Checking Out New Pedestrian Bridge Over I-70 Connecting Old North St. Louis and Near North Riverfront Neighborhoods

 

 In December 2018 MoDOT temporarily closed I-70 to remove an old pedestrian bridge at North Market Street. A similar pedestrian bridge was removed from over I-44 at Marconi Ave, and at other locations.  Yesterday I checked out the new ADA-compliant replacement over I-70. Before getting into the new bridge we …

Checking Out Giant Touch Screen Information Kiosks

 

 Way back in January I saw a news story that interested me, but it was too cold out — eight new information kiosks had gone online. The vertical touch screen information centers provide visitors and residents with information on restaurants and attractions as well as local resources and services. Kyle …

A St. Louis Statue to be Proud of: Frankie Freeman in Kiener Plaza

 

 Recently there have been renewed calls for the removal of statues honoring confederates. Just yesterday: On Wednesday, the House took a pivotal first step in an overwhelming vote to remove a bust of the fifth chief justice of the United States and Confederate statues from public display in the U.S. …

A Look at 207 North Sixth Street, Charlie Gitto’s Pasta House Since 1978

 

 When I first saw Charlie Gitto’s restaurant at 207 North 6th Street many years ago I imagined a small business owner fighting Famous-Barr department store parent company, The May Department Stores Company, to keep its small downtown restaurant open. Sounds good, right? But it was way off. My first clue …

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The St. Louis Region Needs to Consider No Longer Chasing Big Conventions

July 6, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on The St. Louis Region Needs to Consider No Longer Chasing Big Conventions
 

We keep being told we need to expand our region’s primary convention center in order to compete with other cities for big conventions/conferences.

Looking South on 9th Street from Cole Street. The CVC can’t expand north, east, or south — so it now wants to close 9th to go West.
Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

The purpose of convention centers is to get outsiders to travel to a region, spending money on hotels & food — adding to the economy. The convention center facilities themselves are often a loss leader, they don’t make a profit or break even on their own but help bring warm bodies with cash to burn to a region.

The past few years attendance at conventions/conferences has been shrinking. The number of conventions have also been getting fewer and fewer. Then came COVID-19, cancelling the rest of 2020. The future of the big convention is seriously in doubt.  The big conventions that do continue will have their choice of top facilities. Even if we go for the latest expansion we won’t be in the top tier. The remaining smaller conventions & conferences will have their pick of hotel-based convention/conference facilities.

We need to say enough is enough. The current convention/dome occupies what was once 11+ city blocks!  A 12th block is a privately-owned parking garage that predates the Cervantes Convention Center.  Ballpark Village was only 3 city blocks originally.

Our mostly vacant convention facilities occupies the same space as four ballpark villages!

It’s absolutely insane to have this much prime downtown real estate sitting idle most of the year. Yes, when a huge convention is in town downtown is hoping. But what if these blocks, plus Baer Plaza & The Bottle District, were redeveloped?

Three North-South streets would again connect downtown to those of us who live immediately to the north, across Cole.  Sixth, seventh, and eighth streets would provide easy access, rather than having to go around a huge obstacle. Ninth street would remain open. Two East-West streets would also be reopened: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd & Convention Plaza (aka Delmar). The City-owned parking garage and parking lots on the West side of 9th could also be developed.

We would still need a tourism office and folks to help fill up various smaller convention/conference facilities throughout the region. They just wouldn’t be pressured to try to fill a huge white elephant.

To my knowledge, no city/region has had the courage to opt out of chasing conventions. We should be the first to do so, creating a neighborhood in its place that’s so vibrant that people from out of town want to visit.

— Steve Patterson

Read My Name Lyda, I Also Want To Defund The Police

July 2, 2020 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Read My Name Lyda, I Also Want To Defund The Police
 

The topic of defunding the police continues to make headlines, especially after poor judgement by our mayor recently:

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson is facing backlash on social media Friday night for reading the names and street addresses of protesters who are calling on the city to defund the police department. (KSDK)

She apologized, but it’s clear she’s more of the same — willing to make minor tweaks here and there, but not actually solve the root problems with big bold changes.

A massive former military vehicle on display during the opening of the police headquarters, July 2014

I like to use an analogy of a dirty, grimy, & cluttered house. Krewson and others would tackle such a house with a feather duster. They can look busy and point to progress, but it’s not really effective.

The real way to tackle such a house is to remove all contents, and then evaluate if the structure is worth saving.  It either needs thoroughly scrubbing, extensive remodeling, or razing and replacement. Then only put back what’s been cleaned, and fits — no more clutter.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police is like this dirty, grimy, cluttered house. St. Louis County Police too. The clutter is a Jim Crow-era racist culture We’ve got to basically start over, create a new culture.

The St. Louis Police acted like an occupying force by blocking a major street, Olive, in front of their headquarters , June 3 2020
They even blocked the sidewalk with a concrete barrier.

