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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In 1966, City Demolished 150 Buildings on Near North Side

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.


Anonymous said...

In those days, the act was called "slum clearance".

St. Louis was one of many cities to carry out massive demolition following the abandonment and decay resulting from white flight.

Michael, you know the conditions of those buildings. Look at some city plans from the early 70s and you see maps with large areas slated for demolition.

Mill Creek Valley (gone by then), large swaths of the near north side, lots of places were planned for clearance and redevelopment.

These decisions were deemed reasonable at the time.

Doug Duckworth said...

The buildings were in bad condition but at the time massive federal dollars were available and could have been spent on rehabs. Yet, they wanted to suburbanize the City in order to keep people from moving to suburbia. Sound familiar? Probably because this same line of thought is alive and well.

Instead of spending the federal dollars on urban renewal, they should have spent the money on rehabbing our unique stock. Work with what existed. Perhaps this lesson is applicable to the controversy in the North Side?

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