Do the Math: West Florissant in Ferguson

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With much of the West Florissant corridor of Ferguson in ashes, there is discussion of rebuilding it. County Executive Stenger announced $500,000 to raze burnt buildings in Ferguson, Dellwood and unincorporated areas. East-West Gateway has fast-tracked a plan to do a Great Streets project on 2.6 miles of West Florissant at a cost of $2.5M. Discussion of building the North-South Metrolink line has reignited. It would include running along West Florissant. It’s a national embarrassment, among many to come to light the last six months, that St. Louis must correct.

Before it burned the West Florissant area was a despotic built environment. It is dangerous and unpleasant for pedestrians. The area is car-oriented which means each building comes with a sea of parking. There is no room left for public space, and since its land-use is low-productivity, there is no money to build one. So protesters were left with parking lots or streets to assemble. West Florissant is a classic stroad, built for speed and to support adjacent buildings, yet failing at both. The Great Streets project and Metrolink will be a waste if West Florissant is rebuilt as it was.

Do the Math - Maplewood/West Florissant{The West Florissant corridor}

The West Florissant area’s assessed value is $3,749,870 over 36.5 acres or $102,736 per acre. The most valuable parcel is the McDonald’s at over $500,000 per acre. A Taco John’s in the making.

Do the Math - Maplewood/West Florissant{Downtown Maplewood}

On the other hand, downtown Maplewood area’s assessed value is $10,778,150 over 32.58 acres or $330,797 per acre. Nothing fancy, yet it’s 3x as productive as West Florissant. I suspect the job and sales density are a commensurate amount higher. A poor person could live, go to work, and do most of life’s errands there without a car. The thousands saved each year on car ownership and traffic tickets can be applied to other parts of life, hopefully to better oneself.

The area is car-accommodating, but not car-oriented. Despite the region’s best efforts, the place has survived because it is built for people, an actual place. The most productive property is 2717 Sutton. No skyscraper, just an attractive two-story building. With such poor performing built environments and much infrastructure to maintain to serve it, it’s no wonder Ferguson must use traffic fines and fees to fill its budget.

2717 Sutton{The most valuable parcel is 2717 Sutton at $1,320,500 per acre}

We can’t afford to build the way West Florissant is. Zoning and regulations must at least allow, if not encourage, a traditional development pattern. Any government or philanthropic money spent there must be contingent on building a place that is productive enough to last. West Florissant needs to be rebuilt for people, not cars. If it is rebuilt as it was, it will continue to fail, and Ferguson will fail.

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  • tbatts666

    I love this $$$/acre analysis, but I am rather confused about a lot of then ins and outs tax policy.

    It seems to me that the core of the problem is how we levy taxes. Why should a parking space pay less taxes than someone’s living space?

    Ok, so we can’t afford to sustain the current system… a lot of us NEXTlers and StrongTowners sort of understand this. So where are the winnable battles in changing our system? What are the steps we need to take to turn the current system into a sustainable one?

    • Alex Ihnen

      IMO – this series and type of analysis highlights the type of development municipalities, elected officials, and neighbors should seek. They all need to know that half a dozen old storefronts with a pawn shop, pet store, etc. are much more economically productive than a stand alone fast food restaurant, or gas station. Second, policy ideas can come from this – such as tax land and not the improvements upon it. One could specifically tax parking as well, of course. First, I think much greater awareness of the issues, and numbers, is needed.

      • tbatts666

        Thanks Alex. You guys at nextstl are so awesome.

        So before any battles for positive change at a systematic level can be one we should be working on what we can do personally to build awareness.

        I hardly ever see anyone seriously discussing reform to tax codes. I figured it’s just too hard of a reform to be practical.

  • dick

    If the Ferguson disaster brings NS into being it will have been worth it. Oh, and both ferguson and maplewood are too far away from downtown to actually matter in rebuilding this CITY.

    • A.J. Wilkes

      A metro line doesn’t matter if it’s not connecting places peoplr. We need more and more downtown Maplewoods especially in the city. Right now the problem is a place becomes successful and then people can’t afford to live there when rents go up. More and more success on just a moderate level helps the region by increasing the supply of places people want to be and supply/demand find appropriate prices to live in those places.

      THEN Metro line connecting those places becomes a no brianer.

      • dick

        We a have a bunch in south st louis, we need a metro line to connect to the central corridor. MapleWood and stl county can go suck an egg

        • A.J. Wilkes

          I don’t understand your saying there needs to be a rail line to connect places that are already in close proximity but how issues in the county should be ignored. Light rail connecting a region in that scenario is pointless, not to mention how crappy a job that’s been done to develop around some of the existing Metrolink stations.

          I’d love to know what places in South City talking about.

          • dick

            Soulard, laf sq, cherokee st. South grand, the hill to name a few

          • tbatts666

            Cwe, the loop, downtown.

            Right we should be connecting well built places first. We need to enable tod before we use transit to try and jumpstart places

            If not light rail I would like to see dedicated brt. Cheaper, and it seems like you could be able to incrementally upgrade it to lrt. But I am not a like a civil engineer or anything.

