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Potential On 22nd Street Across From Possible National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Location

Let’s assume the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency selects the 100-acre site in North St. Louis, over three others in the region, for its new campus, see Urban Renewal Officially Ended In 1974, Still Alive In St. Louis. Will this help or hinder the redevelopment of the surrounding blocks?  The planned clearance of 100 acres will leave a one block wide strip across 22nd, to the East. To the South is Cass Ave and the former Pruitt-Igoe site, to the West is the excessively-wide Jefferson Ave. To the North will be the backs of properties facing St. Louis Ave.

Thus the biggest opportunity for positive impact on exiting development is East of 22nd Street, two corners stand out:

1889
At 22nd & Mullanphy St is a vacant warehouse built in 1889. This is owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority. In the same block is the former Falstaff Brewery — successfully converted to housing a couple of decades ago — including new construction & adaptive reuse.  Click image to view the Falstaff project.
1890, 1904
Two blocks north at Madison you get these three buildings owned by Paul McKee’s Northside Regeneration. The corner was built in 1904, the two on the right in 1890,.

Neither of these corners are architectural gems, but their age is a nice contrast to already built infill and the secure fortress of what the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency would build. The old cast iron storefront at Madison might house a coffeehouse/cafe — a place for the new employment base to walk to for lunch. This could be a chance for an existing resident to become an entrepreneur, hiring others from the area.

I don’t know if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency works without outside contractors, if so, the 3-story 19th century warehouse could become office space.   Residential is certainly another option.

If we’re going to raze a 100 acre swath of land adjacent to the long-vacant Pruitt-Igoe site we should begin thinking now about how to improve the edges.  If the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency doesn’t pick this site we’ll be area on ideas for the area, with other businesses perhaps being interested in the vacant blocks within the 100 acre site.

Great potential exists, but the private market often overlooks these less common areas that require greater creative thought.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis’ Low Standards Turns A Once-Proud City Into A Suburban Office Park

We can all agree St. Louis must retain existing employers and attract new ones. Unfortunately, St. Louis has a habit of forgetting about urban design along the way.   Let’s take a look two examples; one within the proposed 100 acres site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and one to the immediate West.

First is a warehouse currently occupied by Faultless Healthcare Linen.

This warehouse, built in 1991, will be razed if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency picks the city site over three others in the region.
This warehouse, built in 1991, will be razed if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency picks the city site over three others in the region.
This small building from 1899 helps hide the awful warehouse behind it.
This small building from 1899 helps hide the awful warehouse behind it.

I remember when this was built in 1991 — I’d just moved to Old North St. Louis and passed it daily on Jefferson.  One street was closed, the rest are faced with blank concrete block walls.

The next example is Pharmaceutical company Sensient Colors Inc., their 30-acre campus at 2515 N. Jefferson is to the West of the potential National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency site.

The Sensient building was built in 2004.
The newest Sensient building was built in 2004 faces Jefferson but no entrance here, no public sidewalks even.
Looking NE from Elliot Ave between N. Market & Benton. The company has removed public sidewalks from the public-right-of-way adjacent to their facility.
Looking NE from Elliot Ave between N. Market & Benton. The company has removed many public sidewalks from the public-right-of-way adjacent to their facility.

Never heard of Sensient? I hadn’t either, but you’ve likely seen their products — on your plate.

Most of the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers use Sensient colors and flavors to make their household brand-name food and beverage products. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Now, the demand for natural colors is suddenly outpacing demand for synthetics, and Sensient, which makes both, is responding. It has sophisticated technology it won’t explain (it does mention doing “supercritical CO2 extraction”) to pull the coloring agents from botanicals. It has a Fusion Precise Natural Color system that lets customers specify not just a particular color, but also a subtle shade of that color. And it has a head start: 60 years’ experience with natural colors. (St. Louis Magazine)

I get it, they have trade secrets. Still, in a city people do walk to work — especially from public transit. I believe we can retain/attract employers without turning our city into a suburban office park.

