Updates: Boulevard Heights & South Warson

Spread the love

UPDATE: Boulevard Heights

Here’s where we were with this story shortly after Christmas.
And above is the next chapter. The first houses are going in on the west end of the property, and I was relieved with what I saw for a couple of reasons.

#1. The front of the house is facing out to the street, just like all the other houses in the area.
#2. The distance between the front of the house and the street is just about the same as all the other homes front yards. That does leave room for a sidewalk, so there’s no excuse not to have them.

There’s no way of yet knowing what these structures will be clad with. The website for Rowles still hasn’t updated even though they want us to keep checking back soon.

The website address given on the sign above is not yet ready for business, either, claiming to be under construction. It’s a tad suspicious when the contractor is actually building while the folks on the selling end are slumbering. Then again, this is a privately funded housing venture; Rowles is not getting, or asking for, any money from the city. Which makes them a very rare breed, indeed: a developer who feels the risk of building in the city is small enough to forego tax breaks, TIFs and special favors. They are willing to gamble at fair market rates. Because independent, self-sustained financing is such a ballsy move into today’s city development climate, I’m willing to suspend disbelief and cut them a lot of slack.

OK, I did get a little pissed when they pulled the scorched earth maneuver, and plowed over all the mature trees on the acreage. In hopes that understanding would calm the anger, I checked in with a construction estimator pal of mine on why 99.9% of housing developers shave the trees. His thoughts, paraphrased:

They need a clean slate for configuring the maximum number of units onto a plot of land, and trees just complicate the math. Plus, no one can accurately predict how far the roots of these trees have traveled. Unknowingly destroying a major root could cause a slow death resulting in the tree toppling over sometime in the future, or roots could eventually worm their way into brand new sewer and plumbing lines. Both of these root scenarios can translate into future lawsuits, and that costs the developer money. Yes, it’s always about the money, and it’s cheaper to just bulldoze the trees over and plant some grass than it is to rearrange an entire project for several trees.

So I don’t like the answer, but it is an answer. Having things explained is always better than the dead silence of “you’ll take what we give you.”

UPDATE: South Warson Road

Here is a photographically detailed story of the house shown above.

And here is what is being erected in its place. This thing is beyond massive! As many times as I drive by it, I still haven’t seen all of it, or even half begun to figure out what it’s all about, Alfie.

Let’s review the house across the street from Villa Supersize (above). It’s fairly representative of most of the houses in this immediate neighborhood, even of some of the remaining original homes in the general area: low slung and sprawling among the greenery.

ABOVE: Not only is the house gone, but so is that car!
Teardowns are a controversial and heated topic. Private property rights should prevail, so whatever someone chooses to do with property they’ve purchased is fair by law. Then again, muncipalities have created an awful lot of laws to govern the aspect of Fitting In With The Joneses.

I have a propensity for favoring mid-century modern architecture, so will always be broken hearted when someone demolishes a worthy example just to replace it with a Steroid Palace. But I also accept, and truly appreciate, that everyone has different tastes. There’s room enough on this planet for endless variety, and people wouldn’t spend that many millions on custom home building unless they really, truly loved the design.

Bearing all this in mind, what is the fundamental problem I have with the typical structure that replaces a teardown?

The typical teardown replacement structure flaunts an arrogant disregard of its surroundings. It’s a new homeowner willfully ignoring what’s around them in pursuit of what they want. Fundamentally, it’s the selfishness of intent that makes me boil.

When one buys into a neighborhood, that means there are other people living in other houses all around you. That’s what constitutes a neighborhood. Most neighborhoods – even brand new ones – are built with a similar look, a similar scale, a prevailing theme in mind. We usually choose where we want to live based on those physical factors (well, along with what we can afford), and those physical factors dictate the feel and distinction of each area.

When someone builds a new house totally out of scale to the rest of the neighborhood, it automatically sends the wrong signal to the neighbors: I could care less about what’s around me; it’s all about all the square footage I want. That kind of disregard is mighty un-neighborly, especially when some of these neighborhoods are desirable because of their friendliness and sense of community.

