Corrections to the Mill Creek Valley Narrative

 

 I feel the need to correct the record regarding Mill Creek Valley, to counter the false information being repeated. Though St. Louis was founded in 1764 it wasn’t incorporated until 1823. At that time “the city limits were expanded west to Seventh Street and north and south by approximately 5 …

A Look at City Foundry St. Louis…in August 2013

 

 In August 2013 the vacant brake foundry in Midtown St. Louis, Vandeventer Ave. & Forest Park Ave., was an “eye sore” just south the main campus of Saint Louis University.  IKEA’s announcement to build on the opposite side of Vandeventer was still a few months away. I visited the foundry …

New (ish) Book — ‘New Mobilities: Smart Planning for Transportation Technologies’ by Todd Litman

 

 Mobility is very important to our lives, and humankind continues to consider new/different modes of transportation. Both of my grandfathers were born in simpler times: 1886 & 1899. The latter was my maternal grandfather, he lived until the age of 97. He saw and experienced many forms of mobility in …

Research Notes on the History of Grocery Stores in St. Louis, 35 Years Since Kroger Closed

 

 After visiting the newest grocery store in St. Louis last week, I took a deep dive into the history of grocery stores in St. Louis, spending hours in Post-Dispatch archives through the St. Louis Public Library website. I’ll write about the new store soon, but today is my research incomplete …

Recent Articles:

Corrections to the Mill Creek Valley Narrative

November 29, 2021 Featured, History/Preservation, North City Comments Off on Corrections to the Mill Creek Valley Narrative
 

I feel the need to correct the record regarding Mill Creek Valley, to counter the false information being repeated.

“Horizontal, black and white photograph showing a row of dilapidated residential buildings in the 3200 block of Lawton in Mill Creek Valley. The buildings appear to be empty and awaiting demolition. Low wooden fences enclose the small front yards. There are several inches of snow on the ground.” February 16, 1960. Missouri Historical Society

Though St. Louis was founded in 1764 it wasn’t incorporated until 1823. At that time “the city limits were expanded west to Seventh Street and north and south by approximately 5 blocks each.” (Wikipedia) In 1861 the limits were expanded west to Grand, but streets and development had already gone further west. The land for Forest Park was purchased in 1875 — it was located in St. Louis County, not within the city limits of St. Louis. The current municipal boundaries were set in the 1876 divorce from St. Louis County, they were rural at the time.

There was no singular cohesive Mill Creek Valley neighborhood. The large rectangular area (454 acres) the city demolished for “urban renewal”, bounded by 20th St, creek/railroad, Grand Ave, Olive St., included many communities, businesses, homes, etc. was built over many decades — neighborhoods plural. Our modern perception of neighborhoods having distinct edges didn’t exist then, your neighborhood was where you lived. People who lived between 20th & Jefferson didn’t see their area belonging to the newer area west of Compton. The fact this large area ended up being grouped together and labeled by the city as a redevelopment area doesn’t make it a single neighborhood.

Commonly the word “downtown” refers to a city’s central business district (CBD). The size/location of “downtown St. Louis ” varies depending upon who you ask. To some anything east of I-270 is downtown. When St. Louis Union Station reopened at its new facility on September 1, 1894 it was considered far west of the CBD/downtown. The original station, on the east side of 12th (now Tucker), opened on June 1, 1875.

Thus, the Mill Creek redevelopment area wasn’t the heart of downtown. Not even close. Starting at 20th and going west, it wasn’t the oldest part of the city either. The stately row houses in this area were significantly newer and nicer than the tenements east of 10th Street. It was certain old by the 1940s, just not the oldest. It was also dense and lively, with everything within a short walk. Market Street ran down the center of the rectangular redevelopment area and contained the majority of the commercial activity, but corner shops also existed.

Since the city’s founding African-Americans lived in tight pockets throughout the city and St. Louis County. The black population before the Civil War was a very small percentage.

