Saint Louis is in the midst of the most devastating wholesale land clearance project since the Mill Creek Valley demolition. The Missouri Botanical Garden has lead a coalition called the Garden District Commission in a successful effort to level much of the city’s downtrodden McRee City (later McRee Town) neighborhood for construction of a new, lower-density, more-expensive housing development called “Botanical Heights.” (McRee Town is located west of 39th Street, north of I-44, east of Vandeventer and south of Chouteau.) Around 240 buildings on six blocks in the blighted McRee Town neighborhood have been or will be demolished by the end of 2005. This dramatic process went ahead despite passionate opposition from people who advocated a holistic, urban redevelopment plan of the neighborhood that would have retained many existing structures and ensured that the neighborhood’ housing would stay affordable.
The McRee Town story portends a bleak future for city redevelopment. Wholesale clearance is once again an acceptable development tool, and nonprofit groups are leading the charge for its implementation. Watch out, Saint Louis. The landscape is going to break open, one way or another.
The City of St. Louis has posted a detailed and surprisingly balanced history of the neighborhood up to 1999: Five-Year Consolidated Plan Strategy: McRee Town. [LINK DEFUNCT]
St. Louis Commerce published an article in its November 2004 issue about the new Botanical Heights subdivision: Botanical Heights: McRee Town Lifts Itself to Higher Ground
A good overview of the story can be found in Shelly Smithson’s Riverfront Times article, The Greening of McRee Town.
Built St. Louis features more photos of the demolition.
West End Word reporter Tim Woodcock recounts his attempts to interview McRee Town residents in his article “When News Breaks”.
While the McRee Town boundaries are strictly Vandeventer Avenue to the west, Chouteau Avenue to the north, 39th Street to the east and I-44 to the south, only its 12 core residential blocks are in the area targeted by redevelopment plans. These are bounded by Tower Grove Avenue on the west, Folsom Avenue on the north, 39th Street on the east and Lafayette Avenue on the south.
The six blocks east of of Thurman are the blocks that the Garden District Commission is clearing completely for the “Botanical Heights” project. The six blocks west of Thurman are part of a second phase of redevelopment. No one is certain how much of those blocks’ buildings will survive.