Home » North City » Recent Articles:

Sunday Poll: Any Hope of Reviving North St. Louis Without Paul McKee?

June 17, 2018 Featured, NorthSide Project, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Any Hope of Reviving North St. Louis Without Paul McKee?
Please vote below

Developer Paul McKee had a bad week last week.

In a letter filed Tuesday, city officials say it’s time to face facts.

“After a decade, the promised redevelopment has not come, nor is there any indication that it will,” the letter states.

“Land lies fallow. Taxes go unpaid. Vacant buildings remain dangerous and unsecured….these are not the results the City bargained for when it granted Northside redevelopment rights for the Area,” the letter reads. 

The letter says that McKee and his entities have failed to fulfill numerous promises to the City and claims that McKee is in default.(KMOV)

The following day it got worse:

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley filed on Wednesday a lawsuit against developer Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration LLC, alleging the company kept $4.5 million in state tax credits despite failing to complete the purchase of more than $5 million worth of properties in north St. Louis.
Hawley’s suit brings three civil counts against the company: tax credit fraud, breach of tax credit application and unjust enrichment. (Post-Dispatch)

Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration is the subject of today’s non-scientific poll:

This poll will close automatically at 8pm tonight.  Come back Wednesday for my thoughts.

— Steve Patterson


Transportation Investment Key To Redeveloping The North Riverfront Area

January 22, 2018 Featured, North City, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Transportation Investment Key To Redeveloping The North Riverfront Area

St. Louis tried redeveloping the North Riverfront, the largely vacant area just North of Laclede’s Landing, by razing it and building an NFL stadium. That failed…thankfully. Next up, the area was included in our bid to win Amazon’s HQ2. Last week Amazon announced their list of 20 cities being considered — St. Louis’ bid didn’t make the cut.

Warehouses along Ashley between 2nd and Lewis.

So now what to do with the North Riverfront? I say stop dreaming about a magic pill that’ll do it in one shot. The street grid still exists, sidewalks need to be built. There’s lots of room foe new buildings and existing buildings awaiting new uses. St. Louis could invest in the area and enact a form-based code to guide future development. The investment would take the form of infrastructure — utilities, sidewalks, and transportation.

St. Louis is working on a North-South light rail plan to the West. This new line will use low-floor vehicles, not the high-floor vehicles used on our current MetroLink light rail lines. Modern streetcar & light rail lines use the same vehicles, the light rail usually just being longer and on a track where higher speeds are available. What does this have to do with the North Riverfront area?

We can use the same vehicles, maintenance facility, etc to operate lower-speed circulation streetcar route that’s connected to the proposed North-South line,

The blue line rep[resents the proposed North-South LR, the orange is a circulator route going from the Eads Bridge MetroLink station up to Mullanphy St. The purple is a connecting route along Cass — which could extend to the new NGA HQ and perhaps beyond in future expansions. After uploading the graphic I realized it would be good to have a connection in the center of the orange circulator route — at Biddle.
The orange line is just under 2 miles long. Yes, I know, a bus is a far cheaper way to move people. I also know a bus route doesn’t spur private development. This have the potential to connect The Arch, Laclede’s Landing, the upcoming North-South line, and the NGA HQ.

— Steve Patterson


St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive

January 15, 2018 Featured, MLK Jr. Drive Comments Off on St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive

This is my 14th consecutive year looking at St. Louis’ Martin Luther King Drive — documenting physical changes since the prior year. Next year, my 15th, may well be my last. Each year it gets more and more depressing to do.

Each year there is at least one bright spot, but they pale in comparison to the profound disinvestment.

So here is a look at St.Louis’ Martin Luther King Drive, starting at 14th and heading West to the city limits. In some cases I’ve included previous photos to compare to this yesr. All photos for this year were taken a week ago.

2013: A former BarnesCare building at 14th & MLK built in 2001, was vacant.
2017: Someone was preparing to reuse the building
2018: became occupied again last year. It still lacks a pedestrian access route from the pub lic sidewalk
2016 — work underway on the Electrical Workers Historical Society — aka the Henry Miller Museum
2018 — I still haven’t visited the museum….hours are by appointment only. Click image for info
2018 — more of the back section has fallen away
The old configuration of MLK Dr & Page. Source Google
Driving WB it is largely unchanged
But driving EB on MLK traffic turns toward a signal with Page
This happened in 2016 or 2017…not sure which
Last year a sign was posted about Vandeventer Place, a senior community, to be built
MLK @ Pendleton
The entrance is off the less busy Pendleton, it includes an accessible route for pedestrians next ro the circle drive
Across Pendleton is a file and then an older strip shopping center
Like new gas station/convenience stores pn MLK, this older strip center lacks a pedestrian access route.
Before 2014. MLK @ Taylor. Source: Google Streetview.
2014 New storefront is vacant
2018 — storefromt now occupied by a 2nd location of MC Appliances. Click image to view their website
2014: The Family Dollar store #1562 at 4949 Dr. Martin Luther King closed
2018 reopened as a Dollar General
2013…just West of Union
2018 — pile unchanged
Building across MLK had a recent fire. Hopefully it’ll get rehabbed this year.
2017 — for several years this burned building remained at Stewart Pl @ MLK
2018 — it was razed, not rehabbed
2017 Signs announcing a bank coming to MLK
2018 — the bank is now open…but it lacks a pedestrian access route
2018 auto drive-thru
Building a block East of the old JCPenny had a fire recently. Will it be stabilized, razed, or rehabbed a year from now?
Stabilization of the beloved Wellston loop trolley building removed eaves that were rotting & falling off

A few bright spots…but lots of overwhelming problems.

