Imagine residents in your ward coming together to suggest ideas on how to ward spend capital improvement funds. Dream on, right? People are apathetic and don’t participate, according to the usual narrative. Well, residents of the 6th ward don’t have to imagine, they just need to show up with ideas — and they have been. On Wednesday I got to witness the 2nd participatory budgeting assembly in the 6th ward, a very reaffirming experience at a time when democracy is breaking down nationally. Watch this brief video for an overview and go to pbstl.com.
If you’re a resident of the 6th ward and want to participate, you’ve got a few more opportunities this week:
Have an idea but can’t attend? No problem, email your idea.
Once all the ideas are collected, volunteer budget delegates will work with city departments to turn them into projects, with real budgets. Then, in April 2014, 6th ward residents will get a chance to vote to see what gets funded. Will they pick one $100,000 or five $20,000 projects?
No matter what gets funded, citizens are participating in their community.
Today cul-de-sac subdivisions are designed exclusively for the automobile. For example, my brother’s gated subdivision in Oklahoma City has internal sidewalks that don’t lead you outside the gates. A major grocery store occupies one corner on the outside, but you need a car to get there.
My parents built a new custom home in 1965-66, moving in just months before I was born. I was told the streets of the new subdivision in the former farm field were still getting paved as our house was being built. Unlike where my brother lives now, we could at least reach a convenience store from a street connected to our subdivision. Had more commercial been built on land set aside by the developers we would’ve had many more options.
However, many in the St. Louis region grew up in a 1950s subdivision that planned for walking, with sidewalks and a shopping center connected to the housing. I posted yesterday about the Carrollton subdivision decimated for runway expansion at Lambert International Airport, today is a look at the thought and planning that went into it.
The following is from page 547 of the 1970 book This is Our Saint Louis by Harry M. Hagen:
When “Johnny Came Marching Home” at the close of World War II, he found one thing to his advantage, prosperity and jobs, and one disadvantage, a tremendous shortage of housing. For many returning GI’s and their prides, their first home was a rented room or shared quarters with their in-laws.
The building industry, stopped by the priorities of war, was turned loose, and developers looked to the suburbs for the land they needed to build homes. There was land, lots of land, and many home builders built square little box-like homes marching in soldierly fashion down square little streets. These houses sold as fast as they could be completed since young marrieds and young families were desperate for adequate housing.
With the convenience of the automobile, no location in St. Louis County was too distant. Sub-division after sub-division sprung up and was quickly populated.
Out of this building frenzy, one team emerged with a visionary approach to suburbia. Ed and John Fischer, along with brother-in-law Lawrence Frichtel added a dimension to home building that won national acclaim for their firm, Fischer and Frichtel. Instead of building several blocks of homes in in regimented manner, they built a community.
The firm amassed a large tract of land in northwest St. Louis County and in 1956 opened Carrolton, a planned community with gently curving streets, cup-de-sacs and open space. Instead of one or two home models, they offered a variety so that every other home would not look the same. They did not utilize every square foot for homes –they planned areas for churches, schools and parks that were built and used as the population grew. To make the community as self-sufficient as possible, they constructed a small shopping center so that necessities of living could be purchased within walking distance. And to complete their community, they built a swimming pool and a large recreation building, bringing free-time activities practically to the front door of residents.
Carrollton had a mixture of award-winning homes–and it was a community that offered residents more than any other single housing development in the area at that time. It was planned to make living in the suburbs enjoyable for the entire family — and its departure from the conventional set the standards followed by other developers.
Fisher and Frichtel was probably the number one home-building firm of the post-war era — and the reason for its success was simply that it gave the grass-cutting, snow-shoveling, house-painting, leaf-burning, tree-pruning public a product that was both excellent in quality and different in setting. The firm has been recognized and published in every major magazine and newspaper relating to homes, neighborhoods and conventional living throughout the country. Unquestionably, these men and their organization represent and give tribute to the great spirit of St. Louis.
Self-sustaining? Walking distance to necessities? Yes, single-family homes on cul-de-sacs can be walkable. Well, at least they tried in 1956.
However, decade after decade since Carrollton was platted, subdivisions have gotten progressively more hostile to pedestrians. I’m not sure how this happened, my guess is each subsequent generation got used to their environment and eventually only grandpa remembered walking to the store for milk.
Last month I went down street after street, passing vacant lots where homes once stood, all owned by the City of St. Louis. It was depressing to think a once lively neighborhood has been erased, except for roads & sidewalks. You’re probably thinking I was somewhere in north St. Louis, but I was actually in St. Louis County. At one point I even crossed over I-270! Yes, because of the Lambert runway expansion the City of St. Louis owns hundreds of acres in the City of Bridgeton: the former Carrollton subdivision.
St. Louis is responsible for maintaing the properties, cutting acres of grass basically. Not only does St. Louis have too much property in St. Louis, they also have too much in Bridgeton!
The land can’t be used for residential purposes, but office/retail/industrial is apparently fine. The problem is St. Louis must repay the FAA if it sells the property, making it very costly to develop based on the amount the FAA paid.
And that runway? From a 2007 MIT-student analysis:
The need for runway 11-29 was actually delay-driven, not demand-driven. Although the levels of demand from the forecast never materialized, the new runway did provide the capability to perform dual independent IFR approaches at Lambert. Again, although the delay cost savings are less than initially projected, there are nonetheless savings that can be directly attributed to the new runway. Thus despite the over-optimistic demand forecast, the construction new runway does seem to have been justified.
With regard to flexible planning, the Lambert officials were indeed responsive to the lower actual passenger traffic than was originally projected. The terminal expansion plans were abandoned after the traffic collapse. Although it is still possible to implement the terminal expansion plans in the future, it would have been wasteful to do so once demand levels dropped. Thus, the part of the Lambert expansion project that was demand-driven was indeed responsive to the drop in demand.
The new runway was probably cheaper to build when it was than it would have been in the future. It is likely that property acquisition costs as well as construction costs would have increased, and so delaying the runway construction would probably have cost more than proceeding as scheduled. Once traffic returns to St. Louis, runway 11-29 will be an invaluable asset. In fact, it may even provide the competitive advantage needed to draw traffic to Lambert. Thus, it seems that despite the strong-armed actions and swift construction in the face of the dramatic downturn in passenger traffic, the new runway at Lambert- St. Louis International Airport was in fact beneficial.
The runway is built and not going anywhere. Now we just need to figure out what to do to remove hundreds of acres from St. Louis ownership, so that it can again produce tax revenue for St. Louis County & the City of Bridgeton.
UIC/Greenstreet Properties did a great job and, as required by the ADA, provided a non-drivewalk access route from each public transit stop. Shopping centers must do so, whereas stand-alone properties can provide access through a driveway. Yet an important detail for compliance was overlooked. It may have been shown on the drawings but overlooked during construction, or left off the drawings by mistake.
I’ve not seen any crossing paint here, drawing that in on construction plans can greatly reduce a design or construction error. I’ll be sending this to my contacts at the companies responsible and to city officials.
Yesterday MoDOT and city officials cut a ribbon to open traffic from I-70 onto the new Tucker.
With the new offramp, and the opening of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge in 2014, the adjacent land is suddenly prime real estate. Will it be developed like most highway offramp areas or will it be more urban/dense/walkable? I don’t have any illusions the city will make any such demands so my only hope is Paul McKee comes through with a plan the surprises his many critics.
During the Urban Renewal era St. Louis leveled much of downtown — chasing away residents, businesses, shoppers, workers, etc. By the mid-1960s blocks and blocks of once-vibrant land began to get new structures. In October 1965 the top piece of the Arch was set into place. A couple of weeks ...