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My 15th Look at St. Louis’ Martin Luther King Drive

January 20, 2020 Featured, MLK Jr. Drive, North City Comments Off on My 15th Look at St. Louis’ Martin Luther King Drive

Today is the annual holiday to honor the civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Christian minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and in 1957 became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). With the SCLC, he led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches. The following year, he and the SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In his final years, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War. He alienated many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam”. J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and made him an object of the FBI’s COINTELPRO from 1963 on. FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties, recorded his extramarital liaisons and reported on them to government officials, and on one occasion mailed King a threatening anonymous letter, which he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.

In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Allegations that James Earl Ray, the man convicted of killing King, had been framed or acted in concert with government agents persisted for decades after the shooting. (Wikipedia)

Following King’s death many cities began renaming streets in his honor. In 1968 the Veterans Bridge, opened in 1951 over the Mississippi River, was renamed to honor King.   Four years later, after much debate, St. Louis joined other cities by renaming two streets through the city after King — beginning at the Missouri end of the Martin Luther King Bridge.

Dr. Martin Luther King Drive starts down by the Mississippi River’s edge, and follows what was Franklin Avenue, making fits and starts in the convention center. King Drive continues westward, following old Franklin until just west of Jefferson Avenue. There, it abandons Franklin and gives King’s name to Easton, which, for generations, was an important shopping and socializing avenue for the blacks and whites in the northern part of the city and the inner ring suburbs of St. Louis County. (St. Louis Public Radio)

By 1972 the Wellston Loop shopping district, once second only to downtown, on Easton at the city/Wellston city limits, was already in decline. In 1965 Northwest Plaza had opened a short 15 minute drive further into St. Louis County.

In 1972 some wanted a more prominent street renamed after King — Lindell, for example. These days streets are not renamed, an honorary designation is added but addresses aren’t changed.

Let’s start today’s look at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at the west end at the Wellston Loop.

For decades this was the point where streetcars turned around to head back downtown. The last few years a tarp had cover the roof, but it is no longer in place.
In this view you can see the lack of tarp protecting the building from water damage.
The street is increasingly sparse. I still miss the 4-story building that was on the other side of the Loop building. Click image for more information on that building.
As it looked in 2013
2017
The 2-story building on the NW corner of MLK Drive and Hamilton is now gone. It wasn’t remarkable, but it was part of a continuous group on that block — now a hole. This is part of the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood which was getting a huge demolition focus in 2019. 
Just after demolition in August 2019.
Up close in July 2019
Last year
The group a year ago.
Just west of Union is the vacant site, I’d watched the home deteriorate for years.
In 2017
In 2013
East of Union is a still intact group of commercial buildings. One looks like it was hit by a car. Reviewing Google Streetview this happened after August 2017.
Just east of Kingshighway (4965 Dr. Martin Luther King Dr) a new building has been under construction since last summer, but the future occupant is unclear. City records list WM Grand Plaza LLC of Ballwin as the owner.
Recently palleted bricks site on the sidewalk where a building once stood.
Last year I said this was “Another building in need of stabilization.” It was actually two buildings, both from 1893. 4740-42 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive.
The former John Marshall School at Newstead is still vacant and deteriorating.
4208-4216 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive is in the final stages of demolition.
Last year bricks were starting to fall from it, I said then “It should be stabilized, but it’ll likely be allowed to crumble until neighbors demand it be razed.”
Another building I’ve been watching crumble is 3047 Dr. Martin Luther King, the back wing has now completely collapsed. Built in 1880 it is owned by the City’s Land Reutilization Authority (LRA)
In 2012 the rear wing was still intact…sorta.
At Tucker the former Post-Dispatch newspaper building is being converted to offices for Square.

In some of the years past long vacant buildings were getting renovated, new housing being built. Those positives remain, but otherwise the deterioration  continues.

— Steve Patterson

 

McKee’s 3-Bed Urgent Care Facility Should Not Be Named Homer G. Phillips

January 6, 2020 Featured, North City, NorthSide Project Comments Off on McKee’s 3-Bed Urgent Care Facility Should Not Be Named Homer G. Phillips

Last week it came out that Northside Regeneration developer Paul McKee wants to name his future 3-bed urgent care facility, being built on part of the former Pruiit-Igoe housing project site, after the historic Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Many were not happy about this.

The historic Homer G. Phillips Hospital is now senior apartments. May 2010 photo.

When the hospital was first dedicated in February 1937 it was known as City Hospital #2, replacing an older City Hospital #2. City Hospital #1 didn’t serve African-Americans.

In 1942 it was renamed after the man who fought to get it built:

Homer Garland Phillips (1878–1931) was a black lawyer in St. Louis who was born in Sedalia, Missouri. Son of a Minister he was orphaned at birth and raised by his aunt. He is mostly known as a Republican political figure in St. Louis and is known for being the person who was tasked with securing $1 million to constructing a new hospital for African Americans on the city’s North Side called Homer G. Phillips Hospital. (Wikipedia)

It was closed by Mayor Schoemehl in 1979, after running on a pledge to keep it open.  Four decades later the name “Homer G. Phillips” is synonymous with the historic hospital and The Ville neighborhood where it was located. It is also a man’s name.

