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Board of Alderman “Perfects” Controversial BJC Lease

January 26, 2007 Central West End, Environment, Events/Meetings 43 Comments

Today two board bills were passed perfected by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen related to a section of Forest Park. The area located between Kingshighway and Euclid has been under lease by BJC since the 1970s for use as an underground parking garage. Above the garage is a green park with mature trees, racquetball courts, a playground and tennis courts. If the new proposal is approved by the city’s Board of Estimate & Apportionment BJC will be granted the rights to develop what is now a park.

Citizens opposed to the plan have obtained the signatures required to require a citizen vote whenever leasing or selling park land. Today’s vote is an attempt to get this deal done prior to the citizen vote in April to consider such a requirement.

The usual 29 members (28 Aldermen + President of the Board of Aldermen) is only 28 these days since 19th Ward Alderman Mike McMillan resigned to assume his new role as the city’s License Collector. Only two voted against the deal — Board President Jim Shrewbury and Jeffrey Boyd (D-22).

Four Aldermen were either absent from the meeting or abstained from voting on the bills related to this lease: Charles Quincy Troupe (D-1), Jennifer Florida (D-15), Terry Kennedy (D-18) and Frank Williamson (D-26).  Update #2 1/26/07 5pm — Troupe & Florida were not present for the meeting today.  Kennedy & Williamson, although present for the meeting, were not present for this particular vote.

The following aldermen voted in favor of the bill(s):

  • Dionne Flowers, (D-2)
  • Freeman Bosley, (D-3)
  • O.L. Shelton, (D-4)
  • April Ford Griffin, (D-5)
  • Lewis Reed, (D-6)
  • Phyllis Young, (D-7)
  • Stephen Conway, (D-8)
  • Kenneth Ortmann, (D-9)
  • Joseph Vollmer, (D-10)
  • Matt Villa, (D-11)
  • Fred Heitert, (R-12)
  • Alfred Wessels, (D-13)
  • Stephen Gregali, (D-14)
  • Donna Baringer, (D-16)
  • Joseph Roddy, (D-17)
  • Craig Schmid, (D-20)
  • Bennice Jones-King, (D-21)
  • Kathleen Hanrahan, (D-23)
  • William Waterhouse, (D-24)
  • Dorothy Kirner, (D-25)
  • Gregory Carter, (D-27)
  • Lyda Krewson, (D-28)

Update: [The bills will come up again next week for final approval. If approved,] the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (E&A) will determine if this deal goes through. The three members are Mayor Francis Slay, President Jim Shrewsbury and Comptroller Darlene Green. Slay has announced he will support the deal while Shrewsbury has indicated he will not (and judging by his no vote today I think it would be odd to flip flop). So, this puts the decision of the park in the hands of one person — Darlene Green. Right now she holds all the cards so I’m guessing there are some backroom conversations and deals being hatched right now. The old what will it take to get your vote?

If Green supports the plan she will be upsetting voters who have worked to place the issue on the ballot. If she votes against the plan she risks getting shut out of the political establishment backing the deal. From my perspective, Green can’t help but play politics somewhat but I think she tends to come down on the side of good fiscal policy. The question becomes, is this deal now good enough in her mind?

Last week her office sent out the following statement:

The comptroller believes people on both sides of this issue have strong points. On one side are the citizens and taxpayers who want to protect their parks and have a say in plans to develop park land. On the other side is the city’s largest medical facility that serves thousands of disadvantaged residents each year and is an economic engine for the community.

The comptroller intends to move forward in an effort to bridge the gap on these two very valid viewpoints and hopefully reach a compromise solution. She is working now to hold meetings beginning next week with both sides that focus on common ground and building consensus instead of rehashing differences. This issue is too important to our community on a number of levels for us to settle for anything less than a mutual agreement.

“The comptroller is reserving comment on the new lease plan revealed today until after these meetings and, hopefully, a compromise is reached.

I just asked the Comproller’s office if they have a new statement in light of today’s vote — I’ll let you know when they respond.

The next debate is if this will, or will not, affect the upcoming race between incumbent Jim Shrewsbury and challenger Lewis Reed. Shrewsbury is opposing the current lease while Reed supported it.

NOTE: I updated this post roughly 30 minutes after originally posting. I had indicated the bills had passed when in fact they had only been “perfected.” They will be brought up again next week for final passage. I adjusted a bit of the above language to reflect this as well as adjusting the headline.


Currently there are "43 comments" on this Article:

  1. charter reform now says:

    So the comptroller will decide this issue, over the mayor, the president of the board of aldermen, and the full board of aldermen. That makes the comptroller the most powerful politician in the city of St. Louis.

    What better case could there be for charter reform?

