News of the long-vacant Avalon Theater on South Kingshighway being offered for sale is appearing in people's electronic in-boxes today. However, at an asking price of $1,000,000, some are wondering if the property will draw much interest, especially during this economic slowdown.
The effort to market the building does provide the opportunity to think about the challenges faced by the owners of vacant buildings, and what should be done to ensure their long term viability and reuse potential.
Too often, preservationists and urbanists learn of a building's fate after a permit for demolition has been issued. By that time, it is often years' past any serious thought went into how to reuse a building.
One reason for the significant amount of demolition in St. Louis has been the decline in population. A city of 350,000 does not need the built housing stock of a city that once housed over 800,000 residents. The vacant land we see today is evidence of this transition.
It is not unusual to see a neighborhood's vacant commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings last longer than the vacant residential ones, if only because they are perceived to have higher values by their owners than smaller residential properties. Still, without a viable use and operating income, they are caught in a cycle of decline.
If a goal of urbanists and preservationists is to see fewer buildings of architectural and historic significance demolished, what steps should we pursue to make that happen?