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Christmas Eve Guest on KDHX

December 23, 2007 Media 17 Comments

I will be a guest on KDHX’s Collateral Damage Monday the 24th from 7pm to 7:30pm.  We will be talking about stories from 2007 and some of the anticipated stories expected in 2008.  You can listed at 88.1FM or online.


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. John W. says:


    I heard the show last night, and as usual the topics are good (overview of 2007). As I’ve been visiting this blog, I’ve read your defenses of New Town and the show wrapped up last night with some comments relating to a new planning director for the city. You had mentioned that if Paul McKee were to follow the pattern of New Town as more constructionist New Urbanism rather than the confusing assortment of relationless structures out at the MasterCard company town of Winghaven this would be to your satisfaction. I have to say that what Rollin Stanley has been often quoted as criticizing this type of development is quite true. I’ve been present at several local functions where Rollin spoke, including a design charette for the Shrewsbury TOD during the summer of 2006, and I find myself in agreement with his assessment to date of DPZ New Urbanism. I see that you are reading the new Rybczynski book on the subject, and I have to admit that while I’ve enjoyed reading his other books, and have also enjoyed reading James Kunstler’s related books I find their near total endorsement of the ‘traditionalism’ to be really troubling. Though I could write exhaustively about the subject of New Urbanism, I’ll just say here that Rollin’s remark that DPZ New Urbanism is not really new, and certainly not urban is dead on accurate. It is more appropriately considered New SUBurbanism as its form is just that. Avoiding the tempation to launch screeds about needless development of greenfields and repeated avoidance of true urban brownfields, I’ll just say that while Rollin may have come off as elitist or arrogant or dismissive (while living in Soulard, accomplishing little for the inner city, and still finding argumentative effort to slight New Urbanism) he is nonetheless right about this matter. One of his favorite remarks, as a former resident of Toronto, was to say that there was no need to brand the form-based development sought by DPZ New Urbanists as New Urban or anything else- it’s just “good planning”.

    [SLP — Here is the issue I have with the “good planning” argument — the notion of good planning changes all the time.  There was a time that razing neighborhoods like Soulard and putting in cul-de-sac streets in its place was considered good planning.  And New Urbanism, for all its faults, is different than old urbanism.  New Town, for example, has adequate planning for cars near its commercial district.  The parking areas will eventually be well screened by buildings but planning for the car was as integral to the thought process as planning for pedestrians — that would be the “new” part — now to plan for multiple modes without having one overrule the other.]

  2. John W. says:

    What Rollin Stanely was referring to when he used the phrase, “it’s just good planning” was of course the nature of Toronto. He was describing the mixed-use nature of the logical, old-world influenced cities that exhibit the same desirable qualities that the New Urbanists seek. His trouble with the [branding by DPZ] of such a long-practiced and well understood concept is that in calling it ‘new’, and then building a highly ordered and complete town including everything that would otherwise have accreted over time is a maddening conceit. Why construct an ideal far away from anything of meaning, relating in no way to existing patterns, requiring complete dependence on automobiles, and ignore the ever-present 800 pound gorilla in the room? The ‘town’ is a contrivance and is built of artiface, rather than attempting to be of St. Louis in some recognizable way. While Seaside, the Kentlands and perhaps a few other early examples can be excused as necessary labaroties where the garden suburb experiment was grown in a petrie dish to show the intent of a full town, the ongoing list of greenfield expansions by the likes of DPZ, Looney Ricks Kiss et al are pointlessly redundant. When taking cues from exhisting historic precedent, the form-based development patterns of New Urbanism can be real winners in older urban neighborhoods. Why New Town, when we should be working to accomplish this mixed-use smart growth in Old Town?

    [SLP — I’m no New Town defender but relative to new development in Wentzville it really isn’t very far from the center or even adjacent residences.  The land where New Town sits was zoned industrial — it would have been more business park stuff.  But the real issue is about greenfield development rather than brownfield.  People need to state that.  Instead, considerable discussion is spent debating new vs old vs good planning.  We’ll see now Stanley does in Montgomery Co, Maryland as they need something besides the suburban crap they’ve got.]

