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Readers: Rams Should Pay For Their Own Facility In STL Region

Two-thirds of readers last week thought the Rams should pay for any new facility, but they’d like them to stay in the region. Here were the results:

ABOVE: Edward Jones Dome as seen from The Laurel Apartments
ABOVE: Edward Jones Dome as seen from The Laurel Apartments

Q: Arbitrators ruled in favor of the Rams regarding the EJ Dome lease, what outcome would you like now?

  1. Rams to pay for their own facility, but staying in the region 134 [67%]
  2. For the Rams to move elsewhere 31 [15.5%]
  3. Other: 19 [9.5%]
  4. City/county/state pay build a new facility 9 [4.5%]
  5. CVC/city/county/state pay for the Dome modifications 7 [3.5%]
  6. Unsure/No Opinion 0 [0%]

Many of the 19 “other” answers indicated some sort of public-private split:

  1. 50/50
  2. New stadium financed partially by Kroenke and partially by tax dollars
  3. they all pay.
  4. Rams, City, County and fans pay for new facility in downtown
  5. build a new stadium southwest of busch
  6. Rams Owners to pay off the OLD facility, then move away to wherever!
  7. Public-Private partnership for a new stadium
  8. to get the G4 from the NFL and HELP pay for the NEW DOME in STL
  9. Rams pay majority to rehab the Dome. Must get more use out of a 17 yr old bldg.
  10. It will be a combination of city / county / state / NFL & Rams money – new stadi
  11. Los Angeles Relocation
  12. Move to Maryland Heights
  13. Rams build stadium on illinois riverfront
  14. city state and rams pay. keep stadium downtown
  15. Agreement for both parties to contribute to a new stadium not downtown
  16. Rams and CVC/city/county/state pay for Dome modifications
  17. Stan signs long term lease with no changes needed to current dome : )
  18. Rams, NFL, CVC/city/county/state pay for facility
  19. Rams stay, hybrid financing – team + NFL + taxpayers

So why didn’t I include such an option in the poll?

CVC leaders immediately said that it was unlikely the state, St. Louis city and St. Louis County would agree to such an expense. The three are still paying a combined $24 million a year toward the bonds taken out to build the Dome. (stltoday.com)

Because we haven’t paid for the facility we have! The bond holders still expect to get paid regardless of where the Rams play after March 2015. If the Rams want to pay off the remaining debt on the Edward Jones Dome then I suppose some sort of shared effort to finance a new facility could be discussed.

The one topic I’ve not seen covered in all this is the PSL – personal seat license. The City of Charlotte is going through a very similar process with the Carolina Panthers:

Belong Forever.

That’s the Carolina Panthers’ marketing campaign to persuade fans to buy Permanent Seat Licenses, which gives someone the right to buy season tickets for a “lifetime” of football at Bank of America Stadium.

But as the team negotiates with the city of Charlotte for $125 million in public money for stadium renovations, some fans have questioned what their PSLs guarantee them.

The truth: A PSL is only permanent and forever for as long as the team stays in Bank of America Stadium. (Charlotte Observer)

Does it make a difference to Rams PSL holders if the dome gets a major overhaul versus building a new facility in Fenton, for example?

The only site  I can think of in the City of St. Louis large enough for a football stadium is the former Pruitt-Igoe public housing project at Cass & Jefferson.

— Steve Patterson

 

The 2013 St. Louis Auto Show

Fuel economy is mentioned often in this year’s St. Louis Auto Show, which started yesterday and runs through 5pm Sunday.

