Demo Alert: Wabash Signal Tower

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I’ve passed the Wabash signal tower on Sarah on Metrolink many times and figured it would make a cute cafe, doughnut shop, pub, who knows, once the area came to life. Sadly we will never know.

As part of the new station under construction a block away, it is being razed. A $129,900 demolition permit has been applied for to wreck the two buildings on the site. Given there is already room for a third track, it’s a mystery to me why it’s going. This is the kind of fine-grained development that creates place desperately needed in the suburban-office-park-that-happens-to-be-on-an-orthogonal-grid rising around it. Perhaps tearing down the city will work this time.

Statement from Metro:
The tower must be removed to allow new tracks to be built and a grade crossing at Sarah to be installed. The building lies within the sight distance triangle of the grade crossing.

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  • Jeff Devers

    Or they could have just incorporated the old building into the new station?https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/093f8a409847130b77695d57524247dda185317c11d249e764d4d27ed084f471.jpg

  • I’ve lived in the St. Louis area long enough to remember when folks wanted to tear down 1) Laclede’s Landing, 2) Union Station, and 3) Cupples Station (for a new arena). The argument of demolition proponents was that the buildings were not being used “at the moment”, so tear them down. But of course within just a few years, others came along and re-purposed those properties into desirable and beautiful contributing businesses, and retained their heritage for our city. In almost all cases, there are truly vacant and unused property right next door to the structures someone wants to destroy. Use those first. To improve the overall architecture of the city, the public should require answers to these 2 questions:

    1) Is the replacement building better architecturally than the one it replaces?
    And
    2) Are there other vacant lots or inferior structures within a couple of blocks of the historic structure you were planning to destroy?

    If we answer no and yes to these 2 questions, then government should require developers to leave the older structure for a future generation to imagine a smarter way to use the building for the long term betterment of the region. Castles in Scotland were destroyed centuries ago so the locals could cheaply use the stones to build crappy little homes. Think more long-term value for the region. It isn’t always just today’s profit and loss. We need a building bank as long as there are empty lots everywhere that the public agrees are much more suitable for the new structures than destruction of historic ones.

  • PD

    Ah its good to have NextSTL back…

  • brickhugger

    Although I love old buildings, this one doesn’t move me as much. It would be nice to be saved, but it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the Pevely HQ, Century Building, Ambassador theatre/hotel, Beaumont Medical building, Clemens house, and so on(!). Perhaps it could be moved?
    What I’d like to see is the grain elevator saved. it’s not as ‘distinctive’ as say, the century building, but it has presence by virtue of it’s size and brute character. a similar building in Omaha was converted into a hotel, maybe the same could be done here.

    • WikiWild

      I’d love to see a restaurant on the top of the grain elevator. Amazing downtown views.

      • brickhugger

        (we could also paint the thing like an aircraft carrier and call it the U.S.S. ‘grain of truth’)

      • Scott Nauert

        About the only thing they would be able to serve is oatmeal lol.. Ray Carroll still uses it.

  • David Hoffman

    I would not call the Cortex a “suburban-office-park-that-happens-to-be-on-an-orthogonal-grid.” Building there has been architectually significant. Enough with preserving anything ever built that is serving no use.

    • rgbose

      It wasn’t a comment on their architecture, rather a comment on how much they contribute to building a place. Are they objects on a landscape or a part of a neighborhood?

      • guest

        I would agree with David that your criticism of Cortex doesn’t make much sense. How exactly could it have been developed any differently in a way that would actually improve on the existing planning?

        • rgbose

          I suggest taking a walk from the CWE Metrolink station to 4240 Duncan then to Sarah to the Grove.

          1. Buildings up to the street
          2. Buildings that interact with the street
          3. Buildings not surrounded by surface parking.
          4. Less parking
          5. Parking better hidden.
          6. Build/keep some little buildings
          7. More mixed-uses, if not within a building, on the same block/close together.
          8. Wider sidewalks

          • guest

            I live a block away so I’m quite familiar with the area. Fieat, you want less parking, why? What is the alternative? More buildings? There’s a half dozen empty lots in the Cortex district still, and many vacant buildings. Hide the parking….behind what? More mixed use….there is mixed use…two coffee shops, one of the best restaurants in the city, on FPA plenty of mixed use, many of it unused…etc. Why would a developer build more? These ideas seem like you just forcing your preferences on a neighborhood in ways that just aren’t realistic.

          • rgbose

            You asked how it could have been better. I answered. I’m sorry you didn’t like the answer. Thanks for reading!

