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New NGA West Location Will Gut St. Louis Place Neighborhood, Not Revitalize What Remains

The National Geospatial Agency decided to keep its Western headquarters in the City of St. Louis. The narrative around this decision is summed up nicely here:

The decision means the city will keep 3,100 jobs, currently housed at the Old Arsenal complex south of Anheuser-Busch brewery, and move them to a $1.75 billion development just northwest of downtown. The move is expected to further the city’s pursuit of redeveloping the near North Side with a massive federal anchor — something that could lure more investment to the struggling area, but also give a major boost to nearby Washington Avenue. (Post-Dispatch)

I get the first part — keeping thousands of jobs within the city. I do hear that many of the 3,100 don’t live in the City of St. Louis — they aren’t thrilled about driving to North City. But, it’s the second part that I don’t get — how does putting many acres behind chainlink fencing help those outside the fence?

The NGA will take a big chunk of the St. Louis Place neighborhood.
The NGA will take a big chunk of the St. Louis Place neighborhood.

The NGA’s high-security entrance will be facing Jefferson Ave — it’ll turn its back on the remaining neighborhood.  The NGA as an anchor institution? Hardly:

Anchor institutions are nonprofit institutions that once established tend not to move location. Emerging trends related to globalization—such as the decline of manufacturing, the rise of the service sector, and a mounting government fiscal crisis—suggest the growing importance of anchor institutions to local economies. Indeed, in many places, these anchor institutions have surpassed traditional manufacturing corporations to become their region’s leading employers. If the economic power of these anchor institutions were more effectively harnessed, they could contribute greatly to community wealth building. The largest and most numerous of such nonprofit anchors are universities and non-profit hospitals (often called “eds and meds”). Over the past two decades, useful lessons have been learned about how to leverage the economic power of universities in particular to produce targeted community benefits. (Source)

Once open, the NGA will be like the current site. Thousands will drive there, do their job, drive home. They won’t be running outside the barbwire fence to grab lunch. An employee living in, say Arnold, isn’t suddenly going to move to the neighborhood. A high-security government spy agency will never be a neighborhood anchor.

Corner pf Jefferson & Cass, April 1, 2016
Corner pf Jefferson & Cass, April 1, 2016

For those employees driving to work from Arnold, they currently drive 15.8 miles, about 20 minutes or so each way. The new location will be 20 miles, roughly 30 minutes or more.  For others, the commute to work will be shorter.

The best we can hope for is its presecence convinces others to consider relocating to the former Pruitt-Igoe site, South across Cass Ave. MetroBus might improve frequency to the area…might.

Jefferson Ave & Cass Ave both need to be updated — fewer & narrower lanes, new sidewalks, crosswalks, etc.

Sadly, our leadership still thinks razing block after block — totally erasing the street grid — is a positive thing to do. Is is 2016 or 1946?

— Steve Patterson

 

Forget A Football Stadium, North Riverfront Neighborhood Needs A Plan For Redevelopment

The Rams are retuning to Los Angeles. I think many forgot how we got them here in the first place. Without an NFL team since 1988 we attempted to get an expansion team, but that effort ended in December 1993 when Jacksonville FL got the 2nd expansion team. With a new dome underway political leaders had to find a way to pay for what was going to be a career-ending white elephant.

In January 1995 the Los Angeles Rams were negotiating a relocation to St. Louis, but NFL owners rejected the relocation in March ’95. Following legal threats against the NFL, the owners approved the relocation the following month:

St. Louis has has been without an NFL team since 1988, when Cardinal owner Bill Bidwill, tired of being a secondary tenant to the baseball Cardinals in outdated Busch Stadium, moved his team to Phoenix.

St. Louis was considered a lock for an NFL expansion team in 1993, but conflicting ownership groups and financial problems doomed that bid, and Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., were awarded franchises.

Fans thought New England Patriots owner James Orthwein, a St. Louis native, would move his team to St. Louis in early 1994, but New England businessman Robert Kraft purchased the team at the last minute and kept it in the Boston area.

