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What’s In Store For My Next 22 Years In St. Louis?

Will the next 22 years be just as interesting as the first 22?

It was 22 years ago today that I first saw the City of St. Louis, it was truly love at first sight. The city had seen better days long before I was born, but the potential sparked my imagination about what this place could become. Problems were everywhere.

ABOVE: The Darst-Webbe towers on the near south side circa 1990-91, razed

Much was in the very recent past or even still to come:

  • The former St. Louis Centre downtown mall was just five years old.
  • Union Station had only been reopened as a “festival marketplace” for 5 years.
  • The Gateway Arch parking garage was only 4 years old. Current plans call for it to be razed.
  • The Gateway One office building, now known as Peabody Plaza, was also just 4 years old.
  • The 14th Street Pedestrian Mall opened 13 years earlier in 1977, but had already failed. It would take the next two decades to remove the failed experiment.
  • The Kiel Opera House was still open, although it closed months later.
  • Hockey was played in the Arena on Oakland.
  • Getting to/from the airport required a vehicle because we didn’t have light rail.
  • Boatman’s & Mercantile were the biggest banks in town, both local with histories dating back to the 19th century.
  • St. Louis was down about not having an NFL football franchise, the Cardinals had moved to Arizona 3 years earlier.
  • Vince Schoemehl was elected to his third term as St. Louis mayor the year before (1989).
  • The 1990 Census, taken months before I arrived, would show a population of  396,685.  By 2010 I’d witnessed a population decline of 77,391.  Not a small number in 20 years time, but the decade between 1970 and 1980 saw more than twice as many people leave: 169,435.
  • Famous-Barr was the big local department store chain, part of Federated May Department Stores bought by Federated (Macy’s) in 2006. The Famous-Barr at Chippewa & Kingshighway had wonderful urban massing & form. It was razed to build a Home Quarters big box store. The HQ chain closed in 1999 before the store would be built.  Central Hardware was the local home improvement chain, it closed in 1997.

Yes I’m feeling nostalgic, I usually do on anniversaries.  But the real lesson here is people, and the places where they live, aren’t static. Change is a constant.  This isn’t inherently good or bad — it just is.

ABOVE: Showing my love for St. Louis on the wheelchair I use when I need go more than a block from my downtown loft.

What changes will I be able to write about 22 years from now?

  •  Continued population losses? Increases?
  • St. Louis elected first female mayor?
  • Several expansions of the local modern streetcar system connected the city (north, central, south) and the older inner-ring suburbs.
  • Board of Aldermen reduced in size?
  • St. Louis razed the old I-70 (elevated & depressed sections) downtown?
  • City rejoined St. Louis County as one of many municipalities? City, County and municipalities merged into a unified regional government?
  • Daily physical newspaper no longer printed?
  • Earthquake hit St. Louis?
  • Bill Haas elected to an office higher than the school board?
  • St. Louis adopted a city-wide urban form-based zoning code?
  • Tired & outdated Loughborhough Commons replaced with a dense mixed-use development?

I’m as excited about the future of St. Louis as I was 22 years ago. I’m less naive I was then but I’m forever an optimist, albeit a critical one.

— Steve Patterson


Dear Rams, Good Luck In Your Next City, We Don’t Need The NFL

ABOVE: Dome would be expanded across the existing Broadway and Baer Plaza

No doubt about it, I’m ready for the Rams to pack their bags. Head to Los Angeles, or London, I don’t care. St. Louis has three professional sports teams right now, that’s at least one more than we can realistically support. Without question the St. Louis Cardinals MLB team has the most love from the region.

I don’t think we, as tax payers, should support any progressional sport other than buying a ticket if we want to see a game. These teams are owned by very wealthy people who do this as a hobby. That said, I do believe in investing in infrastructure so that additional private investment is made. But I don’t see investing $1 to get a 15¢ return. I want government to invest $1 and get a $5 return on that investment through additional investment and/or tax revenue.

With the number of MLB games and the excellent performance of the Cardinals we probably break even on the government-funding of Busch Stadium. Well, once we actually see some revenue from a complete Ballpark Village. But NFL plays so few home games per year it seems impossible to get a decent return on our investment. I’ve not studied the numbers but many have. I found a PDF called 8 Reasons to Reject Publicly Financed Stadiums For Professional Sports Teams that has a good list:

  1. Public Money for Private Gain.
  2. Negligible Economic Benefits.
  3. Costs Outweigh the Benefits.
  4. Destroys jobs and drives down wages.
  5. Stadiums can be built with private money.
  6. Doesn’t Improve Team Performance.
  7. Doesn’t improve team attendance. Research also shows that new stadiums have little impact on long-term attendance.
  8. Diverts resources from funding priorities.

