On the day Starbucks opened in the saucer-roofed former Del Taco building on South Grand Boulevard, news emerged Friday that another Modernist building valued by St. Louis preservationists will be saved.
In a deal worked out with CVS, the Auto Club of Missouri will stay in its distinctive, oval-shaped building at 3917 Lindell Boulevard and the drugstore chain will build next door on the site of the auto club's now-vacant garage, club spokesman Mike Right said Friday.
"I think it's a great situation for the city," he said. "We are going to maintain the . . . building and continue to operate it as a AAA office."
A CVS spokesman said the company plans to buy the adjoining property in the first half of 2013 and open an approximately 10,000-square-foot store on the site by late next year.
The concrete-and-glass AAA building completed in 1976 is among several Modernist structures along Lindell. Demolition of the 1960s San Luis Apartments by the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2009 distressed preservationists, who had protested the building's replacement by a parking lot at 4483 Lindell.
Preservationists cheered this year when developers reversed themselves and decided to remodel, rather than demolish, the saucer-shaped building at 212 South Grand, near St. Louis University. A Chipotle restaurant is scheduled to open in 60 to 90 days next to the Starbucks that opened in the building on Friday.
Efforts to save the AAA building got a boost in June when the city's Preservation Board rejected a plan to demolish the structure. The board's staff had recommended against demolition, citing the high architectural merit of the 36-year-old building. In her report to the board, Cultural Resources Officer Betsy Bradley wrote that the "AAA Building has a very unusual and significant character" and that its loss would obliterate "a notable aspect of the urban design of Lindell."
Alderman Terry Kennedy, whose 18th Ward encompasses the site, also opposed demolition. He introduced a bill last week to rezone the AAA garage site to allow construction of a commercial building.
Mike DeAngelis, spokesman for Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS, said company officials had worked with Kennedy to move the Lindell project ahead.
CVS has been been trying for years to build a store on Lindell. Plans by CVS to tear down the former St. Louis Housing Authority building at 4100 Lindell met neighborhood pushback in 2009, prompting the drugstore chain to switch its focus on the AAA site.
A leading St. Louis preservationist, Michael Allen, praised the AAA agreement. Allen, head of Preservation Research Office, a consulting firm, noted that while the AAA building falls short of the 50-year minimum-age requirement for the National Register of Historic Places, he said "it's very good that AAA and CVS have recognized the significance" of the city's denial of a demolition request.
"It's a good day for modern architecture in our city," he said.