Not all persons of color in St. Louis were slaves, and in fact, as the 19th century progressed, the number of free blacks continued to rise. This can be explained by looking at several factors. Conditions in St. Louis enabled self-purchase. St. Louis’ proximity to Illinois, a state where slavery was supposed to be illegal, allowed a small number of slaves to sue for their freedom in St. Louis courts based on the premise that they had been held as slaves for a period of time in a free state. A very small number were also set free by masters who had come to see slavery as a moral wrong. Former slaves who wished to remain in the State of Missouri as free blacks were supposed to obtain a license from the state.

In addition to the over 1,000 free blacks in St. Louis who owned small businesses, were laborers or worked odd jobs, a certain elite group of African-American St. Louisans styled “the Colored Aristocracy” were large landowners and businesspersons, many descended from some of St. Louis’ earliest residents. Several owned the large barber emporiums, while others owned drayage businesses which moved goods from steamboat to steamboat on the levee. Still others, like Madame Pelagie Rutgers, owned huge tracts of land which they sold at great profit as the city expanded. The “Colored Aristocracy” of St. Louis had its own social season and debutante balls. A member of this social class, Cyprian Clamorgan, wrote a book in 1858 called the Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis, in which he profiled the group. (National Park Service — highly recommended)

Yes, wealthy blacks in the 19th century. They didn’t live in the area we know today as Mill Creek. They lived in The Ville.

During the 1920s, The Ville was home to an elite community that included black professionals, businessmen, entertainers and Annie Malone, one of the country’s first African-American millionaires. One of St. Louis’ most historically significant neighborhoods, The Ville was home to Sumner High School, the first school west of the Mississippi River to provide secondary education for blacks. Some of the school’s best known alumni are Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Chuck Berry, opera diva Grace Bumbry, and tennis great Arthur Ashe. During the 1920s and ‘30s, the neighborhood thrived, as more and more African-American institutions were established, including Harriet Beecher Stowe College and Homer G. Phillips Hospital.

The Ville served as the cradle of African-American culture and nurtured its rich heritage for the black population of St. Louis. Today, the soaring Ville Monument pays tribute to the neighborhood’s achievements and its famous sons and daughters. (Explore St. Louis)

 

Sumner High School, mentioned above, opened downtown on 11th between Poplar & Spruce in 1875 — the same year as the adjacent first new Union Station mentioned earlier:

Charlton Tandy led protests of the planned siting of Sumner High School in a heavily polluted area in close proximity to a lead works, lumber and tobacco warehouses, and the train station as well as brothels. He said that black students deserved clean and quiet schools the same way white students do. The location went unchanged, and Sumner High opened in 1875, the first high school opened for African Americans west of the Mississippi. The school is named after the well-known abolitionist senator Charles H. Sumner. The high school was established on Eleventh Street in St. Louis between Poplar and Spruce Street, in response to demands to provide educational opportunities, following a requirement that school boards support black education after Republicans passed the “radical” Constitution of 1865 in Missouri that also abolished slavery.

The school was moved in the 1880s because parents complained that their children were walking past the city gallows and morgue on their way to school. The current structure, built in 1908, was designed by architect William B. Ittner. Sumner was the only black public high school in St. Louis City until the opening of Vashon High School in 1927. Famous instructors include Edward Bouchet and Charles H. Turner. Other later black high schools in St. Louis County were Douglass High School (opened in 1925) and Kinloch High School (1936). (Wikipedia)

Sumner High was an 1867 school renamed. Originally it was District School Number Three. Source: 1960 handbook.

Locations:

  • 1867, 5th & Lombard
  • 10th & Chambers
  • 1875, 11th & Spruce — now known as Sumner instead of #3.
  • 1896, 15th & Walnut
  • 1908 construction on the current location in The Ville neighborhood began
  • 1910 classes began, moving from 15th & Walnut.

Wealthy blacks in St. Louis were successful in relocating Sumner t0 their neighborhood, where their homes and businesses were located.

Another well-known institution in The Ville was Homer G. Phillips Hospital.

Between 1910 and 1920, the black population of St. Louis increased by sixty percent, as rural migrants came North in the Great Migration to take industrial jobs, yet the public City Hospital served only whites, and had no facilities for black patients or staff. A group of black community leaders persuaded the city in 1919 to purchase a 177-bed hospital (formerly owned by Barnes Medical College) at Garrison and Lawton avenues to serve African Americans. This hospital, denoted City Hospital #2, was inadequate to the needs of the more than 70,000 black St. Louisans. Local black attorney Homer G. Phillips led a campaign for a civic improvements bond issue that would provide for the construction of a larger hospital for blacks.

