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Lambert St. Louis International Airport could not attract enough airline business to become a hub airport even while they continued to build its massive new runway at the expense of taxpayers and a loss of entire communities. Now that they are sitting with a $1 billion concrete slab with a large for-rent sign, Lambert is desperate to attract any paying customer to land on their shiny new and gently used runway. After all, according to the St. Louis Business Journal, Lambert is still facing $1.4 billion in debt.  Attracting a Chinese air-cargo hub would, in theory, help them pay off their debts and make that runway appear to be a regional necessity.

The problem is, Chicago, Dallas and other mid-American cities have already done their homework on attracting Chinese air-cargo shipments. St. Louis leaders and Missouri legislators have not been forthcoming with that information, instead insisting that our region somehow holds a key to that particular market.

From an article on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website  today with a discussion with Greg Lindsay, who wrote the book on Aerotropolis and global markets:

The free-market Show Me Institute published a critical study, and an air cargo consultant said St. Louis would never be a cargo hub. Backers have tended to cast them as narrow thinkers who just don’t get the Aerotropolis concept.

That argument definitely doesn’t fit Lindsay — who coined the term in the first place. He wrote “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next” with John Kasarda, a professor at the University of North Carolina. Since the St. Louis folks co-opted his title, they ought to be interested in Lindsay’s opinion.

Lindsay hadn’t spoken publicly about the St. Louis effort until last week, when he criticized it on Twitter. He tweeted that “calling some cargo flights and warehouses an aerotropolis doesn’t make it one” and then, more bluntly, “I don’t think it will work.”

 The middle part of the country has plenty of cargo capacity elsewhere, and other cities are way ahead in the Aerotropolis game.
What does it take to build an Aerotropolis? “You have to create a market where the cost is lower or the access to market is better, and neither of those is really the case in St. Louis,” Lindsay said.
Local leaders are making their pitch on the cost side. Our airport has plenty of unused capacity, and the tax credits would make it cheap for freight forwarders and warehouse operators to set up shop. Why won’t that work?

“I think they could lure the Chinese, but the history of airlines and subsidies indicates that they can leave the moment the subsidies run out,” Lindsay said.

The message of “Aerotropolis,” the book, is that a few global cities now revolve around their airports, rather than the other way around. With rare exceptions, however, they were global cities before they became Aerotropolises. Chicago and Singapore have long been important trading hubs; St. Louis, not so much.

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/business/columns/david-nicklaus/article_a377c6bd-a005-57a2-a63d-227599165b77.html#ixzz1SOF50mcv

