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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Missouri

Murphy Park
(St. Louis)
Developer Makes Smart Growth Affordable
Chesterfield Commons
(St. Louis)
Mall in Floodplain Tempts Fate

Murphy Park
(St. Louis)
Developer Makes Smart Growth Affordable

As with other older Midwestern cities, St. Louis has been losing people and jobs for decades. Thankfully, some business leaders are beginning to take advantage of redevelopment opportunities created by vacated areas.

One such developer is Richard Baron. One of his newest developments is Murphy Park, a 402-unit townhouse and apartment complex on the former site of a high-rise housing project. Building began on Murphy Park in 1996 and will be completed by 2003 at a total cost of over $50 million.

The brick buildings have separate entrances, backyard patios and spacious floor plans. Many units will offer larger four- to six-bedroom homes, which are in great demand in the city. Plenty of green space has been created in the development, and amenities include a day care center, the Center of Contemporary Arts and an elementary school. The refurbished neighborhood is located in midtown St. Louis, near bus lines that feed into the popular Metrolink light-rail system.

The project is highly affordable, with 55 percent of the units reserved for low-income residents. Baron, who also raised $3.5 million to refurbish Murphy Park's Jefferson Elementary School, says he designs his developments to help address urban poverty simply because "it's the right thing to do." Other developers should follow his lead.

Chesterfield Commons
(St. Louis)
Mall in Floodplain Tempts Fate

"If it's man-made, nature can wipe it out." That was how James Lee Witt, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, summed up the construction of a new levee to replace the one destroyed by a 1993 flood that inundated Chesterfield Valley. The lesson should be obvious to the planners and public officials in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, much of which lay under 10 feet of water during the flood: Don't build in a floodplain.

Risky Business: Built in an area that was flooded seven years ago, Chesterfield Commons is tempting fate.

However, it seems that the lesson hasn't been learned. Consider Chesterfield Commons, a huge mall anchored by a Wal-Mart. Nowhere near public transportation, this gaggle of retail outlets is little more than some boxes plopped in the middle of a floodplain.

Of course, the project isn't alone. It's part of over $300 million worth of new development built or planned for an area prone to flooding. To add insult to injury, the projects are being financed by the public through a tax-increment finance district, a tool used in some places to redevelop blighted areas. And how can the city's coffers afford this? In part by raiding school and fire district funds.

This project shows the shortsightedness that besets local officials and developers alike. Let's just hope nature doesn't wipe out their mistakes as brutally as it did in 1993.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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