Oh Yeah, Real People Still Live in St. Louis Place

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Update: The entire area seen in these pictures was cleared for the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in 2017. The City of St. Louis cut ties with Paul McKee’s Northside in June of 2018.

Earlier this February, I came across some strange sights in the footprint of McKee’s failed Northside project, where the city is now hoping the NGA’s new campus will be located. For some reason, furrows have been cut through many properties, bringing broken bricks and other debris to the surface. Certainly it seems like someone is looking for something. The trenches have since been filled in due to resident complaints.

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But down at the site of the now demolished St. Leo’s, there is a lot more going on than usual. A Post-Dispatch article explains that the protest by two men was broken up by the police and the signs were removed from McKee’s property per his request (see photos accompanying article).

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However, just as I suspected, and confirmed by looking at property lines, on February 6, when I photographed the site, the various elements were clearly moved back onto McKee’s property sometime after the 1st.

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Besides the manger scene, a candle stick and the sign, there was a reference to a famous papal encyclical, Rerum Novarum. It mainly deals with capital and labor, and how the Roman Catholic Church would deal with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution (which had already been around for a century by the time the encyclical was published in 1891).

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Not surprisingly, due to the fact that no one really comes around here very often, the protest remains. And of course, as we argue about the NGA coming here, the area continues to rot.

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I stopped by on Saturday, February 27th, and was surprised to see that several people had returned. Gustavo Rendon and Terry Chapman were back, and I chatted with them for a while. They spoke to me of the toll it has taken on residents who still live in their homes in the eminent domain area. Their houses, and lives they have built here, are not abstract concepts. Gustavo’s wife, Sheila, whom I have spoken to in the past, came out and joined us. This whole stupid Northside Project has wasted a decade, at least, of redevelopment, which had already been occurring in other parts of the neighborhood. They told me they would stay out there, reminding people that they still exist.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. CfR says:

    I really do feel torn by this NGA thing. I fully believe that the City desperately needs the Agency to stay put in the city limits, although I wouldn’t be to happy about losing my home either – especially when the “market value” of a house in that footprint most likely won’t get you very far when trying to purchase a home anywhere else. It especially sucks that they are kind of in limbo right now, not knowing 100% which way it will go.

    If only we had landed that Stadium deal, boy howdy that would have solved ALL the problems!

    1. Chris says:

      I know, it is tough. We need the money from the earnings tax on the NGA’s employees, but what happens when the Scott AFB site is chosen? Then what?

  2. Sean says:

    I can’t stomach cordoning off a huge swath of the City for the NGA. Seems incredibly short-sighted.

  3. Pete says:

    NGA = be gone. The city needs more people/groups/entities that actually want to be here, and if the NGA wants to leave, I’d rather them leave than have the city eminent domain property, give up boatloads of money in TIF or tax incentive money, etc. Some day, year, decade, century, whatever…maybe STL “leaders” will grow a backbone, do the right thing, and spend their time and efforts on the people and businesses that want to be here, not kissing the ass – however big it may be – of everybody threatening to leave.

    1. Yojimbo says:

      Have to agree with Sean and Pete. Let’s help the small-scale, house-by-house, block-by-block, corner-by-corner, school-by-school rehabbers, developers, residents, and civic leaders. The devastation of the North Side took 50 years of racism and neglect to create; it’ll take that long for responsible incremental redevelopment to restore.

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