A pair of 100-year-old historic buildings would have to come down to make way for a new QuikTrip at the intersection of Butler Hill and Lemay Ferry roads if St. Louis County were to approve the plan, which has not yet reached the zoning stage.
QuikTrip proposes a new store at 5040 Lemay Ferry Road. The two historic buildings at the corner, the Kassebaum Building, also known as the Sessions Building, would be torn down to make way for the new development. The plan would only take down the first two buildings on the corner, not the other two buildings, including the Kassebaum House that currently houses a hair salon.
The property is under contract to QuikTrip, pending St. Louis County zoning. No zoning plan has been submitted as of press time. QuikTrip does not plan to seek any type of tax-increment financing or tax incentives, said Gwen Keen, QuikTrip’s director of real estate. Keen held town halls on the plan in March, one in person and one virtual.
Sessions Furniture operated out of the store for many years, but moved to a different location in 2001 and used the building for storage until 2015. The building has been completely vacant for four years, according to QuikTrip. The cost to get it renovated enough to open it to the public again is estimated at $3 million.
QuikTrip said it would “honor the significance of the location” by taking brick from the building and using it in a monument wall directly on the corner that would include the concrete facade lettering that says “Kassebaum.”
QuikTrip capitalized on the historic buildings in its presentation at the town hall, saying QuikTrip would be “bringing a new generation to Lemay Ferry & Butler Hill Road.” The new store would bring six full-time and 10-14 part-time employees, and no employee has ever been laid off in the history of QuikTrip.
A traffic study from consultant CBB was due in mid-April, but still has not been delivered as of The Call’s press time. CBB is currently using a formula with historic traffic patterns to adapt its traffic studies during the COVID-19 pandemic to normal traffic numbers.
Traffic was one of the chief concerns from neighbors of the new gas station at both town halls.
In response to area residents who said that Lemay Ferry along that stretch is now a highway to Arnold with people racing to beat red lights, Keen said, “We are not going to improve the traffic, so if you don’t like it now, you’re not going to like it then. … What we will look to do and the traffic study does is find out what impact QuikTrip has on that traffic. They will evaluate our impact and then we will work with county DOT and MoDOT in order to mitigate that impact,” which could be as easy as changing signal light intervals or as broad as adding a turn lane, which would come from the county traffic fund.
But residents still said that, through no one’s fault, traffic at the corner could be dangerous with the addition of a QuikTrip there. A neighbor who identified herself as Kathy said, “I love QuikTrip, but it seems like an accident waiting to happen, and not because of people’s habits.”
One of the criticisms lobbied at the new project is that there are too many gas stations in the area or that there are too many QuikTrips. If the Butler Hill QT went in, the company would operate three QuikTrips along Lemay Ferry itself, not counting others nearby. The company is already closing its location at 3475 Lemay Ferry Road in favor of building a new store at the corner of Lemay Ferry and South Lindbergh Boulevard, so there would be five vacant or operating QuikTrips within 4.3 miles.
“What makes you guys believe that there’s going to be that many more people that need gas?” asked Brian Gerth, who lives nearby off Ringer Road.
QuikTrip has two stores within a mile of each other along St. Charles Rock Road in Bridgeton, and both are highly successful due to traffic patterns, Keen noted.
“There’s a lot of people out there who would love to know how QuikTrip makes its determinations because they want to know what the ‘secret sauce’ is, shall we say, and so we don’t disclose a lot of that,” Keen said. “All I can tell you is we’ve been pretty successful in our store locations. … We are fully aware of how many gas stations we have in the area. We do extensive research in our site selection because we are making a multimillion-dollar investment and we’re not the type of company that only goes in for a few years — we do a lot of traffic flow investigation, we do growth and what’s going on in the area. … We are confident that a store of this size and with the pumps that we have … will be very successful at this intersection.”
Walkability will be something that’s considered by QuikTrip, which is always looking to accommodate walk-ups, Keen said.
“One of the things that we love for people to do is to walk to the QuikTrip, we want them to feel and know that it’s a community location,” she said. “A lot of people when they go to those locations, especially the hospital, walking up to the QuikTrip is a great thing to do to take a break — get some sunshine and maybe get a beverage or something like that.”
Cindy Jean, a virtual participant, said she completely opposed tearing down the historic building because she and her mother have a family connection to people who have lived in the apartments in the Kassebaum building.
“We have no interest in this building being torn down, we would like to protect the history,” Cindy said, before noting concerns about traffic flow and 24-hour lighting. “… We’d love to help save the building.”
In response to Cindy, Keen said, “I like historical buildings too, and I am not unsympathetic and especially I know it’s heartbreaking when you have a personal connection to it — unfortunately with the condition of that building, it’s just not feasible. At some point in the very near future, that building’s going to have to come down just because of the structural issues, and unfortunately I don’t know other people that would try to do what we’re doing.”
Part of the strategy behind QuikTrip coming to that intersection is to capitalize on the new Barnes-Jewish South Campus of St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the nearby shopping centers.
Jacob Anderson-Little, who can see the top of the Kassebaum building from where he lives, said he would prefer for the historic building to stay but if it can’t, QuikTrip could make up to some extent for the loss by donating to the Sappington House, which is currently raising money to move a 200-year-old historic log cabin to its museum in Crestwood.
“I’m proud to tell people I’m from Butler Hill and Lemay Ferry and that’s where I grew up, playing in Mattese Creek — this area used to be called East Mattese. Kasselbaum used to be the postmaster,” Anderson-Little said. “… I think helping them lock down that Sappington house would be a really powerful way to offset the loss of what is some truly great history.”
Paul Deluca noted that QuikTrip already left behind an empty shell of a building along Lemay Ferry Road in Lemay when it demolished some historic buildings and built a new QuikTrip across the street from the old store.
Keen responded that QuikTrips are “built to last,” and the company plans on operating the Butler Hill-Lemay Ferry location for “20-plus years, if not longer.”
Not everyone said they were against the project, however. Kyle Govero said that some nearby business workers were “pretty excited” about having a QuikTrip next to their workplace. He asked how long it would be before the QuikTrip could be up and running if it got all approvals, and Keen said it could be 18 months from when a zoning plan is submitted.
Although most of the comments at the town halls were negative, Keen said she did receive emails and phone calls in support of the QuikTrip.