July 31, 2008
Just saw a note on our neighborhood listserv about Diane Toroian Keaggy's piece in Sunday's P-D on urban exploration, which features Ecology of Absence's Michael Allen and our own Thomas Crone, who is humble and not wont to boast about such things (so I'll do it for him - I rather liked the piece). Having visited the Armour Meatpacking Plant last winter with brilliant painter Cindy Tower, I can say it is a doozy of an urban exploration site. Speaking of which, Bruno David Gallery opens a group exhibit, OVER_VIEW 08, tommorrow night, and it features some of Cindy's work. Not sure if there will be canvases of Armour, but if so, it's a chance to get a painterly perspective on the site. Definitely check out her site for a peek at those paintings, though nothing can replace seeing them in person.
An interesting site on Brooklyn, IL, was passed along today, featuring maps and information on the village. Worth a peek, for fans of history.
July 05, 2008
Tiger Stadium: Demo
On a brief daytrip into Detroit last year, I had to marvel at the old Tiger Stadium. Given up as a functioning venue for a new ballpark downtown, the ancient structure was... just... sitting there. The shell of the building hadn't been demo-ed and there was still some talk of saving the space, though the businesses that surrounded the old warhorse had obviously moved on themselves. A strange, museum-like quality to Tiger that Sunday afternoon, with nary a person in sight within block of the historic ballyard.
Though we ordinarily focus our energies on STL-related things here at 52nd City, those of you frustrated by the progress at Ballpark Village might have some passing interest in the demolition of a ballpark in the upper midwest, as Tiger Stadium's demo has commenced.
A couple of links:
June 18, 2008
National Kudos for the Northside
This week, Old North was bragged up on national environmental website Switchboard. Blogger Kaid Benfield (who is the director of the Smart Growth Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council) titled his entry "Of the community, by the community, and for the community: the rebirth of Old North Saint Louis." I don't know if you could find a better title than that. He's included lots of pics, and begins his entry thus:
"Every now and then I run across a story that is so good, that feels so right, that I thank my lucky stars for the freedom NRDC gave me to evolve my career into working for better, more sustainable communities. This is such a story, and it reveals an historic, diverse, inclusive neighborhood that is reclaiming its identity, restoring its infrastructure, empowering its residents, and securing its future. The community wins, and so does the environment, because the Old North neighborhood in Saint Louis is the very antithesis of sprawl." (Eddie Roth posted on this today, and used the same quote - but what can I say? It's so good!)Continue reading "National Kudos for the Northside"
May 28, 2008
Revisiting the Mansion
The first piece that I'd written for the print edition of 52nd City was a look at my inability to access the Mansion Motel, a beast of a building in North City, at Bulwer and Gano. Recently, though the space has been vacated and business has (mostly) ceased at the hourly motel.
Over at STLStreets, a video tour has been posted. It's kinda wack. Enjoy.
May 24, 2008
Building Foundation Bennie Tonight
Joe Thebeau of Finn's Motel sends along word of a show that we should've noted days ago. It's the "Get on the Grid" bennie for the Building Arts Foundation and it'll allow for power to be turned on at the Building Museum, in our second-favorite East Side locale, Sauget. So, better late than never:
Sat May 24
Doors @ 7 (Matt and I around 7:30-8)
4065 Shaw at Truman
The Red Headed Strangers
Joe/Matt of Finn's Motel
Special guest TBA
May 17, 2008
Clemens Chapel: Collapse
Sad news and commentary on the Clemens House Chapel collapse over at Curious Feet.
May 14, 2008
Some Pro-Development Talk
Local preservation blogs are sometimes nipped for the negative vibes that can ripple through them. Certainly, there's enough bad news about our aging core of buildings to fill several blogs.
So it's nice to see/hear Michael R. Allen's piece on the Washington Avenue Apartments (nee the old Days Inn) at the KWMU site. This is a building worth celebrating in its new skin.
