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Planning Commissioners Journal Hits the Road

The national publication, the Planning Commissioners Journal, is hitting the road — literally. Editor Wayne Senville is taking a scenic drive across America via U.S. Route 50. The best part is, he is blogging daily about the trip. From the press release:

Do planners face the same issues in Maryland as they do in Colorado, in Ohio as in Kansas? That’s part of what Wayne Senville, editor of the national Planning Commissioners Journal will be finding out during a six-week cross-country trip along U.S. Route 50.

Between the Memorial Day weekend and July 10th, Senville will be meeting with planners and planning commissioners in more than two dozen communities in the 12 states (and the District of Columbia) that Route 50 crosses.

According to Senville: “In conversations I’ve had with planners in setting up this trip, I know I’ll be reporting on many critical issues facing cities and towns, from the revitalization of downtowns and urban riverfronts to dealing with the effects of explosive growth. I’ll also be covering a diverse range of concerns: tourism and its impacts; inner-city economics; neighborhood efforts to make it easier for residents to ‘age in place;’ how to promote citizen involvement in local planning; and much more.” And, adds Senville, “of course, I’ll also be talking with planners about the challenges they face in dealing with roads and highways.”

In less than two weeks Senville will be in St. Louis. One of those that Senville will be talking with is yours truly. Back to the press release:

One of most innovative aspects of this trip — indeed as far as we know the first time it’s being done to report on coast-to-coast planning issues — is that Senville will be posting daily online reports on what he’s hearing. Through a combination of text, photos, video, and audio clips, visitors to the Route 50 blog site: www.Rte50.com will be able to follow Senville as he works his way West. Visitors to the blog are encouraged to leave comments on any of the postings.

The Route 50 blog is already started with visits to a couple of towns in Maryland after leaving Burlington Vt. I think readers here will find it interesting, I know I certainly enjoy reading about planning issues facing cities, townships and counties. We are more alike than we are different.

I have an idea about things I want to communicate with Senville (both good & bad) but I want to hear what you think is important for the Planning Commissioners Journal to understand about St. Louis.


Political Eye on Ald. Florida

Last weeks ‘Political Eye’ editorial in the St. Louis American took aim at 15th ward Alderman Jennifer Florida. Florida, you may recall, is the alderman that I squared off against last year over her push for a relocated McDonald’s on South Grand. Thankfully, her relocation of the fast-food chain failed. Here is an excerpt from the editorial, she was rumored to want the job as Lewis Reed’s Chief of Staff:

Florida’ 15th Ward didn’t exactly deliver the bacon for Reed, though it did give him well over the typical 15 percent of the ward’s vote for an African American running citywide. During Reed’s campaign, Florida was considered by many to be overbearing, rude and grossly insensitive. While Florida reportedly got on everyone’s last nerve, even when she snapped at low-keyed and in control Alderwoman April Ford Griffin, her antics were dismissed and the campaigned moved forward. At one point in the final days of the heated campaign, Florida’ see-saw personality finally disqualified her from even getting the community outreach post, which was taken by Rory Roundtree.

You can read the full editorial here. Thanks to Steve Wilke-Shapiro’s 15thwardSTL blog for the heads up.


KWMU Reports on Land Assembly Tax Credit and the ‘Blairmont’ Scheme

Most of you have heard the deal by now, a huge tax credit for developers doing projects of 75 acres or more in North St. Louis.  That is the plan passed by the Missouri legislature and awaiting Governor Blunt’s signature.  But 75 acres is just massive.  For comparison sake, the old Pruitt-Igoe housing site was only 57 acres (source). From KWMU:

Missouri’s historic tax credit program has done wonders for the city of St. Louis. It allowed big developers to turn old downtown warehouses into lofts. It’s also helped individual rehabbers fix up houses that have seen better days.

But a new tax credit plan that Missouri lawmakers sent to Governor Matt Blunt this spring gives developers major incentives to buy up large tracts of city land.

Someone is already doing that on the near north side, and many people there are worried about the future of their homes.

Click here for the story and link to the MP3 audio report from KWMU’s Matt Sepic.  Sepic indicates that he had scheduled to interview developer Paul McKee but that McKee canceled.  Nice huh?

I’m personally not opposed to a tax break for developers on some larger projects.  I have issues with the minimum size.  Yes, a single home lot at a time will take longer than we have to revitalize the north side.  But 75 acres at a minimum?  St. Louis is blessed with a very nice street grid of very reasonable sized blocks.  Why not have the minimum be more along the lines of 4-6 city blocks, still a decent sized project.  Why is it we must always go for the gigantic silver bullet solution in this town?

Jane Jacobs calls this “cataclysmic money.”  From Chapter 16 of the Death and Life of Great American Cities:

Money has its limitations.  It cannot buy inherent success for cities where the conditions for inherent success are lacking and where the use of the money fails to supply them.  Furthermore, money can only do ultimate harm where it destroys the conditions needed for inherent success.  On the other hand, by helping to supply the requirements needed, money can help build inherent success in cities.  Indeed, it is indispensible.

So far the state has not required anything that will ensure these 75+ acre projects have any qualities for success.  The city, with its 1947 suburban zoning code, will almost ensure failure without massive variances.  Developer McKee and Mayor Slay are remaining quite on their intentions and unfortunately will likely try to avoid public or professional input into the overall plan.  My fear is the end result will be a huge “investment” but a long-term failure.  At this point I have no edvidence to suggest otherwise.


Fox2 To Feature Story on Marti Frumhoff

May 24, 2007 Media 4 Comments

A note from Marti’s sister Lisa:

Just wanted to let you know so everyone you reach will know. Channel 2 will have a story about Marti Frumhoff
sometime between 5:00-6:30pm tonight and probably between the half hour of 5:30-6:00.

There is also a chance they may show a smaller portion of the feature story on their later news coverage.


A Message from Marti’s Sister, Lisa Frumhoff

May 21, 2007 Media 1 Comment

Marti Frumhoff’s sister Lisa asked me to post this message from her:

I and my whole family have been so touched by the enormous acknowledgement of Marti Frumhoff. We each had different relationships with Marti, as siblings. She and I had a very special bond. Like many of my friends and people I’ve talked with, Marti and I had our differences. Yet always, always, always was this most amazingly strong love she expressed to me, being each other’s only sister, having so much in common as for as our experiences with our parents, and family, and our reactions in life, we shared so much and yet we also grew to a place of embracing each other for our differences and uniqueness. My brothers knew less about her and yet as I read more and more of the blogs, I continue to learn so much about my sister Marti that I had no idea about. it’s just so moving to me how the ripple effect has certainly just continued to ripple through St. Louis. Marti would want everything to continue the work and she was very humble about her role and impact.

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