The former gas station ' now fast-food restaurant ' is not everyone's idea of an historic building. For one thing, it is not very old. For another, it looks like a spaceship. Still, its current owner thought enough of it that he included it in an application asking that it and several other buildings nearby be considered as a whole for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. That application was reviewed favorably by the Cultural Resources Office, the city's Preservation Board, the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office, and the National Park Service.
Being listed on the National Register gave the owner access to development tools and incentives that made a difficult and expensive rehabilitation task on the buildings economically feasible.
Now, as the project moves forward, the owner has asked for city legislation that would allow him to apply for a demolition permit for one of the buildings, the Del Taco, without the review of the Preservation Board. Although this is a request anticipated and allowed by the city's preservation ordinances, it is still problematic. A more reasonable use for a blighting ordinance is to aid neighborhood revitalization by allowing some flexibility in demolishing problem properties. It is not clear to me that the Del Taco building falls into the same category. Unlike many, many others, it seems to have the potential for use and re-use.
A committee of the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority has already passed a resolution approving the plan. A committee of the Board of Aldermen and then the entire Board must also approve it. They may. Or they may not. At the very least, I hope that aldermen include a provision in the plan that bars the use of any public funds for reimbursement for the demolition of this particular building or compensation/relocation of its tenant.
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.
Before any of that happens, however, perhaps the developer might consider some of the many ideas offered for its reuse. After all, many of those ideas are coming from students of the university across the street.
I will keep you posted.