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Activity at the Bottle District Site

March 18, 2019 Featured, North City, Real Estate Comments Off on Activity at the Bottle District Site

The eastern edge of my new neighborhood, Columbus Square, has been known as “The Bottle District” since 2004.

In 2004, longtime neighborhood business McGuire Moving and Storage Company, announced plans to redevelop the district as an entertainment destination. Noted architect Daniel Libeskind was hired to design the district. The Ghazi Company of Charlotte, North Carolina is the co-developer.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 27, 2005, with plans for the first phase to open in 2007. The plans called for a Rawlings Sports museum, a Grand Prix Speedways kart-racing center, a boutique bowling alley, 250 residential units, and several restaurants. The first phase of the development was anticipated to cost $290 million, to be funded in part by $51.3 million in tax increment financing.

But that effort stalled. In late 2011, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved the transfer of the unused $51.3 million to a new developer, NorthSide Regeneration LLC. The deal would see the previous investment group, including developers Larry Chapman and Clayco, sell the site to NorthSide for an undisclosed amount that documents with the city suggest would be $3 million; all three were to work to find tenants and build on the site. Construction on a $190 million office and residential project was to begin in summer 2012. (Wikipedia)

This area is basically a wedge between I-44 (formerly I-70), Cole, 7th, Cass. The only thing that’s happened was the giant Vess soda bottle got a new paint job in 2016.

The Vess bottle in 2012, before being repainted. The McKee-owned warehouse in the background has since had a fire.

From August:

Six years after developer Paul McKee, through Northside Regeneration, LLC, acquired the Bottle District just north of the Dome at America’s Center in downtown St. Louis, no development has occurred. (Post-Dispatch)

Recently I’ve seen some activity, but nothing to get excited about.

Lots of trucks brought many loads of gravel last month
The gravel was placed on several of the blocks
It was then spread out in places

Workers with large equipment have moved some dirt, big trucks have delivered gravel, which has been spread out on some of the blocks. Looks to me like they’re prepping for use as surface parking. With XFL pro football starting at the dome in 11 months there will be people to pay to park here.

Looking North
Looking East from 7th & Biddle
McGuire’s former building can still be renovated, but the clock is ticking.

The location seems good, right next door to the Dome, very close to Laclede’s Landing and the renovated Arch grounds. Yet, surfacing parking appears to be the highest & best use.

— Steve Patterson

 

Worst Property in Columbus Square: 1127 North 9th Street

February 18, 2019 Featured, Neighborhoods, North City Comments Off on Worst Property in Columbus Square: 1127 North 9th Street

I’ve lived in the Columbus Square neighborhood for nearly two months now, one property stands out at the worst. To the casual observer passing by on I-44, you might think it’s the vacant warehouses/lots on the neighborhood’s eastern edge owned by Paul McKee’s Northside Regeneration.

The Vess bottle in 2012, before being repainted. The McKee-owned warehouse in the background has since had a fire.

Nope, the worst property in Columbus Square is right in the center, next to a public school.  Surrounded by nice residential properties.

City records list this property as 1127R North 9th
A cropped version showing the poor condition on the South
The Northern portion is a different brick color, presumably built later (between 1958-68 based on review of historicaerials.com). Patrick Henry Elementary school can be seen on the right.

I wanted to lookup the owner and contact them, but it wasn’t that simple. The address listed in the caption above — 1127R. The ‘R’ means rear. The city website shows a 10′ deep x 235′ wide parcel in front of this. The front parcel is owned by the LCRA — the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.

The property at the rear, which contains the building, is owned by a corporation called Ribbon Cutter, Inc. Their address is listed as 217 E Greystone Ave Monrovia, CA 91016, a gorgeous single-family home that just sold for $1.85m. I’m sure the new owners will be surprised when they get an unpaid tax bill for 1127R North 9th Street St. Louis MO in the mail.

Searching the Missouri Secretary of State for ‘Ribbon Cutter’ we get three listings:

All three have one thing in common, the name Michael Thomas.

Filings for the corporation list two different addresses, across the street from each other:

Neither S. Broadway address appears to have any connection to Michael Thomas.  However, the former is owned by an LLC not listed by Missouri, the latter is owned by an LLC in California.

The two limited liability companies have another address: 30 Santa Clara #D Arcadia CA 91006, Google Maps says this is the address for American Healthguard Corporation, a dental insurance business.

So I’m putting this post out today hoping someone knows why A) the city owns a 10′ deep strip of land in front of this derelict building, and B) the whereabouts of this particular Michael Thomas. I’m also curious about the building’s history, the address is also listed as 1111 N. 9th St.

— 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

 

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

January 21, 2019 Featured, MLK Jr. Drive, North City Comments Off on 15th Annual Look at St. Louis’ Dr. Martin Luther King Drive

This is my 15th annual look at St. Louis’ Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, but my first as a resident living North of the street named for the civil rights leader.

