Cupples 7
2:19 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Building Commissioner Orders Immediate Removal of Cupples 7 Warehouse

Updated at 2:15 p.m. May 6 with official emergency declaration.

St. Louis's building commissioner has ordered the immediate removal of Cupples 7 due to "significant hazards that pose an immediate and imminent danger to the public health, safety and welfare."

Bids to demolish the warehouse are due by Friday afternoon. Unless a developer comes forward with the money available to immediately stabilize the building, the structure at 10th and Spruce streets could come down in early June.

"We had hoped Cupples 7 could be saved, but I now believe that it is past the point of saving without a substantial investment," said Frank Oswald, the building commissioner.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. with comments from Otis Williams and Andrew Weil. Originally posted May 1, 2013 at 9:57 a.m.

One way or the other, something will happen with the Cupples 7 warehouse building in downtown St. Louis by the end of the month.

Mayor Francis Slay posted on his blog late last night that although he would always rather see a building re-used than demolished, "the future of Cupples 7 does not look bright," and that "city engineers now believe it is an imminent danger." 

For that reason, city officials are poised to request an emergency demolition permit for the building at 1014 Spruce St. If a developer doesn't step in, demolition will take place in June. The city did not yet have a cost estimate for the work.

Here's a quick recap of the Cupples 7 timeline:

  • In September 2011, the city closed streets around the building at 11th and Spruce over fears that falling bricks would cause injuries.
  • In November 2011, developer Kevin McGowan requested a demolition permit, saying he could not afford the repairs needed to stabilize the building for future redevelopment.
  • Later that month, the city's Preservation Board denied the demolition request, a decision upheld last  June by the district court and in January by the Court of Appeals. Just yesterday, the Supreme Court denied a request to hear the case.
  • Inverse condemnation proceedings (basically, a claim by the developer and the bank that owns the building that the city is preventing them from getting what value they can out of the site by denying the demolition) were set to begin in front of Judge Steven Ohmer on June 3.

After the demolition permit was denied, the city posted a request for redevelopment proposals on its website, says St. Louis Development Corporation deputy director Otis Williams. Prospective buyers were required to prove they could immediately spend the money necessary to stabilize the building - the cost of which was at least $4 million in 2011.

"While a number of people have talked to us, most of them have found that there is not a willing financial partner given the high risk of trying to rehab this particular facility," Williams said. The city will entertain offers, but he said demolition is the more likely scenario.

That upsets, but does not surprise Andrew Weil, the executive director of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis.

"We don't have any kind of provisions within the city's ordinances against what is known by demolition by neglect," he said. It wasn't done maliciously in this case, but it did happen, just because the building was allowed to deteriorate."

He says it's ironic that as Ballpark Village goes up on one side of Busch Stadium, a city and national landmark will come down on the other side.

If demolition is completed, the city will become the owner of the site under an agreement signed in 2012 by former treasurer Larry Williams and officials with Montgomery Bank, which holds the mortgage.

Jared Boyd, the chief legal counsel for current treasurer Tishaura Jones, says he believes Williams signed the deal to prevent the construction of a parking structure that would compete with a city parking garage located behind the building.

Boyd says the $850,000 to purchase the mortgage and title to the site will come from a rainy day fund maintained by the treasurer's office. He says the site will remain green space, the exact nature of which has  yet to be determined.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann