Melba Theater/Grandview Arcade Building Renovation

Oh boy, I’m on cloud nine with these preservation projects in South City that were announced this year.

If the Shepard School renovation to apartments wasn’t enough, how about a former theater and South Grand beauty that has been long vacant and abused over the years.

Back in 2015 I did a series of posts on the remaining operational St. Louis movie theaters, the ones we lost and some African-American theaters as well. It was some of the most fun I’ve had doing this site.

Cinema Treasures was an invaluable resource in finding photos and write ups on these old theaters. Here’s the entry on the Melba:

“The Melba Theatre was opened on November 29, 1917. After adding a long succession of neighborhood houses, Fred Wehrenberg acquired the Melba Theatre. The 1,190-seat house on Grand Avenue had an airdome next to it. During warm evenings, shows would be stopped in the auditorium, and film reels carried to the airdome. The movie would then continue in the cooler outdoors. When built, the Melba Theatre had a park in front of it. Later, an office building with stores was constructed on the site of the park. It formed an arcade which led to the lobby of the theater. When the theater was torn down, the office building remained. The marquee from the Melba Theatre was moved to the Melba Theatre in DeSoto, Missouri, another theater acquired by the Wehrenberg chain.”

Here are photos of the Melba from the old days, the sign in De Soto, MO and a picture of the Grandview Arcade from the 1970s.

I first learned of this project from an article on NextSTL back in February, 2018:

Garcia Properties announced yesterday their acquisition of the Grandview Arcade building at 3600 S Grand Blvd in the Gravois Park Neighborhood. Built in 1925, the ornate terra cotta clad 30,000 square foot building was designed to serve as the entrance to the existing Melba Theatre building which was built in 1917 and located directly behind the Grandview Arcade.
— Jason Deem - NextSTL

Garcia Properties is a bona fide St. Louis business doing some great work all over town. They were behind the beautiful renovation of Gratiot School at Hampton and Manchester, and many others.

One of my favorite buildings on South Grand, the Grandview Arcade is a another major preservation win for St. Louis. The building has been abused in its abandonment with the taggers and other trespassers breaking in and trashing it. I feared we might lose this one to the firebugs.

I was thrilled to see the construction dumpsters on site today, with the investment and love it takes to turn these old buildings into new apartments.

What a joy. The Gravois Park Neighborhood is a little cooler and brighter today.

Here are some photos as of publishing.

My hope is that some of the granite and terra cotta elements that appear to have been removed will be part of the renovation. My other hope is the South Side National Bank ghost sign will be kept, it’s a cool font.

St. Louis is on the rise, folks.