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Cherokee Street: Big Controversy Over Tiny Place

You’ve all heard the story by now, Ald. Craig Schmid has a moritorium on liquor licenses for the 20th Ward. You want to sell beer, then you need to have 50% of your revenues from food. In other words, restaurants are OK, bars are not. Enter Steve Smith, owner of The Royale on Kingshighway near Arsenal. Smith wants to open a bar along Cherokee street and and serve no food in the space located at 3227 Cherokee known as “Radio Cherokee.”

The controversy has escalated to the point that Schmid, a 12-year veteran at city hall, is being challenged by resident and business owner Galen Gondolfi in the election for alderman to be held on the 6th of March. This issue has some fun little twists and turns that I have not seen in the media.

First, opponents cite a number of concerns. One is parking, another is food sales. Of course, I fail to see how Smith getting 50% of receipts from food sales lessons the parking issue any — it might in fact make it worse? Parking too seems like a red herring, the city has literally thousands of corner storefront places but we cannot expect them to each have a dedicated parking lot without destroying the character of our neighborhoods.

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Above is the location in question, located on the NE corner of Virginia (street on left) and Cherokee. The very tiny storefront can only hold so many people and quite a bit of on-street parking is available along the side of the building above (on Virginia). Similarly, more cars could easily be parked on the west side of Virginia.

The neighborhood is not ready,” was one comment I heard. Well, what defines ready? What is the plan to get the area ready?  Granted, this property is much closer to Gravois and is therefore not part of the main commercial area we think of as Cherokee.  This is outside the Cherokee community improvement district.  Still, every block between here and the main section of Cherokee contains at least a single storefront, in many cases several.

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On the same block as “Radio Cherokee” is the former Cherokee Auto Parts with a greenhouse/nursery business on the end of the block.  In the background of the picture you can see a corner storefront on the next block.  Back to the site in question.

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The small place is actually part of a 4-unit building, with one residential unit above and two attached but set back from the street.  The building lot is only 24ft 8 inches wide.  So as you can imagine, both the residential units and the bar space are narrow.

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Peaking inside through the front door glass we can see a place basically ready to go.  No major build out or extensive rehab required.  Currently the space is simply sitting empty, not being productive for the neighborhood or city.  Now, I’ve never been in the food services business (well, except those 4 days at Arby’s when I was 16) but logic tells me you need a certain volume of business to operate a restuarant.  With such a small place and lacking a kitchen space it seems unrealistic to expect this space to be anything but a bar.

Sure, I suppose it could be gutted and turned into a retail space of sorts but that seems even more likely to fail.  Retail operations would do better in the main commercial district.

Currently, to my knowledge, Cherokee street has no master plan — no vision has been established.  In looking at the blocks on this end with a mix of storefronts of varying sizes, flats and single family homes I see a small bar fitting in nicely, nothing too big.  A block or two east is the old Black Forest restaurant which has been closed for sometime.  That is a very large space with a large kitchen (I’ve shown the building to prospective buyers so I’ve been through the whole thing).  It is even complete with a parking lot.  But the pro-forma to buy and renovate that place relative to this is night and day.  In reality, both spaces need to be open and active.  We just can’t fault Steve Smith for not having the cash/credit of a say Joe Edwards.   The old Black Forest space will make an excellent restaurant once again.  As a bar only, it would be way too big.

So my solution to this issue is this — for Cherokee Street only:  Set up a sliding scale, the very tiny Radio Cherokee space that Steve Smith is interested in should have a zero percent food requirement.  On the other end, spaces like the large Black Forest should be required to have 50% food.  Other storefronts, such as the old Auto Parts place, might fall somewhere in the middle.  What this does is set up a guideline along Cherokee only where small bars can be introduced and have a chance to succeed while the larger spaces cannot be bars only.  This should be implimented along the length of Cherokee from at least Jefferson to Gravois while the area works on a master plan for Cherokee.
In the interest of disclosure, I have not spoken with either candidate about this concept but I did happen to run into Steve Smith yesterday and he seemed to think it might be a good compromise.  In researching this post I discovered that Galen Gondolfi owns the property in question along with another person.  He also owns the old auto parts place on the same block.  He owns larger buildings in the next block east where he lives, has a gallery space and leases out a storefront to a cafe.  He clearly has a vested interest in seeing this section of Cherokee street succeed and prosper.

 

Currently there are "66 comments" on this Article:

  1. Dole says:

    Steve,

    Great reporting! I hope to see more coverage of this issue and Cherokee Street. I hope the residents of this area weigh this issue and show up to vote in the election.

    I have long believed the limit on alcohol sales is holding back this area. This building in question could be bringing in tax dollars to the city right now, but the alderman would rather see it sit empty. What a fool.

     
  2. Kevin says:

    Its good that Cherokee St is getting some attention on here, thanks Steve. To me, and to many people who may visit the area, Cherokee St is the one area that seems to have so much potential for being the next useful and cultural city street. There seems to be a lot of conflict between the old-school Cherokee Business Association/Antique Row and new, multicultural groups and entrepreneurs.

     
  3. Jim Zavist says:

    This just demonstrates the problem with “one size [must] fit all” mentality when it comes to government regulations. I’m just not sure a sliding scale is the answer – doing so could open the door to a lot of “creative” interprtations, both “good” and “bad”. What is good here is that the “needs and desires” of a small area (i.e. the ward) are apparently being represented by the moratorium. Steve Smith probably does not live in the ward, so his “needs and desires” (to [re]open a bar) need to be secondary to those of the residents who already live there. As this post alludes to, the real way to “solve” this situation is to elect a different alderman (assuming the new one will lift the moratorium). This is one case where our traditional, small wards are an asset. As a city resident, I’d like to see more buisinesses open and thrive across the city (lower taxes and/or better services for me!), but as a neighborhood resident, I’m reluctant to embrace every new bar that wants to open. Bars don’t always make good neighbors, and there certainly aren’t any guarantees that what a bar is doing today will be the same thing they’ll be doing in 5-10-20 years (see Soulard). I’m not a prohibitionist – I like my beer – but I sure wouldn’t want to live on the same block as a bar in the same mold as the Royale. Bar patrons, especially younger patrons and non-residents of the immediate area, can easily negatively impact any residential area. Groups of people, feeling good, leaving an establishment at 11, 12, 1 or 2, can be somewhat loud (garrulous is one definition). What’s fun for them (and profitable for the bar owner) means disturbed sleep for the hard-working residents who need to be up at 6 am to get to work. I don’t live in this ward, but my guess is that the moratorium is a direct result of too many loud patrons, litter, maybe police calls, maybe no on-treet parking for someone arriving home at 8 or 9 pm. And, YES, parking is a big issue! As you point out, you have ±25′ of frontage on the short face and probably ±150′ on the long side. Whether or not off-street parking is provided for the 4 residential units, you’ll be lucky to define 8 on-street parking spaces (at 20′ per). Do the math – one bartender + one server + a dozen patrons and you’re likely out of adjacent parking. Any more demand directly affects one or more adjacent properties! Hopefully any business here will be successful. If it’s a bar, a dozen patrons won’t be considered to be successful, so the parking needs of this “new” establishment will impact existing ones. I know, I know, we all should walk or ride our scooters. The reality is that ain’t reality! People drive, especially to (hopefully) cool places like what’s being visualized for here. Bottom line, the moratorium is the best tool to deal with existing conditions and limited resources. Don’t like it? Elect some who does agree that change is needed. In the meantime, let the neighbors enjoy some paece and quiet!