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Yes, our charter needs revision.  In this case the Comptroller has all the power but at other times it is one of the other two positions.  Recently it was Jim Shrewsbury that had all the power in the case of the financing for St. Louis Centre with Slay & Green in opposite corners.]  

  2. musical chairs says:

    No wonder you’ve got so few elected officials supporting charter reform…

    They get the best of all worlds…

    Occasional power with little accountability…

    If the deal dies, who do you hold responsible, or give credit?

    Shrewsbury? Green?

    Why not all of them?

    The aldermen could vote yes, and know that it would die at E and A.

    The public could then blame the mayor.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  3. GMichaud says:

    The fact they may circumvent a possible vote of the people how out of touch the poltical, corporate establish is with reality. It is time to form a totally new government. These people are failures in every possible way. The proof is the condition of the city they supposedly manage.
    While I have not decided the best course of action on development of the property (or not) it is literally criminal these people are attempting to go around the citizens. They don’t want to confront democracy. It is easier to buy a few politicians.
    Darlene Green is the sacrificial lamb, and BJC will end up the most hated institution in St. Louis.

    Giveaways to the wealthy and influential are exactly why St. Louis has been in a declining situation for decades. Between the compliant media and a political structure that has no idea how to run a city you end up with the money changers in the temple running the city for their financial benefit. It is a recipe for disaster, and while St. Louis is not a complete disaster, it is not exactly been a thriving city for decades.

    It is a leaderless city, dominated by self serving individuals.

  4. Matt B says:

    “BJC will be the most hated institution in St. Louis”… Are you kidding?

    Step out of your bubble for a second. Outside of the regular readers of these blogs and people with Save our Park signs in their yard, very few people care about this. Most city residents I have talked to support the deal.

    Until this came up most people assumed that part of the park was BJC. I lived in the city for 10 years and drove by that site daily for 5 of those years and didn’t realize it until recently when Dwight Davis was closed one day my friend and I thought we would see if the “BJC courts” were open to the public.

    SOP boasts 28,000 signatures which is impressive, but I saw the signature collectors, and specific details of the plan were rarely if ever discussed. Sure I’ll put my name down if the city is going to sell our parks.

    Besides pure principal and distrust of the Slay administration, I have yet to hear one convincing argument for why this land should not be leased.

    That area of the park includes eight (?) poorly maintained and little used tennis courts, several handball/raquetball courts, and a playground. Well, their building a new playground, converting clay courts at Triple A in the park to public courts, and adding and improving handball courts in the area of the park where they get the most use. In return the city receives money it would otherwise not recieve and one of the city’s largest employers will be able to expand and add jobs. Am I missing something? I want someone who is against this to articulate their position?

    If it did come to a vote I am confident this plan would win public approval.

  5. Rene S. says:

    If the supporters are so confident that the plan would win public approval, why are they so loath to put it to a vote? Matt B. obviously travels in different circles than I do, because most of the city residents I know (and no, most of us don’t live in the immediate environs of Forest Park) are extremely skeptical of the proposal, “perfected” though it might be. The city doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to holding corporations to their promises (Exhibit A: Kiel Opera House).

    As for why some of us oppose the loss of public park land, the answer is simple: Precedent. If the city is so quick to cave in this instance, how long will it be before another private entity demands the same treatment? What about the other parts of Forest Park that are cut off from the most commonly used areas? These portions might not be heavily used, but they still constitute valuable green space. What happens when Walgreen’s wants to plunk down one of their hideous cement boxes in the middle of a Northside park? (It’s not as ludicrous as it sounds; I believe their scummy proxies approached Ald. Bosley about this not so long ago.) What if someone wants to build a high-rise on another underutilized part of the park? After all, it would bring in a lot of revenue, revenue that the city sorely needs, and if money alone dictates the highest and best use of our resources, why not auction off the whole damned thing?

    There are other plots of real estate that BJC could use for expansion purposes — perhaps the surface parking lot a stone’s throw away that Koplar has been sitting on lo these many years? But why should the board members of BJC even bother to investigate other, perhaps more expensive and less convenient options when everyone is so willing to bend over and accommodate them? Yes, BJC has done a lot for the city, but the city has done a lot for BJC, too. BJC benefits from its central location (the proximity to WU, for instance), and it’s laughable to suggest that they might up and leave us if we don’t accede to their demands.

    You don’t need to look very hard to find cogent arguments in favor of putting the BJC expansion deal to a vote. There was an excellent letter in the Post-Dispatch a couple of days ago, right at the top of the letters page. If you remain unconvinced, it’s more a matter of your priorities than of any dearth of logic on the other side.