— Steve Patterson

 

Urban Renewal Officially Ended In 1974, Still Alive In St. Louis

The redevelopment process commonly known as Urban Renewal, in retrospect, was largely a failure:

After World War II, urban planners (then largely concerned with accommodating the increasing presence of automobiles) and social reformers (focused on providing adequate affordable housing) joined forces in what proved to be an awkward alliance. The major period of urban renovation in the United States began with Title I of the 1949 Housing Act: the Urban Renewal Program, which provided for wholesale demolition of slums and the construction of some eight-hundred thousand housing units throughout the nation. The program’s goals included eliminating substandard housing, constructing adequate housing, reducing de facto segregation, and revitalizing city economies. Participating local governments received federal subsidies totaling about $13 billion and were required to supply matching funds.

Sites were acquired through eminent domain, the right of the government to take over privately owned real estate for public purposes, in exchange for “just compensation.” After the land was cleared, local governments sold it to private real estate developers at below-market prices. Developers, however, had no incentives to supply housing for the poor. In return for the subsidy and certain tax abatements, they built commercial projects and housing for the upper-middle class. Title III of the Housing Act of 1954 promoted the building of civic centers, office buildings, and hotels on the cleared land. Land that remained vacant because it was too close for comfort to remaining slum areas often became municipal parking lots. (source)

Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities rebuked the ongoing land clearance policies advocated by supporters of urban renewal. By the late 1960s one of St. Louis’ most prominent urban renewal projects — Pruitt-Igoe — was a disaster. Before the 20th anniversary the first of 33 towers were imploded in 1972 — urban renewal was unofficially over.

In 1974 it was officially over:

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 emphasized rehabilitation, preservation, and gradual change rather than demolition and displacement. Under the Community Development Block Grant program, local agencies bear most of the responsibility for revitalizing decayed neighborhoods. Successful programs include urban homesteading, whereby properties seized by the city for unpaid taxes are given to new owners who promise to bring them “up to code” within a given period—either by “sweat equity” (doing the work themselves) or by employing contractors—in return for free title to the property. Under the Community Reinvestment Act, lenders make low-interest loans to help the neighborhood revitalization process. (same source as first quote)

But forty plus years later the St. Louis leadership continues as if nothing changed. The old idea of marking off an area on a map to clear everything (homes, schools, businesses, churches, roads, sidewalks) within the red lined box remains as it did in the 1950s. The message from city hall is clear: don’t invest in North St. Louis because they can & will walk in and take it away.

Cass & Jefferson
Great old building near Cass & Jefferson would be razed for the campus

What are the scenarios at this point?

A) National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency selects the city option:

  • Businesses, residents, churches, etc are displaced.
  • A 100-acre swath is purchased and cleared.
  • The federal government builds a fortress-like campus, few workers would leave at lunch.
  • No benefit to the surrounding neighborhoods, access to public transit cut off by monolithic campus.
  • Adjacent areas now threatened as the next target for clearance, further eroding those areas.
  • Fire Station Number 5 would remain, but because of the new campus, firefighters would be unable to quickly reach the area to the West of Jefferson/Parnell.
mmm
Fire Station 5, in the narrow strip between St. Louis Place Park and the proposed campus, would be blocked to the West.

B) National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency selects another option:

  • Nobody buys into this area because it’s now a known target area.
  • It declines further because it’s a known target area.
  • It’s taken later for some corporate campus.

C) An alternative if National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency selects another option:

  • The city/community works with Paul McKee, existing businesses and property owners to develop a plan to revitalize the Cass & Jefferson/Parnell corridors and to coordinate with a new street grid in the long-vacsnt Pruitt-Ogoe site.
  • The existing street grid is left fully intact.
  • Infill planned with a variety of residential units with a concentration of retail & office at Cass & Jefferson.

But this won’t happen, St. Louis is forever stuck in the middle of the 20th century.  Clearance for a new stadium and a QuikTrip are other current examples. It has been nearly 70 years since St. Louis adopted Harland Bartholomew’s City Plan and we’ve yet to stray from the thinking he outlined.

