Water Main Break Underscores Need To Update Century Old Water System

 

 You may have heard about a press conference last week at St. Louis’ Chain of Rocks water treatment  facility. St. Louis and Environmental Protection Agency officials are calling for the passage of President Joe Biden’s jobs plan to help update the city’s water treatment system to continue to provide safe …

Rampant COVID violations at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air freaked me out Saturday

 

 We knew Saturday would be a gorgeous day so we decided to drive up the Great River Road along the Mississippi River north of Alton IL. Our first stop would be a favorite, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. We knew it had been cited for Covid violations in October 2020: A …

Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers

 

 Recently we received a flyer from electric utility Ameren Missouri notifying us that our meter will be changed to a smart meter within the coming months. I soon began digging into Ameren’s website to learn more detail: Smart meters enable wireless, two-way communication that will allow us to pinpoint and …

New Book: ‘Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges’ by June Williamson & Ellen Dunham-Jones

 

 One of the most important issues facing regions in the coming decades will be the enormous amount of land around the inner core that was developed in a manner that exacerbates current & future problems. Suburbia everywhere will need to be retrofitted. In 2009 I posted about a new book …

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Newish Book: ‘Growing Up In Old North St. Louis’, 2nd Edition by Patrick J. Kleaver

February 4, 2021 Books, Featured, North City Comments Off on Newish Book: ‘Growing Up In Old North St. Louis’, 2nd Edition by Patrick J. Kleaver
 

I receive quite a few new books from publishers throughout each year, but late last year I received an email from a self-published author. Patrick Kleaver invited me to check out the 2nd edition of his book from the library. I’m interested in the perspectives of people who grew up in St. Louis, especially in a neighborhood where I’ve lived so I reserved it and picked it up.

Like a book I posted about last year, ‘The Last Children of Mill Creek’ by Vivian Gibson, Kleaver’s book is a personal memoir about where the author grew up. Each tells the reader about their family while also describing their neighborhood & experiences. There are many similarities between these two book — especially growing up in a multigenerational home.

Join life-time St. Louisan Patrick J. Kleaver in this UPDATED AND EXPANDED version of his book GROWING UP IN OLD NORTH ST. LOUIS. He reminisces about the good and the bad in the first nineteen years of his life when he lived in that historic St. Louis neighborhood from its heyday in the mid-1950s to its decline in the 1970s. From a detailed description of his house to the neighborhood shopping district originally known as the “Great White Way” (with stops at various neighbors and churches along the way), you’ll feel like you’re entering his life and walking with him on a personally guided tour! In this SECOND EDITION, he includes MORE anecdotes, a MORE detailed history of Old North St. Louis and its historic Catholic churches, MORE photographs (including rarely seen historic ones of streetscapes and church interiors), a MORE DETAILED quick side trip to two other neighborhoods bordering his, and UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION about the status of the various people and buildings mentioned. (Google Books)

As Kleaver points out the city’s 1947 Comprehensive Plan considered the neighborhood obsolete, largely due to how few residences had modern plumbing. Thus, it’s “heyday” was well before the 1950s. Still, he lived in the neighborhood while it went from being highly populated to significantly reduced population either through those who moved, or those forced out by the demolition for the Mark Twain Expressway (aka I-70).

I moved to the neighborhood in the spring of 1991, some of my neighbors had moved their in the late 1970s. It’s very interesting reading the accounts of a person that lived in the neighborhood in the 50s & 60s.  One side of his family lived in Hyde Park, just to the north of Old North, while the other side is from where I live now, Columbus Square.

The Kleaver family lived on Tyler, which is near the southern edge of today’s boundaries for Old North. The house of one of his childhood friends was also one of my favorites. Was — past tense as so much has been lost.

This book is available from the St. Louis Library and online retailers.

