Eye Sores or Icons? The battle over St. Louis’ vacant buildings

St. Louis has long grappled with the fate of its vacant buildings.
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 10:32 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- St. Louis has long grappled with the fate of its vacant buildings. While many debates have centered around this issue, one developer interviewed by News 4 Investigates points to a surprising obstacle: the city itself.

The building located in the Clayton Tamm neighborhood interior, as revealed by News 4 Investigates, is in a dire state, according to the property’s attorney, Charles “Skip” Dufour. He guided us through a tour which he says highlights severe issues, including black mold, water damage, and structural instability. Dufour deems the building beyond salvaging due to its deteriorated condition.

“There’s holes in the roof, exterior stairs fallen, windows knocked out,” Dufour said.

Despite some experts suggesting demolition as the only viable option due to structural unsoundness, permits for tearing down the building have been denied. Pete Katsinas, the property owner, expressed frustration at the city’s obstruction.

“I’ve come to the conclusion it’s been a political football,” said Katsinas.

He said what’s central to this predicament is the City’s Cultural Resources Office, a city agency entrusted with decisions on buildings within preservation review districts, which constitute a significant portion of St. Louis. The agency’s influence extends to the fate of this building, along with several others that have faced similar hurdles.

Those include the buildings just south of 64 on Kingshighway and a recently proposed apartment complex in Tower Grove South.

Meg Lousteau, Director of the Cultural Resources Office, defends their stance on preservation. She emphasizes the historical significance and unique character of older neighborhoods and explains how they strive to maintain that charm, while working within the constraints of ordinances and regulations. She said she does not particularly like the idea of building a parking lot in place of the current building and believes it could be renovated.

“Parking lots are generally not great for commercial quarters, especially for dense commercial quarters small scale. So that was definitely a concern of ours in doing the evaluation of this demolition application,” Lousteau said.

Despite discussions between the Cultural Resources Office and the property owner, Pete Katsinas, the building’s fate remains uncertain. Dufour, however, perceives the situation as at a standstill, necessitating reapplication for city approvals.

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