When the bond issue was passed in 1923, the city refused to allocate funding for the hospital, instead advocating a segregated addition to the original City Hospital, located in the Peabody-Darst-Webbe neighborhood and distant from the center of black population. Phillips again led the efforts to implement the original plan for a new hospital, successfully debating the St. Louis Board of Aldermen for allocation of funds to this purpose. Site acquisition resulted in the purchase of 6.3 acres in the Ville, the center of the black community of St. Louis. But, before construction could begin, Homer G. Phillips was shot and killed. Although two men were arrested and charged with the crime, they were acquitted; and Phillips’ murder remains unsolved.

Construction on the site began in October 1932, with the city initially using funds from the 1923 bond issue and later from the newly formed Public Works Administration. City architect Albert Osburg was the primary designer of the building, which was completed in phases. The central building was finished between 1933 and 1935, while the two wings were finished between 1936 and 1937. The hospital was dedicated on February 22, 1937, with a parade and speeches by Missouri Governor Lloyd C. Stark, St. Louis Mayor Bernard Francis Dickmann, and Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. Speaking to the black community of St. Louis, Ickes noted that the hospital would help the community “achieve your rightful place in our economic system.” It was renamed in 1942 from City Hospital #2 to Homer G. Phillips, in his honor. (Wikipedia)

Prior to Homer G. Philips Hospital in the Ville, an existing building was used as City Hospital #2 between 1919-1936. That 19th century building was at Garrison & Lawton. That intersection no longer exists. Lawton was an east-west street between Pine and Laclede, known as Chestnut east of Jefferson. So yes, the first hospital for blacks in St. Louis was within the boundaries of the Mill Creek redevelopment area, for 17 years. Then the significantly larger City Hospital #2 opened in the Ville — where the wealthier black families lived.

February 1909 Sanborn Map showed a stone (blue) church at 3015 Pine, labeled “Berea Presby’n Church (Negro)”. This is one the few buildings to survive the clearance of the Mill Creek redevelopment area.

As stated at the beginning, black residents lived in small pockets throughout the city. Wealth, social class, and geography separated the residents of the Ville from those in the older Mill Creek redevelopment area.

This is not to say every black person living in The Ville was wealthy, that was not the case. As poor blacks moved north to escape the Jim Crow south they likely lived where they could, including in The Ville. I know of one family that lived in The Ville during the 1940 census that had migrated from Alabama. I’d love to see maps showing where black persons lived in the region following the Civil War, showing shifts each decade.  The change from 1950 to 1960 would give us better information on where families displaced by the demolition of Mill Creek relocated.

We know white home owners in the areas immediately outside The Ville had racially restrictive covenants on their properties since the early years of the 20th century. One block, now part of the Greater Ville neighborhood, was still white when the Shelley family had a white person act as the buyer so they could purchase 4600 Labdie in 1945. In 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the court system couldn’t be used to enforce restrictive covenants (Shelley v Kraemer).

This prompted many white homeowners surrounding The Ville to sell and move further away. At the same time people were being forced to leave the  Mill Creek Valley redevelopment area many more options were available on the city’s north side.  Yes, some may have moved into numerous high-rise public housing projects that were open prior to the February 16, 1959 start of demolition in Mill Creek.

  •  Cochran Garden Apts, April 1953
  • Pruitt-Igoe, 1955
  • (In December 1955) a judge ruled St. Louis and the housing authority had to stop segregation in public housing.
  • Vaughn Apts, October 1957

The low-rise Neighborhood Gardens and Carr Square Village opened in May 1935 and August 1942, respectively. Again, segregated until 1956. One of the problems with large-scale demolition is people get scattered in the process.

The demolition was certainly a land grab, no question. Wealthy whites living west in the Central West End, Clayton, Ladue, etc had to drive on Market Street to reach Union Station and the CBD. They didn’t like driving through old dense areas, especially predominantly occupied by African-Americans.

