Pevely: Pressure to preserve

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Pevely: Pressure to preserve

Candra Johnson/Staff Photographer

Candra Johnson/Staff Photographer

Candra Johnson/Staff Photographer

Candra Johnson/Staff Photographer

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Candra Johnson/Staff Photographer

SLU faces opposition in effort to demolish South Grand complex

Saint Louis University hit a snag in their work to make the former Pevely Dairy site into an ambulatory care center for SLUCare, the practice used by SLU physicians.

A preservation group, the Pevely Preservation Coalition, recently started to urge the University and St. Louis City to maintain the historic structure near the corner of Grand Boulevard and Chouteau Avenue. The group formed in response to the University’s application for a permit to demolish the complex.
The Pevely Preservation Coalition said it wants the University to maintain the corner building and smokestack.

“The Pevely corner building and Pevely smokestack are iconic parts of the South City skyline, and the last historic anchors of the busy intersection of Grand and Chouteau,” Lindsey Derrington, a member of the coalition, said. “With the new Grand Boulevard Bridge opening next year, their preservation and reuse is essential to maintaining a dense, walkable stretch of Grand to effectively link South City to Midtown.”

The building complex is on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to Derrington, under the ordinance these buildings may not be demolished if rehabilitation is possible and if they are structurally sound. She said that the Pevely complex matches both characteristics, as several plans have been made to redesign the buildings for student housing using tax credits before the University purchased the building earlier this year.

Mayor Slay tweeted on Nov. 15 that the demolition application for Pevely was denied by the city’s Cultural Resources Office, which grants official approval to demolish certain historic buildings. SLU then appealed the denial to the office’s preservation board. The University has a later date.

“We still plan to appeal, and our intention to build a state-of-the-art ambulatory care center at that location has not changed,” Clayton Berry, assistant vice president for communications, said.

According to Berry, the project is important, and the University needs more time to give the Preservation Board “the most comprehensive plan possible.”

On Nov. 19, the Pevely Preservation Coalition held a rally in front of the complex and a charrette, a planning session open to citizens, designers and architects, to find alternatives to SLU’s demolition proposal.

Berry also said that, in regard to the recent rally against the demolition, SLU has considered deferring the appeal hearing since its meeting with the Cultural Resources Office.

The Pevely Preservation Coalition has brought forth sustainability concerns, prompted by the proposed construction of the site.
“Demolishing buildings of this size wastes an incredible amount of fossil fuels and materials, turning viable, reusable buildings into landfill waste,” Derrington said.

She said that SLU’s demolition goes against the University’s commitment to sustainability, which is stated on the SLU Center for Sustainability’s website: “Saint Louis University is committed to advancing sustainability on campus and throughout the St. Louis community; it is a noble and worthy pursuit that aligns perfectly with SLU’s Jesuit mission and identity.”

SLU said it is still exploring possibilities for maintaining parts of the site. According to a University statement, “As part of its planning process, the University is exploring which site features, including the smokestack, could possibly be preserved.”
SLU said, however, that there are limited possibilities of rehabilitation at the Pevely site.

The statement continues: “This project is absolutely essential for SLUCare, SLU’s physicians’ practice, to continue to care for patients in the heart of the city.”

As evidence of their commitment to preservation of historic buildings, the statement names Hotel Ignacio, Samuel Cupples House, Queen’s Daughters Hall, Pruellage Hall and the Biomedical Engineering Building as historical buildings the University has preserved.