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BJC Hospital, Forest Park & ‘Aldermanic Courtesy’

April 12, 2006 Central West End, Environment, Politics/Policy 2 Comments

The Post-Dispatch has a front page story about the city considering giving BJC Hospital a 90-year lease on a 12-acre parcel of Forest Park that is located East of Kingshighway.

If signed, the deal would give the hospital rights to the land for the next 90 years for an annual payment of more than $2 million, money the city says would go into a park trust. The hospital would have to pay to replace the courts, but not necessarily in Forest Park – it could put them anywhere in the city.

$180 million over 90 years. Certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Handing over a such a large piece of land to the hospital would be an unprecedented step in the 130-year history of Forest Park, a regional gem that is among the nation’s largest urban parks.

Well, not exactly. Lest we forget that thing called Highway 40/I-64 that took a massive chuck of Forest Park on at least two occasions. Our velodrome, located in a hard to reach corner of Penrose Park, was previously located in Forest Park but was relocated for highway expansion. But concerns are still valid that if BJC can build on Forest Park land what is to stop other ares from the same.

The bigger picture is the Parks Department is seeking funds to help their budget. Might they consider getting rid of some smaller parks altogether? Once they get a taste of money from this lease will they seek additional leases? Or perhaps they’ll sell sponsorships. They could rename Carondelet Park to something like Lowe’s Park at Carondelet after the new Lowe’s being constructed across the street. We’ve got some great little parks throughout the city but I have strong concerns we may see additional efforts to take these as well.

What I really want to see is how the BJC/Forest Park debate plays out in the Board of Aldermen. You see, we have this archaic practice called “Aldermanic Courtesy” whereby all the other aldermen forget they are elected as legislators and “defer” to the alderman in the ward where development is to take place. This is how Matt Villa got away with the horrible Loughborough Commons, Joe Vollmer is getting away with razing St. Aloysius and how Jennifer Florida thinks she will get away with a drive-thru restaurant where city ordinance says one cannot exist. You’ll recall that Ald. Craig Schmid got in trouble for speaking out against Florida’s drive-thru even though his ward is a literal two blocks away and he was representing the interest of his constituents.

By their own twisted logic on legislating the city the only alderman that should have any say in the matter is Joe Roddy. The parcel in question is in his ward, barely. But hey, that is the process. The other aldermen will say it is best they defer to the aldermen of the area but they know what is best. We all know this is BS but they continue to espouse it like it is gospel.

The balance of Forest Park falls within Lyda Krewson’s 28th Ward. Will Roddy become Florida in this case, advocating against public outcry, and will Krewson become Schmid, bucking the unwritten code of aldermen and actually representing the best interests of the city at large? Only time will tell.

BJC should have to make due with the land they’ve got.

– Steve


Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. cruisin' says:

    How did Schmid get in trouble? Ain’t he the aldermanic bad boy?

    First he argued against the 2000 ward redistricting map. Now he bucks aldermanic courtesy. What should we look for next for Alderman Craig Schmid?

    How about a return to “alderman in exile” status with the 20th ward moving back to North City in the 2010 redistricting, along with the simultaneous swallowing up of the current 20th by the 15th, 25th, and 9th wards. Aldermanic paybacks are hell.

    Of course, there is a plus side to this scenario…under this plan the current residents of the 20th ward will be reconnected to aldermen with power, and live in wards with somewhat normal boundaries rather than the sawtooth boundary of the current 20th ward.

  2. Paul says:

    Steve, I understand that the proposed BJC deal could set a bad precedent, but I am surprised that you seem strongly against it considering that in your recent inspiring and bold post about eliminating Highway 40 and others that you propose creating a new city block between the extended Market Street (old west bound lanes) and Oakland. This area is actually part of Forest Park as well and includes the popular turtle park area. Prior to the highway, Oakland was the southern boundary of the park.

    I am somewhat split myself. A huge pot of money to keep Forest Park looking like it does today is very enticing. One thing that I just took a look at is how the Kingshighway interchange will look after the redo. From the map I found on MoDot’s site, Forest park will actually get back a large amount of land now occupied by the cloverleaf. Although it is in 4 pieces, it looks to be about the same amount of land that BJC would take in their deal (assuming they would not go south of Clayton Avenue. What is unclear is how a pedestrian will be able to walk along Kingshighway and cross the interchange. heres a link to the map.

    About the many smaller parks, I have heard that the parks department would love to get rid of some of them, which would not necessarily be a bad thing in my book. The city has too many small rarely used parks. In the 50Â’s and 60Â’s, it was common for people or institutions who no longer wanted their buildings to give them to the city (so they could run away to the county). The City would tear down the buildings and by default the vacant ground would become a park in a completely unplanned, hap-hazard manner. In the West End neighborhood we lost an HH Richardson home and the unbelievably ornate former Visitation Academy this way. I am certainly not proposing that all small parks go away, just that some of the underutilized ones could weeded out and be turned over for development now that city land is again rightfully desirable.

    [REPLY – OK, you’ve got a lot of valid points. First, I was advocating a boulevard in place of Hwy 40 on land formerly part of Forest Park. I’m certainly willing to direct that over to Oakland and return that land to FP.

    You may well have a valid point about many small parks. However, much of the city was not planned by professionals and I think that has turned out better than what the professionals have done over the last 50-60 years. If we are going to look at releasing some parkland for development the way to do it is to look at all the park land and see what is truly not needed. But to let it go simply because an adjacent neighbor has the cash to make it happen is not the right process. – SLP]


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