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Demolition Starts Next Week On Long-Neglected Cupples 7

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

A nearly two-year battle over the fate of a historic warehouse in downtown St. Louis is over.

Crews from Spirtas Wrecking Company will begin to demolish the nine-story Cupples 7 building at 10th and Spruce streets next week. The work will take about three months.

The final decision on the building's fate comes after Vertical Realty Advisers was unable to pull together the financing needed to immediately stabilize the building.  The company had been one of two interested in redeveloping the site, but city officials felt its financing proposal exposed the city to too much risk.

"We appreciate Vertical Realty trying hard and trying an imaginative approach to saving this building.  But, we cannot put either the taxpayers or the City’s credit rating at risk," Slay said in a statement. "Vertical Realty’s finance structure might work for public projects like new police stations or college dorms, but it does not fit here."

Curtis Schroeder, a managing partner at Vertical Realty, says his company tried to mitigate the financial risk as much as possible, and appreciated the effort the city put in to examining the proposal. The second company, Arkansas-based Reed Realty Advisors backed out when its own engineering evaluations showed the cost to stabilize the building alone could be as much as $6 million.  

Under a deal signed by former treasurer Larry Williams, the city owns the building. A spokesman for the current treasurer, Tishaura Jones, did not return a phone call seeking comment on the offices' plans for the site. The $482,500 demolition contract will be covered with revenue from a rainy-day fund controlled by Jones.

Cupples 7 Timeline

  • 1907 - Cupples 7 is built as part of a 20-building warehouse complex designed to help handle freight for the booming railroad business.
  • 1950s - Portions of the complex are torn down for the construction of Interstate 64. Additional buildings would be demolished in 1964 to accommodate Busch Memorial Stadium (Busch II)
  • 1971 - The building is named a city landmark. 
  • 1984 - Cupples 7, along with the remaining nine buildings in the Cupples Station complex, are nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings are by this point, vacant.
  • 2006 - Ballpark Lofts III LLC, a company controlled by developers Nathaniel Walsh and Kevin McGowan, purchases Cupples 7.
  • 2008 - The economy collapses, drying up access to the capital needed for the partners to complete the project. On July 17 of that year, the city condemns the building.
  • September 2011 - Citing safety concerns, the city blocks off streets around the building.
  • November 9, 2011 - Saying he has no choice. Kevin McGowan applies for a demolition permit for Cupples 7.
  • November 28, 2011 - The city's Preservation Board denies McGowan's request, a decision later upheld by a second city agency. McGowan files suit on February 1, 2012.
  • June 28, 2012 - The court upholds the permit denial, a decision that is also upheld by the appealscourt on January 29, 2013.
  • May 6, 2013 -  City building commissioner Frank Oswald issues an emergency demolition permit, citing "immediate and imminent danger to the public health, safety and welfare."
  • July - Demolition work begins

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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

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