One of the biggest St. Louis stories this week is news that Father Lawrence Biondi, president of Saint Louis University, will be stepping down after months of faculty and student protest. One controversial component of Biondi's leadership is his record on land acquisition and development -- with some preservationists and civic groups arguing that he has had a negative impact on the area around SLU.
And one site that has sparked quite a lot of debate is the historic Pevely Dairy complex on South Grand Boulevard. A lingering question there (and one we got from several readers after we wrote about the site eariler this year): What happened to the iconic "PEVELY" sign that once stood tall atop the building?
Daily RFT obtained these aerial photos showing the red letters sitting flat on the roof, generally invisible from the surrounding streets. Will the sign ever be viewable again to the public?
See also: - SLU Faculty Senate Slams Lawrence Biondi: Time To Retire Is Now - Pevely Dairy Site: After Long Fight, Why Doesn't Saint Louis University Have a Plan? - City Says Historic Cupples 7 Will Be Demolished Unless a Developer Steps Up
Here are two more photos taken from above the building, displaying the current state of the sign.
As SLU prepares to search for a new president, some preservation advocates are hoping for a shift in the urban development practices at the institution -- and the Pevely Dairy site is one many have their eyes on. After Biondi's bombshell announcement over the weekend, local blog nextSTL published an interesting "Biondi Before and After" photo post, examining the impact SLU, as a real estate developer, has had on the neighborhood, specifically relating to demolitions.
We wrote about Pevely Dairy in February -- noting advocates' frustration with SLU's lack of action on the site after it had fought hard to purchase it.
In response to our questions about the fate of the sign, Clayton Berry, SLU spokesman, writes to Daily RFT this week, saying, "It was never our intention to demolish the sign, but rather to dismantle it, so that it could be preserved. We remain open to working with outside parties that would like to have the sign removed from the top of the building and transported away from the property."
Andrew Weil, executive director of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis, says, "I would love to see that sign put back up somewhere.... It's an interesting piece of St. Louis history.... Having it just rusting away on the roof of a building surrounded by rubble is not ideal."
Weil says that there were talks between City Museum and SLU about the museum possibly taking the sign to preserve and display it, but it appears those talks did not advance. (A rep from City Museum declined to comment).
Meanwhile, the photos from above show that the sign is still sitting there -- and it's unclear if it will be rescued or rehabbed in any way in the near future. It could be expensive and difficult to physically get the sign down and relocate it.
With the sign hidden from plain view -- other than being slightly visible when driving north on Grand Boulevard -- the site has lost a lot of its historical Pevely identity, advocates say.
"If that sign was still [standing] up there, people would continue to see it and continue to associate it," Weil says. "Laying it down, it's not a constant reminder."
In regards to the next president, Weil adds, "I really hope that whoever steps into Father Biondi's shoes has a more progressive view of urban land use policy and sustainable land use policy."
In the announcement of Biondi's retirement, the university cited these accomplishments under Biondi's tenure regarding campus projects and expansion:
-An increase in the size of SLU's Midtown campus from 113 acres with 62 buildings to 268 acres with 131 buildings.
-Completion of the $86 million Edward A. Doisy Research Center in 2007. The state-of-the-art, LEED-certified facility offers SLU's world-class researchers a world-class home.
-Construction of the $82 million on-campus Chaifetz Arena in 2008. The 10,600-seat, multipurpose facility has dramatically enhanced the student experience and is home to SLU's basketball teams.
-Completion of the Scott Law Center in downtown St. Louis, the Center for Global Citizenship, the Health Sciences Education Union, Medical Center Stadium, Hotel Ignacio, John and Lucy Cook Hall, McDonnell Douglas Hall, Doisy College of Health Sciences and the Center for Advanced Dental Education, the Henry Lay Center for Arts and Education in Louisiana, Mo., as well as the renovation and expansion of Busch Student Center, among many other projects.
Continue for more photos of the Pevely Dairy site.