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Old Post Office legal battle reaches settlement

A view of the Old Post Office building in downtown St. Louis.
(via Flickr/pasa47)
A view of the Old Post Office building in downtown St. Louis.

Updated at 8:30 a.m. May 19 with corrected timeline and statement from defendants.

A nearly decade-long legal battle over the redevelopment of the Old Post Office in downtown St. Louis is over.

The parties in a malicious prosecution lawsuit reached a settlement Tuesday.

The redevelopment plan involved the demolition of the Century Building to build a parking garage that would serve the Old Post Office, which was converted into office space.

Here's a brief timeline of the case:

  • In 1996, the owners of two buildings in the Old Post Office area - the Century and the Syndicate Trust - sued the city seeking a demolition permit. Four year later, Judge Robert H. Dierker issued an order that both the Century and Syndicate Trust be demolished.
  • The two plaintiffs, Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier, acquired condos in a building at 1010 St. Charles Street in 2000.
  • In July 2001, the city and the owner of the Century and Syndicate Trust buildings reached an agreement for the city to purchase the two buildings and seek redevelopment proposals. That October, developers outlined a proposal for the Old Post Office that turned the Post Office into office space and demolished the Century Building for a parking lot. The Syndicate Trust Building would remain.
  • In January 2002, Judge Dierker ordered the owner of the Century Building to, within 120 days, submit a plan to demolish the Century Building.
  • In May 2003, Marcia Behrendt filed her first federal lawsuit. In August of that year, a variety of governmental and private entities signed off on the plan for the Old Post Office.
  • In October 2003, Marcia Behrendt amended her lawsuit to say the plan violated the National Historic Preservation Act. Courts allowed that complaint to move forward in May 2004.
  • In July 2004, Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier filed a $43 million federal class action lawsuit on behalf of other downtown residents against the signatories of the development plan. The next month, the court dismissed the plaintiffs from Behrendt's 2003 lawsuit because they agreed to be bound by any injunction halting the Old Post Office project.
  • On October 18 2004, federal judge Audrey Fleissig dismissed Behrendt and Plackemeier's class action lawsuit. Demolition on the Century Building began two days later.
  • On April 19, 2005, the Missouri Development Finance Board, the St. Louis Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority and the developers filed their malicious prosecution lawsuit against Behrendt and Plackemeier, alleging the two knew they had no legal standing to challenge the project, but did so anyway with the intent to delay the project. An attorney for Behrendt and Plackemeier argued that the National Historic Preservation Act gave them standing.

Attorney Doug Dowd, who represented one of the developers, said the suit was about fairness.
"There are rules that apply on when you get to go to court," Dowd said. "The courts are not a  debate society."

Behrendt and Plackemeier agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of damages. Their attorney, Matt Ghio, released the following statement:

"My client, Marcia, is pleased that the historic preservation claim in this litigation was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.  Both Marcia and Roger are satisfied with the overall settlement regarding the class action claim, and are happy to have these six years of litigation come to a close."

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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