  3. John W. says:

    I think we’ll eventually come around to making the same statement about what’s truly important. I sincerely hope Mr. McKee does follow the example of form-based smart growth at least set by New Town, because I can only imagine the suburban wasteland that could unfold in north St. Louis, for instance. Neighborhood potential ruined because a few in power hastily declare that “any development is better than urban decay” and give Carte Blanche to anyone with resources.

    [SLP — Given what passes for development in North St. Louis currently I don’t think he could make it any worse?  I suppose more of the same would be worse!  The grid is being closed, houses are being pushed back on the lots to create  big open front yards (and useless backyards).]

  4. northside neighbor says:

    All this talk of urban form in McKee’s northside venture presupposes he’s even thinking about a “community” development. What if his plan is to consolidate the area into a vast midwest regional warehousing, transportation and distribution facility? Quietly, over the last ten or so years, there have been more and more large sized warehousing and trucking operations to open in the old St. Stanislaus parish area. (North of MLK and east of Jefferson). Such a development could bring thousands of new jobs, and return hundreds of acres of city land to productive use. A handsome package of state incentives could help pave the way. Until McKee unveils the vision for his vast holdings, no one knows what to expect. Given today’s slow housing market, and the high cost of office/industrial land out beyond 270, a commercial enterprise underwritten by multiple incentive programs seems at least as plausible a scenario as any other. Do vacated city streets qualify for acreage in the land assemblage tax credit calculations?

    [SLP — The lack of access to an adjacent highway makes me think a major trucking center is not in the cards.  Now, some large scale industry that needs lots of cheap land and does some trucking of stuff in and out is certainly a possibility.  Ideally the entire project would not be strictly residential, having some local jobs would be good.]

  5. northside neighbor says:

    Interstate access is fairly close, using Grand, Cass, or Jefferson, maybe a mile or two away. For long haul trucks, that last mile or two off the highway is no big deal. Just think of trucks trying to get to Clayton during the Highway 40 shutdown. All this talk of McKee has me wondering about predictions for 2008… What’s the over/under for how long before McKee makes a public statement re. his development plans? What are the odds he announces during 2008? Even money? Do you think Lumiere would want some of that action? My money says no announcement in 2008. Next predicition, does McKee become a campaign issue in the next mayoral election (2009?). If so, how does it play out?

  6. John W. says:

    No single individual has the power, tax incentives in pocket or not, to solely determine the purpose of such an expanse of acres. It seems likely the pattern will be mixed-use residential where there remains a healthy stock of housing adjacent to recognizable civic features such as St. Louis Park. I do believe that the reason McKee and co-conspirators are apparently undertaking the shadow operation (blockbusting, ambivalence toward rustling, etc) to clear the neighborhood of squatters or stalwarts is to build large industrial/commercial facilities. While this would typically be inhospitable to the neighborhood concept under conventional single-use zoning (allowing industry to situate buildings, roads and parking amenable only to that purpose), the ENTIRE PURPOSE of mixed-use zoning is to allow comingling of occupancies but in a more liveable and hospitable way. Mixed use ‘zoning’ as the chief instrument of smart urban growth is indiscriminate when it comes to occupancy (with exception to high-hazard), but rather focuses on physical FORM of development.

    I live just outside of Maplewood inside the city limits of St. Louis(24th Ward, Ellendale Neighborhood), and right down the street from the Schlafley Bottleworks brewery. Though the Bottleworks is clearly a facility that serves the public as restaurant and bar, it is also industrial in nature. The building was previously a Shop ‘n Save grocery store of the box variety and therefore the usual large, impenetrable mass. This box is located directly within an old residential fabric, but in a way that allows it to comingle with the century-old homes of the neighborhood. Sprinkled throughout the small municipality of Maplewood are many other light industrial buildings that are comfortably pocketed within the primarily residential community. Maplewood offers some examples of mixed-use neighborhood structure that are a result of years of slow growth about an established, older established pattern. This pattern was acceptable to townspeople early in its history, and makes Maplewood what it is today. Also important are the fantastic old churches, historic downtown district of Manchester Rd. and Sutton Blvd. which as a mix of entities is not unlike north St. Louis.

