ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Saint Louis University failed to convince the city’s Preservation Board to let it tear down the historic Pevely Dairy complex, in favor of a proposed $80 million hospital building.
Monday night’s decision allows SLU to demolish two buildings on the property, a large garage and the milk plant, but denies any right to tear down the smokestack and the main building, known milk bottle tiles on the front and a large Pevely sign on the roof.
SLU’s plans for an Ambulatory Care Center included the smokestack, but nothing else.
“The smokestack staying is a symbol of the history of Pevely,” Lawrence Group CEO Steve Smith, designer of the project, said. “I remember growing up, I bought the three-cent cartons of milk in grade school. We also would dedicate a Pevely museum in the lobby of the main complex.”
He argued that, while the complex might be historic, it was not architecturally unique and that the contribution of an expanded Saint Louis University medical center would greatly outweigh that loss. He listed off medical centers and hospitals which had either closed or moved out of the city in his presentation to board members.
He did not explicitly say that SLU would follow the same path, should its appeal be denied.
SLU President Lawrence Biondi touted his institution’s track record of saving, preserving and restoring historic buildings in and around its Midtown campus, and stressed the need for SLU’s medical facilities to remain competitive.
“Saving the lives of our St. Louis citizens is far more important than saving the bricks and mortar of an old, industrial factory complex,” Biondi said.
“What we want is for Saint Louis University to recognize that these buildings are important to the city,” Landmarks Association’s Andrew Weil said. “If this building can’t be used for healthcare purposes, which is what has been stated, it can be used for something else.”
But Smith pointed out that previous plans for residential units in the complex had fallen through, even as some suggested using it for patient, student, staff or doctor housing.
It’s unclear how the University now plans to proceed with the project, which would’ve created 100 permanent medical jobs and 1,000 construction jobs. Smith’s comments seemed to indicate the University would not move forward on the site if it had to build in the shadow of the Pevely building’s faded red brick.
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