ST. LOUIS – Despite the City of St. Louis going to great lengths to save a downtown jewel, thieves and vagrants are still getting inside the former Famous Barr building.
Most of them have gained access via a pedestrian bridge over Olive Street that connects the building to an abandoned parking garage. The garage has long been fenced off and boarded up, but gaping holes remain in the chain link fencing. People can still walk through those holes, climb stairs to the pedestrian bridge, and enter the beloved 110-year-old architectural building, which boasts more than a million square feet and occupies an entire city block.
A few days ago, there was still a large opening at the end of the pedestrian bridge leading directly into the building, where the old Macy’s, which took over Famous Barr, gift cards are still scattered, escalators have been gutted, and trespassers hide in the walls and ceilings to avoid sweeps by armed security, police, and fire crews. All consider the building to be a danger zone. There has also been a loss of life.
Earlier this month, fire department K-9 Balko died while assisting a police search for a reported homicide victim. No victim was found, but Balko fell about 90 feet from a fifth-floor window while tracking a scent. Balko’s death has become a “tipping point” after repeated street level board ups failed to stop repeated looting and trespassing.
FOX 2 obtained a copy of the demolition permit the City of St. Louis issued for the destruction of the pedestrian bridge less than two weeks after Balko’s death. City officials expect the bridge to be gone in a matter of days.
Sparks were flying as a demolition crew used a cutting torch to cut away metal on the bridge on Tuesday. They removed the glass canopy last week. The opening at the end of the bridge leading into the building had been sealed.
The city will try to recoup the $38,500 cost from the building’s absentee owner, Hudson Holdings, also known as DBA Triple Double real estate of Florida.
Though the street closure at 7th and Olive is a hassle, downtown workers and residents understand this is not just another empty building.
“I understand the problem, I understand the concern,” said Nyjah White, a downtown resident. “I feel like they should obviously clear it and get it taken care of.”
The security team working there since January told FOX 2 just days ago that the number of people getting in had dropped from hundreds to a handful. However, the building’s owner has just hired a new security firm.