Here are the results from the Sunday Poll:

Q:  Should the City of St. Louis use eminent domain powers to assemble a site if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency selects the city option?

  1. No 20 [44.44%]
  2. Yes 14 [31.11%]
  3. Maybe 8 [17.78%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 3 [6.67%]

We shouldn’t be willing to raze 100 acres to retain earnings tax revenues. If there was hope the campus would help the surrounding area it might be a fair tradeoff, but it’ll further deteriorate and isolate. Still, this urban renewal mindset is so engrained I’m not sure we’ll ever break free of it.

Perhaps I should just give up?

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should the City of St. Louis use eminent domain powers to assemble a site if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency selects the city option?

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Today’s Sunday Poll is about a tough call between residents and jobs:

Last week, the Board of Alderman approved the use of eminent domain to move people out of a 100-acre site that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is considering for relocation. Now, officials are saying that property owners will have an option to stay in their homes and businesses if the NGA chooses another location.

The area, just north of the former Pruitt-Igoe site, is one of four under consideration in the region by the federal agency, which is now located south of downtown. The city is eager to keep the NGA, along with its 3,100 employees and $2.4 million in earnings taxes each year. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Glad it was clarified they could stay if the NGA selects another site, but check the fine print from St. Louis Development director Otis Williams:

Williams’ comments are merely a promise. The bill doesn’t have language mandating that homeowners can stay if the land isn’t used.

“We will not demo before we have a decision,” Williams said. 

Still, Williams said there “may be a few properties” that the city will exercise rights on anyway.  

The purchases will come at a hefty price. The city has allocated $8-10 million for residential property purchases, if the government chooses the city location. But several businesses, including Faultless Healthcare Linen, would cost an additional $10 to $15 million to move. 

Faultless reportedly spent $12 million in 2012 to expand at the location. The city provided real estate and property tax abatement for the property.  (Post-Dispatch)

So there you go, today’s question is Should the City of St. Louis use eminent domain powers to assemble a site if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency selects the city option?

The poll is in the right sidebar, it closes in 12 hours (8pm)

— Steve Patterson

 

Changes Along St. Louis’ Dr. Martin Luther King Drive

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and for the 11th year in a row, I’m posting about St. Louis’ Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. (MLK herein). Unlike the past couple of years, this year offers no new projects completed or started. To check out changes I rode the #32 MetroBus on Thursday January 15th — the #32 runs on Cass until it merges with MLK West of Grand. Then on Saturday 1/17 I drove the length of the continuous portion of MLK — from East of Tucker to past the city limits.

This post covers the main changes I saw from last year:

  1. Modifications to ADA ramps, new crosswalks
  2. Buildings being torn down or that may be gone before next year
  3. Signalized intersections now 4-way stops
In the car I started at Tucker, the farthest East MLK is continuous, and headed  West past the city limits.
In the car I started at Tucker, the farthest East MLK is continuous, and headed West past the city limits in the suburb of Wellston.

1) DA Ramps & New Points to Cross MLK

MLK goes through multiple wards, areas built at different period and very different grids.  Within the last decade a major traffic calming project on MLK between Jefferson & Grand reduced travel lanes, protected parking lanes, installed new lighting, and replaced sidewalks. As I’ve written before, this multi-million dollar from-scratch project forgot to  make any provisions to cross MLK for the mile-long project. Now, years later, this is finally getting corrected as best they can after the fact.

The Jefferson-Grand had the greatest need, but this new work took place from end to end, where needed. These examples from East to West. For those unfamiliar, I often use public transit with a power wheelchair.

