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ST. LOUIS – FOX 2 has learned of a big development in the effort to save the historic Railway Exchange building in downtown St. Louis, the former long-time home of the Famous Barr department store. The 110-year-old architectural gem has become a boarded-up eyesore after years of looting and vandalism.

The City of St. Louis Building Division has been going after absentee owner, Hudson Holdings of Florida.

John McLaughlin, head of the City of St. Louis Problem Properties unit, confirmed major progress in that regard.

“The City Counselor’s Problem Property Attorney is in contact with the owner and has clarified his responsibilities to him. I personally communicate with the security team regularly,” McLaughlin said.

“This private firm (Citizen’s Security) is moving forward with a 24-7 security patrol. The security team is closing up openings where they see the building is breached. They have also requested the owner to hire a private contractor to close any remaining openings permanently. Our efforts are to hold the owner accountable for maintaining and securing his property and being a good neighbor downtown.”

As of Thursday, there is still open access on all four sides of the building through boards that have been cut or pried away from the windows.

However, Danyle Hurst, who also works security downtown, told FOX 2 that he’d seen Citizen’s Security patrolling the site and securing boards.

“They were boarding up some loose boards … security’s riding around with a drill,” Hurst said. “You’ve got to preserve it. That’s St. louis right there. You’ve got to keep that (building)…our history. Keep the building. We’ll figure out something to do with it.”

The City of St. Louis condemned the building last month and notified Hudson Holdings of potential daily fines for not keeping it up to code.

Hudson Holdings is being sued for more than $7 million for allegedly defaulting on a loan to buy the building in 2017.