To me defunding the police means completely disband the existing police. One city has done this: Camden, NJ.  It got a lot of press last month for its “Camden Rising” redevelopment plan, but Camden residents say not so fast.

“Camden Rising” is Camden’s redevelopment plan, created by powerful non-Camden residents, aimed at attracting young, white professionals to move here. It shifted governing power over public services — including education, housing, economics, and public safety — from Camden’s primarily Black and Latino residents to county and state officials. And the 2013 creation of the CCPD was integral to the Camden Rising redevelopment strategy of recasting Camden, long viewed in local and popular media as “dangerous,” as now “safe.” (Business Insider)

This is NOT what we should do! Still, we must do something. I’ve lived here nearly 30 years, little has changed. Well, the police have more surplus military vehicles now.

Some supporters of divestment want to reallocate some, but not all, funds away from police departments to social services and reduce their contact with the public to reduce the likelihood of police violence.

Those seeking to disband police consider defunding an initial step toward creating an entirely different model of community-led public safety.

The concept exists on a spectrum, and the two aren’t dichotomous but interconnected. But both interpretations center on reimagining what public safety looks like — shifting resources away from law enforcement toward community resources, he said.

It also means dismantling the idea that police are “public stewards” meant to protect communities. (CNN)

We need substantive change, but I know the monied old guard haven’t given you the authorization to to do anything meaningful — they like the status quo.  We need a mayor not beholden to the old guard, someone willing to rock the boat.

— Steve Patterson

 

East St. Louis & Tulsa’s Greenwood Neighborhood Rebuilt After White Mobs Rioted In 1917 & 1921, Respectively

July 1, 2020 Featured, History/Preservation, Metro East Comments Off on East St. Louis & Tulsa’s Greenwood Neighborhood Rebuilt After White Mobs Rioted In 1917 & 1921, Respectively
 

There are many similarities between race riots in East St. Louis IL and four years later, Tulsa OK (1917 & 1921, respectively).  Both involved angry white mobs killing blacks and destroying their homes & businesses.

A burned out building at Missouri & Division, East St. Louis, May 2011

Both were also rebuilt.

In 1910, 90 percent of African Americans lived in the South, the vast majority were sharecropping in rural areas. But hostilities in Europe had almost stopped the flow of white workers to northern factories, while increasing the demand for product from munitions and weapons manufactures. This gave unions more negotiating power, and wages were inching up. So employers started recruiting black workers from the south as strike breakers and replacement workers. About a half-million black workers moved to Chicago, Detroit, Ohio, Philadelphia and St. Louis between 1910 and 1920.

The worst recorded incident of labor-related racial violence occurred in St. Louis in 1917. When the Aluminum Ore Company brought in African American workers to break a strike, 3,000 white union members marched in protest. The marchers morphed into a mob, attacking random black residents on the street. The following day, shots were exchanged between whites and black in the black part of town; two plainclothes police officers were killed. When the news got out, roving white mobs rampaged through black East St. Louis, burning homes and businesses, and assaulting men, women and children. Between 100 and 200 black working people died and 6,000 were left homeless. It foreshadowed things to come.

A year later, four million soldiers returned from World War I. With no plan for absorbing them into the economy, unemployment rose rapidly. Both white and black veterans felt betrayed. In the “Red Summer” of 1919, 38 separate race riots occurred, all of them white mobs attacking blacks. The worst riot occurred in Chicago. After a black youth was stoned for swimming into the “white” part of the lake, Irish and black gangs battled each other for 13 days. When it was over, 23 blacks and 15 whites were dead, 537 were injured and 1,000 black families were homeless. Across the country, more than 100 people died that summer, while scores of black homes and businesses were destroyed. (AFLCIO)

St. Louis meanwhile, in 1914, agreed to allow the Daughters of the Confederacy install a pro-confederacy monument in Forest Park (removed in 2017). Two years later, in 1916, St. Louis voters overwhelmingly approved a pro-segregation zoning ordinance. A riot across the river in 1917 unfortunately was another in a series of whites being…racists.

In the summer of 1916, 2,500 white employees of the meatpacking industry near East St. Louis went on strike for higher wages, and the companies imported black workers to replace them. Ultimately the workers won a wage increase but the companies retained nearly 800 blacks, firing as many whites after the strike, according to the former president of the Central Trades and Labor Union of East St. Louis. This result only exacerbated the growing racial tension.

In the spring of 1917, the mostly white workers of the Aluminum Ore Company in East St. Louis voted to strike. The company recruited hundreds of black workers to replace them. Tensions between the groups escalated. At a labor meeting held in City Hall on May 28 and made up mostly of white workers, rumors circulated of black men fraternizing with white women. (Wikipedia)

On July 1, 1917 the worst of the East St. Louis rioting of 1917 took place — 103 years ago today.

Missouri between 12th & 13th, East St. Louis. August 2012

Today parts of East St. Louis are ruins.

