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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Existing Employment in St. Louis Place Should Be Retained

The website of St. Louis' own U.S. Wiping Materials Company, Inc. boasts that the company "has been in business for over 100 years. Being centrally located in St. Louis Missouri has allowed us the ability to provide cost-effective shipping in a timely manner to all of North America."

The central location for U.S. Wiping Material, manufacturer and distributor of towels, rags and wipers of all kinds, is a one-story brick industrial building at 2539 East Sullivan Avenue in St. Louis Place. Built in 1914, the building is a sturdy home to the company.

Next door to U.S. Wiping is the Bi-Angle Chemical Company, Inc. at 2531 East Sullivan Avenue. This plastics company is located in a handsome two-story Craftsman-style building built in 1916. The workforce is not huge, but workers can be seen all day on the back docks taking their breaks.

U.S. Wiping and Bi-Angle are located on a fairly deserted block between extra-wide Parnell Avenue and 25th Street, where Sullivan dead-ends at the Sullivan Place apartment complex. These companies' building are located within the proposed boundaries of McEagle's NorthSide project. While just outside of the boundary of one of the developer's proposed "employment centers," these employers may not be safe. A slide shown by McEagle on May 21, 2009 at Central Baptist Church shows these two building demolished. At the same meeting, McEagle chief Paul J. McKee, Jr. promised that McEagle would not move "a single job" out of the project area.

Of course, these companies might voluntarily sell to McEagle -- but that would mean the loss of jobs in the heart of St. Louis Place, a move the developer says it wants to avoid. U.S. Wiping and Bi-Angle provide jobs, pay earnings and real estate taxes and hold down the fort on a lonely block. These companies and their buildings should be retained as part of the new development, not courted for departure.

To the south, Hopmann Cornice Company faces destruction for the NorthSide project (see "What Happens to Hopmann Cornice?", June 3, 2009). Located on Benton Avenue between Parnell and Jefferson, Hopmann is located in a southern tail of the proposed "employmenmt center" and Benton Street is proposed for removal. While Hopmann employs a very small number of employees -- as few as two at times -- this is a family-owned business providing a highly specialized craft. The Hopmanns have survived in St. Louis Place since 1880, and their eviction would be a tragic end to a proud family legacy.

As a family-owned business, McEagle ought to be sympathetic to Hopmann Cornice and work around its small-footprint shop. After all, if the goal of NorthSide is to provide multi-acre business sites, how would retention of a 0.17-acre site impede any of the project goals? (The U.S. Wiping and Bi-Angle sites are 0.496 acres and 0.16 acres, respectively.)


Chris said...

Who will make the standards on what constitutes a "good" small business? What if the scrappers around Jefferson Ave in St. Louis Place claim that their business has been there for 40 years? Would anyone have a problem with eminent domaining a scrap yard versus a cleaning products company? One man's trash is another's treasure, after all.

Doug Duckworth said...

Would suburban employers relocate next to such dirty, dangerous buildings?

samizdat said...

Let me put it this way: the "scrappers", who take stolen metal and other items, are parasites, worthy of elimination. Hopmann Cornice, which helped me restore my 1912 galv-metal cornice--including a perfect profile reproduction--Wiping, and Bi-Angle are contributing members of society which have stuck by the City through it's ups and downs. The "scrappers" stab the City in the back by being leeches, spongers, preying on the citizenry by enabling criminal activity. Mckee--with the assistance of the City and corrupt alderman--would be stabbing the legitimate businesses in the back by removing them from the development area. I know your just being snarky, Mr. Duckworth, but I suspect Chris is not. Stolen treasure is still stolen treasure. Justifying the acceptance of stolen goods by insisting the "other guy" would take the business is not a ligitimate defense. Although, considering the level of corruption currently present in American society, from Wall Street and Constitution Avenue to City Hall, it is understandable. Intolerable and destructive, but understandable.

barbara_on_19th said...

The yard at St Louis Ave and Jefferson is not a scrap yard. It has been a well-known "fence" for stolen bricks and has no facilities or inventory besides some wooden pallets and mean dogs. It is operating on land owned by Charles Rosene, who has sold other property on W University to McKee. It is not necessary to use eminent domain to take 100+yr businesses just because there is a dodgy brickyard in the neighborhood. Most small manufacturing businesses will move elsewhere if they get an offer that allows them to move their businesses without going under. Trojan Metal, Arrow Meats, Absorene, Universal Lighting, Kram Fish, etc, all of those folks are smart business owners. The ones I've talked to have received offers from McKee that were well below what it would cost them to relocate, so they are hanging on hoping for a better deal from the eminent domain appraiser. One owner was offered $30K to move his business, when $30K won't even buy a building of comparable size and facilities in the same neighborhood, much less make up for moving costs.