Preservation Board rejects demolition proposal for historic business district

ST. LOUIS – Proposed plans to demolish a historic business district in south St. Louis were put on hold Monday.

Owner Jaymes Dearing of Watkins 7200 LLC. said that he wants to demolish some of the long-time buildings in the 7200 block of South Broadway and add new development.

Most of the buildings in the area date back to the 1870’s and many of them are still intact.

Dearing of Watkins purchased all of them four years ago with the intention of redeveloping and renovating them.

But he said that those plans took a different turn.

“Without the lenders coming through and other investors stepping up to help me with the project I couldn’t pull it off,” Dearing said, “and now four years later the block is deteriorated and development cost more.”

The city’s Director of Cultural Resources has denied Dearing’s request for a demolition permit, a decision Dearing has appealed. The Preservation Board reviewed that denial at its Tuesday meeting and rejected the idea as well.

“This was one plan that was put forward that we thought we’d try and run with and the city and the board doesn’t like it.” Dearing said.

“I’m not done with it and I still own the property and I still have a big investment on South Broadway.”

Some people who live close to the business district opposed Dearing’s idea and spoke at the meeting.

“I don’t understand why we would tear down a block of historically significant buildings that have tremendous architectural potential for something that might not even happen,” said Nini Harris, “it’s a very disturbing scenario.”

Andrew Weil, executive director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis said, he is not convinced that if the buildings were to be torn down, something new and better would take place.

“Unfortunately for him (Dearing) tonight he didn’t present evidence that this was the case,” said Weil.

Weil went on to say that too many times demolitions happen in similar areas but hardly ever does new development follow.

“And that’s what has killed a lot of neighborhoods and lost a lot of buildings,” Weil said.

“People said, ‘We’re going to do something, with this,’ and then once the buildings are gone those plans disappear.”