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Government, Politics & Issues

Two new tenants may occupy former Del Taco building

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 15, 2011 - The plans are in and the saucer-shaped building at 212 S. Grand is ready to chart a new course. Rick Yackey, developer and owner of the former Del Taco building, unveiled new renderings during a brief public meeting at the site on Wednesday that he hopes will allow the building to reopen in March with two national tenants occupying the space.

The renderings featured the expansion of the retail space of the building to 4,800 square feet, the installation of floor-to-ceiling windows in the front area, added brick support to the exterior and improvements to the utilities and landscaping.

Yackey plans on sharing those 4,800 square feet between two national retail tenants with whom he says he is final negotiations. He hopes to complete deals with those tenants within 60 days and move them in by March.

"It's going to be a great adaptive re-use of the site and we will be able to save the building and we will be able to get something that students can utilize that isn't drawing problems to this area," Yackey said.

At the meeting, Yackey said he would have a cost estimate of the renovation within the next two weeks. Yackey would not name the tenants, but he said he is in close negotiations with a coffee shop and a food service establishment.

One tenant will occupy 2,000 square feet while the other will occupy 2,800-3,000 square feet of the building. Yackey said he is also reconfiguring the design of the site and is looking to add parking adjacent to the building.

"We are looking to save the building and these renderings show what the building will look like and how it has looked in the past," Yackey said.

An expert on the building's past made a surprise appearance at the unveiling to get a glimpse of the new plans. Richard Henmi, the original architect of the unique saucer shape, gave Yackey his support for the new renovations.

"I think it is good, I like it, it pretty much keeps with the original intent and the additional square footage needs to be there for business reasons. So I think it was a good way to handle it," Henmi said.

Henmi designed the saucer building as a part of a larger Teamster Local 688 community development project aimed at senior citizens. The building was finished in 1967 and it served originally as a Phillips 66 gas station. Henmi said his designs were not inspired by any particular building, but he thought the "hyperbolic parabola" form would be a very nice accent to the total development.

"We needed a punch at this location, back then what we called a hyperbolic parabola form was sort of becoming popular and we thought this would work and it did," Henmi said.

Henmi has designed many buildings, but he was surprised at the attention the former Del Taco building received after news in June that it could be demolished. In June, the Del Taco franchise, which had nine years remaining on its lease, went into bankruptcy and left vacant the building at the corner of Grand and Forest Park Avenue.

Yackey and Alderman Marlene Davis, D-19th Ward, have since worked on the future of the site. One plan was to demolish the building for 7,000 square feet of retail space. This caused concern from the local community and many logistical problems due to the listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

"I wasn't going to let him tear it down; we don't tear down historic buildings. I am an alderman of basically a historic district and we don't tear stuff down. I am happy that Yackey chose to renovate," Davis said.

Davis said it was "unfortunate" how the story got out to the community, but the media attention has helped bring in interest from potential tenants.

The next step for Yackey after receiving financial estimates is to submit his renderings to the National Register of Historic Places for approval. He is confident that they will not have a problem with the renovation plans.

"Once completed, this building will be next to the Arch as the iconic piece of St. Louis," Yackey said.

Jonathan Ernst, a student at Saint Louis University, is an intern with the Beacon. 

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