ABOVE: Sign at the Toyota display
ABOVE: Sign at the Toyota display

No wonder really, given the views of today’s auto buyers:

15% of those surveyed said that fuel economy was their #1 criteria in choosing a new car, but as low as that figure sounds, it still outranked styling, reliability, and cost. In other words: fuel economy is leading the pack, but not by much. (Christian Science Monitor)

Consider where we were in 2008:

The cost of gas in June of 2008, the early stages of the heavy summer driving season and during the presidential campaign, was $4.10 per gallon. The 2008 gas crisis hit its peak one month later with prices averaging $4.11 per gallon. (CBS News/Face the Nation)

By December 2008:

Gas prices declined for the sixth straight day on Thursday, falling below the $1.65 per gallon, according to a national survey of credit card swipes at gasoline stations. (CNN Money

Currently the national average is around $3.31/gal (AAA).

This focus on fuel economy is partly a response to consumer demand but also to higher standards announced by the Obama Administration in August 2012:

The standards — which mandate an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon for the 2025 model year — will increase the pressure on auto manufacturers to step up development of electrified vehicles as well as sharply improve the mileage of their mass-market models through techniques like more efficient engines and lighter car bodies.

Current rules for the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, program mandate an average of about 29 miles per gallon, with gradual increases to 35.5 m.p.g. by 2016. (NY Times)

I’m glad to see manufacturers and consumers on the same page.

ABOVE: Chrysler products continued their "Imported from Detroit" theme
ABOVE: Chrysler products continued their “Imported from Detroit” theme
ABOVE: Ford featured the small Fiesta on its first display
ABOVE: Ford featured the small Fiesta on its first display
ABOVE: The Tesla Model S is in the Eco area
ABOVE: The Tesla Model S is in the Eco area

The annual show is billed as the “largest automobile event in the St. Louis area, the 2013 Saint Louis Auto Show features more than 500 new cars, trucks, SUVs and luxury vehicles from over 25 manufacturers all under one roof.”  Maybe, but some weren’t  present: Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, BMW, and Porsche.

Still, the show is a great place to see many cars in one place. It runs noon-10pm today, 10am-10pm Saturday, and 10am-5pm Sunday.

— Steve Patterson

 

Little Change on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive

This is my ninth look at St. Louis’ Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on Martin Luther King Day.  As before, the street doesn’t do the man justice. For the previous eight years I started downtown, west to the city limits and returned. That was done by car or motor scooter, but I longer have a car.  Recently returning to St. Louis in a rented car I had the foresight to exit I-44 at Jamison, making my way over to McCausland and Skinker to the west end of MLK Dr.

The following are sixteen images from my drive east to downtown.

ABOVE: Commercial district continues west off the city limits
ABOVE: Commercial district continues west off the city limits line
ABOVE: Just inside the city limits is the old Wellston Loop streetcar building
ABOVE: Just inside the city limits is the old Wellston Loop streetcar building
ABOVE: Across the street the once bustling district is largely vacsant
ABOVE: Across the street the once bustling district is largely vacsant
ABOVE: The former JC Penny store continues to deteriorate
ABOVE: The former JC Penny store continues to deteriorate
ABOVE: But businesses do exist today, still serving the needs of area residents
ABOVE: But businesses do exist today, still serving the needs of area residents
ABOVE: Just east of Goodfellow is one of my personal favorites
ABOVE: Just east of Goodfellow is one of my personal favorites
ABOVE: Housing development Arlington Grove is now open -- and fully occupied. More on this tomorrow.
ABOVE: Housing development Arlington Grove is now open — the residential units are fully occupied. More on this tomorrow.
ABOVE: Surprised to see this building still standing, even more surprised to see the front being tuck pointed.
ABOVE: Surprised to see this building still standing, even more surprised to see the front being tuck pointed.
ABOVE: Two of the four corners of Union & MLK have former gas stations, a third is currently a gas station.
ABOVE: Two of the four corners of Union & MLK have former gas stations, a third is currently a gas station.
ABOVE: A new tenant is in the retail space at MLK & Kingshighway, but it wasn't even built with a connection to the public sidewalk just a few feet away
ABOVE: A new tenant is in the retail space at MLK & Kingshighway, but it wasn’t even built with a connection to the public sidewalk just a couple of feet away
ABOVE: Boards over former windows is a too common sight
ABOVE: Boards over former windows is a too common sight, auto-related businesses dominate the area east of Kingshighway
ABOVE: Across from the renovated buildings of Dick Gregory Place is a nice looking restaurant
ABOVE: Across from the renovated buildings of Dick Gregory Place is a nice looking restaurant, Arkansas Fried Chicken. Click image for Yelp listing
ABOVE: The corner of one building is collapsing
ABOVE: The corner of one building is collapsing
ABOVE: Another favorite building waiting for a new use.
ABOVE: Another favorite building waiting for a new use.
ABOVE: Nearby is yet another favorite, in very original condition.
ABOVE: Nearby is yet another favorite, in very original condition.
ABOVE: Skipping ahead from Vandeventer to Tucker we have the ongoing project to fill in the former railroad tunnel.
ABOVE: Skipping ahead from Vandeventer to Tucker we have the ongoing project to fill in the former railroad tunnel.

