Home » McDonald's on Grand »Planning & Design »Politics/Policy »South City »Suburban Sprawl » Currently Reading:

Urbanists Need to Stand Up To Ald. Florida on Future of Grand

It seems 15th Ward Alderwoman Jennifer Florida is upset a committee of the Dutchtown South Community Corporation opposed her new pet project, the relocation of a McDonald’s fast food restaurant. Her letter to the DSCC President Brian Bast and copied to the board:

I think it inappropriate for a subcommittee to oppose or support commercial development no South Grand, an area outside of your neighborhood association.

Appropriate process would prescribe a subcommittee making a recommendation to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors would vote to make comment of support or opposition regarding development projects in your area. I assume you did not have the support of your Board. I question your process.

I disagree with your reasoning for opposing the overall development of South Grand. I am enclosing my testimony from the conditional use hearing regarding McDonald’s, February 16, 2006.

Oh, Bravo Ms. Florida. This all sounds good except you are in no position to question anyone’s process. As I reported earlier, Ald. Florida shows up at the committee meeting two days before the hearing on the subject without a site plan on the project. She instead attempts to divert attention to the glorious Southside National Bank project already underway. All the while she actually has a copy of the site plan with her but she doesn’t want to show it because she realizes nobody would be happy. And yet she questions the process of this committee?

The fact is the project was submitted to the city more than a month earlier and she had possession of the drawings. She had sufficient time to present full information to the Dutchtown board, but didn’t. The Board was aware the information would be presented to the committee just two days prior to the public hearing.

As far as being outside the neighborhood association that is technically true — by one city block. Dutchtown’s northern boundary is Chippewa, directly across the street from the current McDonald’s and just one block from the proposed site. The DSCC also serves part of the neighborhood known as Gravois Park — the neighborhood where the new McDonald’s is to be located. This is highly appropriate for Dutchtown to speak up.

What is questionable is the Grand-Oak Hill’s support of the relocated McDonald’s. You see, they’ll end up losing the current problem McDonald’s from their area. Also, one has to wonder how influenced they were in their support since they are heavily reliant on Ald. Florida for their operating funds. We also have to question the testimony of 25th Ward Committeewoman Maggie Lampe. She testified at the hearing about questioning Dutchtown’s process but failed to mention her job is funded by Ald. Florida.

Supporting Documents (PDF) for your review:

  • Dutchtown’s Letter
  • Ald. Florida’s Letter to Dutchtown
  • Ald. Florida’s Testimony at Hearing
  • For a counterpoint to Florida’s testimony please read Ald. Craig Schmid’s testimony from the same hearing.

    The residents in the area oppose a drive-thru restaurant on the site of the old Sears. They are part of the 15th Ward (Florida) and 20th Ward (Schmid). Remember that Schmid’s ward is a mere two blocks from the site and only a block from Dutchtown. Ald. Florida is pushing hard for this project over the objections of her constituents. The fact most of her constituents are near Tower Grove Park and probably are not that involved with this far edge of the ward is often overlooked.

    I ask that everyone reading this site email Jennifer Florida and tell her what you think of a low-density fast-food drive-thru in an urban area. If Florida is not your alderman I suggest you contact your alderman as well and tell them you don’t want them deferring to her on this subject. I also ask that everyone email Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury and Mayor Francis Slay. Until these officials hear from us they will continue with business as usual. Feel free to post the text of your emails in the comments section below for all to read.

    – Steve


    Currently there are "21 comments" on this Article:

    1. Joe Frank says:

      Thanks for following this issue so carefully and for posting these documents, Steve! These sorts of items really ought to be part of the public record.

      I’ve never really understood why the Dutchtown South Community Corporation territory western boundary in the area north of Chippewa is Compton, rather than Grand. That leaves out this entire chunk of Gravois Park. Maybe there was a good reason in the 1960s for that boundary drawing.

      Anyway, my favorite statement from Ald. Florida is the following:

      “As Alderman, I have not received a phone call/complaint regarding McDonald’s in the past five years regarding loitering, noise or trash.”

      But, if you look at the CSB records for that address, you’ll see almost 30 complaints in the past five years. Yes, most relate to food health and safety concerns. But shouldn’t she be a little worried about that, too?

      [REPLY – A number of people have indicated to me they have, in fact, complained to Ald. Florida about this McDonald’s. She has selective hearing.

