On August 12th, Landmarks Association received a notification via e-mail of a public meeting concerning the planning process of 212 South Grand (Del Taco). The meeting led by Alderwoman Marlene Davis and developer Rick Yackey was intended to be held at the former Del Taco at 6PM with 45 minutes dedicated to public comment.
The limited details in the public announcement left many scratching their heads of the nature of the meeting. Minutes before the scheduled meeting, preservation minded individuals and various reporters were asking each other what the meeting could be about. It could either go two ways; a statement on the demolition of the former gas station or a proposed redevelopment to attract new tenants.
Davis and Yackey arrived joking about tacos and burritos with the assembled crowd who sat on sticky red plastic benches in front of the vacant building. Within minutes, the meeting began. Davis spoke of the due diligence she and Yackey exhibited in finding an appropriate use for the building. She stated her pleasure with Yackey's planning process to date but patience was needed as a plan evolved. This meeting was intended to be the beginning of a series of public gatherings to inform the populous of the progress of 212 S. Grand.
Once Davis explained the purpose of the meeting, Yackey took the floor. The developer illustrated his comment to preservation by listing his rehab successes which resulted in saving over two million square feet of historic property. He wants to continue that commitment by adaptively re-using 212 S. Grand. The original plans from 1967 are in his possession and he is working with architects to redesign the former gas station without destroying its integrity. Yackey believes a re-use is feasible and getting a return on his investment looks promising. This a far cry from his sentiment two months ago at the Board of Aldermen Housing, Urban Planning and Zoning Committee meeting. At that time, Yackey believed the current building had limited parking and square footage and finding another entity to occupy the space would be a challenge. He stated that he wanted to create something that would be more compatible for new tenants. Thus, razing 212 S. Grand for new construction to attract nationally known tenants.
Yackey's is still trying to attract nationally known tenants even with the interest of local businesses including Pi Pizzeria and Kaldi's Coffee. The probability of one of these local retailers occupying the former Del Taco was questioned by a member of the crowd. Davis stated neither local retailers contacted Yackey. Yackey confirmed this statement at last night's meeting.
The change in heart from the developer and alderwoman is reassuring that the public outcry against the demolition of this contributing resource of the Council Plaza Historic District was effective. Several more buildings around the St. Louis metropolitan area, such as Brownhurst in Kirkwood, AAA Building on Lindell, the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill and many more are threatened with the wrecking ball that Del Taco narrowly escaped. The quest to save the historic fabric of our built environment continues. For now, it appears one has been saved.
A second meeting has been scheduled on September 14th at 6pm at the same location. Renderings of the proposed redesign are scheduled to be at hand for public viewing at this meeting.