After decades at Tucker & MLK, the Post-Dispatch will soon be moving to smaller offices nearby.
Dr. Martin Luther King Drive ends a block East of Tucker, at Hadley. Hopefully the new owners of the building will do something to improve the pedestrian experience along the West side of Hadley.
Last year this building at 14th was being prepped to reopen, which it did.
Been watching the back of this building fall away for many years now.
A message on the board covering the door of another vacant building, just to the West of the previous.
Next doors is a charming old service station. This is located on the corner where 3 streets come together: MLK, Webster, and James Cool Papa Bell. Bell was a baseball player in the negro leagues, click image to learn more about him.
Close up of the boards covering the door & windows.
The coffeehouse at MLK & Page, in the Housing Authority building, moved a year or so ago. The retail space remains vacant.
This suburban-style business incubator contains a number of businesses, but also a storefront church and the alderman’s office.
Bricks are starting to fall from this building. It should be stabilized, but it’ll likely be allowed to crumble until neighbors demand it be razed.
Across MLK this building is having some issues at the top center. It’ll likely be worse next year.
Would be nice to see a project that includes the rehab of the former John Marshall School. Click image to view the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Another building in need of stabilization.
After a fire a few years ago I thought this building near Euclid would be gone soon — but it’s still here.
Saw some newer houses so I turned onto Clara Ave., one looks like it has been boarded for a while now. the others all look well maintained.
One of my favorite buildings in the entire city is still hanging on.
Despite lacking a roof…
The hole in the side of this building keeps getting larger every year. I’m thinking now the buildings from here to Hamilton have been razed. Welcome to the once-bustling Welston Loop area.
On the West side of Hamilton the first building is having major issues.
Here’s a close up.
Other buildings on the same block are in better condition. Across MLK is the old JC Penny.
On the South side of MLK another storefront was recently razed.
And finally we have the deteriorating Welston Loop streetcar building.

It’s hard not to get depressed by the lack of investment in this corridor.

— Steve Patterson

 

Now Living North of Delmar in Columbus Square Neighborhood

January 14, 2019 Featured, North City, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Now Living North of Delmar in Columbus Square Neighborhood

A week ago I shared that we moved, leaving the Downtown West neighborhood. I’m happy to report that I’m once again living north of the Delmar Divide. I’ve told the following Delmar Divide story before, but it has been a while, so it’s worth repeating:

When I first moved to St. Louis in 1990 I rented an efficiency apartment on Lindell in the Central West End, I was 23. The apartment manager was a childhood friend of the mom of a friend I’d met in college, the two women grew up in the 1950s near O’Fallon Park in North St. Louis.  The manager, looking out for her young new tenant from Oklahoma, advised me: “don’t go north of Delmar.”

My 3-room flat in Old North at 1422 Sullivan, 1991-1992

I’d just moved to St. Louis after falling in love with the street grid, substantial architecture, and tremendous potential — I had to see this forbidden part of the city where I shouldn’t go.  I fell in love all over, marveling at the beauty being abandoned.

After 6 months in the CWE I moved to a 3-room flat in Old North St. Louis (then called Murphy-Blair). I still have friendships with neighbors from time, and lots of fond memories.

Years later I’m living in my 7th St. Louis neighborhood:

  1. Benton Park (couple of weeks in Aug/Sept 1990)
  2. Central West End (6 months 90-91)
  3. Old North St. Louis (3+ years  91-94)
  4. Dutchtown (9+ years 94-03)
  5. Mt. Pleasant (4+ years 03-07)
  6. Downtown West (11+ years 07-18)
  7. And now: Columbus Square  (19…?)

My friend Mark Groth blogged about the Neighborhood in March 2010, with lots of photos showing the various developments. He concluded his post this way:

Frankly, this is not a neighborhood that overly inspires me, nor one I would take someone from out of town to showcase the city.  I’m just not into 1980’s architecture.  However, if you are interested in the history of public housing and government subsidized housing, check out Columbus Square.  It has a long history of being home to slums and crime; but, it’s a long way from a slum today.  Maybe Columbus Square will actually be a nice doorstep for north city and the site of more positivity and investment for the near north side in the coming years. (St. Louis City Talk)

Ouch, but I agree.

Looking north the Columbus Square neighborhood, view from parking garage located along Cole St @ 10th St. Twin towers of the historic Shrine of St. Joseph can be seen in the background.

Still, I love exploring new neighborhoods. It’s one thing to go down an unfamiliar street occasionally, but its another to get an opportunity to immerse oneself in a new experience.  In future posts I’ll talk about why we moved and why we selected the housing we did.

It feels very good to again be living North of Delmar.

— Steve Patterson

 

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