ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A major landmark in St. Louis’ musical history will be saved from a date with the wrecking ball.
By a unanimous 5-0 vote Monday evening, the St. Louis Preservation Board denied the current owner’s appeal of an earlier decision by the Cultural Resources office to reject his request to knock down the building at West Florissant and Goodfellow and replace it with a strip mall.
“I’m not terribly surprised,” building owner Robert Vroman said of the vote. “The more I’ve worked this process the more I’ve learned that they have a very high threshold for taking down a building like this.”
The Preservation Board got a chance to weigh in because the property is located in a Preservation Review District.
It was once known as Club Imperial and played host to some of the biggest names in music such as Chuck Berry and Ike & Tina Turner, who actually recorded part of a live album there during the club’s heyday.
In recent years, the building has fallen into disrepair and Vroman, a prolific real estate buyer, had snapped up the property during a sheriff’s land tax sale last summer for $93,000.
He said several attempts to find somebody to restore the building to its former glory had failed, and the lone offer he had fielded had come from a local businessman who proposed tearing the building down and putting up a strip mall to generate some economic activity in north city.
“I’m sorry, a strip mall doesn’t go in every black community,” said 27th Ward Alderwoman Pamela Boyd during the Preservation Board hearing. “It’s not going to help every black person. Every black person doesn’t want a strip mall.”
She was among a handful of speakers to talked about preserving an important piece of the city’s rich musical history.
“I just think it would be such a shame to let that building be demolished because we’ll lose more of our history,” said Boyd. “And how long will it be before St. Louis won’t have the history that it needs to let people know what we stood for back in the day?”
So where does that leave Vroman, the building’s current owner?
He said with the city’s current assessment of $226,000 for the building, which again he paid $93,000 to obtain, he’d be willing to split the difference and sell it to someone else.
Though frustrated by the latest development, Vroman said he understands the feeling of nostalgia driving it.
“The deal I had is definitely not going through, that buyer was only interested in the lot,” he said. “So I’m really hoping that this many people that are clamoring to keep this building would actually like to take it off my hands.”