Powell Square building to come down - KMOV.com

Powell Square building to come down

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By KMOV Web Producer By KMOV Web Producer

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A vacant and windowless concrete building along the riverfront in downtown St. Louis is coming down.  Powell Square stands five stories tall and towers above other industrial buildings.  Its graffiti-covered concrete frame is highly visible from from the Poplar Street Bridge and the cars that travel I-55 through downtown.

"We were giving this gentleman extra time.  I think this building has been in this condition for at least ten to twelve years," said Frank Oswald, the city's deputy building commissioner.

Last spring, the city condemned the building and gave notice to the owner.  December 28th, the city issued a demolition permit.  Oswald says Powell Square became a safety hazard.

Powell Square is located on Cedar Street, surrounded by industrial buildings - some also vacant.  The only residents in the neighborhood are two priests who live in the rectory at St. Mary of Victories Chapel next door to Powell Square.

"The city made the right decision to tear it down," said The Reverend Monsignor John McCarthy.

Msgr. McCarthy, who lived at the rectory since 2005, said he's been disappointed that previous development plans fell through.

In 2009, we reported that there were plans to renovate Powell Square and turn it into a museum.   Despite the efforts, the building remained empty.

When asked if he was ever concerned about safety, Msgr. McCarthy said he would often see up to 16 or 18 homeless people camp inside the building.  He says they didn't give the church any trouble.

St. Louis Police report three calls for service in the past year for disturbances at Powell Square, but the calls did not rise to the level that would require a written police report.

Libby Powers had her wedding photos taken in Powell Square.  The building is not secured and Powers and her wedding party were able to walk in to take photos.  She says she saw some safety issues like peeling ceilings, an open elevator shaft, and a small lake on the roof.   But she says she still sees potential in the structure - particularly as a canvas.

"The graffiti was awesome.  And to me, seeing stuff like that, just people's art displayed like that and where there's so much of it," said Powers.

"It's not just a quick tag.  They actually had time to really get into something."

The City of St. Louis says it'll take a contractor 90 to 120 days to tear the structure down.  The project is complicated by Powell Square's proximity to heavily traveled railroad tracks. 

The city intends to bill the $265,000 demolition cost to the building owner, listed as developer Stephen Murphy.  If the owner doesn't pay the demolition cost, the city will add it to the property tax bill. 

"If they don't pay it then, we put it on their property taxes after the first year.  If they don't pay it the following year and the following year, the third year, the city goes ahead and basically will sell the property," said Oswald.

If no one buys it, the city would end up with the lot.

News 4 called Murphy at his Clayton office late Thursday afternoon.  We have not heard back.  Check back here for updates.

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