Design Evolution Continues With BMO Harris Plan for Southwest Bank

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It’s been just a couple weeks since BMO Harris Bank revealed plans to restore the Southwest Bank building at the corner of Southwest Avenue and Kingshighway Boulevard in the city’s Southwest Garden neighborhood. That plan was to demolish the buildings between that corner and the corner building at Botanical, adding a more-or-less standard Walgreens store in between.

That proposal was set to go before the city’s Preservation Review Board, but was pulled after the St. Louis Cultural Resources Office (CRO) recommended the board vote against the plan. The property is within the Reber Place National Historic District. Now, an open house set for Friday, August 12 will present a new design iteration.

Images made available on the Southwest Garden Neighborhood Association website show an increased effort to mimic the existing building street wall along Kingshighway, with access to parking lots at curb cuts passing through a facade wall of sorts. Clearer images of the corner building show a complete restoration, but not to historic standards. The small planned addition is not depicted.

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The most significant functional changes are t0 the curb cuts on Kingshighway. What was once a right-in/right-out between BMO Harris and Walgreens now appears as a single right-in. Between the Botanical building and Walgreens is now shown as right-out only instead of a standard entrance-exit, which would have allowed left and right turns onto Kingshighway.

The planned Walgreens appears to be a more contemporary design, very similar to what was shared on the Preservation Board agenda. At Botanical Avenue, the plan shows the corner building remaining and being donated to the Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation. Prior to the last design update, it was feared that the Botanical building could be targeted for demolition. The BMO Harris drive through and small island retail without a drive through remain nearly unchanged.

It’s unclear whether the most recent changes will be enough to assuage opposition to proposed demolition. What the changes do show is that plans can respond to community pressure. While this does not always result in a better project, community input serves an especially important role in the absence of an enforced form based code or proactive city planning.

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