Its possible that the Chinese could come. First, we would need to put forth large amounts of cash towards unbridled developing for shipment warehousing and infrastructure surrounding the runway. Yet, if we face the pattern that Lindsay suggests is typical with Chinese carriers, we would finance a multi-million dollar, tax-fueled gamble to lure an industry known to flee to another market at the slightest increase of local fees. Operating on a glimmer of hope for generating regional economic growth while saving face for the runway expansion is a risky investment for the region in the long term.
In St. Louis, we have seen a number of Wal-Mart stores leave one municipality for lucrative TIFs and incentives offered by legislators in a neighboring township down the street. In their wake, the originating municipality is left with a large, vacant box and a dying local economy as the smaller businesses move on to find other big anchor markets. Wal-mart and other box stores exist on TIFs and other local incentives. They pull out when local subsidies begin to run dry and leave local micro-economies in disaster. Perhaps the irony here resides in the cheap Chinese goods we’re looking to have land in St. Louis are the very goods that fill these roving big box stores. The reality is, our region cannot afford for this same scenario to play out on the grand global scale, leaving St. Louis a developed shell that nobody would come and lose smaller industries in its wake.
Maybe it is time we finally accept our position as a minor city and  live within our means.  Instead of gambling away the house for those narrow odds of winning the funds for a bigger house, we need to factor what we have and what industries we can realistically attract, and work with that. Lambert made a gamble when they built  the W-1W runway. They failed to attract the necessary business to support its use and they are now struggling to pay off the loans. Mid-America Airport just across the river in Illinois is a fully functioning airport that has been trying to attract regional cargo for decades, with almost zero payoff. If Mid-America, an airport with highway access and no need to compete with passenger flight schedules, cannot attract air cargo, what does it say about Lambert’s abilities? Why should we once again reward Lambert and the City of St. Louis astronomical funds to support yet another short-sighted goal? Lambert failed to prove to the region that ANY airline would be  committed to creating a hub while building W-1W, yet they continued to build that runway with the region’s monetary blessing. Lambert and the City of St. Louis is again failing to prove that they can attract the businesses they need for their air cargo goals by failing to present us with any Chinese carrier even slightly interested in our region for a long-term commitment. The experts are speaking out, but once again Lambert is ignoring the voice of reason.
I have said before that, if the project would create jobs and bring our region’s economy back into a real global game, then I would support Lambert to convert its peripheral land and create the shipping hub. However, the writing on the wall is clear that Lambert once again wants something unrealistic, and is willing to use public funds to get it.
If Lambert International and the City of St. Louis again gets its way, instead of vacant houses, the land of Carrollton may soon be filled with brand-new vacant warehouses sitting next to a vacant runway. (Yes, Lambert uses the runway. Just because they use it doesn’t mean they need to.)

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From Julie Pellow:
Hello! I am contacting you in response to pictures of my home I found on
4197 Pont. I stumbled on your site only today and wanted to thank you for
this documentation of assault on our beloved community. I loved what you
said about our house. My parents, Butch and Jodi Harris, really did have
pride of ownership. We were obviously devastated to leave (and one of the
last). If you are looking for any specific info or pictures in it's prime,
 I will be thrilled to help. The house was on the corner of Pont Dr. and
Patty Ln. The other house referenced in the same post (4229 Pont) was the
home of my dad's best friend's family, Duke and Kathy Albers. They met in
 college and ended up 2 doors down from each other!

In reference to the night my house was on fire... the house across the
street on Patty Lane was still occupied by the Bulger family. They were
the very last family. There was another fire up Patty and Lorna Bulger was
home with her 2 small boys while her husband was traveling for work. She
called my dad, terrified that the vandals would break in. She lived in
fear for months!

Thanks again for your work!
From Linda Karin: Her home on Phelps circa 1974
Linda Karin, circa 1974

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Aerotropolis is apparently the new tongue-in-cheek term coined for the Chinese cargo hub proposed at Lambert International Airport. Immediately, this name evokes the 1927 dystopian film, Metropolis. Filmed in a German Expressionist style with angular, dramatic shots of the futuristic city of Metropolis, workers toil and sometimes die at the hands of a deity-like, Heart Machine. In the film, the workers exist in stark contrast to the city planners, who live a decadent life of beauty and luxury atop the Tower of Babel, cut off from the gritty, desperate life below. The contrast between the city planners and the workers are juxtaposed in array of stunning visual effects, particularly noteworthy of its time. The protagonist, the son of a wealthy city planner spends a delirious day working at the clock to keep the Heart Machine going thus becomes a mediator between the planners and the workers to find unity in existence.

Just as I have found many personal metaphors from Carrollton, metaphors can be interchanged between the Aerotropolis moniker to the Metropolis film. From the monied city planners whose visions expand beyond their boundaries at the physical hands of workers, the workers who have little to say against their plight, the desperate hopes for a mediator between the two classes of people, the Tower of Babel as a form to exchange language between the communities, the city of Metropolis, to finally, the vision of a dark, broken city desperate for reform, there are many parallels that can be drawn between the two. The most immediate metaphor resides with the film’s self-appointed mediator, who works against the clock to keep the machine going and gains a crucial understanding of what the people must do to survive in Metropolis.

