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Olive Open At Walton, Eastbound Only

Tonight I was able to drive eastbound on Olive from Euclid. Barrels blocking the street at Walton for years, have finally been moved. But only in the eastbound direction.

As I mentioned in a post last month, the eastbound side of Olive is in the 28th Ward while the westbound lane, still blocked, is in the 18th Ward. At this point I don’t know where this all stands — will it stay this way for a while? Will Olive get opened in both directions but other streets be blocked? Time, and a few phone calls, will tell.

I’m guessing the timing was not an accident either. Mayor Slay will be presenting a “Sprit of St. Louis” award to Bowood Farms (prior post, official website) at 1pm tomorrow (Wednesday, June 28, 2006).

I do think our city officials may finally be waking up to the fact a closed street grid means closed opportunities. You open up the grid, like it once was, and you can encourage more commerce and development.

– Steve

 

Forest Park Forever Seeks to Alter Government Hill…Forever

You may not know the name Government Hill but you know the view, look up toward the World’s Fair Pavilion. Classical cascading terraces and a couple of fountains. It has been a favorite St. Louis backdrop picture for decades. Forest Park Forever, wants to “obliterate” the existing landscape design and do something “fresh.” Last night they sought approval from the Preservation Board.

The Preservation Board’s role in the parks is strictly that as an advisor, they do not have any veto power over projects. The board seemed to like the new design but not in place of the old design. Kate Shea, director of Cultural Resources, read from the Forest Park Master Plan about intentions around repair and restoration and grand park facilities. Indeed, much of the park has been restored and maybe embellished. Areas like the grand basin were not recreated into something entirely different from the original. The Preservation Board deferred a decision and asked Forest Park Forever to reconsider.

In testimony it was discovered the costs of restoring the classical features would be roughly the same as the new proposal. Part of the issue is making the hill accessible (aka ADA ramps). Forest Park Forever has a plan for adding ADA accessible ramps on the outer edges of the existing classical layout but they seem too smitten by their new zig-zag scheme.

For pictures of the existing and proposed look through the Preservation Board agenda on this item.

I testified briefly to raise functional concerns. I’ve attended events at the World’s Fair Pavilion where the first terrace down the hill was used in conjunction with events in the Pavilion. The new scheme places terraces much further down the hill. I also said that whatever plan was built, the materials need to last 90 years, the length of the proposed new BJC lease of part of Forest Park in exchange for a maintenance trust fund.

The next step in the process is a Forest Park Advisory Committee meeting on July 20, 2006.

– Steve

 

Ald. Joe Roddy Latest Target of Recall

In 2005 Ald. Tom Bauer was recalled as his constituents were upset over development deals in the 24th Ward. Recently residents began a recall effort against 15th Ward Alderwoman Jennifer Florida, initially over issues related to the proposed McDonald’s relocation but quickly expanding into other issues. KWMU radio is reporting 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy is now being targeted for recall over — development issues. The group is originating out of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood:

That’s where a group wants Joe Roddy out as 17th ward alderman. They cite Roddy’s support for the sale of a patch of Forest Park to Barnes-Jewish hospital as one reason for the recall effort.

But they also say some residents have been upset for years with his support for Forest West Properties, a company owned by Barnes-Jewish hospital, which owns a number of vacant buildings in the neighborhood.

Forest West Properties is buying large numbers of parcels in Forest Park Southeast and seeking demolition of many existing structures, a good many of which could make excellent rehab candidates.

Unlike Florida, Roddy was challenged in the March 2005 primary election. Roddy received 966 votes (63%) to challenger Rodney Burchfield’s 577 votes (37%).

The piece of Forest Park in question had been a part of the same ward as the main section of Forest Park until the last redistricting (2002) when it became part of Joe Roddy’s ward. I think this plan has been cooking for longer than a year — that it would be easier to argue this section of Forest Park was separate if it was indeed in a separate political ward than the main park.

I fully support the recall effort of Joe Roddy. And I’m guessing a good many people out there are tired with the same old status quo from the likes of Bauer, Florida and Roddy. Who’s next? The list of bad development projects is longer than the list of Aldermen…

– Steve

 

Olive: One Street, One Neighborhood, Two Wards

The Northern edge of the Central West End is a maze of street barricades. Nowhere is this more visible than the view where Washington & Olive come together just East of Euclid. This view is looking Eastbound along Washington (left) and Olive (right). Click here to view a map.

olive - 02.jpg

I wrote about this recently (see post) and since then I’ve had some calls & emails on the subject. As a result, I’ve done some additional research and want to discuss this further.

