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Clemens Mansion Was To Kickoff McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration Project

November 17, 2012 25th Ward, Accessibility, Featured, Grad School, MLK Jr. Drive, Parking Comments Off on Clemens Mansion Was To Kickoff McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration Project

It was three years ago today that many gathered on the lawn in front of one of the most historic properties in St. Louis: The Clemens Mansion, located at 1849 Cass Ave.

ABOVE: Blueprints for the adoption of the Clemens Mansion to senior apartments was on display on November 17, 2009
ABOVE: St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signs a bill for Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project

From The Beacon:

Mayor Francis Slay put his ceremonial seal of approval Tuesday on the first step of the $8.1 billion plan to redevelop a large portion of north St. Louis, but he remained noncommittal on what developer Paul McKee considers a key part of the project.

The signing ceremony for two bills passed by the Board of Aldermen — the bills were actually signed into law by the mayor on Friday — took place under a tent on the front lawn of the Clemens House, one of the most visible properties in the McKee project area. (St. Louis Beacon)

Initial work had begun on the renovation but work stopped when part of the financing fell through, I believe a low-income housing tax credit. Soon much of McKee’s project will have a final airing in court.

The state Supreme Court has set Nov. 28 as the date for oral arguments in the lawsuit that has blocked McKee’s massive NorthSide Regeneration project for more than two years. There’s no telling how long after that a ruling might come down, but that ruling will help the project advance, McKee said. (stltoday.com)

Disclosure: I was a very minor consultant on the Clemen’s Mansion project, assisting with accessibility and starting to look at traffic calming and walkability along a larger stretch of Cass Ave. Hopefully the project can be completed in the future.

— Steve Patterson


Readers Split On O’Fallon Park Controversy, Agreement Reached

When I posted last week’s poll on Sunday September 23rd it didn’t look like we were going to see progress toward getting the new $22 million O’Fallon Park Recreation Center open for business. Agreement was reached the next day, but political posturing didn’t end.

Monday September 24th – 1pm

ABOVE L-R: Flint Fowler, president, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, Mayor Francis Slay, Gary Schlansker, president and chief executive officer, YMCA of Greater St. Louis announce agreement at a Monday September 24th press conference.

One of the key items announced was “1300 low income kids will get $25 memberships at the O’Fallon Recreation Center.” This is $25 per year, not per month.  See the fact sheet here.

ABOVE: Ald. French wasn’t invited to participate in the press conference but talked to reporters immediately following.

Ald. French was glad more specifics were formerly outlined in the documents — that was the goal. It just needed to get through the Board of Aldermen.

Friday September 28th

ABOVE: Three consecutive tweets friom Ald French from last friday as the Board of Aldermen debated the new agreement.

David Hunn of the Post-Dispatch reported the debate on the bill lasted for over an hour, with many in support:

Aldermen were not uniformly uncritical. Some worried about costs in years to come. Others complained that their wards lacked similarly updated facilities. Alderman Joe Roddy cautioned that the city was gaining a “champagne” appetite when what it really needed was inexpensive access for residents.

But only Alderman Steve Conway spoke fervently against French. He thought the 21st Ward alderman, who has been a paid campaign consultant for mayoral hopeful and board President Lewis Reed, delayed the center’s opening to make Slay look bad. (stltoday.com)

The bill passed, including a yes from Conway. The final vote will be this Friday October 5th. The facility should open by late this year or early 2013.

Q: Thoughts On The Not Yet Open O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex

  1. The African-American Aldermanic Caucus is trying to make Slay look bad, helping Reed in 2013 27 [29.35%]
  2. What about residents on the south side that can’t afford the new Carondelet YMCA? 25 [27.17%]
  3. If we’re subsidizing 60% of the operating costs then the agreement with the YMCA should require at least a 60% discount for low-income residents 12 [13.04%]
  4. We’re going to pay the YMCA $1.2 million per year to operate a building we spent $22 million to build? 10 [10.87%]
  5. Unsure/no opinion 9 [9.78%]
  6. Just sign the 10-year $12 million dollar deal, the YMCA will make sure low-income resident memberships are affordable 7 [7.61%]
  7. Other: 2 [2.17%]

The two “other” answers were:

  1. The deal is stupid, the city should manage the rec plex.
  2.  What kind of idiot builds something that the intended customer can’t afford?

