Historic downtown building denied demolition

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by Maggie Crane

KMOV.com

Posted on November 29, 2011 at 9:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 23 at 12:53 PM

(KMOV) -- We now know that the old Cupples 7 warehouse won't be torn down because of its historic significance. The problem is, the condemned building is creating a dangerous situation downtown.

City leaders say the building is a liability and the developers want a bailout.

Cupples 7 poses a bit of catch-22 for the city. It can seize it for the $300,000 in back taxes owed on it, but then the city would become the not-so-proud owner of a worn-down warehouse. The city says that saying no to knocking it down shows the owners that there is not an easy way out of this one.

Cupples 7 is crumbling. It has a giant hole in the roof. The city blocked off Spruce Street in September out of fear someone could get hurt. The Preservation Board said the developers knew what they were getting into when they bought the historic warehouse in 2006.

"They bought the building in its current shape basically and made no effort to stabilize the building or to stop water or the elements from coming into the building, which is making it worse," Preservation Board Member Antonio French says.

The city is focusing on safety. It has filed a lawsuit against the developers, demanding they bring Cupples 7 up to code.

"It is their property, they own it, and they need to be responsible for it," French says.

"They" are the two men who led the charge to rejuvenate urban living, but Kevin McGowan and Nat Walsh have told the city that they have run out of money to repair or rebuild Cupples 7. I called their company, Blue Urban, and was told the company had no plans about what to do next.

It would cost $675,000 to tear down Cupples 7 and around $10 million to repair it. But at this point, the city just wants it stable in hopes of creating a new, usable space in years to come.

"Keep the walls. We all know the rest of the building is going to have to be torn out and rebuilt, but that doesn't have to be done all at once," Michael Allen, director of the Preservation Research Office says. "We can build a structure on the outside that holds those walls up, to keep them in place while the developer finds financing or another developer steps into the picture and the recession goes away."

Allen says the building is worth defending, considering there are only eight of the original 20 buildings that made up Cupples Station.

 

"Cupples Station is one of the two architectural and engineering marvels of the late 19Th and early 20Th centuries in St. Louis. People hadn't seen industrial buildings rendered so beautifully," Allen says. "It's been recognized since the 1920s as a national, architectural treasure."

The city says it will continue its fight in court to make the owners stabilize the building. It will up for discussion during a Planning Commission meeting either next month or in January.

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