Thursday, May 11, 2006 Random Attack on Post-Dispatch; and The Trouble with Interco Plaza Random Attack on Post-Dispatch; and The Trouble with Interco Plaza

In a post on Tuesday, May 11th on The Mayor's Desk, is this tidbit:

"[Alderman Joe Roddy] He plans to work with BJC and his neighborhood groups to find good places to put these amenities. He also regards the $29 million BJC has already invested in his neighborhoods as a measure of their good faith. (It is certainly more than the daily newspaper has invested in the neighborhoods that surround its downtown headquarters.)" (emphasis mine)

What's that about?

Barnes-Jewish, WashU Medical Center, and related affiliates are the owners of record for hundreds of pieces of property in the Central West End, Forest Park Southeast, and other areas.

Pulitzer Publishing Co. - a firm that no longer exists except perhaps on city records - and St Louis Post-Dispatch LLC collectively own about twelve parcels.

Mostly, those are the P-D headquarters on the block bounded by Tucker, Cole, Hadley, and Martin Luther King; as well as a number of surrounding surface parking lots. That includes most of the city block just to the west of their building, bounded by Tucker, Cole, 13th and Martin Luther King; the large lot on the northwest corner of Tucker and Cole next door to the KDNL Channel 30 studios; and several more surface parking lots between 13th and 14th along Martin Luther King.

I agree they could certainly do more with those properties; but on the other hand, I think BJC has far more acreage devoted to parking. The P-D headquarters does not have parking in the building; although it does have a handful of spots along the Hadley dock side.

P-D management certainly ain't perfect, but that's just a silly comparison.

It's not like the city is looking to lease Interco Plaza to Lee Enterprises.

But, shoot, maybe they should. Somebody should do something with that ridiculously ugly monstrosity of an 'urban plaza' never properly completed in the early 1980s that sits between the P-D, the St. Louis Public Schools headquarters, and St. Patrick Center.

Some emergency demolition work was undertaken there in 2002 on the 'fountain'; and since then the ugly concrete plaza built on air rights over a railway corridor donated by the former shoemaking firm now called Furniture Brands International sits as one of the ugliest monstrosities of park 'land' in the city.

According to its official history, this firm long associated with St. Louis's history as "first in booze, first in shoes, last in the American League" (the City Museum is located in the former International Shoe Company building) has been a Delaware corporation since 1921.

That certainly has tax benefits for the firm and its shareholders. But what about the rest of us?

The name changed to Interco in 1966. They became a conglomerate, buying up even Central Hardware (which they sold about 1990). They stopped making shoes entirely by 1994, after emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The new name Furniture Brands International came in 1996. They own mid-price to expensive brands like Henredon, Broyhill, Lane, and Thomasville. None of that furniture is made in St. Louis though.

Interco Plaza seems an appropriate analogy for the company that donated it: something nobody seems to want or care about, and which is totally disconnected from the urban or local fabric.

That may be what the section of Forest Park east of Kingshighway ultimately becomes: just another parking area and office space for a massive medical center complex.


Michael Allen said...

I think the jab was excellent, given how terrible the part of downtown around the Post-Dispatch Building looks. Didn't the Pulitzers ever once think about what reflection that appearance would be on their paper?

On the other hand, I think that the accolades to BJC are undeserved. BJC has effectively walled off FPSE from the CWE, closed city streets that would allow circulation between these neighborhoods and turned Taylor Avenue into an Orwellian horror story. How can a mayor of an urban area endorse such folly?

Oh, wait: BJC is our largest employer. BJC is our largest employer. BJC is our largest employer...

Travis Reems said...

The Post-Dispatch could learn a lot about urban design from the Kansas City Star, which in the last few years built a gorgeous new printing facility--which might also be the HQ, but I'm not sure--in downtown Kansas City. Constructed of glass in assymetric directions, the structure refreshes the landscape of the surounding area. This is precisely the type of re-investment firms should be making in the urban centers of American, and more specifically St. Louis.