I see validity in Ald Roddy’s comments about champagne taste. The time to question it would’ve been 8 years ago when we voted to support the sales tax. In time these two large facilities will either be viewed as a great decision or a poor decision, it’s too soon to know.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Thoughts On The Not Yet Open O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex

The $21-$22 million dollar O’Fallon Recreation Complex has been finished for a couple of months now but the facility remains closed.  This facility is the north side equal to the facility that opened in Carondelet Park on November 19, 2009:

The City of St. Louis wanted a new community recreation center on the City’s North Side to serve as a youth and elderly outreach facility, encouraging all ages to be engaged in the community. St. Louis City officials determined that there was significant interest in the North St. Louis area to support this new facility. The project is being funded by a one-eighth-cent sales tax approved by city voters in 2008.

The O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex is designed to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver certification for environmental design and sustainability. “This new project shows the City’s commitment to improving the quality of life in North St. Louis,” says St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. “This building will be an amenity for nearby neighborhoods and will provide a fun, safe place for children, adults and seniors to go after school and on weekends. It will help make the community healthier, and will help make our northside neighborhoods better places to live and work. The positive impact of this investment will be enjoyed by the community for years to come.” (St. Louis)

But the operating agreement between the city and the YMCA have yet to be approved.

Alderman Antonio French says Mayor Francis Slay has cut a bad deal for his residents. French says the contractor hired to run the facility — the YMCA — wants to charge his residents and the city government too much money, yet can’t assure him needy children will get in for next-to-free. (stltoday.com

And the other side:

Jeff Rainford, Slay’s chief of staff, calls the rec center project the mayor’s “baby” and says he’s not sure why French, who was previously happy with the YMCA’s fee schedule and management proposal, is suddenly holding up the bill. The YMCA says they’ll be able to open the center 90 days after the bill is approved.

“Halfway through, he pulled the bill and started criticizing the mayor,” says Rainford. “We want people to be able to use it. It’d be a crying shame to build this palace on the hill and no one can use it.”

Rainsford [sic] says there will be 1,300 guaranteed scholarships given to kids and their families, 650 will be distributed by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis, which is supposed to partner with the Y to provide children’s activities. In order to obtain the lower $25 membership, parents will have to show cause for need and bring in a pay stub or W-2 form. (Riverfront Times)

One issue French told me is YMCA formula for calculating a lower fee, the YMCA says their formula is proprietary information. French says that’s fine for other facilities but not one built with tax money and receiving $1.2 million per year operating subsidy.

ABOVE: Empty bike racks in front of the unopened O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex

Right now both sides have dug in their heels:

The YMCA is lined up to operate the rec center. But city aldermen are raising concerns over a $1.2 million subsidy it would need. That’s $500,000 more per year than an estimate done eight years ago.

It’s not clear exactly where the money will come from.

Slay’s office says under a current plan, 1,300 young people would get a $25 dollar- a-year membership for the center.

Alderman Antonio French says he wants commitments in writing. (KMOV)

No shortage of options:

There’s been a lot of back-and-forthing about who would pay what to use the facility and what discounts might be offered to low-income families. Mr. French told us he’d be satisfied if low-income families paid 60 percent of the planned family rate of $55 a month, or $33 a month. If 5,000 low-income families took advantage of a $22-a-month discount, $110,000 a year would be needed.

Here’s a plan: If all the civic groups and corporations who have bemoaned the lack of recreational opportunities in north St. Louis bucked up, 110 grand would be easy.

Mayor Francis Slay’s office thinks Mr. French is playing politics. He is a paid consultant to Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, who might challenge Mr. Slay for his job next year. Opening a new rec center on the north side before the March primary election might benefit the Slay campaign. (stltoday.com editorial)

So what do you think? Take the poll in the right sidebar (mobile users need to switch to full website). Poll results on Wednesday October 3rd along with my thoughts on the controversy and a look at pedestrian access to the facility.

— Steve Patterson


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