St. Louis Public Radio News
9:21 am
Tue June 23, 2009

Historic preservation board OK's San Luis demo

St. Louis, MO – The Archdiocese of St. Louis has been given permission to demolish an old apartment building it owns at the corner of Lindell and Taylor in the Central West End to make way for a parking lot.

The San Luis Apartments at 4483 Lindell served as low-income senior housing until several years ago, when the Archdiocese began moving residents because the building was too expensive to maintain. It has sat vacant for more than a year.

The Archdiocese wants to use the lot for Rosati-Kain High School, and special events at the Cathedral Basilica.

"It's about being a good neighbor," said Daniel Jay, the project's architect. "A 150-car parking facility will not totally alleviate the problem, but it certainly is a strong, goodwill response to what is currently an issue that is affecting the relationship with the neighborhood." Officials with Rosati-Kain said they often had trouble enrolling students because parking can be difficult. The school currently owns or leases almost 90 spots - 35 students generally must find parking on the street.

Opponents of the demolition disagreed to an extent about the architectural significance of the building, which was designed by New Orleans architect Charles Colbert and opened as the DeVille Motor Hotel in 1962. But all agreed that placing a parking lot in a prominent corner of the Central West End has large implications for the rest of the city.

"Where have our standards gone that a surface parking lot is a suitable replacement for a proud, tall, dignified building on a street that is uninterrupted with beautiful buildings of all eras?" said Jeff Vines, a local resident, civic booster, and a leader of a group that tried to save the San Luis.

Unnamed developers had apparently contacted the Archdiocese about purchasing the building and redeveloping it as apartments. The Archdiocese itself is not eligible for any tax credits as a non-profit organization and found redevelopment prohibitively expensive, but it wanted to control the property.

Alderwoman Lyda Krewson of the 28th Ward, which includes the Central West End, called the parking lot an imperfect solution. But she said in voicing reluctant support for the demolition permit that it was a choice between a big, vacant building and a lot, because the Archdiocese appeared unwilling to sell the property.

Opponents of the demolition can appeal Monday night's decision, but have not decided whether to take that step.