ST. LOUIS – After our report Tuesday night on metal plates being used to save the beloved former Railway Exchange Building in downtown St. Louis, the metal plates are already gone.
It’s not because of vandalism or thievery. FOX 2 learned the City of St. Louis had them removed just one day after having them installed.
The metal plates were installed along an entire city block of the former Famous Barr department store to secure the building from persistent looting and vagrancy. Plywood repeatedly screwed into place over the building’s street-level shattered windows.
The removal of the metal plates within hours of their installation is yet another step back for the 1.2 million-square-foot architectural gem, which St. Louis just won’t give up on.
“We’re seeing a lot of public pressure and a lot of interest in saving the Railway Exchange (building),” Alderwoman Cara Spencer said Tuesday, when the metal plates were installed. “It’s one of our city’s largest buildings and one the most iconic and beautiful pieces of architecture.”
Since Macy’s closed its store there 10 years ago, the 110-year-old Railway Exchange Building has been a target of looters.
There have been fires in the building in the past year, along with the death of St. Louis Fire Department canine Balko. Balko died from a fall during a search of the building.
The City of St. Louis’s economic development agency called the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) and economic growth advocate, Greater St. Louis Inc., came up with a plan to spend up to $100,000 on metal plates to better secure the structure as the city uses condemnation and perhaps eminent domain proceedings to wrestle control of the property from absentee owners in Florida.
DAWG Vacant Property Security of Chicago installed the plates without first consulting police and firefighters, according to multiple city officials.
After FOX 2 reported on the plates being installed on Tuesday, police and firefighters weren’t sure how to get past the plates in the event of yet another emergency.
The office of St. Louis Public Safety Director Charles Coyle issued a statement to FOX 2 on Wednesday, saying the department, along with Greater St. Louis Inc., and SLDC, “…are going back to the drawing table to determine the best path forward for ensuring the Railway Exchange Building remains secure.”
Coyle did not respond to questions about who would pay for the plates’ installation and sudden removal.
FOX 2 contacted DAWGS Vacant Property Security but did not get a response.