Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Crime Story

Crime Story

The Post-Dispatch today went into day 4 of their special report on "memos" in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

While most of the stories done have been quite informative and provocative, I do have to quibble with today's lead piece, "Panel investigating crime here had multiple ties to Police Department."

Yes, Scott Decker of UMSL and Jim Gilsinan of SLU (as well as Gary Higgs of the Stupp GIS lab at SLU) have contracts with the Police. Is this news? They've been working with the SLMPD for years, particularly Decker. SLU's participation in the project made the grant for the "SafeCity" crime mapping website possible. Lots of other social scientists, particularly criminologists but also political scientists and sociologists, work closely with police in various cities. Sometimes they get paid by the police, or through Department of Justice grants.

Nevertheless, the more important points of the series - the under-reporting of crime through use of memos, the hostile treatment of rape victims by the Sex Crimes Unit, etc. - should not be ignored.

But, somehow, the users of the St. Louis CopTalk board don't seem interested. The most recent active threads, other than those related to POA business, are about the price of gas, great supervisors, the DJs Kaos and Sylli Asz controversy with Clear Channel, and the BRAC closure decisions.

And I am really wondering: Do SLMPD officers who live in St. Louis County or beyond get to take their cars home? I think maybe they do, based on some of the things I've read on CopTalk. That really bugs me. If you want to be on Mobile Reserve and take your car home, you should be required to live within the City limits. Otherwise, they shouldn't let them take patrol cars home at all.

Another thing: How does Mokwa keep all this stuff from affecting him at all? Granted, he couldn't do a whole lot about the residency rule change, but the crime memos story keeps getting new legs, yet he remains Teflon.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

St. Louis CIN: 10 Years!

St. Louis CIN: 10 Years!

As August 2005 draws to a close, I thought it worth noting this milestone in the history of the St. Louis Community Information Network, the official web site of the city of St. Louis.

In August 1995, with technical assistance provided by students from the Washington University School of Engineering, the St. Louis CIN web site was first launched. Initially hosted by WashU, in summer 1996 hosting was taken over by MOREnet, a state agency, and by 1997 St. Louis CIN was funded under the auspices of Missouri Express, a grant program developed and advocated by Governor Mel Carnahan's administration, which provided start-up grants for dozens of community information networks across the state. For a while, they even had a statewide association called MACIN.

St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) - or technically, the City of St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) - was the grant recipient under Missouri Express and still is the MOREnet affiliate.

In 1997, the first St. Louis CIN neighborhood web fair was held, at which about 40 of the city neighborhoods developed their first web sites. Web Fair '98 and the Non-Profit Web Fair later in '98 were similarly popular. Likewise, over the years a number of city departments started maintaining their own web sites. This slowed, though, when the managers of the city network shut off FTP access.

Although St. Louis CIN served as the city's default web site, it was not funded by city general revenue until FY2004. Nor was it ever funded from Community Development Block Grant funds.

Instead, funding came from various external competitive grants, including Missouri Express Enhanced Services, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Civic Networking program, the EPA EMPACT program, the USDOJ Ounce of Prevention grant, the HUD Enterprise Community program, and a small grant from the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office. Numerous other grant applications were made as well.

By the end of 2001, with federal and state grants for technology declining, and St. Louis city government grant-seeking priorities shifting, no new grants were applied for or received. From 2001 through 2003, the only staff person for St. Louis CIN besides the manager, Sonya Pelli, was... me.

I worked full-time with no benefits for just under $10/hour, until I applied for and was offered a job at East-West Gateway Coordinating Council in June 2002. Then SLDC made me a full-time staffer - CIN Specialist, at $35k/year plus benefits. Not bad. I stayed in that position until going to grad school in August 2003.

Finally, the CIN staff moved from SLDC to city payroll in January 2004. CIN is now part of the city Information Technology Services Agency (ITSA) and funded through general revenue. Also in January 2004, two new full-time web site staff positions were created to assist the manager.

Although it was sometimes a grueling and stressful experience, working to build the St. Louis CIN has been both fun and rewarding for me. I hope it continues to serve St. Louis residents and other users well for many years to come.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hubert Wheeler Site Gets New Life

Hubert Wheeler Site Gets New Life

Remember the Hubert Wheeler State School? Built in 1970 at 5707 Wilson Ave. just east of Hampton Ave. in the industrial/institutional western section of The Hill neighborhood, it was a school serving severely disabled children operated by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) as part of its network of state schools for the severely handicapped.

In 1994 or '95, I believe, the school was found to have severe soil contamination of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) from a coal/coke processing facility located on the site nearly 100 years ago. When toxic reminders of the coal/coke plant started oozing up through the ground in the school playground, state officials decided to close the school and relocate its students into another state school, Gateway State School at 100 S. Garrison Ave. off Market St. in Midtown. At some point, that school was officially renamed Gateway/Hubert Wheeler State School. It also serves as the main office for all the state schools in eastern Missouri. One can also find an address of 3815 Magnolia Ave. for Hubert Wheeler in some sources, which suggests that some students may have been served at the Missouri School for the Blind campus in the Shaw neighborhood for some period of time.

The current Gateway/Hubert Wheeler State School facility, built in 1978 on a site at one point intended for a retail center supporting the Laclede Town development, is located practically on the campus of Harris-Stowe State University.

As it happens, that same institution is now utilizing the space formerly occupied by Hubert Wheeler. The soil was cleaned up in 1996-97 or so with a specific appropriation from the state budget; and in 2002 the state legislature gave DESE permission to sell the property. Instead, apparently Dr. Henry Givens and his staff found a way to use the property - at least temporarily - as a site for the rapidly growing Harris-Stowe Business Administration program.

The Wilson Ave. 'campus' now even sports a Harris-Stowe sign on the roof, visible to passing motorists on I-44. There is hourly shuttle service connecting the old Hubert Wheeler facility - now called the Busch Temporary Business School (BTBS), or sometimes simply the South Campus - with the main campus on Laclede Ave. in Midtown, as well as with the Grand and Union Station MetroLink stations. While it is certainly not an ideal situation for students, it is an innovative way to use existing space - probably rent-free - until the business school facility on the HSSU campus can be completed.

Also, the main Harris-Stowe building - built in 1927 as Vashon High School - is now officially known as the Dr. Henry J. Givens Jr Administration Building (HGA). A brief, if somewhat biased, history of Vashon tells of the community pride in that facility, once the very heart of the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood.