April 02, 2008
St. Stanislaus Kostka School
On Sunday, I came across a story on STLtoday.com, indicating that the St. Stanislaus Kostka School, neighboring the sometimes-controversial North City parish, was hosting an open house later in the day. The event was held with the school's fate essentially sealed: the building, principally empty since the mid-'80s would be slated for demolition during the next week. Namely, this week. The idea presented by the parishioners was that the old school was beyond repair, with rehab costs too high to consider.
Having been creepin' through some rather shaky structures in recent months, the idea of simply walking into the place was interesting to say the least, so I packed cameras and came upon some interesting scenes.
A quartet of Polish nationals, all smoking cigarettes and animatedly jabbering, attempting to bring an oversized blackboard down an undersized stairwell. An elderly fellow talking about going to school there in the pre-WWII days. Folks buying items that seemed more nostalgic than practical.
How this building was deemed expendable... well, maybe the economics of its' neighborhood wouldn't allow a rebuild within the next five or 10 years. But was the building "in bad shape," as I've read in the P-D piece and on some blog commentary?
Nope. No way. 'Twas solid as a rock.
March 28, 2008
What a great idea
from the incomparable Toby Weiss...
March 23, 2008
More on Arena/Checkerdome
There's some fun stuff, especially if you're of the generation that looks over at the Highlands development thinking, "ah, the Arena." If that's you, click.
March 20, 2008
Arena Fans: Take Note
So I just spent the last eight-hours scouring the web for fan sites dedicated to the old St. Louis Arena and - lo! - I came across this one.
I simply happened into it five-minutes ago.
Either way, enjoy. I will.
February 27, 2008
RIP (sorta): West Pine Gym
Somehow, it snuck up on me that the historic Baumen-Eberhardt Center was going to stop hosting basketball games, despite the fact that the Chaifetz Arena has been a growing concern in Midtown for well over a year. Tonight, the SLU women's basketball team will pull the curtain on the venue as a public play facility, with the SLU athletic department leaving the cramped confines of the West Pine Gym in coming weeks and months.
STLtoday's got a nice little video feature on the old structure here. And we are fully hoping for game report tonight from Ecology of Absence.
Update: made a quick inquiry to SLU and the upshot is that the building will remain standing. The gym will be used for rec purposes and as a spill facility for the nearby Simon Rec Center. The offices that fan along both hallways will be used for non-athletic office use. And, as an incidental bit of trivia, the venue was occasionally used as spill space in the old days, as the NBA St. Louis Hawks played some matches there when the Kiel Center, Arena and Washington University's Fieldhouse were not available. So, there!
February 22, 2008
Christian Saller Talks Tax Credits in The Business Journal Today
Tower Grove East resident Christian Saller may be known to folks in any or all of the following capacities - neighbor, Board member of DeSales Community Housing Corporation, President-elect of the Tower Grove East Board of Directors, recent candidate for Alderman of the 6th Ward. Additionally, he serves as Communications Director for the Missouri Coalition for Historic Preservation and Economic Development. In the latter capacity he has written an opinion that appears in today's St. Louis Business Journal with regard to pending legislation the Coalition believes poses a serious threat to Historic Tax Credits, as well as Missouri's general economic health.
Christian is extremely knowledgeable about architecture, real estate, housing issues, and economic development, and he is an excellent advocate for the Coalition. Please check out his thoughts below.
To The Editor:
Legislative Threat to State Tax Credit Programs Spells Disaster for Our Region and State
Missouri State Representative Bryan Stevenson’s (R-128th) House Bill 1551 seeks to eliminate the state corporate income tax by January 1, 2013. Phasing out the corporate income tax will not increase Missouri’s position in the economic development arena compared to the competition. On the other hand, for ten years, Missouri has been a national model for its progressive tax credit programs, especially that for historic preservation, and elimination of the corporate income tax now or in the near future will gut this legislation. According to the Missouri Department of Revenue, a large percentage of tax credits are redeemed by corporations. Renovation of historic structures all over the St. Louis region during the past decade, from virtually every single loft conversion project downtown to individual historic homes to entire neighborhoods all over the city, would not have occurred without the Historic Tax Credit. When federal tax credit laws changed in 1986, numerous renovations became unfeasible and buildings that would have been saved and used productively remained vacant and boarded and in some cases were lost forever to the wrecking ball. House Bill 1551 will have a similar effect not only on St. Louis and Kansas City but on smaller communities throughout the state that utilize the Historic Tax Credit in concert with the Main Street Program to revitalize their commercial districts and create jobs. Loss of the Historic Tax Credit has economic implications that go far beyond the “cause”, however worthy, of saving historic architecture.