  6. john says:

    The PD reported on Friday that the bill was endorsed…”perfected”? Not passed? What a smoke screen and thanks Rene & GM for a straight to the point portrayal of the problems. Yes BJC (WashU) has numerous options within a stone throw of current buildings and I’m confident that most voters in StL would reject this lease plan.

  7. GMichaud says:

    Well Matt B, BJC is behind the attempts to go around the voters of ST. Louis, if that attempt is successful there will be at least 28,000 people looking at them as the bad guy. If you look through history a lot less has caused a public relations nightmare for corporations. They could easily end up with a reputation for being a bully, for not being interested in the public good. It is contrary to the message they try to send to the public now. A cold hearted health care facility is hardly the way to win public support.

    The real question is why are they so afraid of democracy? A vote means the issue will be discussed thoroughly in the public domain. BJC has an advantage of basically unlimited funds and unlimited access to the press to state their views. Certainly their resources are unlimited compared to the citizens. And yet democratic discussion seems to be out of the question for BJC and the Board of Alderman.

    The truth is this democracy is just a little to the South of Russian democracy. It is a pretend democracy.

  8. Adam says:

    i thought i read something about BJC developing the old laclede gas plot at taylor and chouteau as part of the deal … anyone else heard that? in any case i still don’t support the deal as it is public land and any deal involving it should be put to public scrutiny. it is indeed all about precedent.

  9. Jim Zavist says:

    As I’ve said in the past, I’m more concerned about the process than the issue here. The “deal” seems to be pretty fair, or at least a huge improvement over the current lease. I just question both the ethics of trying to circumvent a parallel citizen’s initiative and what the fallout will be if the BOA says yes and the voters say no – which takes precedence? Does it get tied up in court for years? Does it start the ball rolling for BJC to develop a new campus in the ‘burbs?

    On the flip side, I continue to be leery of the kneejerk reaction to many decisions the BOA makes that we need to take it back for a vote of the people, whether its an effort to recall aldermen who “vote the wrong way” or to impose draconian measures like the citizen proposal. We, in theory, elect people to represent us. We’re not a democracy, we’re a republic. As voters, we don’t get a vote on every decision. The best we can hope for is that “our” alderman listens to their constituents, votes the way we want them to most of the time and that most BOA decisions go our way. If they don’t, our correct course of action is to throw the bums out at the next election, not to hold the threat of recall or initiative or their heads from the day they take office!

    And, yes, it does boil down to one vote in some cases – all that proves iis that opinions are divided. Realistically, I’m much more concerned about the recent Ballpark Village funding legislation than I am about the BJC/FP lease agreement – I’m afraid that whatever the city “makes” on the BJC will be offset by losses at BPV . . .

  10. DB says:

    Most people I have talked to haven’t even heard of this. Of those that have, most assumed that BJC already owned it, so for them, it is a non-issue. Other than this forum, I have talked to no one who is opposed to it. My own (non-scientific) analysis of usage levels tells me that hardly anyone even uses it. The most I have seen anyone use it is the BJC employees who go out there for lunch, and even then, I’ve never seen more than 6-8 of them at any given time.

    As far as the alderman “circumventing” democracy, that is idiotic. If they waited for every potential issue to be put to a vote, they would never accomplish anything. I can see it now:

    Alderman A: OK folks, Bill #123 is before us. I think we have all discussed it, so let’s put it to a vote.

    Alderman B: Hold it right there. I’ve heard there are a group of citizens out collecting signatures right now to try to get this on the ballot next November.

    Alderman A: OK, I didn’t know that. Let’s hold off doing anything until we find out if they are successful. Table this until next year!

  11. GMichaud says:

    The fact is democracy is being ignored; citizens have signed petitions, 28,000 signatures, to request a vote on private use of the park system. It is dangerous to allow elected officials to circumvent the political process so they can serve a narrow interest group, no matter how worthy that group may seem. While this particular issue may not concern some people right now, the next issue might. Allowing the Board of Alderman to ignore the voice of the people not only sets a bad precedent it does not coincide with the principles of democracy.

    I agree we can’t expect the people to vote on every issue, but on the other hand the necessity of petitions like this illustrates a lack of confidence in the political system. It is a system that is mired in back room dealings and narrow special interest favors. Until the political system becomes transparent and inclusive, petitions will be a fact of life.

  12. Annoyed says:

    Michaud, this petition does not indicate a lack of faith in the political process. Did you sign the petition? Do you remember their “pitch” to get you to sign it?

    I do. It was Election Day, and they said, “do you want to help save our city parks?”

    Now, I know the deal, and told them as much. But how many people do you think had no idea what they were signing? And had no idea how onerous their proposed bill really is?

