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Archdiocese plans to tear down San Luis Apartments

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  • Archdiocese plans to tear down San Luis Apartments

    St. Louis - patron saint of surface parking?

    Plans for surface parking lot in heart of CWE stirs opposition

    (by Tim Woodcock - April 09, 2008)
    The Archdiocese of St. Louis is pressing forward with plans to pull down the San Luis Apartments building on Lindell Boulevard and put a surface parking lot in its place. However, the proposal is receiving strong opposition from several groups in the neighborhood.

    The building was the subject of a March 29 forum hosted by the Central West End Association Planning and Development Committee, where most, but not all, contributors from the neighborhood argued against the idea.

    The150-space parking lot would serve what the archdiocese has recently begun referring to as the Cathedral Campus, meaning primarily the Cathedral Basilica itself, Rosati-Kain High School and the Catholic Center, a complex of administrative offices.

    The San Luis apartment building, originally the de Ville Motor Hotel, was most recently used for federally subsidized senior living and has been vacant since last spring. However, a formal application to demolish the building has yet to be made.

    If the project gets the go-ahead it will be another “ill-conceived planning blunder” in the city of St. Louis, said Randy Vines, a founder of St. Louisans for Urban Progress. “It’s against all urban sensibilities.”

    “Nothing has ever been saved by a surface lot,” Vines said, and designs that address environmental concerns about water runoff are of no comfort. “A ‘green parking lot’ — I mean, come on!”

    Although the San Luis apartment building is not one that most would cite as representing the best of the Central West End’s architectural heritage, the St. Louis chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the city preservation group Landmarks Association have both argued for saving the building on the basis of its architectural merits.

    A statement issued by Landmarks’ Board of Directors argued that, “Through curvilinear forms and differentiation of wall materials, the hotel possesses a striking geometric presence. With covered parking placed in the rear away from Lindell Boulevard, the Hotel de Ville promotes the pedestrian-friendly quality of the Lindell streetscape.

    “Additionally, the building is a complementary member of a collection of modern buildings around the intersection of Lindell and Taylor, including Lindell Terrace to the west, the Archdiocesan Chancery to the east and the Optimists’ Club building to the south.”

    Designed by Colbert, Lowery, Hess & Bouderaux — a firm well known in New Orleans, although not in the Midwest — the building opened in 1963 as an independently owned motel but soon was operating as part of the Holiday Inn chain.

    Dan Jay, an architect with Christner Inc. who has been working with the archdiocese on the project, said there is no economically feasible way of renovating the building, although this has been investigated.

    The U-shaped building is divided up in such a way that the rooms are too small for contemporary tastes, but knocking two rooms into one throughout the building doesn’t quite work either, he said.

    Rents need to stay low because the building is not attractive enough to become an upscale residence and if one increases the room sizes “the math gets even worse,” he said. The window patterns are a limiting factor in how the building could be reconfigured in other ways. This leaves architects who are considering ways to renovate the building “between a rock and a hard place,” he said.

    Two other architecture firms, a mechanical engineer and representatives of Drury Hotels have looked at it and come to similar conclusions, he said.

    Jay said he sympathizes with those who, like Vines, want to see greater density in the neighborhood.

    “The principle is valid, but in this particular application the [parking] needs are just too important for the neighborhood,” he said. Currently there is on-street parking around the cathedral at 45 degrees on Sunday, and Lindell is too busy a thoroughfare for that to continue safely, Jay said. When there are special events, such as holiday services and concerts, parking spills over onto residential streets. But more central to this proposal is the day-to-day parking needs of the Rosati-Kain High School, which has about 400 students.

    In recent years, the Central West End has seen several infill projects that increase the neighborhood’s level of density and street life — although others see these projects as crowding out some of the charms of the neighborhood. Perhaps the most prominent of these projects is Park East Tower at Laclede and Euclid avenues, which only three short years ago was a surface lot.

    Asked if the proposal on Lindell Boulevard is an example of the Central West End going backward, Thomas Richter, the archdiocese’s director of buildings and real estate, said, “We don’t think it is a step backward.”

    The proposed parking lot “represents an investment in the Central West End” because it shows that Rosati-Kain intends to be in the CWE for the long haul, he said.

