Earlier this week we wrote about plans to demolish portions of the BMO Harris property better known as Southwest Bank at Southwest Avenue and Kingshighway. The bank’s plan is to preserve corner buildings at Southwest and Botanical Avenues while demolishing the storefronts in between for a new Walgreens.
The project could still win approval from the Preservation Review Board on Monday, but the city’s Cultural Resources Office is recommending that board “withholds approval of the demolition of the Merit Buildings unless it finds that the use of the structures proposed for demolition are not economically feasible and/or that approval of the proposed redevelopment will equal or exceed the contribution of the structures to be demolished.”
On one hand that would appear to be a high bar to meet, but votes at the Preservation Board have not always followed the CRO recommendation. Here are the preliminary findings and conclusions presented by the CRO:
- The buildings at 2301-2335 S. Kingshighway are located within the Reber Place National Register Historic District.
- Four of these structures: 2301 S. Kingshighway, 2307 S. Kingshighway, 2319 S. Kingshighway and 2335 S. Kingshighway are Merit buildings and, according to the ordinance, “shall not be approved except in unusual circumstances which shall be expressly noted.
- These buildings were constructed from approximately 1905-1928 and are representative of a variety of commercial storefront designs from this period.
- The buildings are sound, in terms of the Ordinance.
- The developer has supplied cost estimates that indicate per square foot rent levels in the South Kingshighway area are significantly lower than the cost to renovate the structures.
- The cost estimate does not include the added value of historic tax credits for which most of these buildings would qualify.
- By keeping two of the Merit structures and placing the Walgreen’s building at the sidewalk, the proposed new construction maintains the urban form of the streetscape, although the configuration of two curb-cuts and parking will leave gaps that lessen the urban character of the streetscape.
- Through additional site design the urban form can be enhanced.
- The design of the Walgreen’s on the South Kingshighway façade includes large windows that face the street. The windows and entry on the South Kingshighway façade is consistent with urban building form. Through additional changes to the South Kingshighway façade, the urban character of the Walgreen’s can be enhanced.
- The owner proposes to donate the building at 2335 South Kingshighway, a Merit structure, to the Tower Grove Community Development Corporation.
From our previous report: Preservation Planned for SW Bank Corner Buildings, Demo for Walgreens In Between
Rumors of plans to demolish the Soutwest Bank building, now home to BMO Harris Bank, have been swirling for years. The rumors were just that as BMO Harris sought feedback from the city, local officials, and neighbors. That effort appears to have culminated in a plan the bank will to take to the city’s Preservation Review Board.
At a public hearing tonight, BMO Harris outlined a plan that would preserve the corner building, dating from 1905, a move widely expected. The building would undergo a full historic rehab, including removal of the paint, and a small addition constructed to the west. With banks requiring less physical room, the majority of the space on the site is unused. The corner building would provide enough square footage for the redesigned bank.
Much less expected is a pledge to retain the corner building at Botanical Avenue and donate it to the Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation. While the building at Southwest Avenue is a landmark for many drivers, the Botanical building is an important anchor for the neighborhood and surrounding residential streets.