Archive for the ‘Urban Decay’ Category

Those of us who grew up in Bridgeton knew we were sitting a little more than a mile from a landfill. Most of the time, it didn’t cause us any issues. The landfill had in fact almost no effect on our daily lives. Yet, there would be those few days in the summertime where the miserably humid air actually moved.  On those rare occasions that the wind picked up in the normally stagnant St. Louis summer, it sometimes carried a distinct and sweetly putrid smell. It was only when the wind moved from the west,  blowing just hard enough to sweep over the Missouri Bottom floodplain and up into the Bridgeton highgrounds.  Again, the conditions had to be just right. The smell appeared only on those stupid hot and sticky summer St. Louis days. The kind of days where you could see the fog of humidity discoloring everything  in town into a weird yellowish haze. The kind of days where you wondered if you would ever feel dryness again. You, my fellow St. Louisan, know exactly that level of heat and humidity I am talking about. For us in Bridgeton, on a dank summer day, the wind would carry a fragrance that would make you briefly stop and wonder what Earthly thing could possibly produce such a sickly scent before continuing on with your greater misery about the humidity as you unconsciously fan your shirt away from your skin.

We all knew the smell came from the landfill. It didn’t happen often enough to warrant a laundry list of complaints. The humid weather was more than enough for us to edure. Complaining about the occasional whiff of nasty air seemed a minor detail for stubborn, working and middle class North County residents who prided themselves on surviving brutal summers in St. Louis.

I didn’t know there was anything radioactive there. Neither did anyone in my family. Nor did we know it was a Superfund site until the lawsuits filed by remaining Bridgeton residents over the smell.

The landfill has caught an underground fire and releasing noxious odors that make the putrid odors we endured seem like a brief run through the mall perfume counter. This has become a health and environmental disaster for those in Bridgeton who were not affected by the Lambert Expansion project. Those remaining individuals have already been through enough by having their community dissected and disoriented over the years of Lambert’s encroachment. Now, they face the reality that they are in proximity to radioactive waste. The smell reminds them that there is much more nefarious things decaying in that landfill than annoying odors.

So many questions. How contained is the radioactive waste that exists in the West Lake site?  Did any of it seep into the soil in the years Carrollton existed?  Did the landfill’s radioactive waste seep and contaminate our drinking water, which came from a facility not too far from the site? How did we live decades without knowing that there was radioactive waste in the West Lake Landfill? How bad is it really now for Bridgeton residents?

It is sad that there are still about 400 homes in Bridgeton that has to deal with yet more bad news. According to the Post, the remaining homes are being compensated for enduring continuing odors caused by the underground landfill fires. The EPA contends that the fires have not yet reached the radioactive waste site. I have to wonder what the scale of this disaster would have been like if the 2,000 houses in the area had remained. I am also deeply concerned about what would happen if the underground fires do reach the contaminated section. I am curious what Geiger counters are reading at in the Missouri Bottoms and in Bridgeton area.

The latest STL Post-Dispatch article is here.


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Since Lambert- St. Louis  International Airport has failed to attract commercial jet hubs and international cargo, they’re desperate to do anything for the milk and honey. Honey, it seems, is the first step.

A beekeeper has signed a contract with Lambert to keep bee hives on the property that was once Freebourn Park, leasing the land from the airport for $75 dollars a year. Don’t think all that money is going to help Lambert pay their $1.4 billion dollar debt down. 80% of the $75 annual rent will likely go towards the FAA first.

I applaud the fact that Lambert is working with an individual to utilize the land in a cooperative and eco-friendly manner. Allowing a beekeeper to keep hives on this empty North County land is a great idea and I am glad Lambert is allowing it. Besides, anyone keeping hives during these times of bee colony collapses is a hero in my book. The City of St. Louis already begun patting themselves on the back for adding this project line to their sustainability action list. The fact that the hives have been approved is very telling. The hives are the equivalent of the city conceding to the end of their cargo shipping hub pipe-dream, at least for this year-long contract. I have a feeling that the bees are here to stay and the beekeeper’s contract will be renewed for many years to come.

There isn’t much that Lambert-St. Louis International Airport can do at this point to pay down the $1.4 billion dollars they owe for building their little-used runway. They can’t attract passenger planes. They can’t attract international air freight. They can, however, attract bees. They will soon have the honey and now it’s time to collect the milk. Let’s add some cows to where our ranch-style houses once were.

You can find the Post-Dispatch’s July 8th, 2013 article on the Beekeeping agreement here.

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In case we need yet another reason why Aerotropolis at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will likely not be built anytime soon: Illinois is reaching agreements with China for ground and water transport of Asian goods while Missouri has historically remained focused on solely attracting air cargo at Lambert. While this will not likely replace coastal ports nor do I believe this will have as much of an upward impact on Illinois economies as their local leaders boast, ground and water transport have a better chance of attracting trade partnerships than air cargo. Illinois has once again learned to diversify where Missouri and St. Louis leaders put on their blinders to focus on one option.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (STLToday, December 30, 2012):

The port district’s ability to use roads, rails, river and other modes of transport for goods makes it attractive to local and foreign developers, said Ellen Krohne, executive director of the Southwestern Illinois Leadership Council. The Edwardsville-based council is a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging growth and development in Madison and St. Clair counties.