      But for me I don’t care if the McDonald’s had a perfect track record, I don’t want to see new construction of suburban-ish fast food establishments in areas that should be urbanized. – SLP]

    2. You can look up CSB records? Do tell, Joe.

    3. You can look up CSB records by address on the city’s relatively new Geo St. Louis website:


      It’s where I learned there was a complaint for “exterior rat infestation” at our house just a few weeks before we first looked at it!

    4. John Q says:

      Well, Alderman Florida’s letter certainly has a longer list of “cc’s” than Alderman Schmid’s.

      That must count for something…

    5. Brian says:

      Ms. Florida, if McDonald’s is such an asset to the community, indeed a “lynchpin” to other development as you say, why is it then important to “buffer” nearby market-rate housing from this supposedly urban McDonald’s with affordable housing? If it’s truly “pedestrian friendly” as you claim, one would think a “buffer” isn’t necessary.

      Intuitively, a buffer is used to mitigate the potential negative impacts of a property, and is often employed in suburban, auto-oriented land use patterns. Sharing the buffer concept in her own testimony would imply that even Ms. Florida partly realizes that a drive-thru fast-food use risks detriment to surrounding properties, a notion that the greater Dutchtown community rightly suspects.

      Perhaps, those who live in Tower Grove Heights are well insulated from this development, buffered themselves first by Gravois, a very wide arterial, and then several blocks of more affordable housing. But Greater Dutchtown, including Gravois Park, is a neighborhood of working class folks already living in more affordable housing, unlike the rather gentrified Tower Grove Heights. I’m sorry Ms. Florida, but I think the residents of Dutchtown are already tired of being a buffer and would rather see truly urban development like SSNB and Melba continue, instead of settling for yet another drive-thru trash generator.

    6. Julia says:

      I live in TGH and certainly don’t approve of the favoritism being shown to this franchise owner. I question why, when there have been numerous, documented complaints regarding trash and food quality, this owner is being rewarded with a new location for a new store. The soundness of the alderwoman’s decision is questionable. I am particularly disturbed by her attempts to stifle public comment.

      Since I am unfamiliar with the administrative process involved here, can you explain to us what is the next step in which citizen comments can be made and, hopefully, heard and considered by TPTB. Thanks.

    7. Eric says:

      An excerpt from an email that I just sent to Alderwoman Florida

      I write to you to say that I am extremely disappointed that you support the relocation of the McDonald’s at Grand and Chippewa to 3708 S. Grand. I have not heard from anyone who supports this move. In fact, most people I’ve heard from would rather that McDonald’s just go away. It is filthy, the people are rude and there is trash all over the parking lot.

      The residents of the Grand and Gravois area want urban development. In your letter of support you say that this is an urban, pedestrian friendly development. I beg to differ, Ms. Florida. I’ve seen the site plan. The one way lane around the building is 24 feet wide when only 22 feet is required for two-way traffic. That’s not very pedestrian friendly! And were is all the Landscaping?

      Also, as a resident of the Gravois Park Neighborhood Association, I would appreciate not being lied to. Last year at a Gravois Park Neighborhood Meeting you specifically said that the McDonald’s would not relocate to 3708 S. Grand. I am very upset that you told other neighborhood associations in your ward of your McDonald’s plans without informing the one neighborhood that would be most affected by this move.

      Please plan to be at the next Gravois Park Neighborhood Meeting. We deserve an explanation!!!! The meeting is tonight, 2/14, at 6pm at St. Matthew’s Church on the corner of Potomac and Louisiana. And just in case you can’t make this meeting, our regular meetings are the second Tuesday of every month at 6pm at that same location.

    8. Eric says:

      Woops, the Gravois Park Neighborhood Association meeting is at Potomac & Jefferson at St. Matthew’s Church, not Potomac & Louisiana as I stated in my earlier post.

    9. Mike says:

      Does anyone know of a McDonald’s that would meet the needs of the neighborhood? I agree that this layout isn’t what we need at the site, but I hate to run a business out of the area if its possible to work with them.

      Would a redesign with no Grand-facing curb cuts (and obeying the other development restrictions, like the landscaping buffer) be enough? Does anyone have an example of a McDonalds in another city that we could direct the franchisee toward?

