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Del Taco fans rally to 'save our saucer'; aldermen pass development measure

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 8, 2011 - The St. Louis Board of Alderman passed the Del Taco bill by a vote of 15-9. Marlene Davis, who represents the area, and other aldermen repeatedly said the bill that passed is not for demolition, but to get a 10-year tax abatement plan for the development.

From here, if the owner decides to pursue demolition, he'll have to go through the Cultural Resources Board.

Dozens of St. Louis area residents came to a celebration organized primarily by St. Louis Style owners, brothers Randy and Jeff Vines. Signs reading "Save our Saucer" and "I Love the Flying Saucer" lined Grand Avenue. Many protesters wore T-shirts and buttons the Vineses sold for the cause as well.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen vote Friday on a redevelopment plan that could lead to the saucer's demolition.

Jeff Vines spoke about the building's history and read a poem he wrote for the cause, over celebrators' chants of, "You say Del Taco, we say save it!"

Both Vines brothers repeatedly emphasized that the gathering was a celebration, not a protest.

"We are not protesting; we are celebrating this strange, awesome building," Jeff Vines said to the crowd.

"We're not really opposing demolition as much as we're embracing the things that make our city special," Randy Vines said. "It's on the national register of historic places. We look like a bunch of hoosiers when we tear it down for just a strip mall."

Though some have mourned the loss of cheap fast food, most of the attention has been focused on preserving the building, a sample of mid-century modern architecture.

"They're known for tearing things down, rather than reusing buildings," Samantha Templer, a St. Charles resident, said at the celebration. "They discard our architecture and leave us with boxes."

Templer said mid-century modern architecture may not have captured the general public's imagination the way much older buildings have.

"Maybe if it had some columns and some gargoyles, St. Louis would be interested in it," she said. "But they don't seem too interested in the architecture of the '50s and '60s mid-century, and they always want to tear them down. And before long, we're not going to have any left."

Mike Buford, resident of Grandview Apartments in the area, said the building has been around since he was a little kid, so he has connections with the area since it was first built by the Teamsters union.

"All of this to me is historical," he said. Though he enjoys its history, Buford still enjoys his taco fix from the building. "Don't you think it'd make a good Sonic?" Buford said.

For nearby residents like Eddie Owens, the saucer-shaped building was the home of his daily breakfast. (The restaurant closed last week.)

"I like it because I eat here," he said, holding a "I Love the Saucer" sign. "It's the only one we got."

St. Louis preservationist Michael Allen addressed the crowd on saving the building. During his speech, Allen also mentioned the threat to the AAA Building on Lindell. He said that he believes that they will have to start fighting for it as well. (There is a proposal to tear down the AAA building and replace it with a CVS pharmacy.)

The Vines brothers also rallied for the San Luis Apartments and the Century building; both were torn down for parking.

"What the motivation and inspiration to keep going is just because St. Louis has so much worth fighting for," Randy Vines said. "And as much as they tear down, there's still so much left worth fighting for. The city deserves a voice like this."

Allison Prang, a student at the University of Missouri, is a summer intern at the Beacon.

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