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Readers: Pruitt-Igoe Site Not Redeveloped Because It’s North of Delmar

ABOVE: The steeples of St. Stanislaus Kostka are visible through the overgrowth on the former Pruitt-Igoe site.

The line “build it and they will come” from the 1989 film the Field of Dreams isn’t necessarily true. However, I can guarantee you if you do absolutely nothing not only will they not come those around will leave. For the last two decades I’ve watched the neighborhood north of Cass Ave deteriorate.

“Location, location, location” is the phrase often repeated about disinvested areas. Sorry, but locations are what we make them to be. In the 1950s the St. Louis Housing Authority, with federal funds, totally changed the area from what it was before. It’ll take planning and money to change it again.

Here is the poll question and answers from last week:

Q: Why Do You Think The Pruitt-Igoe Site Has Remained Vacant For 40 Years?

  1. It’s north of Delmar 57 [33.14%]
  2. Lack of demand, plenty of easier areas to develop 55 [31.98%]
  3. Lack of forward thinking by St. Louis leadership 26 [15.12%]
  4. Other: 14 [8.14%]
  5. Stigma attached to the site 13 [7.56%]
  6. Environmental contamination of the site 5 [2.91%]
  7. Unsure/no opinion 2 [1.16%]

I find it depressing that “It’s north of Delmar” was the top answer. How long are we as a city going to let ourselves be divided this way? I’ve lived north of Delmar before and currently I’m only two blocks south of Delmar.

Here are the “other” answers:

  1. #1, #3, and #6 all play a part.
  2. All of the above.
  3. All of the above
  4. spatial deconcentration
  5. Combination of the above culminating in the “lack of demand…” choice
  6. haunted and/or subgrade obstructions
  7. In an effort to do something big, we miss the small opportunities.
  8. combo of stigma, location, and possible contamination?
  9. As usual, the city is waiting, fruitlessly, for a “silver bullet” project
  10. foundations from the 33 buildings are still in place
  11. There’s no one reason, but the sheer size of the site has been detrimental
  12. All of the above; except for unsure/no opinion
  13. It’s not exacly surrounded by nice neighborhoods meaning who’s willing 2 invest?
  14. high cost of development, lack of subsidy

Please note that answers in the polls are presented in random order to each viewer. Foundations as a problem are just a myth, they weren’t an issue when part of the site was developed into a school.

Some aren’t content just letting the site sit idle, tonight an exhibit opens with ideas:

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group hosts the first exhibition presenting the winner and 31 finalists in Pruitt Igoe Now, an ideas competition that examined the future of the 33-acre forested vacant site of the former housing project. Entrants in Pruitt Igoe Now came from a wide variety of disciplines and explored futures that included design intervention, urban redevelopment, agriculture, cultural memorialization and forest management.

The event starts at 6pm tonight, 2700 N. 14th Street. More info here.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Why Do You Think The Pruitt-Igoe Site Has Remained Vacant For 40 Years?

The first implosion of a high rise at Pruitt-Igoe took place on March 16, 1972. The final building was demolished on four months later on July 15, 1972 — forty years ago today.

After months of preparation, the first building was demolished with an implosion at 3 p.m., on March 16, 1972. The second one went down April 22, 1972. After more implosions on July 15, the first stage of demolition was over. As the government scrapped rehabilitation plans, the rest of the Pruitt–Igoe blocks were imploded during the following three years; and the site was finally cleared in 1976 with the demolition of the last block. (Wikipedia)

Four years to clear the site after the last building was demolished!

ABOVE: The steeples of St. Stanislaus Kostka are visible through the overgrowth on the former Pruitt-Igoe site.

Pruitt-Igoe’s 33 buildings were only occupied for 18 years (1954-1972)  with the last few of that in such poor condition a rent strike was held by residents in 1969. A school was built on part of the site in the early 1990s but otherwise the site remains vacant and overgrown.

The poll this week wants to know why you think the site has remained vacant for four decades. The poll is in  the upper right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson


New Coffeehouse Opening Soon on Page Blvd Just East of Grand Ave

July 7, 2012 Featured, Local Business, North City, Retail Comments Off on New Coffeehouse Opening Soon on Page Blvd Just East of Grand Ave

The other day I was delighted to see “coming soon” signs in the first floor retail space at in the St. Louis Housing Authority’s headquarters built in 2009. PNC Bank is in the west end of the building.

