Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Real Promise or Smoke & Mirrors?

Last night I attended what was apparently the second closed door session for neighborhood stakeholders for what is being called the “North City Development Project”, which most of us have known for several years simply as Blairmont. All media were asked to leave, including Steve Patterson of Urban Review STL. Even Alderman Antonio French of the 21st Ward was asked to leave, but he refused.

Paul McKee was a no-show, leaving Bill Laskowsky of McEagle, and Mark Johnson of Civitas, McEagles’ hired master planning firm to present. Details were few and they mostly talked about “job creation” and development of four major employment centers: one at a re-configured 22nd Street interchange at Hwy 40, one at the landing of the New River Bridge near Tucker & Cass, one where Jefferson and Parnell split, and one at the Pruitt Iago site. Visions of fixed rail transit, mixed income housing, green power, and sugarplums danced in our heads. A redevelopment ordinance would be introduced to the Board of Alderman on May 27. The said the redevelopment plan would contain mostly financial issues, and that definite plans would evolve over time.

Of great interest to me of course is the fate of the many buildings that remains standing within the redevelopment area. Laskowsky announced that they “will retain and reuse every building that can be saved”. These are what the are calling “Legacy Properties”. The question of course is who determines what “can be saved”. Does this apply to any of the over 200 buildings that have been documented by Rob Powers of Built St. Louis in his Daily Dose of Blairmont series? It obviously does not apply to the many buildings that have already succumbed to arson, brick rustling and what one resident called “criminal neglect”. Laskowsky claimed that the Clemens Mansion would be saved, however the adjoining 1890 chapel would likey be turned into a ruins garden. He blamed previous owners for the current plight of the building, which is partially truthful, however Blairmont associates has done little to stop the rapidly spreading decay in over four years of ownership. He did point out that the crumbling Carr School would actually be re-used as a school for the area.
One thing is certain, and that is that area residents are rightly angry and are demanding answers and action. McEagle announced that a large public meeting will be held at Vashon High School on Cass Avenue on May 21st.


Anonymous said...

While this development will likely displace many current residents the current post apocalyptic condition of many north STL communities is killing the city.

The sad part is these new stucco/styrofoam developments have limited appeal and a short life span (25y if we are lucky). Then things go back to the way they were.

Restoring current structures and filling the holes with architecturally appropriate buildings is the way to go. Kind of like we see in Soulard and lafayette. The problem is this kind of thing is costly and slow...2 things which developers hate.

Brian said...

I realize this wasn't the primary reason for the meeting, but were any details provided on the reconfigured 22nd Street interchange? Is that actually going to happen?

Vanishing STL said...

Ryley: Soulard and Lafayette Square were "slow" because they were done by individual homeowners and small developers. When you have a billion dollar development corporation and a major construction company at your helm, you do not need to be slow. they have every ability to save buildings and do real infill. Is this more costly?, Yes, it is, but not when you are getting all the subsidies McKee is asking for.

Brian: They showed 22nd Street running straight into 40 with ramps at each corner... a typical diamond intersection. All the big curving ramps would go away opening up the land for development. They showed a row of mid-rise buildings lining 22nd up to the Gateway Mall and a high-rise at the mall terminus.

Torchandtonic said...

I have many of the same concerns. Why would Mckee and gang let some of the better historic homes disintegrate (and even help them along to their demise) if they planned on saving them? I think saving the Clemens Mansion will be the bone they throw and 98% of the rest will be destroyed. There are many examples of the leveling of St. Louis brick homes that could have been saved and the stucco replacements that are now empty and just as desolate...this is what will be the likely outcome in North STL 10 years from now if large developers slash and burn huge sections (do we ever learn from the past in St. Louis?!) instead of infilling, reusing and rebuilding neighborhoods block by block again.

Robert Powers said...

If you can save the Carr School, you can save pretty much any Blairmont house. Very few of them are as far gone as Carr.

So it's really more a matter of which ones they want to save, which ones they choose to save.