Unless a developer steps up, the historic Cupples 7 building in downtown St. Louis will soon be demolished.
And even if developers do emerge, they would need to have a solid plan to stabilize the site immediately -- or else it will have to come down. So says the city, which doesn't own the site, but has determined that the structure has become a serious safety hazard.
Still, the mayor's office and local preservationists are still hoping that someone -- with funding and a plan -- comes forward.
"We will welcome them until the wrecking ball swings," Maggie Crane, spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay, tells Daily RFT.
Will anyone be able to stop the demolition?
See also: - Pevely Dairy: After Long Fight, Why Doesn't Saint Louis University Have a Plan? - Missouri Preservation Announces Most Endangered Historic Places - St. Louis Shuts Down Streets Around Crumbling Cupples 7 Landmark
As quick background, Cupples 7 is a seven-story brick building and the only structure in the historic Cupples Station complex that has not been renovated. That complex was constructed by Eames and Young for Samuel Cupples between 1894 and 1917. The buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, but Cupples 7 -- on 11th and Spruce streets -- was condemned by the city in 2008.
Now, city officials say, it poses a serious risk and needs to be stabilized immediately or be torn down.
That means that the city has two requests for proposals out now: one for a development plan to save Cupples 7 and another to demolish it. The latter, released yesterday, seems to be the more likely course of action. Demolition could happen in early June.
The city does not own the building, but, Crane tells us, "we are trying to be good stewards of public money, public trust and public safety."
In a statement sent out yesterday, Slay -- who recently wrote on his blog about his desire to see Cupples 7 stay alive -- says:
Public safety is driving this decision. Cupples 7 did not have a good winter, and City engineers believe it is now an imminent danger. They are afraid it will collapse and hurt someone....
It will only be too late once the proverbial wrecking ball swings. If a developer is out there, this is the last moment to come forward.
Officially, building commissioner Frank Oswald has declared an "emergency condition," for the site with the demolition notice released yesterday. The full document is below.
Ballpark Lofts III, headed by developer Kevin McGowan, owns the property, but all plans to redevelop it have been unsuccessful. And previous efforts to demolish the site have also failed, because of the site's historic status.
But now it's too much of a risk, the city says. And engineers estimate it will take anywhere from $4 to $8 million to "eliminate the hazard." Further, the current street closures surrounding Cupples 7 are a burden on surrounding properties and businesses, according to the city.
Andrew Weil, executive director of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis, tells Daily RFT that, unfortunately, it seems like a lost cause at this point.
"The city bodies that were tasked with protecting buildings like this did everything within their power," he says. (The mayor's office notes that city leaders have tried since last November to find a viable buyer who could fortify the historic building and eliminate the danger. They've had no luck.)
Continue for more commentary from Andrew Weil and copies of the relevant documents in this case.
For Weil, an important question is what happens after the destruction.
"If the city does end up paying to demolish this thing," he says, "they are going to own the vacant lot where it once was."
In the city's news release, treasurer Tishaura Jones says, "It is my intention to turn the land into green space."
Still, Weil says, "The best thing that we could hope for is a stabilization effort.... The amount of tax revenue and jobs that could be created [with the] rehabilitation of the building would be a great thing for the city.... It it's converted into a parking lot or green space, we're obviously not going to see any kind of dividends."
He adds, "We'll never get a chance to find out if they take it down."
Weil says it's important that officials take a close look at what went wrong here.
"What can we learn from it, and what will we learn from it?" he says.
McGowan of Ballpark Lofts III LLC did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
Here's the official request for proposal to demolish the building.
And the city's full press release.
Building Commissioner Issues Emergency Declaration Letter for Cupples 7 Developers Still Welcome to Submit Plans to Save Historic Building
SAINT LOUIS--Unless a buyer comes forward with the money and willingness to stabilize Cupples 7 immediately, it will be torn down around early June.
"Public safety is driving this decision," said Mayor Francis Slay. "Cupples 7 did not have a good winter, and City engineers believe it is now an imminent danger. They are afraid it will collapse and hurt someone."
Today Deputy City Building Commissioner Frank Oswald issued an emergency declaration letter to allow Cupples 7 to be demolished. It will take about a month to choose a demolition contractor and prepare the site. If during that time, someone steps forward with money to stabilize the building, the City can stay the order.
"In the interest of public safety, I must overrule the Preservation Board, which voted in 2011 to deny demolition," said Oswald. "We had hoped Cupples 7 could be saved, but I now believe that it is past the point of saving without a substantial investment."
Engineers estimate that it will take $4 million to $8 million to eliminate the imminent hazard. The current street closures surrounding Cupples 7 - in place since September 2011 - are also putting a burden on nearby buildings and businesses.
Although the City does not own Cupples 7, leaders have tried since November to find a viable buyer who can both fortify the historic building and eliminate the danger and redevelop it, because once a building is torn down, it is gone forever. The City is quickly approaching the time when the building cannot be saved, and so far, no one has stepped forward to do it.
Former City Treasurer Larry Williams made a deal with the bank to purchase the property for $850,000 in hopes of preventing another buyer from opening a competing parking lot on the site. The City is now bound by that agreement.
"My office will pay to have the building demolished because of the public safety hazard," said Treasurer Tishaura Jones. "It is my intention to turn the land into green space."
"It will only be too late once the proverbial wrecking ball swings. If a developer is out there, this is the last moment to come forward," said Mayor Slay. "The City's other interest - hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes - can be pursued in court."
About Cupples Station: Cupples 7 is a seven-story brick building and is the only unrenovated structure remaining in the historic Cupples Station complex, which was built between 1894 and 1917. The buildings were constructed by Eames and Young for Samuel Cupples, a woodenware merchant and business partner of Harry and Robert S. Brookings. The buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Cupples 7 was condemned by the City in 2008.
And the RFP to save the building.