Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Must See TV

Channel 5, KSDK in St. Louis, reports on the improvements to the Macklind Avenue business district in the City's Southampton ("SOHA") neighborhood.

Doggie Diners

New legislation in the city permits dogs to be with their owners at outside tables at restaurants. However, the permission is only granted in certain wards.

Personally, I enjoy seeing friendly dogs in public and have no problem with well-behaved dogs joining their owners at sidewalk cafes. The concept fits with our inherited French culture.

The question I have is why the permission is only granted in certain wards? Like deciding whether to operate a smoking or non-smoking restaurant, shouldn't it be up to the owner of the restaurant whether dogs are allowed?

Then, as customers, we can decide whether we want to patronize the establishment or not. If my customers don't want dogs at the restaurant, then I probably won't be inviting them to dinner.

However, if my customers want to share their space with doggie diners, then why should the city tell me "no", if they tell my competitors across the street in a different ward they may do so?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Neighbors Debate Creating Local Historic District

The Journal has the story. McKinley Heights is the neighborhood. Both sides of the debate are well represented in the article.

Car Walk

Saturday morning about 7:15 I drove our '96 Plymouth minivan to Don Brown Dodge on South Kingshighway for its annual safety inspection. The weather was pleasant, so I decided to make the three mile walk home from the dealership.

South Kingshighway is auto dealer row, so for the first few blocks, I was able to stroll through dealership lots, checking out lots of new car models. On the Dodge lot there were sporty new models, the Toyota lot had some of those boxy Scions, and looking into the windows of one of my favorite places, Charles Schmitt, there were rows of classic cars.

I crossed Kingsighway about a block north of Chippewa to get a closer look at the Holy Ghost church. Holy Ghost sits behind the row of 1930s vintage commercial buildings fronting Kingsighway. You can see its steeple from Chippewa, many blocks to the east.

The alley on the south side of Holy Ghost backs up to some of the four-families off of Chippewa. Conditions vary on the backs of the buildings and the garages, some showing new rehab, others showing their years. One garage had no doors and the interior was filled with cast off junk.

I walked through one of those easement paths between buildings towards Chippewa, and on the other side, there was a police lady writing up a parked car for some ordinance violation. I approached her and asked the officer about open garages with loads of junk visible from the alley. She informed me that police have no jurisdiction in such cases.

You can't legislate common sense, so we're free to keep our garage doors open, and filled with junk and visible to the street if we want. This sounds like one of those delicate situations where some friendly neighbor to neighbor contact, perhaps through an NSO, might help convince the property owner to take better care of the property. Let's hope no one hears that tired "I can't control my tenants" line.

Around 7:45, crossing Chippewa, I bumped into an old friend pulling weeds in her bath robe. We talked about ten minutes, and she told me it was about another two miles from her place to ours. She said that her area had some problem tenants in recent years, but lately things have been good. The homes were being well maintained, and she said most of the 2-family properties had owner occupants.

The rest of the way was good, with the walked well-shaded by abundant street trees. Its nice walking past all the brick homes on their 25-30 foot lots. It's fascinating to see the little details in people's landscapes and years' of home improvement from block to block.

In our gridded-street neighborhood layout, there were thousands of alternate routes of commercial and residential blocks, streets and alleys, for that three mile walk home. Just guessing here, but I've heard that our city has some three or four thousand total miles of streets and alleys. And believe it or not, there are St. Louisans in the middle of quests to walk every block of it during their lifetime.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fox 2 Promotes City Life - Block Party Season Arrives

Fox 2 Morning Crew Visits City Block Party; the block party season is on!

Where else but St. Louis are neighbors crazy enough to show up for a 7:00 AM block party? Hey, it's Friday!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Highlights from Recent STL Fed Conference Available Online

You can visit the May 2007 STL Federal Reserve community development finance conference as a virtual guest by clicking Exploring Innovation.

Site courtesy of the STL Federal Reserve Bank.

Funny Site Promotes Benefits of City Living

Created by the historic rehab pros at LoftWorks

SLPS Turn the Page

After many years of turmoil, the SLPS have turned the page to begin a new chapter. An interim board takes control today, comprised of a diverse group of St. Louisans: A major home builder, a former Metropolis St. Louis president, and a long-time city businessman and SLPS parent and grand parent.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It's all about substitution

The best when to analyze a market is to think in terms of substitution. Are the prices of comparable opportunities equal or higher to my choice? If so, then I'm probably paying about right.

In real estate, for example, is that house I'm thinking of buying on this block similar to the one for sale a block away? How similar? Is it in like condition? Is it less expensive? Is the block as nice? If so, then I'll probably go to the substitute and leave my original choice behind.