While the name Hubert Wheeler probably doesn't elicit much community pride, it is nevertheless a facility worth using rather than demolishing. It is good that HSSU has seen fit to make it useful; hopefully it will still be useful to some entity even after HSSU vacates it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

And the Post-Dispatch Confirms It...

And the Post-Dispatch Confirms It...

Famous-Barr to leave Crestwood Plaza - just like I said yesterday.

I swear this paragraph in yesterday's story was just recently added - "This will not be a new Macy's. It will replace the Famous-Barr store at Crestwood Plaza. That Crestwood store will close within the next two years, a May Department Stores Co. official said.."

The double periods seems like a dead giveaway.

Sorry, Westfield - a new AMC Cinema in front of the mall ain't good enough. And who goes to that stupid food court, anyway? Renovating it would help only slightly.

Actually, the AMC Crestwood 10 has gotten crappier and crappier over the past several years, in conjunction with the rapidly spreading crappiness of the entire mall. I recall that, confusingly, Westfield had a promo with many posters all over the mall for that Lemony Snicket movie last year, but yet the Crestwood 10 was not showing it! How dumb.

However, I kind of like having a multiplex - as evil and lame as they often area - attached to a mall. It gives people more reason to stroll around in the mall before and after the movie. If it sits out on the parking lot - an "outlot" in real estate parlance - it won't create similar synergy.

In any event, I guess if I want the multiplex-in-the-mall experience, I could always go to the locally-owned Galleria 6. It's even on the WashU shuttle. The food court adjacent to there is also being renovated, with a projected completion date of November 1st.

Granted, the somewhat closer-in Wehrenberg Kenrick 8 is even worse. I haven't been there in probably three years now. Just doesn't seem worth it.

The best movie-going experience by far is at the Moolah. The Chase Park Plaza Cinemas are decent, too, but not quite as cool as the Moolah.

The first time I ever saw a movie in a theater was in 1983. It was Return of the Jedi. I was five years old. I saw it, with a big group of my cousins arranged by my grandma, at the former South County Cinema, a 2-screen place on an outlot next to South County Center on Lemay Ferry Road near S. Lindbergh Blvd. It has since been demolished.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Yep, Crestwood is Screwed

Yep, Crestwood is Screwed

Following up on my posting in July:

Today the Post-Dispatch reports that the new development proposed for the site of the Sunset Manor subdivision in Sunset Hills will be anchored by a Macy's.

So long, Crestwood Plaza Famous-Barr.

And with the announced intentions of Sears / K-Mart to focus on stand-alone stores, can the Crestwood Sears be far behind in closing?

Of course, this could just be grandstanding by Novus, the developer of "MainStreet at Sunset."

Barf. What a silly name. It can't be a main street - Sunset Hills isn't even a real place. Just a collection of shopping centers, super-sized lot subdivisions, a few industrial parks along Gravois, and one or two remaining mobile home parks.

Of course, I guess Crestwood isn't really that different. Maybe they should merge - they already have a single Chamber of Commerce.

Perhaps a merger of these two cities would be the only thing that could keep this ridiculous development from bankrupting both cities - Sunset Hills, sacrificing tax revenues to get it, and Crestwood losing tax revenues because of it.

Fun This Weekend

Fun This Weekend

Some selected events happening this weekend in the City of St. Louis.

YMCA Book Fair - Friday Aug 26 through Wednesday Aug 31
at the Carondelet YMCA. (My advisor at WashU, Bill Lowry, is on the board of the Campus Y and often helps run and promote this big event.)

Cathedralfete - Saturday Aug 27
celebrate the Festival of St. Louis at the New Cathedral.

Sauce in the City - Saturday Aug 27
1st annual food and music festival sponsored by Sauce Magazine, at the Soliders' Memorial - or, more precisely, Memorial Plaza.

The Lot - Saturday Aug 27
One of the few remaining major events sponsored by Metropolis St. Louis, a big outdoor concert held originally at 16th and Locust, but for the past few years on the parking lot of The Tap Room.

Bevo Day - Sunday Aug 28
The longest-running neighborhood festival in St. Louis, in a neighborhood where these days you're more likely to hear Dobro došli than gemütlichkeit.

Medicaid Funeral and Rally - Sunday Aug 28
3:00PM to 5:00PM
Old Courthouse Steps, Downtown St. Louis
On Broadway, between Chestnut and Market Streets
(Wear black for the funeral.)
Well, maybe this last one doesn't qualify as 'fun', but it could be provocative and interesting nonetheless.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Eminent Domain

Eminent Domain

The Missouri Task Force on Eminent Domain now has a web site, which even has an online comment form and a schedule of upcoming hearings.

Nice job, given that the task force was created on June 27th.

I'm willing to give the governor credit when he does things right. Especially since it doesn't happen very often.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Grow Up, Governor Blunt!

Grow Up, Governor Blunt!

Late on Friday afternoon, Governor Blunt's office sent out a scathing press release supposedly in response to SOS Robin Carnahan's earlier press release.

Carnahan's press release stated "I am very disappointed that Governor Blunt has not made protecting Missouri’s investors and seniors a priority by failing to include variable annuities legislation in his agenda for special session." The remaining sentences simply elaborated on this point.

Meanwhile, Blunt used this opportunity to bizarrely attack Robin and her mother Jean, stating:

"In a format eerily reminiscent of the attacks placed on her mother's
blogsite against the governor, his wife and five-month old son, Carnahan's
statement contains wild accusations and blatant inaccuracies about the
governor's record to protect Missouri investors."

Talk about coming out of left field!

Fired Up Missouri has more.

Apparently, the Gov doesn't understand that web sites like Fired Up Missouri and other blogs are all about promoting dialogue, discussion, and/or debate - something that his idol W. does not like.

"Either you're fir us, or you're aginst us!" [sic]

Friday, August 19, 2005

WU-hoo!

WU-hoo!

WashU is still ranked 11th among national universities by US News and World Report in their 2006 America's Best Colleges ranking.

This news comes from Student Life, the WashU student newspaper.

The full ranking lists the Harvard-of-St. Louis just below Ivy League Dartmouth College, with which WashU was tied for 9th place in the 2004 rankings. Dartmouth is still tied for 9th - but now tied with Columbia U.

The Med School does even better - in the 2005 Best Graduate Schools rankings it was listed at #3 among research-oriented programs.

