BENTON PARK – By placing the wrong kind of windows on the fronts of historic houses, a property management company has raised the ire of Benton Park neighborhood residents and the St. Louis Preservation Board.
After workers started installing vinyl windows in the houses without a permit, the city’s Cultural Resources Office placed a stop-work order on the project. Then the office informed the owner, Herbert Baumann, of Baumann Properties, that the windows violated the neighborhood’s historic district standards.
On Monday, the St. Louis Preservation Board agreed and withheld approval for the 25 historic homes where Baumann had installed the windows or had bought windows to install.
“In my mind, this is a company that’s large enough to know how to play by the rules,” said Tim Mulligan, who chairs the Benton Park Building Review Committee.
With 25 buildings, that has a huge impact in a neighborhood, 9th Ward Alderman Dan Guenther said.
But Baumann promised to sue for the right to install his kind of windows in his 25-building Senate Square in Benton Park. The houses are in an area generally bounded by Sidney Street on the north, Congress Street on the South, Lemp Avenue on the east and Salena Street on the west.
“We have put in about $2 million in improvements to the 25 buildings that we’ve owned there,” Baumann said. “We’ve literally salvaged and saved these buildings, and I have no doubt the neighborhood, because if these buildings had not been saved by us, they would have gone the same route as several others on those three streets.”
Baumann said that he had vinyl windows placed on the sides and backs of the buildings and that those were allowed. But on the fronts, he had to have wooden or aluminum windows to meet the historic guidelines.
“The problem with the historic windows is they’re three times the cost,” he said. Altogether, they could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more, he noted.
“It’s not the law, it’s somebody’s made-up requirements,” Baumann said. “They come in with some stupid requirements that have no bearing on reality.”
Baumann said about six or seven windows had been finished. But Jan Cameron of the Cultural Resources Office said about half of the windows had been installed.
Cameron said that if the violations weren’t corrected within 30 days, they would be referred to housing court.
Mulligan said he acknowledged the significance of the development, which was done in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“There has been considerable development that was legitimized, as they weren’t the first person to renovate the property,” he said.
However, he added, Baumann Properties is a significant professional property management company and should know what it has to do.
“We took a lot of work to put together local codes to try to get a standard for redevelopment in the Benton Park neighborhood,” he said. “We would like for the windows to be the same standards that we put everyone else through, whether it’s putting new construction in the neighborhood or rehabbing. Everyone follows the rules.”