Best Old Building

The Century Building

Let's get this straight: On the one hand we have the Century Building, a Georgia marble-clad, Classical Revival-style office building that dates from 1896 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the other we have a redevelopment plan for the Old Post Office (vintage 1884) that calls for the demolition of the Century Building to make room for a great big parking garage. The two buildings are now pitted against one another in a bare-knuckle brawl that's enveloped the city. But the fight is fixed: Backing the Century Building is a loose coalition of preservationists, a petition and a lawsuit. Backing the P.O. is a $70 million redevelopment plan and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. But people! Does it have to be an either-or decision? By no means, preservationists say. Some of the cars can go right inside the Century Building! Not only that, chime in those from the Jane Jacobs school of urban planning, but a vacant lot currently slated to become an open space is a losing proposition. Without a critical mass of people, these critics argue, open spaces become urban black holes, magnets for transients and crime. If parking is necessary, why not sacrifice the vacant lot? Fat chance. The Century Building, like the Ambassador and Marquette buildings that fell before it, is destined to meet its wrecking ball-induced fate.
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