    At the March 29 meeting, representatives of the CWEA Planning and Development Committee asked the archdiocese to conduct a traffic study to justify the need for extra parking, said Jim Dwyer, a member of the committee. Dwyer said he would like to see if the archdiocese could come to an arrangement with the Engineers’ Club immediately to the east to use its parking lots.

    Richter said the archdiocese is still committed to its original plan but he is unsure how quickly the project will move from here. In discussing the future of the site publicly, “we got ahead of ourselves,” he said.

    Having first agreed to take part in the March 29 CWEA forum, the archdiocese later wanted to withdraw but was persuaded to take part because the meeting had already been publicized.

    The largest complicating factor is the terms of the archdiocese’s contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The archdiocese has opted out early from a long-term contract to house seniors and the two parties are still working out the terms of this. Additionally the original conversion of the motel into a senior-living facility was done with financial assistance from HUD and this will effect how much money the archdiocese owes the federal government.

    Lyda Krewson, 28th Ward aldermen, said she is ambivalent about the proposal. “I don’t have any real affection for the building,” she said. “Similarly, I don’t think a parking lot is the highest and best use for that land.”

    Krewson said she would have “some input” into what happens next, but she’s not in a position to make or break the proposal, given that the archdiocese already owns the building.

    It might be desirable to have a new building constructed that also meets the archdiocese’s parking requirements, but one cannot make a property owner build something, she said.

    Krewson pointed to surface parking lots at the northwest corner of Lindell Boulevard and Euclid Avenue, and said one might wish for something better there, but one has to respect private property rights, she said.

    Krewson’s influence is not negligible, however. If the archdiocese does move ahead it with its plans, it will have to apply for a demolition permit, something that traditionally is dependent on support from the ward’s alderman.
    And a story from Michael Allen's Ecology of Absence blog back from when this was first identified:

    Modern Motor Hotel in Central West End Faces February Demolition

    Here is the building now known as the San Luis Apartments, located at 4483 Lindell Boulevard in the Central West End. Just west of the Cathedral, the building is owned by the Archdiocese of St. Louis and used as apartments for the elderly. The Archdiocese plans to demolish the building in February for a surface parking lot despite no pressing problem with the apartments, which are generally loved by residents for their excellent location. Residents are being relocated to many different places, none of which is as transit accessible -- an important criterion for older people who do not drive.

    The news of the Archdiocese's plan surprises many Central West End residents who are aghast at the idea of creating a surface parking lot facing well-traveled Lindell on the same block as the elegant Cathedral. Many are astounded that the Archdiocese would proceed to demolition without any plan for future development of the site, leaving a gaping hole for an indefinite period. The Central West End Association and Alderwoman Lyda Krewson (D-28th) have yet to make official statements on the proposed demolition. However, oppositional voices are stating to cry out. Last week, the West End Word ran a letter to the editor from STL Style's Randy Vines.

    Real estate moguls Harold and Melvin Dubinsky working with Paul Kapelow took out a building permit for a motor hotel on September 25, 1961, with construction estimated at $2.75 million. New Orleans firm Colbert, Lowery, Hess & Bouderaux designed the curvilinear, E-shaped modernist hotel. On July 3, 1963 the hotel building was granted an occupancy permit and shortly afterward opened as the DeVille Motor Hotel. The hotel was part of a national boom in "motor hotels" located in urban areas. Hoteliers sought to revive urban markets by building multi-story hotels with ample covered parking on lower levels. Many had bars, including popular tiki lounges. These buildings employed modernist styles to symbolize their cleanliness and newness as well as their utility. One could park right in the hotel and avoid walking city streets carrying luggage -- no doubt a concern in the dark days of American urbanism, and perhaps still. Designers are better at hiding the parking in today's urban hotels, but the idea of integrated parking, lodging and dining remains the same.

    The design of the San Luis Apartments is strange and cool, if not cutting edge. The curved smooth white concrete towers cloak services while providing textural contrast to the aggregate body of each wing. The parking is recessed enough that it does not overpower the building; recessed walls on the first floor actually minimize its presence. The bays of aluminum-framed windows on the sides of the central, taller section and end of each wing are balanced by the ribbons on the inside walls of the wings. What could have been the tired bulk of a typical motor hotel -- like the Howard Johnson by the airport -- is relieved through division of the building into a series of forms of different height and footprint. This is no thoughtless slab. In fact, the modern lines interact quite well with the later and more accomplished Lindell Terrace (built in 1969 and designed by Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum) across Taylor Avenue to the west.

