Benton Park Retail Corner Residential Infill Takes Historic Replica to a New Level

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In St. Louis, we’re used to faux-historic. The city, nearly built out by 1920, is home to dozens of National Historic districts, and a good number of Local Historic Districts as well. It is the latter that can dictate new infill and major rehabs, as well as windows, front doors, lighting, roofing material, and more. From Lafayette Square to Benton Park, and elsewhere, faux-historic is what St. Louis does. Still, this takes it to a new level.

The proposal, designed by Killeen Studio Architects and approved by the city’s Preservation Review Board yesterday, may be the most replica of historic replicas yet. The single-family home takes the form and design of an historic St. Louis corner store. While some of the hundreds of historic corner buildings like this retain a commercial purpose, dozens have been converted to residential. The results are generally good, but can be awkward.

Ultimately it’s impressive to see the most-St. Louis of building forms be recreated as new infill. While corner treatment for residential infill can be a challenge, it’s too often done poorly in St. Louis.

Bad corner treatment:

Historic corner retail to residential conversion:

Historic corner retail retaining commercial function as a leasing office:

Blues City Deli – rocking the corner retail vibe:

Images of 1959 Lynch:

 

 

    

Model buildings presented:

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  • Great project. The City of St. Louis needs a new zoning code, though, that removes parking minimum requirements for new neighborhood retail. We mandate the look of historic neighborhoods on one hand, then stifle the historic function of urban buildings on the other. Our streets are too quiet.

  • Kyle O’Connor

    for my 2 cents.. preserving specific buildings is of course a good thing. and I do understand controlling the historic feel of neighborhoods in very specific areas like immediately surrounding Lafayette Park. But my fantasy would be for new Benton Park infill to be super sleek contemporary. the contrast would be amazing. Imagine these flanked by beautiful historic houses: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/733fd803ae94436608bd3f30ec38cca2b903458e40b07452df6aef83421534d7.png

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dcd0cae3b6ed9e0c6b63d56e2575697c662746ecd582f0822cb5c8dc020eb05a.png

    • Adam

      Would need to have appropriate form, though. That top one, while attractive, isn’t appropriate. Form-wise no different than shoving a ranch between two 3-story second empires.

      • Kyle O’Connor

        Right, certainly. Was thinking the contemporary counterpart of those amazing lil 1 story brick guys. ‘course elements of the house in that example wouldn’t work in urban context, more of a general idea. besides it’s just my whimsical fantasy 🙂

        • Kyle O’Connor

          …all infill should be bouncy castles.

          • Adam

            I do not like this one. Bouncy castles all smell like feet.

        • Adam

          I like it!

      • If previous generations were so squeamish about form, the Park Plaza Hotel never would have been built across the street from Portland and Westmoreland Place. The urban townhouses of Benton Park never would have been built alongside the earlier cottages. There are ways to make architecture more responsive to place — and St. Louis decidedly is not very good at them with infill (local historic district standards really haven’t protected us from insipid architecture, sadly) — but I don’t think the city benefits from never creating the sort of contrasts that make historic districts existing in the first place.

        • Adam

          I was thinking more about efficient land use than shape. For the most part I’m fine with scaling up or maintaining the ambient scale with a different shape. I just meant that we shouldn’t be plopping down ranch-shaped infill across several 30-foot lots. I’m all for variety in design.

    • Colocon
      • Kyle O’Connor

        Likey

  • Colocon

    I understand the need to protect and preserve the historical integrity of the city and the desire to retain the character of such districts. However, with examples across the world, I think nice, modern infill looks fantastic in these type of spots and adds to the vitality of such areas.

    • Kyle O’Connor

      oh, basically exactly what you said ha. ☝️

  • RyleyinSTL

    While I don’t feel that all infill in historic areas needs to replicate adjacent buildings, I really love this.

    Hat tip to the owner and builder.

