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Council Plaza in 2011. "The Saucer" is now a Starbucks and Chipotle.
|Location||300 S. Grand Blvd., 212 S. Grand Blvd., 310 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri|
|Area||9 acres (3.6 ha)|
|Architectural style||Modern Movement|
|NRHP reference #||06000217|
|Added to NRHP||March 2, 2007|
Council Plaza is a housing development in St. Louis, Missouri. Located adjacent to the campus of Saint Louis University, it was built between 1964 and 1968 as a public housing development primarily for the elderly. The principal buildings of the complex are two high-rise apartment buildings, now called Grand View Tower Apartments and Council Tower Senior Apartments, and a former service station, later a fast food restaurant space also known as the SLU Del Taco. Before 2011 the restaurant building was a Del Taco restaurant The restaurant building, said to be reminiscent of a "flying saucer" spaceship, established a landmark presence on campus.
Before Grand Center rose to become an entertainment district in St. Louis, the area was a residential neighborhood located just west of the original core of the city. In the years after World War II, civic leaders regarded decaying neighborhoods to be the city’s biggest postwar problem. During this time in 1954, Mayor Raymond R. Tucker announced plans for the demolition of the Mill Creek Valley, which was destroyed in 1959 into what locals called the Hiroshima Flats. The area never attracted the investment that the mayor had thought and now Harris-Stowe and St. Louis University occupy the majority of the land.
The Council Plaza housing development, built with financing and support from Teamsters Local 688 and its leader, Harold J. Gibbons, transformed the Grand Center area in the 1950s and 60s. The two apartment towers, the 16-story Council Tower West (now the Grand View Apartments) and the 27-story Council Tower East (now the Council Tower Senior Apartments) were two of the first developments built in the Mill Creek Valley. This area became known as Council Plaza. The Council Tower Senior Apartments building is still one of the tallest residential structures in the metropolitan area; in 2011 this building, then "largely vacant", was sold and the new owner began an extensive renovation, including renovation of the 260 foot high sculpture that covers the tower's east facade.
The filling station building was built in 1967 based on a design by architect Richard Henmi. It was originally a Phillips 66 station, and later became a Del Taco restaurant. In 1967, the Phillips 66 was known for its bat-wing model, consisting of four tapered columns supporting a tapered round roof. The building developed the nickname “flying saucer” based on its distinct shape.
As news broke out about the city knocking down the landmark restaurant space in 2011, SLU community members protested through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter; petitions were presented with thousands of signatures, and protesters crowded outside Grand Boulevard holding signs that said "SOS: Save our saucer" and "it came all the way from Neptune, show it some respect". Protesters eventually took their campaign to the city board of aldermen to help further their efforts to protect the historic building. Advocates for the saucer opened a court case titled “Board Bill 118, the redevelopment of 212 S. Grand Boulevard."
This controversial issue divided the campus. While most of the students and alumni were against the demolition, SLU administrators like Father Lawrence Biondi, president of Saint Louis University, supported it. Biondi felt that the building drew too much attention and had caused too much crime and traffic problems. Ward 23 Alderman Joseph Vaccaro said he supported this bill, but would not support the Alderwoman bill, the bill opened to save The Saucer, because it has caused too many problems in the past. Eventually, the city announced that it would not knock down the building; instead, new tenants would be added, which later came to be Starbucks and Chipotle. This new project cost about $1.5 million.
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