South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Sunset Hills rejects donation of historic Paraclete property

Sunset Hills Aldermen reject take over of historic property

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen has declined a donation from Alwal “Al” and Betty Moore to take over the historic Paraclete Fathers property in Tapawingo.

The Paraclete property is the former estate of “Papa” Joe Griesedieck and served as the home to the Paraclete Fathers. The property is made up of 10 buildings and is nestled in the Tapawingo Subdivision.

Up until recently, the property was leased from the Moores by Lindbergh Schools for $1 a year, but the district said it no longer had a use for the buildings.

sAt the Feb. 9 Board of Aldermen meeting, the board agreed they felt it would not be a financially sound decision to take over the property, with some aldermen wary of taking on further donated property after the rugby lease dispute at the donated Bander Park site.

Sunset Hills Director of Parks and Recreation Gerald Brown first told the board Al Moore approached him about donating the property to the city at the board meeting in January, in the interest of preserving some of the historic buildings.

“The Moore family has asked and has a proposal for the Board of Aldermen to donate the Paraclete property. … The property contains 11 structures, a pavilion, a gazebo, tennis courts and approximately four acres of heavy wooded area,” said Brown. “The Moore family would like to donate the entire 10 acres, requesting that we preserve four of the structures including the carriage house, smokehouse … and the chapel. The Moore family has agreed to demo the remaining six structures on the property.”

The Moore family said they would provide up to $225,000 to renovate the carriage house and the chapel, as well as funds for minimal maintenance for the first three years, not exceeding $126,000 across all three years. They also requested naming rights.

Per the Moores’ request, in return, the city would take ownership of the property and preserve the historical buildings on the site as well as the administrative facility as long as it is being utilized. The original Griesedieck family home would be demolished, but the city would preserve the footings and chimney. Additional amenities and maintenance would be at the city’s expense.

“We currently maintain approximately 300 acres of park space. The community center, the aquatic center, the athletic complex … We have a driving range, we have seven shelters, eight playgrounds, four tennis courts, two basketball courts, seven miles of walking trails, five restrooms, two disc golf courses and a fishing lake,” said Brown. “We also offer over 50 special events, activities, camps, throughout the year.”

The parks department is budgeted $1.3 million for 2021, with proposed revenue at $1.4 million.

“We looked at it as maybe a neighborhood preservation area. We were looking at – the current admin facility, maybe we would renovate that. … We might have to make some small renovations for that to make it practical use for rentals … so we can bring in additional revenue,” said Brown. “The carriage house … might be a historical museum. A place where the historical society holds meetings. Maybe we can house other items of historical value.”

After some further discussion on options for the property, the board directed Brown to conduct a survey via the city’s website to see if the residents would be interested in the city taking over the property.

At the Feb. 9 meeting, Brown presented the results of the survey to the board. The survey had 153 respondents, of which 65 percent said it was a good idea for the city to explore taking over the property, while 35 percent said no. The survey required that respondents enter a city address to verify they were a resident.

Another question from the survey asked if they felt the estimated care costs of the property, at $140,000, would be a good use of taxpayer dollars, of which 54 percent said yes while 46 percent said no.

“I just want to say, thank you … for your efforts on this. I think 153 responses is tremendous for what we’re talking about,” said Ward 2 Alderman Casey Wong.

Ward 4 Alderman Thompson Price said while the offer was generous, he did not think it was a good idea for the city on the basis that it could fasttrack the city being forced to take-over the Tapawingo subdivision streets. The streets are currently private, the subdivision is petitioning for the city to take them over.

“I really do not think that we need to take on this property. There’s a lot of additional expense. There’s always unforeseen things that come up. The biggest concern I have is for the last six years, I’ve discussed and I’ve met and we’ve had conversations about Tapawingo and their streets. If we want to guarantee that the city will be responsible for Tapawingo streets being made public, then you can approve this” said Price. “I think it’s a much grander effect if we approve this, we’re really going to be putting the city and the future residents of the city at a real disadvantage. I think it’s a great effort on the Moore family to donate this to the city, I think it is a major injustice and a mistake for us to take this on.”

Both then-Ward 2 Alderman Steve Bersche and Ward 3 Alderman Cathy Friedmann said they agreed with Price’s point.

“I would still like to see the carriage house somehow protected and I don’t know if that’s a responsibility of the city or that’s a responsibility of the Moore family,” said Ward 1 Alderman Ann McMunn, whose ward the property is. “I’m not really interested in the whole 10 acres. I think the historic building would be worth saving.”

Bersche, who is a real estate agent, said if the Moore family decides to sell the land, they could make it a stipulation of the deal to make sure the carriage house is preserved.

Ward 1 Alderman Joe Stewart was one of the dissenting voices, expressing his disappointment in the board’s direction.

“I think it’s an incredible donation. It’s beyond just donating property, it’s donating property along with a substantial amount of money to … reduce future expenses to the city,” said Stewart. “I think it’s very generous on Mr. Moore’s part and I’m sorry we can’t take this on and be apart of the historic preservation process but not everyone sees this the way I do.”

Brown said he would contact the Moore family and let them know the board’s decision.

This is not the first time the Moore family has had bad luck regarding the property. Previous efforts in 2013 to turn the property into a private library and children’s art space failed before the property was eventually leased by the Lindbergh school district for a dollar a year.

Moore has lived in Sunset Hills since before the city was incorporated and purchased the Paraclete property in 2010 for $2 million with the intention of preserving the historic estate.

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