JeffVanderLou Media North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North St. Louis Place

Near North Bus Tour Responses

by Michael R. Allen

On Wednesday, I led a bus tour of Old North, St. Louis Place and JeffVanderLou for listeners of Charlie Brennan’s show on KMOX. Yesterday, Charlie took calls from those who took the tour. Listen to their responses here.

JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Corner Storefront on Cass Avenue

by Michael R. Allen

This corner storefront and at 2742 Cass Avenue in JeffVanderLou was one of the properties recently purchased by Larmer LC from the Cass Corporation for $739,000. Actually, these are two separate buildings. While Geo St. Louis dates the buildings to 1885, that’s probably wrong. Most of the Geo St. Louis building information comes from unreliable city records, not building permits. Likely, these buildings are earlier and the storefronts added later.

Across the city in the post-Civil War era, many builders built tenement housing over commercial space like this on streets in “suburban” areas away from the central city. Some streets were main thoroughfares and shifted to commercial uses. When those changes came, building owners would often reconfigure tenement buildings with ground-floor commercial uses by putting a cast iron storefront in place of the brick wall on the first floor. That’s what seems to be the case here. In other cases, storefronts were inserted in place of residential space.

The cast iron front allowed for greater glazed area than a heavy masonry wall; stores needed exposure of goods to the passers-by. This was long before automobile-clad consumers learned about goods through television and computers before heading to the local windowless big box.

Cast iron fronts are structural as well as decorative. The columns, poured into attractive classical forms, bear the weight distributed across the front by paired steel I-beams. Adding wide storefronts must have been interesting surgery!

DALATC JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North St. Louis Board of Aldermen St. Louis Place

Will Aldermen Consider McKee Plan This Year?

by Michael R. Allen

My latest “Inside the Metropolis” column for the Vital Voice is more timely than I imagined when I submitted it:

Will Aldermen Consider McKee Plan This Year?

Fire JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

Things We Lost in the Fires

by Michael R. Allen

Here’s a round up of photographs of some of the buildings in JeffVanderLou and St. Louis Place that were part of the eleven-building arson spree this weekend. All of these buildings were vacant at the time of the fires.

Barbara Manzara has published a map of the fires here.)

2633R Palm Avenue, owned by Cleo and Zerline Terntine

3015 Elliott Avenue, owned by Sheridan Place LC*

3114R Glasgow Avenue (actually faces Elliott), owned by MLK 3000 LLC*

2519 Sullivan Avenue (left), owned by Jesse and Davis Thomas, adjacent to brick-rsutled 2517 Sullivan Avenue, owned by Dodier Investors LC* (See earlier photo at Built St. Louis.)

2206-10 Hebert Street, owned by Blairmont Associates LC* (Minimal fire damage; see earlier photo at Built St. Louis.)

2507 Hebert Street, owned by Blairmont Associates LC* (See earlier photo at Built St. Louis.)

2523 Dodier Street, owned by Larmer LC (Minimal fire damage.)

2547 Dodier Street, owned by Larmer LC

2566 Dodier Street, owned by Blairmont Associates LC*

A KMOX news story about the fires is online here.

*Denotes holding company tied to Paul J. McKee, Jr. (More here.)

Demolition JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

We’re Losing the Intersection of Glasgow and St. Louis

by Michael R. Allen

The lovely urban setting shown here (in a photograph contributed by Anthony Coffin) will soon not exist. Shown here, looking south, are the northeast and southeast corners of the intersection of Glasgow and St. Louis Avenues in the city’s JeffVanderLou and Lindell Park neighborhoods. The west corners are occupied by historic houses, creating a contrast that is visually arresting without being jarring. The east corners are marked by these commercial buildings — the iconic, turreted flatiron and the imposing three-story stone-faced mass across the street (subject of a July 2007 blog entry of mine).

Adjacent to the three-story storefront building is an elegant stone-faced tenement building with mansard roof. Behind the storefront building is a flat-roofed two-story alley house — a vestige of the neighborhoods’ historic density. The group is a complementary group of particularly refined examples of old-school St. Louis vernacular forms. Across the street, the flatiron building is almost unparalleled among surviving commercial buildings in north St. Louis. Both the shape and the metal-clad turret (with surviving detail!) are singular. While beautiful in itself, the corner building is dramatized by the fact that it bookends a largely intact row of residences. Whoever designed the corner building understood how to finesse the dynamics of its lot shape and location.

Obviously, the corner and the neighborhood have seen better days. Three out of the four corners here are vacant and owned by holding companies controlled by Paul J. McKee, Jr. After McKee bought these buildings, trouble set in. Last year, knowing that the consequences in north city are low, brick rustlers ravaged the alley house and tenement on the southwest corner. Perhaps the bricks went to a larger brick yard just a few blocks away; perhaps they went to the county. We can be sure that the bricks have long left the city and the state, and that the buildings have since suffered partial collapses.