— Steve Patterson

I Was Partially Wrong About How Our Non-Partisan Elections Will Work

January 26, 2021 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on I Was Partially Wrong About How Our Non-Partisan Elections Will Work
 

I try to avoid making mistakes, but it does happen. I like to verify information before publishing these posts, but when I didn’t get an answer from the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners I should’ve looked harder to find the answer. My apologies if my mistake caused any confusion.

Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection

First, what I got right:

  • Candidates for local office are no longer listed on the ballot by political party, all are independent. Thus, non-partisan.
  • As independent candidates they can’t just pay a fee to their party of choice to get on the ballot — they must submit a petition signed by registered voters.
  • Voters can vote for as many candidates as they like. Example: Three candidates for a race means a voter could select 0-3 of them.

What I got wrong:

  • I knew that in a race with three or more candidates the top two in March would face each other in April. I incorrectly thought if one got 50% of the votes in March the race was over — WRONG.

The full petition behind Proposition D passed in November 2020 says:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, in the primary election for the offices of Mayor, Comptroller, President of the Board of Aldermen, and Alderman, voters shall select as many candidates as they approve of for each office. The two candidates receiving the most votes for each office shall advance to the general election. The candidate for each office receiving the most votes in the general election shall be declared the winner.” [Emphasis added]

So what does this mean? In races with only one or two candidates on the ballot the March & April ballots for that race will look the same. In races with two candidates one might win in March but the other win in April.  Most likely the March result will be similar to April.

The big difference will be seen in races with three or more candidates, like the 4-way mayoral race or 6-way aldermanic race in the 21st ward. In these races we know the election won’t be over in March with April only a formality. The month between the March primary and April general will determine the winner.

The candidate that comes in a close second place in March can win in April if they keep pushing and trying to win over voters who selected candidates that got eliminated by placing third or later.

Though I wish the language had been like I thought it was, I understand that would’ve been a lot more complicated of a change. I’m still glad Prop D passed.

I hope the next change is a thorough overhaul: Eliminate the March primary and have ranked-choice voting in April with ballot measures and school board races.

Again, my apologies for my mistake.

— Steve Patterson

17th Annual Post on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis

January 18, 2021 Featured, MLK Jr. Drive, North City Comments Off on 17th Annual Post on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis
 

Since 2005 I’ve looked at Dr. Martin Luther King Drive every year on the national holiday to honor the civil rights leader killed in 1968. This is my 17th such post.

In St. Louis two streets were renamed in 1972 — Franklin Ave east of Leffingwell Ave and Easton Ave west of Leffingwell Ave became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. This travels through north St. Louis from the Mississippi River to city limits.

Though not bustling like new suburban malls, it still had lots of commercial activity. In the nearly half century since the streets were renamed the black middle class largely abandoned north St. Louis — moving to either other parts of the city, north county & beyond, even out of state. With some exceptions, retail activity on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive has collapsed — as have many buildings.

Today we’ll start at MLK & Tucker then head west. Why not start further east? Well, only one block of MLK remains east of Tucker (12th) — between 9th & 10th. On the south side of the street is the side of an anti-urban hotel and on the north side a surface parking lot enclosed by chain link fencing. The blocks between Broadway (5th) and 9th are part of the convention center and dome.

At Tucker & MLK you have the former Post-Dispatch building being renovated into office space for Square and others. All photos, except where noted otherwise, were taken on Saturday January 9, 2021.

