Friday, November 04, 2005

Preservation Review

Preservation Review

When you apply for a demolition permit in much of the City of St. Louis, the Cultural Resources Office must review it.

According to the CRO enabling ordinance passed in 1999 when the agency was created, replacing the arguably more powerful Heritage and Urban Design Commission:

"PART IX - PRESERVATION REVIEW DISTRICTS SECTION FIFTY-FIVE.

Preservation Review Districts may be established by ordinance for areas of the City in which the Board of Aldermen finds, by ordinance, reviews of the effects of demolitions on the area are in the public interest. Prior to adoption of a Preservation Review District ordinance,

i) the alderman for the ward in which the proposed district is located shall have requested the Cultural Resources Office and the Preservation Board to assess the architectural and/or cultural quality of the proposed district, and

ii) within forty-five (45) days thereafter the Cultural Resources Office and the Preservation Board shall have reported its findings to the Planning Commission and the Board of Aldermen.

The Cultural Resources Office and the Preservation Board shall assess the proposed district as having
i) high historic district potential;
ii) possible historic district potential;
iii) low historic district potential;
iv) demolitions within the last two years in excess of the average for similar areas in the City.

Districts which are reported as being in categories i), ii) or iv) may be designated Preservation Review Districts.

Preservation Review District ordinances may be repealed by ordinance at any time without Cultural Resources Office or Preservation Board action [emphasis added]."

A companion ordinance listed all the Preservation Review districts designated in 1999.

As many know, former Ward 24 alderman Tom Bauer had his ward removed from that list when the boundaries were updated in 2004 to reflect new ward boundaries.

Much of North City - but certainly not all of it - is also NOT included in Demolition Review. Likewise, a couple other Southwest City wards are excluded, and have been since 1999, as best I can tell.

The following ten (10) wards are NOT in Preservation Review/Demolition Review Areas:

Ward 1, Ward 4, Ward 5, Ward 14, Ward 16, Ward 18, Ward 19, Ward 21, Ward 22, and Ward 24.

The area excluded from Demolition Review covers the bulk of the Northside, south of I-70 and north of Delmar.

Also excluded are large parts of Southwest City: the Dogtown neighborhoods and Clifton Heights of course, but also excluded are most of St. Louis Hills, Southampton, and about half of Bevo Mill.

What this means is that, in general, properties in these wards can be demolished without any review for historic value.

The remaining 18 wards all have Demolition Review. The far Northside - Ward 2 and Ward 27 - have Demolition Review in place. Likewise, Ward 26 and Ward 3 (yes, that's right), while adjacent to the areas without Demolition Review, do have it.

Fortunately, some parts of the wards without Demolition Review Areas are still subject to review. According to Section 58 of the aforementioned enabling ordinance for CRO:

"Whenever an application is made for a permit to demolish a Structure which is
i) individually listed on the National Register,
ii) within a National Register District,
iii) for which National Register Designation is pending or
iv) which is within a Preservation Review District established pursuant to Sections Fifty-Five to Fifty-Six of this ordinance,
the building commissioner shall submit a copy of such application to the Cultural Resources Office within three days after said application is received by his Office."

This means, for example, even though Old North St. Louis is not in a Demolition Review area, it is still (mostly) in a National Register Historic District (Murphy-Blair; or in the southern part, Mullanphy or SS Cyril & Methodius). So CRO would still have to review demolition permit apps there.

Similarly protected, despite being outside Demolition Review areas, should be the Academy neighborhood; the houses facing Fountain Park, and Lewis Place itself (but not the surrounding neighborhoods in either case); the Oakherst Place Concrete Block District; the 4100 block of Enright (known as the Block Unit #1 Historic District); the Midtown Historic District (really just the big major buildings on Grand from Delmar to Lindell and on Lindell from Grand to Vandeventer); and the Clemens House - Columbia Brewery district.

Buildings in these areas individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places should also be subject to review. These include, for example, the Shrine of St. Joseph.

Also, buildings located in Local Historic Districts should be subject to review. For example, The Ville is not in a Demolition Review area, but is a local historic district. The Ville Historic District ordinance states "All construction, demolition, or alteration of exterior architectural features with respect to any improvement within the Ville Historic District is subject to 'the review of the Heritage and Urban Design Commission and staff and other appropriate City agencies.' "

I sure hope that still applies to CRO, the successor agency to HUDC.

Nevertheless, this still leaves HUGE areas that seem to be worth preserving - both North and South - with no protection from demolition of potentially historic properties.

On the other hand, some areas of the city, have multiple layers of protection: a local historic district, a national historic district, and the demolition review designation. This is true in the Central West End, Soulard, Antique Row, and Union Station itself.

Still, it would be quite easy - and not unfathomable - for great buildings in large areas of North City AND Southwest City to be demolished with no consideration for their historic value.

At the very least, Demolition Review - as well as the Housing Conservation District program - should be expanded to be citywide. Then, consideration can be given to designating more of these neighborhoods as historic districts.

5 comments:

Urban Review - St. Louis said...

It was this review ordinance that helped save the Virginia Mansion from demolition. The former owner of the building challenged the Preservation Board's denial of a demo permit in court but lost.

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Anonymous said...

Why do you think southwest city was excluded?

karen baxter, one of the leading consultants for national register nominations lives in st. louis hills. i've heard her say how she wishes stl hills was a national register district.

there's no question most of sw city would qualify. why exempt it from demolition review?

who's idea was that?

Joe said...

I'm not sure why the 14th and 16th wards were excluded. It might be related to things like the new Target store or Southtowne redevelopment - the aldermen didn't want to impede major projects.

Also a large chunk of the housing stock in those areas was built in the 1950s, so it wouldn't qualify. Nevertheless, I agree, the majority of Southampton and St. Louis Hills (except maybe the Estates) should qualify as historic. Demolition review ought to be in place there.

Michael Allen said...

With many buildings in SW city hitting their 50-year marks, making a convincing argument for National Register districts there is becoming easier. Most of Northampton, Southampton and St. Louis Hills would qualify. Some property owners would resist the designation but many people in those areas are doing historically-conscious rehabs and would like tax credits.

At the very least, demolition review is needed in those areas.