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On the northeast corner of Tucker and Washington downtown sits the Washington Avenue Apartments. The sleek, modern facade uses polished red granite, shiny aluminum and lots of glass. The walls between the straight corners are angled like an accordian's bellows. The place looks brand new, and in fact construction is not yet complete. This must be the most modern building on Washington Avenue.
Not quite. The Washington Avenue Apartments is in fact the old Days Inn hotel, built in 1963 on the site of the Carleton Building. In recent years, the Days Inn was a sore spot on the downtown landscape. As many of the historic buildings on Washington were renovated, the Days Inn got dingier and older - but not quite old enough to be considered historic.
Without landmark designation, the Days Inn was not eligible for the attractive state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credit programs that have transformed its once run-down neighbors. Still, developer Bill Bruce saw other potential.
Hence, the Washington Avenue Apartments came to be. Architects at Klitzing Welsh found a Cinderella solution for the mid-century hotel, and the project began. Now we have a great example of how to deal with a building not old enough to be historic but not new enough to be attractive on the market. Historic preservation is one reason for adaptive reuse, but so are economics and ecology. After all, preservation is really recycling on a large scale.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Michael Allen is an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant working in private practice. Most recently he served as the Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, the region's historic preservation advocacy organization. He is also editor of Ecology of Absence, a website with accompanying blog that documents and analyzes changes in the built environments of St. Louis, Chicago and other Midwestern cities. His articles on architecture and policy have appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Beacon, St. Louis American, Arch City Chronicle and Omnitectural Forum. In addition to his professional work, Allen has been rehabilitating a house in the city's Old North St. Louis neighborhood for the past two years.