And St. Louis city and county officials nearly blew their chance at luring the Rams last summer because, until September, they couldn’t wrest control of the new stadium lease from a stubborn beer distributor who had the desire, but not the money, to buy an NFL team.

But the city finally cleaned up its act when, after Shaw broke off talks with St. Louis in August, former U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton stepped in and convinced aspiring owner Jerry Clinton to turn over his 30% share of the stadium lease for $8 million and the use of a luxury suite for 20 years.

The new stadium, under construction downtown, is scheduled to be completed in late October, meaning Ram home games for the first half of their first season in St. Louis might be played in Busch Stadium.

The Rams weren’t here permanently —  they were just on loan. Our desperation to fill the Dome we were building resulted in a too good to pass up deal for the Rams. We borrowed them for 21 seasons and one Super Bowl. Hell, they would’ve left a decade earlier if Georgia Frontiere wouldn’t have waived the right to go year to year after the Dome failed to be in the top tier after the first check in 2005.

Despite his claims otherwise, Kroenke likely planned to move the Rams when he purchased a majority stake. To think otherwise is foolish, he owned sports teams all over the country — it’s no big deal to fly to Los Angeles in your private jet. The writing on the wall was obvious to everyone but football nuts and elected officials worried about getting reelected if they didn’t show an effort to keep the Rams from doing the inevitable.

So $16+ million public dollars were spent so elected officials could say “see, we tried.” In doing so, a large swath of the Near North Riverfront was targeted for demolition. This left property owners uncertain about the future. The William A. Kerr Foundation posted the following on Facebook:

Perhaps enough dust has settled that we can breathe a sigh of relief that our little green building no longer faces immanent demolition. During this past year’s great folly to build an NFL worthy stadium in this area, we received many words of support and admiration for what the WAKF has accomplished here and hopes that it would continue to exist. We are very touched and grateful for this outpouring of support and are pleased that many people and organizations will continue to be able to use and enjoy this space. Now we hope that you and the powers that be will put some focused energy and money into revitalizing this whole north riverfront area. Thank you for all your good wishes and support!!

Agreed — we should keep focusing on the North Riverfront — revitalizing — not razing the area.  Unlike in the early 90s, it doesn’t appear targeted properties were bought out. Nothing was razed.  But owners are likely leery about investing out of fear of being targeted again.

The Laclede Power building, just North of the Ashley Street Power House, is a contributing building in a small historic district.
The Laclede Power building, just North of the Ashley Street Power House, is a contributing building in a small historic district.
Warehouses in the along Ashley between 2nd and Lewis.
Warehouses in the along Ashley between 2nd and Lewis.
After a $10 million dollar investment, the Stamping Lofts opened in April 2013. Also part of a historic district.
After a $10 million dollar investment, the Stamping Lofts opened in April 2013. Also part of a historic district.

As a region we need to:

  1. Accept we will not have another NFL team.
  2. Be content with existing sports: MLB, NHL, MASL, USL, NCAA.
  3. Consider attracting other sports, but not with a publicly-owned facility.
  4. Build on the investment in planning a stadium by planning how to be life, investment, jobs, etc to the North Riverfront.

Schlafly Beer is looking for a location for a third brewery, perhaps the North Riverfront? Let’s put together a plan for the area, find a way to begin updating streets, sidewalks, lighting, etc. Market the hell out of the area to tun vacant properties into occupied buildings.

In the non-scientific Sunday Poll just over 20% said we should continue with the stadium plan — really folks!?!  Thankfully more than 3/4 don’t think we should.

Q: Agree or disagree? We should continue the North Riverfront stadium plan

  • Strongly agree 3 [5.08%]
  • Agree 5 [8.47%]
  • Somewhat agree 4 [6.78%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [1.69%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [1.69%]
  • Disagree 6 [10.17%]
  • Strongly disagree 38 [64.41%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [1.69%]

The first step is to remove the target from the North Riverfront.

— Steve Patterson

 

Annual Look at Dr. Martin Luther King Drive

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day so, like the previous 11, I’m taking at look at his namesake road in St. Louis. Unlike some previous years, very little appears to have changed since last year.