WashU PR has a press release about the ranking as well. WashU did slip from 12th to 20th in the "best value" category.

Other local or nearly local institutions ranked:

National universities

--St. Louis University - three-way tie for #78
--UM-Columbia - eight-way tie for #85
--UM-Rolla - six-way tie for #109

National universities - tier three -- none from the St. Louis area (note: tier two national universities rankings are not available online)

National universities - tier four

--SIU-Carbondale - ranked #189
--UM-St. Louis - ranked #201

Liberal arts colleges

--Principia College, Elsah IL - four-way tie for #84 (Principia, a Christian Science school, also ranks #3 among liberal arts colleges in the percentage of international students, at 15%)

Midwestern masters' universities

--Truman State University, Kirksville MO - ranked #8
--Maryville University - three-way tie for #22
--Webster University - ranked #25
--SIU-Edwardsville - three-way tie for #58
--Fontbonne University - five-way tie for #64
--Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau MO - part of the same five-way tie for #64

Midwestern Comprehensive Colleges

--McKendree College, Lebanon IL - tied for #20
--Columbia College, Columbia MO - three-way tie for #35

So, if you buy the US News methodology - not saying that I do - then that suggests my path has been as follows:

- #48 high school in the nation - Metro High in the SLPS.
- #201 national university - UMSL.
- #11 national university - WashU, for grad school.
(#16 among political science PhD programs)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

School Choice and Transportation

School Choice and Transportation

Today's Post-Dispatch points out the challenges faced by local school districts by rising gasoline prices (and, presumably, diesel fuel prices too, since that's what most school buses use). They highlighted in particular the changes made by the Parkway School District, which still owns and operates its own school buses, rather than contracting out the service.

(A side comment: Why does StLouisGasPrices.com include listings for Sam's Club and Costco gas pumps? You have to have a membership to get those rates, and the membership costs money too - so they don't necessarily have the lowest rates. Plus, I avoid shopping at Sam's and Wal-Mart for well-publicized reasons.)

Anyway, apropos of this and my posting earlier this week, I noticed a VICC-funded school bus passing the corner of Wyoming and California while walking my dogs about 7:30 this morning.

The destinations: Barretts Elementary and Carman Trails Elementary in Parkway. According to Google Maps, those schools are 16.6 miles and 17.8 miles away, respectively, from Wyoming at California. That's a 33+ mile round trip, each day, on average.

These transportation costs do not factor into Parkway's own concerns, because the funds go directly from DESE to VICC and/or its contractors, never into Parkway's coffers.

Further, after the 1999 Settlement Agreement, VICC came up with attendance areas to try to reduce transportation costs. I don't think it applies to County-to-City transfers, because that would prevent students from completing the same track within the magnet school clusters; but it is a big constraint on school choice for City-to-County transfers.

According to the VICC attendance areas, African-American residents of "Area 3", a huge area bounded by Highway 40 on the north, Kingshighway (and a short stretch of Gravois) on the west, the city limits on the south, and the Mississippi on the east, can choose to attend the following St. Louis County school districts:
- Affton
- Bayless
- Hancock Place
- Kirkwood
- Mehlville (Oakville High feeder pattern only)
- Parkway (Parkway South High feeder pattern)
- Rockwood (Summit and Eureka High feeder patterns); and
- Webster Groves.

Given those choices, I'm not surprised students from my neighborhood would go to Barretts and Carman Trails, which given their location in the City of Manchester and adjacent unincorporated areas, are certainly in the Parkway South High School feeder pattern; and probably the South Middle attendance zone as well.

School choices in this system are bizarrely constrained. Thus, I would expect that - at least based on my perceptions of quality and performance - parents living in this area (which covers about 2/3rds of South City) would rank Kirkwood, Webster Groves, and Parkway (South) at about the same level; then below that, perhaps Rockwood (Summit and Eureka), Mehlville (Oakville); and in the lowest tier, Hancock Place, Affton and Bayless. If they had to put three choices on a form, they'd probably pick Kirkwood, Webster Groves, and Parkway (South). Maybe Rockwood would get on there, too - but it's so far west that it would be scary for a lot of parents, I suspect.

Although Hancock Place, Affton and Bayless are located adjacent to the city limits, they are generally considered lesser quality districts. Affton perhaps has better resources than the other two; and Bayless now has attracted a sizable Bosnian population. But, I suspect none of these three would be the top choices of African-American parents. Nevertheless, many do end up there. I don't have a good sense of how well or poorly students who transfer to these three districts do, after graduation. Are they any better off, ultimately, than if they had stayed in SLPS?

Really left out of this entire solution are North St. Louis County residents. While it is probably true that some are able to attend magnet schools using falsified City addresses, they cannot legally participate in the program, whether African-American or not. The only exception is Ritenour School District, which is allowed to send non-African-American students into the city, but does not accept African-American students from the city. According to VICC, "Families living in the Ferguson-Florissant, Hazelwood, Jennings, Maplewood-Richmond Heights, Normandy, Riverview Gardens, University City or Wellston school districts are not eligible to participate" in the magnet school transfer program. Period.

Maplewood-Richmond Heights, until the 1999 settlement, was the largest county sender of students into the magnet schools. I think at one point about 250 students came from MRH into the City, which was about 1/8 of all the students in the entire County-to-City transfer program at the time. This makes sense, given MRH's proximity to the city, several magnet schools being located practically within walking distance of the district albeit within the St. Louis City limits, and the generally poor reputation of the district. However, they did not accept African-American students, because they were already pretty integrated. Not sure how this loophole started, but it was closed by 2002 completely.

And I think when the program first started in the early 1980s, Riverview Gardens was allowed to send a few students. Even into the 1990s, Ferguson-Florissant and Hazelwood were still sending a number of students, too. I'm pretty sure Jennings, Normandy and Wellston never participated; not sure about UCity though. And of course, since they don't live in the City of St. Louis, African-Americans living in these North County districts are not eligible to transfer to (arguably) better quality St. Louis County school districts.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ending Chronic Homelessness

Ending Chronic Homelessness

One week after it was announced, the Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homeless in St. Louis City and County is now available online. It's a pretty detailed, 68-page document prepared jointly by the City of St. Louis Department of Human Services and the St. Louis County Department of Human Services.

