Loop trolley to use History Museum land for construction staging site

The Missouri History Museum has finally found a use for its lot on Delmar Boulevard.

The museum’s board of trustees voted Wednesday to lease the now infamous rectangle of land — once owned by former museum trustee and St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. — to the Loop Trolley project, to be used as a staging site for construction.

Last week, the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District board passed a resolution agreeing to use the land for staging. The district would pay the museum $10 a month for the first year-and-half of the two-year agreement, and $2,500 a month for the final six months — an attempt, the museum’s attorney said, to get the construction equipment off site sooner.

Romondous Stover, chairman of the History Museum Subdistrict, which oversees the $10 million a year in property tax dollars sent to the museum, said the subdistrict reviewed the agreement too long ago for him to remember the specifics. But his board supported the concept, he said.

“It’s good to see the land being put to use,” Stover said.

The Delmar lot caused months of turmoil at the museum nearly two years ago, eventually leading to an overhaul of museum governance as well as the ouster of President Robert Archibald.

The museum bought the property, 5863 Delmar, in 2006. Archibald had hoped to build a community center there. Six years later, as the land sat fallow, a Zoo-Museum District report and Post-Dispatch stories detailed the purchase: The board paid $875,000 to former mayor and trustee Bosley, and a partner, for land worth just $260,000. The museum didn’t get an appraisal before buying. Nor did it disclose that the land was polluted and required as much as $300,000 in cleanup costs.

Soon thereafter, it scrapped the project. Board members said they aimed to sell the land once the real estate market rebounded.

Chris Poehler, the trolley district administrator, said it would now be helpful to the trolley project.

The district is prepped to go out to bid in the next 10 days for the main contract, building the track, overhead wire, bridgework and greenway, for about $20 million of the $43 million total.

Poehler said construction should start in late August or early September. Contractors will need a staging site, where they can leave trucks, trailers, equipment and materials, he said. The museum land will probably save the district money.

Stover, the museum subdistrict chairman, said he expected the trolley would be good for the museum, too. The trolley will bring patrons to the museum, and, at the same time, encourage development along Delmar.

Leasing the lot might not directly help the museum figure out what to do with the land. But it will help, he figured.

Will the trolley drive up the value of the museum’s lot?

That, Stover said, would be great.

Frances Levine, the museum’s new president, said mere mention of the word “Delmar” had been “radioactive” for the museum.

The museum and the community, she said, need to move on.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch ©June 2014

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