Adios San Luis: Judge Rules In Favor of Demolition of CWE Apartment Building


In deciding the controversial fate of the San Luis Apartments in the Central West End today, Judge Robert Dierker ruled that local preservation groups have no say in deciding whether a building should or should not be demolished. 

In this case in particular, the judge ruled, the Archdiocese of St. Louis had already received all the proper clearances from the city to tear the, ahem, structure down and build a surface parking lot in its place.

Here's the pointed language Dierker used in the ruling:

"Plaintiff presents evidence of no direct injury to its own interests, pecuniary or otherwise, as a result of the demolition. Plaintiff's office is not within the historic district embracing defendants' building; it owns no property adjacent to defendants' building, or otherwise so situated as to be exposed to any injury from the demolition process; none of its board members have any different stake in this lawsuit...

It is patent that plaintiff lacks standing. Plaintiff has not shown any pecuniary or personal interest, other than its generalized interest in preservation of "historic" structures in the City of St. Louis, that is directly in issue or jeopardy and which can be the subject of some consequential relief....

Defendants have a constitutional right to put their property to a reasonable use. Intervention by this Court could cost defendants hundreds of thousands of dollars, in addition to exposing them and the public to the potential hazards of maintaining a deteriorating building for an indefinite period of time."

The plaintiffs in the suit, Friends of the San Luis, led by Ecology of Absence blogger Michael Allen, told the Post-Dispatch they plan to appeal the ruling. The Archdiocese, meanwhile, started demolition last week (guess they knew they were going to win, eh?) by tearing out the windows and interior. 

For more pics and a video of the demolition, click here. More background on the apartment building after the jump.
The building, championed as a classic example of "Mid-century modernism", has long been a marquee issue for local preservation groups. For an exhaustive history of the place, once known as the DeVille Motor Hotel, click here.

Here's the argument for withholding the wrecking ball, centering on the premise that the last thing St. Louis needs is another parking lot:

In March 2008, architects enlisted by the Archdiocese presented plans for the lot at a neighborhood meeting, touting the design's advanced drainage system and plantings as forward-thinking while branding it as "green." Arguments against the building's preservation cited the need for more parking for the New Cathedral and Rosati-Kain High School; the Archdiocese's desire to create a St. Louis University-like "campus" along Lindell was expressed as well.

This plan is incredibly flawed for a number of reasons:

-The new lot will have only 100 parking spaces while the San Luis already has 180 spaces built into its design.

-The building occupies a prominent place in Lindell's famed high-rise streetscape which will be marred by the creation of a massive surface lot.

-The San Luis is one of the finest examples of mid-century modern architecture in St. Louis, and its loss would severely degrade the diversity of our architectural heritage.

-It is eligible for listing on the National Register, meaning that its owner could obtain state and federal historic tax credits which would make the San Luis' rehabilition entirely affordable.

-Demolition of the existing building for yet another parking lot during this time of heightened awareness of sustainability and energy conservation would reach the height of absurdity.

On the other hand, the place was vacant, crumbling and, to put it mildly, not the most attractive building on the block. And, as the judge pointed out, the Archdiocese owns it and can do pretty much whatever it pleases with the building, including, yes, tearing it down to build a parking lot. To paraphrase an old idiom, that's just the way the building crumbles.

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