On December 21, the city’s Building Division ordered emergency demolition of the tenement, alley house and storefront at the southeast corner. On December 26, the Building Division ordered demolition of the flatiron and the attached city-owned house to its east. One can see that the tenement was severely damaged and that the alley house was indeed in danger of collapse. But the emergency situation of the two storefront buildings seems to be that they are near the other buildings and the Building Division needs more buildings to demolish.

Sure, the flatiron building has some brick spalling evident, mostly on its St. Louis Avenue elevation where thieves stole decorative brick awhile ago. But where are the public safety issues with it and the other commercial building? Did inspectors go inside of these buildings and find hidden conditions necessitating demolition? Or are we seeing the careless attitude that continues to render north side residents second-class citizens when it comes to historic preservation?

Looking at the details of these fine buildings is heartbreaking. The flatiron’s storefront, with corner entrance to store and punctuating brick arched entrance to the stairs, is odd. The metalwork on the turret shows sharp detail over 100 years after fabrication and painting. The slight height difference between the other commercial building and tenement along with the tenement’s setback accentuates the corner building perfectly. Intact wooden cornice details on this pair draw the eye upward. One could spend hours looking at these buildings — and must do so soon. These photographs date to last week; the alley house is completely gone as of this writing. Your tax dollars are, as they say, at work.

Here are links to the demolition permits:
2845 St. Louis Avenue (flatiron)
2854 St. Louis Avenue (tenement)
2858 St. Louis Avenue (commercial building and alley house)

(All photographs by Anthony Coffin; more here.)

JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North Public Policy St. Louis Place

Public Forum on Large Scale Development in North St. Louis


The neighborhood impact of vacant properties and rebuilding our community

A public forum will be held in the auditorium of Vashon High School at 3035 Cass Avenue on Thursday, August 30th at 6 p.m. The forum is co-sponsored by Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin (Ward 5), Alderwoman Marlene Davis (Ward 19), Rep. Jamilah Nasheed (District 60) and Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford (District 59).

This forum will be an opportunity for residents, business owners, developers, neighborhood stabilization officers and other city services workers, and state and local elected officials to come together to discuss development in the community.

Topics will include:
– concerns over large numbers of vacant buildings and parcels being held by developers, including the reported 40 acres owned by Paul McKee
– ways area residents can influence state and local laws and policies, including the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit being considered in Special Session by the General Assembly
– and ways to make each block a safer and more pleasant place to live

The goals of the evening are:
– To give area residents an opportunity to voice their concerns
– To make progress toward a consensus on how to improve neighborhood safety, stimulate the local economy, and rebuild the community

Contact: Anthony Coffin
Phone: 314-498-0483

JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North St. Louis Place

Facts About Paul McKee’s North Side Properties

State Representatives Jeanette Oxford and Jamilah Nasheed and Alderwomen April Ford-Griffin and Marlene Davis distributed a version of this document at a press conference on August 16, 2007.

What we know about the Blairmont companies

Paul J. McKee, Jr., is a developer who is chairman of McEagle Properties LLC (636-561-9300), a company specializing in large-scale planned mix-use developments, including Winghaven in St. Charles County. McEagle has never undertaken a project in the city of St. Louis. McKee is also vice chairman of BJC Healthcare, board member of Enterprise Bank & Trust Company and a board member of the National Privatization Council.[1]

The first of McKee’s north side holding companies was incorporated in June 2002. Ten separate companies acquiring property in the Near North Side have been traced to McKee: Blairmont Associates LC, VHS Partners LLC, Sheridan Place LC, N&G Ventures LC, Noble Development Company LLC, MLK 3000 LLC, Allston Alliance LC, Dodier Investors LLC, Babcock Resources LC and Path Enterprise Company LLC.[2] McKee’s companies are represented by Eagle Realty Company (314-421-1111).

An unprecedented scale of acquisitions

Purchases began in June 2003 and continue to this day.[3] The total number of parcels in north St. Louis owned by these companies was 662 at the end of June 2007.[4] The companies own property on over 150 different blocks.

The holding companies has purchased land from private individuals and churches as well as the Board of Education. His companies have not purchased land from the city government. Early purchases consisted largely of vacant properties, but most purchases since 2006 have involved occupied houses. In February 2007 McKee stated he was only interested in acquiring “abandoned buildings in the unpopulated areas of north St. Louis.”[5] Since that statement, he has continued to purchase occupied buildings.

Neighborhoods affected include all of Old North St. Louis, all of St. Louis Place and most of JeffVanderLou. The project includes most of the 5th Ward, a significant section of the 19th Ward and a small number of scattered parcels in the 3rd and 6th wards of the city of St. Louis. The project lies within the 58th and 60th Missouri Legislative Districts as well as in the 5th Missouri Senatorial District.

