Neon North County Signs St. Louis County

“We Knead Your Dough”

Those who love vintage neon signs, good donuts AND puns really love the Country Inn Donut Drive-In sign at 9426 Lewis and Clark Boulevard (just north of Jennings Station Road).
Housing Mid-Century Modern North County St. Louis County

Ranch House Renewal in Ferguson

by Michael R. Allen

Today’s St. Louis Beacon carries an article about the inner-ring St. Louis County suburb of Ferguson’s attempt to revitalize neighborhoods composed largely of small postwar ranch houses. Rosalind Williams, director of planning and development for the city, has plans to save some of these homes by expanding them. From the article by Mary Delach Leonard:

Williams says the plan is to buy the homes and then “right-size” them by adding a bedroom or bathroom to make them more attractive to home buyers. The long-term goal: neighborhood stabilization.

Ferguson has continued its efforts to identify potential historic districts, including neighborhoods of smaller mid-century homes. In today’s economy, those smaller houses might be looking as good as they did fifty years ago.

Abandonment Architecture Forest Park Southeast Industrial Buildings North County St. Louis County

Industrial Inspiration?

by Michael R. Allen

There seems to be more than a passing resemblance between the Forest Park Southeast hotel designs that Drury Inn presented at a recent neighborhood meeting and the abandoned Lever Soap Plant in Pagedale. The three-dimensional renderings of two hotel buildings planned for a site at the southeast corner of the Kingshighway and I-64/40 interchange are in a conceptual phase, but their apparent industrial inspiration is somewhat encouraging.

Here is a close-up of one of the hotels:

Here is the Lever Plant, a lovely composition of industrial economy:
Just sayin’.

Historic Preservation National Register North County St. Louis County

Once-Disputed House in Florissant Listed on National Register

Florissant house added to National Register – Brian Flinchpaugh (North County Journal, September 17)

Demolition North County Salvage St. Louis County

"A new chapter of the story writing itself in my backyard"

Please read Toby Weiss’ blog entry “The River Roads Memorial Garden” over at B.E.L.T..

That is all.

Missouri Legislature North County North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Media Coverage of McKee’s North St. Louis Plans Has Increased

by Michael R. Allen

Here is a review of recent media coverage of Paul J. McKee, Jr.’s plans for north St. Louis. Times have changed when all I have to do is link to the work of others.

Even on Donnybrook

The old gang on KETC’s Donnybrook program brought up Paul McKee’s plans for north St. Louis on the June 28 show. Ray Hartmann and Bill McClellan make good points critical of the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act and McKee’s silence, while Charles Brennan and Martin Duggan wonder why people are upset. Watch the show here (the discussion starts about twelve minutes into the program).

Making the news all over the state

On July 2, Southeast Missourian business editor Rudi Keller published a column entitled “One person may qualify for new tax credit”.

Keller also published a blog entitled “The $100 million man” on July 2.

The Kinder connection

On June 26, Fired Up! Missouri blogger Howard Beale reported that NorthPark Partners, the development partnership that includes Paul McKee’s McEagle Properties, hired David Barklage as a lobbyist in April. Barklage is a long-time associate of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. Beale speculates that the recent inexplicable claim that the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act has more to do with NorthPark than north St. Louis has a lot to do with the hiring of Barklage.

Read more here.

On the radio, too

Some of the July 5 St. Louis on the Air program on radio station KWMU was dedicated to discussing McKee’s plans. Listen here.

Handling the truth

Back in June, a Truth Handler blog entry made a point about the unintended consequences of well-meaning liberal support for urban renewal schemes like McKee’s:

So, in the end, the good-intentioned attempts you had made to shift some sort of power/wealth to the poor by creating a new use for government power is then ultimately used by the rich to benefit themselves, and no one else.

Good coverage from At Home

At Home magazine blogger Stefene Russell has been continuing its pithy coverage of McKee’s plans. One of her best recent posts is “The Politics of Neighborhoods” — check it out.

Urbanists debating McKee’s plans

Over at the Urban St. Louis forum, usually suffering from a dearth of discussion on north St. Louis, the thread on McKee’s north side project has blown into a vigorous debate. Jump into the discussion here.

Mid-Century Modern North County SHPO St. Louis County

Two North County Municipalties Making Progress in Preservation, Design Review

by Michael R. Allen

Black Jack creates architectural review board – Brian Flinchpaugh (Northwest County Journal, March 13)

Critics including Toby Weiss and I have long lamented the lack of preservation review in parts of St. Louis County where mid-century buildings lack protection and appreciation. Others have lamented the lack of sound planning policies in the county, and pointed to the inherent difficulty of creating meaningful policy amid 91 different municipalities. At least Black Jack is making the best of the current system.

Program could help Normandy preserve historic structures – Sonia Ahuja (North County Journal, March 13)

Meanwhile, Normandy is examining participation in the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office’s Certified Local Government program. The mayor and several aldermen are already backing participation, which would entail the establishment of a preservation commission.

Historic Preservation Mid-Century Modern North County St. Louis County

What We Can Learn from Jennings

by Michael R. Allen

Internet happenstance led to my discovery of the website for the Jennings Historical Society. Jennings is a small city in north St. Louis County, located not far from the city limits of St. Louis. While Jennings was incorporated in 1946 and saw rapid growth after the opening of Interstate Highway 70, settlement there dates back to 1839. While the Historical Society’s website isn’t deep in content, its presence and wonderful design suggest that there is an effort going to take an interest in the history of one of north county’s most interesting cities.

Jennings was instrumental in the development of the shopping mall in St. Louis. Both Northland Shopping Center in the 1950s and River Roads Mall in 1967 were innovative, albeit auto-centric, development projects that fell into vacancy and disrepair before demolition. Northland fell last year for a new big-box strip, and River Roads is under demolition at the present moment for a new subdivision developed by the Pyramid Companies.

Jennings, however, lives on. While the city faces the same problems as other municpalities in St. Louis County that went from great early suburban development to stangant economies, it could stand to preserve some of its recent past. The suburban development of the 1950s is increasingly the subject of serious research, and its atomic-age modernism seems rather intimately-scaled when compared with suburban development that followed it. Jennings is still the site of 20th century retail, gas station and other commercial buildings that tell the story of the postwar settlement of St. Louis County — as well as older buildings that show the development that the once-rural county supported before highways.

Historic preservation is needed in Jennings as well as other “inner ring” suburbs. The rush to increase revenues may wipe out a lot of interesting places and buildings there. I hope fellow preservationists look at mid-century suburban architecture as seriously as they do early 20th century urban office buildings. Places like Jennings are very important antidotes to development projects like WingHaven that undercut all sense of place and totally condemn the pedestrian. Jennings developed into a car-friendly place that also retained a specific character. Those of us who despise the suburbs can find things to like about these cities — and our involvement can redirect development efforts from replacement sprawl to urban development that builds on local character. A site like that of River Roads would have been a great place for the New Urbanists who are instead building non-places on the remote corn fields of St. Charles County.