How Young St. Louis Activists Saved “The Flying Saucer”
One thing I’ve noticed about St. Louis, even though I’ve never been there is that it has a lot of cool young activists and their favorite cause seems to be historic preservation. When I heard about this amazing success story, I had to share. This story comes from Alex Ihnen at his awesome, grassroots St. Louis blog NextSTL. –AS
It’s been a while since the Phillips 66/Del Taco saucer at Grand and Forest Park Avenue has been in the news. Rumors have heated up recently about two future tenants set to occupy to landmark building once threatened with demolition. Owner Rick Yackey argued last June at a Board of Aldermen hearing that while the Council Towers complex was historic and justified in its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the former gas station, turn burrito stand, was only listed by geographical happenstance. Yackey, and 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis, argued that the building was a blight on the area, a magnet for crime, and that demolition and a new building should be an option for the developer. Having space for multiple tenants was stated as a necessity to maximize profit.
A grassroots effort to opposed the demolition drew widespread attention and very quickly became the highest profile effort to save a mid-century modern building in St. Louis. That effort was successful, City of St. Louis mayor Francis Slay weighed in and the potential demolition was delayed long enough to locate new viable tenants. The building is planned to be expanded to the east, retaining its iconic form, but allowing room for two commercial tenants. With St. Louis University surrounding the location and high traffic counts on adjacent streets, there is no doubt that both Starbucks and Chipotle will be successful and the iconic saucer gets a new life. No new renderings have been made available at this time.
The saucer was the subject of a What Should Be post, envisioning a new life for the building as a transit hub and civic living room. The local pizza juggernaut Pi suggested a new “Pi Burger” concept for the space as well as a reconstructed at-grade Grand/FP Avenue intersection. The combined creative outflow clearly had an effect. In addition to the ultimately successful effort to reuse the building, the City of St. Louis is exploring an reconstructed at-grade intersection to better tie the site to the city and SLU campus.
Update from St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4/13: The developers will preserve the round concrete roof and erect a mostly glass addition on the east side of the building to house Chipotle. Starbucks will use much of the original building, which will get new glass walls to reproduce the structure’s original see-through appearance. The businesses will seat about 100 people combined, plus 50 more on a patio beneath the saucer’s broad overhang. Starbucks will have a drive-thru window.
Yackey said the $2.5 million development will produce a 4,400-square-foot building half the size of the commercial structure he had initially proposed for the site. State historic preservation tax credits will help fund the saucer project but the trick was finding suitable tenants, he said.