    10. Dale Sweet says:

      Well, Mike, the McDonald’s could stay just where it is and the franchisee could spend whatever it takes to bring its current location up to McDonald’s Corp. standards. I don’t believe that we can oppose that.

      The problem, among many other things, is that McD would receive a 10-year tax abatement for something that was never in the development plan for the prospective site. Indeed, drive-through restaurants there are prohibited by ordinance!

    11. Mike says:

      Well the tax abatement makes it a deal-breaker for me. I hadn’t read closely enough to notice that. With the home office forcing the franchisee to rebuild every decade anyway, that makes a permanent tax-free use of the site – definitely not worth that. If they aren’t making enough profit to pay their taxes, the location can’t be that great for them anyway.

      I am curious about what an urban McD’s would look like, though. I just haven’t been able to picture an example where they’ve done what we’d want.

    12. anon says:

      Mike, the following links show a good example of an urban McDonald’s! If something similar would be built here, I’d support Ald. Florida:



    13. Itsa Kroc says:

      ^That is an over-bloated piece of crap. The River North neighborhood in Chicago has been permantly scarred by this transgression. They missed a “golden” opportunity when they replaced the misplaced “Rock-n-Roll” McDonald’s with a copy of their original auto-oriented stores but on steroids — ala “Honey I Blew Up the McDonald’s.”

      Funny, only a few blocks north at Chicago & State is a marvelous example of an urban McDonald’s with a drive-thru that is built up to the corner and incorporates an “L” stop and a small corner park that serves as outdoor dining. It could be a little better by occupying the first floor of at least a 2-story building but it is the best example of an urban free-standing McDonald’s that I have ever seen. Steve, can you post photos of that store?

      [REPLY – I agree with your take on that two-story McDonald’s, way overblown. However, it at least fully occupies the site. And yes, I’ve got images of a compact urban McDonald’s that I will post this week. – SLP]

    14. anon says:

      Itsa Kroc, here are some photos of urban mcDonalds that should please you: http://skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=205586&page=2&pp=20

      I don’t believe that the mcdonald’s in question is an “over-bloated piece of crap”. Have you actually been there and seen it in person? It was designed in such a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the mcdonald’s restaurant – which started out as an auto oriented restaurant. And do you really think the great city of Chicago is actually scarred from this bold architecture? I’m not here to support mcDonald’s corp. or the proposed mcdonald’s on Grand–I don’t eat at mcdonald’s that often, but, at times we all need a quick bite to eat.

    15. Josh says:

      I also think that the Chicago McDonalds was not the best example of an “urban” McDonalds. Here are three links to much more “urban” McDonalds until Steve gets a chance to post his images. I’d support developments like these if these were an option.




    16. Itsa Kroc says:

      Yes “Anon,” I have been to that McD’s in Chicago. Actually, it is in an area that has a surprisingly tremendous amount of parking for the center of Chicago. I just hoped that they would take that opportunity to start knitting that hole back into the urban fabric. If that bohemoth that celebrates the automobile belongs anywhere it is the on the side of the highway.

      There are examples ad nauseum of McD’s around the world that are appropriate to urban environments whether in an existing building or free-standing new construction.

      While I almost never eat there, I begrudge no one the “pleasure” or convenience. I just wish they (the franchisees) would build more suitable buildings in urban environments — that’s all.

      Great discussion!!

    17. The dirty little secret about Chicago that wistful St. Louisans need to know is that there is a ton of surface parking in downtown Chicago in addition to many garages. Chicago is the city that pioneered the demolition of historic buildings for parking.

      We should not look to Chicago for examples of how to build a better McDonald’s in St. Louis. We don’t have to; the architectural fabric of St. Louis shows us that there is no sensitive way of introducing them into our great city.

    18. Mike says:

      Thanks for the info. The Chicago & State site sounds interesting. As much as I’d like to see a storefront-only site, I don’t think that end of the neighborhood has sufficient foot traffic to make the business successful (and nobody wants an empty McDonald’s). Maybe when they have to rebuild in 10 years.

      Does McD’s own the lot on the current site and/or plan to be on the deed to the new proposed location? It was my understanding that they often leased land to their franchisees.

    19. cyr says:

      That whole idea of a buffer bothers me. Why is it considered acceptable for affordable housing to serve as a buffer between an annoyance and market rate housing?