          • guest

            I would just think if you’re going to criticize the development strategy of the folks behind the Cortex district you would have a realistic vision of how they should be doing things differently. Best regards

          • rgbose

            Building in the way humans have been building for thousands of years has proven to be sustainable. What is unrealistic is expecting the experiment we’ve been undertaking for the last many decades to be in the long run. The math simply doesn’t work. At least I put my name on my criticisms, Nick.

          • guest

            Yep. You again don’t address my points but instead throw a glib response that’s too vague to make any sense.

            As for my name, I have no issue putting it behind my criticisms. My auto-populate function deviated to ‘guest’ when I signed on from a different computer several posts ago. However, I find it quite petty of you calling me out by name when I didn’t do so of my own volition. Here’s a final word of advice: try adjusting your commenting tone. Your responses with folks who disagree with you quickly becomes dismissive and just devolves into unproductive conversation…and I’ve noticed this with others besides myself. Try engaging people respectfully who have different viewpoints from your own and maybe you’ll learn something every now and then. It’s something I miss (and I’m sure many other readers as well) from the previous Nextstl ownership. As for me, I’m happy to spend my browsing time elsewhere. Cheers

          • rgbose

            My tone reflected yours. Consider taking your own advice.

    • Adam

      “Building there has been architectu[r]ally significant.”

      What does this mean? Stylistically? They look like every other new lab/office space built anywhere in the US over the last 5 years. They’re fine, but they’re in no way “architecturally significant”.

      “Enough with preserving anything ever built that is serving no use.”

      Unoccupied buildings never serve a use… until they do. Hard to gauge potential for reuse when no effort is made to reuse.

  • Imran

    Heck with all the obsession with metro link security, this tiny building could be a substation for officers. And it could be rehabbed for not much more than the demo cost. Wasteful on many levels.

  • STLEnginerd

    SOO… not exactly OK with the demo, but i wish the Empire brewing building, which I feel had much more architectural merit, and was far more practical rehab conversion had gotten this much love. All i heard then was a lot of well yeah it sucks but there is no practical way to make it work with the ‘imminent” development of the US Steel site. One pretty rendering later and the building is gone. Still waiting for those construction cranes… and I still miss that little building.

    I don’t really buy Metros stated reasoning though. The tracks COULD go around it. I am sure they see it as an opportunity and excuse to eliminate an eyesore. Unless there is a development plan for the whole silo block though, I fail to see the point. In every cortex rendering i have seen the silos (which incidentally seem to get a lot of love from posters here which I don’t get but to each their own i guess) remain standing. I would much rather see the “Silo Lofts” project built on the silo square and demo the whole silo complex. I know we are an Ag town but there is just no way to make them look appealing to me and it will only get harder for them to operate there as the area becomes more and more developed.

    Also demo cost for these projects always strike me as about 4x of a reasonable sum so for that reason alone i am against it. 120k to demo something roughly the size of a suburban ranch house is ridiculous.

    In either case though i don’t see public outrage of a fairly
    small but vocal internet community making a difference. The powers that
    be are on board and there are no barriers to stop them. No preservation
    review board for CORTEX right, so it out with old in with new i
    guess… 🙁

    • rgbose

      There is no new here, just meeting a site distance triangle standard.

    • Adam

      I think the Empire Brewing building got plenty of love. Problem was–just as now–there’s seemingly nothing that can be done beyond lip service.

  • tpekren

    I know this idea would be a non-starter for the cost of it. But talk about a great site and history for a future St Louis Historical Railroad society/St Louis model railroad club now that the county is going to get out of the transportation museum business. Refurbish the signal house as signature feature, top of tower as viewing platform even though Wabash days are bygone, and the lot around it as future parking & exhibition space.

    The other thought, save the signal building and tower and incorporate it into the Chouteau Park Greenway were the tower itself would make a great viewing platform of the UP & BNSF main downtown.

    Ok, done with the train buff part of me and back to work

  • rgbose

    It’s being demolished for sight lines. Can someone who knows about such things draw what sight lines “need” to be here? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a8515441119065f32e8b19de2bfc1afa0814ec9dd4a94038e17df54828259e9d.png

    • guest

      I would say your sources are not giving you the full/real story.

      • WikiWild

        Perhaps site-lines do make sense. If the new metro-stop immediately to the NW of the intersection, then the tower being that close to the tracks may interfere with the conductor’s ability to see far enough down the tracks… Just playing devil’s advocate.

        • except the station is not next to the cross street, but rather ~800 ft west of Sarah.

      • rgbose

        You don’t think Metro is telling the whole story?

        • guest

          I don’t know what Metro is saying; I’ve only read what you’ve had to say on this post. My inclination is it has something to do with GRG Chouteau Greenway

          https://greatriversgreenway.org/first-segment-chouteau-greenway-begin-construction-2017/

          • rgbose

            THe post has an update:

            Statement from Metro:
            The tower must be removed to allow new tracks to be built and a grade crossing at Sarah to be installed. The building lies within the sight distance triangle of the grade crossing.