The distortion of Historic Tax Credits as a bottom-line “giveaway” is demonstrably false. According to studies by Rutgers University, the Missouri Department of Economic Development, Missouri Preservation, and accountants Rubin, Brown, Gornstein & Co., the Historic Tax Credit is a revenue-generating tool that returns to the state far more in direct benefits than is spent in credits. For every $1 granted in State Historic Tax Credits, $1.25 is returned directly to state coffers through taxes with an additional $1.78 in state personal income taxes, sales taxes, and corporate income taxes, for a total of $3.03. Only qualifying structures are eligible and they must be renovated to exacting standards and put into service before any credits are issued. Those who pursue the credits must also invest four times the amount of the resulting credits in order to receive them when the renovation is complete. Contrary to contentions of its uninformed detractors, there is already ample oversight, regulation and restriction in the administration of the Historic Tax Credit. In addition, the Rebuilding Communities Tax Credit program has caused over 90 small fast-growth businesses such as biomedical, internet and technical companies to start up in or expand in the City of St. Louis.
The purported goal of House Bill 1551 is to make Missouri more competitive. In its eradication of vital tax credit programs, it will have the opposite effect. If additional states eliminate their corporate income tax, Missouri will end up with no advantage and a huge disadvantage. Key planned economic development projects and historic renovations in our region and throughout the state will not happen. New businesses anticipating use of the Rebuilding Communities Credit will not be able to start or expand. Under the current law, businesses investing in these economic development projects manage their tax liability by using the market for credits and creating a win-win situation: taxes are reduced and development occurs.
Other states seek to emulate our tax credit legislation because its economic benefits have been repeatedly studied and proven. Its stunning impact can be plainly seen on streets and neighborhoods from Carthage to Hannibal and from downtown St. Louis to Kansas City. These other states see what we have and wish they had it themselves. Our own legislators must see that rashly discarding these vital programs would be a giant economic leap backwards for Missouri. Our tax credit programs bring investment and revenue to our economy and positively distinguish us from other states. Sacrificing them by eliminating the corporate income tax would be a short-sighted and tragic trade.
Christian S. Saller
Missouri Coalition for Historic Preservation & Economic Development
February 21, 2008
No matter how "new" certain forms of new media may be, we still quickly get used to the look-and-feel of our favorite sites and blogs. If you've not been to it in a while, like, say, this morning, take a peek at the newly spiffed-up Ecology of Absence.
January 27, 2008
UEU314 Visits East Saint
A splinter cell of the Union of Urban Explorers, Local 314, has just visited East St. Louis. Agents Erasmus, Tobias and Jeffy arrived in East Saint only this morning, a decidedly sleepy Sunday in the burg's downtown. Parking just off of 4th Street, the trio wandered first to the Murphy Building (links at conclusion), a massive office structure with a curiously degraded back wall.
The Murphy attempt was seen as a precursor to an entry into the Majestic Theater, a strikingly faded beauty along the downtown streetscape of Collinsville Avenue. While the Majestic has one operating business - the compact Christine Beauty Supply - it's safe to say that no one's done commerce in the Murphy in some time; at least not any sort of legitimate commerce.