     
  4. maurice says:

    There does seem to be a lot of unnecessary conflict on Chorokee and even a lot more unused potential. While I like parts of your idea Steve, one needs to remember to take into account the neighbors. Now I know that to get a liquore license, you need approval of those in the immediate area, so this might all be moot if the neighbors don’t want a bar (or other high use) next to them. But the smaller the space, the more high volume you need and a restaurant just doesn’t flip the tables fast enough, so you are left with one of two options…bar or coffee shop.

    Perhaps the neighbors would be more willing to support a coffee shop over a bar? I know bars pull crowds in at night and thats great for a strip of businesses that can use the foot traffic, but I don’t think all the woes can be solved by just putting a bar in.

    I think a bar is risky for a neighborhood for two reasons: 1) the traffic is later at night and neighbors don’t like that kind of rukus and 2) there is a potential that if you have one bar, then you have two, then before you know it that is all you have instead of a mix of offerings. And its going to be hard to say to one ‘well you can put your bar here’ but to another ‘no thanks’.

    And then again, one needs to take in the concerns of the neighbors. It would be unfair to overrule the owners of the nearby properties, even if it is for the sake of a better district. I know for instance, that as successful as Hartford Coffee is, there are some people who now wish they did not voice their approval because they are having to deal with the dogs, foot traffic, no parking, well you get the idea.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — The neighbors have not had a chance to say yes or no as Ald. Schmid has answered that question for them.  Who knows, they might favor people out and about on a weekend night — remember safety in numbers.  Right now the area feels abandoned and desolate.  Due to the moritorium an application cannot be filed so the neighbors cannot be notified of a pending application.]

     
  5. maurice says:

    Add a foot note. With the challenge coming in the election, I hope that the residents are able to pick the best candidate that will 1) improve their ward and 2) improve their city and not just settle for a candidate that is willing to lift a ban (a ban that if lifted, would serve himself more than the neighborhood).

    I think it is a very gray area when a property owner like G. runs for an office because the voter must really look into the motivations of why that person is running for office. Is it because they own a vacant building(s)? Do they really have no other interest than seeing the area improve? Of course, if one has no motivating reason to change things, then one is not likely to run for office either (and money is very motivating). In this case, do you damn G. for being greedy and wanting his building full, or do you commend him for seeing a percieved injustice and being willing to fight to change it?

     
  6. maurice says:

    And of course, it is even worse when an elected official enacts a ruling that harms an area just because he(or she) doesn’t like a certain property owner. Is this worse than a property owner running for office to better his self interest? Only the voters can decide that.

     
  7. dna says:

    I don’t live near the Royale, but I do like to go there for drinks. I don’t know how the neighbors feel about having the Royale near but I have always been amazed at how considerate the customers are to the bar and the neighborhood. I think the Royale and Steve Smith attract that type of patron.
    There are several store fronts around the block from me on Gravois available for rent, and I would love to have the different types of people at the Royale come to my neighborhood.

     
  8. steve smith says:

    For the record, *I have agreed to do food* at a location on Cherokee but I am unable to promise to hit a food percentage. I can comfortably do food like what other neighborhood public houses do- like Riley’s on Arkansas and Arsenal and the Black Thorn on Wyoming and Spring.

    The parking at the above mentioned places is actually a bit more difficult than the Cherokee location. Check out the street parking at 11pm at the Cherokee location. The neighbors have the final say if they were allowed to operate under the law that governs the rest of the city.

    However, I have had to drop my bid for the property because I am not allowed to get an application for license and let the neighbors say whether or not I can get a license. The building is listed and has been listed for months and is open for anyone to purchase. I could not get past a letter of intent for I cannot borrow money unless I can show that I can produce income at a property- of which a license application is needed as part of the loan process.

    The neighborhoods of every other ward in south city- The Hill, St Louis Hills, Lafayette Square, Dogtown etc have a say whether or not a bar can go in or not, but not in the 20th. The license process for the city is the most rigorous process that any business must go through in order to locate in the city. A majority of signatures are needed from voters, property owners and business owners. Alerts go out to the head of the area police district, the Alderman, the NSO and mailers sent to those in the neighborhood each step of the way. There is a public hearing which is posted on the surrounding property. All sorts of conditions can be placed upon the business in order to get the application. The process to remove a liquor license is an easier process, and hearings to pull a license into question can be had very easily compared to getting a hearing for a license. Thriving neighborhoods of Saint Louis do not have moratoriums.

    I have been in the business for years and am familiar with the percentages of food that can be produced out of particular spaces and the market. This building was built as a bar- a public house, a tavern. That is what it is designed for. It is a very small bar too. The market on Cherokee would not sustain substantial food income at this point for the kind of restaurant the Royale is. The Royale only serves 32% food as of now with a full brunch, lunch and dinner menu, and barely is able to provide the proper service that is necessary for food. The Royale would not be allowed to apply for a license if located in the 20th Ward.

     
  9. Amber says:

    A few things: There has been many neighbors who are in favor of a bar at Radio Cherokee. Sadly, it doesn’t matter as long as the moratorium is in place, simply put.
    There is a coffee shop at the store front that is in the distance in your picture with Auto Parts. I doubt the neighborhood could sustain two within a block of each other.
    Aldermen are supposed to speak for the people by gathering a general consensus. Under the current deadly state of affairs, this isn’t even possible. The current Alderman finds it acceptable to choose for himself regardless of how the actual people living around this area feel. I’m not saying everyone agrees, just drive by crazy plant place to see that some people have a different opinion.
    Primarily, the moratorium is killing a lot more than just the capability to even apply for a liquor license, it’s also killing residents faith in their elected officials, neighborhood prosperity, and certainly influencing future potential businesses for seeing the area as anything but dead space and trash.

     
  10. Jim Zavist says:

    Sounds like a new alderman may be the best answer here . . .

     
  11. joe b says:

    As Steve S points out, the process to remove a liquor license is MUCH more easier. Ask any bar owner bar/restaurant owner in St Louis and the absolute LAST thing they need is for any sort of problems at their location.

    One thing that hasn’t been addressed in these posts are ownership matters. A businessman who owns the building vs renting has a substantially greater interest in making the business work imo. If bizman fails to operate a tight ship and it folds, he is now out the biz plus is paying a note on a building that will likely not become in the near future a bar again.

     
  12. dna says:

    I remember reading that it was because of the “city redtape” the bottleworks located in maplewood and not the city.
    Why does this city bend over backwards to reward those taking no or little risk (TIF) and force those taking risk to walk over glass and fire?

     
  13. The prejudice against bars in this town astonishes me. I suppose these detractors would rather have a vacant, boarded up property on the block to attract looters and drug users or something? Tell me which you’d rather have – a drug raid / gang shootout at a crack house, or a stable, secured and monitored business next door? Sure, I might once in a GREAT while have to hear the occasional clinking bottle, or some penis-envying RUB blasting his Hardley-Ableson in the wee hours (BOO effin HOO) but I’d take that a million times over finding a dead junkie stinkin’ up the neighborhood just one time.

    St. Louis has a rich history in small, corner neighborhood pubs. And those run well and cared for by LOCAL owners/proprietors will be watched over and protected and contribute to the community. And those with loyal, local patrons will also watch over their own and even to a certain degree police the area and patronage themselves. So, do you want to get your windows smashed out along your dead boarded up street, or maybe have the regular guy who sits by the picture window with his pint every night, and knows without a doubt THAT dude doesn’t belong poking around THAT car/house/bike?