    It would be the same thing if this came up for a vote. Broad ads and mailers with the same pitch. Frankly, I’m afraid the voters would fall for it.

    I know that sounds undemocratic, but this is a strange combination: (1) a horrible bill, that is (2) an easy sell if kept in vague terms.

  13. GMichaud says:

    Sorry you are so annoyed. Just look at the condition of the city if you think the political process works. The political process has been a failure for decades.
    BJC and the Aldermen have basically unlimited access to express their views in the press, but I guess annoyed thinks the citizens are stupid and can’t make an informed decisions. Certainly annoyed would be a welcome fixture in Russia, why bother with the views of the people? they have no idea what they are signing or what they are doing. They are stupid.

    If you want to talk about vague and secretive you should look and the government processes first.
    Take the recent mortgaging of the whole city guaranteeing the millions Pyramid is going to invest in St. Louis Centre. It was rushed through the Board of Aldermen without a chance for citizen input. Do you think it was an accident it was shoved through quickly?, no of course not, they didn’t want messy citizen input to get in their way of helping an insider that contributes so much money to their campaigns.

    Just as Carla Scissors-Cohen of Citizens to Protect Forest Park said “Why are we rushing this…it undermines the will of the people.” The rush is similar to the multi million dollar giveaway to Pyramid, rush it through and limit citizen input.
    I’m sorry annoyed doesn’t like democracy, I know it is a hassle to involve the citizens, democracy is so inconvenient for those in power.

  14. Hicked Out says:


    Don’t you like being in 52nd place?

    That’s exactly where our political structure deserves to be.

    So seems like everything is fine.

    And when BJC needs more room again, and they take more of the park, we may be vying for 60th or 64th place.

    And what will the problem be? Not a thing. Everything will be fine.

  15. DB says:

    “Just as Carla Scissors-Cohen of Citizens to Protect Forest Park said ‘Why are we rushing this…it undermines the will of the people.'”
    False. She has no way of knowing this. Just because her and her annoying hyphenated-last-name-“organic”-grocery-buying-birkenstock-wearing-loser friends are against it, in no way implies that the “people” are against it.

  16. GMichaud says:

    Fine DB, then why are you so afraid of a vote by the people? A vote makes more sense than calling people names. So would you prefer this to be like Russia or China, were the people have no voice or can be arrested for expressing opinions? I find it hard to understand any one who does not want to acknowledge the 28,000 signatures as a legally valid expression of democracy. If the people want to vote on this matter, so be it.
    What’s the problem? What are you running from? Are you an alderman?
    Is something wrong with debating the issue? What’s the hurry?, BJC isn’t going to do anything different anytime soon. As Alderman Roddy has acknowledged St. Louisians already received a better lease offer than any previous offer. So citizens raising their voice already has made a difference. The alderman certainly wouldn’t have bothered with tough negotiations, they never do, they just give the city away.
    In any case DB I think Carla Scissors-Cohen is in a better position making a statement about the will of the people than as you say “most people I have talked to haven’t heard of this” What’s most people to you?, 10, 30, maybe 50?
    Ms. Scissors-Cohen was involved gathering 28,000 signatures. Then you can only resort in name calling. Ah the wonders of democracy, it’s the Rush Limbaugh way, name calling rather than debate about the merits of an issue.
    Just as HO above points out, it seems elements of the city are vying to see if St. Louis can’t be pulled into 60th or 64th place.
    If the people want to debate and vote on the disposition of parkland now and in the future, what is wrong with that? Isn’t that democracy? Last I heard America was supposed to be a democracy.

  17. Brian says:

    As a former intern of Jim’s, I respect him, but I think his latest decisions have gone awry. With St. Louis Centre, Shrewsbury missed the opportunity to guard our City’s purse. Now, with BJC’s amended lease, he has missed the opportunity to strengthen our financial standing. Hopefully, our Comptroller will prove again she is the most rational decision-maker we have.

  18. Matt B says:

    Didn’t funding of the new ballpark circumvent the “will of the people” and a petition that required a public vote on the funding of sports stadiums?

    The backlash was so severe that the Cardinals drew record crowds to their new stadium, and we haven’t heard anything about it since.

  19. Anon says:


    Shrewsbury voted “no” on the BJC lease.

    He has made it clear he will do the same when the lease hits E and A.

    The Business Journal has criticized him for his stance on BJC while supporting building a dog pound in a city park.

    Has the Post Dispatch weighed in on the BJC lease?