Meanwhile, the Mayor continues to take jabs at the WashU Civil Justice Clinic and SLU Law Clinic who have filed suits on behalf of downtown homeless people who claim to have been harassed by police and the Downtown St. Louis Partnership.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Young Commuters

Young Commuters

Since many of the suburban school districts started school yesterday or today, many St. Louis city resident children have started school already. Many of them - including those in my neighborhood - wait on dark street corners for long bus rides, sometimes boarding the bus earlier than 6:00 AM, and typically before 7:00 AM. Their commutes can be more than one hour each way.

Although supposedly state law prohibits more than a 90 minute scheduled commute, traffic congestion can make their trips much longer. While some are placed in taxicabs, most ride school buses which make several stops in the city before heading out to the suburbs.

While the program has its detractors, the voluntary interdistrict desegregation program, run by the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (formerly the Voluntary Interdistrict Coordinating Council - and still known as VICC), is nearly 25 years old, depending on how you measure it. It started in 1981 with five pilot districts, then expanded under a settlement agreeement in 1983. Despite the 1999 settlement of the desegregation case, still nearly 10,000 African-American city resident students attend schools in 15 of the school districts in St. Louis County.

And the St. Louis Magnet Schools are even older - coming up on 30 years this year; they were an early intervention by the judge in the Liddell case.

I was one of the early students in the County-to-City transfer program, the lesser known and much smaller program in which non-African-American students living in St. Louis County, about 1,500 a year at one point but now down to about 500, can choose to attend St. Louis Magnet Schools. I was one of only a few from the Mehlville School District.

I started attending St. Louis Magnet Schools in 2nd grade at Mallinckrodt ABI, in September 1986 - almost 19 years ago. I graduated from Metro High in May 1997. I know just how long those commutes can be; in fact, I rode some of those same buses that transported students out to Mehlville, albeit on a much less full bus and going in the same direction at the same time as traditional downtown-bound commuter traffic. (More of my educational history)

Anyway, enough about me. Just wanted to remind people this program still exists, although perhaps in five or ten years it will have completely disappeared. And I think the St. Louis region will be the poorer for having lost it - unless, of course, the entire region is successfully and harmoniously integrated.

Somehow, I doubt that will be the case.

So, I would not be surprised, although the courts might not be hospitable towards it, if in ten or fifteen years somebody sues at the Federal level all the school districts in the St. Louis region - including the Metro East and St. Charles and Jefferson Counties - for violation of Brown, the Civil Rights Act, etc. Sadly, I can only envision continued segregation or resegregation within most schools and especially in residential neighborhoods, throughout the St. Louis region.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Secret Passages

Secret Passages

St. Louis was once a streetcar town. Electric streetcar routes criss-crossed the city and the inner-ring suburbs, serving a wide swath of St. Louis County, as well as selected portions of the Metro East, particularly via the interurban car network across the McKinley Bridge.

As the name suggests, most streetcars ran on streets; but some ran on private rights-of-way. And in some cases, particularly in the suburbs, access to those lines was available not just via traditional streets, but also by semi-public walkways running perpendicular to neighboring streets.

Some of those rights-of-way and walkways still exist. If you walk around and look closely, you can find them.

Most of the walkways I know are in or near University City and Clayton. There used to be a walkway that provided access to the 93 Lindell line and the Rock Island Railway (now Forest Park Parkway - or, actually, the under construction MetroLink line) called "Waterman Way" in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood from about 5900 Waterman to 5900 Forest Park Parkway in St. Louis City, but it was vacated and barricaded in 1999.

Identifiable former streetcar rights-of-way:

  • Hodiamont Right-of-Way from Cole Elementary School at 3935 Enright Ave. to Gwen Giles Park at about 900 Hodiamont Ave. Most of this old narrow-gauge railroad r-o-w, which later became the Hodiamont streetcar route - the last remaining streetcar in the city, terminated in 1966 - is still served by the #15 Hodiamont MetroBus route. Confusingly, the Hodiamont bus no longer runs on Hodiamont Ave. at all. Sometime in the 1970s, probably, the section of the r-o-w behind West Cabanne Place was closed off, and recent bus restructuring means the westbound Hodiamont bus, after leaving the r-o-w at Hamilton Blvd., travels north to Etzel Ave., then west on Etzel Ave. straight to Sutter and Plymouth in Wellston, ending at the Wellston MetroLink station. Until a couple years ago, the Hodiamont bus route went to the Wellston Loop instead.

  • Ackert Walkway, which is probably better known as the shortcut to get from the Loop to WashU. It used to be the Kirkwood-Ferguson streetcar right-of-way. Two portions of it are only open for pedestrians and cyclists: the WashU-maintained section from the - also under construction - pedestrian bridge over Forest Park Parkway into WashU near the Cyclotron and Powerhouse buildings, to Kingsbury Blvd.; and the much longer University City municipal 'park' section from Delmar Blvd. all the way to Vernon Ave., dedicated as a city park in 1967. The intervening two-block section of Melville Ave. from Delmar (next to Blueberry Hill) to Kingsbury was also part of the streetcar route.

  • DeMun Ave. in Clayton and Yale Ave. in Richmond Heights/Maplewood were also part of the Kirkwood-Ferguson line. The route also traversed the WashU Hilltop campus, but all traces of it have been obliterated there. DeMun/Yale had streetcar service running right down the middle of the super-wide grassy median.

    Since at least the 1970s, DeMun has been closed to through traffic at a point between Arundel Place and Northwood Avenue, next to Captain Elementary School. Indeed, part of the old street is now the school parking lot; and walking through there requires going up several steps. This enforces the separation between the single-family large-lot residential district north of the school, and the DeMun Ave. retail strip accessible via Clayton Road to the south. Thus, DeMun no longer has public transit service.

    Likewise, Yale Ave. was broken by the construction of Highway 40 through Richmond Heights in the 1960s. The wide median is still evident on Yale on an orphaned half-block from Wise Ave. to West Park Ave., and then south of 40 from Nashville Ave. all the way to Manchester Ave. in Maplewood. I suppose that the connection between DeMun and Yale on this route was once made on a right-of-way that's now part of the St. Mary's Health Center campus. Bus service still operates just one block west, on Bellevue Ave., via the #16 City Limits.

  • Wydown Blvd. in Clayton/St. Louis City from Skinker to Hanley, of course, also has a very wide median, which used to be used by the Lindell streetcar. The Lindell bus still runs on this exact route.

