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New Senior Housing A Bright Spot In East Saint Louis

Like every municipality, East Saint Louis Illinois has had ups and downs, unfortunately, the downs have far outnumbered the ups.  A project is nearing completion now that’ll be a big up, building on other ups (MetroLink light rail, new housing at Emerson Park station) of the last 10-12 years. Jazz at Walter Circle is a green modern transit-oriented senior housing development:

The public-private partnership that financed Jazz @ Walter Circle breaks new ground in closing funding gaps for affordable housing. For the first time, the deal integrates HUD mixed-finance development regulations with NMTC multiuse regulations. Public actors such as the East St. Louis Housing Authority (ESLHA), the city of East St. Louis, the state of Illinois, and HUD collaborated with project developer and owner Eco Jazz, Inc.; the national real estate firm Dudley Ventures; the NMTC firm Hampton Roads Ventures; and a not-for-profit affiliate of the ESLHA to reach a deal. In addition to residential space, Jazz @ Walter Circle will house a community center, office and retail space, a grocery store, and community gardens. The project will be the first LEED Gold certified building in East St. Louis, where 35 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty level.(HUD)

LEED Gold in East St. Louis? Yep! Not only is it green, it is architecturally attractive and has good urban form.

Jazz @ Walter Circle
Jazz @ Walter Circle nearing completion, adjacent to the Emerson Park MetroLink Station in East Saint Louis IL.
Both sides of 15th Street are getting redone
Curbs & sidewalks on both sides of 15th Street are getting redone
The south end near the station includes a public clock

I’ll do a full review once the ribbon has been cut, but so far I’m pretty impressed.

 — Steve Patterson


Donated Boeing 727 To Help Train First Responders

As many of you know, Metro, formerly know as the Bi-State Development Agency, operates our MetroBus and MetroLink light rail service. Metro also runs the trams inside the Arch and operates the Saint Louis Downtown Airport (map). Although MetroBus service does reach the airport, my boyfriend drove me on April 19th to view Metro accepting a Boeing 727 from FedEx Express.

Boeing 727-200F donated by FedEx Express
Boeing 727-200F donated by FedEx Express on April 19, 2013

Here is the donated plane will be used:

Although the aircraft’s primary purpose will be to train firefighters and other emergency response force personnel, it will also serve as a classroom and a ground trainer for future pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians, and be made available to researchers and educators for use in their air safety and educational programs.

The pilots’ cockpit will remain intact, just as it is when the pilots stepped out of it, however, changes will be made throughout the rest of the aircraft. The front half of the fuselage will be configured as a standard passenger airliner, complete with a pull-down screen and overhead projector for use in classroom-style presentations to tour groups visiting the airport and the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum, and to youth flying with Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 64 in their Young Eagles program. Jet Aviation, which has a history of doing maintenance and repair work for the FedEx corporate fleet at its facilities at St. Louis Downtown Airport, will assist in preparing the aircraft for its new mission.

The rear half of the fuselage will be outfitted to contain a maze of hanging hoses, wires, and other obstructions with cargo containers, boxes, and jumbled seats. During training sessions, non-toxic smoke generators will fill the aircraft with smoke as if the aircraft had made a crash landing. Area firefighters will be able to don their gear and enter the aircraft to search for survivors and complete a myriad of real-world training scenarios. (source)

Firefighters in the region currently get trained in simulated spaces, not with actual aircraft.  Once ready for training, firefighters from the region will be able to come practice maneuvers in a more realistic setting.

This plane has a brief St. Louis history:

The aircraft was delivered on October 25, 1979, in full Ozark Airlines’ colors, however, it was transferred to Pan American World Airways that same day. Pan Am operated it as “Clipper Frankfurt” from Oct. 25, 1979, until they ceased operations on Dec. 4, 1991. The aircraft was placed in storage from Dec. 5, 1991, until it was acquired by FedEx Express on April 22, 1993. 

Ozark Airlines operated from Lambert until merging with TWA.

— Steve Patterson


Old Big Box Stores Live On, Some Too Long

It has been 15 years since St. Louis-based Venture stores closed.

The chain was founded in 1968 when Target founder John F. Geisse went to work for May Department Stores. Under an antitrust settlement reached with the Department of Justice, May was unable to acquire any more retail chains at the time, and the department store company needed a way to compete against the emerging discount store chains. When May’s Executive Vice President Dave Babcock learned that Geisse had resigned from Target Stores, he spoke with Geisse about starting a new discount retailer, resulting in the founding of Venture.

The first Venture store opened in 1970 in the St. Louis suburb of Overland (after Venture closed, the location became a Kmart, which later closed & was demolished for the current Home Depot). In 1976, Geisse retired and left Venture Stores, which had by that time expanded to 20 units. (Wikipedia)

When I was a kid, following the failure of the Woolco discount chain, Venture expanded into Oklahoma City (source). A Woolco/Venture was very close to my parent’s house, I biked there often to buy 45s & later cassingles.

Last week, as I stepped into a former Venture store at 5401 Collinsville Rd in Fairmont City, IL, I recalled biking to Venture as a kid and even visiting a Venture after moving to St. Louis.

Venture sign
Venture sign remains
This Venture store is now Gateway Classic Cars, click image for website
This Venture store is now Gateway Classic Cars, click image for website
The old Venture name is covered by the current sign
The old Venture name is covered by the current sign
The interior is very original, complete with the paint scheme of the walls.
The interior is very original, complete with the paint scheme of the walls.

When a building gets built we should assume it’ll be around for at least half a century. Often this longevity is a good thing, but not always. I took a picture of the men’s restroom but I decided to spare you that sight.

Older structures do provide good low-rent options for businesses, while not making a positive contribution to the area’s image. This is a good example of why we need to think beyond the original depreciation schedule when building.

— Steve Patterson


Great Ghost Sign In East St. Louis

I’m now curious about “Langley & Reed Bicycle Repairing.”

ABOVE: Ghost sign in East St. Louis

Where in East St. Louis IL was it located? How long was it in business?  Who were Langley & Reed the ?

I miss painted signs/advertising, so much more permanent and interesting than modern backlit signs.

— Steve Patterson


East St. Louis Metal Thieves Leave Dangerous Holes

August 13, 2012 Crime, Featured, Metro East 3 Comments

As sorta a hobby I enjoy looking around East St. Louis. In July I was exploring the area to the west of the Emerson Park MetroLink station (aerial), I was shocked to see how many manhole covers and sewer grates were missing.  Here are some examples:

ABOVE: A tire is in the hole created by a missing manhole cover in East St. Louis.
ABOVE: Sewer drain missing grate.
ABOVE: Sewer grate and manhole cover missing
ABOVE: More missing sewer grates

The curbs, sidewalks, and yes sewers all look relatively new, perhaps redone in 2001 when the adjacent light rail station opened? If you remember the saga of rescuing Jessica McClure from a backyard well then you can understand how dangerous these are and why old tires are in some.

— Steve Patterson