          • guest

            Gotcha. With this bit of information (and let’s assume it’s true that the building needs to be removed to accommodate new tracks) would you not say it is worth its demolition to add a new Metrolink station?

          • rgbose

            I’d say that’s a false choice.

          • guest

            What evidence do you have that it’s a false choice?

          • rgbose

            Other parts of the alignment with tight curves and site line obstacles more obtrusive than this. It’d be helpful to get a more detailed drawing of the design. I wonder where they intend to have the tracks start bending for the station and why.

          • guest

            Right, but that’s my point. You have no idea what the end design is, yet you assume the worst.

          • rgbose

            Tearing down the building sounds bad to me, that’s why I wrote about it. Metro is the one taking action and should have better communicated what’s going on. Perhaps if they engaged the public with what they’re doing with public dollars in public spaces the parameters involved could have been weighed with the addition of the perspective of the public’s input. But they didn’t and now we’re here with a surprise demolition. Are they above question?

          • guest

            Let me ask you this, if they had announced they were going to demo the building before they applied for the permit, would your response have been any different?

          • rgbose

            Like a day before? Without explanation? It would still have been too late.
            The time to engage the public was during planning and design. Perhaps the design would have been different with little impact if the public made it clear they didn’t want the building demolished. Perhaps the design would have been the same if the public learned it’d cost way more to build in a way that kept the building. Or maybe there was no way around the regulation at the root of this and we could have a larger conversation about how those regulations affect the built environment.

          • guest

            I get what you’re saying, but this thing has been in the planning stages for years. Engineers, city leaders, Cortex leaders, etc. have all been in the know for a long time. The public is the least informed and least engaged party in the process, and the most obstructive. I can understand why they wouldn’t want the public’s input.

    • Brian

      They have to move the west bound track further north for space for the cortex station platform. My guess is the building interferes with the view of the future west bound tracks for trains traveling west.

      • rgbose

        “The building lies within the sight distance triangle of the grade crossing.” I figured this was about peds/cyclists/drivers being able to see a west bound train at the crossing with Sarah.

  • It seems like *laziness* is the primary reason the Wabash Signal Tower is being demolished. We haven’t seen a site plan, but the artistic rendering seems to indicate the entire station—the platform and the two adjacent tracks—are being built north of the existing pair of tracks. But then I still don’t understand how 800 feet is not enough space to shift the tracks from their new location back to the existing tracks.

    The location of the existing tracks will then be unusable “green space”?

    • WikiWild

      I think SLU has demoed plenty of buildings in the central corridor for sake of “green space” already.

  • WikiWild
  • Nick

    Regardless of the new Cortex station, what possible use could this building ever have if it were to be rehabbed? I can’t think of any.

    • Wayne Burkett

      Why would you go out of your way to write a comment explaining that you have no imagination?

      • Nick

        Why would you go out of your way to be a dick?

        • Guest2

          It would be much more appreciated by many readers here to point out why your comment has merit (which, by the way, doesn’t). Instead, you respond with (vulgar) name calling. Those of us that have a clue would agree with Mr. Burkett.
          And, Nick…you may respond by calling me any name you wish if that makes you feel good…it wouldn’t offend me in the least. Need I tell you why?

          • Nick

            I countered his snarky rude comment with a snarky rude comment. My original comment was merely stating that I don’t see a good use for it, and asked for others to come up with suggestions. How is that a comment without merit? And if others don’t appreciate my comments, that’s no skin off my back. I simply show other commenters the same amount of respect given to me, which I’ve accomplished here today.

      • guest

        Anyone can ‘imagine’ a use for the building. The challenge is what practical use can it have? It most definitely wouldn’t work as a cafe as Richard suggested. There’s no viable parking for about a block, and there’s about six other cafes within a quarter mile of it. Worse competition yet if it’s to be a bar or restaurant. It’s a cool building, but sadly not functional in the modern world.

        • Wayne Burkett

          Well, if you say it wouldn’t work, then I guess it’s good we’re tearing it down.

          • guest

            they’re already one step ahead of you

        • rgbose

          Um there’s loads near by, on the street, and space on the property for “needed” parking.

          • guest

            Fair enough on street parking, however they’ve prevented parking on Sarah by the West End lofts presumably because it creates a traffic issue (Sarah is not very wide). It would create the same issue by the Wabash station. So it’s possible the city would put up no parking signs if all of a sudden there’s demand to park there and traffic creates obstructions.

            Parking aside, it is still an inconvenient location relative to the half-dozen other cafes in the area.