  • Lindbergh Dr. from through Richmond Heights and Maplewood was once the route of the Brentwood 'dinky' car line. This sidestreet, again with a very wide median, should not be confused with the much wider and more prominent Lindbergh Blvd. in St. Louis County, which never had streetcar service on it, and just barely has bus service now. I believe the route started at Dale Ave., as a branch from the more important Forest Park streetcar line that ended nearby on Dale, then followed Lindbergh Dr. southwestwardly, and continued on a private r-o-w that you can almost still find, to about Laclede Station Road at Jerome Avenue in Maplewood. There was probably a further extension of this r-o-w, but industrial development on Hanley has made it hard to identify.

  • The median between Dorothy Dr. and Mary Dr. in Brentwood now known as Rogers Parkway was part of a streetcar route, perhaps another branch of the Brentwood dinky. Because of modern retail and industrial development in north Brentwood, it's hard to tell where the r-o-w started, but it certainly extended through central Brentwood, south to Manchester Road, and perhaps all the way south along Mary Ave. to the railroad tracks near Petrolite and the current-day Brentwood MetroBus garage.

  • Believe it or not, there used to be a streetcar-only (and later, bus-only) 1,000-foot long bridge across Deer Creek Park in Maplewood, all the way into Webster Groves. The bridge abutments, apparently, still exist; and several of the parcels leading up the bridge are still owned by Bi-State! The route, part of the Manchester streetcar and later used by express buses until the bridge was condemned in the 1970s, was roughly along Bartold Ave. in Maplewood - only a few blocks from where MetroLink is currently being built - then onto the bridge, then via Summit Ave. and Theater Ln. in Webster. It would be really interesting if some of this right-of-way could someday be used as a branch from the Cross-County MetroLink directly into Webster Groves.

  • Midland Blvd., from Delmar Blvd. in U. City all the way out to Lindbergh Blvd. near Maryland Heights was the streetcar route to Creve Coeur Lake, a major amusement park destination in its heyday. At Lindbergh, the current route of Midland diverges from the historic route, to merge into Dorsett Road. However, it appears that a long stretch of common ground in the recently developed Pinehurst Place subdivision and a Maryland Heights city park roughly follow the old streetcar route; and after that, Midland starts up again in the older part of Maryland Heights, west of Fee Fee. That road ends at a railroad track; then an industrial park has eliminated all traces of the streetcar route. West of I-270, the route would have run along Ameling Ave. and then into what is now Creve Coeur Lake Park.

    Still open walkways to old streetcar stops:

  • Limit Walk, at about the 6300 block through the Parkview private-street subdivision. The northernmost block, from Delmar to Washington, is technically a street, Limit Ave., but is barricaded permanently at the alley behind Delmar. The rest is a walkway, that as the name suggests, runs precisely along the St. Louis City limits. Until recently, though, you could walk along here all the way through to Forest Park Parkway. That exit, however, has been closed off due to the MetroLink construction, perhaps permanently. Nevertheless, it is still a fun way to cut through the Parkview area - especially since you're not supposed to be in there anyway. ;-)

  • Unnamed walkway from 72xx Westmoreland Ave. to 72xx Maryland Ave. in south U. City, which connected Maryland residents to the vicinity of Pershing Ave. and Forest Park Parkway, the old Lindell/Clayton streetcar and Rock Island Railway routes.

  • Unnamed walkways from 73xx Maryland Ave. to 73xx Westmoreland Ave., with a slightly jog via Westmoreland to 73xx Westmoreland, to 73xx Pershing and then 73xx Kingsbury Blvd. (at the corner of Warren Ave.) Part of this walkway is steep enough it includes a staircase. Provided access to the old Lindell/Clayton streetcar routes on Pershing.

    Other secret passages that are fun, but probably not streetcar-related:

  • Macklind Avenue underpass, which goes under I-64/US Highway 40 inside Forest Park just east of Macklind Avenue. It dates from at least the 1950s, and is primarily used by SLUH athletic teams accessing the Aviation Fields in the park.

  • Wellesley Avenue underpass in U. City, which connects 7200 Westmoreland, south of Forest Park Parkway, with the dead end of Wellesley Avenue just south of Pershing Avenue. Built probably in the 1960s to provide access to Flynn Park Elementary School for children residing south of the Parkway, it is now a graffiti-covered channel that seems somehow out-of-place in rather this rather idyllic suburban area. Almost connects with the 72xx Westmoreland/72xx Maryland walkway.

  • E.G. Lewis Park entranceways in University City. Although Lewis Park is visible from and just downhill from Delmar Blvd. a little west of Big Bend, it has two less well-known back entrances: one (which is marked) from the trianglar intersection of Pennsylvania, Vassar and Cornell Aves; and another (unmarked) from about 700 Yale Ave. in the private University Hills subdivision.
  • Thursday, August 11, 2005

    Freaky Payment Methods

    Freaky Payment Methods

    I thought the thing about RFID implants in humans was bizarre and disturbing, but it seems closely rivaled by using fingerprints to pay for gasoline.

    According to the P-D Business section article by Tavia Evans, a fellow Missouri Scholars Academy '95 alum:

    "Here's how it works: To register, customers show a valid drivers license and a voided check for the cashier to scan. Then they place their right and left index fingers into a scanner and select a PIN, usually their 10-digit phone number."

    The service has the rather surreal name of BioPay. Tavia's piece was probably started with their press release about a gas station in Arnold using the technology.

    Of course, I know a lot of organizations have been using biometric technology for several years for timeclocks. This is still kind of intrusive, I think, but since so many employers are required to do background checks for various jobs, they have to collect fingerprints anyway.

    Nevertheless, where do we draw the line at how much information about our bodies we are willing to provide just for convenience? For security and safety reasons, that's a little different; but even that should have limits.

    I really don't see the great benefit to being able to pay for gas 30 seconds faster, by providing the gas station with my fingerprints.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Seven Summers Ago

    Seven Summers Ago

    In the summer of 1998, I worked my first job for the City of St. Louis: Intern II for the Recreation Division. I made $6.75/hour at first; later increased to $6.95/hour because, for some reason, we were eligible for the cost-of-living increase on July 1 of that year.

    Although my first working day was at Franz Park at Prather and Mitchell in Dogtown, I was soon reassigned to Willmore Park, working primarily at the playground on Jamieson near Hampton. That's the one on the hillside that is largely abandoned and may soon be converted to a dog park.