The new agreement with Wuhan, she said, is also a boon to Madison County and the region because it opens doors.

“It gives the Chinese an opportunity to invest in Madison County,” Krohne said, including opening businesses and hiring workers. The county’s workforce, educational system and geographic location also make it competitive in competing for Chinese trade.”

The rest of the article can be found here.

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to a young woman who also grew up in the shadow of the buyout. Colleen is currently in college and shared many great stories during our phone interview.  Her memories will sound similar to many of us who grew up in Carrollton. Although all of our perspectives are unique, our individual memories highlight the impact this area had on our lives.

Colleen once lived off Parlier Dr., which was considered by many as the Carrollton Oaks side of the entire Carrollton subdivision. On New Years Eve, hours before the dawn of the new millenium, her family made the move to a town near Mobile, Alabama. Her last school year at St. Lawrence the Martyr concluded with the end of the first semester of 1999. On a recent visit back to Missouri, she took a shocking detour to visit her former neighborhood. Carrollton was a place that she knew well as a child but found it almost unrecognizable as an adult. Colleen remarked that the brick subdivision entrance into Carrollton, “it looked exactly the same as I remembered it!” The bowling alley and the shell of the Carrollton Center shopping center stood at Carrollton’s entrance but little else from her memory remains. The Schnuck’s grocery was gone, having relocated to St. Charles Rock Road near Lindbergh. The Corner Drugstore, Dairy Queen, the video store, Telscher Hardware, almost everything in the area that she knew disappeared or changed entirely.  The largest change, of course, is the stillness of the area behind the nearly-vacant shopping plaza that one stood close to 2,000 houses with a handful of schools, churches, and parks.

Colleen’s family first sent her to St. Mary’s Catholic School for Kindergarten. However, that would be the only year she attended St. Mary’s as dwindling attendance and uncertainty of the school’s future led her family to transfer her to St. Lawrence Catholic School. However, her family would learn a few years later that their new school would also be succumbed to the massive buyout program.

The Summer Day Camps at Bridgeton were a popular activity for Bridgeton kids for generations. Colleen shared with me many great stories of attending Bridgeton camps in the summer. She attended camps at O’Connor park for one summer and Freebourn for many more. She recalled her favorite counselors at Freeborn, including Wendy, her counselor at O’Connor park who made Colleen her camp helper. She recalled typical camp stories, like girls vs. boys games, kickball, swimming, and her favorite tree that was so hollow she could climb inside. I too attended camp until the 6th grade, at Gentry Park and then Freebourn. Having also been a young camper, riding the yellow busses everyday to run and play, make crafts, go swimming, and just be kids all day, it was easy for me to visualize her many experiences as my own.

On her most recent return trip to the area in March, she found that Freebourn Park no longer exists. The landscape still has some etchings of its past era as a municipal green space. If one could remember the geography of the way it used to look, you could find the edge the ball field, a rectangle of where a pavilion was, and if you went back far enough, you could find the outcropping of rocks where the playground equipment used to be. The natural features of the area remain exactly the same. The lazy hills and wooded gully that divided the park exist in stark contrast to the artificial leveling of Lambert’s runway across the street. Far in the back of Freebourn Park is still home to a dense forest, whose trails along a clear, flowing creek have surely now been reclaimed by nature.

Colleen’s memories of Carrollton go well beyond summer fun at the parks and the pool. They are deeply a part of how she lived as a young child. She vividly recalls times of playing outside with the neighborhood kids everyday until dark, riding her bikes or skating down the hill of Parlier. Colleen is not alone in saying that Carrollton was a safe place for kids to play outside. Like so many others, Colleen recalled exciting times at the St. Lawrence Carnival. She and I both have memories of the Corner Drugstore and their selection of five-cent candy. One of my favorite stories from her was of the mischief she caused at Schnucks, where she tried to sneak some Jell-O out of the salad bar and caught with swift consequences.

She also raved about Bridgeton’s annual 4th of July Parade through the whole city. The parade was a favorite event because the entire community came together to build, ride, or watch the colorful floats and to be a part of the music and excitement of the annual festivities just before the city’s large fireworks display.  Of course, the highlight of the parade for kids is always the large amounts of candy and trinkets to be caught from the passing floats. Colleen became popular with other Bridgeton campers when she brought her 4th of July parade candy back to camp to share.

Those happy childhood memories would be forever altered at the announcement that their family’s home was due for airport expansion buyout. In January of 1999, Colleen developed the confidence to try out and participate in the school’s talent show. She had diligently practiced and had such a great time with her final performance that she was sure she wanted to do it again the following year. That was about the same time her parents had been contacted by the airport for the buyout. They used that opportunity to break the news to her that she would be in a different school by the same time in 2000 because their home on Parlier would be lost to the airport. Colleen remembers the tears that tragic news brought to her child self, not understanding why the airport would need her or her friends’ homes.