The first block of MLK east of Tucker is closed during building renovations, left. The main entrances used to face Tucker & MLK, but that will change when it reopens.
The new main entrance will be on the opposite end, a previously windowless addition has been transformed into the new main entrance at Tucker & Cole.
In 2020 the few remaining old buildings on MLK between 13th & 14th were razed. This view from the NW corner of MLK & 14th we can see all the way to Tucker & Convention Plaza (aka Delmar).
In 2020 the city leased a former RV park that occupied an entire city block bounded by MLK, Jefferson, Cole, and 23rd.
Tiny houses began being set into place so unhoused individuals could have a safe place to live.
The storefront at 2706 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive was boarded up.
I’ve been watching the house at 3047 MLK slowly deteriorate. It has stood here since 1880.
In 2012 the rear wing was still intact.
The McKee-owned warehouse in the triangle where Page & MLK meet is another that has been slowly crumbling.
The MLK side is actually the back. At the top you can see a wall on the mechanical penthouse has collapsed.
Here’s a cropped view to show the wall collapse. This will allow more water & animals into the structure.
On the block west of Whittier Street stood large 3-story building. In the foreground the sign for the late Ald Sam Moore is still in place at the Ville Mall business incubator he helped build. It’s suburban-style front parking lot is in stark contrast to businesses in older buildings across MLK
A better view of the site where a large 3-story warehouse stood for decades.
From my 2019 post: Bricks are starting to fall from this building. It should be stabilized, but it’ll likely be allowed to crumble until neighbors demand it be razed.
The well-proportioned, but vacant, building at 4277 MLK has lost brick from the exterior row.
The closed Marshall School building that faces Aldine Ave is still awaiting a buyer.
A positive sign just west of Newstead, very glad to see this building getting some attention.

 

This handsome building at 4524 MLK needs attention to keep it from getting beyond the ability to save it.
The building at 4534 MLK is getting some tuck pointing to help it keep standing.
Something is happening at 4668 MLK.

In the last 16 years the building has been a dollar type store at least twice, it’s closed again. 4949 MLK
For a few years now a new building has been under construction at 4973 MLK, set back suburban-style. It looks finished, but has yet to be occupied.
The former Sears on Kingshighway near MLK is now the Urban League, the building is still named after Victor Roberts.
The auto & tire business at 5018 MLK is burnt out.
The facade at 5153 MLK has collapsed.
Last year I knew the facade wouldn’t last long so I included it for documentation purposes.
And sadly one of my favorite buildings in the entire city was finally razed.
5716 MLK in 2019.
The former National market at 5870 MLK has had other uses over the years, last as Ali Market. A medical marijuana dispensary license has been awarded to Growing Jobs Missouri. Hopefully this will still happen.
In late August 2020 the upper floor collapsed while the business at 5917 MLK was open. I doubt the building will be here next year. Click image to see Post-Dispatch story in a new tab.
Here is what it looked like in 2019.

As in prior years there are a few bright spots along an otherwise bleak street.

As long as there is extreme poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars.
— Dr. King, “The American Dream” speech, June 6, 1961 at Lincoln University. Listen here, quote at 14:23.

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March 2nd Non-Partisan Ballot Is Set

January 12, 2021 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on March 2nd Non-Partisan Ballot Is Set
 
Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners at 208 South 12th Tucker) from February 1932 through December 1998. From my collection

Seven weeks from today, Tuesday March 2, 2021, St. Louis will hold its first non-partisan election for aldermen & mayor. Additionally, it’s the last election where half the aldermen means 14.

This year happens to be the odd-numbered wards up for election — to a special two-year term. A couple of even-numbered wards also have elections to fill an unexpired term. In two years the total number of aldermen will drop from 28 to 14, then 7 will get an initial 2-year term and 7 the usual 4-year terms. Once the census numbers are know  redistricting will begin.

Unlike past elections, the winners now must have more than 50% of the votes, so in a race with 3 or more candidates and nobody achieves the 50% threshold a runoff election will be held on April 6, 2021. Any runoff would be the top two candidates only. It’s unclear to me what would happen if two or more candidates tied for second place.

For decades partisan candidates paid a filing fee to the political party they were running for, usually Democrat. Independent candidates had to collect signatures to get on the general election ballot. Now every candidate is independent and must collect signatures to be included on the ballot. Some declared candidates are not on the ballot because their petitions didn’t contain enough signatures of registered voters.

Additionally this is the first time voters get to vote for more than one candidate in each race on their ballot.

Okay, let’s take a look at the races & candidates on the March 3rd ballot, here in reverse order:

WARD 27 — includes parts or all of: Walnut East & West, North Point, and Baden neighborhoods.

