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A Vacant Urban Lot – Brought to you by SLU High

November 3, 2013

The Kings Oak Neighborhood has a small but beautiful residential section at its northeastern edge (Kingshighway and Oakland).  The vast majority of the homes on these quiet tree-lined streets are occupied and well-maintained.

Kings Oak Neighborhood Residential

Lawn Place North from Berthold

This area has a lot of appeal, seemingly isolated but smack dab in the middle of the action.  Unfortunately it’s shrinking.

Demolition of a Four Family Flat in Kings Oak

Demo on Wise

Despite their prime central corridor location, recent occupancy and sound condition, two four-family flats on Wise had to be demolished.

Demo on otherwise picturesque Wise Avenue

Why did these buildings have to come down?  Because SLU High students needed a convenient “Vacant Urban Lot” for their AP Environmental Sciences class:

Experiment in Progress – Please Do Not Disturb

In their defence, while a number of vacant lots already exist just across Kingshighway, it can be a terrifying street to cross on foot.  And what’s a St. Louis neighborhood without at least one vacant lot?  Thanks SLU High!

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20 comments

  1. this is sickening… what about the vast space between the school and the science center? surely they could have used a portion of it for their experiment. it’s just absurd how little our institutions understand and/or give a sh*t about the city. like many others, SLUH views the region as a market and that’s it. and these days their consumer base is out in the burbs.


    • There are no vacant lots between SLUH and the Science Center. “Vacant Lot” does not mean “slab of concrete.” It means an area that has already undergone primary succession but not really undergone secondary succession (meaning it’s a big patch of dirt with few plants). The idea is to study the secondary succession in the lot. And SLUH actually built the garden at the request of the neighborhood.


  2. wow. i had a friend who lived on wise when we were in high school. of course this was over 20 years ago, but it’s shocking to see this change. seems SLUH & SLU are both involved with some of the decimations of neighborhoods throughout the city. boooo, thumbs down.


  3. Wow, that is kind of insane.

    I’m fairly sure that the Jesus figure these Catholics so proudly worship (I’m a ‘recovering’ RC, so I know whereof I speak) would frown upon tearing down habitable dwellings for such a banal use. Shame on you, SLUH. Shame.

    I’m wondering what the racial mix is on this block. Again, knowing Catholics as I do, and having attended SLUH at one time, I wonder if this isn’t also an effort to keep the block from “getting a little too dark”. Why not. SLU does it (see acres of vacant lots surrounding the campus and MC complex).


  4. Dear Paul, here is an article from SLUH explaining the neighborhood asked for those houses to be demolished, not for an experiment. I am sad about the lack of research done before slandering such an institution. http://student.sluh.org/prepnews/index.php/news/news/1526-commeeting


    • Thank you so much for sharing this article, I certainly should have done more research that would have led me to it. To clarify, I think it is fairly obvious to most readers that the homes were not demolished specifically for this experiment, but seeing it in place set me up for the snarky conclusion to my post about the demolitions.

      In response to the article, the tactics used to justify demolition are classic SLU: neglect a property until it is such an eyesore that neighborhood outrage forces the preservation review board to approve the demo. The fact that such irreplaceable components of the urban fabric were destroyed is both shortsighted and irresponsible.


      • It should be noted that SLUH and SLU have no real relation to each other outside of a shared name and Jesuit identity.


      • Noted. In this situation SLUH seems to be practicing the same kind of destructive behavior that their sister institution a neighborhood over has become known for.


      • SLUH has no sister school. If you’re referring to the close-by Rosati-Kain, their recent construction project is only tearing down buildings that they have owned for decades to give them a makeover and improve area land value http://nextstl.com/2014/05/rosati-kain-high-school-begins-12000sf-4-5m-cwe-expansion/


      • A community garden?


  5. I hope you have clarified to your readers the incorrectness of this post, how the lot is now a community garden which the school and the neighborhood regularly contributes to.


    • I will post an update with the current state of the land, but I don’t believe that a garden taking up only a portion of the newly created lot is a higher use of the land than 8 units of housing. This is an urban environment. Community Gardens are a great way to make better use of an abandoned lot, but structurally and functionally sound 100 year old buildings should not be leveled to make way for a garden.


      • So there are a few things you should do when making your follow-up post. First, don’t make up numbers. You said in your comment that the garden takes up 8 units of housing. On flickr you said it takes up 10+. However, it actually takes up 2 units of housing, as evidenced by the fact stated in your original post that 2 houses previously took took up the whole property. The only way anywhere near 8 units of housing would fit on that property is if the “housing” were camping tents. Even then it would be a bit of a squeeze. Second, you should really read this article from the Prep News. You will find that the entire community around the property was highly in favor of demolishing the buildings. And now the residents of the neighborhood are able to use the garden along with SLUH.

        http://student.sluh.org/prepnews/index.php/news/news/1526-commeeting


      • A unit of housing isn’t necessarily a building. These were both four family flats (a total of 8 units). The land that the current garden takes up was actually four lots – the other two had been demolished prior to me photographing the street. I’ll address the article in my follow-up – I personally don’t think that it exonerates SLUH.


      • I’d also like to point out that part of the land will be used to build a residence house for SLUH’s community of Jesuits, but SLUH, at the request of neighbors, put in a community garden to increase the land value.

        http://student.sluh.org/prepnews/index.php/news/news/2030-newgarden


  6. I hope you have clarified that this lot is a community garden that the neighborhood and school regularly contributes to.


  7. Dude fuck you man, you can’t just go around slandering about an institution such as sluh. Look at any institution in St. Louis and you’d see the exact same thing. This article is bullshit!


    • So the fact that other institutions are doing the same thing makes it ok?


  8. […] in November I posted about the demolition of a couple SLUH-owned building in the Kings Oak Neighborhood – two 4-family flats on the dead end block of Wise between the school and Kingshighway.  I […]



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