    20. Travis Cape says:

      The very fact that Ald. Florida is supporting this has me wondering what’s in it for her. No one in their right mind, except Florida and the franchisee, want the worst run McDonald’s in the city to relocate. Very few realize that there’s tax abatement on the new site and if residents did know, they would surely be pissed that they subsidized a McDonald’s.

      The following is an email that I sent to Ald. Florida about McDonald’s and the “big picture” for the area.


      I appreciate that McDonald’s has entered into a
      private land swap. The fact remains that the proposed
      location is part of the Keystone development and the
      construction of a drive-thru restaurant was prohibited
      in their plan. I am fairly centain that most
      residents that live near a fast food restaurant are
      against them. We aren’t against them because of any
      moral issue. They generate an obscene amount of trash
      that ends up on our streets and on our lawns.

      The current McDonald’s is poorly managed and the
      dirtiest of all. I fail to see how the replacement of
      a past mistake is going to make the situation better.
      The operation of the current McDonald’s is the sole
      responsibility of the owner. The city should not help
      the owner of a business that has proven itself to be a
      nuissance to relocate ANYWHERE! Regardless of the
      less than perfect lot, the current McDonald’s would be
      a greater success and have neighborhood support if it
      was just better operated. I myself stop at the Arby’s
      a little farther south. I do so because it’s a well
      run business. If McDonald’s wants to continue
      operation in this area, they need to make better use
      of their current lot, rebuild, and then hire better

      Do we really need more housing in this area? There
      are so many apartments in a half mile radius of this
      corner. You can’t go more than a block without seeing
      a for rent sign. Frankly, the senior age residents
      are the least likely to want to live in this area at
      the moment. Maybe in ten more years as rehabilitation
      continues, but surely not now.

      I still fail to understand how a new McDonald’s will
      benefit anyone but the owners. All of these
      drive-thru businesses enourage the customer to be
      isolated in their car. In order to rebuild a
      neighborhood, residents have to be involved and part
      of that is by walking down the sidewalks. I doubt you
      would consider putting a restaurant like this at
      Juniata and Grand.

      I realize that Grand between Arsenal and Meramec have
      lost portions of historic streetscape over the years.
      This has been done because of a lack of any long-range
      plan that I have seen you quoted as having. This area
      has lost both the Ritz and Melba theatres and the
      Sears building. It was the city that bought the Ritz
      and demolished it for a rather narrow parking lot. Go
      ask nearly anyone on that strip of Grand if they would
      like to have a small theatre and I an sure they would
      answer yes.

      I suggest that you, Craig Schmid, and Mrs. Kirner
      attend a few of the neighborhood meetings together to
      discuss the “big picture” and bring the master plan
      for the area with you.

      Thank You

      Her Reply:

      Zoning ordinance is law. The back end of Keystone is zoned reidential.
      The front end is zoned commercial. All drive thrus require conditional
      use. Zoning takes precedent over the Chapter 99 Plan. I believe that
      McDonald’s could move across the street with or without my support. I
      used my leverage to complete the Keystone housing and construct
      something siignificant on the current McDonald’s site.

      McDonald’s receives no subsidy..Your perspective is interesting..We
      in America. The property owners have rights. In a perfect world I
      could dictate what business is worthy..and build the perfect urban
      utopia I am working with what i have been left with..Gravois Park
      a Macaroni Grill. I wish we had never torn down Sears or the Ritz.
      Melba Theatre burned. At least we will have accompished the adaptive
      reuse of the Melba and South Side…

      Am I supposed to be so happy that the SSN Bank building and the Melba building got saved that I should want a McDonald’s?

      Please someone tell me she’s kidding.

    21. Brian says:

      How can the corner of Grand-Arsenal deserve pedestrian-oriented design (as a newer building there did place parking behind the building and no drive-thrus) but not the corner of Grand-Winnebago? Reading Ms. Florida’s response, it would have been a disaster if years ago, Grand South Grand leaders had decided to “work with what they had been left with.”

      No one is saying this site shouldn’t be commercial as its present zoning permits. Rather, residents are raising concern that a drive-thru is inappropriate for this location.

      Indeed, Ms. Florida, if you respect laws and property rights, why do you think that drive-thrus are not permitted automatically in any commercial district, but instead a conditional use, granted on a case-by-case basis? Clearly, the writers of such law realized the potential detriment of such conditional use to surrounding properties.


    Comment on this Article: