The Del Taco Situation

There have been a myriad of recent articles on the Post Dispatch about the possible demolition of the building that currently houses Del Taco on S Grand near SLU’s campus.  Since the question has been raised there has been an outpouring of support for the preservation of the building from people all over the St. Louis area.  They point to the fact that it is one of the only examples of Mid Century architecture left in the city.  It is no doubt a defining landmark in the Midtown streetscape, as well.  Here are some bullet points if you haven’t read the articles.

– The building was originally a Phillips 66 Filling Station built in the late 60’s

– Phillips 66 gave way to Naugles (mexican) which merged with Del Taco

– Chesterfield based Del Taco has been in bankruptcy court since 2009 and will be evicted from the building

– Rick Yackey, the face of the ownership of the building, wants to raze the building and put in more pedestrian friendly retail space in its place

– Yackey claims he has 2 national restaurant chains signed to letters of intent to occupy the proposed new spaces

– Yackey has received approval for a 10 Year Tax Abatement on the new project from the Board of Alderman

– Yackey is also proposing a 2 new tax districts to help finance the project

As a former Midtown resident and SLU alum the fact that this is even a discussion is a signal of progress to me.  Personally, I would love to see a walkable development on this section of Grand.  Although I’m not totally convinced that is what we’ll see in the end.  Yackey has mention that he wants the building to be set back from the street to allow more parking.  That kind of language doesn’t sound pedestrian friendly to me.   It sounds like a strip mall.  The fact is that Del Taco, the business, will be gone in a matter of months.  Anyone who is interested in preserving that part of it will be disappointed. So the question comes to mind, “What goes into the space next?”  The only thing that comes to mind easily is another restaurant or diner.  Its doubtful that another filling station could ever occupy that spot without major community backlash.  Its also hard to fathom a local retailer being able to afford the rent in a location like this.  That leaves us with chain restaurants and chains usually like to approve the spaces their franchises occupy from the corporate level.  It would take pretty open minded corporate management to approve a space like this, no matter how interesting the building itself may be.

It also seems no coincidence that Yackey is interested in making this change at the same time that the Grand bridge is being redone and will no doubt be more visually appealing in the end.  This is an opportunity for him to make a splash with potential lessees.  This is also piggybacking on all the great things going on near Chaifetz on the north side of campus, all the apartments that have been added on Lindell and Laclede in the last 10 years, along with a smattering of other retail that has gone in on all sides of campus over the last 5 year.

Regardless of what happens this is more good pub for Midtown as the area around SLU develops from an island to a neighborhood.

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