    Unfortunately, due to recent age, the San Luis Apartments are not considered a contributing resource to the Central West End Historic District. Thus the building is not eligible for historic rehabilitation tax credits. However, the buidling is included within the boundaries of the Central West End Local Historic District so there is legally-mandated preservation review of the demolition.

    To me, this smacks of the same kind of thinking that saw late 19th and early 20th century buildings demolished in the name of progress. Mid-century modernist architecture is now viewed by many just as the turn-of-the-century buildings were viewed in the 40's-60's as unattractive and outdated.

    I do understand the need for parking, but it's shortsighted at best to remove a tower from the streetscape - evicting senior citizens in the process - and a uniquely designed modern building at that. There has to be a better answer, IMO.


  • #2
    I thought the first article said that this place has been vacant since last spring, so the old folks arent being displaced since they dont live there.

    That said, I'd rather see the building reused for something else than torn down to make way for more asphalt.
    “I’ve always stated, ‘I’m a Missouri Tiger,’” Anderson said March 13 after Arkansas fired John Pelphrey, adding, “I’m excited about what’s taking place here.”

    Asked then if he would talk to his players about the situation, he said, “They know me, and that’s where the trust comes in.


    • #3
      I'll drive the bulldozer with my sore feet if that's what it'll take to get this project going!



      • #4
        Originally posted by Razzy View Post
        I thought the first article said that this place has been vacant since last spring, so the old folks arent being displaced since they dont live there.

        That said, I'd rather see the building reused for something else than torn down to make way for more asphalt.
        The article did say that, but the last of the tenants wasn't actually evicted until February of this year. It is vacant currently.

        The Washington Avenue Apartments could be a good model for adaptive reuse - it too was a mid-century modern hotel with small rooms (albeit with more windows) that has been completely renovated and converted into apartments with ground-level retail. It might not fit in entirely with the upper-class clientele of the other buildings, but it would be better than senior living and certainly better than a parking lot.

        EDIT - Washington Ave (nee Days Inn) Apts before:

        And after:

        Last edited by RedBirdBrain; 04-10-2008, 08:42 AM.


        • #5
          Where are those seniors supposed to go?
          Make America Great For Once.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Bleacher Creature View Post
            Where are those seniors supposed to go?
            They can go across the street and lay in a pew.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Iowa_Card View Post
              They can go across the street and lay in a pew.
              Send them over to Burke's castle.
              Make America Great For Once.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bleacher Creature View Post
                Send them over to Burke's castle.
                Hey, if that can work...


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bleacher Creature View Post
                  Where are those seniors supposed to go?
                  In the ground?


                  • #10
                    I don't know, but I believe the Archdiocese did at least assist them in finding other housing as they kicked them out the door. That may be why the tenants stayed around as long as they did.



                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Razzy View Post
                      I thought the first article said that this place has been vacant since last spring, so the old folks arent being displaced since they dont live there.

                      That said, I'd rather see the building reused for something else than torn down to make way for more asphalt.

                      "I agree, and I have people who need a place to stay..."


                      • #12
                        Why don't they just tear down another school? Plenty available, emptier each year.

