They’ve begun to tear down the Brenton Tower, one of four public housing apartment buildings part of the Lansdowne Towers, located in the northeastern portion of East St. Louis. I’d been by here before, almost exactly two years ago, and one time since then (thought I didn’t take any pictures). They’re going to tear down at least three of them, maybe all four.
These demolitions of giant Modernist apartment buildings all sort of look the same; the pancaked floors hanging on by their steel rebar, piles of rubble, dust blowing around everywhere, etc. The only thing that changes is the color of the bland brick outer coating. See the demolition of the last Blumeyer apartment tower in St. Louis here, for comparison.
Hey, at least the steel and aluminum is recyclable!
I’m pretty ambivalent about taking sides in the testy political arguments people always get into following the demolition of public housing; in this instance, I was always confused about the location of these buildings. The area around the housing project has some very well maintained neighborhoods, with some abandonment.
But the high density is so weird and out of place in the early Twentieth Century suburban form of its surroundings of single family houses. Really, this level of density would have been much more appropriate in downtown in East St. Louis, where people could have walked to bus lines (and eventually Metro Link), or even walked the 15 minute trek across the Eads Bridge to jobs in downtown St. Louis (not a great option, but better than the 1.5 hour walk from Lansdowne Towers). But instead, they were stranded out here in an autocentric environment (the parking lots were small, so I assume the builders expected few residents to have cars, on top of it!). I checked the bus schedule, and the bus that serves the housing project only comes by every 45 minutes around rush hour, or all day, for that matter.
Public housing can work if it is properly funded and maintained–it just almost never is in America. The streets around the Lansdowne Towers will soon go back to looking like they did before their mid-Twentieth Century neighbors had joined them.
Shockingly, reading the article in the Post-Dispatch, I learned my monthly mortgage payment is lower than rent for one of the apartments in these buildings.