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19th Annual Look at the State of St. Louis’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Pt 1: Tucker to Kingshighway

January 16, 2023 Featured No Comments

Civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on Aril 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. In response cities began renaming streets in Black/Africian-American areas in his honor. St. Louis was a little slow at making this happen, it wasn’t until 1972 that Franklin & Easton Avenues became Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from 3rd Street to the western city limits at the Wellston Loop commercial district. The Veterans Bridge over the river was also renamed in his honor. Only 5 years later a block of MLK Dr. was closed (8th to 9th) for the Cervantes Convention Center. Over the years the remaining blocks east of Tucker (12th) have been closed, privatized, or cut off from the larger grid.

I started this blog on October 31, 2004, for MLK Day 2005 I did an extensive look at the condition of the approximately 7 mile corridor. Every year since I’ve continued, this is my 19th such MLKK Day post. Images for the easiest posts have become disconnected, but hopefully they’ll be reestablished in the future. The 2018 MLK post is a good prior example. Okay, let’s begin just east of Tucker and head west.

Interco Plaza, SE corner of Tucker & MLK, has been “closed for renovations” for a couple of years, basically since Square moved into the former Post-Dispatch building to the north and they didn’t want any homeless around.
I do like that MLK has been narrowed, though not very elegantly. Not sure how a person with visual impairment is supposed to understand this.
A lot of the blocks immediately west of Tucker have been surface daily car storage, but some now have chargers for electric vehicles.
The medical building on the NW corner of 14th & MLK was originally built by BJC, but they didn’t stay long. It has had various tenants, but is vacant once again. Unfortunately it is built as if it was in an auto-dependent suburb — set back behind car storage.
Walls going up on the SW corner of MLK & 17th, this is owned Cybertel or Verizon.
Between 21st and 22nd you see empty land, once planned for a western highway loop around downtown. The green arrow points to CITYPARK, the new soccer stadium. Hopefully this vacant land along MLK will also get redeveloped eventually.
At Jefferson we can see work has begun to reduce the excessive width of the curb to curb distance, reducing the number of lanes — AKA road diet. For former RV park turn tiny home village on the NE corner can be seen in the background.
The two buildings at 30xx MLK have been deteriorating every year, but the front facades look about the same.
The flounder on the east one has completely collapsed, the rubble remains.
At the point where Page Blvd splits off to the left is a couple of deteriorating warehouses.
In this close crop of the previous image you can see how part of the freight elevator penthouse has collapsed.
The Page Blvd facade is the front, clearly falling apart. Neighborhood residents recently sued developer Paul “Northside Regeneration” McKee to take control of the building.
Both buildings viewed from the west.
A nonprofit previoulsly purchased this property west of Vandeventer Ave, but it doesn’t look like they’ve done anything in the last year.
Just west of Belle Glades Ave is a favorite, the scaffolding suggests this well-maintained building continues to receive TLC. Unfortunately, the building to the west was lost a few years ago. Great infill opportunity!
The same seen from across MLK.
The north side of MLK still contains urban storefronts, while the south side contains an auto-centric strip mall. This was built within the last 20 years by a nonprofit associated with, but not controlled by, St. Louis University. The intention was business incubator space.
Like any good suburban strip mall, the VILLE MALL has a huge monument sign on the SE corner of MLK & Whittier St. Rather than have storefronts on the corner we see fencing & grass. Alderman Sam Moore, a tenant died in February 2020. Moore loved having parking out front.
Moore’s successor Dwinderlin “Dwin” Evans took over the space facing Whittier. Evans is not a candidate in the primary next month.
In the long block west of Whittier St, on the street a blue tarp has blown off a roof, at 4246? Wouldn’t be surprised if this building begins deteriorating faster, unless someone recovers or replaces the roofing.
I was pleased to see new construction in a city block that backs to MLK.
Unfortunately it is set back behind car storage. Pendleton & Evans Avenues
Returning to MLK at Newstead I see the vacant Marshall School. I remember when it was occupied, attended some community meetings here.
This crop of the above image shows open window and holes in the roof. This school building faces Aldine Ave, is for sale by the St. Louis Public Schools.
The vacant land on the NW cornet of MLK & Cora Ave has fresh gravel and new lighting. Looks like upgraded car storage.
The larger site across MLK also has fresh gravel. Unlike the other, this wasn’t previously paved.
The buildings at 47xx continue to deteriorate. These are on the south side of MLK just before Walton Ave.
Back on the north side of MLK the east side wall of 4859 continues to collapse. Side walls are structural in most St. Louis buildings like these.
For several years now a new commercial building has been under construction on the north side of MLK, just before Kingshighway. In the lsat year it has been expanded with a corner entrance — all set back behind car storage.
This new Hollywood Beauty wasn’t yet open on 1/7/23.
The location on the SE corner of MLK and Kingshighway, in a former Blockbuster Video, was busy. Will be intersection to see if anything is occupying this space a year from now.

Continue to Part 2 for a look at MLK Dr from Kingshighsway to the city limits.

— Steve
St. Louis urban planning, policy, and politics @ UrbanReviewSTL since October 31, 2004. For additional content please consider following on Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, and/or X (Twitter).


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