— Steve Patterson


St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today

February 17, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation, MLK Jr. Drive, North City Comments Off on St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today

Last month, on the Martin Luther King holiday, I posted my 13th look at the street named after the slain civil rights leader — see Annual Look At Changes Along St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive. From a STL250 Facebook post that has since been deleted:

This Day in St. Louis History, February 17, 1972:
Martin Luther King Boulevard is dedicated

A Board of Aldermen bill was passed that changed the name of Easton Avenue and portions of Franklin Avenue to Martin Luther King Boulevard. Alderman C.B. Broussard was a primary sponsor, and he announced that the change was part of a nationwide organized drive to rename street[s[ in honor of the murdered civil rights figure. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Just days after his murder, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

By 1972 St. Louis was aware the 1960s was its second decade in a row with major losses in population. In the two decades since the St. Louis population peaked in the 1950 census, the city lost more than a quarter of its residents. The biggest reduction, however, happened during the 1970s. By the 1980 census St. Louis had again lost more than a quarter of the population — in a single decade.

As the white middle class fled North St. Louis for North St. Louis County, commercial streets like Easton & Franklin Avenues were already in decline before 1972.

One building symbolizes this change better than any other. Demolition of existing 2-story buildings began on February  29, 1948 — the new JC Penny store opened the following year. By 1967 the store was so crowded a warehouse was added to the West (since demolished). Less than a decade later, the store closed on September 11, 1976.


The former JC Penny store (1949-1976) on MLK in the Wellston Loop in the modern style with an urban form, rather than style of its red brick neighbors that are 20-40 years older.
Click image to view the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

As residents fled to North County retailers followed them. New shopping areas like Northland (1955), River Roads (1962), Northwest Plaza (1965),  and Jamestown Mall (1973) opened to serve the new suburban middle class. Franklin & Easton Avenues would have declined even it not renamed.

Can this corridor be revived? To the point of being the honor it was intended? I have my doubts. Perhaps we should do something different to causally honor Dr. King’s legacy and return the street name to Easton & Franklin Avenues?

— Steve Patterson


Bissell Water Tower First Saved 55 Years Ago Today

January 27, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation, North City Comments Off on Bissell Water Tower First Saved 55 Years Ago Today
Image from the 1970 nominating to the National Register of Historic Places, click image to view
Image from the 1970 nominating to the National Register of Historic Places, click image to view

Today’s post was originally supposed to be about how a historic water tower, one of our three, was saved 55 years ago. In researching, however, I found the truth was a little differing.

A few years ago the STL250 group posted a daily tidbit — I saved those which thought might be of interest here.

This Day in St. Louis History, January 27, 1962:
Salvation for the Bissell Street Water Tower

When news was released that the city had decided to tear down the dilapidated Bissell Street Water Tower at Blair and Bissell Street in North St. Louis, protests came from every direction. The tower had been losing bricks from its face due to water infiltration and freezing, but people demanded the structure be saved. Thanks to a matching grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the realization that tearing it down would be just as expensive, the tower was saved and restored. The Bissell Street Water Tower was constructed in 1885 to control surges of water pressure along with its older adjacent neighbor, the Grand Avenue Water Tower, shaped like a giant Corinthian column. Less than ten Victorian-era water towers remain in the United States, and three are in St. Louis.

Their post has been deleted from Facebook. So it was saved on a Saturday in 1962 — great

From the city’s page on the water tower:

Bissell Street Water Tower – City Landmark #12

Built in 1885, the Bissell Street Water Tower, also called the “Red” Water Tower, was designed by William S. Eames in the form of a Moorish Minaret.  The tower stands 206 feet high and is located at the intersection of Blair Avenue and Bissell Street in the Hyde Park City Historic District.

There are nine doorways leading into a space containing an iron standpipe and spiral staircase. At the top is a look-out platform. The tower was renovated in 1913.  There was an attempt to raze the tower in 1958, but luckily it was halted by Donald Gunn, the President of the Board of Aldermen.  The Red Tower was restored once again in the 1960s and designated a City Landmark in 1966..  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

So it was saved from demolition in 1962, restored and listed on the National Register. Not quite.

From the nomination to the register completed on April 8, 1970:

No material alterations have been made on the structure since its construction and its appearance remains essentially the same as when it was completed. The tower was taken out of use  June 8, 1913 when new pumping engines rendered both it and its companion, the Grand Avenue Water Tower, obsolete. It has received no substantive maintenance since that date and has fallen into such a state of disrepair that it has been barricaded since 1965 to protect people from falling bricks. Because it has been deemed a danger to public safety, it is now threatened with imminent demolition.

This description of the physical appearance of the building is based on the data included in a field report by Edward A. Ruesing written, on February 26, 1970. The report is filed at the central office of the Missouri State Park Board, P.O. Box 1?6, Jefferson Building, Jefferson City, Misoouri 65101.

No doubt something happened 55 years ago today, but it was just part of many steps taken to save it from demolition. I haven’t been up there since December 2011 — not sure of the current condition. Would be nice to see the Compton Hill Water Tower & Park Preservation Society expand to cover all three of our water towers or help form an organization to help the two north side towers.

It is located at the intersection of Bissell St & Blair Ave.

— Steve Pattetrson