Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What Matters

Last night, I phoned a friend about the developing situation going on in his old St. Louis neighborhood. For forty-plus years, he lived on Columbia, just around the corner from St. Aloysius church. Last year, he and his family moved to a big new home across the Missouri River, over in St. Charles County.

He graduated from St. Aloysius in the 70s, and knew a little about the plans to demolish the church for a new subdivision. He thought the project would be an improvement to the area, and supported it. He couldn't understand why the Preservation Board denied the demolition request. What would happen now? Would the old church complex remain vacant indefinitely?

He went on to say how he thought most of the housing around the church was "dilapidated", and how new homes would bring up the area. New homes built on the St. Al's site would encourage other developers to come in and tear down dilapidated housing around the church, and a whole new neighborhood could be built, just like what is happening at Botanical Heights.

I explained how a group of historic preservation and pro-city advocates testified to save the buildings to preserve the historic fabric of the neighborhood and how they thought the buildings could be converted to some other use, such as loft condominiums.

My friend didn't understand how a church could be converted to housing. I mentioned a few examples of how it had been done before, and he said he thought whether the church would be demolished for new homes, or rehabbed, the two choices gave the city a "win-win" set of alternatives, and that either option would be good by moving new families into the area.

I could tell he really wasn't that interested in discussing the St. Al's situation. What he really wanted to do was catch up on how our two sons are progressing in sports. His son is a real strong kid, with a rocket for an arm. He told me how this off-season, he's making arrangements for him to have private pitching lessons with former Cardinal pitching star, Danny Cox. He assured me that the lessons would be expensive, but he wanted the best for his son. The boy does have a lot of potential.

Our sons started out growing up together, attending Lutheran shools and playing on the same sports teams. My friend's experience is just the opposite of ours. He grew up Catholic, and converted to the Lutheran faith as an adult. Kerri and I on the other hand were both raised Lutheran, but then converted to Catholicism a couple of years ago. It really doesn't make much difference now anyway, since Lutherans and Catholics are kind of becoming the same thing.

This winter, we're thinking of setting Matt up for some private pitching lessons too. I doubt he'll have a former Cardinal as an instructor though, that is unless they have some of them working down at the St. Louis Baseball and Fast Pitch Baseball Academy. However, I have heard that another former Cardinal pitcher is dating a woman that lives in Magdalen parish, and how we might be able to get him to give our kids some free pitching lessons. Now, that would be cool.


Anonymous said...

It would make sense that someone buying a new house in St. Charles would think the Magnolia Square homes would be good for his former neighborhood. But even this former resident of "dilapidated housing" admits that if creative conversion of the church could be done that such an outcome would still be a winning scenario for the City. As comparison, many from the old neighborhood are often surprised to learn how the old Columbia Show is now an amazingly reused space.

Urban Review - St. Louis said...

Thanks, this demonstates a common problem. People think what we have is bad and the only way to improve ourselves is to clear the area and to start fresh --- as fresh as the unspoiled farm fields of St. Charles County. We could do well for ourselves if we didn't have to spend time fighting off those people who were trying to help us.

The is the modern day version of Pruitt-Igoe: perhaps well intentioned but not the best idea.