by Michael R. Allen
According to an article that appeared in the November 26, 1966 issue of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat with the prosaic title “$151,000 Demolition Job,” the city of St. Louis was embarking upon a large-scale scattered-site clearance project on the near north side. In an area bounded by Jefferson on the east, Delmar of the south, Grand on the west and St. Louis on the north, the city was planning to demolish 150 buildings identified as substandard. This area at the time was known as Grand Prairie or Mid-City, but today is better known as the eastern half of JeffVanderLou. $101,000 of the $151,000 cost of the project came from federal funds.
This project started six years ahead of the introduction of the Team Four Plan for the wholesale deprivation of the near north side. This came ahead of widespread organized architectural surveys conducted by Landmarks Association of St. Louis and city government. This came thirty years before Paul J. McKee, Jr. set his sights on this area.
This part of the city has been long betrayed by many people. McKee’s plans are simply the endgame of decades of deprivation, demolition and neglect. However, knowing what we know now about the lack of sustainability of large-scale urban renewal projects, we should be in a better position to avoid further destroying the near north side. We don’t have the density of physical and social resources that should remain on the near north side, but we now know the value of what’s left, if only due to its scarcity.