At every turn Paul McKee has managed to make poor decisions.

Could you imagine McKee proposing a baseball field named Stan Musial Field without getting permission from Musial’s family?  Of course not. Ok, Phillips has been deceased a lot longer than Musial, but respect for someone’s name doesn’t expire.

McKee needs to find a new name for his 3-bed urgent care facility at the former Pruitt-Igoe!

This got me thinking about healthcare facilities during the Pruitt-Igoe era. The 1974 Final Environmental Impact report offered the two options:

Pruitt-Igoe Medical Action Center, 2407 O’Fallon.

Offered medical treatment for minor illnesses and injuries, a weight reduction program,  prenatal care and limited gynecological care. This facility, funded by Model City Agency, served Pruitt-Igoe residents almost exclusively, was closed during the relocation of Pruitt-Igoe tenants.

Jefferson Municipal Health Center, 1421 Jefferson.

Offers comprehensive child health care, prenatal classes, obstetrics and family planning, X-Rays and TB treatment. The boundaries of this facility, operated by the Health Division of the City of St. Louis, extend beyond the Pruitt-Igoe area. Service is still being provided to residents of the area.

Neither was located within the Pruitt-Igoe site, but east & west, respectively. The city eventually closed the second and the site became the headquarters for the St. Louis Fire Department.

This building, on the SW corner of Cass & Jefferson was a medical facility before becoming the Fire Dept. headquarters. May 2012 photo.
My only visit to the building was in October 2016.

McKee must be thinking that because Homer G. Philips Hospital was so important to St. Louis’ black community that taking that name will suddenly make his 3-bed urgent care as important. Sorry Paul, it doesn’t work that way.  How about Rich White Suburbanite Trying To Woo Black Supporters By Appropriating The Name Of A Beloved Institution Urgent Care? Yes, too long — but very appropriate!

Even if McKee’s planned larger teaching hospital should eventually open it shouldn’t be named Homer G. Phillips.  To learn more about the Homer G. Phillips Hospital check out The Color of Medicine documentary.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Don’t Think McKee Will Come Through With Urgent Care, Hospital/Medical School

October 23, 2019 Featured, NorthSide Project, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Readers Don’t Think McKee Will Come Through With Urgent Care, Hospital/Medical School
Only one wall of the urgent care facility started a couple of years ago is still standing on the West end of the old Pruitt-Igoe site. Photo from 6:41pm last night.

Paul McKee’s 3-bed urgent care facility had been under construction, but after a wall collapsed last year it stopped.

Given aldermen’s failure to do their jobs before Friday’s vote approving tax subsidiesfor McKee, St. Louis taxpayers can only hope those creditors will thoroughly scrutinize the viability of the two-phase medical-complex project McKee proposes for north St. Louis. The first phase of the project, a three-bed urgent-care clinic, will cost $21 million, with McKee having come up with only $8 million in promised credit. The second phase involves building a 103,000-square-foot hospital/medical school. McKee has no funding source in sight for the $73 million he’ll need for that.

Friday’s vote puts taxpayers on the hook for $4.6 million in subsidies to be drawn from tax-increment financing worked out years ago with McKee after he used shell companies and other means to acquire around 1,500 acres of dilapidated, abandoned north St. Louis properties. Instead of improving those properties, he allowed them to deteriorate while punting property maintenance to the city. McKee offered grand designs for housing projects and retail-office complexes surrounding the new site of the $1.75 billion National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency western headquarters. Those plans fizzled. (Post-Dispatch editorial)

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll readers were skeptical of McKee delivering:

Q: Agree or disagree: The 3-bed urgent care facility and the hospital/medical school will open by the promised deadlines.

  • Strongly agree: 1 [3.57%]
  • Agree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree: 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 3 [10.71%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [7.14%]
  • Disagree: 7 [25%]
  • Strongly disagree: 14 [50%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [3.57%]

If I were a gambling man I’d say not only will he not deliver, but the deadlines will get extended and the subsidies increased. Twenty-three aldermen voted in favor of Board Bill 103, sponsored by Tammika Hubbard.