  20. Cody says:

    Here is my two cents worth. Do any of you know what part of Forest Park they are talking about? It is the park that is above the current parking garage. I use to work at the medical library and every day I noticed that there was NO ONE in the park. Occasionally there were a few people at lunch time soaking up the sun but other then that the park was EMPTY. Now don’t get me wrong I wasn’t there on the weekend so I can’t speak for then. But also there is only a few pieces of play equipment and a few tennis courts. So I think by BJC leasing that land and the city building a new play area and tennis court in Forest Park the city and BJC are benefiting from it. Yes I think the city is corrupt and that the city government needs a BIG overhaul. I for one have become tired of my Alderperson only looking out for their benefit. I think it is time we took a stand against our city government and said we want a charter reform!!!

    Thanks for your time!

  21. DB says:

    “I find it hard to understand any one who does not want to acknowledge the 28,000 signatures as a legally valid expression of democracy.”
    Interesting. What about the 300,000+ who didn’t sign it? I think one can logically assume that a fair number of them support the BJC lease.
    I am not afraid of a vote. Why are you afraid of aldermen doing the job we elect them to do? Should everything be put to a popular vote?

  22. Anon says:

    No. Putting things to a popular vote lets our leaders off the hook when it’s crunch time.

    We elect them to make the tough decisions; that’s what they are paid to do.

    They’d like nothing better than to wash their hands (or play Pontius Pilate) on the tough decsions.

    I like watching them wriggle and squirm through tough debates. It makes them earn their pay.

    Why have elected representatives if we are going to make the tough decisions for them?

    Power to the majority.

    The majority want a lease to BJC. What majority you say?

    The majority of aldermen and city elected officials who have voiced an opinio on this matter, as well as the silent majority of city residents who did not sign the “Save Our Parks” petition.

  23. Jim Zavist says:

    28,000 vs. 300,000 is a false argument – one, apathy runs rampant, two, after you have 150% of what’s required, why keep going? The real “vote” happens at the actual election! I wasn’t asked to sign, but I would’ve. And even if I’d signed to get it on the ballot doesn’t mean I’d vote to support its passage.

  24. Adam says:

    sorry, but silence is NOT the same as SUPPORT. how do you know the “silent majority” aren’t just apathetic? there are an aweful lot of apathetic people in saint louis. and if the “silent majority” are so gung-ho over the lease then why aren’t they collecting signatures as well? If a majority of people really does want this lease to go through then they should have no problem collecting enough signatures.

    also, when was the last time that our elected aldermen (that is, when they actually ARE elected and don’t just retain their seats due to lack of competition) represented the majority on EVERY issue. in such cases when enough people voice their discontent or support the final word should lie with a popular vote and not the whims of the aldermen.

  25. Adam says:

    sorry i repeated you, jim.

  26. Brian says:

    I was asked to sign the petition and didn’t. Other citizen-led challenges to local legislatures’ decisions, including other environmental issues like the Page Avenue extension, have had enough signers but not voters to be successful.

    As for Shrewsbury, his recent vote against the lease and intention to do so again at E&A is exactly why I hope Darlene votes yes. In my earlier comment, I was sharing my confusion over how Jim could even vote no. If his opposition is out of financial concern, Shrewsbury was a lot less prudent in his St. Louis Centre vote. If he thinks parkland is off-limits, it seems odd Jim would support relocating our animal shelter to Ellendale Park.

  27. kmneill says:

    “So I think by BJC leasing that land and the city building a new play area and tennis court in Forest Park the city and BJC are benefiting from it.”

    I couldn’t agree more, Cody. I love Forest Park, and all the benefits it provides, but this small section of park, on the other side of Kingshighway, is rarely used. Are the nets even up on the tennis courts? I’d much rather see the amenities from this park – tennis courts, playground – be moved across Kingshighway and benefit from the agglomeration of uses already present in the park. I think the argument could be made that it provides a little bucolic solitude for workers/patients/visitors of the fast-paced, often high-stress environment at the medical complex. Perhaps a solution might be to create a bridge or tunnel from BJC to Forest Park, that way there is still access to the benefits of this open space… and more.
    I’ll admit that I haven’t done more than walk on the winding sidewalks on my way from the hospital to the car. Just out of curiosity, have any of you readers, especially those who signed the petition, enjoyed the amenities of this park?

    [UrbanReviewSTL — When this all started early last year I wondered about a study of park useage.  I find it interesting when people who say they’ve never been to this part of the park or they assumed it was part of BJC proclaim it isn’t used.   Simply because you do not use it does not mean that nobody else does. 

    I’ve seen numerous people using the park space, none of which seemed to be anyone from BJC.  The most obvious is residents of the adjacent Forest Park Southeast neighborhood and those from the southern end of the Central West End.

