Breaking down the Delmar Divide

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On April 25, 2017 Alderman Terry Kennedy (18th Ward) introduced a blighting study and redevelopment plan to the St. Louis Board of Alderman for the neighborhoods of Fountain Park and Lewis Place (boundaries being Taylor Ave to the east, Delmar Blvd to the south, Kingshighway Blvd to the west, and Page Ave to the north).

Further investigation has revealed that this blighting study is likely related to a little known redevelopment plan being dubbed “Kingsway”. According to their website (www.kingswaydevelopment.net), The Kingsway Development Corporation is a St. Louis based organization within the Kingsway Merchants District of the 18th Ward. KDC exists as a necessary community development intermediary, combining corporate, government, and philanthropic resources to help community-based organizations revitalize their neighborhoods.

Proposed Hodiamont Greenway/Midtown Loop. Source: Great Rivers Greenway

The redevelopment area is bisected by the vacated Hodiamont Streetcar ROW that discontinued service in the area in the 1960s. In recent years Great Rivers Greenway has been proposed turning the old transit right-of-way into a trail for pedestrians and bicyclists. The proposed greenway would connect the disinvested neighborhoods of West St. Louis (predominately African American neighborhoods just north of Delmar Boulevard) to the rapidly developing neighborhoods of Grand Center and Midtown St. Louis.

Lately there has even been an increasing amount of proposed and completed developments that either straddle or leap across the infamous “Delmar Divide”. Projects just north of Delmar like the North Sarah redevelopment (near Grand Center) are in the process of reconstructing a whole neighborhood, while proposals like the redevelopment of the former St. Luke’s Hospital into an incubator for non-profits hope to bridge racial and socioeconomic divides.

Proposed “Delmar Divine” project on Delmar Blvd.

The billions of dollars in investment taking place between the Washington University Medical Center, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and Cortex has caused a massive ripple effect across the central corridor. Multiple tower cranes are visible along the I-64 corridor and rising rents in the Central West End have even made neighborhoods like Forest Park Southeast (also known as “The Grove”) relatively high rent districts in a very short time.

View of Hodiamont/Chouteau Greenway connecting Cortex to Federal Mogul Redevelopment Area. Source Great Rivers Greenway

All of these factors lead some to speculate that areas north of Delmar may be targeted for similar redevelopment due to increased development pressure from the Central Corridor. Fountain Park, Lewis Place, and Vandeventer are beautiful neighborhoods and it’s easy to imagine a future where large organizations like the WUMCRC (Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation) and Great Rivers Greenway partner with the SLDC (St. Louis Development Corporation) and large developers to bring the neighborhoods under the jurisdiction of a Park Central Development (www.parkcentraldevelopment.org) type entity.

Interestingly enough, Park Central Development may not need to take the reins alone. Recently, there has been a proposal to pass a special business district called the North Central Business District. According to their website (www.northcentralsbd.wordpress.com), the district’s proposed boundary are Finney Avenue on the north, Lindell Boulevard on the south, Taylor Avenue on the west and Vandeventer Avenue on the east, which situates it just east of the proposed “Kingsway” district. SBD Commissioners will be appointed by Mayor Krewson and approved by the Board of Alderman. 5 Commissioners must be owners of real property within the district and 2 members must be renters of real property within the district. In the past, special business districts and form based codes have been the precursors to rapid redevelopment (e.g. Forest Park Southeast).

Proposed North Central Business District. Source: North Central Business District

Currently, the St. Louis LRA (Land Reutilization Authority) owns a significant amount of parcels in the Fountain Park, Lewis Place, and Academy neighborhoods. This could potentially be a good thing if future development is inclusive and does not aim to displace residents, but there is reason for concern. In recent years, the city of St. Louis with the help of the LRA, SLDC (St. Louis Development Corporation), and real estate developer Paul McKee used the power of eminent domain to displace citizens in favor of the $1.5 Billion dollar NGA (National Geospatial Agency) West Headquarters. Let’s hope this latest redevelopment effort does its best to bridge the “Delmar Divide” and not just push it further north.

Source: Great Rivers Greenway

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  • Dahmen Piotraschke

    They (developers) would put up a wall like that in Palestine and Israel if they legally could..the Delmar Divide is the CWE.’s biggest upset to price and reputation to expand..so they are buying up land to slowly encroach, taking large blocks, building high rise (safe) properties. Year by year going north and a quick left to retrain locals brains or fool the out of towners.. moving here.

  • umyeahokthen

    I knew they’d move north of Delmar eventually and that’s great. I just hate when current residents get displaced due to eminent domain or rising real estate taxes.

  • brickhugger

    What would help, and I’ve said this many times, is to take the Roberts Brothers parking lot at Delmar and Euclid (which is currently for sale), and turn it into a parking garage, with retail on the ground floor, 4 levels of parking, and a office/residential on the top floor or two, with a masonry façade on all sides to match the two buildings on the west side of that intersection. By itself it won’t ‘save’ the near north side, but it would create a psychological break in the Delmar barrier in the one place where that is possible, and that’s worth it’s weight in gold. (plus the CWE needs the parking)

  • Justin Idleburg

    How can we have another conversation about. How the city and the federal government, intentionally omit the residents out of $511 Million of redevelopment efforts in the West end.

  • northstar

    This area is ripe for reinvestment. The area north of Delmar, south of Page, west of Grand, is a natural extension of the CWE. I don’t know what will happen to the existing residents, but economically speaking, this area will turn into empty fields left to the trajectory it is currently on, and will end up having substantially fewer residents. I think even if many existing residents do become displaced, the question is whether the end point ends up looking about like the region, or overshoots….

    To some extent, the city is naturally going to end up having a higher concentration of degreed households than the rest of the region, so the city will end up wealthier and more educated than the metro. Hopefully this redevelopment captures Page, as the built environment along Page is in pretty dire shape and is living on borrowed time.

  • citylover

    Will most likely relocate or push those in the neighborhood out.

    IMO, Instead of totally revamping the NS, i think we need to work on infrastructure improvements, neighborhood art, lighting, landscaping, public safety… that way people who live there can take pride in their neighborhood and investment would come slowly rather than a bullet train that rockets property values.

  • HawkSTL

    These redevelopment areas are just in their very beginning stages, but have been a long time coming. Good news!

  • PD

    I think the former industrial zones helped play a role in the groves development as a ripple of the cortex and CWE developments. There were plenty of sites just begging to be redeveloped. North of the CWE and Cortext, not so much. There are is a ton of housing and not many large lots or buildings(save for the old hosiptal or some on union which have/will already be developed) ripe for business or developers to use. Botanical heights and Forrest park southeast look a ton different than vandeventer, lewis place, and fountain park with respects to previous tenants and historical use.