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.