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

Strange Purchases on the Near Northside — Is There a Plan?

by Michael R. Allen

On October 13, the city recorded the quit-claim transfer of a sliver of property on Cass Avenue just east of the Greyhound station from Iron Horse Resources of O’Fallon, Illinois to Noble Development Company LLC. This parcel is the tunnel approach section of the right-of-way of the former Illinois Terminal Railroad’s electric interurban railroad.

The interurban ceased its runs in the 1950s, and this right-of-way has been vacant ever since. Currently, the section of the interurban line that ran on an elevated trestle to the McKinley Bridge is being converted into a trail. The “tunnel” section under Tucker Boulevard will be filled in by the city so that improvements can be made to Tucker.

Noble Development Company LLC is, of course, part of the “Blairmont” family of real estate companies. Supposedly a great mystery to city officials, these companies have a great knack for purchasing property that is strategic to various public works initiatives or urban planning projects. I find it very difficult to fathom that city leaders would let a parcel like the old Terminal Railroad right-of-way section slip through their fingers when it is needed for two large projects that are underway.

Is it possible that the transfer of the land to Noble Development Company was a result sought by someone in city government and that the mysterious company is holding the parcel and others in accord with a master plan for the near northside? I’m not sure, but it seems possible. Until city leaders address the strange property acquisition pattern of these companies, people are going to be led to such conclusions.

Hopefully, rehabbers and business owners on the near north side will stand their ground and avoid panic as rumors float. What a shame that as Old North St. Louis gains development traction the Blairmont scheme emerges without comment from the mayor or others who could instill confidence.