Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why Are the San Luis Apartments Worth Saving?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Ever since the St. Louis Archdiocese announced plans late last year to demolish the San Luis Apartments on Lindell Boulevard in the Central West End, the local blogosphere has been wringing its collective hands like it's St. Peters Basilica that's about to be torn down.

Vanishing STL called the move, "a slap in the face to vibrant neighborhood," the Landmarks Association named the building one of the "Top Ten Most Endangered of 2008," and one comment at Urban St. Louis said the proposal is, "an egregious affront to the Central West End National Register Historic District."

Nothing like a little hyperbole to get the folks riled up. Tonight, a group is meeting at Coffee Cartel in the CWE to, "discuss the situation and plan a course of action."

Am I the only person who thinks this thing is about as ugly as a building can get?

The big issue, it seems, is that the Archdiocese wants to replace the building with a surface parking lot instead of redeveloping it into apartments. This is a legitimate qualm. St. Louis already has more parking spaces than the Mall of America and a large expanse of concrete certainly doesn't add much in the way of scenery. I don't think anyone is buying the Archdiocese's claims that a "green lot" with lots of shrubs and trees and proper drainage is really going to make things much better.

Still, since the city narrowed the lanes on Lindell to install turn lanes at every intersection, parking on the side of the street is just asking to lose your side-view mirror to the fender of a passing SUV. New off-street parking might not be such a bad thing after all.

The other bone that's being picked by the preservationists is that the San Luis is supposedly "historic." The building, originally called the DeVille Motor Hotel, opened in 1963 and was designed by prominent architect Charles Colbert. It became a Holiday Inn in 1966 and it was eventually purchased by the Archdiocese, who turned it into housing for senior citizens. As of last year, all of the old folks have been relocated to new housing.

Click here for a much more exhaustive history of the place.

The structure is "eligible for consideration" for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, and those who like the building cite it as a fine example of "Mid-century modernism," which seems like a fancy way of saying, "hulking gray mass of concrete." 

The cold war was not a golden age for architecture. Compared to the turn of the century high-rises and mansions that line Lindell, the San Luis is heinous. And since it abuts the Cathedral Basilica, one of the prettiest spots in the entire city, you can't help but notice the eyesore as you take in the eye candy.

Here's one vote to tear the fucker down.

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