It was difficult enough for the adults of an entire community to come to grips with Lambert’s ‘disruption’ (a term used often by expansion proponents when referring to the effects of the massive buyout). However, to not only process the uncertainty of the situation (by this time, Lambert’s master plan has been repeatedly altered and not executed), schools and families had the added unimaginable task to explain to children that their community would disappear. Below is an article from 1998 that discusses how many schools were affected and the reactions by officials:

Sun January 25, 1998 C1, C7

St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Carolyn Bower

Airport Expansion Would Uproot 6 Schools; Runway plan may displace 1700 North County students, Teachers, staff wait and wonder

Berkeley High School 8719 Walter Ave. in the Ferguson-Florissant School District; 375 students, 65 staff, Age of building: over 40 years (in 1998)

Caroline Support Center at 67038 Caroline Ave.  in the Ferguson-Florissant School District; 296 Students, 31 staff, building: over 100 years

St. Mary’s Catholic School at 4601 Long Rd. in Bridgeton; 65 students, 15 staff, over 100 years old

Carrollton Oaks Elementary in the Pattonville School District at 4385 Holmford Drive in Bridgeton; 360 students, 40 staff, 30 years old,

Carrollton Elementary in the Pattonville School District at 3936 Celburne Lane in Bridgeton; 377 students 45 staff, 30 years old

St. Lawrence Catholic School at 4329 Dupage Drive in Bridgeton;  334 students, 20 staff, 30 years old

“This is very difficult for children,” said Peggy Grigg, principal at Carrollton Elementary. “Children need a great deal of structure in their lives,” Grigg said. “They need to count on people being there, people taking care of them. Schools are part of that structure in their lives.” Hugh Kinney, superintendent (Pattonville) of the school district said: “We have an opportunity with these challenges to make good things happen for the district. My hope is that it will happen in a timely manner. The hardest part is not knowing.”

At the dinner table and in school classrooms, students have begun to talk abut what airport expansion will do to their school. Mary Hornberger said her first-graders say things such as, “My mom says we have to move somewhere because the airport may take our house, and we may not be able to go to this school.’

Jim Schwab, principal at Carrollton Oaks Elem: “Although we go on and do the best job we can educating students, a dark cloud hangs over our heads. We would like to know what’s going to happen and when it will happen. Then we can start making plans.”

“Why do we have to move? Why do we have to sell to the airport?” were questions that Colleen and more than estimated 2,500 other students (from schools affected by the buyout and students living in homes in the buyout but attend unaffected schools) asked their parents, teachers, principals, camp counselors, and others. The answers to those questions are just as complicated and open-ended as it is today; one that many of us are still trying to find.

Colleen shared with me the last memories she had in her home and with her Bridgeton friends before moving out on New Year’s Eve of 1999. She remembers her mom cleaning the house spotless, scrubbing for weeks in anticipation of the arrival of Mr. Goldman, the home inspector contracted by Lambert. He came around sometime in November, knowing that this would be the last holiday season they would spend in their home. Her parents had two large older dogs that had damaged the carpets. She remembers vividly the effort of replacing the carpets of her brother’s room and steam-cleaning the carpet in her room for the inspection. To her, it seemed so odd to clean and replace carpeting in a home that would be later torn down. Colleen’s birthday was also around that season, so her parents treated her to a dinner at Red Lobster. Afterwards, she was then given a surprise birthday party at the Bridgeton Community Center in a special room overlooking the pools. It would be a last but joyous occasion with her childhood Bridgeton friends. Two days after Christmas, the family began the task to pack their things and have one last garage sale. Colleen can remember that her family took the refrigerator and the oven while the rest of the appliances remained. The home’s specific characteristics; the fireplace, the built-in shelves of the living room, the loft over the garage, a pool and brick patio all had to stay behind.

Colleen’s family made a trip to the area in the spring of 2001. Her vacant home remained standing a year and a half after her family left. Other homes around were in varying degrees of existence, much of which remained the same as she remembered from a few years ago.

On September 7th, 2001, the family passed through the Carrollton area once again. John Calvin Presbyterian Church stood tall, and much of Parlier Street and Bonfils Lane were still there and labeled. Her house, along with her pool, brick patio, and favorite trees were nothing more than a grassy patch of land. However, plenty of other homes remained. Four days after her trip, an event happened which would forever change the way the nation traveled by air. The September 11th attacks put the airline industries and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport into an economic dive that they have yet to recover from. However, by spring of 2003, when the family made another trip into Missouri, they saw a dirt mound that would later become Runway 11-29 encroaching its way to Larchburr Lane, creating a dead-end at Bonfils.

Whether the residents lived in Carrollton their whole lives, or only a few years, it is clear that a declaration of eminent domain has a human impact that is never fully accounted for in initial planning or adequately compensated. The events surrounding a forced buyout of someone’s home and property are life-changing, painful, and span an entire spectrum from being a major inconvenience to the cause of traumatic stress, with everything in between. For every place once occupied, there is a human memory.