    For several years i lived next to a real dive of a place in Bridgeton by the airport. and I mean DIVE. Someone even took a shot a cop there once. And yes, it was little loud on weekend nights in the summer, but I was up late or out too, so what does it matter? But I tell you what – I NEVER had any problems with my person or property there, the patrons were friendly, and even kept an eye over my various VW’s, scooters, and misc parts and junk I kept out in the open under a tarp in my parkig area. Stuff that anyone could easily have walked off with in seconds. And they kept other patrons out of my parking while I was away too. And I never went thirsty on those hot days out rebuilding 40-horsers on a milk crate either. FWIW

    After that I moved to a flat just a few doors down from the Black Thorn. Never heard a peep. Hell I hardly even knew the place was there for the 1st year. And another thing – any parking problems in that neighborhood has NOTHING to do with the BT. It’s that all those 2 & 4 familty flats that “in the day” would hardly have had one car per unit to them, now have 2 & 3 or more for each one. And hardly anyone uses their garages or the alley parking because they’ve either torn down the garage after not keeping it up, or torn out the parking in back. There were plenty of times I had to park around the block on Spring, or the next block of Wyoming. During the day – empty. Conclusion, the parking is being taken up by commuting RESIDENTS, not some little corner pub.

    And stop comparing this place to the Royale please. The Royale isn’t even in a residential area. It’s neighbors are NTB and Courtesy Diner for gods sake. You can’t complain about “traffic” and noise from a bar when you’ve got semis and dump trucks and ghetto hoopdies rumbling down Kingshighway 24/7.

     
  14. Mark says:

    Good question, dna!

     
  15. Jim Zavist says:

    Knowing what to kiss and when?!

     
  16. Adam says:

    just two quick things:

    1) there IS residential directly behind the royale

    2) maurice: i think you’re being a little harsh on galen. i don’t think his properties are big money makers (e.g. radio cherokee). if he wanted to make tons of money he probably would have gone somewhere else. at least wait until he makes the big bucks before you slam him for trying to help.

     
  17. Adam says:

    clarification:

    maurice didn’t exactly say that greed is galen’s motivation. i just think maurice’s above comment suggested that that is probably his motivation. and of course i don’t know that it’s not, but i think we should give him the benefit of the doubt. he’s not donald trump.

     
  18. maurice says:

    Gee…thanks Adam (I think). But even the great Trump started small. But actually I was pointing out that G. SEEMS to be challenging the incumbent because of the shut-out of his property. And yes, to me that is wrong. Just as it is wrong for the incumbent to pass a ruling that would prohibit someone he doesn’t like or sees as a competitor from operating an establishment of any kind.

    But irregardless of all that. Perhaps our webmaster Steve could invite a biz owner or two to guest host a column about what are all the hoops and asses that need to be padded in order for one to open a business. I think we would all be in for a shock.

    The bottom line in this case is that the residents were shorted their due processes.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Yes, they have indeed been “shorted their due process.”  We can look at Gondolfi’s ownership of the property in question in a couple of ways. You can say that he wants the ban lifted to help him sell the building and think that is bad or you can look at it and think here is a guy that lives and has a business in the next block up and saw a chance to buy a couple of buildings before someone else did — perhaps someone less sensitive to the interests of the immediate neighbors.  Gondolfi has put his money where his mouth is by getting a few buildings and seeking new owners or tenants for them.  If the tables were turned and he opposed alchohol sales at this location people would be saying he  should have bought the building when he had the chance.  

    The fact remains, the building is for sale and the options for the commercial space are as limited as the square footage.  No master plan has been conceived for the rebirth of Cherokee — we’ve been operating on a hit or miss scenario for too many years now.] 

     
  19. joe b says:

    I too remember reading that the bottleworks in maplewood opened up there instead of the city because of the red tape.

    Maurice, I opened a biz in St l about 10 years ago. Ran successfully for 8 years and then sold it. The hoops and red tape are simply amazing. You really wouldn’t believe it. It’s quite idiotic actually. Can’t really remember how long it took to get everything in order but it was a pain.

    At that time, I was kicking around a few different ideas for a different biz and started looking in the city again. It was this and that and this again and really kind of threw my hands up in the air.

    Finally made the decision to open up in St Peters. Went into city hall and had the basics I needed and within a half hour I was out of there. All the inspections were SCHEDULED and completed within three days. From what I remember there was a fire inspection and building/safety inspection. Clerk scheduled both of these to take place in the morning on a specific, scheduled day.

    Stl city stinks for new biz requirements.

    Just like these posts point out, the only really logical biz for certain locations is a bar.

    Part of me thinks the leaders want a bakery, a shoe repair biz, a hardware store and a seamstress in these old buildings.

     
  20. GP RESIDENT says:

    ALL:

    JUST TO SET THE RECORD STRIGHT.. ALDERMAN SCHMIDT IS WILLING TO DO WHAT THE RESIDENTS WANT. IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT HE WAS TALKING WITH THE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATIONS ABOUT IT…..

    MAURICE I HAVE ASKED MYSELF THE SAME QUESTION. WHY IS GALEN RUNNING FOR ALDERMAN, IT LEFT THE BAN AND PROFIT FROM IT.. IF THAT IS THE CASE THEM HE IS RUNNING FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS. i REMEMBER WHEN CRAIG RAN LAST GALEN, GALEN HOSTED A FUNDRASIER FOR HIM. WHAT IN THE CHANGED.. DID CRAIG TELL GALEN THAT HE NEEDED TO BE A GOOD CITIZEN AND PULL PERMITS WHEN HE DOES WORK ON HIS BULDINGS??? WHICH WE ALL KNOW THAT IT NEVER HAPPENS……

    [UrbanReviewSTL —- I’m going to try really hard to be nice.  First, all caps is the virtual equivalent to screaming.  So, stop screaming!   Second, it is Schmid — no T.  And no, he doesn’t always do what the residents want.  In fact, he can be as stubborn as, well, me. 

    To characterize Gondolfi as running for alderman to profit is way out of line, in my view.  Based on what I know it seems he has been trying to shore up a long forgotten section of Cherokee which is outside the business association CID (Community Improvement District).  One of the ways to do that is to buy real estate before some accountant in Chesterfield decides h/she is going to make millions in real estate by buying property in the city and flipping it.  Trust me, I see way too many absentee landlords — as does Schmid (no T).   I think the point you make about Gondolfi once holding a fundraiser for Schmid, something I have not verified, is telling — supporters can become rivals if things do not change to their satisfaction.]

     
  21. bubba says:

    I think it’s funny how the liquor permit ban was no big deal until a hipster from another neighborhood wanted to open a bar himself and ran into a stone wall.

    It makes the whole affair (whether Gandolfi trying to raise the revenue potential of his building), or Steve Smith opening a bar, very self-serving. Given the selfishness involved, it’s very Seinfeldian.

    This issue has become about personalities instead of policy. We all know SS is a good guy and big booster of the city. He’s got street cred. But let’s not make this about what a great guy SS is. It should be about policy.

    I don’t see Smith clamoring to open a bar on Meramec in Dutchtown. Or in Ivory Triangle Carondelet. He wants to be in the up and coming 20th ward. The funny part is, the hipsters are attacking Craig SchmiD, but forgetting he was at the wheel, building Cherokee into the environment where Smith now wants to expand.

    And now that the environment is attactive, and Smith and Gondolfi have their own ideas, Smith needs to be kicked out of office.

