By. Chris Stritzel
After a Facebook post I wrote that was shared over 30 times and viewed by over 9000 people, a developer stepped in and will attempt to purchase the long vacant structure. The move comes as the City of East St. Louis and St. Clair County Illinois try to crack a deal to demolish the building. Demolishing the historic building would be like St. Louis City losing the Arch, it would be a loss of a icon that has graced the East St. Louis Skyline since 1927 and would join the Murphy Building as a vacant lot. This second chance at life could be the development East St. Louis needs to make it more viable for developers. A solid investment like this could take the icon to East St. Louis’ decay to its rebirth.
The idea will be presented to the Demolition Board of East St. Louis and St. Clair County. The current owner is Whitney Strohmeyer who will propose the idea in the hope it gets the blessing to change hands. The developer owns the Bresee Building in Danville Illinois and has big plans for it, but it is caught up in court as the city wants it to be demolished. He believes he has a better chance at getting this project done with the support of the local government and people of East St. Louis. According to Scottie Porter of Historic Restoration LLC of Birmingham, the plus of the Spivey Building is that it is “gutted completely and mostly free of asbestos”.
Mr. Porter says, “I am an optimist, and a preservationist, so it never looks bad enough to me to demolish… but I just didn't see a great deal of concern… I think you could go about in phases; critical needs first, I would bring in a building envelope specialist first, evaluate the roof, and areas where there has been failure of surface material on the exterior, make those repairs, or secure the areas with temporary measures; address points of entry and secure those to prevent trespassers, look at temporary window closures and then begin a thorough restoration analysis and begin planning; the fact that it is gutted is actually a plus; just need environmental testing to make certain all asbestos is out”.
This could be a more than 2 year project considering Mr. Porter’s firm is a non profit so money is harder to get but he believes this building will be a breeze to secure funding. I went down to East St. Louis and asked a older man what he thought about the idea and he responded, “If this comes back to life, then I can see others coming back”. He then went into a backstory about how Downtown used to be vibrant and why he still lives in East St. Louis. “It is the City Champions, who wouldn't want to live in a city with that motto”. That got me thinking that if East St. Louis is the City of Champions, this building’s restoration would be a huge win and become a icon for the City’s restoration.
Scottie hopes to secure the building under his wings in the coming weeks following approval by the Demolition Board and County Government. There have been no estimates at construction costs at this time.
What do you all think about this project? Could it be a win for East St. Louis and kick start other developments or will it be a waste of money?