On Suburban and urban NIMBYism in St. Louis, Next Up: Lafayette Square

LafSq mop4
{the Zittlosen Manufacturing Company building on Park may receive a full historic renovation}

Oakville, Town & Country and Creve Coeur have been easy NIMBY targets of late. Oakville residents have been loud in their opposition to a low-income senior housing development, though only after it was approved. It appears to be moving forward. The town of Town & Country have stopped a new upscale senior living facility from being built there, in part saying they already have enough retirement communities. Creve Coeur residents recently opposed a new senior living community and another at Lindbergh and Beaver Drive is being opposed. The city certainly isn't immune to such NIMBYism. A proposal this spring for 63 apartments was met by loud opposition as residents of the city's Dogtown neighborhood went to court and started a petition drive against the project. There are many other examples–a number of gas stations, healthcare facilities, etc., but these are particular because they are all housing.

Now, one of the city's marquee neighborhoods is set to vote up or down a proposal for a complete historic renovation of the long vacant Zittlosen building. If approved, the 1910 Zittlosen Manufacturing Company building fronting Park Avenue at Dolman (1322 Dolman address) would be renovated to the stringent specifications of the Lafayette Square Local Historic District Code. So what's not to like? The project would produce 42 income-restricted apartments. If chatter from the Lafayette Square neighborhood listserve is a true reflection of neighborhood sentiment, the project doesn't stand a chance. Neighborhood support is helpful and public notice is requred for the project to receive the full package of tax credits being sought. In practice, this means the proposal likely needs support from the mayor, local alderperson and neighborhood to bolster chances of success.

LafSq mop3
{new infill across Park and new residential on Dolman have brought new construction to the area}

While a lot of opposition to development is simply labeled "NIMBY" (Not In My Back Yard), clearly individual proposals vary greatly. Landfills and waste sites, airports and highways can present enormous change, and can devastate a neighborhood, or take homes and businesses altogether. Opposition to smaller-scale development is often more simple resistance to change. Residents may fear that their trusted parking spot may not always be open, or that several cars may back up at an intersection where once there were few. Noise, light, traffic–people do not generally want more of these.

In Town & Country, some believe there are simply enough senior assisted living and retirement communities already. Maybe so. In Lafayette Square is there already enough low-income subsidized housing? The neighborhood proper is relatively affluent and home to more than a few half-million dollar homes. Across Truman Parkway are the Peabody Darst Webbe and Lasalle neighborhoods, roughly the size of Lafayette Square and dominated by subsidized housing. How many units should this section of the city have? Would a rejection of this project by Lafayette Square residents be akin to the opposition in Oakville?

LafSq mop2
{the Zittlosen building serves as the southern entry marker to the neighborhood}

LafSq_ZittlosenBy the way, what are income-restricted housing units? The Metropolitan Artist Lofts in Midtown are income restricted ($29,580 for one occupant). As are the beautiful Leather Trades LoftsCupples Station Loft Apartments and some units of the Paul Brown Lofts ($30,000 for one occupant). The seems-to-be-starting Arcade project downtown will feature income-restricted units as well. In short, income-restricted is not the same as Section 8 housing, "the projects" or traditional low-income, subsidized housing. Hopefully the project will get a full and fair hearing. The Zittlosen building has seen proposals come and go, a full historic renovation and residential conversion should be welcomed.

The following email has been sent to Lafayette Square residents, giving a basic project outline and inviting residents to attend a September 4 meeting at which a vote will be taken (surely there is a better, more fair, more inclusive way to gather neigborhood sentiment than a short-notice meeting, which are habitually dominated by those easily fired-up, the NIMBY-esque voices, but that's the subject for another post):


Purpose – Provide information on new project and vote regarding neighborhood support for certain aspects.
Time – 7 PM, Wednesday September 4
Place – Squires Annex
Liquids and light snacks provided.
Project – Park Avenue Lofts, located in the old Mop factory. North side of Park between Dolman and Truman.
Project details –
42 Loft Apartments – 1 and 2 bedroom.
Cost of project $10,000,000 ($250,000 per apartment)
Complete historic rehab of building exterior according to LS historic code.
Rebuild parking lot.
Developer / Owner – RR Jennings Developer, LLC Stacie Hastie
Management Company Fairway Management, Inc. (The Lofts at Lafayette Square and The Residences at Forest Park Hotel)
Full time on site manager.
Full time maintenance employee
Mr. Hastie is a partner in the City Hospital and Walgreens locations. He took over many of the Pyramid properties when that company closed. Mr. Hastie is not involved with the Union Club at Jefferson and Lafayette.

Tax Credits – Historic Tax credits and a mix of State and Federal development credits.

***** Key point – This will be voted upon ******

One of the tax credit programs requires that some of the benefits be passed on to the tenants in the form of lower rents and restricts the qualifications for tenants. This program requires community support and the government's application deadline is September 6 so we will vote at the meeting. (Sorry about the compressed schedule.) The tenant qualifications are:

Minimum annual income $25,000 ( Equal to full time at $12.50 per hour. At minimum wage, 68 hours per week.)
Maximum annual income $37,380 ( Equal to full time at $18.67 per hour.)
Background, credit, and employment checks
I am asking the neighborhood to do the following.

Come to the meeting, participate.
Listen to the information
Form an opinion.
Because of the difficulty of having a multi party discussion via email I would like to save as much as possible for the meeting after all the information is presented. Some features of this project are still being worked out and I am researching how this compares to other more familiar housing programs.

If you can not attend the meeting and wish to share an experience or opinion before the meeting please feel free. You can contact me at [email protected] . Due to time constraints I can not promise responses to all emails. Information I would like to have when you comment.

– If you feel uncomfortable with any aspect of this, what are the specific concerns?
– What would address your concerns?
– Do you support this project, not sure, or no. 

I will present a composite of absentee neighbor's comments at the meeting.

Hope to see you at the meeting. It is so much easier in person.

Keith Houghton