Circa 2001 - the entire block is surrounded by construction fences
The article exerpts below were current events when I originally posted them; as the threat of demolition has receded, they become more historical artifacts. They are posted here as an archive, a record of what nearly was a travesty.
July 20, 2000, Post-Dispatch: "Credit developer Mark Finney of the Conlon Group with patience, a good lawyer and a little bit of luck. Finney purchased the Syndicate Trust Building in 1993 for $625,000 and signed an agreement with the City of St. Louis to redevelop it. After he had relocated most of the tenants of the functioning building, demolished large sections of the interior fixtures, ringed a portion of the building with a fence, and cannibalized the air handling systems and escalators for salvage...", Finney ultimately decided he wishes to demolish the complex.
July 24, 2000, Post-Dispatch: "A judge will decide soon whether he or a jury will determine the value of the Syndicate Trust Building, a deteriorated downtown landmark that a commission decided this month is worth $6 million. The city, which is seeking the Syndicate Trust through condemnation, is appealing the decision by a three-person commission appointed by the judge to decide the building's value."
July 27, 2000, Post-Dispatch: "It's time for the city of St. Louis to decide if it wants the Syndicate Trust building and the adjoining Century building or not. If the city wants it, all it has to do is sit down with the owner, Mark Finney of the Conlon Group, and negotiate a price based on the fair market value. Heck, says Daniel Finney, brother and attorney for Mark Finney, they're even willing to work out a payment plan. It's a tempting offer and one the city shouldn't be too quick to brush off..."
August 12, 2000, Post-Dispatch: "Once again, owners of the Syndicate Trust and Century building complex downtown say they plan to seek the city's permission to raze it. They want to replace the structure with a parking garage. The owners also have applied again for permission to erect a fence in the middle of the streets around the deteriorating complex, contending they need to protect the public in case something falls off. The complex...once housed the old Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney department store." (The claims of this danger have been refuted by others in print.)
September 14th, 2000, Post-Dispatch:
"The Syndicate Trust-Century Building is a "deteriorating, dangerous hulk squatting in the heart of downtown St. Louis" and needs to come down almost immediately, [Circuit Judge Robert H. Dierker Jr.] ruled Thursday... [Dierker] gave the city and the building's owner 30 days to submit a demolition plan.
"Dierker's ruling resulted from a controversy over putting a fence in the
middle of Olive Street. Conlon Group Inc., which owns the building, said
the fence is needed to protect people from falling bits of the building
facade. The city rejected the plan and demanded repairs instead.
"All parties agree that the Syndicate Trust Building is a public nuisance and that nuisance is abatable," Dierker wrote in his order.
"There is only one abatement measure suited to this case: immediate demolition," the judge added. "Every day's delay increases the likelihood of
a death or serious injury to citizens of this city."
Mark Finney, head of Conlon, said the future of the building could be
determined by Pyramid Construction Co., which has a contract to buy the
structure. Pyramid has announced plans to buy the Syndicate
Trust-Century and other old, nearly-empty buildings nearby.
Finney said that he and Pyramid's head, John Steffen, are scheduled to close on the sale in November. "I have a contract with Steffen," Finney said. "So if he performs, he's the guy who's going to dictate what happens with the building."
"If the sale falls through, Finney said, he will proceed with demolition to make way for a parking garage...
"Dierker said the Syndicate Trust-Century is too far gone to save. It "is a derelict, full of rubbish and literally falling apart inside and out," he wrote.
"The record is equally clear that there is no way on earth to rehabilitate
the building to put it to an economically viable use," the judge said. "There
is not a scintilla of evidence that anyone . . . could obtain a fraction of
the financing to rehabilitate the buildings...."
February 25th, 2001, Post-Dispatch:
"...With a scant week to go before Pyramid's John Steffen has to come up
with a few million dollars to exercise his option to purchase Mark
Finney's Syndicate Trust/Century Building complex, some downtown real
estaters aver that the original deal is off for now. Steffen, say some of the
birds flocked around the Old Post Office, has offered less cash and a
higher nonrefundable option fee to keep the deal alive after Wednesday."
March 1st 2001, Post-Dispatch:
"John Steffen's Pyramid Construction Inc. acquired the historic
Arcade/Wright building Wednesday. But the fate of nearby
Syndicate Trust and Century complex, which Pyramid also
intended to buy by a deadline today, remains uncertain.
"...Pyramid...planned to buy the Syndicate Trust from Mark
Finney for $6.5 million and resell it to the Spinnaker Cos., a
real estate development and management firm in Stamford,
"Spinnaker representative Amos Harris said Wednesday the
company intends to buy the Frisco and Paul Brown. But he
said it doesn't want to pay as much as $6.5 million for the
Syndicate Trust and Century.
"Steffen couldn't be reached. But Finney said he will demolish
the complex if the sale doesn't go through for $6.5 million
March 2nd, 2001, Post-Dispatch:
"The nearly-empty Syndicate Trust and Century building is
facing the wrecking ball once again after St. Louis Circuit
Judge Robert H. Dierker Jr. said in an order Thursday he'll
approve demolishing it as soon as the owner files proof of a
Dierker took the action after John Steffen's Pyramid
Construction Co. failed to close by a Thursday deadline on an
option to buy the complex for $6.5 million from owner Mark
Finney and his Conlon Group.
The article further states that Pyramid had been counting on Spinnaker to help finance the deal; Spinnaker representative "Harris said earlier this week that "we did our due
diligence and came to the conclusion the building is just not
worth what Finney is asking for." Harris said Spinnaker had
offered $5 million, but said that Finney, who bought it for
$625,000 seven years ago, refused the offer as not enough.
" Steffen also had put up $400,000 in nonrefundable earnest
money to get the option, which he's now lost. [Wow. Finney really cleaned up, eh?]
" Finney couldn't be reached after the judge's order Thursday.
But he said earlier in the day that he believes the buildings,
near the Old Post Office and the upcoming convention hotel,
were worth more than $6.5 million today. He also said that the
complex, once the home of the old
Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney department store, was unsafe
and too dilapidated to renovate. He wants to replace it with a
" City preservation officials, as well as preservationists, have
long contended that the complex can be renovated and have
blocked Finney's earlier efforts to demolish it. The City
Counselor's office can appeal Judge Dierker's latest order,
but officials there couldn't be reached Thursday..."
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