As the legislation wound down last week, the Missouri tax incentives for establishing the Chinese air-cargo hub at Lambert International Airport became that smoking clock a delusional wealthy man-turned worker fought to keep alive. The city planners have failed before when they expanded Lambert and opened its newest runway in 2006, against the plight of the homeowners and businesses within 2,000 structures. The planners are suddenly seeing the pressing need for work in the St. Louis area and desperately trying to mediate a way to make that runway useful at the same time.

Whether or not the St. Louis City leaders will become the next Freder in our city’s own Metropolis story remains to be seen. If they can do it without the tax incentives to bring work to the region, then they can have the hero title of Mediator. Until then, they remain the same failed City Planners they were when they introduced the runway project to begin with.

Two articles from the Post-Dispatch:

Governor Nixon wanted to call a special session to address the issue.

Incentives for cargo hub plan at impasse

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I’m still going to save all the metaphors and prophetic speech I have saved up for a later post.   For right now, I really feel nothing but peace that it is finally over.

12679 Grandin came down around 2:00 this afternoon, Tues. February 10th.    Together with my good friends, I did in fact photograph and film the whole thing, just as I did my own house.  It was eerily almost exactly like how my own house was destroyed…  A clear day, I raced to get there on time, the feelings of elation as I watched every crushing thrash of the barrel tear through the structure reducing the home to toothpicks and pebbles, it was all the same.  At  the end, the final feelings of sadness that it actually happened after all the wait was a strange reminder of a sunny fall day in October of 2006.   It was also exactly the same time of day.

There are no more homes, but there are the streets with no names, the fading house numbers painted on the curbs, and the street lights illuminating for nobody past the closed gates.     The Chinese Air Shipping hub may be a real possibility for what was once my home, but nobody knows for sure.

All we know is that our homes are now mere memories, and nobody will vandalize them now.

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Six houses were taken down the week of December 15-22nd.   They were finishing removing the foundation of the last one on Gladwyn on Dec. 23rd, and began asbestos removal on Brampton by then.   Since this was an insanely busy week for me (and an insane holiday season),  I did not record the actual dates individually.   However, all 6 have been demolished within that week.

The six houses, two on Gladwyn and four on Pont, were all that remained of the subdivision south of 270.   All six of these houses had undergone a complete asbestos removal treatment including stripped of drywall down to bare studs.

All four homes on Pont were boarded up years ago back when they actually bothered to board up the vacated houses.   They stopped that practice around 2003 and let the vacant houses sit with broken windows, and the rest of the conditions we have seen.   Over time, those boards started to deteriorate due to environmental damage and brave the more braver vandals.   Overall, the houses on Pont were fairly safe from vandals thanks to their proximity and visibility to Natural Bridge and the Bridgeton Police Station and City Hall, as well as the still-occupied Carrollton Apartments.   I too didn’t stick around long enough for people to ask questions when I went over to this section of the neighborhood, but I really liked these houses and took photos when I could.   They were from the earliest Carrollton style, most having basements and other personalized accoutrements added to the exteriors.    With a bit of gingerbreading, seemingly more personalized yet sophisticated color choices, and updated interior styles beyond the year 1990 told me that their owners were probably holdouts who did not want to move.  These were some of the houses that were waiting for their fates in the court system, otherwise they would have been taken a long, long time ago.   Despite their broken, gray, rotten boards dangling and the broken windows they once concealed, they were the last pretty poster-children for what remained of the former Carrollton.

4229 Pont was the house closest to the runway that remained the longest.   One of my most favorite, most iconic compositions was taken with this house in the foreground in the shadow the the runway dominating  the background.   The house together with the runway signified in one frame all that happened in the last couple decades.  I didn’t go inside this house for years, but once the boards had fallen away and sunlight rushed in, I too wandered in and felt a bit of coziness.  What amazed me most was how a forgotten welcome mat remained in the same exact place before the front door for over five years.   A thin little brown mat sat ready to greet anyone as if time was not present.   It was unattached to the house physically, yet very much a part of the space as the wallpaper inside.   The little welcome mat was an element of humanity, in that you can tell that this was a place where a human had an emotional attachment with.   After over a year of any occupants in Carrollton, its easy to forget that these houses were loved, especially when you just drive by it and see them simply as wasted shells.  When you notice tiny details like this, that’s when you realize how important this place once was to someone.

