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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Historic Preservation in St. Louis

St. Louis has a remarkable and significant historic housing stock. Preserving this stock is very important. Yet, I often question the method or lack of method in which it is carried out. I particularly have problems with how houses that are not historic but located in historic neighborhoods are treated. These houses must meet the same stringent standards of the historic houses even if they have no historic value of their own.

A big problem with the St. Louis approach to historic preservation is the notion than all old buildings are historic. This is simply not true. Second, the federal register characterizes historic buildings as being unique, which is not usually the case in St. Louis. Third, aldermen and other political leaders have pushed to designate neighborhoods as historic in an effort to spur development. Often is has the opposite effect. Costs get driven up significantly, making a developer’s ability to do a deal more difficult without subsidies. It has also caused too many buildings to stand vacant.

We need a more sensible approach that balances preservation with economic development. Perhaps expenditures for preservation should be no more than the end use value of the property. Flexibility needs to be added to the architectural standards. New and innovative architectural styles are not allowed under the preservation system. Modern architecture would not have been allowed. Written by Paul Dribin

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