Back east demolition was increasingly happening. Soldiers Memorial opened in 1938, Aloe Plaza opened two years later — both on the north side of Market Street. St. Louis leaders got hooked on demolition so clearing out the west entry to downtown followed. Also in the late 1930s the Oakland Express opened, a highway from Skinker to Vandeventer & Chouteau.

Hopefully the incorrect information will cease.

— Steve Patterson

A Look at City Foundry St. Louis…in August 2013

November 22, 2021 Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design Comments Off on A Look at City Foundry St. Louis…in August 2013
 

In August 2013 the vacant brake foundry in Midtown St. Louis, Vandeventer Ave. & Forest Park Ave., was an “eye sore” just south the main campus of Saint Louis University.  IKEA’s announcement to build on the opposite side of Vandeventer was still a few months away. I visited the foundry site as best I could in my power wheelchair, taking 9 photos in a 20 minute period.

Before posting about the new City Foundry STL (with food hall, offices, retail space, and recently opened grocery store) I want to take you back to the afternoon of Saturday August 24, 2013:

Looking NE from the west side of Vandeventer, under I-64.
A little further north, looking toward Forest Park Ave.
Turning east, the rail spur (right) hadn’t been used in decades.
Further north, looking east.
Now east of Vandevener, looking east along the north side of the foundry site, Forest Park Ave
From the gently-sloping parking lot within the site, looking east.
This is a cropped view from the previous image.
Into the site a little more, looking SE
Looking south along Spring Ave, the east boundary of the foundry site.
Down the hill, looking back north along Spring Ave. The eastern most foundry building is now on the left.
Looking east from IKEA’s 3rd floor restaurant on September 23, 2015 — the day the media was allowed to preview the new store. IKEA’s Opening Day was a week later, September 30, 2015. The foundry site to the east was unchanged more than 2 years after my visit above.

Soon I’ll use these images to compare the foundry to the completely reimagined present. The single-story building along Vandeventer was razed, all other buildings remain today. See amazing before interior photos here.

— Steve Patterson

New (ish) Book — ‘New Mobilities: Smart Planning for Transportation Technologies’ by Todd Litman

November 18, 2021 Books, Featured, Transportation Comments Off on New (ish) Book — ‘New Mobilities: Smart Planning for Transportation Technologies’ by Todd Litman
 

Mobility is very important to our lives, and humankind continues to consider new/different modes of transportation. Both of my grandfathers were born in simpler times: 1886 & 1899. The latter was my maternal grandfather, he lived until the age of 97. He saw and experienced many forms of mobility in his lifetime. Though he died just 20 miles from his birthplace he flew to both coasts and drive/rode to many places in his long life….including visiting me in St. Louis in his last few years.

How we all get from A to B is so important from a technology, environmental, policy, etc perspective. A recent book from a transportation expert Todd Litman explores the subject:

New transportation technologies can expand our world. During the last century, motorized modes increased our mobility by an order of magnitude, providing large benefits, but also imposing huge costs on individuals and communities. Faster and more expensive modes were favored over those that are more affordable, efficient, and healthy. As new transportation innovations become available, from e-scooters to autonomous cars, how do we make decisions that benefit our communities?

In New Mobilities: Smart Planning for Emerging Transportation Technologies, transportation expert Todd Litman examines 12 emerging transportation modes and services that are likely to significantly affect our lives: bike- and carsharing, micro-mobilities, ridehailing and micro-transit, public transit innovations, telework, autonomous and electric vehicles, air taxis, mobility prioritization, and logistics management. These innovations allow people to scoot, ride, and fly like never before, but can also impose significant costs on users and communities. Planners need detailed information on their potential benefits and impacts to make informed choices.

Litman critically evaluates these new technologies and services and provides practical guidance for optimizing them. He systematically examines how each New Mobility is likely to affect travel activity (how and how much people travel); consumer costs and affordability; roadway infrastructure design and costs; parking demand; land use development patterns; public safety and health; energy and pollution emissions; and economic opportunity and fairness.