    It was Craig who worked tirelessly for the establishment of a plan for South Grand. And it was Craig who stood up to aldermanic courtesy to defend that same community driven plan.

    I would say the man is being consistent. If there is need for a change, there is a process for that to happen. To send Craig out on his butt after all he’s done, because he’s not lining up with the vision of GG and SS, well, then, yeah, this does seem more personal than professional.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — “If there is a need for a chance, there is a process for that to happen.”  Uh, what exactly is that process other than elect someone different?  Oh yes, try to talk to the alderman and get them to realize that it is no longer 1995 and perhaps it is time to begin planning for the future rather than continually trying to run things out?  That process has failed.  I agree that Schmid has worked very hard but that does not mean he is the appropriate person at this juncture.  

    To call Gondolfi and Smith selfish is unjustified.  Right now Gondolfi has a 4-unit building with one unit a storefront that has always been a bar.  Always.  It is not viable for other uses and this ban is reducing the marketability of that real estate.  If I were him I’d get a lawyer and sue the city for “taking” his property by regulating it out of being viable.]

     
  22. Pam Lanning says:

    Obviously, this has been an issue before Gondolfi and Steve Smith.
    Gondolfi and Steve Smith are the one’s willing to try and make a change.
    If Schmid has done such a wonderful job WHY are there so many empty storefronts?
    Why is Gravois Park in such bad shape?
    I sit in my neighborhood meeting with Schmid, he is holding back the growth of the neighborhood by micromanaging.

     
  23. urban reader says:

    Pam,

    Let’s hear more about what’s “holding back the growth of the neighborhood”. I’m hearing that property values are increasing. Is this untrue?

    UR

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Real estate prices have been increasing throughout the city, region and country.  Even the worst city neighborhoods have seen an increase in value with little efforts whatsoever.  The “growth” for which Pam speaks is likely the concept of, duh, growth — more people and more business.  Of course, Schmid doesn’t want more people  — he is a vocal advocate for reducing density — the complete opposite of what a city needs.  We cannot simultaniously reduce density and support a commercial street.]

     
  24. Amber says:

    The fact that there are differences of opinion within the 20th ward and the residents are not getting together as a whole and discussing what they want for their ward seems, to me, the largest obstacle we are facing. We have splintered cells of community involvement, different neighborhoods have their little meetings and there is no cohesion, until there is, it’s always going to be an issue that some people see the alderman as active, and some don’t. The alderman should Encourage residents to join together instead of only participating in their own little groups, or at least have some kind of liaison that can communicate between them. Bah, all this talk makes me feel that maybe I am trying too hard, for something impossible. It’s not that hard, or at least it shouldn’t be. If all this energy used for arguing could be channelled into actually doing productive something it would make all the difference.

     
  25. urban reader says:

    When Schmid speaks of reducing density, don’t you think he means the conversion of 4-family buildings to townhouses, and 2-family buildings to single family?

    There are lots of vacant units in the 20th ward. A “reduction in density” could actually lead to population growth.

    The strategy of converting “fours to twos” and “twos to single family” actually raises property values, increases more homeownership, and is a proven model of neighborhood revitalization for other city neighborhoods and around the country.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — That is exactly what he means, and it is a highly damaging practice in this city — something we need to stop in its tracks.  People point to a two to one conversation and say, “See it is worth more than it was.”  Well, duh, it should be after a major rehab.  However, rehab the two into condos or updated flats and it will be worth more as well.  

    The point is we need people, lots of people, to populate our residential units and shop in our locally owned stores and restaurants.  However the fewer and fewer dwelling units the more difficult this will become.  As the population in the US goes from 200 million to 300 million the numbers of single person households will increase dramatically.  Families needing these larger spaces is decreasing, this is why suburban builders are in a world of hurt these days — they can’t move their big vinyl boxes the way they used to. 

    I’ve also seen numerous conversations not selling all over South St. Louis.  If we need bigger places, lets build those new on our vacant lots.  But we need to leave the smaller flats as appropriate housing for those of us that are single and especially for those seeking affordable places to live.]

     
  26. urban reader says:

    Steve,

    Don’t you think there is some room for discussion on this issue? Many of these units in both 4-family and 2-family buildings have tiny square footages and shot-gun floor plans.

    Conversions allow for more modern layouts and buyer-preferred amenities.

    Now, I’m not saying take a 5,000 square foot four family and make it into a single family house. However, a 1400-1600 square foot two family can make a very nice single family home.

    If people want to rehab an existing building, preserving its current use, there’s nothing stopping them.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — If someone wants to convert a 1,400sf two-family to single there is nothing stopping them, it should not be mandatory.  However, in the 20th ward try getting tax abatement for a project that involves rehabbing a four-family into new rental units — ain’t gonna happen!  Of course, rental vs. ownership is a related but different debate.  

    I lived in half of a 1,400sf two-family for years and loved it — it was the perfect size for me.  I bought a bigger place and now regret doing so — I’m looking forward to getting back to less than 1,000sf.  As for the shotgun plans that is easily solved by moving the kitchen forward to the middle room and making the back room the bedroom.   A number of shotgun floor plans have been adapted this way throughout the city with some serving as rental property and some have been done as for-sale condos.

    Yes, discussion is good.  Right now the mindset is we must convert all to reduce density.  We’ve been very effective in reducing density in this city over the last 50 years.  How far do we want to go?  300K in population, 200K in population?  Frankly, I want to see us back around 500K.   And a thriving city with population rising and vibrant commercial streets within walking distance will do far more for property values than reduced density with stagnant retail districts.]  

     
  27. Steven Smith says:

    For the record, the Royale was originally to be located on Cherokee. We were unable to apply for a license so another location was sought on Kingshighway. I had looked at probably twenty properties on the street over the years.

    I had wanted to open something down Cherokee in the mid 90s, but had no means at all at that ppoint and I had started seriously looking in about 2000.

    I am just looking to see if the neighbors of the property would allow a place to open up. Right now the neighborhood people are not allowed to say yes or no. The neighborhood cannot sign a petition for the lengthy and highly regulated process of a liquor license application.

    I have looked at on Cherokee, Ivory Triangle and Meramec. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. I feel that a business like mine can make the greatest positive impact upon Cherokee. Yes, I do look at this for the business, but I also look at it the opportunity the greatest impact to improve a neighborhood outside of my business. A place like what I can open would have the most positive effect on Cherokee than any of these other areas- and I would be able to start a strong business. I work very closely with the community to make it a better place- specifically with youth in terms of athletics and job programs. I operate youth programs with the Panda AC and I hope to expand this work on Cherokee where the need is greater than in these other places. I feel I can be more effective there than anywhere else right now. This would go directly into helping stabilize the neighborhood. Working with the youth is key to creating a better Cherokee.

    I would hope that a business like mine would be welcomed to the neighborhood. It seems sad that this is the only area of the southside that has politically prevented the neighborhood from having a say so in what kind of business is permissable.

     
  28. Travis Cape says:

    I’ve got to comment here on reducing density. I don’t have a problem with requiring a four-family to be reduced to a three or a two family to receive tax abatement. It makes good sense to do so as all of the four family units are less than 1000 sq. ft.

    The goal in rehab seems to be to improve housing and create owner occupied dwellings. Good luck in finding people that will spend what it takes to rehab to live in a three room shotgun!

    Steve, I agree that the city needs lots and lots of people, but there are so many vacant buildings and lots that reducing density of rehabs is not holding anyone back. I’ll reconsider this if and when the 20th ward is entirely rehabbed and occupied. Keep in mind also that these neighborhoods were built before everyone had a car and it’s not practical to think most won’t now.