    And if the tennis courts are not maintained then we have only one entity to blame — BJC.  Under the original lease that permitted them to construct an underground parking garage they agreed to maintain the park space.  They have not done as agreed in only a short 30-some years.  But hey, let’s agree to a 99-year lease ’cause I’m sure they’ll perform as expected this time.

    But I could envision a scenerio in which I might have gone along with this.  First, I’d want to see a master plan for how they plan to build out their campus.  So far they’ve wasted tons of land and created a very anti-pedestrian area.  It is unpleasant to bike or drive through as well.  I’d like to see some strong urban design guidelines in place for how this land will be used so we don’t end up with more ugly parking garages.  Yes, they agreed to 15% open space but until the quality of that open space is defined you will simply end up with some grass on left over space next to the off ramp.  The plan from day one should have also detailed exactly when & where new facilities would be constructed to replace those that are being removed.  It is not as simple as placing them all in Forest Park — part of the plan for the park is to not keep paving it over and that includes tennis courts.  Again, users of this park are those that live nearby.]

  28. LisaS says:

    kmneill, I have “enjoyed” the amenities of the park frequently, but that’s probably because I live in the CWE, a mere half-mile away, and that was the only playground in the neighborhood until about a year ago, when the Variety Club opened their facility at the Visitor’s Center. The Hudlin playground is still the only one within comfortable walking distance for my two small children; the next nearest playground is over a mile away, and while yes, I could drive, walking is healthier for all of us. (If I wanted to drive everywhere I’d live in Chesterfield or Creve Couer, and not deal with the City and the rampant idiocy of its politicians.) Weather permitting, we go after school and on weekends, which is why we’re invisible to employees like Cody and TV and newspaper photographers that show up before their 4:30 deadline. We meet other children there from both adjacent neighborhoods, as well as children of employees waiting for their parents to get off work or have a picnic dinner.

    You’re right that the park provides a respite for visitors to the hospital. Over the years, we’ve met many families who have traveled from out-of-town to visit critically ill relatives, and this area provides those people an escape–especially the children who have spent untold hours sitting in cheerless lobbies and waiting rooms trying to be quiet. The adults talk and talk and talk …. letting off steam about loved ones’s illnesses mostly …. and always mention how thankful they are to have such an amenity so close, and ask for directions to restaurants, grocery stores, and places to buy diapers.

    Back in my pre-child days, I would have definitely used the tennis courts (which do have nets, and are maintained by BJC in irregular compliance with their current lease) if I had realized that they didn’t belong to BJC–I was afraid of getting arrested for trespassing, so I drove to the nearest known free courts at Tilles Park.

  29. LisaS says:

    1. BJC has said repeatedly that they have developed no master plan for that space–apparently design fees cost too much for them to invest without knowing they have the land.
    2. In the public forums in December, June Fowler had some schematic plans for the new playground/tennis facilities to be moved south, and situated between Clayton and the (reconfigured) highway ramps. Have you seen those?
    3. That said, Mayor Slay’s blog and Joe Roddy’s comments on the floor Friday suggested that tennis and handball courts would be tied to existing facilities in the park (Triple A and the Visitor’s Center handball courts.)

  30. GMichaud says:

    All these questions and observations are part of the debate, which is what the people are asking for when they ask for a vote. The politicians and BJC would rather jam their views down everyone’s throats.
    It is important, as Steve points out above, that a master plan is presented to the public by BJC. If BJC doesn’t want to spend money for concept drawings without the control of the parkland, then they don’t want the land very bad.

    The Board of Alderman does not represent the people’s interests in this. They should be asking for a master plan, not Steve. How does this plan improve St. Louis? why should the people of St. Louis sign over parkland to BJC? The Aldermen sign off on anything their handler’s request. Nothing is negotiated for the people of St. Louis, they give everything away.
    If their ideas are so poor that they cannot convince the public of their value, then it doesn’t say much for what they think of their own ideas.
    The necessity of a public vote on the issue of Parklands is obvious. This is especially in light of the failure by the Board of Aldermen to perform their duty and protect the interests of the people. It seems to be a recurring theme in the Aldermanic Chambers.

  31. Jim Zavist says:

    One side issue to ponder – why does BJC need to expand south? Obviously, expanding west (across Kingshighway) is likely not possible for a variety of reasons, but there appear to be multiple options for going north or east, including leasing air rights over the metrolink line . . .