Ayes (23)
Ward Alderman

  • 1 Sharon Tyus
  • 3 Brandon Bosley
  • 4 Samuel L Moore
  • 5 Tammika Hubbard
  • 6 Christine Ingrassia
  • 9 Dan Guenther
  • 10 Joseph Vollmer
  • 11 Sarah Martin
  • 12 Larry Arnowitz
  • 13 Beth Murphy
  • 14 Carol Howard
  • 15 Megan E. Green
  • 17 Joseph D Roddy
  • 18 Jesse Todd
  • 19 Marlene E Davis
  • 21 John Collins-Muhammad
  • 22 Jeffrey L Boyd
  • 23 Joseph Vaccaro
  • 25 Shane Cohn
  • 26 Shameem C Hubbard
  • 27 Pam Boyd
  • 28 Heather Navarro
  • President Lewis E Reed

One voted “present”:

Present (1)
Ward Alderman

  • 8 Annie Rice

Three were absent for the vote:

Absent (3)
Ward Alderman

  • 2 Lisa Middlebrook
  • 7 Jack Coatar
  • 16 Tom Oldenburg

Only two had the convictions to vote “no”:

Noes (2)
Ward Alderman

  • 20 Cara Spencer
  • 24 Bret Narayan

Aldermanic courtesy, the process of rubber-stamping legislation in another ward, is alive and well.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Will Paul McKee’s Urgent Care, Hospital, and Medical School Open By June 2023?

October 20, 2019 Featured, North City, NorthSide Project, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Will Paul McKee’s Urgent Care, Hospital, and Medical School Open By June 2023?
Please vote below

On Friday the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a bill (103aa) worth $8 million in incentives for developer Paul McKee:

The bill, which passed on a 23-2 vote, will help fund a three-bed urgent care center at Jefferson and Cass avenues that, along with infrastructure improvements, will cost about $21 million.

Under a revised plan negotiated with city development officials, developers must prove by the end if 2021 that they have financing for a larger second phase beyond the initial three-bed facility in order to qualify for all the tax-increment financing, or TIF, subsidies.

That second phase — a $73 million, 103,000-square-foot hospital with a medical school  — would have to be completed by June 2023 before some  subsidies are paid. (Post-Dispatch)

Today’s poll is about this subject.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

White Flight, Black Flight, Abandonment, Poverty, and Gentrification

August 26, 2019 Featured, Neighborhoods, North City, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on White Flight, Black Flight, Abandonment, Poverty, and Gentrification

St. Louis has some positive things going on lately, Square announcing they’re moving/expanding from Cortex to downtown, Major League Soccer awarded a St  Louis ownership group an expansion team, etc.  These will bring new needed investments and jobs.

Will any benefit reach those north & south of the “central corridor?” The central corridor runs from the central business district west to the burbs.

A friend on Facebook said Square’s move downtown will cause more gentrification.  Not sure he’s correct, but the challenge of attracting investment and jobs without leaving out large segments of the region is real.

This is a good opportunity to talk about how we bring new investments without negative consequences. It’ll help me get these thoughts out of my brain.

5744 & 5748 Highland Ave, Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood

Merriam-Webster defines gentrification as follows:

The process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents.

Gentrification is a major problem in many regions, but here we still have so many highly vacant neighborhoods. Sure, the average worker can’t afford a downtown loft, but that’s not gentrification.

First we need to look at how we got here.

By the 1920s the white middle class began leaving the City of St. Louis for life in the suburbs. With new people moving to the city from rural areas looking for work the census didn’t show what was happening.

In 1948 the Supreme Court ruled on a St. Louis case, saying racial restrictive covenants couldn’t be enforced through the courts (Shelley v Kraemer).  This prompted more white middle class residents to flee. Upwardly mobile black middle class residents were now able to purchase nicer housing than where they’d been limited to previously.

This house at 4600 Labadie was at the center of the case Shelley v Kraemer

Post WWII brought many to the region looking for work, others just trying to escape oppressive Jim Crow laws in the South. Basements and attics were crudely converted into living spaces. Large homes were subdivided. The population was too high, our housing stock just couldn’t handle all the people resulting in overcrowding. In 1950 St. Louis recorded its highest population — 856,796.

It didn’t help that entire neighborhoods were being razed for “urban renewal” projects and others being divided as highway construction cut wide paths through densely-populated neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods like Fountain Park remained respectable middle class, just now black instead of white. Eventually the black middle class got older, while some would stay but others began buying housing in North County as the white middle class there began moving to St. Charles County.

Some north city neighborhoods have been without the black middle class for decades now. In these neighborhoods the working poor have also been leaving, seeking affordable housing in other neighborhoods or in older north county areas where the black middle class have left more recently. An example is Wells Goodfellow — more vacant lots than residents.

!912 Clara Ave, left, and 1904 Clara Ave are occupied, the two houses in between were just razed.

Here is what I struggle with. We need money in the city — we need middle class and more affluent people so jobs will be created. This doesn’t mean white, though that’s often what happens.

How do we change long-disinvested neighborhoods so they’re attractive to all people with more money — without pricing out those who still call the neighborhood home?

In the ideal world we’d invest in neighborhoods in a way that attracts & accommodates all races & economic classes. This means housing at a variety of price points — from low-income to high end with everything in between.  Retail & restaurants should appeal to all segments and pocketbooks.

This may not be possible, I know it won’t happen without regulation. Free-market capitalism has demonstrated it is ok with excluding many.  The trick is learning from other regions so we can reduce unintended negative consequences from regulations.

Unfortunately I think our city/region is too laissez-faire to enact regulations to transform vacant neighborhoods so they’ll become great neighborhoods.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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