    From a practical prosective, I rehabbed a four family into a three family. I thought it made more sense to have two rental units instead on one. I was wrong! I later figured that between the additional insurance costs and the extra kitchen and full bath that I would have been better off with another townhouse.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — We can only handle so many townhouses in this city, in some neighborhoods we’ve saturated the market.  What we are in fact missing is the smaller units the market seeks.  Last night I attended the VIP gala for the opening of Blu — one of the Plaza Square Buildings downtown going condo.  The studios are 427sf, the one bedrooms are 648sf and the two bedrooms 814sf.  I think I could be fine in a one bedroom unit, once I got rid of some unnecessary junk.  I want a nice place under 1,000sf — I don’t want to have to clean, cool or heat anymore space than that.  Granted, it may not be for you but we need to have a good diversity of units.  Requiring four-unit buildings to go to less units is like saying, “hey why don’t we see if we can reduce our population down to 325K and have even more vacant storefronts.”  Our housing, zoning and other policies such as this are continuing to lead us down a very wrong path.]

     
  29. Travis Cape says:

    There will always be more than enough smaller apartments and houses in the city. The housing stock was built at a time when people lived with less.

    Steve, why don’t we worry about getting all the vacant properties occupied and all the vacant lots built upon first? The city would gain the needed density with just that I believe. How many people from the county do you actually think will ever move into the city?

    The real estate market in the city is saturated right now regardless of the size living space needed.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — The point is to get a level of density around commercial streets and transit to help support both.  Density should increase relative to a vibrant commercial district and then taper off.  A 4-family half a block from say Cherokee should not be viewed the same as one 6 blocks away — the potential market is different.  Density needs to be concentrated near major streets and those served by mass transit.  Reducing density around a once active commercial street is dooming it to a lifeless existance.  

    By not offering small (400-700sf) but nice condos/apartments in our neighborhoods we are cutting off an entire potential market.  Larger spaces, such as the resulting townhouses, cuts many potential occupants out of the marketplace.  That, in turn, drives them to other areas.  If they can sell a 427 studio for $125K+  downtown we can sell a 800sf flat for the same money near an active commercial street in a neighborhood.  We are so busy trying to attract suburban families from the suburbs, despite the reality of our schools, we’ve totally ignored a viable marketplace.]

     
  30. 20th Ward Resident says:

    Amber:

    I am cutting and pasting this from your comment above:

    “The fact that there are differences of opinion within the 20th ward and the residents are not getting together as a whole and discussing what they want for their ward seems, to me, the largest obstacle we are facing. We have splintered cells of community involvement, different neighborhoods have their little meetings and there is no cohesion, until there is, it’s always going to be an issue that some people see the alderman as active, and some don’t. The alderman should Encourage residents to join together instead of only participating in their own little groups, or at least have some kind of liaison that can communicate between them.”

    Do you attend your neighborhood association meetings, the neighrborhood that you live has come a long way in a very shoret time. From what I see and read in the newsletter, great things happened in the past couple of years, and sounds like 2007 is off to great start. Maybe you should join as you suggested…

     
  31. Glenn Burleigh says:

    “Steve, why don’t we worry about getting all the vacant properties occupied and all the vacant lots built upon first?”-Travis Cape

    Excellent point, and one of the main parts of Galen’s campaign. Currently there are many large homes that are being redeveloped, while smaller homes are left to decay and remain as havens for crime, fire hazards, etc. Why? Well the current alderman is very preferential to large scale developers. What does that have to do with it? If you were Pyramid, would you be more interested in rehabbing a 3 story Victorian, or a 2 bedroom bungelow? Obviously the larger building, because of greater returns. This means that many smaller homes stay untouched, and undeveloped. Well, you might ask, why not seek out smaller developers for smaller buildings? Good question. Craig not only doesn’t actively seek small scale developers to fix buildings, but actually works to insure that they don’t get the buildings. Don’t believe me? Well, he said so himself in the RFT, about a year or so ago in an article about LRA. There is plenty of demand for these buildings, we’ve heard from many smaller developers(with proven track records) about buildings they wanted to rehab, only to be told no by Craig. I have a beutiful building on my block that is rotting for that very reason. the person who rehabbed the adjacent building, and did a hell of a job, has been denied a chance to fix it up.

    A lot of folks seem to have a really skewed view point of what Galen stands for, and this is a perfect example. The 20th ward needs an alderman who will work for more comprehensive progress in the ward, including not stifling commerce. That person is Galen.

     
  32. Frank says:

    What builds a neighborhood is not 427 sq foot apartments or 2700+ sq foot single family homes.

    What builds a neighborhood are the people. Whether they can only afford $ 650 a month for rent or $ 2500+ a month for a mortgange payment, the point is that residents support the entire neighborhood and GIVE BACK. Just closing your door, leaving in the morning, back at night…then starting the cycle over each day is NOT a good neighbor.

    The other issue with density is the type of people. If a block has a mix of single families up to even four family buildings, when ALL are working then the block is sustainable. Where the breakdown comes in is when those 600-1000 sq foot shotguns are rented to people to are on government support, yet shouldn’t be. I’m not talking about the disabled, indigent, nor handicapped who need the support. I’m talking about people who are too lazy to get a job. Working and having a job is WORK, it’s not easy. Too many people think that everyone else should support them.

    I highly support diversity in housing. But, what I don’t support is people who refuse to be a part of a cohesive group, just because they feel they are better than anyone else.

    Catch a clue people. No one gets ahead, have food on the table and a roof over their head by not working for it.

    I was raised with, and still believe it today, the perspective “Life isn’t fair. One gets what they deserve, they deserve what they work for”.

    Back to the density issue. To have a sustainable neighborhood it takes all types of housing. Not everyone is in the same “space” their entire life. Every sustainable community must have smaller rental units, moderate sized rentals, small owner occupied properties, moderate sized to large owner occupied properties. This will accomodate from younger adults/college students/young couples to the 30-60 year olds who may need the larger space for families or personal choice due to increased income from jobs…to those in their golden years who can’t deal with the larger space, yards, multi-level space, etc.

    Note that I’ve previously not spoken to the issue concerning the Ordinance about the liquor license issue.

    For those who say it is EASY to get a license pulled…BULL. Have you ever sat in hearings and testified against a business? If you haven’t then you can NOT say that it’s easy. Even when there have been documented cases of drug sales/dealing, guns, etc. it takes months of HARD WORK to get a license pulled, let alone just on probation.

    Residents who have been in these fights know what it takes. They would rather say no, than have problems that will result in they having to take time off from work (at their personal expense) to rally and get a license pulled.

    In discussion about this Ordinance…has anyone asked Alderman Craig Schmid if he is interested in modifying or adjusting this ordinance. Instead of putting Alderman Schmid on the “cross”…ask him why the ordinance was passed in the first place. Ask him how many residents spoke to him personally, or spoke through the neighborhood associations about the need for this type of ordinance.

    Alderman Schmid DID listen to residents and neighbors when this Ordinance was first passed.

    If neigbors and residents still rally for the ordinance, will candidate Gondolfi listen. Or will he work to remove the ordinance in he name of “Change”.

    Change is good…and the process CAN be changed when residents think its time to make a change.

    Go to your neighborhood association meetings…this includes Marine Villa, Dutchtown, Benton Park West, and Gravios Park. This Ordinance affects not only a few blocks on Cherokee, but all or part of four different neighborhoods.