  32. Jim Zavist says:

    As for leasing 9 acres of parkland, it all boils down to one’s definition of prostitution. Either parkland is sacred and shall not be used for anything other than traditional recreational activities or it’s an asset that should be managed to create the biggest return for the citizens of St. Louis. If you’re in the former camp, no amount of money can justify using parkland for anything other than public recreation. If you’re in the latter camp, it’s not a question of if but of “how much?” The current lease, which probably seemed like a pretty good deal when it was signed, seems pretty pathetic in today’s dollars. The same likely goes for the proposed lease. While $4 million+ annually seems like a pile of money now, what will the perception (and the reality) be in 50 years? But that’s why I make the allusion to prostitution – once you’ve agreed to sell or lease parkland for a zoo, museum, highway, animal shelter, fire station, etc., etc., you’ve set a precedent and opened the door to considering future deals. Folks, that threshold was crossed many decades ago – the Zoo, Science Center, Highway 40 and yes, the World’s Fair, all were/are not traditional parks uses, so BJC’s request shouldn’t be considered to be all that unique. Which is why a thorough discussion of the citizen’s initiative is both so critical and why it’s getting lost in the whole BJC discussion. If the initiative passes, it will represent a huge change in how parks resources are managed. I, for one, has concerns about an arbitrary and complete prohibition (a.k.a. “requiring a vote of the people”) on any and all private uses. Parks use and parks needs evolve over time, as does the city’s ability to both fund and manage these changing demands. Parks availability, quality and size also varies widely across the city, so “one size won’t fit all” when it comes to any issue. The reality remains that anything that requires a vote of the citizens will be very hard to get passed – look at recent history on proposed charter changes. Without a well-funded campaign to get them passed, they failed miserably, partly out of a mistrust for anything the city needs to take to the voters (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.) The same would apply to any parks vote – a private entity would have to budget for an election campaign to get their issue passed, which will ultimately result in a smaller return to the city. Bottom line, the argument truly is whether or not parks should have non-(traditional?) parks uses . . .

  33. DB says:

    “If their ideas are so poor that they cannot convince the public of their value, then it doesn’t say much for what they think of their own ideas. The necessity of a public vote on the issue of Parklands is obvious. This is especially in light of the failure by the Board of Aldermen to perform their duty and protect the interests of the people. It seems to be a recurring theme in the Aldermanic Chambers. ”

    The Board has convinced the public of the value of this deal, and they have protected the public’s interest. Just because you disagree with the decision, doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.

  34. john says:

    Prosperous cities continue to expand their acres dedicated to parks. StL is a desperate city, desperate for revenue and thus willing to make back room deals. This type of leadership believes that process and important precedent setting decisions may be sacrificed. Many acres of Forest Park have been effectively separated and made virtually unusable due to the location of Hwy 40 and Kingshighway. We can and should do better.

    The property surrounding the Park, especially on the east, south and west sides, is ideal for urban living/development and the location can’t be beat. Let’s think big, challenge Central Park, and hopefully give St. Louisans something to be really proud about while stimulating more investment.

    Similarly valuable land in Clayton was blighted and sold for $7.4 million per acre. At that valuation, the acreage wanted by BJC, if sold, would provide close to $70 million to the city. Invested to earn a conservative 5%, the yearly return would be $3.5 million. It is clear that the financial offering of $2 mill is not sufficient. If anything should be negotiated, perhaps it should be vacant land in other areas whereby BJC could develop a new state of the art facilities… how about on MLK?

  35. Adam says:


    where is the evidence that the board has convinced the public of the value of this deal? wouldn’t that require a VOTE?

  36. Adam says:

    oh, and wouldn’t

    “the Board has convinced the public”

    imply that the public was informed about the deal and the subsequent plans, and then the public made a decision (i.e. VOTE) based on that information? which, of course, has not happened.

  37. GMichaud says:

    DB what planet do you live on? the Board of Alderman has not convinced the public of anything. There is a public vote on the disposition of Parkland waiting to happen. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if the Aldermen were transparent and had convinced the public of the value of their actions.

  38. Robert Barnes says:

    While I have used the park area in questions on numerous occassions, I love the fact that the lease payment allows the city to support other neighborhood parks throughout the city. It is my understanding that the $1.6 million will be put back into general revenue and be used to acquire more park land and for upkeep of existing parks. There are quite a few pocket parks, especially on the north side, that need help. This money will go a long way to make that happen.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — To my knowledge there is nothing that assures us the current $1.6 million from the city’s general revenue will be used for park maintenance.  I’ve yet to see how exactly the money for Forest Park will keep up with both inflation and rising maintenance costs.  Remember that maintenance expenses will increase over time as the infrastructure ages.  Our city leaders are committing us to a 99-year lease but don’t think for a minute that 99 years from now the park will look as it does today solely from the BJC lease and Forest Park Forever monies.  Of course, many of us will not be around then but I think we’ll see some new deal in the next 20-30 years.]  

