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Opinion: Better Together Merger Plan Doesn’t Go Far Enough

January 30, 2019 Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Opinion: Better Together Merger Plan Doesn’t Go Far Enough
Herbert (Bert) Walker III, a cousin of George Herbert Walker Bush, speaking at the Better Together kickoff event on November 19, 2013. Emcees from KMOX, John Hancock and Michael Kelley

I moved to St. Louis in 1990, at age 23.  I was born & raised in Oklahoma City, OK.

As a child OKC was the largest U.S. city. Better put, it was the biggest in terms of land area. It had annexed itself into this position. As of 2016 it had fallen to the 8th largest — still capable of holding 7 major cities within its boundaries.

For most U.S. cities, annexation was the norm. Between 1764 and 1876 St. Louis grew in physical size through annexation. But after The Great Divorce the boundaries of the City of St. Louis were locked into place. At the time they thought it would be many decades before development pushed up against the rural city limits. They were very wrong.

Had the divorce not happened, allowing St. Louis city to exist outside of St. Louis County, the city would’ve annexed small towns, villages, and unincorporated areas. Cites that could annex — did. This enabled them to grow physically and keep outward moving population within the tax base.

Without the ability to annex, it has suffered greatly. Population loss, topping crime rankings, etc. By extension, the region has also suffered greatly. For the region to attract investment, employers, etc we must take action. A unified city is the only answer.

By creating one big St. Louis we change the outside perception of St. Louis as a dying core city that lost most of its population and is among the most dangerous places. The new St. Louis, the size of the city & county, would become the 10th largest U.S. city, by land area — still smaller than OKC (8th) and Houston (9th).

Let that sink in. If we combined St. Louis city & county the total land area (588 square miles) would still be smaller than Houston and 8 other U.S. cities.  Total population would move us up as well.

It will cause problems too. There will be less elected officials, including minorities. However, I think having more investment, jobs, opportunities, etc is worth eliminating fiefdoms.

At this point I’ve only browsed Better Together’s 160 page report, but I’m disappointed by the fragmentation it would leave in place. Zoning & trash hauling, are two examples.

Here are the non-scientific results from the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Which “merger” plan for St. Louis do you prefer?

  1. Consolidate St. Louis City and all St. Louis County municipalities into one: 23 [53.49%]
  2. Add St. Louis City back into St. Louis County, along with all the existing municipalities: 13 [30.23%]
  3. Other: 4 [9.3%]
    1. Merge and include the schools the city schools need the funding.
    2. Require any “city” to have its own fire department, otherwise disincorporate.
    3. incremental cooperation
    4. merge city and 4 counties
  4. Unsure: 2 [4.65%]
  5. None, leave things exactly as they are: 1 [2.33%]

No doubt this topic will consume a lot of attention over the next year plus.  The Great Divorce was a huge mistake, with huge negative consequences — it’s going to take a huge solution. My gut feeling is it needs to be bigger than proposed.

— Steve Patterson

 

Restaurant Space Available In Historic Union Market

January 28, 2019 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Local Business Comments Off on Restaurant Space Available In Historic Union Market

Union Market, North Broadway,  is an interesting building.

Union Market in February 2010. New floors were added for hotel rooms.

It is considered a local landmark.

Mauran, Russell and Crowell designed the market in a Eclectic Revival Style in 1924.

One of only four extant market buildings remaining in St. Louis, Union Market was constructed in 1924-25 as the city´s largest, most architecturally significant and functionally progressive market. Occupying a full city block, the building´s strong presence and individuality are established by bold rhythms of large Gothic arches and battered buttressing at the lower stories. Speckled buff brick curtain walls are handsomely accented by horizontal bands of terra cotta ornament. The three-story garage above the market space was one of the City´s early indoor parking facilities.   For over five decades, Union Market has served as one of the City´s two principal markets and has continued a tradition of marketing established on the same site during the Civil War.  Union Market is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (St. Louis City Landmark #103)

More on the building, including pre-hotel photos on the early 80s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. As a public market, it was a failure (read nomination). It’s had a tough life, see timeline and lease battle details.

