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As Preservation Week ends, Landmarks announces 'most enhanced' and 'most endangered' structures

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 13, 2010 - When Dean Meyer saw the story-and-a-half red brick building with the sagging roof, he knew it would be the perfect house -- at least for him.

"It had been on the city's condemned list for four or five years. There were two pages of code violations," remembered Meyer.

"There was maybe a 10-foot by 3-foot void in the roof so rain and snow and anything else you can imagine was coming in. And beneath the hole," he said, "the floor was rotted -- completely through -- and the termites had found a happy home."

Now Meyer is eager to show off the place at 1837 S. 10th Street. After years of remodeling other people's homes, he spent more than two years painstakingly renovating the 1800s building in Soulard, which he has now put up for sale. And today, he'll receive one of the 11 Most Enhanced Awards from the Landmarks Association of St. Louis as part of Preservation Week, which will end Sunday.

The awards, given annually by Landmarks for the best rehab projects of the year, will be presented at Paradowski Creative's newly renovated home -- itself a Most Enhanced Award winner. After buying the building three years ago, Paradowski restored the brick exterior and the space inside the former Missouri Light & Power Co. (later Union Electric) complex into modern sustainable office space with parking in the basement, energy-saving elements and even recycled pieces of the building itself. An old wood ceiling beam, for example, was used to make a stairway. It wasn't exactly a glitch-free project.

At one point, said company principal Alex Paradowski, they were tearing down what they thought was an "awful" 1940's addition built onto the complex of four connected older buildings. The oldest was constructed in 1889.



But after demolition began, Paradowski said, they discovered "striking" windows that had been hidden and above the drop ceiling, "a beautiful ceiling structure with concrete panels in the ceiling and a wonderful system of trusses."

"That changed the plan again," he said, "and we decided to keep and renovate the building after all."

Jefferson Mansell, executive director at Landmarks, said that a committee of Landmarks board members and other preservationists selected this year's winners out of nearly 20 projects nominated. As in years past, he said, committee members looked for several things when reviewing projects.

"We always go for a mix," he said, "commercial buildings, residential buildings. We try for geographical distribution, and we look for the overall quality of the renovation work."

In terms of size, the Crown Square development project is the largest on the winners' list. After working for nearly a decade and spending about $35 million, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and another non-profit, the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance, rehabbed 27 historic buildings near the popular Crown Candy Kitchen with a mix of residential and commercial space. Except for some street and streetscape work to be finished next month and renting mostly commercial space and a few apartments with street access, the project is finally complete.

Sean Thomas, executive director at the restoration group, is among those who say their projects could not have happened without federal and the once-again- threatened state historic tax credits that made the financing work.

"We are a perfect example of how those tax credits stimulate development, job creation and neighborhood revitalization," Thomas said.



Also today, Landmarks will announce its list of the 12 Most Endangered properties, ones that are neglected or threatened. But there's a new twist this year.

The list of 11 Most Endangered properties that Landmarks usually updates during Preservation Week by removing rescued properties, and adding other ones, will stay in the background as a "watch" list, Mansell said. It hasn't changed much over the year although the DeVille Motor Hotel, a Modern structure also known as the San Luis, at 4463 Lindell Blvd., was torn down. On the flip side, the Clemens mansion on Cass Avenue has rescuers at work on a plan.

What will be announced today is a completely new list of the 12 Most Endangered properties. Included are the Admiral excursion boat, a casino with a bleak future; another modern building on Lindell; and about a third of the remaining buildings in the historic Bohemian Hill area.

Mansell said Landmarks decided to do things differently this year to give a "fresh look" to buildings on the list.

"Unfortunately, there are so many endangered buildings this year and we found some we thought were not so well known. We hope to call attention to them and maybe draw out some folks to help rescue them," he said.

Charlene Prost, a freelance writer in St. Louis, has long covered development and historic preservation.