All along MLK Dr I saw evidence of new ramps and crosswalks. Hopefully the city will come back to fill in the asphalt gap -- I often need to report these as I encounter them.
All along MLK Dr I saw evidence of new ramps and crosswalks. Hopefully the city will come back to fill in the asphalt gap — I often need to report these as I encounter them.
One of my criticisms over the years has been a lack of places to cross MLK.This has finally been addressed.
This new crossing point is at N 22nd
Another view of the same. Lack of crosswalks is often an unintended consequence of street removal to create super blocks.
Another view of the same. Lack of crosswalks is often an unintended consequence of street removal to create super blocks.
mmm
I’ve personally had trouble getting to/from the bus stop on the North side of Leffingwell
Looking South-ish at Leffingwell
Looking South-ish at Leffingwell
Just West of Glasgow Ave
Just West of Glasgow Ave, looking North
Same new crosswalk, looking South
Same new crosswalk, looking South
New crosswalk at N Cardinal Ave, has been a 3-way stop for years, just no way to cross
New crosswalk at N Cardinal Ave, has been a 3-way stop for years, just no way to cross
I was driving this day but I'm usually in a wheelchair, I first saw this man East of Jefferson and now he's almost to Cardinal. He's in the street because the new ramps have those huge gaps that can't be crossed until filled with asphalt.
I was driving this day but I’m usually in a wheelchair, I first saw this man East of Jefferson and now he’s almost to Cardinal. He’s in the street because the new ramps have those huge gaps that can’t be crossed until filled with asphalt.
Where MLK meets Cozens a new channel was created for wheelchair navigation, lacks a point to pass when two meet each other. Sorry for the blurry image.
Where MLK meets Cozens a new channel was created for wheelchair navigation, lacks a point to pass when two meet each other. Sorry for the blurry image.
The crosswalk leads to where a new ramp was, based on Google's aerial, but a newer ramp was build midway between Cozens & MLK
The crosswalk leads to where a new ramp was, based on Google’s aerial, but a newer ramp was build midway between Cozens & MLK
Same type of channel to the West where Cass & MLK meet, again no place to meet anyone
Same type of channel to the West where Cass & MLK meet, again no place to meet anyone
Much further West, at Burd Ave, a needed crosswalk is now completed.
Much further West, at Burd Ave, a needed crosswalk is now completed.

If only the civil engineers had considered the basic idea that pedestrians need to places to cross the street.

2) Demolished or will be

I saw no evidence of buildings removed in the last year, but one was actively being razed and others will likely be razed rather than rehabbed/rebuilt.

2618 MLK
In November 2014 fire destroyed The Hit Zone at 2618 MLK, just West of Jefferson. According to city records he 2-story building was built in 1996. Click image for KSDK story on the fire
2618 MLK East side
East side view of the destroyed bar at 2618 MLK

b

mlk201518
5088 MLK, just West of kingshighway, had a big fire in the fall It was inspected/condemned on 10/30/2-14
1495 Stewart Pl, built in 1890, was condemned 12/24/2013 -- over a year ago.
1495 Stewart Pl, built in 1890, was condemned on 12/24/2013 — over a year ago.
mlk fav
I’ve been watching 5716 MLK for years, I love the design. After seeing daylight through a side window I drove down the side street (Shawmut) to see the back.
back
Unfortunately the roof has collapsed over the Western half of the building.
LRA 5746 MLK built in 1907
5746 MLK being razed brick by brick, built in 1907. A city (LRA) property
October 2009, Source: GEO St. Louis
October 2009, Source: GEO St. Louis
Last remains of the State Bank of Wellston, in Wellston. Click image for more information
Last remains of the State Bank of Wellston, in Wellston. Click image for more information
Passing by on MetroBus, April 2013
Passing by on MetroBus, April 2013

Many of these neighborhoods are depressing; lots of poverty, few jobs in the area. I’d imagine many residents would like a way out. Yet, efforts to bring investment and jobs would be labeled as gentrification. Not sure how to change the situation in these neighborhoods, but I don’t like watching them crumble.

3) From Signalized to 4-Way Stop

Two intersections that have traffic signals, now shut off, are 4-way stops.

MLK & Euclid is now a 4-way stop, the signals are turned off.
MLK & Euclid is now a 4-way stop, the signals are turned off.

The other is MLK & N. Sarah.

Peace…

— Steve Patterson

 

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