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Rumor: Schnuck’s to Open in Former St. Louis Centre

December 30, 2006 Downtown, Local Business 12 Comments

The rumor is Schnuck’s will be opening some sort of grocery store in Pyramid’s St. Louis Centre project, which is to be renamed 600 Washington. It has been many years since Schnuck’s was even close to downtown, after shuttering their store on Cass in 2000.

An earlier rumor had Schnuck’s locating a store directly behind the Syndicate in the base of the parking garage in which Schnuck’s development company Desco is a partner. That would be the parking garage that replaced the historic marble-clad Century Building that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And Desco is the same group that is developing the sprawl-centric Loughborough Commons in South St. Louis.

Recently developer Craig Heller announced that his City Grocers was moving across the street into a significantly larger space in the Syndicate Building. So the question becomes can we support two downtown grocers? Frankly, I don’t think we can. City Grocers is now established and the newer space will allow them to carry more products and help serve the daily needs of loft dwellers. However, Schnuck’s buying power may allow them to undercut City Grocers across the board.

The battle may not be over price but instead over location and perception. With numerous lofts around City Grocers and further to the West, will people venture over to 6th and Washington for Schnuck’s? Also, will Schnuck’s seem too ordinary for the loft crowd? Will Schnuck’s that is focused on 60,000+ square feet stores be able to design a smaller format store? If they can pull off a nice small format store, I’d like to see it be considered in other areas of the region, especially near transit stations. For example, a smaller Schnuck’s might do well at the new Forsyth MetroLink station on the border of University City & Clayton without completely sabotaging their larger store on Clayton Road in Richmond Heights.

Back to downtown and St. Louis Centre. If Schnuck’s does open in the former St. Louis Centre (again, this is still just a rumor at this point), this might help me get more on-street parking along Washington all the way to the Eads Bridge. Once the pedestrian walkway over Washington Avenue to the former Dillard’s is removed the vista will be opened again but the street will look very wide and vacant. Having 4-5 spaces which are say 30-45 minute limits would be a good way for someone to quickly stop in to buy a few things. This will also make the area look more lively, a key factor in impressing conventioneers in the area.


Battle for Control of Cherokee Street

At 1pm this afternoon the Cherokee Street Business Association will hold elections for its board of directors and officers. Unlike most business assocations, where things just continue with little controversy, this meeting may well be as heated as they come. This meeting may be a glimpse of how the upcoming 20th Ward election will go.

You see, Ald. Craig Schmid is pretty much of the same ‘keep out things’ mode of thinking of Wallace and her supporters. In the past, I think this has served a valid purpose. But times change and we must learn and adapt along the way. Among the groups on Cherokee are professionals, business owners catering to Mexican clientele, restaurants and bakeries, various artists and art groups, and a somewhat “radical” left-wing element. Wallace seems to have issues with all of them.

Galen Gondolfi, a candidate for Schmid’s 20th ward seat, is among those seeking change on Cherokee. Jason Deem, a young business man whom I have met and consulted on a rehab project, is seeking to be the new President of the association. Deem has assembled a diverse group of people from the street, all running as a slate. You can view their flyer in: English or Spanish.

Will a win for Deem and his slate mean trouble for Schmid in the larger ward? Maybe, maybe not. But, a Deem win will mark a shift on the street that Gondolfi will certainly tout on the campaign countdown to March 6th. Craig Schmid is not among the favorites of St. Louis’ political establishments but I have to think they’d rather keep him over a more progressive Gondolfi. Ken Ortmann, whose ward includes part of Cherokee, is not up for re-election until March 2009.

At issue is more than just who controls the gavel at meetings. Cherokee is a special taxing district so those who control the board, along with the aldermen, control the use of monies collected from taxes. How this money is used, or not used, will be important in the coming years.

More information on the growing rift on Cherokee from the RFT archives:

The meeting will be held at 1pm on the 2nd floor of the Juvenile Court Building across from the Casa Loma Ballroom, at Iowa and Cherokee (map).  The group, under Wallace’s leadership does have a website, www.cherokeestation.com, which currently has only an announcement about a Cindo de Mayo this past May.


Waiting to Endorse Candidates

November 14, 2006 Local Business 15 Comments

For what it is worth, I do plan to endorse candidates in the upcoming municipal elections in the City of St. Louis. While people are already lining up behind this person or that person I want to share my thoughts on endorsements.