     
  33. "A" says:

    If you think Galen is your man…..

    I heard that he is affiliated with Anarchist’s??

    Any one now about this affiliation?

     
  34. Glenn Burleigh says:

    On the liquor license issue(and this thing has been blown way out of proportion), what Galen wants to do is set up a system where neighbors have greater input in deciding whether or not a business can open. The current situation does not allow this basic act of neighborhood involvement, as it is a blanket ordinance.
    Also assuming that just because someone can’t make it to the neighborhood association meeting means they don’t care about the neighborhood is completely untrue. Some of us have evening/night jobs or other scheduling conflicts, which preclude us from being able to attend.

     
  35. Adam says:

    Give me a break, “A”. Go hunt some witches.

     
  36. Frank says:

    Glenn.

    I’ve yet to hear how G is going to “change” the system so that residents have a greater say in what happens in their neighborhood.

    What is a “new” and improved method than attending meetings and listening to residents.

    I understand that not everyone can attend all of the meeting, but there are various meetings throughout the month that can be attended

    Rather than taking the solution of “dumping” someone who has done a tremendous amount of work for the South side, why not ask for a town hall meeting? Ask for the meeting to be on a Saturday morning (for those who work evenings). Maybe ask for two meetings; one on a M-F evening AND one on Saturday morning so that the majority of residents (registered voters) who wish, can voice their opinion.

    But, also remember that the voice of the neighborhood isn’t just heard in a 1-2 hour meeting. It is heard from being out on the street, taking endless calls, letters, and knocks on the door and talking face to face with residents.

    The way to listen to residents is NOT by knocking on a door and chastising that resident for expressing their individual political opinion.

     
  37. bubba says:

    Frank is too wise. Galen’s group are impatient short timers.

    St. Louis requires people with commitment to the long term.

    Craig has carried things forward for almost a generation.

    Time for hipsters to tip him into a dunmpster!

    Meh.

     
  38. Amber says:

    Response to 20th Ward Resident: I am already a part of the neighborhood. Take a look at the garden at Utah and Gravois, it was planted by THREE people; not a neighborhood association. For that matter you can walk through the neighborhood by my house anytime you like, you might run into me and the dogs walking. The fact of the matter is I don’t have to join a club to be an active resident, I do what I say I will do, and I intend to do more.
    This whole neighborhood and ward has been turned into some ridiculous political debate by people who are not even affected by it on a daily basis. I’ve joined up in ways that I don’t even feel comfortable with.

    I can honestly say that based on the comments on this very “localized” blog that most of you have absolutely no idea who Galen Gondolfi is or the desperately needed transformative vision that he embodies. Keep your old ways. The definition of insanity: To continue to do the same thing you’ve alway done and to expect different results.

     
  39. Adam says:

    “Galen’s group are impatient short timers.”

    Evidence? Age-based generalization? Certain people seem to have latched on to the term “hipster” to condescend to anyone who is young and disagrees with them. Why EXACTLY do you think that Galen is not commited to the long-term health of the neighborhood, bubba?

     
  40. Jim Zavist says:

    Point – once an establishment opens, there’s little (other than illegal activity) to prevent a bar from “fine tuning” how it operates. The old neighborhood bar, with, at most, a juke box in one corner and a TV in another, attracts a much different clientele than a sports bar or a biker bar or an establishment offering live music 3-4-5-6 nights a week. Sometimes, we’re promised somthing benign (“just an occasional folk singer”), sometimes it’s just economic reality (“the wine bar concept didn’t work, so let’s become known as a sports bar”), but there are no really guarantees in life. What we do know is that bars have the POTENTIAL to have negative impacts on nearby residents, with or without food service, so, in many cases, it’s just easier to say say “no” and prevent one from opening than to fight the much larger battle of trying to get an owner to tone done a happening place, or worse, trying to get govdernment to yank a license. Yes, a moratorium is a blunt instrument, but it does reflect, at least as of the last election, the majority opinion of those who voted. To change this is simple – just elect new blood, someone who agrees that more bars are needed in this ward . . .

    [UrbanReviewSTL — As we’ve seen in countless neighborhoods, a well managed drinking establishment has the “potential” to energize an area perhaps once forgotten.  By bringing new life to the area via new patrons you stand a chance of brining in more business and perhaps more potential home owners.  The solution is not to draw a hard line in the sand and refuse  to budge nor is it to say it must be wiped out all together.  The solution is to come together as a community and determine what is best for each block as part of a master planning process for the commercial street.  To date, this has not happened.  We’ve been operating on a hit or miss strategy which is effective at creating vacant storefronts.]

     
  41. Amber says:

    I cannot imagine that having a bar at that corner would ever neccessitate anyone asking them to “tone it down”. As I live on the said block I know for a fact that most disturbances have to do with the cops apprehending someone in our back yards or the neighbors who decide to rip off parts of their houses as weapons against each other.

     
  42. Amber says:

    By the way Steve,
    It is unfortunate that you didn’t take a few pictures of the nursery down the block from Radio Cherokee. There is a nice little window display that is such a brilliant addition to our neighborhood. Everytime I walk by it I feel completely disgusted.

     
  43. joe b says:

    Steve, part of the reasons for lack of development with some areas is the mixed used props. The storefront and apartment upstairs properties. These are extremely difficult to buy and get financing for. The exceptions are the props with several apts and storefronts–usually 8 or more apts.

     
  44. Chris says:

    Is Galen affiliated with Anarchist’s? If he is, do we need or want him to be Alderman?

     
  45. Glenn Burleigh says:

    Wow, people must really be getting desparate if they are trying to tie Galen to the anarchist community. This is the second time someone has made this ridiculous comment on this comment string. Give it up.

     
  46. Travis Cape says:

    Whether Galen is envolved in the anarchist community and his property holdings along Cherokee are very much relevant in this discussion.

     
  47. Amber says:

    Do you REALLY think an anarchist would be running for a political office? Isn’t that a total oxymoron, or are you?

     
  48. Travis Cape says:

    Nothing would surprise me in south city! I have a real problem with a candidate getting a blanket blessing by most on this board over one proposed change in neighborhood business. What else is he going to do? Is he qualified to get any of that done? Those are more pressing issues. If residents of the 20th ward as a whole demand a change, I’m sure Ald. Schmid will work with them.

    Somehow, I think we’re only hearing the side of the businessmen on this and not that of the residents.

     
  49. Glenn Burleigh says:

    To your last point I would say that you should visit the campaign website. This thread is obviously focused on one point, unlike the campaign. Besides helping people become homeowners, being a small business person, and having urban planning training, Galen is well qualified and an in depth look at him would answer any quesitons you may have. There have been many people trying to cast Galen in a certain light, but that does not mean that it is correct. Not to beat a dead horse, but insinuating that Galen is part of some kind of radical anarchist fringe is pretty out there.

     
  50. Dale Sweet says:

    What’s the Big Controversy about some Tiny Place on Cherokee?

    The shame is that people continue to buy buildings thinking that they can do anything they want with them. What if this storefront came complete with cubicles and cots? Hell, then it should be a bordello, no matter what anyone says. Why—just look at it—the beds are already there! I understand what UR is saying with his visual survey and photographs of buildings that Galen Gondolfi coincidentally happens to own, however we all know that businesses and structures are subject to certain restrictions including conditional use hearings, inspections, occupancy permits, sign ordinances, sales tax payments, business licenses and so on. Just because it looks like a bar doesn’t mean it has to be a bar, and just because someone buys a storefront doesn’t mean that any business can open in that storefront.