Thank you Colleen for sharing your memories with us!

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The Show-Me Institute and nextSTL present a free advance screening of the Battle for Brooklyn, a documentary about the abuse of eminent domain to make way for luxury housing and a stadium.
The screening will be held:
Monday, April 23
7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
The Luminary Center for the Arts
4900 Reber Place, Saint Louis MO 63139

PLEASE RSVP AT: http://showmeinstitute.org/eminent-domain-apr12

Afterwards, we will host a panel discussion about the threat of eminent domain in the Saint Louis area. Panelists include:

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A few desperate individuals are looking under couches and between the seat cushions hunting for money towards rebuilding interest in Aerotropolis. A pot of just $3 million in tax dollars shuffled around in a probably legal but highly confusing manner just to get the Aerotropolis bait funded again. Will this $3 million slip back between the seat cushions as mature trees flourish and the concrete roads that were once Carrollton continue to dissolve back into nature’s reclaim?

According to a confusing series of articles in the Post-Dispatch regarding the (nonexistent) Asian cargo air hub at Lambert, it looks like Aerotropolis proponents will be handed $3 million in yet another effort to lure Asian shipping flights into Lambert.  Where did they get the $3 million in pocket change and how exactly will it be used? Perhaps I can explain how they got the money slightly better than the Post did. How it will be used is unclear to everyone, including those who appropriated the funds.

Due to massive Missouri floods in 2008, Missouri received a large sum of grant money from the federal government for redevelopment of affected lands plus general flood relief. The Lemay area was one of the areas affected by flooding and due to receive grant money. Lemay is in St. Louis County.

However, Lemay has already approved a $3 million appropriation of tax funds from the nearby River City Casino for roadway improvements. Casino money does not have the stringent regulations on how that money can be used as federal grant money does. Therefore, the appropriation of funds from the Casino is more flexible than federal funds.

On April 4th, the St. Louis County Council approved a measure to transfer Lemay’s $3 million Casino funds towards a pot designed to lure air cargo for Lambert. As a trade-off, Lemay will receive $3 million from the feds in flood money to reconstruct their roads and infrastructure.

I admit, this is a clever way of finding money, if somewhat strange. It seems to me that Lambert, together with the RCGA had to really spend some time searching every possible route and talking with every entity to find this money. Shifting millions of funds allocated for other intentions through loopholes should be considered controversial. Re- appropriating tax funds happen in government, but given the final purpose of these funds seems all together desperate.

So, how exactly will $3 million that has been indirectly shifted from the River City Casino be used at Lambert? (more…)

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Finally, some good news! Lately, it seems that the City of St. Louis has been stepping up their plans with local developers to demolish historic homes and buildings for controversial redevelopments, which has caused growing concern among preservationists. However, it seems that St. Louis will soon be creating a list of buildings in the Mid-Century Modern style that hopefully will continue to withstand the test of time. This is a small step, but I feel that it is an important step in the right direction towards historical preservation. I will be curious to see what buildings make the list, and I certainly hope that those Mid-Century Modern examples that do not make the cut are granted extended life through other means.

After the former Del Taco ‘Flying Saucer’ on Grand was spared the wrecking ball, many local preservationists have been calling on local governments to save other important area Mid-Century marvels. Like any other historical architectural style, Mid-Century Modern is indeed irreplaceable. I am glad that the City of St. Louis is finally listening. The general appearance of these structures reflect an era that was comfortable, spacious, and carried futuristic thoughts with hints of the optimism in modern life after World War II. In their quirky, sleek, minimal, sometimes jarring, or somewhat abstract nature, these buildings were deemed outdated and fad-like far too soon and often fast targets for redevelopments. Saving the Saucer is just as important as saving a 100+ year old landmark as buildings in this style will offer future generations interesting historical architectural destinations.

I am very glad to see that St. Louis is willing to preserve more Mid-Century marvels beyond the Saucer. Its about time our St. Louis leaders recognizes the importance of preserving our great buildings if we are to retain the character of our City. Whether  Mounds built thousands of years ago by the Mississippian tribes, a Victorian mansion, an Edwardian corner shop, or a 1950s era dwelling, we need to ask ourselves if we are truly preserving our history, art, architecture, and overall way of life for our future generations to appreciate. It is true that not everything can be saved. Yet, we must not recklessly destroy every example of existing architecture while assuming any site is ‘not as important as something else out there.’ Extinction is forever.

I am also hoping that local prominent preservationist and fellow blogger Michael Allen is awarded the consultant job on this important task force. Michael Allen has been a driving force of preservation in the St. Louis area, a voice for the history of St. Louis, and a valuable resource for current events in local preservation. His blog, formerly Ecology of Absence is now the Preservation Research Office.  I encourage you to bookmark it and check it often!

