Downtown Green Space Northside Regeneration

City Officials Making Best of Dirty Situation

by Harland Bartholomew, Jr.

ST. LOUIS — In an unexpected move, dirt for both the construction of the Mississippi River island and the mound at the western terminus of the Gateway Mall arrived early. Out of town crews trucked in more of the brown matter than St. Louis had seen in years, although construction of the new civic destinations is years away.

To deal with a possible dilemma, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay ordered the dirt spread across 75 non-contiguous acres of north St. Louis for storage. Slay thinks that the dirt companies may be eligible for a proposed land assemblage tax credit designed to smother areas like north St. Louis.

“We’re a unique city, with unique problem — too much dirt,” quipped Slay. The mayor says that other cities have actually noted dirt shortages in recent years.

St. Louis Planning Director Rollin Stanley said that St. Louisans have nothing to fear from the new dirt.

“Other cities have recognized that dirt provides the sort of 24-hour excitement that creates destinations,” Stanley said. “Dirt is literally always around, even in the middle of the night.”

Stanley added that the dirt would only be temporarily stored in north St. Louis.

“The temperatures in Hades are lowering, indicating that construction of the island and the mound could start at any moment.”

One person unhappy with the move is developer Paul J. McKee, Jr., who expressed interest in being the only recipient of the state tax credit.

“We do not have enough dirt in north St. Louis to construct an island in the Mississippi River,” read a written statement from McKee. “However, we are interested in seeking other parties who own dirt so that we can partner on making things with our dirt. We regret that the nameless and faceless dirt movers have changed the nature of my project so I cannot continue as an assembler of dirt.”

Slay suggests that competition for the tax credit is a good thing.

“Every city in America would love to have two large-scale plans for spreading dirt over economically distressed areas. Think of this as a blessing.”

On a related front, Philadelphia is donating a Starbucks kiosk from a downtown park to the St. Louis Gateway Mall effort.

“The last newspaper article calling the kiosk innovative was published in 1999,” said Philadelphia Parks Director Sara Collins.