    I have heard Joe and Linda Edwards talk about what they had to go through in the early ‘70s to get a liquor license at Blueberry Hill. (First 3.2% beer for six months, then 5% beer for 18 months, then a full license, all with 50% food sales.) The U. City City Council was working hard at preserving the few remaining businesses on Delmar at a time when the street was a boarded-up wasteland. Over years, the situation changed quite for the better and may be the liveliest and most diverse area around. In fact, University City—a recognized eating/drinking/entertainment/bands/arts area—still has a 50% food rule. Wonderful establishments such as Momo’s, Saleem’s, the Red Sea, Seki, Brandt’s, Cicero’s and Riddles all comply with what other posters here on UR would call horrible, draconian measures bent on relegating the 20th Ward to oblivion, were those same U. City restrictions imposed here on Cherokee or Chippewa. Hey, and beyond even that, I hear that more than a third of the City wards currently have similar liquor restrictions. From what we’re reading here, you’d think the 20th was the only one.

    Anyway, and regardless of whether the 20th Ward liquor restrictions are indeed a popular—or even a good—thing or not, we need to be quite cognizant of two things:
    a) Craig Schmid is the hardest working alderman at City Hall. My first experience with him was his responding to a voice mail on Friday at 5 p.m. within an hour of my having left it. You go to a HUDZ meeting downtown or a South Side police meeting or any neighborhood meeting in the ward and Craig will—not might—be there, listening and taking notes. He’s also not afraid to cross the powers that be when his constituents’ interests are on the line. Look back at the McDonald’s on Grand thread for more on that (and it will represent only one instance of such behavior).
    b) Buried in the last paragraph of UR’s original post is the fact that Gondolfi owns the Tiny Place in question. Why is Gondolfi running for alderman? Earlier posters have mentioned greed or vengeance, so I won’t go there. In the interest of full disclosure, however, his campaign might mention that he owns a number of largely vacant buildings on Cherokee Street and that his public uses of such structures have met with concern from both the neighbors and the neighborhoods at large. How many storefronts does Gondolfi own on Cherokee, and does he really care what happens on Miami, or Chippewa, or Meramec? Seriously, does this guy have a “vested interest” (as UR writes) or, rather, a conflict of interest?

    While I tend to agree with the typical UR sentiment that ingrown incumbents—like ingrown toenails—need to be removed, the current 20th Ward alderman doesn’t even hardly fit that mold. Let’s just pretend for a second that Schmid’s food/liquor requirements are outmoded or outrageous, and then let’s ask why this (young and) involved neighborhood resident (me) who attends several meetings a month hasn’t heard anyone even mention the apparently desperate need for no-food liquor licenses anytime in the past few years. Even if the liquor demand was there, however, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Schmid has served in a statesmanlike fashion, through a ghastly redistricting ploy and some rough and continuing tough times in the area. And he needs to stay.

    An example of Schmid’s involvement and foresight involves Carnahan Middle School at Broadway and Gasconade. A few years ago, neighbors were complaining about gangs of unruly middle school kids pouring out at dismissal time and wreaking havoc on the neighborhood—indeed, surrounding motorists’ cars, harassing people and destroying property. Schmid got involved, and he served on a task force involving the principal, neighboring alderman, school district officials, ranking police, parents and involved community members. The result? Carnahan is now a technology-studies “High School of the Future”. The destructive behavior of the unruly kids is mitigated as the middle schoolers are, year by year, graduated or spread between other area schools with staggered dismissal times. Carnahan now attracts some of the brightest students in the district.

    Complain to any other 27 aldermen about problems with school kids, and if you ever get a call back, he or she will tell you to call the police. In the Carnahan situation, however, Schmid—a district parent—threw himself in and made a positive difference for all the parties involved.

    That’s just one example. In the grand scheme of things, the Big Controversy over the Tiny Place should end up being Much Ado About Nothing.

     
  51. Amber says:

    Dale, I find it almost amusing that you bring up:
    “An example of Schmid’s involvement and foresight involves Carnahan Middle School at Broadway and Gasconade. A few years ago, neighbors were complaining about gangs of unruly middle school kids pouring out at dismissal time and wreaking havoc on the neighborhood—indeed, surrounding motorists’ cars, harassing people and destroying property.”

    I live two blocks from Roosevelt High School and have had very similar experiences driving to my house, in front of my house, in the street and in my back yard with unruly teens. Craig has never done a damn thing about any of it to my knowledge. In fact the most responsive person I’ve talked to at the block link meetings is our NSO Barb Potts, who seems to be the real person that deals with issues of this nature. I know one thing without a doubt; there is not an alderman in my vicinity that is doing ANY thing that is apparent about the gangs at that highschool or the havoc that the kids who go there wreak upon the surrounding neighborhood.

     
  52. not cops says:

    Roosevelt High School is in the 9th Ward.

     
  53. Joey says:

    All:

    I would like to hear what he thinks he did as president!! Until about a year Benton Park West was one of the worst neighborhoods to live in, was he concerned about crime, drugs and the housing then???. In the past 10 years, how many Weed & Seed meeting did he attend, he just started attending the meetings. Did he help with the fight?? If he did I would like to hear what he did!! I think Dale is correct, he is only worried about Cherokee, and nothing else.

    CRAIG DON’T WORRY YOU HAVE MY VOTE!

     
  54. Amber says:

    It doesn’t matter, most of the kids live in the 20th or 9th or whatever other wards that are near to it. You go two blocks and you’re in the 20th. Are you saying people that live near schools that aren’t in their ward are screwed?

     
  55. Joey says:

    Just what I thought…

    Can’t we find one thing that he did as President of Benton Park West???

    So what will he do for the 20th Ward??? THE SAME???????

    Can anyone come up with one thing that he did as President of BPWNA? He is not shy to let people know that he is the past President, but he has never said how that prepared him to be a Alderman?? We would like to know what he has done for the neighborhood, besides cause trouble on Cherokee!!

     
  56. Alissa says:

    One needs to think about whether their alderman has a coherant vision for the ward in the future. Craig doesn’t seem to be focused on sustainable redevelopment of business along Cherokee Street (which is the focus of the debate for good reason: Cherokee is the major business district in the 20th), whereas Galen happens to have started several businesses that, as far as I can see, are some of the only businesses attracting patrons from outside the ward. We current have two (TWO!) Rent-A-Centers on Cherokee Street between Grand and Jefferson. We have a plethora of check-cashing establishments and stores selling “contemporary smoking accessories” and corner stores selling 24 oz. beers, but we are not allowed to even vote on whether we want a bar?

    Granted, I am a recent resident of the ward (my partner and I purchased our home on Cherokee near Compton about six months ago), but I don’t see Craig encouraging grassroots educational programs at establishments like Black Bear and CAMP (oh no, it’s those scary anarchists who….bake bread and fix bicycles?), which would help to provide the children of the neighborhood with viable afterschool alternatives where there currently are none. I also don’t see Craig encouraging the younger voters of the ward to get involved in the neighborhood association or start businesses or volunteer with programs currently operating in the neighborhood. Galen, by the mere fact of his candidacy, has managed to get a group of people together who are disillusioned with city politics, and make them feel as though they can effect real positive change in their community. That’s amazing. The posters on this discussion can malign “hipsters” until they turn blue in the face, but they also need to look at the people who are setting up shop within the ward. The same “hipsters” you complain about want to support neighborhood businesses and live sustainably and create opportunities in their community. I may not be planning on staying in St. Louis for the rest of my life, but I still would like to see my neighborhood flourish and grow.