Click the link above to see explanations for each item.

But perceptions about sports will muddy this issue. The following are taken from the same commenter on the original post, but from two different comments:

 If St. Louis goes dark in pro football, it will be a big loss to the region.  St. Louis needs and can support three pro sports.

Warning, the sky will fall. We need three pro teams. BS!! For most of the last 50-60 years we’ve had 2-3 pro sports teams. How has that benefitted us? We’ve lost population, schools have declined, the corporate headquarters here has dropped. If you’ll have less civic pride if we go from three to two pro teams then you don’t really appreciate all that St. Louis is about. We didn’t have pro football when I moved here in 1990, it wasn’t important to me personally.

The provided answers in my poll last were very biased, something I try to avoid. But it happened.

Q: How Should The St. Louis Region, via the CVC, Respond To The Rams?

  1. Wish them well in London, LA, or ? 68 [45.64%]
  2. Agree to their proposal but only if it comes with a new 30-year lease 51 [34.23%]
  3. Remind them the Cardinals won the World Series twice since the one time the St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl. 14 [9.4%]
  4. Other: 13 [8.72%]
  5. Bendover and pay whatever it takes to keep them here for the last 10 years of the original lease 2 [1.34%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 1 [0.67%]

The other answers were:

  1. certainly don’t bendover but emphasize compromise
  2. Make some improvements but not 700m worth
  3. Less Public $, More Private $ otherwise deal’s over.
  4. I’m trying to care about this, but I just can’t.
  5. Your options certainly show your bias
  6. how about compromise, STL NEEDS NFL
  7. Negotiate a new lease, meet the Rams somewhere in the middle
  8. Ignore them.
  9. Tell Kroenke to go **** himself
  10. Don’t have anymore regional funds to waste on the rams…
  11. The answers you provided clearly show your bias in this poll
  12. negotiate
  13. tif or special use tax

If the Rams want to build a privately financed facility in Fenton or somewhere  out in big open space I’d have no objections. Otherwise, get lost. The CVC’s original proposal was excessive and the Rams’ response isn’t even close to reality. They are testing us to see how gullible we are. We were desperate to get a team twenty years ago when we were building the dome but weren’t awarded an expansion team. We got screwed on the terms of the original lease, I don’t want us to get screwed again.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: How Should The St. Louis Region Respond To The Rams?

ABOVE: Dome would be expanded across the existing Broadway and Baer Plaza

The CVC has until June 1 to accept or reject the Rams’ proposal:

The Rams’ proposal was released against their wishes on Monday, a response to the dome improvement plan submitted by their landlord, the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, in February. And the discrepancy is wide: The CVC plan called for $124 million in upgrades, 52% of which would be paid for by the Rams; the team’s plan called for a complete overhaul estimated by the city to cost more than $700 million, and it wasn’t clear how it would be funded. (USAtoday.com)

My post from Tuesday is here, it includes a link to the proposal. Who holds the cards in the negotiations?

Los Angeles is really the only viable remaining market in North America that would potentially support an NFL team and help the league generate greater revenues. If they don’t build a facility, or if they do but another franchise beats Kroenke to the punch, then Kroenke’s negotiating leverage versus the CVC will be weakened. (Forbes)

Well we’ve got great negotiators here in St. Louis! We got the Kiel Opera House 20 years ago and that vibrant Ballpark Village in 2006. Oh wait…

The poll this week asks how the St. Louis region, via the CVC, should respond. I say we wish them well wherever it is they move after the 2014 season.

– Steve Patterson




Not Quite Half Of Readers Would Support Arch/Park Sales Tax, A Third Oppose

ABOVE: The final piece of the Gateway Arch was set into place on Thursday October 28, 1965

If the folks at CityArchRiver plan to get voters to approve a 3/16¢ sales tax with part of the funds paying off bonds for their 2015 project they’ve got their work cut out for them. I think it’s fair to say the readership here is more pro-city than the region at large but not even half of those that voted indicated they’d support such a tax:

Q: Would You Support A 3/16¢ Sales Tax Increase for Parks/Arch?

