Monday, July 30, 2012

Pruitt-Igoe Getting Second Life with Tours, Creative Projects

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Michael Allen, in hat and bow tie, leads tours into the Pruitt-Igoe site.  - LEAH GREENBAUM
  • Leah Greenbaum
  • Michael Allen, in hat and bow tie, leads tours into the Pruitt-Igoe site. 
Most St. Louisians worth their salt know the myth of Pruitt-Igoe: a huge public housing complex opened in the mid-1950s to replace slum apartments, demolished just 20 years later in disrepair.   

But interest in the 33 acre vacant lot that remains has spiked recently, following the release of the 2010 documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (currently streaming on Netflix for the kids at home) and the formation of Pruitt-Igoe Now, a non-profit that has been exploring ideas for the site as developer Paul McKee circles with the city's blessing. 

Last week, Daily RFT tagged along with Michael Allen, a local architectural historian and bow tie enthusiast, who led 120-odd intrepid-ish explorers into the wilds that have cropped up amid the ruins. Read on for photos and factoids even the biggest architecto-nerds may not know about the site (bet you can't guess Mitt Romney's very direct Pruitt-Igoe connection).

Allen says he's led 45-50 tours of the site this year (he emphasized that some of those tours were quite small, but, hell, most of us out there haven't been to our living rooms 50 times this year.)

McKee hopes to incorporate Pruitt-Igoe into his massive $8.1 billion Northside Regeneration Project, which is currently in legal limbo as a lawsuit to thwart the project awaits review by the Missouri Supreme Court. But Allen and others say McKee's plans, which have been favored by Mayor Francis Slay and various city agencies, does not reflect the spirit of the site or the needs of the community.

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