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Meet the bass player helping restore harmony in St. Louis historic buildings

A career working on historic lofts led to Andy Barnes and his company spearheading a series of unique and historic projects in St. Louis
Credit: SLBJ
When he's not managing construction projects, Andy Barnes is the bass player for Dancing Earth Reunion, which performed last month at Delmar Hall.

ST. LOUIS — While attending college for economics, Andy Barnes took a series of detours that changed the course of his life. He took time off to tour with his rock band, and after college, chose a job in the construction industry because it paid better than economics. 

A career working on historic lofts with PARIC Construction led to Barnes, 54, and his company Artisan Construction Management, spearheading a series of unique and historic projects in St. Louis, including Square’s renovation of the former Post-Dispatch building downtown and, currently, the St. Louis Chess Club’s expansion into an entire block in the Central West End. Barnes also served as the chair of the Urban Land Institute from 2014 to 2016.

After more than 30 years, Maplewood resident Barnes is still the bassist of the band Dancing Earth Reunion, which reunites every few years for shows at the Pageant or Delmar Hall. One of the highlights of Barnes’ music career came as he was on a break from touring, driving to lunch with his mother. KSHE DJ Radio Rich Dalton introduced the band’s song by saying, “You could play it after Led Zeppelin and before the Rolling Stones and it would fit right in.”

What is your role on construction projects? Managing the decision process — there are thousands of decisions that need to be made on a project and need to have the best interests of the owner in mind and the best interests of the project. With Square, the landlord’s a stakeholder and has an architect, and Square has its own architect and own design. There was one general contractor that was acting in essence as two separate general contractors. Where I come in is managing this all in a team-like manner, making sure everyone's point of view, agenda and needs are taken care of.

As a native St. Louisan, what was it like to work on renovating the Post-Dispatch Building? I remember as a schoolkid going to see the printing presses, standing outside the window watching them run. So it was pretty rewarding. The landlord kept some of the printing presses and all of the bases, and so we on the tenants’ side got to build around them. We built a coffee bar in the middle of the press spaces on one end, and we built an event space on the other end that was built around the printing presses. And then underneath we turned the whole area into a lounge. It’s beautiful, it’s cool, and it’s also unique. There’s no other place on the planet that looks like that.

Why has your career focused so much on historic preservation? There’s new apartment buildings going up all over St. Louis, and they’re cool and they’re beautiful. But that exact same apartment building can be built in Denver or Cleveland or Tampa Bay, doesn’t matter. There’s no context for the place. But the Post-Dispatch Building could only have happened in St. Louis. Old buildings have a sense of character that just doesn’t exist in new buildings, and they’re beautiful. Nothing against new, but if you have an old building that you can do something with, it’s just the best use.

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