Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Targeting the hole in the donut

One of the negative descriptors for St. Louis over the years has been that it's like a donut: hollowed out in the middle. That description hurts, but there is some truth to it. Ground zero for the hole in the donut is where Paul McKee has set his sights for redevelopment.

There has been a lot of speculation for years about McKee's plans. The only thing known for certain is that his companies have bought up a lot of land inside the hole in the donut.

In that area, there remain some long time residents, a collection of historic buildings, the original city street grid, and lots of work to be done. Given the long time disinvestment in the area, it doesn't fit the traditional CDC driven model of community development.

There are community development corporations with capacity working in adjoining neighborhoods, such as Old North St. Louis Restoration Group. However, at the center of the "Blairmont" area, they are hard to find. There's not much left, especially in terms of "critical mass". Nonetheless, there are lots of organizations and other constituencies with an interest in what happens.

The hole in the donut creates an opportunity. The challenge is how we remake the area. Not just physcially, but by what means and through what community model.


GMichaud said...

While I like the blue ribbon panel idea, I think Steve Wilke-Shapiro gets to the heart of the matter when he points to the lack of community representation at the table in any redevelopment project.

The stakes are enormous for our culture and for our children, we can't keep doing half ass projects so some guy and his wealthy partners can become even more wealthy.

The involvement of the community would be a huge step.
The question goes back to whether a blue ribbon panel is it going to consist of a few token neighborhood people, or will it be structured for serious input into community development.

The fact there is a hole in the donut is no excuse to give McKee carte blanche. I agree there is a huge opportunity presented.
It should lie with the community and the larger city, not just some developer whose has a personal scheme to extort as much money from the state and local governments, while creating a project that only harms citizens.

The long term disinvestment in this area can be traced to government/business policies. It is no more natural than the Paul McKee personal tax credits.

Anonymous said...

Once blight is declared, the doughnut has no control over its hole.

Rick Bonasch said...

@ Anon at 11:00 am - good use of the donut metaphor, however, here's where you're mistaken.

Let's say the donut represents the St. Louis community, you and me, and the hole represents the void.

Say a redevelopment plan is approved for the hole. That plan would include a finding of blight.

The redevelopment plan is established by the donut - you and me - working through our public process.

The language in the redevlopment plan is the result of a creative process.

The donut does not lose control of its hole. to the contrary: the donut sets forth a plan for its hole.

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