Tulsa, like many cities and towns throughout the US, was hostilely segregated, with African Americans settling into the northern region of the city.  As we often saw before integration, Blacks in the area created entrepreneurial opportunities for themselves, which housed an impressive business center that included banks, hotels, cafes, clothiers, movie theaters, and contemporary homes.  Greenwood residents enjoyed many luxuries that their White neighbors did not, including indoor plumbing and a remarkable school system that superiorly educated Black children. (Ebony)

If there was a silver lining to segregation it was that it forced black money to be spent at black-owned businesses.

The massacre began over Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building. He was taken into custody. After the arrest, rumors spread through the city that Dick Rowland was to be lynched. Upon hearing reports that a mob of hundreds of white men had gathered around the jail where Dick Rowland was being kept, a group of 75 black men, some of whom were armed, arrived at the jail with the intention of helping to ensure Dick Rowland would not be lynched. The sheriff persuaded the group of black men to leave the jail, assuring them that he had the situation under control. As the group of black men was leaving the premises, complying with the sheriff’s request, a member of the mob of white men attempted to disarm one of the black men. A shot was fired, and then according to the reports of the sheriff, “all hell broke loose”. At the end of the firefight, 12 people were killed: 10 white and 2 black. As news of these deaths spread throughout the city, mob violence exploded. White rioters rampaged through the black neighborhood that night and morning killing men and burning and looting stores and homes, and only around noon the next day did Oklahoma National Guard troops manage to get control of the situation by declaring martial law. About 10,000 black people were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property (equivalent to $32.25 million in 2019). Their property was never recovered nor were they compensated for it. (Wikipedia)

Molotov cocktails were dropped from small planes onto roofs of buildings, a first on US soil.

Following the events known as the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, the area was rebuilt and thrived (with more than 100 MORE African-American businesses in place than there were before the riot itself) until the 1960s when desegregation allowed blacks to shop in areas from which they were previously restricted. (Greenwood Cultural Center)

East St. Louis, like Tulsa, quickly rebuilt. Today we see ruins, disinvestment, etc and fail to discuss the fact these communities did rebuild. Both East St. Louis and the Greenwood area were negatively impacted by demolition for highways, bank redlining, etc.

Riots didn’t destroy these communities, but systematic racist planning did. Of course, we new freedom to live, shop outside previously segregated areas it’s very possible these areas would’ve declined anyway.

— Steve Patterson

The Praxair Explosion Was 15 Years Years Ago Today

June 24, 2020 Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on The Praxair Explosion Was 15 Years Years Ago Today
 

Fifteen years ago today the outside temperature was a lot hotter than today, nearly 100°.  A safety valve on a propane tank at Praxair, on Chouteau east of Jefferson Ave, opened to release pressure. Liquid droplets self ignited, setting off a chain reaction involving other tanks on the asphalt outside yard.

The burnt-out building in 2010, five years after the explosion.

I wasn’t in the city that day, I was with a client in Richmond Heights. This was pre-iPhone days so I’m not sure how we heard about it. But the fire was still going by the time I got home.

In the 15 years since there have been numerous proposals & announcements about developing the site. The latest may have actually started, though it hadn’t the last time I checked.

What’s good is nobody was killed that day, no longer having such an industrial use right across the street from homes. Yes, the site was probably industrial/commercial long before residents bought their homes — but those homes are older than the Praxair company and probably older than the business of propane & propane accessories.

Airgas’s yard (left)  abuts the East side of the Grand bridge, near the elevator & stairs transit passengers use transferring between bus & light rail. September 2012 photo.

Hopefully the city keeps a close eye on the Airgas yard, I’d hate to see a repeat of 2005.

— Steve Patterson

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POLL: Agree or Disagree: Juneteenth Agree or disagree: Juneteenth Should Become a Federal Holiday.

June 21, 2020 Featured, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll Comments Off on POLL: Agree or Disagree: Juneteenth Agree or disagree: Juneteenth Should Become a Federal Holiday.
 
Please vote below

This year St. Louis County made Juneteenth an official holiday. If you’re not familiar, this will help:

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. (Juneteenth.com)

Nearly two and a half more years of slavery for the humans held in Texas.  Juneteenth is a holiday here and there.

Although Juneteenth has been informally celebrated primarily by African American communities since that day in 1865, currently 47 of 50 US states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday or observance. Texas became the first in 1980.

Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota and are the only three states that don’t formally recognize Juneteenth.

Nationally, a US president typically offers a proclamation acknowledging the day’s significance and gives well wishes to African Americans who observe. Barack Obama did so every year of his presidency and Trump marked the day last year.

However, no president has supported declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. Last year, the US Senate passed a resolution recognizing “Juneteenth Independence Day” as a national holiday, but it has not yet been approved in the House. (The Guardian)

Today’s non-scientific reader poll is about making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

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