Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Drama at Cupples Station #7

Little did I know that when I wrote about the impending renovation of Cupples Station #9 on Sunday night, the other vacant Cupples Station warehouse - #7 - would be in the news just over 24 hours later.

On Tuesday, the city of St. Louis closed parts of Spruce and 11th Streets adjacent to Cupples Station #7, claiming that the deteriorating building poses a threat to public safety.  The city claims it has tried for years to get the owners of the 200,000 sf building to stabilize the building, but to no avail.

Cupples Station #7 is owned by Ballpark Lofts III, LLC, which is registered to Nat Walsh, former partner of Kevin McGowan in McGowan/Walsh.  The two eventually ended their partnership, with McGowan starting his own company, BlueUrban, but apparently the McGowan and Walsh both retained ownership of Cupples Station #7 after they parted ways.  According to KMOV, McGowan and Walsh owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes on the property.

As you can see from the picture above, a good portion of the building's roof has collapsed,  McGowan says the building has deteriorated to the point where renovating it is no longer feasible, stating, "at some point it is coming down either on its own, or if the city gives us permission to demolish it."

McGowan claims he doesn't have the money to stabilize the building or pay his property taxes, but he apparently has the money to demolish it?  Cupples Station #7 is listed on the National Historic Register, and demolition would require approval of the Preservation Board, which would hopefully stick to its guns and vote to keep the building standing.  Of course, if it's determined that the building could fall at any moment, an emergency demolition could be ordered.

At the same time, is the building in any worse shape today than it was yesterday, last month, or last year?  Is this just the city's way of trying to get McGowan to do something about the building or put it on the market?

Even despite its significant damage, I have a hard time believing that Cupples Station #7 cannot be saved.  At the very least, it needs to be stabilized and preserved for future reuse.  Losing it would leave a massive hole in the Cupples Station district.  With the Koman Group taking over another one of McGowan's stalled projects - Cupples Station #9 - perhaps someone else will step up and save #7.

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