  1. Yes, we need to invest in parks and the Arch is a major tourist attraction for the region 67 [49.63%]
  2. No, sales taxes are too high already 45 [33.33%]
  3. Maybe 15 [11.11%]
  4. Other: 7 [5.19%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 1 [0.74%]

Those that answered “maybe” could be the deciding factor on approval, assuming 50% +1 is what’s needed for approval. Here are the other answers that were submitted:

  1. Not for the current arch ground plan, we need to start over again I’m afraid
  2. for city parks, yes, National Parks, no
  3. Not unless it will help pay for removal of the depressed/elevated section of I70
  4. Yes, but lets also include Jefferson County
  5. No, not for the current project. Save local funds for metro expansion (N/S Line)
  6. Only if they got rid of the ridiculous idea of the gondola going across the rive
  7. yes but only if the bill is expanded to all of the METRO AREA

We’ll see what happens if a tax increase measure is placed on the ballot for voters to decide.

– Steve Patterson


St. Louis Area Not-For-Profit Winners in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Contest

August 20, 2011 STL Region 8 Comments

Not-for-profit organizations on the Missouri side of the St. Louis region the did very well in Toyota’s just completed “100 Cars for Good” contest.


Here was the announcement of the finalists in April:

April 25, 2011

Toyota Announces Finalists in 100 Cars for Good Program

• 500 nonprofits selected as finalists in the Toyota 100 Cars for Good program

• 100 vehicles will be given away over 100 days based on daily voting on Toyota’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/toyota

• Public voting will begin on May 9, 2011 and will take place for 100 consecutive days

TORRANCE, CALIF. (April 25, 2011) – Toyota today announced the 500 nonprofit organizations selected as finalists in the “100 Cars for Good” program, which will award 100 vehicles over the course of 100 days to 100 deserving nonprofit organizations based on votes from the public.

Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good initiative engages the public to determine the 100 organizations to receive a Toyota vehicle for use in the community. The 500 finalists, selected from a pool of applications submitted via Toyota’s Facebook page from March 7-21, 2011, were chosen by an independent panel of judges who are experts in the fields of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. The finalists represent non-profit organizations servicing the community across a broad range of categories including animal welfare, arts, education, environment, health, safety and human services, among others.

Finalists will create an online profile, which may include a video showcasing how the organization plans to use a new Toyota vehicle to do good in their local community. Starting May 9, public voting will begin and take place for 100 consecutive days, with five organizations profiled on Toyota’s Facebook page each day. The public may vote for the charity they feel is most deserving based on the created profiles. A vehicle will be awarded daily through August 16 for a total of 100 vehicles. Voters may place one vote per day, each day, over the course of the program. Winning organizations can choose from the following vehicles: Toyota Prius, Tacoma, Tundra, Highlander Hybrid, Sienna, or Sienna Mobility. With each vehicle, Toyota Financial Services will provide a six-year 100,000 mile Toyota Vehicle Service Agreement to help provide extended protection from mechanical breakdowns beyond the vehicle warranty.

For a complete list of finalists, please visit www.facebook.com/toyota.

The following are the five winners in Missouri, all from the greater St. Louis area:

Day 5: May 13, 2011 - St. Louis Area Foodbank


About us:

The St. Louis Area Foodbank (SLAFB) feeds hungry people by acquiring and distributing food through our member agencies, and educates the public about the nature of and solutions to the problems of hunger. We believe that our mission aligns with Toyota’s goal to allow each individual to live with dignity and hope. By providing quality food items, in a dignified manner to people in need, we alleviate hunger while instilling hope. 261,000 unduplicated individuals rely on the SLAFB annually, of which 101,790 are children—the largest demographic served (39%). In calendar year 2010, SLAFB distributed over 23 million pounds of product through 500 member agencies.

How we would use a new Toyota:

A new Toyota vehicle would be utilized by the SLAFB to more efficiently establish partnerships throughout our service territory in order to further our mission. SLAFB partners with 500 agencies in 26 Missouri and Illinois counties to feed hungry people. Agencies include food pantries, emergency shelters, residential facilities and soup kitchens. Agency Relations staff work closely with representatives of our partner agencies, which requires driving their personal vehicles within an expansive 14,173 square mile service territory in the bi-state region. In fact, Finance projects that a new Toyota vehicle would save the organization nearly 30% in mileage reimbursements annually.

Day 10: May 18, 2011 - Mission: St. Louis


About us:

Mission: St. Louis fights poverty one neighborhood at a time, walking alongside people as they help themselves. While increasing home safety by providing free repairs, we build relationships. As we improve families’ surroundings, we also focus on long-term empowerment. We help people find employment so that they can provide for their families. In order to help break the cycle of poverty, we read with children to increase literacy and bolster educational success. Through a holistic approach that addresses education, empowerment, and economic development, Mission: St. Louis seeks to transform neighborhoods into safe and nurturing environments for all people. Vote for Mission: St. Louis!

