Opera Theatre To Build At Webster University

May 07, 2004
The Webster Groves City Council Tuesday adopted an ordinance granting a conditional use permit to the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Webster University to construct a new office/rehearsal facility on the Webster campus.

The proposal had generated considerable discussion at an April 20 public hearing prior to the bill's introduction, but no objections were raised this week as the council unanimously approved its passage.

Residents who live near the university, led by Greg Mueller, president of the Big Bend Neighborhood Association, had expressed concern that construction of the 17,000-square-foot structure on 1.3 acres on Hazel Avenue in the eastern section of Webster's campus would eliminate that site as a potential location for a new $20 million dormitory complex the university wants to build.

The university had submitted a proposal to build the dormitory at the southwestern edge of the campus along Big Bend Boulevard near Catalina Avenue but withdrew the plan in the face of strong opposition. Neighbors had suggested building the dorm on the Hazel tract as an alternative.

Karen Luebbert, Webster University vice president, earlier said the site on Hazel would not serve the needs of the university and noted that changes in ground elevation would cause problems in constructing a large dormitory building. The university has not yet presented an option to its previous plan.

The new Opera Theatre structure will include 10,000 feet of office space and 7,000 square feet of rehearsal space. The two-story building, estimated to cost $3 million, will replace three small houses owned by the university. Plans include over 30 parking spaces; overflow parking during rehearsals will be routed to the nearby university garage. The Opera Theatre currently has administrative offices in university property at 539 Garden Avenue.

The council also approved an ordinance granting a conditional use permit to G.A. Myles Automotive Services to operate a car repair business at 8777 Big Bend Boulevard in the Crossroads Business District.

Formerly Rudivani Precision Motorworks (RPM), the shop is now owned by Paul Lemcke and leased to Myles, who has been operating the repair shop for Volvo and Saab automobiles under a temporary merchant's license that expired May 4.

At another public hearing on April 20, residents had expressed opposition to the location of a car repair shop within the business district, claiming it is incompatible with the character of the neighborhood. The city plan commission had recommended approval of the application for a conditional use permit subject to a set of conditions designed primarily to improve the appearance of the facility. (Note: It was erroneously reported in the Times that Roger Grow, director of planning, recommended approval of the permit.)

In passing the ordinance the council voted to require that improvements recommended by the plan commission, such as repainting and installing new siding on the building and adding new lighting and fencing, be completed within three months, with one exception. To provide time for environmental testing, the council granted an extension to five months for removal of contaminated asphalt and soil at the site.

Council member Dotty DeLassus cautioned that the city would pay close attention that all conditions be met, including a limitation of parking only eight vehicles on the facility's lot and a prohibition on parking customer vehicles off premises at any time, except on private property leased for that purpose.

The council also passed an ordinance granting a conditional use permit to Crescent Oil Company, Inc. to operate a gasoline service station at 8455 Watson Road. The site was formerly a Vickers service station.

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