Within seconds of entering the Murphy - via, conveniently, an open door - the UEU members encountered a vintage wheelchair, found in a darkened interior, the air a good seven-10 degrees cooler than the outdoors. The strange sight (and chill) proved a worthy omen. This building is sick. The interiors have been wrecked by salvage folk, sure, but mostly by the weather, which has taken a terrible toll. Interior walls look like puzzle pieces, ill-cut for their purpose. Floors sag and the remaining office remnants are arranged as if by storm. From several vantage points, easy views to the streets of East Saint are apparent, views unblocked by, say, walls.
Agent Erasmus attempted a ballsy, Super Mario-like climb along some broken stairwells and eventually emerged on the Murphy's rooftop, a few tense minutes later. Meanwhile, Agents Tobias and Jeffy were perplexed below, facing a sequence of honeycomb entries and exits, none suggesting an opening into the drum-tight Majestic Theatre. Before Agent Tobias began a nerve-addled climb, himself, the telltale sounds of another presence were heard: clicks, clacks, steps. A homeless squatter? A spray can-wielding tagger? A really big dog?
Reconnoitering, the trio exited the structurally-wack Murphy, convinced that there was only one way into the Majestic, other than by key. What it would it take for that prospective journey was not on-hand. They cursed their luck, but decided to scale the stairwells of the nearby Spivey Building, just to enjoy the late-winter sun from the Spivey's scenic rooftop.
Entering the Spivey with no worries - another open door, natch - the trio made a beeline for the roof, up one floor, two floors, three. By about floor six, a clumsy blockade of doors greeted them. Agent Tobias noticed the figure of a man, awoken in a bed, two-dozen feet away. The head of a woman was soon spotted, alongside. Assurances were offered. A moment, or two, of negotiation took place and the climb continued.
The rooftop featured glorious sunlight and a clear view in all directions. Including a look down at the Murphy and Majestic. One, available for exploration by the crazy and the blessed. The other, impregnable, save for the craftiest of the crafty.
January 02, 2008
RIP: Kenrick 8 Cine
Midway through last semester, I left a so-so class session at Webster and thought of catching a movie. Don't recall why that group left me in such a squirrely mood, but "Superbad" seemed like an immediate antidote to the problem. And Kenrick 8 Cine was just a five-minute drive from campus.
Past-tense used in the above, because Kenrick 8 is closed, with the eight-screen theatre shutting down over Thanksgiving. Based on my last visit there - which featured myself and three other people for a rush-hour show, in a massive, 500-seat hall - this doesn't come as a big surprise. And, frankly, it's just part of a trend of moviehouse closings, brought on by all the expected, tech factors in today's entertainment world.
As a teen, I spent some years living outside of South St. Louis (gasp!), most of it clocked just inside the Webster Groves/Shrewsbury border. That meant that my neighborhood moviehouse was the Kenrick. It was a 12-minute walk, through the then-in-construction Kenrick housing developments that were springing up from the vast, unused portions of Kenrick Seminary's grounds. To date myself further, I pretty much took in all of Michael J. Fox's star-making vehicles there: "Teen Wolf," "The Secret of My Succe$s," and, of course, "Back to the Future." That wasn't exactly yesterday, was it?
So I'll miss Kenrick. Maybe the idea of the Kenrick, more than the actual place itself, which hadn't undergone much of in the way of an update since its construction in 1984. And, maybe, I miss the idea that kids in that area won't know the fun of walking to a theatre for the cheap, day shows on a sunny, summer's afternoon, one of the cool bits of growing up suburban.
If you've never been to the neat Cinema Treasures site, it features write-ups on a dead theatres. They've already got an updated obit for the Kenrick, which you can find here:
October 18, 2007
Vanishing St. Louis
August 18, 2007
St. Pius School
With plenty of friends in the parish, I've heard more than a few things about the St. Pius School (located just off of Grand, on Utah) being considered for some type of development. While demolition seems off the table, the parish leaders are looking at all options for a thorough remodel of the building. Having attended school there, briefly, and as the building's in my neighborhood, I'm hoping for a deft renovation of the structure, as it stands.
Currently, the building houses small homes for a variety of social service agencies and ethnic concerns, with the old school rooms used as office space.