Public policies around New Mobilities can either help create heaven, a well-planned transportation system that uses new technologies intelligently, or hell, a poorly planned transportation system that is overwhelmed by conflicting and costly, unhealthy, and inequitable modes. His expert analysis will help planners, local policymakers, and concerned citizens to make informed choices about the New Mobility revolution. (Island Press)

Here are the chapters so you can see how it’s organized.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Arc of Transportation History
Chapter 3: The Context of Transportation Planning
Chapter 4: A Comprehensive Evaluation Framework
Chapter 5: Evaluating the New Mobilities
Chapter 6: Analysis: How New Mobilities Can Achieve Community Goals
Chapter 7: Recommendations for Optimizing New Mobilities
Chapter 8: Conclusion

I couldn’t find a preview, but the author participated in a webinar discussing the topics in this book.  This is a long presentation, but I found it interesting,

Like most new books I receive, this book isn’t a splashy coffee table book. It’s a “deep dive” into the subject. If you’re also a policy wonk then you’ll love Todd Litman and his latest book.

— Steve Patterson

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Research Notes on the History of Grocery Stores in St. Louis, 35 Years Since Kroger Closed

November 15, 2021 Featured, Local Business, Retail, STL Region Comments Off on Research Notes on the History of Grocery Stores in St. Louis, 35 Years Since Kroger Closed
 

After visiting the newest grocery store in St. Louis last week, I took a deep dive into the history of grocery stores in St. Louis, spending hours in Post-Dispatch archives through the St. Louis Public Library website. I’ll write about the new store soon, but today is my research incomplete notes.

The Schnucks on Lindell (Lindell Marketplace) was one of two Kroger’s under construction when they left in 1986. National bought this location, Schnucks got it later when they bought out National. Schnucks then closed their Delmar & Kingshighway location, where an ALDI was built less than a decade ago.

It was 35 years ago today (11/15/1986) the first of Kroger’s 54 St. Louis area stores began closing, following their decision to pull out of the St. Louis market after 74 years. Most would reopen as a National, Shop ‘N Save, or Schnucks. These other chains each closed some of their existing locations in older/smaller buildings. Other Kroger locations closed. Cincinatti-based Kroger remains a huge player in the national grocery market.

I moved to St. Louis in August 1990, so Kroger leaving was recent history.  As I recently learned, there’s so much history before Kroger left.  My research is still ongoing, but I wanted to share what I found so far:

  • A & P was already in St. Louis in 1886. A December 20, 1886 advertisement listed 3 locations: 611 Franklin, 1256 S. Broadway, and 712 N. Broadway. [I’d heard of A & P numerous times of the years, but didn’t know anything about it so I turned to Wikipedia: “The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, better known as A&P, was an American chain of grocery stores that operated from 1859 to 2015. From 1915 through 1975, A&P was the largest grocery retailer in the United States (and, until 1965, the largest U.S. retailer of any kind).”  Wow!]
  • A May 5, 1895 A & P ad showed four stores, but one change from 9 years before. The 611 Franklin store wasn’t listed, but 1043 Vandeventer was added.
  • 1901 Straub’s opened, per their website.
  • March 12, 1908 advertisement for Maurer’s meat & grocery stores listed five locations: 8 & 10 S. Jefferson, 2612-14 Franklin, 3858 Garfield, 1402 Market, and 1740 Division.
    9/29/1911 display ad for Maurer-Remley Meat and Grocery Co., 21 locations (not listed)
  • 11/12/1911 David L Remley sues scale co. Recently merged with Jacob Maurer’s stores.
  • 1912 Kroger buys 25 Maurer Remly Meat & Grocery Co. locations. [Maurer & Remley both grew quickly by opening stores or buying out others.  In 4 years Maurer went from 5 to 25 locations before selling out to Kroger. 
  • Saturday  10/12/1912 Kroger bought ground & a plant bounded by Tiffany, vista, rutger, and frisco tracks. Had already purchased 30 Maurer-Remley stores. [25 or 30? stores purchased]
  • Per the Dierbergs website: one store was purchased on Olive, east of the present day I-270. A merchant had opened that store in 1854!
  • Monday 12/16/1935 ad for A&P — the great Atlantic & pacific tea co. 2300 n union, 2905 n Newstead, 4135 shreve, 3127 s. Grand, 3155 Park, 4065 Shaw, 7501  S. Broadway, 5535 S. Grand, 5009 Gravois, 8126 Gravois, 4607 macklind, 118 Lemay Ferry, 5707 Delmar, 6388 Delmar, 6689 Delmar, 6720 w. Florissant, 6208 natural bridge, 8820 St. Charles rock road, 7200 Oakland, 8 s Euclid, 4753 McPherson, 528 n. Taylor, 4389 Laclede, 46 n. Central, 15 s. Florissant in Ferguson, 2533 Woodson Road in overland, 121 n Kirkwood, new store opening 102 Lockwood in Webster groves.
  • Apparently the Schnucks at 10275 Clayton Rd was originally a Bettendorf or a Bettendorf-Rapp store.

