Future of Preservation in St. Louis Looks Modern

Midwest, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
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Del Taco in St. Louis (Courtesy Modern STL)

Del Taco in St. Louis (Courtesy Modern STL)

When St. Louis architects Schwarz and Van Hoefen designed a 120-foot diameter flying saucer in 1967 along the city’s Grand Boulevard, historic preservation was likely the last thing on their minds. Today faced with demolition, the structure’s concrete cantilever has garnered tremendous public outcry and has become a local icon. (It’s facebook page numbers over 11,600 fans, trouncing the 850 fans of Chicago’s threatened Prentice Tower.) It’s hard to imagine a gas station turned drive through restaurant could muster such support with such an anti-urban background, but the Del Taco building isn’t leaving without a fight.

Del Taco in St. Louis (Courtesy VanishingSTL/Flickr)

Del Taco in St. Louis (Courtesy VanishingSTL/Flickr)

Developer Rick Yackey has asked to tear down the National Register-nominated building to construct what he is calling a more pedestrian-friendly retail strip along the boulevard. His plans have already won approval from the St. Louis Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority, but a number of hurdles remain. St. Louis Mayor Slay has promised extra review before a number of commissions including the Preservation Review Board.

Tomorrow, the St. Louis Board of Alderman will take up the issue. Writing on his blog, the mayor said:

Whatever they believe “aldermanic courtesy” requires, I hope that aldermen take notice of the building’s popularity, particularly among younger residents for whom buildings of the 1950s and 1960s really are old buildings. If aldermen, after mature consideration, approve a plan that allows the demolition of the Del Taco building and the developer subsequently applies for a demolition permit, I will ask Cultural Resources Office director Betsy Bradley to review the permit and make a professional recommendation to the Preservation Board about further action.

Meanwhile, the prospect of preserving the unlikely icon is pushing the issue of mid-century-modern preservation to the fore.

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