Rehab Begins

Once the primary demo was completed, we were ready to invite contractors into the space to begin providing services – plumbing, electricity, heating and cooling – to the upstairs apartments. Entirely new services and panels were required for the wiring, a new two inch connection to the water main was installed to replace the 1/2 inch connection that had served the building since 1905, and new gas lines had to connect to meters in the basement through two floors and foot-thick stone walls. The formerly abandoned property became a beehive of activity as we moved the property in the direction of occupancy.

While the electricians broke through the walls to run wiring and install switch and outlet boxes . . .

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the plumbers ran pex and pvc piping up through the building for sinks, toilets, showers and sewer lines . . .

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and the HVAC folks installed ducts and furnaces . . .

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I worked on insulating the ceilings . . .

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and building walls to frame out the bathrooms and closets.

 

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First Tasks

The first tasks in our building included:

Selling and removing the booths in the dining room to make room for a performance space;

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Removing the lathe and plaster from the ceiling in the middle upstairs apartment (6913)

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Tearing out ceilings and walls from the rear storage areas;

extra room behind dining room

And chipping the plaster from the stone walls in two of the three upstairs apartments, which created over four tons of rubble that we then hauled down the stairs and around the back of the building to a 30 yard dumpster.

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SECURING THE SITE

On October 27, 2017, Esther and Beth began canvassing the neighborhoods of St. Louis with a printed map of properties they wanted to look at. They were in the market for the perfect mixed-use building, preferably on a mostly-commercial street in a dense, diverse neighborhood, that needed enough work to make it affordable and not so much that they wouldn’t be able to manage it physically or financially.

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Early the following week, they made an offer on a building at 6911-17 South Broadway in the Carondelet district, an economically, socially, and geographically mixed neighborhood along the Mississippi River about ten minutes from downtown St. Louis. The property actually contained two joined buildings, one with a former diner downstairs and a two-bedroom apartment upstairs, and the second with two storefronts, one of which had been the dining room for the restaurant and the other a storage room stacked from floor to ceiling with wooden furniture parts, and with two one-bedroom apartments upstairs.

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On November 16, after selling her property in Michigan, Beth moved to St. Louis. Upon returning to the property, things looked both better and worse than they had the first time around. The diner was still amazing, the kitchen beyond their wildest dreams.

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The future performance space seemed a bit daunting since eight double booths that seemed to be cemented to the floor had to be removed before any other work could begin.

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The back stairway, the only entrance to the two-bedroom apartment above the diner, was a literal death trap. . .

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. . . and the other two upstairs apartments, upon closer look, felt like little more than sagging ceilings, giant gaps in the floors, crumbling plaster, and serious water damage.

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Yet, despite learning that the entire roof was going to need replacement and that each apartment was going to require it’s own electrical panel, plumbing system, and furnace, there were some bright spots. A structural engineer judged the building in fine form, the ceilings just a symptom of age and the century-old beams perfectly sound. Behind the plaster, the nearly foot-and-a-half thick exterior walls were constructed of beautiful stone and, though it would be a lot of work, it was possible to chip the plaster off to expose the stone in the future living spaces. The windows across the front of each apartment had been replaced and operated smoothly, filling each apartment with light. Perhaps most important of all, an inventory of the ‘wood room’ downstairs revealed enough inch-thick hardwood boards to provide flooring for the entire building twice over.

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On December 7, the home of MARSH became officially established at 6911-17 S. Broadway.