     
  57. you says:

    Alyssa,

    Here’s the irony of the situation….

    You liked the Cherokee area well enough to buy a home there. You chose it over any number of other comparably priced alternatives in the city.

    And now that you’re there, it’s time to kick out the leadership which was in place that made things good enough to attract you as a homeowner.

    Delicious. Really.

     
  58. Amber says:

    I’m going to defend Alyssa here as I am in a similar position to her, I’ve been here a bit longer. I have to say that yes, I was attracted to this area for the potential that I saw. I also have seen, in the 1 1/2 years that I’ve been here that much of that potential lies dormant, unrealized, underutilized. The most constructive activities I’ve seen have been coming from a nucleus on Cherokee that happens to involve the residents that want progress and that have continually worked to get their neighbors involved in group activites such as National Night Out, a Halloween night that was completely unrecognized by the official Neighborhood Association as well as the Alderman, but that was highly successful in engaging children from the neighborhood and neighborhood work nights for the garden. These things are signs that there are residents who care. I am not saying that the current Alderman doesn’t care about certain things, but the progress that is taking place is with the residents, not through regulations based on an agenda that is 12 years old and does not address the transformations that ARE taking place. He has no vision, he only sees what he has been doing and I’m truly sick of people suggesting that he works with residents on certain issues because the truth is that he has not budged on certain issues that residents have repeatedly voiced concern over from restrictions on businesses to traffic issues on Cherokee near day cares. Change is needed, in whatever form. That is all we can hope for. The fact that, regardless of what has been done recently regarding crime, housing, business development, etc., that Cherokee still remains largely empty is testament that something is stifling it and that crime has not been erradicated. It takes time, but it also requires people to examine the way they’ve dealt with these issues and to realize that if it’s not improving that maybe you need to try something new.

     
  59. Chad says:

    Amber:

    I beg to differ with you about National Night Out, the neighborhood association, supports block parties; the neighborhood association will pay up to 50.00 for any block in the neighborhood that wants to do National night out.

    Did any make the neighborhood association aware of the block parties? I sit on the board and we have funds to help support events like the ones that you mentioned. Please let the board know what is going and I am sure the board would be willing to help out with the block parties. If funds are available at that time.

    Chad

     
  60. Amber says:

    Chad,
    I wasn’t referring to the NNO at all, I was referring to the Halloween events that we had on Cherokee for the neighborhood, I realize I didn’t clarify that very well. It wasn’t listed anywhere besides in our own paperwork, a lot of the work we do in the southwest corner seems to go unrecognized, as though we’re part of a different neighborhood. From what I understand the board is a lot more interested in working with our little corner of the neighborhood these days, so I hope that the communication will be better as well.

     
  61. Chad says:

    So how can you say that the neighborhood did not support when only your part of neighborhood knew about it? The only way the Aldrerman and the neighborhood could attend events is if they are made aware of them.
    We have a newsletter that is handed out all over the neighborhhood, matter of fact about 800 copies of ‘The Porch Review” is printed each month.

    For Halloween on Wyoming we had 4 neighbors that gave out hot dogs and soda and juicies to the the trick or treaters. I am not compling that the Alderman and neighborhood did not support it. We did it because we wated too.

    Just for the recored the board always wanted to work with southwest corner, but there one or two that had problems with the old board, not sure why????

     
  62. Alissa says:

    Quite honestly, most of the good things going on in the southwest corner of the neighborhood have been pushed by the resident business owners. I moved to that corner of the neighborhood because I would attend gallery openings at Fort Gondo and performances at the Tin Ceiling and Radio Cherokee (things that brought me into the neighborhood from outside the ward!), and I liked the feel at those events. Also, I was wholly unimpressed by every single other rehab that I saw in the ward in my price range, something Galen is specifically addressing.

    I don’t want to complain about the BPWNA, but I see most of the neighborhood leadership’s focus on being reactive, rather than proactive. I also see far more negativity and name-calling coming from the neighborhood “old guard” than I do from the people who would like to see things change. Do we necessarily need to vote Craig out? Of course not. But there needs to be a lively debate like this to wake people up and get them involved. I feel like the fact of a contested election helps to get people thinking about ward issues in ways that they wouldn’t otherwise. As I said before, Galen’s candidacy has helped to encourage people who normally don’t get inolved in neighborhood level politics and try to improve our collective environment. Isn’t that the whole idea?

     
  63. Can't we all just get along? says:

    Wow! I love the debate. Isn’t Democracy great? I’m just so proud to be an American living in the 20th Ward in St. Louis!

    I just hope that no matter the outcome of the election, that these two sides; the “old guard” and the “anarchist/hipsters” can get along and work to better our neighborhood after the election.

    Now, let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya… and pick up some damn trash while we’re at it!

     
  64. Egads, people.

    If any of you were able to attend the debate the other night, you’d realize that Schmid and his so-called “leadership” style comprise a sham. He’s asleep at the wheel, frankly, like Ortmann, and I’m bemused some of you can’t see this.

    Any number of people who personally know Galen can attest to his understanding (practical and theoretical) of urban renewal, his unequivocal commitment to helping others (look at his indefatigable work at Petersen Housing) and his desire to better this world (among a list of numerous other traits) and would gladly concur that Galen is an ASSET in any capacity he might serve.

    All this nonsense about his political bent and his so-called money-making scheme on Cherokee are simply untenable. When I spoke with Galen the other night post-debate, he was getting ready to settle in for the evening — preparing to sleep in his balmy 48 degree basement!

    Let’s wake up and take this thing in the right direction. Galen has the leadership, the understanding and the ability to rally people and get important things done. Anything short of a Gondolfi victory March 6 is really selling this ward far short of its potential. It’s that basic, really.

    This election is crucial for this ward. Ask the current alderman.

     
  65. J says:

    >If any of you were able to attend the debate the other night

    I did, and had the opposite reaction to yours. Craig Schmid talked about what he has done, is doing, and will do. All I seem to remember Galen Gondolfi talking about was progress and potential. I do believe in the progress and potential of the ward, but that doesn’t qualify me to be alderman.

    I’m sure Galen is an asset to what he is doing, and I appreciate what he has done on Cherokee Street. I am not anti-Galen by any means, and the anarchist stuff and all that is just silly.

    I have to say, I’m surprised at the number of Galen Gondolfi signs I am seeing in the Gravois Park neighborhood. If even half of those folks were coming to neighborhood meetings, I think we could all make some real progress!

    I hope all voters look deep in their hearts before this election and ask themselves if voting Craig out of office is really the solution to the problems in the ward.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — In the world of politics whenever you get a challenger to an incumbent you get the ‘here is what I plan to do in the future’ vs. the ‘here is what I have done while in office’ difference.  It is up to us as voters to figure out which is more important.  Remember, every incumbent was a new candidate at one time.  Personally I like to drop the incumbent/challenger labels and look at the candidates on a more equal footing — evaluating their past experience (what do they bring to the table) and what is their potential for the coming term (what will they possibly do while in office).]

     
  66. J says:

    >Remember, every incumbent was a new candidate at one time.

    Of course! My point in that post was not that no new person should be voted into office, but that while I came to the debate somewhat open-minded about both candidates, while I was there I was struck by the lack of substance behind Galen Gondolfi’s responses to questions. It sounded like good general ideas, but nothing concrete, no real plan. That worries me. A lot.

     

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