    The playground had pretty old equipment, thus we had the 7-12 year old camp. The 4-6 year olds were at the nicer, larger playground closer to Jamieson and Loughborough. But, we did at least have a spray pool, which for the uninitiated is not a swimming pool, but basically a water sprayer that shoots straight up in the air, on a small concrete pad. It got a little messy at times, since it was right next to the pea gravel in the playground. And next to the playground is the comfort station - i.e., bathrooms and a small storage room. In there, we had two heavy aluminum canoes, bought from Sears probably back when they still had stores in the City of St. Louis. We occasionally dragged them downhill to the lake and paddled around in circles.

    I recalled this after seeing an article about the retirement of one of my bosses at Recreation, Sandy Raymond. She retired July 31 after 39 years with the city. My other supervisor was Kathy Hanrahan, who retired in March 2004 after 33 years, to become 23rd ward alderman.

    Anyway, I was just reflecting on how far I have or haven't gone in those seven years. I didn't really conclude anything, however.

    Tuesday, August 09, 2005

    Spatial Mismatch: St. Louis Style

    Spatial Mismatch: St. Louis Style

    Like Steve Patterson, I recently had occasion to travel to the surreal Westport Plaza area in Maryland Heights, about 20 miles northwest of downtown St. Louis at I-270 and Page Ave.

    The difference is: I took the bus.

    This trek - almost 25 miles each way from my house on the Southside - took almost 2 hours each way. It exemplifies the concept of spatial mismatch: the growing gap in physical distance between the residential neighborhoods inhabited by low-wage workers, and the jobs for which they are able to qualify. It was popularized by Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson in his 1996 already-classic When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor.

    The #94 Page and #33 Dorsett-Lackland provide MetroBus service to Westport. On either route, it takes nearly one hour to reach the plaza from the MetroLink station it services. As the route names suggest, each bus route winds through a number of different neighborhoods between Westport and that primary transfer point, MetroLink.

    For some reason -- probably the heat -- I decided to ride the #94 Page all the way from the Civic Center MetroLink station downtown, out to Westport. This made the trip slightly longer, but saved me from waiting outside for potentially 20 minutes at the Wellston MetroLink station on Plymouth Avenue.

    So, I rode a rather strange route, indeed, which twists and turns it's way through downtown via Spruce, Tucker, Clark, 7th, Locust, 9th, Washington, and finally Tucker again, before turning onto Martin Luther King Drive. Since, of course, the stretch of MLK from Tucker to Jefferson is totally non-residential, and now occupied largely by the St. Louis Commerce Center, the Gateway Classic Headquarters, and industrial or institutional uses, the bus really moved through that section. Then, I saw the section where streetscape improvements have been attempted, west of Jefferson on MLK.

    This route then twists along T.E. Huntley, Franklin, Compton, back to MLK, and then finally onto Page, through the Lucas Heights and former Blumeyer areas, where a great deal of construction is ongoing, which looks pretty promising from a distance, at least. I can remember how desolate and largely vacant Blumeyer and its surroundings looked just five years ago; what's going on now can only be an improvement.

    Further west, the bus passed MLK Plaza, a new shopping center on Grand between Page and MLK. It's not the most attractive strip mall around; it's primary anchor is a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Nevertheless, it certainly adds shopping opportunities that did not exist in this area for decades. After booking it down Page to Euclid, I saw another new shopping center, Roberts Village facing Kingshighway between Page and MLK. It seems to have more vacant spaces remaining than MLK Plaza does.

    After passing Kingshighway, the housing stock is less decimated, generally, than along Page east of Kingshighway. But a lot of it is in poor condition. So, the bus stops a little more often in this stretch. Landmarks on this stretch include the Walgreens at Union Blvd. - and, amazingly, the Union-Page Drug Co. (361-2299) which still operates just across the street.

    The Walgreens opened in 1998, making it the first new drugstore built in this area in many years. Kitty-corner from the Walgreens is Marie Fowler Park, dedicated to the longtime head of the West End Community Conference.

    Other landmarks along the stretch of Page from Union to the city limits include Faith House, which started caring for "crack babies" in the early 1990s in a four-family in the Ville neighborhood (I remember touring the place in 1996 as a Youth Leadership St. Louis participant; it was quite moving) and recently opened a large new facility at 5535 Page; and the Monsanto YMCA.

    Both provide valuable community services in high-quality facilities, but I have to say their buildings do not interact with the street at all; they are fenced in and heavily secured. Many of the churches on Page, meanwhile, have much more interesting architectural features and sweeping stairways leading directly from the sidewalk, even if some of them are not well-maintained. Likewise, while a lot of houses are vacant and have porches literally falling down, they still could be rehabbed by the right person. And occasionally, you notice little bright spots like Oak Court and Amherst Place, streets that seem to have pretty high owner-occupancy rates, sandwiched between Hamilton and Hodiamont off Page.

    After passing the city limits, the view becomes less interesting. The housing stock in this southern portion of Wellston is mostly small shotgun houses, cheek-by-jowl with former industrial sites.

    At Stephen Jones Ave., the Page bus takes a sharp left, then a right at Plymouth, passing the MET Center on the way to the MetroLink station. The bus stop is right at the front door - if it has one - of the new St. Louis Enterprise Center - Wellston. It is the newest addition to the network of business incubators jointly run by the St. Louis Development Corporation and St. Louis County Economic Council.

    We return to Page via Sutter, passing Eskridge High School. Again, the view along Page is less than inspiring; although a few of the small bungalows in Pagedale are attractive, most of this stretch consists of industrial and commercial properties, with a particular emphasis on industrial in the Vinita Park area.

    Just before passing I-170, we see the new Alberici Construction headquarters. Much lauded as a green building, it is nevertheless not easily accessible from the road, probably on purpose.

    I probably don't need to even say that west of I-170, there's almost nothing architecturally interesting on the Page Ave. corridor. I was a little confused when I saw what looked like a strip mall with mirrored glass at 9900 Page Ave. Then I saw the sign, and it all made sense: Missouri Department of Social Services. Of course - the agency that serves the poor would be in the most foreboding edifice possible!

    After that, the bus took a curious and speedy branch via Ashby, Baur Blvd, Schuetz (passing JCCA), and Lackland, then back to Page at Ball Ave. where the IBEW was picketing WB-11 TV.

    Finally, the bus entered the main Westport office/industrial district, via Page, Schuetz, Westline Industrial, Weldon Parkway, and Fee Fee. I disembarked after about 80 minutes on the bus, at the corner of Fee Fee and Westport Plaza Drive, to explore the mall (if you can call it that) and await my appointment.