A few bright spots exist along this 5.7 mile stretch (map), but a more comprehensive approach is needed to address the myriad of problems that exist. The piecemeal approach isn’t going to do much beyond the immediate areas that have seen reinvestment.

We must find ways to get sources of good employment in the area again. It’s easy for you tell tell me the reasons why reality is that won’t happen, why jobs left and won’t return. I know why.  I want to know ideas for bringing new jobs in the future.

Tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the Arlington Heights Apartments.

— Steve Patterson

 

Completely Different Economies

November 6, 2012 Economy, Featured, Retail 3 Comments

Many people use daily deal sites/apps like Living Social and Groupon and many local versions exist now as well. Businesses run deals in an attempt to attract new customers, but the distribution of deals is .

ABOVE: Recent map of deals on Groupon

Recently looking at a map (above) of Groupon deal locations it become clear to me the central corridor and south city are my only options, no businesses in north city seem to be participating. A notable exception is advertiser Rambles on 14th Street in Old North had  a recent deal on Living Social.

Perhaps the north city merchants realize the cost of a new customer through such sites may simply be too high, not enough bang for the buck. I looked on Ujamaa Deals but didn’t find anything local:

Ujamaa Deals was founded to directly combat the chronic unemployment plaguing the Black community. No community that spends over 90% of its money with businesses that they don’t own will EVER achieve political, social, cultural, or economic equality or independence!

The idea behind Ujamaa Deals is very simple. The real unemployment rate in the Black community is over 20%, with some estimates as high as 30%, and these numbers are not improving. It is a fact that Black-owned business are more likely to hire Black people than non-Black-owned businesses (about 85% more likely actually). Blacks currently spend less than 10% of their money with Black-owned businesses. So it became obvious to us that the most efficient way to combat Black unemployment is to re-direct more Black dollars to Black businesses in order to help them grow, and when they grow they’ll need to hire more people, and those people are likely to be Black. So by spending money with Black-owned businesses we are creating wealth and jobs for ourselves and decreasing our dependence on others for goods and services.

One sentence really stood out to me:

“Blacks currently spend less than 10% of their money with
Black-owned businesses.”

That’s a harsh reality if true! Looking into this issue I ran across an article by Ujamaa Deals co-founder Lawrence Watkins where he discussed the  4 half-truths about black-owned businesses — and why you should still buy black:

  1. Customer service is terrible with black-owned businesses.
  2. The prices of black-owned businesses are higher than at other firms.
  3. Encouraging people to buy black is racist. We need to encourage people to buy American.
  4. There aren’t any black products that I really want to buy.

Obviously much work needs to be done to get a thriving economy is predominantly black areas.   I don’t have any solutions, do you?

— Steve Patterson

 

AT&T Quietly Reduced Workforce In Downtown St. Louis

October 22, 2012 Downtown, Economy, Featured 21 Comments

When most people see the AT&T office towers at 1010 Pine and 909 Chestnut St. they assume many people work there. The Pine tower is from 1925 and the Chestnut tower was built as the corporate headquarters of Southwestern Bell in 1985, both have just a fraction of the number of employees of even just 5 years ago.