How we would use a new Toyota:

The Mission: St. Louis home repair program makes vital steps toward improving the safety of families. Currently, Mission: St. Louis does $6 in home repairs for every $1 spent on materials. We secure many thousands of dollars in donated goods, and we have a warehouse to store these materials until needed. However, we are limited by lack of transportation. A truck will help us get materials to the warehouse and get them to homes where they can be used to create safe living environments. With a truck, we can repair more homes. We can build more relationships. We can help more people get jobs, provide for their families, and build stronger neighborhoods. Vote for Mission: St. Louis!

Day 41: June 18, 2011 - Lincoln County Council on Aging


About us:

In 1978, several women from the community created Lincoln County Council on Aging to meet the needs of local seniors and disabled adults. The agency has grown from one center serving Troy, to four centers (Winfield, Silex and Elsberry) serving all of Lincoln County. The county has a large rural population and for many of the agency’s clients, participating in the home delivered meal program provides the support needed to remain in their own home. The four centers offer a wide variety of activities to promote socialization, education and general well being. Lincoln County Council on Aging promotes independence and dignity while encouraging clients to enjoy each day with quality of life.

How we would use a new Toyota:

Lincoln County Council on Aging’s fleet of vehicles’ average age is fourteen years old. Most are donated and require frequent major repairs. Driving rural routes quickly adds miles to the vehicles. They are less fuel efficient and increase the agency’s vehicle expense. A new Toyota vehicle would improve the safety and comfort for our volunteers, staff and clients. In November 2010, the agency’s main vehicle was totaled in an accident – leaving us with less reliable transportation for our volunteer drivers and our clients. A Toyota vehicle would reduce cost for repairs, fuel and maintenance. This savings would allow us to expand meal routes thereby, reaching more clients in need.


Day 77: July 24, 2011 – Friends of Kids with Cancer, St. Louis, MO


About us:

Friends of Kids with Cancer is devoted to enriching the daily lives of children undergoing treatment for cancer and blood related diseases by providing them and their families with the recreational, educational, and emotional support needed throughout the long hours of chemotherapy, illness and isolation. Friends engages minds, instills confidence and, most importantly, helps kids with cancer…be kids! Check out our impact on the community firsthand- here is a thank you note from a parent of a child in treatment: “We had an amazing time at Incredible Pizza today. Thank You!!!! I don’t think words could ever describe how big of a blessing you guys are to our family and so many others!”

How we would use a new Toyota:

Friends provides many programs ALL over the St. Louis area on a small staff, so we utilize many volunteers for errands and to implement our programs. We need a safe, clean vehicle for them to use that can hold the eclectic mix of items that we provide: toys, games, tickets and all kinds of great things for the kids at the treatment centers every day. We also hold events just for the kids and families. In addition to the programs, we have to run multiple special event fundraisers each year. Having a roomy vehicle would help us be more efficient and save on any costs related to hauling signs, shirts, auction items, banners, food, drinks and everything in between that comes up during events.

Day 84: July 31, 2011 - Operation Food Search


About us:

The mission of Operation Food Search is to provide food and other basic necessities to individuals in need to relieve the burden of hunger and its consequences. Founded in 1981, Operation Food Search is the largest distributor of free food in the Saint Louis bi-state (MO/IL) region. We are a “big roots” organization serving the needs of 130,000 Saint Louisians, half of whom are children, through our network of 250 community partner agencies. Sadly, 1 in 4 children risk going hungry on daily basis. Operation Backpack and our Nutrition Education programs focus efforts on low-income children specifically, as these vulnerable kids face the greatest risk of starvation and malnutrition.


How we would use a new Toyota:

Our dietitians and their volunteers currently travel within a 75 mile radius around the bi-state region with food and cooking supplies to provide nutrition information to more than 4,000 low-income families. Our Cooking Matters team needs reliable, secure transportation, with ample space for their gear and staff, to continue their hands-on outreach program in our community. The families and individuals we reach rely on our team to learn how to keep their children healthy on a tight budget. Our current vehicle has nearly 190,000 miles on it and is falling apart. A new vehicle would be an asset to not only Operation Food Search, but to strengthening our community as a whole.

Congratulations to these organizations on winning a new vehicle.

– Steve Patterson