About two dozen people packed the round red metal tables in front of the building formerly known as Del Taco as Alderwoman Marlene Davis and Rick "The Most Hated Man in St. Louis" Yackey updated the world on the plans for the building.
They stood in front of the building's chained front doors, which has a paper sign on it reading "Del Taco Closed We Are Sorry For The Inconvenience." Yackey explained that he's working with architects to figure out a way to redesign the building with the Saucer intact, to make it marketable for potential retailers. Davis defended the development process and reiterated that demolishing the building was never the main intention, but rather a possibility that got blown out of proportion. They didn't break any news, but Yackey did say to the Saucer faithful that "it looks promising."
The gathering was significant, though, because it was the first time Yackey has directly addressed the public on the issue. One reason many people have been frustrated with the redevelopment process is that there has been a perception that Yackey and Davis were trying to sneak a demolition behind the public's back.
By bringing supporters and reporters together in this informal setting, the pair was essentially declaring that they sought to make the process more transparent, given the fervent public interest in the building. Plus it's a lot easier to like someone after you speak with them face-to-face.
While Yackey didn't make any promises, he did indicate that he was making a concerted effort to preserve the building. He noted that he was aware of the support for the building.
And the people appreciated the gesture. After Yackey and Davis took questions from the crowd, Jeff Vines, owner of STL-Style and an outspoken defender of the Saucer said, "I'd just like to thank you very much for recognizing the sentiment of the city."
It was a congenial atmosphere that seemed to mark a transition out of the tension that has defined this process. Watching Yackey yuck it up with the Save Our Saucer crowd was like watching two boxers pat each other on the shoulder after a bloody twelve-round slugfest.
Davis said that a clearer picture of the development plans should emerge within the next month or so. As such, she has scheduled another of these gatherings for September 14.
Clearly the Save Our Saucer movement worked: Power Brokers made a move. People shouted out against it. And the Power Brokers, apparently, listened. Democracy in action!
When the talking was finished and the questions were answered, Vines pulled a folded white shirt out of a cardboard box and handed it to Yackey. Yackey opened up the shirt and smiled. In bold letter on the front: "Save Our Saucer." Yackey took the shirt with him as he walked into the parking lot.
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