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Whole Foods, Whole City

    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.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    Thank You for Choosing Metro... Have a Bodacious Day!

    Thank You for Choosing Metro... Have a Bodacious Day!

    This week's RFT has a feature story on Larry Salci, CEO of Metro (better known to most of us as Bi-State Development Agency; indeed, that's still its legal name according to the agency's charter approved by Congress and President Harry S. Truman in 1949, with Metro serving just as a "Doing Business As (DBA)" tag).

    In light of this article, and the troubles with the Cross County MetroLink extension that prompted it, I thought I'd try to figure out:

    Just how much bus service has been eliminated in the past 15 years by Bi-State / Metro?

    Here's a start:

    The following bus routes, many of which I used to ride, no longer exist (although some have been partially replaced by other service, many have not).

    #01 Vandeventer (service on Vandeventer Ave. north of Enright was not replaced)

    #02 Forest Park Shuttle Bug (service on Euclid Ave. was not replaced; current Zip2 service is seasonal)

    #03 Morganford-Arsenal (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #05 Gravois (particularly the Loughborough branch, which was not replaced by other service, as well as the western part of the Holly Hills/Eichelberger branch)

    #14 Garden Express (merged into the #13 Union-Garden)

    #17 Clayton-Oakville (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #19 St. Louis Avenue (North Market portions not replaced)

    #20 Cherokee (service on California Ave. was not replaced)

    #21 Tower Grove (merged into #30 Soulard)

    #29 Berkeley Shuttle (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #30 Cass (mostly converted to #30 Soulard)

    #37 Jamestown-RiverRoads Shuttle (replaced partially by #36 Spanish Lake)

    #44 UMSL-Northwest-WestPort (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #49 Lindbergh (service from South County Mall to V.A. Hospital, and service through the Lindbergh tunnel under the Airport Expansion)

    #52 Forest Park (mostly merged into #52 Clayton-South County)

    #53 Litzsinger (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #55 Clayton-Galleria Shuttle Bee (largely taken over by #58 Clayton-Ballas)

    #57 Manchester (service on Chouteau Ave. from Vandeventer to Broadway/4th)

    #62 Kirkwood-Clayton-Wellston (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #63 Clayton-Northwest Plaza (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #68 Big Bend (portions replaced by #47 Cross-County)

    #73 Carondelet (service on California Ave. was not replaced)

    #96 Walnut Park (small portion replaced by #195 Carter Shuttle)

    #98 McCausland-Delor (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #99 Lafayette (service on Lafayette Ave. was not replaced)

    #17x Oakville Express (service on Telegraph Rd. south of Gebhardt Dr., and on Reavis Barracks Rd. from Telegraph to Lemay Ferry, was not replaced)

    #73x Lemay Express (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #80x Southampton Express (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #92x St. Louis Hills Express (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #111x Kirkwood Express (merged into #11x Shrewsbury Express)

    #120x Affton Express (service via Morganford was not replaced)

    #140x Broadway-Barracks Express (merged into #240x Oakville Express)

    #152x Manchester Rd. Express (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    #173x Mehlville-St. Louis Express (merged into #340x I-55 Mehlville Express)

    #211x Big Bend Express (Sappington Road portion was not replaced)

    #220x Watson Road Express (service on East Waston Rd. was not replaced)

    #273x? Forder-Union Road Express (portions replaced by #52 Tesson Ferry Express)

    #373x? I-55 Express (partially replaced by #340x I-55 Mehlville Express)

    #410x Eureka-Pacific Express (service to Pacific was not replaced)

    #474x Jennings Express (entire route eliminated with no replacement)

    That's all I can remember. I think there were several other express routes quietly dropped over the years as well; and possibly some major branches of some local routes as well.

    While I applaud Metro's efforts to improve reverse-commute service to places like Earth City, Chesterfield, etc., I am still disappointed by all the cuts that have been made. I recognize some of these routes had extremely low ridership, but some did provide connections to employment opportunities.

    Not to mention the rather recent cutback in peak-hour MetroLink service intervals from every 7.5 minutes to every 10 minutes.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    The LSRC on Praxair

    While at the Carpenter Branch Library on South Grand Blvd. this morning, I picked up a copy of the August issue of the Marquis, whose tagline is "Founded by the residents of Lafayette Square."

    Originally the newsletter for the Lafayette Square Restoration Committee, it now proclaims itself "the voice of St. Louis' strong near southside neighborhood groups, serving Benton Park, Compton Heights, Fox Park, Gate District, Lafayette Park, LaSalle Park, McKinley Heights and Tiffany neighborhoods." It is published by the Virginia Publishing Co., publishers of the West End Word.

    The Marquis is not currently available online.

    Anyway, although they now have lots of ads and some stories about the other neighborhoods, including the newly christened Shenandoah Crossings business district (Shenandoah from Grand to Jefferson, including Tanner B's, Shugga's, etc.), it is still primarily about the Square. So it's not surprising a commentary on the Praxair explosion was above the fold on the front cover, by Jim Willmore, LSRC President.

    Here are some excerpts:

    "...While communities by their very nature experience challenges, seldom does a neighborhood come close to catastrophe, as was experienced by Lafayette Square."

    "...Was there a relationship between the neighborhood and this community? (Under their prior name of Union Carbide, were they communicating with the community in Bhopal?) How did this industrial site move from handling inert gases to processing volumes of flammable and toxic materials into tanks for transport around the city?"

    "I think that the free pass that we have given to Praxair is over."

    "...Our mayor and our alderman must be congratulated. They were clear from the onset of this disaster and we as a neighborhood are clear as well. Praxair must move."

    Strong stuff, indeed.

    My response: Comparing this incident to the horrors of Bhopal is, to me, akin to Durbin comparing Gitmo abuses to the Holocaust. It's kind of like a straw man argument, except this kind of analogy seems to diminish the impact of the incident being referenced.

    An explosion that killed no one, but certainly caused extensive property damage, is not at all comparable to a massive gas leak that killed at least 3,000 people.

    Also, while I agree that Praxair should no longer have its operations within such close proximity to residences, I also think Airgas Mid-America should relocate from its location adjacent to the Grand MetroLink station.

    See my previous post on this topic.

