When word got out that developers planned on tearing down the iconic Del Taco building on South Grand, people took to the Internet to voice their displeasure. Right now, the “Save St. Louis Del Taco” Facebook page is at just over 8,500 followers.
A lot of people are wondering what the big deal is. I’ll tell you.
First, the building is on the National Registry of historic places. It wouldn’t be on the list if it wasn’t unique. It wouldn’t be on the list if there wasn’t some historical significance. Why tear down something that has character? Is it as beautiful as the Fabulous Fox Theater down the street? Nope. But can you really imagine anything else in that spot? Nope. Even when Del Taco closes, as it inevitably will, the building will stand out in its individuality.
Second, people care because they have memories there. As someone who can’t show her daughter where she really went to high school because the building is gone, I can understand the outcry. Students at St. Louis University frequent the taco shop and create memories there. It’s no fun to drive past a location where something used to be and try to recall it. But seeing it as it once was, even under a different incarnation, still holds that memory. And continues to create memories.
This morning on the radio one of my favorite talk show hosts was all for tearing down the building and creating something new. In his opinion, it would give people jobs. Yes, that is true. BUT what about all the abandoned buildings in the area that are falling in on themselves? What about all the empty historical homes that could be refurbished and made beautiful again? There are jobs there too, but he didn’t say anything about that.
Tearing down the building is all about the cold, hard cash. The developers see an opportunity to add more business in one spot, thereby boosting their own income. There isn’t anything wrong with that. That’s what they do. If only they could see the value of history over the value of a buck.
Like so many other people, I hope the building stays. I hope that another restaurant can open up there and continue the late night food craving tradition. And I hope that the developers look at the building for what it is, not what they want to put there.
St. Louis has a rich history. It would be a shame to start tearing it down.