The properties are located within the boundaries of three national historic districts (Murphy-Blair, Mullanphy, Clemens House-Columbia Brewery) and include properties that contribute to at least two potential historic districts.

A record of neglect

The holding companies only purchase vacant properties, insisting that tenants in occupied buildings be evicted prior to sales.

The holding companies have failed to maintain his properties, causing city government to spend over $260,000 since 2004 to maintain their properties (the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the companies still owe $37,000 of this figure to the city).[6] These properties have been cited for hundreds of healthy and safety code violations, and one of his companies was even sued by the Building Division.[7] Many are located adjacent to rehabilitated or newly-constructed homes, and homeowners have repeatedly complained about adverse affects. In some cases, Blairmont owns one or two vacant properties on blocks that are full of occupied buildings or near elementary schools (Ames and Columbia).

A record of secrecy

McKee’s companies have yet to release plans, concepts or ideas about any planned development to the public, or to the aldermen who represent the affected area. While surrounding his plans with secrecy, he is asking for one of the largest tax credits in Missouri history to subsidize continued purchases. After residents of north St. Louis uncovered McKee’s identity, he issued a public statement saying that he was “surprised that citizens wanted to broadcast who was behind the acquisitions” that have damaged their communities.[8] Despite recent attention, Paul McKee still refuses to directly answer questions from the press and elected officials about his plans.

Impediment to development

The holding companies tie up an inventory of neglected historic buildings that they are unwilling to sell to interested potential homeowners. Holdings are often located adjacent to properties that are being renovated. Significant rehabilitation work is underway in Old North St. Louis and St. Louis Place in particular, where remaining buildings are difficult to find for future home and business owners. Properties owned by McKee are preventing people from investing in the future of these areas. Vacant properties generate minimal tax revenue and economic activity, while rehabbed buildings create immediate economic impact.


1. McEagle Properties website,

2. List of Blairmont Companies,

3. Land Record, Office of the Recorder of Deeds, City of St. Louis.

4. Michael Allen, “McKee’s Holdings Ready for Development,”

5. Lisa Brown, “Evolution of the ‘CAVE man’,” St. Louis Business Journal, February 16, 2007.
6. Jake Wagman, “Developer pays city to ‘treat’ eyesores,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2007.

7. Jake Wagman, “Manor with murky ties to Twain is a mess,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 24, 2005.

8. Lisa Brown, “Evolution of the ‘CAVE man’,” St. Louis Business Journal, February 16, 2007.

Events JeffVanderLou Missouri Legislature North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North St. Louis Place

Legislators Host Press Conference and Tour of Near North Side Neighborhoods

State Representatives Jeanette Mott-Oxford (D-59th) and Jamilah Nasheed (D-60th) are hosting a press conference and tour tomorrow, Thursday August 16, to showcase the how properties owned by developer Paul J. McKee, Jr. on the north side have created detrimental conditions within and served as an impediment to the ongoing development of the JeffVanderLou, St. Louis Place and Old North St. Louis neighborhoods.

This is your opportunity to hear from the persons who know this issue best, elected officials and residents of the 5th and 19th wards. Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin and Alderwoman Marlene Davis will be on hand to share information about the McKee properties and redevelopment efforts underway in their wards. The event starts at a tent at 2950 Montgomery at 10 a.m., where elected officials and residents will make statements. A bus tour of the wards begins at 10:30 a.m..

Here are directions to the meeting site: From I-44 or Highway 40, take the Grand exit and go north. From I-70, take the Grand exit and go south. Montgomery is one block south of St. Louis Avenue. Go east on Montgomery to the tent and bus at 2950. Call 314-775-8940 if you need further directions.

Historic Preservation JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

One Lovely Storefront Building in JeffVanderLou

This beautiful corner commercial building stands at the southeast corner of Glasgow and St. Louis avenues in JeffVanderLou. (The mansard-roofed tenement to the east is also worthy of appreciation.) The date is likely some time in the 1880s. The front elevation on St. Louis is clad in white Missouri limestone over a cast-iron storefront and under a galvanized sheet metal cornice. One charming detail is the recessed, chamfered storefront entrance that creates one of those delightful corner triangular stoops found on many local commercial buildings. The limestone wraps the corner on Glasgow, but after one window bay the wall is brick. Overall, the stylistic effect is Italianate.

One detail that mesmerizes me when I look at this building is on the side elevation, where the galvanized cornice ends. Here, brick corbelling continues the cornice line. However, the classical formalism of the bracketed cornice gives way to abstract masonry, where all angles are right and nary a curve can be found. The tenor of the cornice line changes sharply, but the line itself extends so that even the secondary elevation has an articulated crown. The different treatments only give the eye yet one more different element to look at — one more demonstration of the expressive qualities of 19th century architectural vernacular.

