The 28 Mayor System strikes again! As NextSTL reported last week, 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy and the Grove Community Improvement District sold out the eastern entrance to the neighborhood in return for $40,000 per year.
How is this allowed to happen? Because the System is set up to allow Aldermen to obtain zoning variances at their whim with no regard for what is good for a neighborhood or good for the City. While development may be years away due to the economy, the Commerce Bank site directly across Vandeventer would be a much less desirable location if a proposed QuickTrip is built.
The Grove has come a long way from the former Manchester strip of abandoned storefronts. With a critical mass of restaurants, bars, services, an emerging retail scene and, as NextSTL mentioned, even a tattoo shop, which is proof that people are now starting to hang out in the Grove instead of just heading to a few bars or a restaurant. What the Grove does not necessarily need is a giant gas station/convenient store replacing an existing restaurant in a unique eclectic building as an anchor at the east end of the district, no less at the hands of the CID which should be protecting the district from this very type of activity.
What would it look like if the South Grand CID sold out to QuickTrip?
Imagine the beautiful 2-story building facing Tower Grove Park at the north end of South Grand as a QuckTrip! Pretty awful, right?
What if the Loop Special Business District sold Out to QuickTrip?
Imagine the recently renovated 3-story mixed use building at Skinker & Delmar as a QuckTrip, because, hey you can never have too many gas stations, right?
Both of these are are somewhat extreme scenarios and both would have very little chance of occurring because both South Grand and the Loop have historic districts and maybe more importantly, strong neighborhood associations in the area. This however did not stop a new surface parking lot from replacing a non-historic building in the Loop this year.
So what can we do about this? Well, not much until we change the System. We can start by talking to our respective Aldermen and demanding a comprehensive overhaul of the City zoning code. Demand that these kinds of decisions be made by planners, not Aldermen, most of whom have no qualifications whatsoever to be making these types of planning and development decisions.
One thing that could be done now is to make QuickTrip re-use the existing building that currently houses Spaghetteria Mamma Mia and Bellon Wrecking. The building is in a Preservation Review District, which means that unless Roddy has conspired some kind of loop hole, the building should go before the Preservation Board in order to be demolished. The photo below shows that the open lot at the corner and the depth of the parcel would allow QuickTrip to install their pumps and canopy while keeping and possible using the existing building.