The idea of choosing substitute opportunities has me thinking about recent news of some popular people leaving St. Louis. We always are sad to see talented people not "choose" St. Louis. It makes some of us feel a little rejected.

When people leave, especially in such a strong neighborhood place as St. Louis, it can make us feel a little less validated about our own decision to choose St. Louis. For a long time, St. Louis has had issues and challenges in retaining young people. However, when people leave, they are making a similar substitute decision.

What are they substituting? Weather. Traffic. History. Neighborhoods. Friends. Cost of living. Gritty urban fabric. Stable economy. Strong academic institutions. Great parks. Easy access around town. Lots of free amenities. Great restaurants. Overall, a great quality of life.

A friend and I were discussing this issue yesterday. I was asking him about what sorts of things would motivate him to leave St. Louis. Then we talked about it in terms of the overall substitution choice. You might get better urban density somewhere else, say in Manhattan or downtown Chicago, but what about the cost of living? You get the idea.

So what about you? Are there substitution choices so powerful that they'd motivate you to leave town? Besides a lover, a job, a teaching assignment?

For years, weather was a huge choice, driving millions of people to California. However, now other factors in a California choice, such as congested roads and high living costs, are having would- be emigrants to the west coast reconsidering the California option.

If you put everything in the lifestyle substitution basket together, you have your overall quality of life. Has anyone ever seen a quality of life ranking for US Regions? It would be interesting to see how St. Louis rates.

However, these lists always seem a little suspect. San Francisco probably rates very highly in terms of quality of life. However, unless you're an investment banker, a real estate tycoon, a dot-com millionaire, or a trust fund baby, you would have a hard time affording it.

If you're like most average income Americans, by choosing San Francisco, you'd be living in an area with great scenery, resort weather, congested roads, and probably crowded into a tiny apartment or a house under a freeway interchange. Which substitutions are you willing to make?

Monday, June 04, 2007

STL Rising - From 630 Feet

Have you heard about Archfund, a new organization seeking to secure supporters to help maintain and promote our town's most recognizable symbol? The flash version of the website has some great views of the Arch.

Market at McKnight in Rock Hill

Rising at the corner of McKnight and Manchester is an interesting looking mixed use development.

Fronting along the south side of Manchester Road are smaller-sized retail spaces, with parking to the rear of them (out of view from Manchester), and then larger-sized stores are in the back. Future phases of the project are planned for residential.

With most of the buildings now standing, the form of the development is readily recognizable: it will be new urbanism in the heart of St. Louis County.

Friday, June 01, 2007


With our semi-tropical warm season climate, St. Louis gets lots of rain in the March through June months. Our emerald green forested neighborhoods and countless flower gardens love the moisture, but all the rain wreaks havoc on amateur baseball schedules.

The rain makes it especially tough on the adult volunteers. They go in to the commitment with no idea of how much time they will ultimately give. Matt plays on two teams: a Catholic parish team and a more competitive South County team.

As of June 1, the parish team has only played one game this year, with six rainouts. Every time there's a rainout, the managers (dads usually) have to meet to schedule a makeup game. And with lots of the kids having various other scheduling commitments, rescheduling games is no easy proposition.

With a big rain, sometimes it can take 2-4 days for the fields to dry out, and if rain falls three or four days in a row, it's possible that a whole week's worth of games can be postponed ("PPD"). So, thanks to the moms and dads that keep youth baseball going. Without their commitment, the kids wouldn't get to play.

Who knows if the Old Man River vision, with its plan to build a mile-wide umbrella-inspired covering over a portion of the East St. Louis riverfront and downtown, will ever be realized. But if it came with baseball fields, I bet there'd be lots of St. Louis kids ready to cross the river to spend spring and summer afternoons and evenings in downtown East St. Louis!

As far as tonight's Baseball and Bricks fundraiser for Mullanphy, news regarding field conditions at Heine Meine can be had by calling the rainout number, at 314-638-8524. Keep in mind that it might be dry in Old North St. Louis, with a monsoon happening just a few miles away. If skys are threatening, best to call right before game time. The field crew (one or two guys with a small tractor and some soil drying agents) does everything in its power to get the games played. Tonight's game is scheduled on the big field for 8:00 o'clock.

With all the rain in the area yesterday, they were still able to get last night's games in at Heine Meine. Meanwhile, just a couple of miles away, games at Carondelet Park, were all rained out. As of this moment Friday morning, tonight's games at Heine Meine are still scheduled. Stay tuned...strong thunderstorms are predicted for the St. Louis area later today.