So here is the fun part. Olive, a once great road, is politically divided. One side of the street from Boyle Westward is in the 18th Ward (Terry Kennedy) and the other is in the 28th Ward (Lyda Krewson). Both sides of the street, however, are fully within the Central West End neighborhood. From an urban perspective the issues relating to the rebirth of this street do not fall into line with ward boundaries.

olive - 11.jpgWhat is the big deal?

Say you are visiting the Green Market located on Washington just East of Euclid and you see the new Bowood Farms just down Olive. You can certainly walk from one to the other but barriers tend to have the “wrong side of the tracks” connotation. Here, one wonders, which is the good side and which is the bad side?

In the past barriers were used to help stabilize an area but of late these barriers have become such an established fixture they are now, in my view, preventing revitalization from expanding into formerly neglected areas. The view at right is a close up of Olive at Walton. On the left of the picture you are in the 18th Ward and on the right you are in the 28th Ward. Same street, same intersection. If one alderman has their barriers removed you’ll just see folks driving around the remaining ones to go the direction they want.

Olive East of Walton has seen some hard times. Lots of buildings have been razed over the years but many hopeful signs exist. I think these barriers are preventing this area from reaching its potential. People who need to get from A to B will find a way to do it. Right now I think that puts additional traffic along McPherson between Euclid and N. Taylor.


olive - 14.jpgJust to the East of the above as we approach N. Taylor we see the remains of what was once a thriving neighborhood shopping district. A number of buildings have been renovated but they are still not fully connected to the neighborhood due to the barriers along Olive. Again, each side of the street is a different aldermanic ward.


olive - 18.jpgA former school, Field School, is being renovated into apartments. An old apartment building next door is being converted into condos. This is all just East of N. Taylor. With all these new residential units coming onto line soon it is a perfect opportunity to connect this area to Euclid via Olive.


olive - 21.jpgFurther East along Olive we get to Newstead. This is in the 28th Ward and Newstead is closed to Olive, sorta. The private parking lot on the left of this picture has access to both Newstead and Olive — cars & trucks are simply cutting through to avoid the street closure. This shows a couple of things, people will find ways to get around street closures and that a need exists to get people from place to place — enough of a demand that we need to look at reopening these various closures.

It would be nice to see Ald. Kennedy & Ald. Krewston work together with local residents, business owners and the city’s planning staff to come up with some sort of plan for the area rather than just leaving barriers in place simply because they’ve been there for decades. Both Ald. Kennedy & Ald. Krewson are up for re-election in March 2007.

Additional photos in this area can be seen on Flickr.

– Steve

 

McGuire on Forest Park/BJC “Deal”

Former Alderman and Director of Parks Dan McGuire has been making the rounds of public meetings letting his thoughts be known on the subject of BJC getting a long-term lease on 12 acres of Forest Park that, due to a road construction project, appear to be “isolated.” Given that most of our city’s 105 city parks (see list) are under 5 acres I just don’t see how you can call 12 isolated but then again the mayor’s office likes to twist things in odd ways.

I first heard Dan McGuire speak on this issue at the May 3, 2006 Planning Commission meeting, a great presentation by the way. He recently updated his comments which you can read here. It is a 5-page PDF document that explains in great detail his background as both the alderman for the area as well as the director of parks.

Last week he sent letters to the small committee looking into the deal. From the letter:

Much has been made of the assertion that this amended lease would provide a “dedicated source” of
revenue for the day-to-day operations and maintenance of Forest Park by combining new revenues from
BJH and matching annual donations from Forest Park Forever (FPF). While, once again, this is a noble
this catchy phrase doesn’t really capture the totality of the deal and, perhaps, simply serves as a
smokescreen.

In this letter he does again into detail talking about the financing and how the plan was to ensure the city maintained funding to Forest Park. He also notes how Forest Park Forever has been working since at least 2001 to create a maintenance endowment for Forest Park so it is not like a new source of funding has suddenly been found. Click here to read the four page letter to the special committee.

And finally McGuire is offering amendments to the city budget to correct the diversion of funds away from Forest Park. Click here to read his presentation to the Ways & Means committee.



I have a few questions on this whole “deal.”

BJC apparently approached the city last year to make this happen. Had BJC not approached the city how would the mayor’s office be dealing with maintaining Forest Park?

Even though this deal has been in talks for a while do our leaders have a backup plan just in case?

Until 2001/2002 all of Forest Park had been in one ward but for some reason this section was taken away from the 28th Ward and placed in the 17th Ward during this last round of redistricting. Coincidence or careful long-range planning?

What is the rush? BJC says they don’t have any immediate plans for the site (I’m not convinced) and we’ve not figured out where to relocate all the facilities. Is it too much to ask for our leaders to have their ducks in a row before coming to us with these plans?


In the meantime, it is a hot holiday weekend so get out enjoy some of the city’s great parks.

– Steve

 

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