ABOVE: AT&T’s two office buildings downtown, 1001 Chestnut (left) and 909 Chestnut (right). Photo by William Zbaren from American City: St. Louis Architecture (click image for more info)

Two issues: how AT&T reduced the workforce without public layoff notices and the implication for other downtown St. Louis businesses nearby.

Former and current employees tell the same story about how AT&T avoided having to issue layoff notices as required by the 1988 WARN Act. From one source:

AT&T has done a number of outsourcings since 2006-ish to different companies include Accenture, IBM and Amdocs. I was part of a 1,000 person division in IT which was outsourced to Amdocs in 2008.

We were given a very last minute notice about a mandatory meeting in February, 2008 in the Data Center auditorium where we were told we were being outsourced to Amdocs. Our pay & benefits (health insurance, vacation, etc.) were kept the same, with the exception of our pension as Amdocs did not have a pension plan. Instead, we were given an additional 5% match to our 401k. We still worked for the same boss (the outsourcing went up to the VP level, in my instance), at the same desk, doing the same work. The only difference is that our paycheck was coming from Amdocs.

In early February 2009, we received another mandatory meeting invite for the employees in my group. In the data center auditorium, an Amdocs manager (from a different division, located in Champaign, who none of us had ever met) read a prepared statement stating that layoffs were necessary because the amount of work assigned to our group was falling short of what was anticipated at the time of the outsourcing. We should return to our desks and those employees being let go would receive an email while those not being let go would not. About an hour later, I received an email indicating I would be laid off on February 26, 2009. Approximately 500 of the 1000 people in my group were laid off in total.

The significance of that date? It was one year and one day after we had been outsourced to Amdocs. The contract between Amdocs and AT&T specified any employees laid off in the year following the outsourcing would be given severance at the AT&T rate (4% of salary per year of employment). After that date, severance would be paid at the Amdocs rate (1 week per year of employment). To rub salt in the wound, our final paychecks contained pay for 72 hours as we were let go on a Thursday and worked only 9 days out of the 10 day pay period (rather than the usual 86 2/3rs hours as salaried employees).

My source indicated Amdocs issued WARN Act notices in California, where they have stricter requirements, but AT&T and contractors avoided having to announce reductions in St. Louis.

In August 2009 our downtown grocer, Culinaria, opened for business. A year later businesses on the one block of 9th between AT&T and Culinaria  were closing due to lack of customers. Culinaria was blamed but one person I spoke with says this was the height of the reductions.

ABOVE: Baladas’s Bistro, 9th & Pine, right after closing in August 2010
ABOVE: The significant reduction in employees has also resulted in the closure of businesses in the ground floor of 909 Chestnut.

To make matters worse for nearby businesses, many of the remaining employees telecommute from home rather than come into the office.  Reduced property taxes is another issue:

Inland’s affiliate, MB St. Louis, convinced St. Louis assessor Ed Bushmeyer that the AT&T tower is now worth just $135 million – about $70 million less than what it sold for in 2006.

Jerome Wallach, an attorney for MB St. Louis, argues that the building’s value plummeted because AT&T has slashed the size of its workforce there, and low occupancy cuts the building’s market value. The owner would have difficulty selling the half-full building for an attractive price when AT&T’s lease expires in 2017, he added.

But the building is not for sale now, Wallach acknowledged, nor has MB St. Louis given AT&T any rent breaks on the property because of its diminished presence. Wallach argues the rent shouldn’t factor into assessed value, which should be based on what it might sell for now in its half-full state. (stltoday.com from April 2012)

No doubt AT&T plans to completely vacate the 909 Chestnut building after their lease expires, in the meantime the numbers of employees at both buildings will continue to dwindle.

— Steve Patterson

 

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