St. Charles Continues Struggle With New Urbanism: Noah’s Ark Ambitions Cut Further

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There's something fitting about the old Noah's Ark site in St. Charles being converted to a New Urbanism community. After all, the Ark was built to provide everything needed for pairs of all the world's animals and enough people to repopulate the globe and any New Urbanism development seeking to bring a "live, work, play and pray" lifestyle to community is certainly some place I could stay for 40 days and 40 nights without needing to venture further afield.

Anyway, not all seems to be going according to plan for the old site adjacent to I-70 and the Missouri River. According to the Post-Dispatch, the developer is seeking to cut the number of residential units in the development from 540 to 296. Now 540 residential units does not a New Urbanism community make, but it's better than 296.

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A $55M TIF subsidy has been granted for the site. Whittaker Homes (builder of New Town at St. Charles and currently in bankruptcy) was the original developer and envisioned a tower up to 18 stories tall. Cullinan Properties is the current developer and hopes to make further changes to the original plan.

The money quote from the Post-Dispatch story is this:

Last spring, some city officials expressed concern that the company was straying from new urbanism elements of high density, pedestrian access and vertical development. The company insists that the project still employs new urbanism concepts.

In addition to the issues with the Noah's Ark site, a $125M TIF appears to be on the table for the nearby Harbor San Carlos proposed development. Why can't St. Charles focus on just one faux New Urbanism development at a time. In all seriousness, it's great to have significant development plans, but it should surprise no one if there are three underpreforming, underdeveloped, disappointing "New Urbansim" developments in St. Charles County in the near future.

Real estate "experts" seem to believe that "New Urbanism" may be a silver lining to suburban development on the other side of the Great Recession. And maybe they are right, but that silver lining is already appearing quite tarnished. With any luck, one or more of the proposed projects in St. Charles County will fail so that one may have the opportunity to flourish.

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