First, I will not be supporting anyone that is unopposed. It is just downright silly to see people endorse someone that has no challenger. That simply means your endorsement is worthless.

Second, I will not be supporting anyone until after campaign finance reports due on January 25th, 2007 are filed and I’ve had a chance to review them. I want to know, before I recommend a candidate, where their money is coming from — who is behind their candidacy. This is especially important this election since the campaign finance limits are getting tossed aside as of January 1st. Again, we won’t really know who is funding these races until late January and for me that makes a difference.

In municipal elections I could care less about political party — Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian or Independent. The Democrat’s National Platform doesn’t appear to speak to issues of say transportation or smart growth. The Missouri Democrats don’t have any platform at all, at least none that I could find. And the St. Louis City Democrats barely have a website, much less a coherent platform relevant to local issues. Where do local Democrats stand on smart growth, regional cooperation (consolidation?), transportation funding, and affordable housing? We are all expected to blindly vote for Democrats without any expectation of a vision. Oh sure, they say catchy phrases like they will, “improve the quality of our neighborhoods” but what does that mean? How specifically will they accomplish this task? Are they doing to work with others in the region to limit the affects of sprawl on the city and inner-ring suburbs? Maybe they are going to adopt new zoning? It is hard to say you are going to improve something until you cite that which needs improving — what is it in the neighborhoods that could be changed so as to create a higher quality environment?

Basically the Democratic stronghold on St. Louis politics has left them complacent on local issues. The group, currently led by Brian Wahby, focuses on state and national elections, local elections being an assumed. They’ve never had a reason to elaborate on a vision or strategies for lifting St. Louis out of decades of population decline. Through countless administrations the solution has been one mega “silver bullet” project after another — mostly downtown. This same flawed logic continues today with the idea that is what is good for downtown is good for the rest of the city. This has some truth in it but it can only go so far.

Until the Democrats, as a local party, demonstrate they collectively can agree on a vision and course of action I will certainly not give a blanket endorsement to voting for Democrats. Sadly, the Republicans are no better in this area and are virtually non-existant in this town. The Greens and Libertarians actually have some good ideas but they tend to focus all their energy (and limited resources) on running candidates for Mayor or Governor. I’d like to see one or both of these parties put together a competent candidacy for the open 6th Ward aldermanic seat.

Now that I think about all the flaws in local politics, come February I may not endorse a single person.


“Mr. Smith” Among Five Finalists for International Documentary Award

November 1, 2006 Local Business, Media 1 Comment

Locally produced film “Can Mr. Smith Get To Washington Anymore?” is a finalist for the 2006 IDA Feature Film award. The other four films up for the award are Deliver Us From Evil, Iraq in Fragments, SHOWBUSINESS: A Season to Remember, and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars.

The International Documentary Association will announce the winner on December 8th at the Directors Guild of America. If you missed the film during its held over run in St. Louis you can catch it on November 8th as part of the Webster University Film Series.

Here is the trailer:


Reed Amends January 2006 Campaign Finance Report

October 18, 2006 Local Business 1 Comment

It seems the Reed campaign received $525 less in the fourth calendar quarter of 2005 than previously reported, they filed an amended report on 9/6/2006 (see PDF) with the Missouri Ethics Commission. However, subsequent reports from April and July have not yet been amended to reflect the change in totals for receipts and cash on hand. Reed’s July report indicated a cash on hand balance of only $356.71 but if we adjust the numbers to reflect the reduced receipts, that would make a deficit of -$168.29. This is after a $5,000 loan to the campaign treasury.

In comparing the original and amended reports the difference is relative to three contributors:

Goodco, LLC located at 1915 Park was originally reported to have given $100 but it was amended to $25.

• L. James Willmore, MD of 2327 Albion Place was originally reported to have given $300 but it was amended to $25.

• SAG Properties, LLC of 4515 Maryland Ave was originally reported to have given $300 but it was amended to $125.

The differences total the $525 adjustment to the January 2006 quarterly report which covered the forth quarter of 2005. Campaigns do make mistakes and thus require amendments now and then. But, subsequent reports have not yet been amended to reflect the adjustments to the total receipts for the campaign to date and cash on hand.