One of my favorite blogs for Mid-Century Modern goodies is Toby Weiss’ site, B.E.L.T. I too encourage you to bookmark this site and see for yourself how wonderful Mid-Century Modern truly is!

More information about the survey can be found at this article on STLToday.com.

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Check it out! She did an absolutely beautiful job!  Congrats Becky, and thank you again for all your hard work in putting together such a moving piece!



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This post contains portions of a letter sent to all Bridgeton city residents by former Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Director Donald W. Bennett in 1989.

Airport expansion will not destroy Bridgeton!

In the weeks since the airport planning group announced they had narrowed the study for Lambert expansion to 4 alternatives,  misinformation and rumors have been rampant. In retrospect, we should have said nothing until a final plan was developed.

First, please do not jump to conclusions. The final recommendation for airport expansion will be made in mid-October. Given the preliminary work I’ve seen, I am confident that many of the fears and concerns being expressed will be found to be unwarranted. Bridgeton will be totally destroyed are simply not correct.

Second, this letter is a general mailing to the residents of Bridgeton to address fears of airport expansion. We deeply regret that there will be some displacements. I can assure you, though, that the number one priority in reviewing the four options in the minimum disruption of community life. Specifically which properties will be needed for airport expansion will not be known until a final recommendation is made.

Third, those who need to move will be dealt with fairly and sensitively. Since property purchases began several years ago, we have successfully purchased over 1500 homes through separate negotiations iwth individual property owners. In addition to a fair purchase price, there are a host of other services provided to make the move for homeowners, renters, and affected businesses as easy as possible.

If we do nothing and let the center of air travel move to other states where airports are expanding, Lambert will slowly be strangled. That means we will ultimately lose jobs when that happens. The total negative impact on the entire community will be far worse than having to buy a number of homes for Lambert expansion.

Expansion of the airport is a painful decision that will, unfortunately, affect some people. We all understand this human factor and are pledged to work diligently to minimize the impact on those who must be affected. But  to do nothing, or try to move (the whole airport) elsewhere, would be unfair to the people of our region today and destructive to our children’s future.

In 1989, I was a young kid. Now, in the year 2012, my former classmates and neighbors who stayed in St. Louis are paying on the increasing debt load for a barely-utilized path of concrete that opened 5 and a half years ago. According to Bennett, the plan that was supposed to save our generation’s economic future was the very thing that has given us a $1.4 billion debt burden and left us with a runway that would have better luck hosting local drag races than commercial jets. Mr. Bennett was correct in saying that Bridgeton would not be completely destroyed. However, eliminating half of the city of Bridgeton and the entire community of Carrollton during an exasperating 20 year period is not exactly what most people today would consider “diligently minimizing impact.”

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A reasonable question and one I hope to answer in this post. I will be posting a timeline of events in the life and death of Carrollton, complete with data, by mid-February.

At the time of expansion, Lambert was in a growing metropolitan area. I use the term ‘was’ because, for over the last 20 years, the growth in St. Louis County has been stagnant and is now declining.  Population decline is sadly projected to only worsen in the St. Louis County area before it gets better. St. Louis City has reached a low point and the trend back to the City is slowly gaining some upward momentum, but not nearly enough to consider it a boon. However, the population decline is only a fraction concerning what went wrong with Lambert’s expansion. 20 years ago, at the time the county was experiencing a population peak, the airport was facing its peak capacity. Airports across the nation was expanding, and our aging airport was losing its ‘world class’ status. To the owners of Lambert, the City of St. Louis, the desire to expand and modernize was palatable. The problem was, the only reason St. Louis hosted such a large volume of air passengers was due to the fact that a struggling and now defunct TWA operated a hub at Lambert.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 8-7-03
Author: Ken Leiser
Griggs will ask FAA to help out Lambert
Coalition is aiming for as much as $100 mil to finish Expansion

Before taking airport commissoners on a bus tour of the massive earthmovers clearing the way for a new runway, Lambt Field Director Leonard L. Griggs Jr. told them that the deepest hole of all for expansion may not be the new Lindberg Blvd. tunnel. It could be a lack of money. Facing a steep drop in passenger fees when AA axes half of its schedule this fall, Griggs and other Lambert officials will travel to Washington on Friday to seek up to $100 mil from the FAA to finish runway expansion. Griggs warned the commissioners on Wed that American’s Nov 1 schedule cuts- combined with the recession and the post- 911 travel mailaise- could cost the city up to $164 million in passenger-facility charges from mid-2002 to mid 2007.

In 2003, Lambert was watching as AA, who already dropped St. Louis from being their hub, was making deeper cuts to its already cut back flight schedules. Yet they pressed on to continue the doomed and expensive project despite there being zero need for it. In 2003, the giant earth-movers tasked with preparing the land for the expansion project had barely started to shave the surface. Carrollton Oaks by then was largely gone. Carrollton Oaks Elementary was already flattened. Yet much of Carrollton west of Carrollton Oaks was largely still in existence, with residents. Almost all of Carrollton west was still in existence. Carrollton Elementary shut in 2002, but was still standing. Had the project halted, millions of dollars could have been saved. Carrollton may have had a chance to come back to existence.