– Mary Ann Jackson is the only candidate. The incumbent is Pam Boyd.

WARD 25 — includes parts or all of: Carondelet, Dutchtown, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.

– Shane Cohn, the incumbent, is the only candidate. I ran for this seat 16 years ago, 4 years before Cohn won in 2009.

WARD 23 — includes parts or all of: Lindenwood Park, Ellendale, Clifton Heights, and North Hampton neighborhoods.

– Joseph A. Vaccaro, Jr., the incumbent, is the only candidate.

WARD 21 — includes parts or all of: Kingshighway East, Greater Ville, O’Fallon, Penrose, and College Hill neighborhoods. This ward has six (6) candidates and is the most likely to have a runoff election on April 6th.

– Laura Keys, current Democratic committeewoman
– Travon Brooks
– Melinda L. Long, a former alderwoman for this ward
– John Collin-Muhammad, current alderman
– Ticharwa Masimba
– Barbara Lane

WARD 19 — includes parts or all of: Shaw, Tiffany, The Gate District, Midtown, Vandeventer, and Covenant/Grand Center neighborhoods.

– Cleo Willis, Sr.
– Marlene E. Davis, incumbent

WARD 17 — includes parts or all of: Shaw, Botanical Heights, Tiffany, Midtown, Central West End, Forest Park Southeast, Kings Oak, and Cheltenham neighborhoods. Longtime alderman Joe Roddy announced last year he wouldn’t seek another term.

– Don De Vivo
– Tina Pihl
– Kaleena Menke
– Michelle Sherod

WARD 15 — includes parts or all of: Tower Grove South, Dutchtown, Gravois Park, Tower Grove East, and Benton Park West neighborhoods.

– Jennifer Florida, another former alderwoman running
– Alexander J. Gremp
– Megan Ellyia Green, incumbent

WARD 13 — includes parts or all of: Carondelet, Holly Hills, Boulevard Heights, Bevo Mill, Princeton Heights, Southampton, and Dutchtown neighborhoods.

– Anne Schweitzer
– Beth Murphy, incumbent

WARD 12 — includes part or all of: Boulevard Heights, Princeton Heights, St. Louis Hills. Larry Arnowitz resigned last year.

– Joe Rusch
– Bill Stephens
– Vicky Grass, incumbent from special election

WARD 11 — includes parts or all of: Carondelet, Patch, Holly Hills, Boulevard Heights, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.

– Sarah Wood Martin, incumbent

WARD 9 — includes parts or all of: Dutchtown, Mount Pleasant, Marine Villa, Gravois Park, Kosciusko, Soulard, Benton Park, Tower Grove East, and Benton Park West neighborhoods.

– Ken A. Ortmann, former alderman
– Dan Guenther, incumbent

WARD 7 — includes parts or all of: Kosciusko, Soulard, Benton Park, McKinley Heights, Fox Park, Compton Heights, Lafayete Park, Downtown, Downtown West, and Near North Riverfront neighborhoods.

– Shedrick (Nato Caliph) Kelley
– Jack Coatar, incumbent

WARD 5 — includes parts or all of: Downtown West, JeffVanderLou, St. Louis Place, Carr Square, Columbus Square, Old North St. Louis, Near North Riverfront, and Hyde Park neighborhoods.

– Tammika Hubbard, incumbent
– James Page

WARD 4 — includes parts or all of: Lewis Place, Kingshighway East, Greater Ville, The Ville, and Vandeventer neighborhoods. Sam Moore died in 2020, this election is for the remainder of the term.

– Edward McFowland
– Leroy Carter
– Dwinderlin (Dwin) Evans, incumbent from special election

WARD 3 — includes parts or all of: JeffVanderLou, St. Louis Place, Hyde Park, College Hill, Fairground, and O’Fallon neighborhoods.