                        A Slick Brochure Recalls a Slick Deal
                        Waring ABISchool Razed, Chaifetz Arena Built
                        Anyone receiving the Sunday edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch received a slick brochure. It is a beautiful brochure entitled “Chaifetz Arena,” “home court advantage.” It is a guide to Saint Louis University ’s Chaifetz Arena. As I said, it is a beautiful production and had to cost a mint. Money can buy most anything with the exception of perhaps a good reputation.
                        It’s ironic for sure. A slick brochure recalls a slick deal for many. Under the guise of “reform,” a new Board of Education majority took over the reins of the Saint Louis Public Schools in 2003. After spending another mint on bringing a New York management firm to St. Louis , many schools went on the selling block. Incomprehensibly, some of those to be sold had just been air conditioned at great cost. Few could understand why non-air conditioned schools escaped in light of St. Louis ’ sizzling summers.
                        Originally, Waring Academy of Basic Instruction Elementary School was not on the list. All of a sudden it appeared; and in short order it was sold at, according to former Board President John P. Mahoney, a fire sale price despite protests by parents and the community. Not only did the sale occur very quickly, the headache ball and other wrecking equipment moved in without delay and began its demolition.
                        Waring Academy of Basic Instruction (ABI) Elementary School at Compton and Laclede was a magnet school focusing on basic academics with an emphasis on discipline. It opened in 1976 as one of the first magnet schools; in earlier years the school had been closely affiliated with Harris-Stowe as a demonstration school serving LaClede Town residents. The school also represented a significant institution in St. Louis African American history. Furthermore, in April 2004 the school was listed as one of the top ten most improved schools by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The State congratulated the schools for moving into “proficient” and “advance” levels. The school was an “achieving” school. It had so much going for it and to be proud of. It was a school with high parental support and involvement.
                        Nonetheless, behind the scenes a deal was struck and a slick one at that considering the price at which it was sold and the amount of academic achievement taking place. Now on the ground where a school with a history, a record, and a life once stood, a sports arena stands. It calls into question the saying “Children Matter.” It calls into question the alleged superiority of education over sports in a No Child Left Behind era. So much for federal platitudes!
                        I love the headlines. On the first inside page there is a headline: “Building on a Dream.” Doesn’t that best fit an elementary school with a history, a record, and a vibrant student life? No, in this case it refers to a dream Saint Louis University had for a new arena.
                        On the next page one reads a headline: “ A Place to Call Home.” Doesn’t that best fit an elementary school with a history, a record, and a vibrant student life? How many alumni of elementary schools remember their school as a second home and for some more recently their only real home?
                        The next page leads off with the headline: “The Inside Scoop.” Doesn’t that best fit an elementary school with a history, a record, and vibrant student life? Well, the “real inside scoop” probably rests with the behind the scenes slick deal that sold out a school, its children, its families, and the community.
                        The last headline I will refer to is on the next page: “Getting There.” Doesn’t that best fit an elementary school with a history, a record, and a vibrant student life? Waring ABI Elementary School was getting there, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It had distinguished itself by becoming one of the top ten most improved schools in the State of Missouri . It was “getting there,” but that was all taken away from its students and parents. A behind the scenes slick deal robbed this elementary school of its history, of its record, and of its vibrant student life.
                        I won’t even attempt to cover the cost of this new arena ($12 million alone from one man for whom the arena is named—See money does buy quite a bit!). There are bricks in the entry way that cost from $500 to $25,000 each with donors’ names, and they’re still selling bricks “for as little as $500.” The slick brochure ends with this sentence: “. . . you can be part of this historic project forever (forever???).” It’s called a historic project, but how can those who care about children forget a historic school and institution, a school with a record, a school with a vibrant student life?
                        Well, this expensive, slick brochure caught my eye right away when I opened up my Sunday newspaper. Sadly, however, this slick brochure recalls a slick deal. I hope that fact goes into the history record too.

                        Helen Louise Herndon
                        [email protected]
                        April 10, 2008


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bleacher Creature View Post
                          Where are those seniors supposed to go?
                          Reading comprehension class??


                          • #14

                            DeVille Still Shines
                            Commentary by: Michael Allen
                            Aired April 18, 2008

                            During a bright sunset, the curved concrete walls of the former DeVille Motor Hotel sparkle at the corner of Taylor and Lindell in the Central West End. The white and black modern lines are punctuated by glistening spots that look like embedded jewels. I'm not exaggerating; the walls actually have pieces of quartz mixed with the aggregate concrete.
                            This detail is just one of the elegant features of the landmark motor hotel, better known now as the San Luis Apartments. Opened in the 1963, the DeVille was designed by New Orleans architect Charles Colbert, a resolute modernist. This is Colbert's only work in St. Louis.

                            Colbert designed the building to dazzle. The form is split between three wings of different heights, with contrasting sections of the sparkly cast concrete and large windows composing an intriguing abstraction. What may be most ingenious is that Colbert shielded the parking - this was a motor hotel after all - from genteel Lindell to maintain the quality of the pedestrian experience. Overall, the place has a cool, sophisticated modern look.

                            The Archiocese of St. Louis now owns the old hotel, and has used it for elderly apartments until early this year when it relocated the tenants. This move came after the Archdiocese announced that it was considering demolishing the building for a surface parking lot. Such a plan would erase a graceful and unique part of the Lindell Boulevard streetscape, replacing it with an empty spot. Placement of a parking lot on Lindell Boulevard dishonors the great architecture of that street, including the Cathedral that shares the block with the building. The streetscape deserves something better - like the building that's already there.