Aviation Now.Com

Aviation Week & Space Technology


Airline Outlook: Lambert’s Losses

Edited by David Bond

AA’s plans to reduce capacity at STL Lambert Field is likely to have a long-term negative impact on job development in the STL metro area, according to a study by Jan K Brueckner, economics professor at the University of Il. At Urbana-Campaign. The ‘dehubbing’ of Lambert, taking effect in November, will cut mainline jet flights to 53 a day from 213. Daily flights by regional aircraft will drop to 154 from 199. Brueckner estimates the reduction will cause the loss of 2K jobs at the airport alone. The reduction of air service quality, in both passenger and freight sectors, will have a longer term impact on the business climate.

So, were there any signs before 2003 that the project would be a failure?

St. Louis Sun Tues 1-2-90

Author: Larry Eichel

Living in Hub City Presents Options and Drawbacks: TWA’s ‘Monopoly’ Criticized.

John C Danforth, a member of the US senate who is the ranking Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees the airline industry. “The problem is concentration at individual airports causing lack of competition,” Danforth said. “When you’re up to 82% as we are (with TWA) in St. Louis, how much worse can it get? I’d say that’s intolerable.

St. Louis City was placating a runway expansion for a single airline, and one that was obviously operating in the red. Before a single house was bought for expansion, a flailing TWA bought and led by corporate raider Carl Icahn, a man known to drastically trim down companies to increase stock values and profits before moving on to other companies. Carl Icahn’s presence in TWA meant that the one airline that Lambert depended on for survival was economically unstable at best.

There were other issues at hand. In the late 80s-early 90s, many airports were playing the expansion game. St. Louis City simply didn’t want to be left out, and felt that as a hub, despite TWA’s documented financial instability, they could play too. Although some cities faced the same eminent domain fights as St. Louis did with their expansion projects forced on local residents, other cities actually worked together with their metro areas to develop plans that benefit a whole region. For example, Denver at the same time Lambert was considering expansion, decided that it too has maxed out on space within its confined borders. Therefore, Denver relocated its entire airport from its boundaries within the metro area to an area outside the city. This has allowed for the airport to expand at will, and given Denver a modernized world-class airport. In case studies of airport functionality, Denver is the example of how to do it right. St. Louis is the example of how to do it completely wrong at every step.

From Daniel R. Rust: Lambert-St. Louis International Airport’s Alternative W-1W: A Case Study  at Business and Economic History Online,

The controversy and cost of W-1W provide an example of what happens when a major metro area retains its 1920s-era airport location as its only major commercial airport. Communities, schools, churches, factories, and businesses sprang up around the airport, preventing its expansion. Enlarging Lambert’s footprint required great financial and human costs because the airport lacked open land for development.

What happened with St. Louis? Why couldn’t we just rebuild and relocate our airport too? First, we have to look at historical implications. We have never gotten over the infighting between the city versus the county, a split that is unique only to our metro area. St. Louis City has owned Lambert since 1927 when the county was nothing more than cornfields. You have to remember that, at this time, St. Louis City had firmed up its borders and wanted nothing to do with the County, beyond ownership of the small airport within the County’s borders. As decades went by and the population spread to areas past the airport, the issue of the airport’s location was indeed a concern for Lambert operators and for county residents. The idea to relocate the airport to another area, such as to an incorporated area of St. Louis County with room to expand, or to Franklin County, St. Charles County, or even Illinois was brought up many times in the decades before the official 1989 expansion plans. However, any relocation of Lambert would simply mean that St. Louis City would lose control and possibly ownership over its coveted asset. Therefore, the City of St. Louis outright refused any plan to relocate. Throughout the 60s-80s when population growth potential in the St. Louis area was uncertain, the infighting between the smaller government entities displayed concern for only their own airport interests, rather than working towards a better solution for air travel in the entire region. Mid America Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois was developed during the aviation expansion era on the notion that it could relieve Lambert from some of its traffic. Mid America has never attracted a single major carrier.

Even before the runway expansion plans were approved by the FAA and construction plans began, Lambert was arguably adequate for a small city such as St. Louis. The airport was not yet at capacity, and only projected being beyond capacity for the year 2010 onward. The FAA approved the questionable airport usage projections, which stated that about 20 million people a year would use Lambert. Future airport usage projections made by those who have interests in inflating numbers, or simply making projections based on data concerning a single unstable airline, proved to be devastatingly erroneous. The invalidity of those projections should have been noted and corrected in 1996, the year that began a rapid and steady decline of air traffic through St. Louis which has not since improved. In 2010, 12,331,426 passengers went through Lambert, a number that has dropped by 3 million when just over 15 million passengers went through Lambert Field in 2006. Lambert is currently operating at half of the capacity as it did in 1995, at its height of traffic and when construction of the new runway slowly began. Again, in 1995, they were nowhere near capacity but instead were relying on faulty projections to justify the construction of their new runway.

