.”

    Here’s a thought: tear down that monstrosity on the corner of Grand and Chouteau. That’s the real travesty, not the Desloge tower.

    • rgbose

      If only it was on the corner!

  • Guest

    The idea that the Desloge Tower even be considered to be demolished is outrageous. We’ve lost so many treasures…Century Building, Buder Building, Allied Chemical Bldg. Southtown Famous Barr. It seems as if those who should know better have an agenda to erase the architectural legacy of a great city. Meanwhile, the educated gasp in disbelief at the ignorance of it. How does that bode for St. Louis? Not well at all. The international outcry voiced by architects, urbanists and like minded people over the destruction of the Century Building taught those who should know better…nothing. We’re showing the very people who would take interest in investing in a city full of beautiful architecture and landmarks that could never be produced today that this is not the place to consider to invest….the very people who are the most creative and incubators of new ideas.
    How ironic that people who have risen to such high positions remain so incredibly ignorant of the importance of preserving our richly built environment and the value it has to the growing urban movement. How on earth does this happen…in this day and age…with all the information easily available at the touch of a keyboard…??? It really is beyond ignorance because in today’s terms this is an excellent way for a city to commit suicide.

  • John Warren

    How a building like Desloge Hospital could be torn down in 2016 is unconscionable. This building marks the entire south grand neighborhood. There are PLENTY of vacant sites where a new tower could be constructed. Who is the alderman for this area? Is this in a historic district?

    • Not Buying It

      joe roddy, of course. he fits your description.

  • Adam

    Yeah, if it’s going to remain it’s not going to do so under SSM’s ownership. The redevelopment is going to have to be spear-headed by a new owner. The big question, then, is: will SSM/SLU allow someone else to own such a prominent building in the middle of their desert empire? Given SLU’s and SSM’s miserable preservation records I’m extremely concerned.

  • Db

    Didn’t see anything in the write up or read the report but does it say anything about who will pay for the renovation and up keep of the tower? If it’s SSM, take picture for memories because it’s going down.

    • Alex Ihnen

      FWIW, my guess is that the most likely use for the building is as SLU office space, perhaps SSM as well. I don’t believe it works well as a medical building – a new structure is almost infinitely better, and easier and cheaper, to build. But there are many uses needed on a campus like this and the building should have a future.

      • Its such a good idea, and has to lend to the softer side of a (I can say this as a Catholic) rigid religious institution… I hope they can save it. 🙂

  • Presbyterian

    I hope SSM listens. Desloge is one of our city’s great architectural and cultural landmarks.