In her testimony for the demolition of the DeVille Motor Hotel, Alderwoman Krewson enumerated a dangerous precedent indicating that if a building owner was unwilling to sell or rehabilitate, regardless if developers support rehabilitation, then it could be torn down. Essentially this abdicates the entire purpose of Historic Districts and our Preservation Board — the promotion of cultural and architectural economic resources for the betterment of the neighborhood and broader community (Ord. 64689, Section 2). This argument could also be postulated to support slumlords — if an individual does not wish to maintain their property then that’s acceptable despite the negative spillover effects of such mismanagement. Ironically this undermining of community concerns arise from an owner which has ample financial means. Moreover, this decision occurs contrary to established trends. Decades of rehabilitation occurring throughout our City have improved quality of life by creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and reinforcing St. Louis as The Place to Be. Her argument erodes this sense of place for the unknown whims of a single property owner and subjugates the need of the broader City to that own her own political ambitions.
The most incendiary moment of this nearly 6 hour meeting was not the actual 3-2 vote of the Preservation Board — but when Alderwoman Krewson indicated she does not like the idea of a parking lot, that it would damage the pedestrian environment and streetscape, and that the building should be torn down anyway. Krewson said we have only one scenario: a vacant building or a parking lot. Interestingly, Alderwoman Krewson attended an event last Saturday the 27th and echoed similar views supporting neighborhood planning and density:
…if we do some really good planning during this time frame we will be a lot better equipped to deal with opportunity that come forward in the future for new buildings, renovated building, additional density, which I think is so key to the success of this neighborhood. Density, we really have to have people here, we have to have enough people here to support all of the the businesses and all the things we all love about this neighborhood. I’m most worried about…we will take a good site, a really good site, and decide one square building will be fine, two buildings…
In the context of her most recent “planning decision,” the aforementioned statement boggles the mind! How can she make that claim while summarily going against the philosophy which she professes? Alderwoman Krewson says the Central West End needs density — and yet she signed off on a parking lot, also known as temporary sporadically used car storage. Steve Anrod, who developed the Park East Tower, testified that this building could be saved. This seems like the good planning she desires for the Central West End. According to her statement, this also happens to be the ideal opportunity as the building could receive Historic Tax Credits while a developer expressed interest. Should the Archdiocese wish to remain ownership of the land, developer Steve Anrod mentioned a possible 99 year lease. This seems like an amicable solution for all parties involved — and one that Lyda should accept given her professed ideology. Yet she threw all options aside through her acceptance of demolition.
At the end of the statement Lyda indicated objection to the underutilization of land. In her example she expresses concern with placing only a few buildings on a site. She also carefully mentions building height in her speech. If she places value upon density and maximizing land use, then why did she sign off on a parking lot? This use provides no residents, detracts from the pedestrian environment, says nothing good about our urban environment or our identity as a City, devalues surrounding historic buildings and the greater Central West End, and generates no tax revenue.
Does she believe anything she says? Did she read the testimony of those who testified at the meeting, reciting their arguments in an attempt to appear the victim of an impossible Catch 22? Or did she simply fail to take a leadership position on this issue because she’s more concerned with her political future, ambitions for higher office, and does not wish to incense the Archdiocese?
Omnipresent the reality that a better deal could have arose from this situation — without the need for further action. She should have brokered a meeting whereby a developer, and those for preservation, could have established an outcome suitable for all concerned parties. Alderwoman Krewson would have seemed the master politician resolving a conflict between two superficially opposed parties. She would have received praise from residents and activists for preserving the building while also easing the Archdioceses’ alleged parking and land control concerns. Rather than doing so Alderwoman Krewson spat in the face of those who have been working on similar developments for decades. She co-opted the language, concerns, and hopes of residents and urbanists in an intellectually insulting attempt to appear powerless — a situation far from the reality. As de-facto development czar of the 28th Ward, and given this Qualifying and perhaps High Merit building resides in the Central West End local Historic District, her testimony and overtures for rehabilitation would have held great authority (Ord. 64689 Section 3, Section 61). Alderwoman Krewson instead eroded her legitimacy instantly and may resign herself to a position of grandeur amongst countless other aldermen who only voted for their career at the detriment of The 4th City.
Political careers which arrive through the expense of irreplaceable architectural resources — despite the errant, unnecessary nature of the decision — are contemptible.
We will continue to advocate for the San Luis and the vitality of our beloved Saint Louis.