4197 Pont was a beautiful green house with very pretty trees and lovely bushes in the yard.  This house had some personalization too, and it was the last one  in this area that I can remember in its prime.   Not exactly sure why I remember this place, but I do remember as a kid really liking the color and the shape of this house, as well as being impressed with its height on a hill.   It made the house appear larger, despite having the wonderful trees shade the yard.   I really just liked it.   It was beautiful inside and out.

The next green house on Pont did not have an identifyable # on the exterior.   418x or 417x are reasonable guesses.  I never went into this house until shortly before the asbestos crew came in and did their work.  Once they removed the plywood, the curiousity got to the best of me.  This place was almost too perfectly planned, with the living room window facing warm afternoon sunlight with just the right amount of patches of shade from the tree outside dancing on the floor with the sun’s glow.    The kitchen window faced out towards the west, watching countless sunsets before dinner’s preparation.   The house had laundry chute- something I wished our house had when I was a kid.   There was something very cool about this house, something that made me wish our house was more like this one.  This one, like all the rest on Pont was untouched with grafitti until its final days.

Although I was not brave enough to go inside this and the rest of the houses on Pont for years, I did keep my eye on these places and I took a fair # of shots of them before their demolitions.   So, I was exceptionally surprised when, quite randomly one day I drove past this house and had to turn around to double-check what I thought I saw.   In the neighboring yard yet very close to this house, a small homemade clay statue of a little girl had been placed in a circular garden of Engish ivy.   This statue only appeared last October and still remains there as of this writing, even with the destruction of the house.    I can only think about what this garden marker’s purpose is, and that this tiny tribute could be for something very solemn and sad.    Or, it could just be someone randomly leaving  homemade statues about.

4142 or 4124 Pont was a house so close to normal civilization that I did not dare to go near or inside it until after its asbestos removal was done, and enough trees have grown up around it mask myself inside.   This house was near the corner of Pont and Gladwyn and was covered in mud from the front yard.   The yard never seemed to be in good shape, and much of that was owed to this house acting as refuge for groundhogs.   Almost every time I drove by this place, one of these brown furry creatures were scurrying around the yard and would dive into their den just below the front walkway.  The front door was covered and caked with layers of muddy paw prints.   Something about entering  the home of a clan of groundhogs did not seem safe to me, so I stayed away.  Interestingly enough, this was the first house that had the asbestos treatment fully done, and I was so amazed at the webwork of 2x4s that kept our homes standing.   With all the walls gone, and nothing more than sunbeams and wood beams filling the interior, the space felt rather constricted and small, despite being a three bedroom home with a basement.     The one thing I loved the most about this home was the planks of wood driven into the tree in the front yard, leading to a long-absent treehouse.   The planks of wood again added that human element to this home.   The backward featured a neat little waterpond that had overgrown with ivy with time.

I’ll update this and write about the Gladwyn houses shortly.   I am also currently working on an update about the asbestos removal.  I have actually learned information that is quite surprising from the area’s asbestos inspector and a very kind man, Mr. Rick Whitney, whom spoke with me a week or so ago about the current asbestos removal.  One of the surprising facts I learned is that just because water was used in the demolition process (such as the process done on my own home in the photo above) did not necessarily make the demolition a ‘wet-method’ demo, as many of us had thought.  100 homes in the area are at fault at being an improper ‘wet-method’ demo in response to asbestos containment.   I am still doing a bit more research on this as well, reading the documents from the recent court case,  and will post about this matter and more of my enlightening disucssion with Mr. Whitney later.

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