– Brandon Bosley, incumbent
– Herdosia Kalambayi Bentum

WARD 1 — includes parts or all of: Wells/Goodfellow, Kingshighway East & West, Penrose, Mark Twain, and Walnut Park East neighborhoods.

– Loren Watt
– Sharon Tyus, incumbent
– Yolanda Brown

COMPTROLLER — citywide

– Longtime Comptroller Darlene Green is again unchallenged.

MAYOR — citywide. Mayor Lyda Krewson isn’t seeking a second term.

– Andrew Jones
– Tishaura O. Jones
– Cara Spencer
– Lewis Reed

So those who are unchallenged will be re-elected. The races with only two candidates will be decided on March 2nd. Races with 3 or more candidates might be decided on Election Day — if one gets at least 50% of the votes.

School board elections and any runoff races will be Tuesday April 6, 2021.

— Steve Patterson

Initial Thoughts On Proposed ‘City District’ In North St. Louis

January 4, 2021 Featured, North City, Planning & Design Comments Off on Initial Thoughts On Proposed ‘City District’ In North St. Louis
 

In 1990, at just 23, I fell in love with St. Louis and its quirky street grid. I hadn’t yet been to New York or Chicago but I knew many big cities had rigid orthogonal grids — nothing but right angles.

St.Louis’ grid, on the other hand, had right, obtuse, and acute angles. This meant interesting views from various directions, buildings designed to fit into the odd-shaped parcels. Some streets follow old trails, the neighborhoods built up around the meandering paths.

I simply adore this about St. Louis.

In my first 6-9 months here I made my way along North & West Florissant Avenue as it makes it way up through North St. Louis. My destination was O’Fallon Park — the neighborhood and city park.

Right before the park was the remnants of once-thriving commercial district. I’ve been back there many times over the years in a car, bike, bus, and motor scooter.

From the bus on August 5, 2017, looking at West Florissant Ave & Harne Ave. Click image to view in Google Streetview

This old commercial area is the center of a new revitalization project called “The City District.”

Phase One
During the $34 million Phase One, 66 parcels will be demolished and the land will be reallocated for new construction of retail, homes and community greenspaces. More than 50 percent of these properties are currently vacant. The construction team is working on master plan and design development and bidding. Demolition will begin in March. Kwame Building Group is serving as the construction manager and program manager. The architect is Jackson Design Group.

In Phase One, the construction team also will build City Plaza, which will create vibrant shopping and recreational opportunities and a thriving local labor force. The commercial center will feature extensive retail and office space, including a grocery store and bowling alley.

Phase Two
The O’ Fallon Neighborhood is home to some of St. Louis’ largest and most historical homes rivaling the size and stylings found in the Central West End and surrounding Tower Grove Park and Forest Park. In Phase Two, $1 million will be invested in rehabilitating 26 existing homes. Large single-family homes will be converted into multi-use rental properties while retaining their architectural history. A $24 million project will construct new single and multi-family homes.

Culturally competent and equitable redevelopment practices will be central throughout the five-year project. The KWAME team is committed to maximizing MBE/WBE and local firm participation. The project team has established a partnership with the City of St. Louis to increase community safety and security focused on community competent policing. Existing infrastructure will be reimagined to improve and promote public transit and pedestrian accessibility. (Kwame Building Group)

My initial thoughts are generally positive, the area desperately needs investment after decades of disinvestment by whites and then blacks. I’m very glad this effort is coming from the black community, not an old white suburban developer. It’s a very good thing they’ve given this commercial district a name — that’s important for creating a positive identity.

However, I’m very concerned about demolition of currently occupied structures. Reallocating land sounds like making wide suburban lots rather than the existing narrow lots with garages and services off the alley. How the large triangle created as West Florissant splits is treated will be very important. It’s all asphalt now. Lots of unanswered questions.

Wisely they’ve said it will take multiple phases and five years, though I expect it’ll take even longer. And that’s ok, it didn’t decline overnight so we can’t expect an immediate reversal. I’m looking forward to seeing more details.

— Steve Patterson

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