    1939 the first Schnucks opened, per their website.

  • Wednesday 3/21/1956: New Detroit based food group ACF-Wrigley purchased Fred P. Rapp Inc includes 10 stores and a warehouse. ACF formed in December 1955 by merger of wrigley stores and big bear super markers of Detroit, standard food and humpty dumpy & subsidiaries of okc, A Wolf Inc, a Detroit wholesaler. They later acquired 13 supermarkets operated by food town stores of Cleveland.  Five new Rapp stores planned for STL in 1956. By early 1957 this will give ACF 40 total stores. Sale includes warehouse at 8590 Page, supermarket at 8455 Gravois. Others leased. Rapp began about 1930 with a small neighborhood store. Opened 2 more in the following 2 years. In 1935 the first 2 were sold. The third, at 3111 Watson Rd converted into a supermarket to begin the chain.
  • December 20, 1956 ad Schnucks giant value markets 4135 Shreve, chambers & west Florissant, 9474 lackland, 9120 Manchester, 4356 Manchester, 6301 St. Louis Ave. [This was the first I found on Schnucks, despite their claim of opening in 1939.]
  • December 1957 meat cutters union dispute with all grocery stores.
  • Thursday 10/2/1957 merger of Bettendorf and Rapp completed today. Both owned by ACF-Wrigley Inc of Detroit. They purchased Rapp in 1956 and Bettendorf earlier in 1957. 
  • 1983 coupon war started by Kroger. They also announced plans to build 5 new stores.
  • Tuesday 10/7/1986: Kroger to sell/close all 54 stores, sell distribution center. Was 3rd largest STL chain. Schnucks (53 existing units) to buy 8 Kroger locations, close 6 existing. Schnucks is #1, National is #2. Independents served by Wetterau are #4. Wetterau is a distributor that services 2,400 independent grocery stores in 26 states! Kroger started doubling & tripling coupons in 1983, causing a price war. Kroger first expanded beyond Cincinatti to St. Louis in 1912 when it bought 25 Mauer Remly Meat & Grocery Co. Kroger cited large number of discount warehouse & independent grocers as reason for closing.
  • Wednesday 10/8/1986: Wetterau Inc to buy 10 of Kroger’s 54 St. Louis stores. These will become Shop ‘N Save. National to buy 26 stores and 560k sf distribution center at 6050 Lindbergh. Two Krogers still under construction: Sarah & Lindell, and north Florissant in Ferguson.  National’s 360k sf distribution center on page will eventually close. National had 45 stores, plus 26 will give it 63 in the metro, plus 8 outside. Heard national would close 9 existing locations. National is owned by Toronto based Loblaw. Schnucks buying Kroger’s at river Des Peres road on south side, Maryland heights, Alton, Cahokia, granite city, and Wentzville. Plus under construction in south county and Brentwood.
  • 11/12/86 elderly upset about Kroger at 3865 Gravois Ave closing. National buying it, but closing. National also buying 4617 Chippewa, will reopen.

Obviously there are huge gaps in my notes. I presume Schnucks bought Bettendorf-Rapp locations from ACF at some point. Eventually I hope to fill in other major mergers/consolidations.

— Steve Patterson

17th Anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL

November 3, 2021 Featured, Site Info, Steve Patterson Comments Off on 17th Anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL
 
A warehouse at the point where MLK & Page meet.

