(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.
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
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
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