          • WikiWild

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ba46f3279cd172909434872bacb0af620a60ec4582f6f400e143d50ef162f895.png

            It is on a larger parcel. Some of which could be used for parking… But we are also forgetting it is adjacent to a metro station and within the city’s (arguably) most walk-able neighborhood.

          • guest

            True, it’s certainly feasible to park on that private property. However, that lot is currently used for industrial purposes, and the owner of the grain silo probably doesn’t want to deal with people parking at a small building. It’s very likely he wouldn’t sell. While it’s close to the city’s most walk-able neighborhood, it’s several blocks removed…which puts the property at a strong disadvantage, which can kill you in the highly-competitive restaurant business. Even if they building was given away for free, an owner would now have to pump probably at least six figures (or high five figures) all to have an inconvenient spot. I just can’t even see it happening.

          • rgbose

            The lot is owned by Bi-State.

          • guest

            Ok, we’ll say parking isn’t an issue. That still leaves the problem of high rehab costs + massive cafe/restaurant competition in better locations close by.

          • rgbose

            Yet somehow the Loop supports 4 sandwich shops. No one says it has to be a cafe/restaurant this second or ever. Does a project have to be viable this moment? The building is being demolished because it’s supposedly in the way, not because it doesn’t have a future use. I’d like to know how it’s in the way.

          • guest

            Yeah, well, the intersection of Sarah and the Metrolink tracks ain’t the Loop

          • WikiWild

            It is IN the CWE neighborhood limits. It is one block from several office buildings (literally thousands of employees) and 4000 feet from Barnes. It is also ~ 4 blocks from the Grove. As Cortex continues to expand, I think demolishing buildings like this prematurely to make way for nothing is wasteful.

          • guest

            Yes, the most desolate pedestrian corner of the CWE. Like I said, it’s NEAR highly trafficked areas, but not IN highly trafficked areas. If I’m going to the Grove, I want to be in the Grove, not two blocks removed from the Grove on the other side of the highway. It’s far more convenient for everyone in Cortex to either go to Tim Hortons or Park Ave for coffee or a snack. 4000 ft. from Barnes? That’s almost a mile away…plus there’s a million options down by Barnes. Plus you still have to rehab the place.

          • WikiWild

            So every parcel in the city that is not immediately ready for redevelopment should have it’s structures raised? This corner of the CWE has seen incredible development and investment over the last 5 years. I cannot fathom how you think that this building has no potential for future use. If someone was demoing the building for another use, this wouldn’t be a major issue. Right now, this building is being demoed to be replaced with nothing.

            Check out the space on the Cortex website that is actively being marketed and their proximity to the Wabash site. http://cortexstl.com/leasing-and-developing/

          • guest

            Obviously the building is being razed for a reason, it’s just not mentioned why in this blurb. People don’t typically spend tens of thousands of dollars to knock down buildings for no reason.

          • WikiWild

            You have much more trust in local government organization’s ability to budget than I ever will.

          • guest

            Well, private enterprise has let the building rot. So, whether you look to the government or private ownership, the thing has no use. I don’t know what else to tell ya.

          • WikiWild

            Bi-State (the owner) is funded sales taxes, grants, and fares from transit… Hardly a privately controlled entity… It’s ran a board appointed by elected officials…

          • guest

            Fair enough. Still, Bi-State struggles to meet their goals with limited budget as it is. You’d have to be the biggest of government pessimists to think they’d raze this building for $116,000 for no reason whatsoever. Along these lines, if they could sell the building to a private investor to free up some extra cash for other projects (which government entities do all the time), while also eliminating an eye sore, why wouldn’t they do that?

          • WikiWild

            It appears they are raising it for greenspace if you review their plan for the area. That is not the highest and best use for this parcel in my opinion.

          • rgbose

            Yes, even more money is being invested in the area than in the Loop.

    • WikiWild

      Quote from the article: “’I’ve passed the Wabash signal tower on Sarah on Metrolink many times and figured it would make a cute cafe, doughnut shop, pub, who knows, once the area came to life.”

      I think the answer to your questions would be cafe, doughnut shop, pub, or perhaps the location of The Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.

      • Nick

        I mean an idea that would actually work in the real world. A cafe would be a terrible idea.

        • WikiWild

          I dunno, lots of young computer nerds working in the area (with disposable income). Location is urban, gritty, industrial… Pretty much anything with free wi-fi, expensive coffee or cocktails, bean bag chairs, and ping pong has the potential to kill it here.

  • kjohnson04

    I’m a little confused. I thought the MetroLink station was to be at Boyle, not Sarah. Why would they need to tear down something that is conservatively over a 1000 ft. from the station?