I started downtown, drove out to the Wellston Loop at the city limits, and drove back.

The corners of MLK & 14th are getting new curb cuts -- was needed.
The corners of MLK & 14th are getting new curb cuts — was needed.
Imo's new headquarters
Imo’s new headquarters
This modest structure being rehabbed was once a boarding house, in 1891 Henry Miller founded what is today the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Once finished it'll be a museum will open to honor him. Click image for more information.
This modest structure being rehabbed was once a boarding house, in 1891 Henry Miller founded what is today the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Once finished it’ll be a museum will open to honor him. Click image for more information.
Chronicle Coffee closed "temporarily for renovations and restructuring on 10/13/2014.", it still appears closed.The phone number is no longer in service.
Chronicle Coffee closed “temporarily for renovations and restructuring on 10/13/2014.”, it still appears closed.The phone number is no longer in service.
The SW corner of MLK & Taylor, 4500 MLK, was being razed. Was Taylor & Easton Drug. Click for map.
The SW corner of MLK & Taylor, 4500 MLK, was being razed. Was Taylor & Easton Drug. Click for map.
Same corner in January 2007, was built in 1905.
Same corner in January 2007, was built in 1905.
In 2015 bike lanes were added to part of MLK. Click image for information from Great Rivers Greenway
In 2015 bike lanes were added to part of MLK. Click image for information from Great Rivers Greenway
Last year I didn't think this building would make it to 2016
Last year I didn’t think this building would make it to 2016
Lots of buildings have been razed to provide parking lots for churches.
Lots of buildings have been razed to provide parking lots for churches.
Another building I didn't think would survive is still here is one of my favorites. Located just East of Goodfellow.
Another building I didn’t think would survive is still here is one of my favorites. Located just East of Goodfellow.

With the exception of the IBEW museum, this year was very depressing.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Split on MSD Plan To Raze Vacant Buildings To Reduce Water Runoff

Focus area, click image to view larger PDF
Focus area, click image to view larger PDF

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll readers were split on MSD’s plan to raze vacant buildings to reduce water runoff.

  • Support side 18
  • Oppose side 17
  • Neutral+Unsure 7

Below is the breakdown:

Q: To reduce water runoff, the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) plans to raze vacant buildings. Oppose or support?

  • Strongly support 8 [19.05%]
  • Support 3 [7.14%]
  • Somewhat support 7 [16.67%]
  • Neither oppose or support 5 [11.9%]
  • Somewhat oppose 2 [4.76%]
  • Oppose 3 [7.14%]
  • Strongly oppose 12 [28.57%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [4.76%]

As you can see, the “strongly oppose” answer got the biggest response. Supporters weren’t as enthusiastic. Much of the demolition would happen in neighborhoods struggling to remain relevant.

While it could take several years to spend down the money, even the longest spending scenario would amount to a near doubling of St. Louis’ demolition budget. And areas where MSD sees the most benefit in terms of runoff and watersheds also are the areas – primarily in north St. Louis – where the city’s vacant properties are concentrated. 

Those areas are part of the Bissell watershed, where the Environmental Protection Agency has told MSD to better manage stormwater. (Post-Dispatch)

Each time a building is razed it gets harder to convince remaining owners to invest in their properties, to get residents to stay. Still, I need to read more about MSD’s Project Clear.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Support or oppose MSD plan to raze vacant buildings to reduce water runoff?

Please vote below
Please vote below

In the news recently:

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District wants to spend $13.5 million of its own money to tear down vacant properties. Grassy lots would let stormwater slowly percolate into the ground instead of rushing into the combined sewer system that serves much of St. Louis.

While it could take several years to spend down the money, even the longest spending scenario would amount to a near doubling of St. Louis’ demolition budget. And areas where MSD sees the most benefit in terms of runoff and watersheds also are the areas – primarily in north St. Louis – where the city’s vacant properties are concentrated. (Post-Dispatch)

So I want to know if this is something you support or oppose?

This unscientific poll will remain open until 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

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