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Proposed Public Buildings Area

It was not until after World War II that the City began to consider leaving the County-City Building and looking for its own City Hall. In 1935, City Light moved into its own building, at Third between Madison and Spring Streets, providing some breathing room for the other City offices. Explorations into a government buildings center were made in the mid-1940s. But, a tenant in the County-City building since 1916, the County asked the City to look for its own space in the late 1950s. The County needed the space and City government needed a building of its own.

In 1945 the City Planning Commission hired St. Louis city planner Harland Bartholomew to conceive a plan for a consolidated government center. Bartholomew, known by some as "the dean of U.S. city planners," was also a consultant to the City in 1923 during the development of the City’s first zoning code.

development rendering
Development rendering

The Planning Commission submitted a "Report on Proposed Public Buildings Area" in 1945 which incorporated Bartholomew’s work. The report defined the "Public Buildings Area" as "a space set aside in the city's planning program for the location of government offices." The Public Buildings Area was specifically not intended to be a Civic Center, such as San Francisco had, which incorporated cultural institutions. The report identified the two blocks between Third and Fourth Avenues from James Street to Columbia as "the best sites for any public buildings" because of the proximity both to businesses and other governmental offices.

development plan
Development plan

"The Public Buildings Area should have dignity, beauty, and a suitable approach [and] be established in a region which is capable of architectural and landscape treatment commensurate with the importance of the development and civic pride," the report stated.

The City Planning Commission also reported on the possibility of utilizing the Smith Tower for municipal departments. However, the Commission reported that, although Smith Tower was very serviceable for commercial tenants, it was "wholly unsuited to any combination of municipal departments which could be sheltered within it."

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