    • Dominic Ricciotti

      What have we come to when, in the interests of architectural harmony in our historic districts, we start building residences as faux stores? Large glass areas are typical of historic storefronts but not homes; privacy is of course the issue.
      When an authentic, historic corner store is converted to residential, invariably the large plate glass windows are lined with Venetian blinds or draperies, which certainly add nothing to the vitality of the street, but they are tolerable because of the historic character of said building. But must we replicate the store-as-home in new construction? This is not only dishonest, it’s ludicrous.

      Would it not be preferable if imaginative architects were to come up with a quasi-contemporary solution to the street corner problem? One that evokes historic storefront imagery but which reinvents the window forms so as to afford privacy and light, while maintaining the architectural character of the neighborhood.

      • Riggle

        Ludicrous is the right word. The only bright side would the faux store becoming a real store somewhere down the line, but without having that in mind from the get go it wouldn’t likely be an easy conversion.

      • jhoff1257

        Considering this is a private residence, I’d venture a guess that its future owner probably has a say in the design. Maybe they prefer it like this. We also don’t exactly know what the final look is going to be. At this stage we don’t know that they won’t “reinvent the window form” so I think it’s a bit disingenuous to call it “dishonest” and “ludicrous” when the only thing we’ve seen up to this point are a few sketches. An owner building a private home to their tastes that not only fits the surrounding neighborhood but meets the CRO guidelines isn’t ludicrous in any sense of the word.

      • RyleyinSTL

        Neighborhoods don’t require shops on every corner like they did back in the day. This doesn’t mean that storefronts don’t look good there. This gives us both a charming storefront AND a urban resident. Win and win!

        As others have said. The owner seems to be building this so it’s what they want. I know of at least 3 (up scale) converted storefronts in the city which are now homes.

  • Tysalpha

    Is it planned to be masonry or wood frame with brick veneer? Because that’s the only distinction. They’re really nailing the historic form.

    Nitpick: Some of the interior layout should be thought through better re: livability. Specifically the long, U-shaped walk between the master bathroom and master closet. And possibly (although not as big of a deal) the powder room being in the “private” part of the first floor. But those are my only critiques. For NextSTL, that’s really good.

    • thomas h benton

      Does this distinction have to do with the thickness (number of courses) of brick? I would imagine that it’ll be wood frame with brick veneer. Even so, I like this. It’s nice to see how much infill there has been in Benton Park over the last couple of years. Even with the neighborhood having lost a couple of buildings that have collapsed (see Illinois Avenue) due to rehabbers’ negligence, the neighborhood still appears to be slowly filling back in.

      • Riggle

        I see buildings going down daily in benton park, I thought there was some kind of review?

        • thomas h benton

          What are you referring to? There was a building collapse on Illinois a couple of weeks ago, when some idiot rehabbers had not adequately supported a structure they’d gutted and it collapsed in high winds. Last year, a similar thing happened on the same block.

          • Adam

            Oh, that’s what happened. Saw that and my heart sank.

          • Riggle

            So they purposefully knocked them down, but it was an accident so they don’t need to be reviewed.) And the two demos on the 3300 block of Lemp, which “accidentally” caught fire…

          • thomas h benton

            I’m not sure I follow you here. The ones on Illinois were accidental collapses. I don’t know all the specifics, but I know the most recent one involved a situation where the (idiot) rehabbers had put in quite a bit of time, so I don’t think the collapse benefits them. In other words, I don’t think it’s a stealth demo as your comment seems to suggest. As for Lemp Avenue, one building that had been slated for rehab caught fire and had to be demo’ed – it was a clear arson.

          • Riggle

            To avoid the cost of rehabbing. They are pouring the new foundation as we speak.

          • thomas h benton

            Are you talking about the one on Lemp? If so, that makes no sense. It’s generally not more expensive to rehab than to do new construction. Rubicon has done a number of rehabs in the area, including in Benton Park.

    • Tysalpha

      I fixed the master bedroom dressing area problem. Something like this, anyway. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/90e716653a646b6dc4c8dda2fa1dca61fb9fef57c6f64f15da82b23a69c3ea5b.jpg