This building is large for a corner commercial building, with ample space on the upper floors for residential or office uses. It is located just two blocks east of Grand Avenue. At the corner of Grand and St. Louis, the even larger Grand-St. Louis Building, recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is about to undergo renovation. While blocks south and east of the corner of St. Louis and Glasgow are marked by open land and vacancy, the blocks west and north are mostly occupied and well-kept. This building is at a pivotal point in JeffVanderLou, and its future reuse is both feasible and meaningful for the neighborhood.

The building is owned by VHS Partners LLC, a holding company controlled by developer Paul J. McKee, Jr. as part of his large-scale north side redevelopment project. Hopefully its preservation is part of his plan; he is fortunate to own such a unique building with amazing potential.

Unfortunately, according to records on Geo St. Louis, the city Building Division condemned the building for demolition on May 8, 2007. A separate two-story alley building behind this building has also been condemned for demolition, although given the fact that brick thieves have removed nearly two whole walls, the condemnation is more understandable. The storefront building at the corner is in sound condition.

Historic Preservation JeffVanderLou Mayor Slay North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North St. Louis Place

McKee’s Holdings Ready for Development

by Michael R. Allen

In a written statement sent to Riverfront Times reporter Kathleen McLaughlin, developer Paul J. McKee, Jr. remarked of his north side holdings, “what we do own, with a few unremarkable exceptions, is owned in small, undevelopable scattered sites.”

McKee is wrong on several counts:

– The most desirable and sustainable development in any urban area is precisely done in small, scattered sites. Great cities are built through accumulation, not master planning — the same goes for great redevelopment. McKee’s 662+ parcels were each developable, or they never would have been surveyed and divided as parcels. These are not good sites for large buildings or homes with generous front lawns, but they are perfect for dense urban infill construction.

– With property values rising throughout the city, all property in the city is “developable” — especially land as close to downtown as McKee’s holdings are. Even what he owns now could lead to an extremely profitable develoment program.

– McKee owns dozens of historic buildings in the Murphy-Blair, Clemens House-Columbia Brewery and Mullanphy National Historic Districts — many adjacent to rehabilitated buildings or soon-to-be rehabilitated buildings. Obviously, he’s already eligible for an established and proven state development tax credit: the historic rehabilitation tax credit. His Paric Corporation can been seen all over the city serving as general contractor on numerous historic rehabilitation contracts utilizing the tax credit, and that company does good work. He could proceed with rehabilitating all of his holdings eligible for the state historic tax credit and make a huge and qualitative difference in north St. Louis.

– In Old North St. Louis and the eastern side of St. Louis Place, McKee’s holdings fall among rehabbed buildings, maintained houses, businesses and new construction. Large-scale development is not only unfeasible in these areas, it’s not needed. There already is development activity scattered in these areas. On some blocks, everything is in good repair except the holdings of McKee and the city’s Land Reutilization Authority. Surely he can put together development projects on a small scale where they will make such a critical difference.

Overall, McKee’s holdings are a remarkable development opportunity as-is. Rather than wait for big political deals to take shape, the developer is posed to start now on meaningful development based on community needs and sensitivity to the existing urban fabric. In fact, if he only rehabbed every building eligible for the state rehab tax credit the difference on the near north side would be clear. If that statement doesn’t seem true, one need only look at the result of the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance’s CONECT project on North Market and Monroe streets in Old North St. Louis. There, scattered rehabs using the state historic rehab tax credit and other existing financing mechanisms changed the character of some blocks from hopeless to hopeful. Simultaneous construction of new houses helped make the difference bigger. Some of these blocks are unrecognizable in their renewed states.

As such good changes take place, they spread — fast. Private development is at an all-time high in Old North St. Louis. Within a few years, the 14th Street Mall will be reopened and dozens of historic buildings will be rehabilitated as part of that project. In short time, figuring out what to do with all of the vacant land in the neighborhood won’t be a problem; the gaps will fill in. This won’t happen in even ten years, but I’d be surprised if it takes more than thirty. Given the magnitude of the decline of the neighborhood, that is remarkably fast.

With careful planning, McKee could identify other potential historic districts among his holdings and carry that momentum westward into JeffVanderLou. That process seems to coincide with Mayor Slay’s statement that historic preservation is part of what will happen in development of McKee’s holdings.

The large scale on which McKee has operated is hardly visionary any more. We have watched decades of such projects fail. In the meantime, we have seen developers make bigger differences in reversing decay by tackling the city on a parcel-by-parcel basis — the same way the city was first developed. McKee has the chance to do something unique by putting his resources and energy behind smarter urban development projects. No matter what happens, development of his parcels will take decades. Why not start now and work steadily doing something no other developer can do?