Therefore, its not a question of whether or not Bridgeton, and thus Carrollton, was geographically vulnerable to the airport. The question the City of Bridgeton, the City of St. Ann, the City of Hazelwood, the City of Kinloch, the City of Cool Valley, the City of Berkeley, the defunct City of Bridgeton Terrace, the City of St. Charles (who experiences incredible noise issues relating to the flight path of the new runway), all of the affected residents including Carrollton and Carrollton Oaks, business owners along Natural Bridge Road, Lindbergh Boulevard, Cypress Road, and Fee Fee Road, everyone in the City of St. Louis who is stuck with the burden of Lambert’s $1.4 billion debt, and I all want to know is, why did Lambert expand knowing TWA was in dire trouble, and why did they choose the most expensive and most intrusive expansion plans to do it with? Why was the City of St. Louis allowed to make such irresponsible decisions regarding the expansion of its municipal airport without any repercussions beyond the current debt load now owned by city residents, who had zero say in the matter?  Nearly all of Carrollton and perhaps half of Carrollton Oaks remained when AA (TWA’s new owners) decided that it no longer wanted a hub in St. Louis. At that time, the City of Bridgeton still had a chance to rebuild and grow if construction would have halted, saving taxpayers millions. The City of St. Louis, despite the inability to afford or make sense for the expansion beyond its public outrcy of, “If we build it, they (some faceless airline) will come (and make a hub here)”, pressed on with the plans anyway. No airline since TWA expressed any interest whatsoever in making St. Louis their hub before a single drop of concrete was poured. Without a hub, the runway was still built. Again, why was this allowed? Although Carrollton Oaks was mostly gone, almost three quarters of Carrollton remained after the tragic day of September 11, 2001. After those events, airline commerce plummeted and never fully recovered. So why did Lambert choose to press on even after those events? Why does Lambert and the City of St. Louis want to reinvent itself as an Asian import hub after it became blatantly obvious that no Asian carriers want anything to do with using St. Louis, despite sending multiple delegations to China and Hong Kong begging for contracts? Why was the City of St. Louis, together with land developers, lobbying for $360 million Missouri tax dollars to build infrastructure when no Asian shipping companies have any interest to do business with our city? (Most St. Louisans are relieved that the Missouri legislation said no). Why can the City of St. Louis not understand its own limitations and work accordingly within them? Concerning a scope beyond the Lambert issue, when will the City of St. Louis leaders learn from these major mistakes and work effectively with regional economic planners and educated business analysts who act as beacons for responsible growth?  Even larger question, when will we as a whole region finally begin to understand that the political and economic divides that exist between St. Louis City and County, including every municipality within St. Louis County, and also includes the surrounding counties, are hurting the entire region and has ultimately led to our decline?

There are two purposes of this blog:

1) To show the tragic state that Lambert put Carrollton into for 20 years (1989-2009), leaving residents to live next to vacant and dilapidated houses for years while they waited for their buyout agreement, creating unsafe conditions such as transients, gangs, and drug users into the area. This blog is to document the emotional tragedies of the victims of eminent domain during this particular 20 year expansion project. For many residents, 20 years of waiting and wondering with the inability to sell their existing property while watching their beloved neighborhood slowly dissolve into chaos is nothing short of slow torture. This should be considered criminal in a modern society.

STLPD 12;16;03

Author: Shane Graber

Many Lambert buyouts will be delayed

The airport is buying 1937 residential and 70 business parcels for the $1.1 billion runway expansion. As of Dec. 1, 1491 offers have been extended and the airport has received 1458 acceptances, the airport spokesman said in an email. That leaves 446 property owners waiting for an offer. In November, the Bridgeton city council asked Lambert Field to finish the job it started in 1995. Officials passed a resolution charging that Lambert had used inconsistent buyout procedures, resulting in vacant houses next to occupied homes throughout the Carrollron subdivisions.

2) To ask the questions of why expansion happened when analysts at the time projected that the whole project was incredibly risky, turning out to be a tragic and costly failure that could have been avoided.
If the expansion project had been necessary to push Lambert into a thriving, job-producing, economy-enriching machine for the St. Louis area, the questions raised in this blog would not need to be asked. If Lambert acted swiftly during the buyout and displayed acts of dignity to the residents and their homes, the photos of abandoned, graffitied, slowly disintegrating homes and structures would have never needed to have been taken.

So to answer the question, ‘Does Bridgeton’s sheer proximity make it vulnerable to expansion?’ we have to look at the question of regional population and the question of airport usage growth. Was it possible that St. Louis had already experienced its peak in population? Were the projections of sustained air travel through St. Louis inflated? If St. Louis indeed experienced a massive population (well beyond the population numbers of the 1980s) AND that air travel projections could be sustainable (if we were a hub for a financially stable air carrier and/or carried a larger portfolio of air carriers into Lambert’s terminal rather than at an 82% usage from a single carrier) the answer might have been yes, Bridgeton was indeed vulnerable to loss. With greater population numbers and a strong aviation hub, Bridgeton’s vulnerability in theory could have been calculated at an improbable 25% or less risk when many other expansion options (explained below) are considered. However, the fact that St. Louis has experienced its population peak in the 1980s and air travel projections concerned only one airline in 1995, the answer to the question surrounding Bridgeton’s perceived vulnerability at the genesis of the actual expansion should have been a resounding no. Air traffic coming into St. Louis was clearly not sustainable. We could not even retain our hub status, and yet Lambert officials and the City of St. Louis felt the need to build a new runway anyway, and did so in the strangest of ways.

