Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Random Observations of Late

Random Observations of Late

Here's a few quick thoughts I've had lately on things I've observed in the St. Louis region:

1) The Teddy-Bear Shrine Thing

Last Thursday night around 8 PM, 18-year-old Jerome Wilson, of the 3100 block of Sidney, was shot several times and killed while riding a bicycle in the 2800 block of Wyoming. This happened less than two blocks from my house; we heard about it from a neighbor Saturday morning; and the Post-Dispatch provided the name and details. As of Sunday, police had no strong leads or suspects.

As of this morning, at least a dozen teddy bears and other stuffed animals are strapped onto a no-parking signpost in front of 2804 Wyoming, adjacent to the Benton Park West Neighborhood Garden at California and Wyoming. Also on the street or the curb are a number of notes in glass bottles. On the back of the no-parking sign, "R.I.P." graffiti is scrawled in black marker, similar to the kind of stuff you'll find on street-corner trash can lids around the neighborhood.

I guess the teddy bears represent lost innocence, as I've previously noticed with a smaller memorial on Nebraska near Wyoming in January for a 16-year-old killed while allegedly robbing a cab driver.

Still, this corner is one that is surrounded by reinvestment on many levels. I already mentioned the well-established and beautiful community garden. Across California, EnergyCare has invested their limited funds into their offices, with a new secured parking lot in back and some facade repairs. Across Wyoming, Millennium Restoration and Development is planning to convert the long-abandoned three-story J&R Tavern building into two $250,000-plus condominiums; and on the fourth (NE) corner of the intersection, Blue Brick Construction plans to rehab another abandoned commercial building for their offices. Also work is well underway on their nearby single-family rehab at 2817 Wyoming.

Yet despite all the good things happening in BPW, this violent crime persists. It can be quite discouraging, to say the least.

2) Buzz Westfall Plaza on the Boulevard

Yesterday's Post-Dispatch notes the opening of the new Buzz Westfall Plaza on the Boulevard, located on the former site of Northland Shopping Center, mostly obliterated (except the outparcels of Blockbuster and US Bank) to make way for the new big-box strip center anchored on the east by Target (now open) and on the west by Schnucks (opening next week).

With the opening of the new Westfall Plaza Schnucks, two pre-existing stores will close:

*The Jennings store at West Florissant and Jennings Station, a 50,000-square foot stand-alone structure built in 1985 (probably as a National) on a site located mostly in Jennings but with the West Florissant frontage actually in the village of Flordell Hills. Hopefully, the two municipalities can cooperate to redevelop the site.

*The Dellwood store at 10148 West Florissant, about a 1/4 mile north of Chambers Road, in a mid-sized strip mall built in 1974. Hopefully, the City of Dellwood will implement a redevelopment plan for this site, along with numerous unoccupied or partly occupied surrounding commercial properties along West Florissant and at the intersection with Chambers Road. Next to the entrance to this center, called Springwood Plaza, a former Steak N Shake has been converted to, of all things, a payday loan office. Bizarrely, they kept the trademark black-and-white awnings!

3) St. Charles Convention Center

Yesterday was my first visit to the St. Charles Convention Center, located just off the 5th Street exit from I-70, actually at Veterans Memorial Drive (I-70 south outer road) and Fairgrounds Road (overpass). The facility is nice enough, with a dramatic mural in the lobby depicting George Caleb Bingham's The Jolly Flatboatmen.

What's really odd, though, is how the upper-level entrance that's visible from I-70 and adjacent to the attached Embassy Suites Hotel, is actually the Ballroom entrance. The main exposition hall entrance is on the lower-level, accessed from a large entryway totally invisible from I-70 or its outer road. You go down what appears to be a dead-end road (Fairgrounds Road), then turn right at the dead-end to enter the massive parking lot.

Eventually you curve around and see the main entrance. Across a wide sea of surface parking, there's still a subdivision of 1960s/70s ranch houses just to the west of the Convention Center. One wonders, though, whether future plans include converting that into commercial use at some point.

It's a decent facility I suppose, but of course only accessible by car. The SCAT bus (Blue Route) may stop there, but that's only a shuttle route looping within the southern part of the city of St. Charles to and from the senior center. There's no connection across the Missouri River, unless you could schedule your arrival on one of the afternoon-only westbound I-70 commuter SCAT trips like the 1:30 PM trip; but then you'd still need to get a ride across the Missouri River to get back into the city in the evening. At the very least, you'd have to take a cab from the SCCC to, say, Riverport, where you could catch the #34 Earth City bus to North Hanley MetroLink station. Obviously, walking across the Blanchette Bridge is not only impossibly dangerous, but also illegal.

So, naturally I got a ride from a colleague both ways to/from inner-ring North County.

Eventually, St. Charles County will realize it needs an effective public transit system serving the most populous parts of the county. Eventually, St. Charles County's population may surpass that of the City of St. Louis. The 2006 Census Bureau estimates suggest about 347,300 population in St. Louis City; 324,600 in St. Charles County.

While I live in the City and really appreciate many of the great things we have available to us, I don't so much appreciate the level of criminal and delinquent activity that sits so close to my doorstep. Some of it is exacerbated by public policy decisions, which infuriates me further. So, yeah, sometimes it is just more fun to go out, visit and critique the surrounding suburbs.


Urban Review said...

Oh great, another new Schnuck's store. So now I gotta drive up to North County to see how the Northland site was reborn from one sprawl solution to the current mode of sprawl development.

Adam said...

aThe old Jennings Schnucks was built as a National, and Schnucks acquired it in 1995. This store is identical in design to the National in St. Peters, which sat vacant until Cummins Tools opened there in late 2003.