To plop down an inappropriately scaled house among appropriately scaled existing homes is truly the equivalent of blockbusting. Evidence of that is when the first McMansion goes up, others soon follow. And how are people able to buy up those adjacent properties? Because the original neighbors hightail it out…”there goes the neighborhood.”

Not so long ago, it used to be the first black family moving into a white block that caused neighbors to flee. Nowadays, it’s square footage. All that square footage is not a measure of success; it’s just wasted space with the potential to erode established communities. Big new homes may increase property tax dollars, but those dollars don’t watch your house while you’re on vacation or shovel half your sidewalk when it snows. A disdain of the human factor is what riles me up about teardown replacements.

8 thoughts on “Updates: Boulevard Heights & South Warson

  1. I stumbled upon this blog while searching for photos of other mid-century modern homes. I, also, live in a neighborhood established in the 50s, 60s, and 70s where most of the homes reflect architecture of that time. I’ve seen one home after another torn down so a McMansion could be built in its place. I for one am proud of the beautiful architecture of my home – a split-level board and batten with modern lines. As long as I live there I plan to preserve it. The boring McMansions do not do our neighborhood – with its rolling hills and mature trees – justice. They fight the landscape instead of complimenting it.

  2. I know…it’s a year and something later, and I just came across this last post. I know no one will read this, or maybe they will, but I just have to say something here:

    First of all, to Toby: I don’t know how you deal with people posting ignorant opinions on you blog. It’s the very reason I don’t have a blog. But good job…I couldn’t do it.


    I, for one, follow this blog and I am not a “left wing highly opinionated academic type”. Or perhaps I am. I don’t know. I’m not sure that it is fair to assume that the creator of this blog is anything of the sort either. I’m not sure, I’ve never met the woman. Who knows and who really cares? I follow this blog because I like architecture and, in this case, I certainly agree with Toby. This house was a gem, and that beast they built in it’s place is ridiculous. Additionally, I’ve been in the real estate business for many years and have renovated many homes twice the age of this particular residence. Trust me, whatever detriments you are referring to were most definitely fixable.

    As Toby states, the person who lives in the replacement home has every right to like the home that they built on the property they purchased. I agree with her too…but who in the hell needs a home like that? Absolutely no one.

    And here we are a year later folks! The real estate market has hit rock bottom and many of the people living in their “dream houses” made of plastic and toothpicks have lost the dream to foreclosure. In many cases it was because they wanted the biggest “monster” they could buy. What’s the point?

  3. A year later, my son came across your 2-19-07 blog about the “thing on steroids” on South Warson Road.
    It is hard to believe that people take time to write such drivel, but I guess I don’t really understand the motivations of left wing highly opinionated academic types.
    You certainly have courage to admit liking architecture from the era of blond formica furniture. Yes, Mr. Zorensky’s house had some very unique and innovative features, including a Jack ‘n Jill bathroom. It also had a laundry in a small basement with mostly crawl space, a closed-in breakfast area with a tiny window, an ancient boiler that had to be professionally started every fall, and many other detriments that were not fixable, even if you liked the architecture.
    There are two other “steroid things” under construction on that lane (Mayview) and a third will start in a few months, so the “monster” will fit right in.

  4. Hey, thanks for the Boulevard Heights post. I have been wondering what’s goin ahn here. I will do a drive by and check it out for myself. I agree with you completely about the trees. However, many of the old growth trees in the 12th ward are silver maples, sycamores, cotton woods and other high maintenace species. If they plant oaks, hickories and hard maples in their stead, I’ll be pleased. I am new to this site and will list it as a link on my blog. Keep up the good work. Mark

  5. “there goes the neighborhood.”

    It would be hard to resist the buyout money, you know?

    Isn’t it usually true that the teardown results in someone making a higher-than-market-value profit?

    A year or so ago, there was a rumor that a big box development was going to hit my neighborhood (near the corner of Gravois & Tesson Ferry). Some neighbors were up in arms about it and wanted to fight it. I was quietly dreaming of cashing out.


  6. This is a real shame, and I totally get your argument on the tear down phenomenon. That new house looks like someone took all of classical architecture, shoved it up their ass and then vomited up a giant plywood and vinyl, bourgeois, new money middle finger to that neighborhood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.