ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The old Pevely Dairy smokestack, sign and buildings are toast.
The city’s planning commission voted Wednesday night, with one exception, to overturn an earlier ruling from the preservation Board and allow Saint Louis University to demolish the entire Pevely complex.
In its place will be a $75 million dollars outpatient addition to the SLU hospital complex.
“I think I’m happy,” said SLU’s President, Father Lawrence Biondi, after the meeting’s conclusion. He hopes to have shovels in the ground for the four-to-six story building by this fall.
Commissioners voiced their votes in his favor just minutes after he raised his hand from the audience, stood, and said:
“What I forsee, if you don’t approve our request, is that we would have to shut down our medical school and find property in west county,” noting that 35 years ago, Maryville offered up land for the university to move west. Earlier, Biondi cited the school’s record of renovating and restoring historic buildings and also highlighted the law school’s impending move to downtown.
After the meeting, KMOX asked Biondi about the threat.
“This is now approved, so that point is moot,” he said.
Preservation board members had previously okayed the demolition of two support buildings, but denied demolition permits for the smokestack and main office building. Wednesday’s decision allows the smokestack and office to be torn down once SLU obtains a building permit for the new health center building.
There is no appeal process.
Steve Patterson, blogger at UrbanReviewSTL.com and preservation advocate, was at the meeting and, afterwards, expressed his disappointment that a building on the National Register of Historic Places was so easily sentenced to the scrap heap.
He and others are also upset with designs for the new “ambulatory care center,” which show the building set far back from the street, behind a grassy lawn and fountain.
“Not everyone wants suburbia. We don’t want to see green grass everywhere,” Patterson lamented. The end of Pevely, he said, removes the last urban element at the intersection of Chouteau and Grand. Caddy-corner to the site is a fast food restaurant.
A vacant lot across the street is owned by SLU and preservationists question why the center couldn’t be built there.
“You have physicians that practice at the hospital that’ll be occupying this ambulatory care center,” said architect Steve Smith. “They can’t be crossing Chouteau. We don’t want them hopping in their car and driving. This is intended to be a walkable campus.”
Smith, President and CEO of the Lawrence Group, stressed that possible alternatives for reuse of the Pevely office building had been exhausted. The floorplans for the health center are incompatible with the structure and, he said, there is no interest from private developers.
He also said that the new building’s plans are fluid.
“I think it could look different. I think we’ll take a fresh look at the design for the building.”
One certain change is the smokestack. It’s still standing in the current proposal, but SLU was granted the right to tear it down after arguing that it would take $500,000 to simply keep it from falling down and much more to make it earthquake-resistant.
KMOX © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.