ABOVE: Chronicle Coffee will open soon on Page Ave in the building with the St. Louis Housing Authority and PNC Bank

Chronicle Coffee bills itself on Twitter (@ChronicleCoffee ) as “A St. Louis-based coffee company dedicated to helping the community control their narrative one cup at a time…

Believe it or not, people that live and work in north St. Louis also drink coffee. I know this may come as a shock to some of you but it’s true. I’ll certainly patronize them once they open.

— Steve Patterson


North St. Louis Founded 196 Years Ago Today

June 29, 2012 Featured, History/Preservation, North City Comments Off on North St. Louis Founded 196 Years Ago Today

Today when we think of north St. Louis we think of the north half of the city whose boundaries were established in 1876. Sixty years earlier North St. Louis was founded as a separate municipality from St. Louis:

June 29, 1816:

A town was incorporated which rivaled its southern neighbor, St. Louis, for many years. The new town, founded by Maj. William Christy, was named simply “North St. Louis.” Its southern boundary line was Madison Street, then a considerable distance from the northern boundary of the city which Christy and his associates referred to as “St. Louis under the hill.”

Christy had come to St. Louis from Pennsylvania with advanced ideas about city planning. With two partners, he proposed a scheme for developing a city which would appeal to the settlers flocking in from the East. Street names reflected the founders’ interest in politics — Madison and Monroe; Benton for the young lawyer who would become one of Missouri’s first senators; and Warren, for a hero at Bunker Hill.  A boatyard was established, and inducements offered steamboats to land at North St. Louis instead of farther downstream. A ferry made regular runs between North St. Louis and Alton.  In 1841, just a quarter century after its founding, the city was absorbed into St. Louis. (Source: St. Louis Day by Day by Frances Hurd Stadler, page 122) 

Hence most of the area is known today as the Old North St. Louis neighborhood today.

ABOVE: Industrial area between I-70 and the Mississippi River was part of North St. Louis in 1816. The street on the left is North Market Street. Click image to view aerial in Google Maps

Keep in mind St. Louis was founded in 1764 and incorporated in 1822. If my sources are correct, North St. Louis was incorporated six years before St. Louis was! St. Louis’ population was small but growing quickly:

  • 1810: 1,600
  • 1820: not available
  • 1830: 4,977
  • 1840: 16,469
  • 1850: 77,860
  • Source: Wikipedia

My original intent of this post was just to note the anniversary but the part about North St. Louis offering inducements to steam ships has me thinking about the many municipalities in our region still doing the same thing nearly two hundred years later.

I was a resident of Old North St. Louis from 1991-94 and I try to get to Crown Candy Kitchen 2-3 times per year.

— Steve Patterson



Carr Street Now Features Hot Steam Pipes

Cambridge Heights is the neighborhood just north of America’s Center and the Edward Jones Dome. For many years it contained the Cochran Gardens high rise public housing project. Today it’s a nice mixed income neighborhood. The school where I vote is located here.

ABOVE: Cambridge Heights is a nice new area immediately north of downtown
ABOVE: On June 5th I was curious by what I saw on Carr Street between 8th-9th

But earlier this month, after voting, I was making my way back downtown and spotted something I found rather odd, a section of the road closed off. I decided to get a closer look.

ABOVE: Up close these appear to be steam releases for the underground steam pipe network

Hot steam was coming from two pipes, with very little protection. Could this be related to the incident blocks away on April 5, 2012?

A broken pipe sent up a giant white plume of steam in downtown St. Louis this morning.

The 20-inch steam line under North 11th Street just south of Convention Plaza ruptured sometime before 7 a.m. (stltoday.com)

Maybe it’s an unrelated problem?

ABOVE: More steam on the same block, now at 9th Street
ABOVE: Another hot metal pipe in the block west of 9th

Hopefully the local media will look into this and how it may be affecting local residents. I passed by the area on a MetroBus recently and the “hot” yellow pipes remained at that time.

— Steve Patterson