Sunday (10/31/2021) was the 17th anniversary of this blog. In years past I’d have prepared a post looking back and forward, published on the actual anniversary. Now I’m enjoying my final years rather than spend all my free time on the blog.

It was two years ago I disclosed I had cancer. In short, I have stage 4 kidney cancer. I’ll never be cancer-free, it’ll never be in remission. My oncologist described it as a chronic disease.

So far so good. I’m arguably better off now than I was 2 years ago. My last scans (CT & bone scan) showed significant shrinkage of several of my numerous tumors. The reality is eventually my cancer will switch from being a treatable condition to being terminal.

Enough about me, I still spend hours thinking about St. Louis. Here are some subjects on my mind right now:

  • The recent loss of population in the 2020 census will make redistricting a challenge. The predominantly black north side is losing population at a significantly higher rate than the rest of the city.
  • The population is largely black and white — in nearly equal numbers. As a result I’m glad the initial draft of a new ward map has an equal number of wards with a majority population of each. Cutting the number of seats from 28 to 14 is something I still support. My hope is it will reduce aldermanic micromanagement, empowering bureaucrats to make decisions based on policy, not political influence from legislators.
  • I’m enjoying seeing the soccer stadium, front office and training facility be constructed in Downtown West.  What will be more interesting is to see how the surrounding blocks change over time. Will they become more urban, or will parking lots/garages slowly replace existing buildings. If I were in charge I’d made it very difficult/expensive for property owners to raze their buildings for parking.
  • I’m glad to see the lawsuit agains the Rams/NFL moving forward, but I hate the idea of St. Louis getting an NFL expansion team as part of a settlement. Why? This would likely put the north riverfront back at risk of being leveled.
  • North St. Louis is continuing to be vacated. At first middle class whites left, making room for middle class black families. Then the last white families either found a way to move or they died off. Middle class black families began moving to north St. Louis County as lower income blacks moving into north city behind them. Those who remain, with many exceptions, are looking to move to south city or into the county.  The region must reverse the exodus out of north city & county.
  • I don’t have the solutions to the bottom problem above, one thought is maintain the positive pockets. Then turn the remaining areas to natural watershed and/or agricultural land.
  • The proposed Target on South Grand, north of Chouteau, is very exciting. However, the large surface parking lot to the south of the building is only ok if temporary. From the south end of the bridge to Chouteau needs to be multi-story urban buildings. Ditto for the west side of Grand.
  • Additional investment in transportation needs to be made to support those us who don’t have 24/7 access to an automobile. Jobs need to be closer to the areas needing work.
  • As a region we need to reduce the amount of urbanized land per person. This means stopping greenfield development on the edges, focusing on denser development in previously developed areas. This needs to be accomplished equitably.
  • As I’ve said before, we need to prepare for the coming side effects of climate change. I’m not at all optimistic the world’s population/governments will take the necessary steps to reduce damage to the environment. Temperatures in St. Louis will rise. In the winter this could mean pests that used to die off each year stick around. In the summer it could mean am increasing number of periods with temperatures over 100°. I often pass a field at 9th & O’Fallon —the tree lawn for these two streets used to have nine additional trees. Going to the grocery store in summer this area is noticeably warmer. The same problem is repeated throughout the region, usually in lower income neighborhoods.
  • It’s very nice seeing medical cannabis dispensaries in the city & region. Hopefully this is employing people who needed it most. Unfortunately the ownership is those wealthy enough to afford the high cost of entry.
  • Food deserts continue. A Save-A-Lot that opened a few years ago in an inner-ring suburb is closing. It’s increasingly obvious to me slim grocery store margins need customers with a mix of incomes to survive. I’ve seen too many efforts to end food deserts in low-income neighborhoods fail. Near me it looks like GreenLeaf will also fail. The few things I used to get there are no longer available.
  • We can’t solve our climate problems simply by replacing all vehicles with electric vehicles. We must make mobility easier by foot, bike, wheelchair, and transit.

The above are just a fraction of the St. Louis subjects I’ve thought about, it’s a bit overwhelming to me. I can’t turn it off.

Thankfully I’m optimistic I’ll have at least another year to post on the above subjects. Thank you for reading.

— Steve Patterson

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