ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– The bombshell announcement that Fr. Lawrence Biondi is retiring as President of St. Louis University is leaving open a lot of questions, including some about one of his most controversial land deals.
In 2011, St. Louis University bought the old Pevely Dairy complex at Grand Boulevard and Chouteau Avenue to build an ambulatory care center. But the plan has been stalled, which is why the historic main office building still stands.
Now, some preservationists are wondering if Biondi`s departure could give the Pevely office building a reprieve?
“I think a lot of people are holding out hope that new person, new vision,” said St. Louis Landmarks Association Executive Director Andrew Weil.
Preservationists have long had mixed feelings about some of the development deals made by SLU under Biondi`s leadership.
But tearing down the old Pevely complex stuck some as especially shortsighted.
Still, the university got the city`s permission to redevelop the site.
But almost two years after the controversy began, the university has yet to tear down the one building preservationists most wanted to see saved, the main office building, leaving some hoping the plan could be changed under a new university president.
“I think that some of the plans for housing and other mixed use opportunities for this building haven`t gone anywhere and so I am hopeful some of those plans could be implemented,” Weil said.
According to an article in the university`s student newspaper, Biondi told the Student Government Association in late April that the Pevely plan was in limbo, blaming what he called the uncertain state of health care.
But why not at least finish the demolition?
It turns out, the University can`t, even if it wanted to.
“The Preservation Board agreed to allow them to take that building down in the event they were going to build something else and they had to approve of those plans and we`re still waiting for SLU to come back to the city,” said St. Louis Building Commissioner Frank Oswald.
The university issued the following statement about the project: “St. Louis University remains committed to redeveloping the site of the former Pevely Dairy. In addition, the development of a new state-of-the-art ambulatory care center continues to be a critical priority for SLU.”
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