On December 31, 2018 the hotel restaurant, J.F. Sanfilippo’s Italian Restaurant, closed after 28 years.

J.F. Sanfilippo’s Italian Restaurant will close after service on Dec. 31, owner Joe Sanfilippo announced Tuesday. The restaurant has operated inside the Drury Inn & Suites at 705 North Broadway downtown since February 1991. Sanfilippo tells Off the Menu a number of factors went into the decision to close, including the departure of major companies from downtown over the years to the arrival this decade of Ballpark Village. (Post-Dispatch)

No doubt the reduction of the downtown workforce, Ballpark Village, and fewer conventions have had an impact. My only time in this building was on Saturday April 21, 2012 — for dinner solo using a Groupon.

At 7:22pm I took this photo of the empty 80s looking dining room.
At 7:50pm I photographed my pasta con broccoli.
And at 8:10pm I photographed my dessert.

As I recall, the food & service met or exceeded my expectations. The place just felt dated…bad 80s dated. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t close earlier than NYE. I wish them the best of luck at their Chesterfield location.

The closed J.F. Sanfilippo’s Italian Restaurant earlier this month

I do hope someone will open a new restaurant in this space — after changing the interior. XFL games begin in one year.

— Steve Patterson

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Sunday Poll: Which Merger Plan (if any) Do You Prefer?

January 27, 2019 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Which Merger Plan (if any) Do You Prefer?
Please vote below

The 2020 election cycle has started. I’m not talking about presidential race either, I’m talking about competing efforts to determine how — if at all — the St. Louis region is organized.

Local mayors and elected officials made official Thursday night their effort to stop any forced consolidation of municipal governments in St. Louis County by a statewide vote and to keep any decisions about the shape of government in local residents’ hands.

The voice vote came without dissent at a meeting of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis at Chesterfield City Hall. (Post-Dispatch)

This is to counter a statewide vote on a plan backed by a nonprofit called Better Together. See St. Louis city and county: Divorced in 1876. Remarried in 2020?

This is the basis for today’s non-scientific poll:

This poll will close at 8pm, any efforts to swing the poll outcome will result in early closure.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 30 of 2018-2019 Session

January 25, 2019 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 30 of 2018-2019 Session
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 30th meeting of the 2018-2019 session. This is the first full board meeting of 2019.

Today’s agenda includes four (4) new bills covering a wide variety of issues:

  • B.B.#233 – Arnowitz – An Ordinance authorizing and directing the Director of the Department of Human Services, to accept funding in an amount not to exceed fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) from the OASIS Institute and to enter into and execute agreements with the OASIS Institute in substantially the same form as Exhibit A and Exhibit B, attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference, for the purpose of providing two fall prevention programs for older adults; appropriating said funds and authorizing the Director of the Department of Human Services, upon approval of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, to expend such funds as permitted by the agreements; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#234 – Arnowitz – An Ordinance authorizing and directing the Director of the Department of Human Services, to enter into and execute an agreement in substantially the same form as Exhibit A, attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference, with the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging (MA4) for the purpose of providing certain home and community based services in an amount not to exceed seventeen thousand dollars ($17,000); appropriating said funds and authorizing the Director of the Department of Human Services, upon approval of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, to expend such funds as permitted by the agreement; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#235 – Kennedy – An ordinance amending Section One of Ordinance 67588, to exclude those blocks of N. Kingshighway Blvd. between Delmar Blvd. and Wells Avenue from the Eighteenth Ward Liquor Control District.
  • B.B.#236 – Roddy – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to conditionally vacate above surface, surface and sub- surface rights for vehicle, equestrian and pedestrian travel in a section of Spring beginning approximately 445 feet south of Forest Park and continuing southwardly 30 feet to its terminus at Market/Interstate 64 in the City.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: We Must Invest Beyond The Central Corridor

January 23, 2019 Featured, North City, Politics/Policy, St. Louis County, STL Region Comments Off on Opinion: We Must Invest Beyond The Central Corridor
Campbell House Museum on Locust, the last mansion from Lucas Place

From the early days to St. Louis’ founding in 1764, being up from the Mississippi River was a good thing. Namely, those who spread along the banks north & south of the original spot were subject to flooding. Those uphill from the center weren’t subject to floods.