In fact, if we're hoping for a wish list recreation of that block, it'd be nice to see actual development on the back side of the property, along McKean. Save for two days a year of the parish picnic and a couple of summer flea market dates, the space is just too large for the amount of cars that routinely use it. And without the school using it as a defacto, concrete-enveloped play yard, the size and scope of that lot is tragic.
Anyway, idle musings for a Saturday.
July 26, 2007
Mullanphy Benefit Planned
Not much in the way of pithy commentary here, just a note that a concert is slated for the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, coming up on August 17:
CONCERT TO BENEFIT HISTORIC MULLANPHY EMIGRANT HOME
Three Local Bands String Up for Endangered North Saint Louis Landmark
On Friday, August 17th at 8:00pm, the Tin Ceiling (3159 Cherokee Street) will host a benefit concert for the historic Mullanphy Emigrant Home, an endangered city landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located in the city's Old North Saint Louis neighborhood. Inspired by passion and an appreciation for Saint Louis’s rich urban fabric, urbanites from across the city are banding together to help save one of our greatest treasures. In the spirit of our seasoned Saint Louis heritage, this unique event will celebrate the roots of our city by featuring the bluegrass music of three outstanding local bands: The Monads, Bearded Babies, and The Red Headed Strangers. Concert goers can also stock up on the latest local t-shirts designed by the folks at www.stl-style.com. $7.00 gets you in the door, and a cash bar will be available. All proceeds go towards the preservation of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home.
Once known as "The Ellis Island of the Midwest," the Mullanphy Emigrant Home served as the entrepot for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who flocked to Saint Louis during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Designed in 1867 by renowned Saint Louis architects George Barnett and Albert Piquenard, the aging structure now sits vacant and partially collapsing. To ensure that this important piece of our city's history is not lost, Old North Saint Louis Restoration Group, the building’s owner, needs to raise $350,000.
As one of America's great historic cities, Saint Louis cannot afford to lose the buildings that define its place on the country’s urban tapestry. By attending this event, you can do your part to shape the future of our city by helping to preserve its glorious past.
June 05, 2007
Powell Square: Update?
I ran by Powell Square yesterday, thinking of running in and looking for a location for a possible photo shoot. But... there was actual, on-site activity taking place, with workers surveying the building and, seemingly, adding some reinforced doors to the ground floor. This hulking space is a centerpiece of the coming Choteau's Landing project, so we're happy some initial site work is taking place, though we also recognize that a community full of shutterbugs, graf writers and urban creepers quietly sheds a tear.
May 22, 2007
Paging: ED BOXX, paging ED BOXX
Eagle-eyed local architecture watchers Claire Nowak-Boyd and Michael Allen flagged me down on Manchester this afternoon, our vehicles next to one another in Forest Park Southeast. Curbside, we chatted about a local graf writer who's come to our attention in a major way recently. Ed Boxx has been tagging a host of buildings on both sides of the Mississippi, with recent pieces going up in the 14th Street Mall, in the windows of a warehouse north of Laclede's Landing, on bridge underpasses on Route 3 in East St. Louis, on the top of the looming Spivey Building of the same city and, now, on the Roberts Orpheum Theatre, with his paints topping the terra cotta of that old structure.
We'd like to put the word out that the three of us would like to sit down and chat with the prolific Ed Boxx at the earliest opportunity. Allen noted that some of the work indicates a pretty sharp "cultural observer," so we'd assume that the grapevine might get word to him, esp. with some electronic requests. If Ed Boxx would meet with us, the first round is on us.
Drop a line, Ed Boxx, to: thomas at 52ndcity.com. Grazie.
April 01, 2007
Tots with That?: A South Grand Arby's?
For the past half-decade, the one-time Roosevelt Bank building at Grand and Juniata has served as a temporary home for the expanding Commerce Bank, located just next door, and the expanding Carpenter Branch Library, found down the block. It's also done a lot of sitting around, empty, rumored to be the home of everything from a bar-and-theater to a Krieger's, of all things.