  39. Jim Zavist says:

    Tax money is both finite and fungible. There will be a point where our aggregate tax level becomes too great and residents, businesses and visitors will all go elsewhere to avoid paying a crushing tax load. Creating dedicated tax streams, whether they’re for one park, all parks, public transit, schools, highways, etc., etc., would seem to guarantee a stable and growing funding source, and they typically do in the short term. However, the reality is that all government functions need to be funded, and if the parks receive $4 million in “new” money, it just allows $2-$3 million currently dedicated to parks to be spent somewhere else (like public employee pensions) that lack a large-enough constituency that would support a dedicated tax! Metro’s kind of in the same boat. They haven’t been able to convince local leaders to support a local tax increase, so they’re now asking for $20 million from the state. Fuel taxes aren’t rising as quickly as either inflation or the number of vehicles using our highways (thanks, in part, to improved fuel mileage), so we’re faced with trying to figure out new ways (tolls?) to pay for new lanes and bridges. Bottom line, it gets back to the reality that politicians would rather spend money on new projects (think photo ops, ground breakings and ribbon cuttings) than on mundane stuff like maintenance. We’re getting hammered because maintenance of all sorts (including funding pensions) has been “deferred” for far too many years, and it’s no longer possible to duck this reality through “creative” budgeting. When times are tough, no program or asset should be “sacred”. What we really need is a clean-sheet budgeting process tied into a single, aggregated tax pool. Dedicated taxes are just a way to sell a tax increase for feel good projects, when we really need to look at the overall system. Do we need as many employees and programs as we currently have? Could our limited tax dollars be better spent elsewhere? Just throwing money at the problem won’t have much impact (see SLPS) over the long haul. What we really need to look at is total service delivery to our residents and how to best maximize our limited resources!

  40. DB says:

    “DB what planet do you live on? the Board of Alderman has not convinced the public of anything. There is a public vote on the disposition of Parkland waiting to happen. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if the Aldermen were transparent and had convinced the public of the value of their actions. ”
    LOL. I come from a planet where we learn reading comprehension skills. Follow this link – http://tutoring.sylvanlearning.com/reading-tutors/index.cfm. These people may be able to help you.
    This deal will happen. The alderman have convinced us. While the financial aspect me not be what we all wanted, it is the right thing to do. No matter how many times you and your hyphenated-last-name friends keep repeating it, the aldermen are following the wishes of the public.

  41. GMichaud says:

    DB What is it you don’t get about a petition signed by 28,000 voters asking for a voice in the disposition of their Parkland? Talk about problems with reading comprehension.
    “The aldermen convinced us?, who’s us?”. How is you think you speak for the majority? How about a vote and we’ll see if the aldermen are really following the wishes of the public.
    Again you and your buddies are afraid of a democratic vote and public input, you would rather rail about hyphenated last names that have nothing to do with the issue at all.
    Get a life.

  42. Matt B says:

    DB said…

    “False. She has no way of knowing this. Just because her and her annoying hyphenated-last-name-”organic”-grocery-buying-birkenstock-wearing-loser friends are against it, in no way implies that the “people” are against it.”

    I take exception. My wife is a hyphenated-last-name -”organic”-grocery-buying (and vegetarian) person and she supports the city’s deal with BJC. However, she does not wear birkenstocks, nor is she a loser.

    Apparently the coalition of hyphenated-last-name -”organic”-grocery-buying -birkenstock-wearing-losers is crumbling. All that leaves is birkenstock-wearing-losers.

  43. Ed Golterman says:

    As he begins his 3rd, Mayor Slay again cannot ‘speak’ the words-Kiel Opera House-such is the power of grand center. .
    The Mayor of Kansas City is ‘beaming out’ to the world,
    proudly-the progress of Kauffman Center for Performing Arts. The Mayor of Dallas prepares to cut the ribbon on the opening of the new Dallas Opera House.

    Here, Slay is reminded clearly that St. Louis no longer
    offers acceptable ‘demand’ drivers or destination attractions-those that create consistent, healthy
    hotel and motel business (ovrnights says).
    Kiel was a destination attraction fo 6 decades.

    Mr. Slay points to downtown projects that are not
    economic drivers and that have not recovered our lost
    travel business, and to the hideous Ballpark Village.

    The Mayor tells us what he has been told to tell us
    by Civic Progress: ‘We need to regionalize-meaning:
    The City needs more formal means-laws or government
    structure-to ‘bleed out the people of St. Louis County
    and of Missouri of more money to continue to fund a failed city.

    That’s fine, Francis but bring something to the party
    other than your ‘stale’ day-trip attractions and your
    sports and casinos downtown. Other cities are killing you.

    Bring Kiel Opera House to the ‘party’ and a 105 nights
    MUNY and put them on the same web page.
    And tell Civic Progress their day is over.


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