Another factor to consider when deciding whether or not Bridgeton was vulnerable to Lambert’s takeover is to consider the various options Lambert could choose from for expansion. Of all the expansion options prior to 1989, nobody would have expected a runway to be built so far west from the main terminal, and at such an odd angle from the other runways. Before the 4 expansion plans of 1989, Lambert was vocally pushing for a southern expansion through Woodson Terrace, St. Ann, Edmundson, and Berkeley. This option would either create a tunnel for or alter completely Highway 70. Of the 4 official expansion plans presented in 1989, only one- the W-1W plan, encroached into Bridgeton. Air traffic controllers and pilots at the time argued that this was the worst option possible. They felt this runway approach had the least benefits and in fact would not be as safe to use in inclement weather as the original runways. The controllers and the pilots preferred a proposal that called for a new runway to be built north and parallel of the current runway system. This would call for some land to be taken from McDonnell-Douglass (now Boeing). Another point: Lambert at the time was buying land in Berkeley and Kinloch. Cool Valley residents desperately wanted to be bought out as the eastern approach was making jet noise unbearable. In theory, Lambert could have just as easily expanded eastward, and would have the added bonus of existing closer to a terminal (Terminal 2) and would not have to stretch as far east as it currently does west. Instead of sensible expansion, Lambert choose to go after Bridgeton. Given the many other possibilities for expansion; a northern plan, an eastern plan, a southern plan, another plan which called for rebuilding all the runways while adding an additional runway within the  airport boundaries, or to create an entirely new airport outside of the metro area with plenty leverage for future expansion, the westward expansion into Bridgeton seemed egregious at best.

To understand the viewpoint of the City of Bridgeton and its residents, I present an article written in 1989 by Mayor Conrad Bowers concerning how Bridgeton found out that expansion into the area was a possibility.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial: September 1989

Author Conrad Bowers

No Friendly Skies over Bridgeton

The facts are: No environmental impact studies have been done, noise contour maps are unavilable, and actual site plans for runway development have yet to be developed. The apparent lack of information demonstrates that nobody can predict that only a few hundred homes will be affected. The initial Bridgeton reaction to the plans was one of outrage. The confusion created in our city and the immediate impact on real estate vaues are most unfortunate. Uncertianity has been created by an irresponsible announcement based on concepts for which there are no definite plans. Residents will be faced for years with the question, “Will they or will they not take my property?”

For reasons unknown to us, Bridgeton officials were not informed of the meeting on Aug, 25. We found out about it from a Post-Dispatch reporter who called us at 2PM and asked if we knew about it. We responded by sending a staff member to the remainder of the meeting. The failure to notify those most directly affected needs to be emphasized because it shows the complete insensitivity of the St. Louis Airport Commission toward its immediate neighbors.

Several years ago we were told that there would be no additional expansion to the west. This year we approved plans to move Lambert’s facilities for car rental companies to the area that used to be Bridgeton Terrace. Suddenly, all of this is obsolete. If the dynamics of changes in air transportation are so rapid as to make the so called long-term plans obsolete in a matter of months, then the notion of expanding Lambert in the midst of an already- fully developed part of St. Louis County seems in and of itself an error. We need to take an approach to expansion that addresses the future- one that does not necessarily address the needs of just one major airline.  The first step is that the STL Airport Commission has proportional regional representation. Lambert Field is a municipal facility, serving the whole metro area including communities in IL. It is obvious that we need regional cooperation and regional input into any regional airport. For, if nothing else, it symbolizes the spirit of St. Louis.

Here’s a article written in 2007 to sum it up the aftermath: St. Louis Airports too Quiet- USA Today

From the article:

John Krekeler, one of 16 Lambert airport commissioners, estimates that only 5% of flights at Lambert use the new runway. “The runway is a white elephant and is not needed now,” Krekeler says. “A ridiculous amount of money was spent for a 9,000-foot patch of concrete. It’s asinine that it cost $1.1 billion, while it cost $315 million at MidAmerica for a passenger terminal and a runway.” Critics say TWA’s problems were known to local aviation officials before they moved ahead with the new airport and runway. They blame the Federal Aviation Administration for rosy traffic predictions and charge that the agency and local politicians squandered taxpayers’ money to pay for the projects.

April 15 UPDATE: I’m still working on generating a concise timeline. I have thousands of pages of documentation so I thank you for your patience with me. A greater in-depth look at the events that led to the expansion will be examined in a finished book form.

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