    Mixed-used development allows but requires industrial occupancies to be situated in a way that is respectul of more sensitive occupancies such as residences, churches and schools. Even if there are large expanses of available land targeted for industry, this industry can be built to comingle with other occupancies, and not be left to consume land the way single-use zoning patterns would allow.

  7. northside neighbor says:

    The Maplewood you describe took one hundred years to emerge. I think McKee and his people are thinking of a much shorter timeframe. Achieving the sort of interesting mix you describe is unlikely to conform to McKee’s investment strategy.

  8. John W. says:

    How do you know?

  9. John W. says:

    The purpose of the Maplewood description is simply to illustrate the nature of a neighborhood that has been tolerant of a mix of uses, and that it is certainly possible for industry to included in any forthgoing plan to redevelop north St. Louis. Ultimately, if all we’re willing to do is sit around and type our comments into blog threads and wait around for others to make the decisions IT WILL BE out of our hands.

  10. northside neighbor says:

    How do I know? Look at McKee’s other projects for a clue. Most US developers are looking for their returns in ten or fewer years. Even close margin homebuilders are looking for 7-10 percent rates of return. If McKee puts tens of millions into “Northhaven”, counting in the incentives, he’s still probably calculating a ten-fifteen year hold. Look at it another way…the reborth of Maplewood has taken about twenty years, and is the result of a long term, civc effort. No one developer led the way. In “Northhaven”, since one developer has taken hold, investment timelines will be based on his projections, not yours or mine. Besides, we don’t have any skin in the game…or do we?

  11. Jim Zavist says:

    What happened in Maplewood (the buildings themselves) for the most part happened more than fifty years ago, a very different time when it comes to public expectations. With the exception of the Wal·Mart/Sams/Lowes complex, the only other substantial new construction is the “new” Shop-and-Save on Manchester. Much of south City follows the same pattern, with industrial buildings following the old rail lines, within walking distance of affordable blue-collar housing. “Mixed use” these days pretty much excludes “industrial” from the mix. For most folks, mixing uses means adding some cute retail, maybe some apartments and/or condos, and, gasp, mixing price points. Modern “industrial” rarely fits, given its preference for huge one-story boxes and wide roads and big parking lots designed to accomodate today’s semi trucks.
    As for McKee’s Northhaven, the possibilities are multiple. It could go residential, even “mixed-use”, as easily as it could go industrial. Both are “answers” that could be profitable for both him and the city. The big unanswered question remains how his plans will impact the present-day “squatters or stalwarts”, the current residents, who, in my mind, deserve some input in determining their destiny!

  12. northside neighbor says:

    One challenge in the McKee situation is that there is no clear focal point for finding the community’s voice. Is it MCU? Is it through a tiny handful of aldermen? Is it from adjoining neighborhoods? McKee has found a vacuum. By nature’s forces, he has found opportunity. It will be interesting to see how the Post Dispatch, the African American leadership (in the Aldermanic Black Caucus if nothing else), the STL Business Journal, and local, state and national elected officials address this issue. In a year of Highway 40 shutdowns, perhaps encouraging a back to the city movement, the reuse of vacant lands in the city should be a topic of healthy, regional debate.

  13. John W. says:

    to be facing another in a conversation rather than simply extracting implications certainly makes it more difficult to illustrate a point. O B V I O U S L Y, Maplewood developed over the course of at least one century, the type of mixed use I’m describing ended in practice about 50 years ago, and the conception most have of mixed use is of the quaint boutique storefront in an old building, in an old street, with a tidy little residence atop. The use of Maplewood as an example is just that- an example. Regardless of what current zoning laws allow or prohibit, Maplewood stands as an example what can happen with mixed occupancies, and most PUDs you’ll see today reflect this very mixture. Again, I’m not referring to current zoning laws, but what can take place where there is enough expanse to establish a PUD, for instance.