Following the cholera epidemic and fire in 1849, wealthy citizens became convinced that it was no longer desirable to live in downtown St. Louis. James Lucas and his sister Anne Lucas Hunt soon offered a solution. They developed the idea of the “Place,” a neighborhood with deed restrictions that ensured it remained apart from the city and general population. The main thoroughfare was aptly called Lucas Place. Originally Lucas Place (now Locust Street) extended between 13th and 16th streets when the city limits were just one block to the west between 17th and 18th streets. When established, Lucas Place was west of the developed portion of the city, making it St. Louis’ first “suburban” neighborhood.

Lucas priced the lots so that only the wealthy could afford the live there. He also built restrictions into the deeds so that the properties could not be used for commercial purposes. (Campbell House Museum)

As the city’s population ballooned Lucas Place was no longer the desirable location it once was, so the wealthy moved further west.

Originally, the streets around the intersection of Lindell and Grand featured row after row of stately houses, mansions, and even a private street. By the late 19th century, the area had become the wealthiest neighborhood in the city, home to some the most important members of St. Louis society.

Sitting west of the central city and along major streetcar routes, Midtown proved highly desirable to those fleeing the coal-fueled pollution further east. Sitting on a hill, upwind from the central city, the neighborhood began to receive the accouterments befitting its tony status in St. Louis. Vandeventer Place, a private street on the northern edge of the neighborhood, served as the crown jewel of the rapidly expanding area.

Platted by the famous German-American surveyor Julius Pitzman, Vandeventer Place exacted strict obedience from the affluent homeowners who purchased plots along its regal tree-lined boulevard. The new mansions that filled the private street conformed to rigid design and expense requirements that only the wealthiest industrialists in St. Louis could afford. Interestingly, the governance of the street required unanimous votes to change the street’s charter. (St. Louis Magazine)

In 2014 I posted about the dire economic disinvestment in the north county area at Chambers and Lewis & Clark. Click image for May 2014 post.

The Central West End was next, and this continues today. Reinvestment has been seen throughout this “Central Corridor” for a few decades now. As North St. Louis continues to hallow out, we’re seeing North St. Louis County experience devastating disinvestment. With typical suburban development patterns, North St. Louis County is a very large area. It still has nice neighborhoods, but the signs of change are all around. Take Spanish Lake, for example:

When three nearby Shop ‘n Save stores closed in November, it left shoppers fewer options and created what the USDA classifies as a food desert.

Spanish Lake is in the northeast corner of unincorporated St. Louis County. The cities of Florissant and Ferguson are on its west side; the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are on the east.

The population is just under 20,000 and has been shrinking for decades, while the poverty rate has increased.

Until recently, Spanish Lake residents had several options for grocery shopping. Three Shop ‘n Save stores located along the western edge of the community provided easy access to fresh, affordable produce. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Those who’ve been on the fence about moving elsewhere are going to reconsider. I can’t say that North St. Louis County has reached a tipping point, but it feels like it’s close.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about reinvesting in areas north & south of the Central Corridor.

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis’ “Central Corridor” (West from Arch) has always been a high priority, areas North & South should just accept this.

  • Strongly agree: 2 [6.06%]
  • Agree: 6 [18.18%]
  • Somewhat agree: 3 [9.09%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 2 [6.06%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [9.09%]
  • Disagree: 9 [27.27%]
  • Strongly disagree: 8 [24.24%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

No, we should not accept this. We can’t afford, as a region, to write off huge areas. Unfortunately, I think the regional pattern was set long before any of us were born. That’s not to say we can’t rethink our approach. I just don’t see the leadership or willpower to take on the change that would be necessary.

— Steve Patterson

 

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