St. Louis Cultural Resources Office Recommends Denial of Demolition at Southwest Bank Site

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Walgreens at BMO Harris_Southwest Bank_site plan

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.”

BMO Harris_SW Bank 2

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.

Walgreens at BMO Harris_Southwest Bank 2Walgreens at BMO Harris_Southwest Bank 1

[Read the full project presentation on the Preservation Review Board agenda]

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From our previous report: Preservation Planned for SW Bank Corner Buildings, Demo for Walgreens In Between

BMO Harris_SW Bank

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.

BMO Harris_SW Bank 4

Continue reading: Preservation Planned for SW Bank Corner Buildings, Demo for Walgreens In Between

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  • Chris Orlet

    If the city allows these barbarians to demolish this historic building for a Walgreens, well then, we deserve it.

  • Imran

    This was removed from the agenda at the last minute. Will be deferred till the next preservation board meeting.

  • Michael C

    Parking must not be shown from the street. No parked cars should be shown from the street.

  • Bob B

    The thought that two curb cuts on that stretch on Kingshighway is a great idea is absolutely nuts. People fly off of Vandeventer heading south on Khighway. Cars slowing up to make that sharp right into the lot are going to get creamed. I think its also an issue that the demolitions are being heard at the Pres Board BEFORE the neighborhood formally meets. It should be the other way around. The Board considers neighborhood concerns in their decision making. Residents are having to scramble to get letters and change personal plans to get to the Board at 4pm to be heard. Plus, the fact that there are differences in the proposal than what the crowd saw at the “open house” and what is on the Preservation Board agenda should mean its should be postponed/deferred so people have time to comment.

  • Brett

    There’s a Walgreen’s right across the street. Either adapt the current building to use the historic structure or go to hell.

  • Mark

    Why is no one -not NextSTL or STLToday- mentioning the fact that Walgreens currently operates across Southwest Ave in a currently occupied building of their own design? I can’t understand why this shouldn’t be a consideration in proposals like this? What will become of the new abandoned Walgreens? If we have a choice between abandoned _usable_ historic store fronts, and abandoned awful 1980’s Walgreens building, is this really even a choice? If they don’t like their existing building, have them renovate that one.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Personally, I think the existing Walgreens across Southwest is a horrible, no good, very bad building that should go away. But maybe more of an answer is that the proposal is by a local developer and BMO Harris. The possible tenant is a factor, but no one at the city is working directly with Walgreens. It may be a distinction without a difference, but I think that it’s one factor.

      • Brett

        That area really doesn’t need another Walgreen’s regardless, so I don’t see why a single brick should be moved from the building. I’ve also never once seen any sort of marketing of the spaces or an attempt to even make them economically feasible.

        There is no reason Walgreen’s needs an update. It is what it is, and it’s not even good at that. I’ve tried to go there numerous times for miscellaneous things and to no avail, as all three of those Walgreen’s close at 9 or 10. What will happen is just another vacant building, just like QT. Worthless stores that add nothing to the community and leave ruins as they pass through.

    • Mike P

      There is also a Walgreens right down the street at Arsenal.

  • Sam

    Huh, these images are different from what they showed us on Monday. Guess we’ll see what it looks like at the board meeting.

  • mpbaker22

    Isn’t there already a Walgreen’s literally across the street? So the net number of vacant buildings is +1?

  • brickhugger

    I agree with CRB, and I do not like the idea of a two-way curb cut that close to Kingshighway and Southwest; that will only make traffic that much worse.