Recently, the notion that the old bank would be paved over for the long-awaited, much-discussed, and (in some minds) all-important South Grand parking lot was catching steam, so much so that local listservs were abuzz over the possibility in recent weeks. But the idea of an Arby's wasn't really on any local radar; at least, this blogger hadn't heard of it until today, with the impression gauged that a drive-through Arby's would serve the So. Grand area sooner than a simple parking lot. (Let's fire up that old Joni Mitchell album, shall we?)
Understanding that the one-way Juniata would feed into the Arby's drive-through, one has to wonder if the inclusion of a fast-food facility at this site is the "best and highest" use of the land. But after seeing the well-heeled neighborhood further down So. Grand defeat a proposed McDonald's on the "the old Sears site," it's doubtful that the roast beef sales point will be granted an easy pass in establishing its cash registers along the busy commercial corridor.
Surely, the script's already written for the inevitable, NIMBY protestors: Trash will be an issue for nearby streets. The one-way Juniata will see an increase in traffic, esp. with the Arby's vehicles filtering into the nearby state streets. (My Connecticut, I must admit, included.) The simple notion of another corporate tenant on the block will sit ill with some. "Heck, there's a Lion's Choice, at Chippewa and Grand; isn't that enough?" a few will argue. And the overall block's redevelopment may not point towards an Arby's as the best fit, with nearby condos being proposed on the same, city-square-block footprint. Some conspiricists will surely contend that City Hall's Room 200 is in on the notion, as if someone on the Mayor's staff is hankering for a double Philly Beef Flatbread Melt.
Tonight, I'm not thinking Arby's.
I'm thinking that this scheme is half-baked.
February 28, 2007
AMP Move: March
Popped into the Alternative Music Pub (AMP) last night and the owners were crowing about the progress on their new club - and the proprietors new digs - just across the street, at Manchester and Boyle. The new AMP is projected for completion in mid-March, with a soft opening expected during the third week of the month.
Though not tipping a hand as to what the concept(s) might be, co-owner Neil Harris did mention that there have been rumors about a new operator for the existing space, owned by Rothschild Realty.
That is all.
February 05, 2007
Bohemian Hill's Future TBD?
I often pass by the so-called "Bohemian Hill," that strange, little residential wedge of scattered properties, tucked between (roughly) Lafayette, Tucker and I-44. And when I pass by, I often think, "how long ago was it that Eddie Silva profiled Jo Noero for the Riverfront Times?" Turns out that the answer to that last musing is March 3, 1999.
In fact, during that calendar year, the RFT wrote about Bohemian Hill three times, pointing to collaborative efforts between Soulard Youth Build, the architect Noero and various City agencies, all of whom targeted that plot of land as a key linchpin of residences, which would help link the long and unnaturally disconnected Soulard and Lafayette Square. And, for City long-timers, you can definitely remember a burst of activity around that time, with several, new buildings erected, complementing the older structures, without aping them. Unfortunately, despite the varied plans, that area's long been a source of wonderment ("Where are the next new buildings?") rather than a source of realized inspiration.
Twice, recently, I've heard about an interesting twist to that story. Mind you: I am writing this CAVEAT in ALL CAPS, because I do not have any official, direct knowledge of this, but am culling info from some who do travel in the right circles. In this unofficial scenario, the Bohmian Hill residences - located across from the old City Hospital/new Georgian condos - would be levelled for a combination Walgreen's and/or mini-Schnucks, or "Schnucks-Express." Considering the proximity to the highways, the recent conversations of various grocers moving downtown and the lack of a full-service market nearby, this plan doesn't seem completely far-fetched.
Again, this is one of the pre-emptive, starting-to-hear-things-but-not-working-with-full-info types of posts. I'll leave it to the blogs that have more to say on such subjects to suss out the info.
Not sure what would be a worse outcome. Another decade of near-complete inaction on this remarkably central plot of land, surrounded, as it is, by continuing development? Or yet another homes-for-box trade-out, with no residential stimulus coming, at all?