          • kjohnson04

            We should be focusing on increased bus transit. Light Rail is not the solution for transit in this region; it’s the most expensive, and if planned badly (the area around it included) it’s an expensive failure. Mass transit must connect places where people are going to and from; most of St. Louis County fails that metric. That’s why bus transit and even a couple of MetroLink stations flag on usage. The built environment and transit don’t give a strong enough alternative to driving. That’s what’s killing us.

            By extension local governments opposed to intelligent TOD should be disincorporated.

          • dick

            The region was built for cars. They moved out there to live a car lifestyle. Let them. The city was built for people. That is where transit works. We need a north south line and more bus service in city a select few parts of inner ring. For both there needs to be political will. For that you need public support. For that you need trains because normies like trains but hate buses. If you need any more help I’ll be happy to explain anything else about how this works.

          • matimal

            …Since the 1760s! St. Louisers have always been very progressive!

          • dick

            Are you intimating that retro fitting the suburbs is MORE progressive than rebuilding the City? Thats just sad. Have fun is brentwood or what ever midcounty car based hell hole you think is “st louis”.

          • matimal

            You misunderstand. I’m being sarcastic. St. Louis wasn’t “built for cars.” It was partially destroyed and half-way REBUILT for cars. St. Louis was built over many generations and for many purposes. St. Louis isn’t Phoenix as you imply.

          • dick

            St louis city isn’t. Most of st louis county is (Phoenix, that is)

          • matimal

            I think that your argument is incorrect. That is my point. I’ll be more direct from now on. Sarcasm is a dangerous tool when not used in person.

          • dick

            That much I gathered. So you think its more important to bring transit to suburbs built for cars than City nabes built for people?

          • matimal

            History Matters. I think it’s important to realize that St. Louis’ built form was created over 250 years. That is why it doesn’t look like Salt Lake City or Phoenix (climate and vegetation aside) Chesterfield was created in a way that is UNLIKE St. Louis city, unlike the suburbs of Phoenix, which were created in the same way and patterns as the center of Phoenix. That means that what works in one part of Phoenix will work in all since they are all the same. That isn’t true with many-generation St. Louis. One size won’t fit all in St. Louis. We’ll need to combine both. We need to create regional commuter rail to connect car-oriented suburbs to the center AND city nabes built for people. We have to walk and chew gum at the same time. This is what makes St. Louis more ‘difficult’ but it’s what makes it more interesting.

          • dick

            People in west county dont want it. Traffic isnt bad enough. Not enough people work dodowntown. If we have 50 years of job and population growth in the City then maybe we can talk about a commuter rail to chesterfuck

          • matimal

            That’s a different issue and traffic is beside the point. West county is not an independent nation. They don’t even pay for their own local roads. Suburbs are massively subsidized. This is about costs and who pays. That’s why the state highway funding issue was rejected. You don’t have the power to predict the future that you think. You’re being too cynical. Metrolink happened in the midst of the great car/highway/ suburban industrial complex’s golden age. There are ways to get things done you aren’t seeing.

          • G

            This is ridiculous. We are ALL part of the St. Louis region. Everyone is correct in saying that much more needs to be invested in the city, but completely ignoring inner-ring suburban problems is just narrow-minded. Keep in mind that Maplewood is denser, more walkable, older, and more connected to STL City than dozens of city neighborhoods.

            Ignoring parts of the region (namely the city) in the past got us into the mess we’re in today. Ignoring STL County municipalities, particularly ones that BORDER St. Louis city, is the same backwards mentality in new packaging.

            And this is coming from a lifelong city resident.

          • dick

            agree to disagree, the city is more important than the county. The city east of grand is more important than the City west of grand. Downtown is more important than the rest of the city. Thats is you want a dense, well planned, functioning city. If you want pockets of far flung urbanity poorly connected by a train that runs every 20 min and only gets you a mile away from destination stick with your inner ring.

          • matimal

            You’re having a discussion with someone who isn’t me. If “you want a dense, well planned, functioning city” you have a lot to learn about how to get there. Simply wishing it with every fiber of your being is beside the point. St. Louis needs realism, not burning passions. That’s what created many of its problems in the first place. Burning loyalties to certain groups and areas and burning hatreds of others are what have CAUSED St. Louis to become what it is.

          • dick

            Yeah, that is a response to someone else, you can see who a comment is responding to at the top of the comment

          • matimal

            So you DO understand sarcasm…….

          • nugga

            #Youarepartoftheproblem!

          • matimal

            “intimating”? I’m saying you work with the metro you have, not the one you want. You are projecting the views of others onto me. I am deeply pro-urban and see densification as the answer to many of America’s biggest problems, but Rome, and St. Louis, was not built in a day. St. Louis won’t be ‘rebuilt’ as it was. It will be remade by each generation.

          • dick

            I choose to work toward a City I want, all US metros have huge swaths or car only suburban hellscape. We aren’t going to eradicate it and neither is NYC or the Bay area or Seattle. Lets focus on the City, you know, that part that matters.

          • Alex Ihnen

            You both add a lot to the conversation here – thanks.