    As for the propensities of McEagle, I’m afraid you’re describing two different worlds. Referring, cynically, to north city as “Northhaven” to evoke an image of the [insert your own adjective here] ‘town’ way out near Lake St. Louis for the workers of MasterCard to paint a bleak future for a blanket of neighborhoods of historic fabric is an overreach. Even gluttonous developers know potential in urban trends when the see them, and it would be hard to confuse old north St. Louis with the outlying suburban hinterlands in a metro area. When I asked, “how do you know?”, I was asking if you know specifically about the intent of Mr. McKee for his holdings as Blairmont. By your response, it seems as if you do, and given the breakdown of cost benefit from the perspective of a land developer tells me your only expecting the worst. This may in fact be true in the end, but I would hope there are enough people like ourselves, and who would be willing to act however possible to influence development. Who knows… maybe all of the fearmongering about McKee is all just a bugaboo. I doubt it strongly, but that doesn’t mean that all is necessarily lost.

  14. northside neighbor says:

    The mainstream media has created a very unfortunate distortion — the near northside is not the same thing as “Old North St. Louis”. In fact, ONSL is a small part of the near north side. Further, while McKee does own some land in ONSL, most of his holdings are concentrated west of St. Louis Place park, in an area with very little historic anything left. The bugaboo in the McKee story is the waste he is leaving behind in the wake of his site assemblage effort. In terms of historic preservation, it would be nice to hear his plans for the Clemens House. It would be a start.

  15. John W. says:

    Yes, there is a distinction between the wards and their neighborhoods (19th and 5th), and I was loose with my use of the term “Old North St. Louis”. Not really being a product of a misinforming MSM, but rather a lazy wholesale inclusion of ‘old’ ‘north’ of St. Louis neighborhoods, my loose use should rightly be corrected. There is clearly much activity in the Crown District where there is nothing but football fields of open space between even single, standing homes, block by block above, and of course including the fenced nature preserve known as Pruitt Igoe.

    Hearing the plans for the Clemens house and other historic structures shown on the Built St. Louis blog would absolutely be the best start. It would set the tone of the intent of McEagle to be either sensitive in historic stewardship or a careless check casher. I’m not even from this city, but have adopted a passionate interest in it’s direction.

  16. Jim Zavist says:

    John, I’m actually in the neutral camp when it comes to McKee’s plans. I can see the potential positives from the developer’s side and I can see the potential negatives from the current residents’ side. I’m also well aware of NIMBY and BANANA politics, so I’m more than a bit intrigued by the ongoing standoff between activists wanting to have input and a developer playing his cards very close to his vest. I don’t live up there, and have rarely visited, so my perspective is much more pragmatic than emotional – I’d like to see something, anything succeed, but I don’t have a strong preference as to what form it should take. That said, I also have great sympathy for the local activists who have struggled with varying degrees of success to revive pockets of the area, and the last thing I’d want to see happen is for them to be forced out, even if they’re “fairly” compensated. Coming from Denver, where every major development decision requires significant public input, it’s somewhat disconcerting to see the lack of input here from those who will be directly impacted. But, I’ve also been around here long enough to know that that’s the way most things happen, so, for now, I’m content to sit back and to wait patiently to see what actually ends up being proposed . . .

  17. John W. says:

    The only thing that really can be done for now is to wait to see what is proposed. Until then, we’re only assuming [the worst]. I do not live in a neighborhood of either the 5th or the 19th ward, but considering the enormousness of the unimproved area the success of the pattern of redevelopment could restore or destroy my faith in the city ever progressing. My question would be, “how can we possibly screw this up?”.


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