    What really brought it home: this morning, while reading the Marquis on the #70 Grand bus, I saw an open flatbed truck from Airgas loaded with tanks, including several large tanks clearly marked as nitrogen. While those may not be as dangerous, several other tanks were marked flammable as well. This was on Grand at Chouteau.

    While I realize such hazardous materials are routinely driven around the city, particularly to and from the major medical centers and other industrial facilities, I sure don't relish the thought of being nearby when something like that explodes.

    Our city is changing. It is time to realize that some kinds of industrial operations are not compatible with certain other uses, such as:

    --Schools
    --Public Transit facilities
    --Residential areas

    We need to think more carefully about land use and zoning in the City of St. Louis. While I support mixed-use, in general, when talking about residential and retail or even most office uses in close proximity, industry is a wholly different matter.

    It is unrealistic and unreasonable to completely eliminate industrial operations from the city. However, they shouldn't be thisclose to houses or MetroLink stations.

    Monday, August 01, 2005

    More About the Un-Urban Eads Park

    While on my Saturday afternoon urban hike I didn't bring a camera, here is some pretty recent aerial photography of the area in question.

    Aerial View of Eads Park and Vicinity

    This image shows South Jefferson Ave. on the far right side (east), Lafayette Ave. on the bottom (south). On the left side (west), most of California Ave. is visible, and on the top (north) is part of Park Ave.

    A few things are evident that I neglected in my earlier post.

    1) There are actually tennis courts in Eads Park, which is also known as Eads Square Park. However, the courts look pretty much unused and are in disrepair. The park was dedicated

    2) I learned my estimate of "early 1980s" was a little off. About 1/2 the houses in the houses in the St. Vincent Court development (less prosaically called the "Lafayette Towne Resubdivision") were built in 1979; a second phase came in 1987. The north side of the 2600 block of St. Vincent, part of the "Classics of Eads Park" development by Pyramid, was built out from 1997 to 1999.

    3) The new Hodgen School, meanwhile, was built in 2000, on the site once occupied by the corrugated metal Hodgen Branch building. The old Hodgen School was extensively renovated in the late 1990s. The Lafayette Habilitation Center building dates to 1985. Eads Square Park was dedicated in 1979.

    Here's what the Neighborhood Profile from the 1999 Consolidated Plan says about this area:

    [excerpted from section entitled "History"]

    "During the late 1960s, a large amount of change took place in the neighborhood. In 1968, the federal government created the 235-subsidy program for home ownership by low-income people. Some unscrupulous real-estate companies took the program as an opportunity for profit. By working on white residents’ fears, these companies bought up homes at a low cost, which they in turn sold or rented to low-income African-American families. This practice, known as "block busting," had a huge impact on the area south of Park as widespread panic ensued. Between 1960 and 1970, the area east of Compton lost 62 percent of its population. By the early 1970s, much of the area’s housing stock had become derelict or been demolished.

    "Beginning in the 1970s, a succession of different redevelopment plans for the area arose. The first, "New Town" from 1973, suggested leveling the area east of Compton and creating a large lake, surrounded by expensive homes, enveloped by a stone wall. Residents in the area formed the Southside Forum in reaction to this plan and together managed to strike it down. By 1975, they had joined forces with the HomeBuilders Association to devise a workable plan for the community. The HomeBuilders Association sponsored the New Town in Town Redevelopment Corporation and created a redevelopment plan for what was now being calling "Lafayette Towne." The original plan proposed dramatic restructuring of the street grid into a series of cul-de-sacs, demolition of large amounts of the remaining buildings, construction of single-family homes and apartments, and the creation of communal green spaces connected by walkways.

    "Plans for Lafayette Towne continued over the next decade, but residents’ hopes dwindled as construction and redevelopment lagged behind the pace of demolition. By the late ‘80s, Pantheon, which had development rights in the area, had readied large amounts of land for construction, but only a fraction of the area had been redeveloped. Large amounts of vacant land resulted.

    "By 1990, there was a new plan for the City to buy the property from Pantheon and redevelop the area as six individual "neighborhoods" making up the Gate District. A highly acclaimed Miami firm was retained by the City to formulate a master plan for the area. The firm’s design incorporated the restoration of older buildings with new construction and created six smaller neighborhoods with distinct entrance gates and tiny parks. Problems of communication and agreement led to revision of the plan, hampering its manifestation.

    [excerpted from section entitled "Characteristics"]

    "The area east of Compton is now referred to as The Gate District East and reflects the series of planning and redevelopment efforts made since the 1970s. The 1990 Gate District Plan divided this area into four smaller neighborhoods: Buder Park, Eads Park, Saint Vincent Park, and Lafayette Terrace. The largest amount of redevelopment over the years have occurred in Buder Park, the area north of Park, and in Eads Park, east of Nebraska between Park and Lafayette.

    "Under the earlier plans, Eads Park was created at a cost of $1 million, complete with amphitheater, tennis courts, walkways and swimming pool. Two-story suburban style homes were built around cul-de-sacs just west of the park. As the momentum and funding for the construction of single family homes faltered, subsidized apartment buildings were constructed to the north. These include Caroline Apartments, Hickory Square Apartments, and apartments for the elderly. Most of the housing built during this time period is in good condition. The park, however, is a different story. The closing of streets made the park only accessible via walkways and, in a sense, cut it off from the surrounding community. Today, the amphitheater is underutilized and littered with trash. The tennis courts are in fair condition but also underutilized. The swimming pool has remained unused for at least the last decade; at this point, bulrushes are beginning to grow through the cover.

    "A substantial amount of development has occurred in these areas since the 1980s. When the city bought back the redevelopment right to the area from Pantheon, it allowed SLACO and Pyramid to begin projects in The Gate District East. SLACO formed a partnership with the developer, Vatterott, and has built new single family homes between Park and Hickory west of Buder Park.

    "In the last three years, Pyramid has constructed new two-story homes in Eads Park. These new developments have brought new residents to the area and have been particularly successful in attracting African-American professionals. Today this area is a mixture of older brick buildings, development that has taken place since the 1970s, vacant land, and newly constructed housing developments. Large portions of vacant land still exist to the west of Eads Park in the St. Vincent Park area and along Lafayette Terrace, the area south of Eads Park."

    Most of that author's comments are still accurate today about the condition of the city park. I can't figure out where the amphitheater was, however; I see no visible evidence of a stage or anything resembling such. However, there is a fire hydrant smack dab in the middle of the park, where Ohio Ave. used to be.