Whole Foods, Whole City
Somehow, in my discussion of the Eads Park district (now available as a stand-alone essay at eco-absence.org), I missed the article in last Friday's St. Louis Business Journal which proclaimed the City's desires to:
1) Acquire by condemnation the nearly six-acre property at 1601 S. Jefferson, home to a now-vacant 47,000 square foot grocery store building (building address: 1605 S. Jefferson). The grocery store building was constructed in 1984 for Kroger; then purchased by National Supermarkets when Kroger bowed out of the St. Louis market (around 1987 I believe); then acquired by Schnucks as part of its buyout of National in 1995; then sold to the "new" National (the Family Company of America, headed by shady dealer James Gibson) in 1996, pursuant to an FTC consent decree. When the new National went into bankruptcy protection, in 1999, the space became a third location of the small local chain Foodland Warehouse Foods. (Its other stores are at 6155 S. Grand at Iron, and in Fairmont City, IL at 5401 Collinsville Rd.) However, in that incarnation, as in previous ones, it was not managed nor stocked well - I shopped there enough to know it! So, it closed a little more than one year ago. In any event, the property is now owned by a group of creditors of the Family Company of America. So, basically, they probably want a lot of money for the property, because they're owed a lot of money. Condemnation may be the only way to acquire it.
2) Also acquire the small, under 10,000 square foot four-unit strip mall, owned by Wachovia Bank, next door at 1557 S. Jefferson and built in 1991. It houses a laundromat and a Subway franchise. I don't know what the status of this property is, but perhaps it's in foreclosure, too.
3) Give the development rights to the property to Gilded Age Restoration, headed by Trace Shaughnessy and Chris Goodson, Lafayette Square resident and St. Louis Police Board member. Presumably, the existing buildings would be demolished.
4) The goal: attracting Whole Foods Market to this location. Currently they have only one store in the St. Louis area, at 1601 S. Brentwood Blvd. just south of Highway 40. But they have pretty aggressive expansion plans. Additional stores would also be included, but hopefully in a more pleasant environment than the current small strip mall building. The Business Journal article claims the total square footage of the development would be only 25,000 square feet, fronting on S. Jefferson Ave.
5) According to the Business Journal article, the plans also call for developing "Nineteen 1,800-square-foot houses....on the west side of the development, facing Eads Park." I do have to wonder, though: given that no other houses face Eads Park, how will this development be configured? As a cul-de-sac street with access only from Lafayette, over by the Holiday Inn Express (built in 1998 at 2625 Lafayette Ave.), perhaps? If they did that, they should really call it Texas Ave., because that's about where that street would have been until the existing grocery store was built. But, they'll probably call it something like "Eads Manor Place."
6) To my way of thinking, the ideal location for the Whole Foods store would be right on the corner of Jefferson and Lafayette. But, that's probably not feasible, because there's a gas station located there (address: 1647 S. Jefferson), which just recently (in 2003) invested over $500,000 in a brand-new, modern, reasonably clean looking facility with a convenience store. That location has been a gas station for years, well before the grocery store was built; probably since the early 1950s. Hopefully, when they built the new gas station, they abated any environmental damage caused by leaking undergroung storage tanks, but who knows really.