Monday, October 23, 2017

St. Louis History.

After World War II, there were early urban renewal actions in St. Louis. Also, many people made an effort to create a riverfront memorial to try to honor the slave owner Thomas Jefferson. This later would include the famous Gateway Arch. The project started in the early 1930’s. They or authorities acquired and demolished a 40 block area where the memorial would stand. The only remnant of Laclede’s street grid that was preserved was north of Eads Bridge (in what is now called Laclede’s Landing). The only building in the area to remain was the Old Cathedral. The area was used as a parking lot and demolition continued until the start of World War II. The project stalled until a design competition for the memorial started. In 1948, the Finnish architect Ero Saarinen’s design for an inverted and weighted catenary curve won the competition. Groundbreaking started in 1954. The Arch topped out in October of 1965. A museum and visitors’ center was completed underneath the structure and it was opened in 1976. It attracted millions of visitors. The Arch ultimately spurred more than $500 million in downtown construction during the 1970’s and the 1980’s. There were plans during the 1930’s to build subsidized housing in St. Louis. Civil improvement efforts existed during the 1920’s. There were 2 big housing projects built in 1939. After World War II, more than 33,000 houses had shared outdoor toilets while thousands of St. Louisans lived in crowded, unsafe conditions. Starting in 1953, St. Louis cleared the Chestnut Valley area in Midtown, selling the land to developers who constructed middle-class apartment buildings. Nearby, the city cleared more than 450 acres (1.8 km2) of a residential neighborhood known as Mill Creek Valley, displacing thousands. A residential mixed-income development known as LaClede Town was created in the area in the early 1960's, although this was eventually demolished for an expansion of Saint Louis University. The majority of people displaced from Mill Creek Valley were poor and African American, and they typically moved to historically stable, middle-class black neighborhoods such as The Ville. In 1953, St. Louis issued bonds that financed the completion of the St. Louis Gateway Mall project and several new high rise housing projects.
The most famous and largest of these projects were Pruitt-Igoe. It opened in 1954 on the northwest edge of downtown. It included 33 eleven-story buildings with nearly 3,000 units. Between 1953 and 1957, St. Louis built more than 6,100 units of public housing. Each opened with enthusiasm on the part of the local leaders, the media, and new tenants. The problem was that from the beginning, the projects had too little recreational space, too few healthcare facilities, no shopping centers, and employment opportunities were low. Crime was rampant, especially at Pritt-Igoe. The complex was demolished in 1975.

The other St. Louis housing projects remained relatively occupied through the 1980’s in spite of problems of poverty, crime, and lax health care services. So, many black people and poor people were forced to live in bad housing. There was the 1955 urban renewal bond issue. It totaled more than $110 million. The bonds provided funds to purchase land to build three expressways into downtown St. Louis. It evolved into Interstate 64, Interstate 70, and Interstate 44. In 1967, the highway only Poplar Street Bridge opened to move traffic from all three expressways over the Mississippi River. The openings of the Arch in 1965 and the bridge in 1967 were accompanied by the opening of a new stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals moved into Busch Memorial Stadium early in the 1966 season. Construction of the stadium required the demolition of Chinatown, St. Louis, ending the large presence of a decades-old presence of a Chinese immigrant community. The city’s population decline since the 1920’s caused a government consolidation movement. The local government consolidated services. St. Louis didn’t annex new lands back during the pre-Great Depression era. Later, the attempts of consolidation included the Metropolitan Sewer District, a city–county water and sewer company formed in 1954. The next year, however, a city–county mass transit agency was rejected by voters, followed by a failed charter revision in 1955 that would have unified the city and the county. As the County population grew, local subdivisions began multiplying and incorporating into cities and towns, producing more than 90 separate municipalities by the 1960's. Regional planning advocates succeeded in the 1965 creation of the East–West Gateway Coordinating Council, a group given the power to approve or deny applications for federal aid from cities. St. Louis had its population peak in the early 1950’s with about 880,000 people. It declined by new highway construction, more automobile ownership, and more suburbanization. There was white flight that started in the late 1950’s and continued in the 1960’s plus the 1970’s.  The black population declined in size from 1968 to 1972 by nearly 20,000 residents, representing significant black out-migration from the city during the period.  Many Americans moved to suburban developments in St. Louis County like Ferguson.

From 1981 to 2000, St. Louis experienced massive changes. During the late 1970’s, urban decay was abundant. By 1980, it counted 435,000 people from 816,000 residents from 1940. Many buildings and homes were left to rot. There was pollution and industries languishing by 1980. Then, there was the election of  Vincent Schoemehl as the city's youngest mayor ever in 1981. He had to deal with rustbelt city issues. Its economic base was crumbling. Schoemehl developed 2 projects early in his three terms in office. He wanted to help St. Louis with these plans: Operation Brightside provided city beautification through plantings and graffiti cleanup. Schoemehl also instituted a safety program to address crime, known as Operation SafeStreet, which blocked access to certain through streets and provided low-cost security measures to homeowners. Crime declined starting in 1984, and despite a small resurgence in 1989, continued to decline through the 1990’s. De jure segregation is banned in St. Louis public schools by 1954 via the Brown v. Board of Education decision. St. Louis area educators did try to use slick tactics in trying to ensure de facto segregation during the 1960’s. By the 1970’s, there was a lawsuit that fought against de facto segregation. This led to a 1983 settlement agreement. The agreement allowed St. Louis County school districts to accept black students from the city on a voluntary basis. State funds were used to transport students to provide for an integrated education. The agreement also called for white students from the county to voluntarily attend city magnet schools, in an effort to desegregate the City's remaining schools.  Despite opposition from state and local political leaders, the plan significantly desegregated St. Louis schools. In 1980, 82 percent of black students in the city attended all-black schools, while in 1995, only 41 percent did so. During the late 1990's, the St. Louis voluntary transfer program was the largest such program in the United States, with more than 14,000 enrolled students. There was a renewed agreement in 1999. This allowed all but one of the St. Louis County districts agreed to continue their participation, albeit with an opt-out clause that allowed districts to reduce the number of incoming transfer students starting in 2002. In addition, districts have been permitted to reduce available seats in the program. Since 1999, districts have reduced availability by five percent annually. A five-year extension of the voluntary transfer program was approved in 2007, and another five-year extension was approved in 2012, allowing new enrollments to take place through the 2018–2019 school year in participating districts. Critics of the transfer program note that most of the desegregation under the plan is via transfer of black students to the county rather than transfer of white students to the city. Another criticism has been that the program weakens city schools by removing talented students to county schools. Despite these issues, the program will continue until all transfer students reach graduation; with the last group of transfer students allowed to enroll in 2018–2019, the program will end after the 2030–2031 school year.

More construction projects existed in St. Louis from 1981 to 1993. This hasn’t been seen since the early 1960’s. The new projects include the tallest building in the city called One Metropolitan Square. It was designed by Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum. It was built in 1989. New retail projects began to exist like Amtrak abandoned Union Station as a passenger rail terminal in 1978. Yet, in 1985, it reopened as a festival marketplace under the direction of Baltimore developer James Rouse. During the same year, downtown developers opened St. Louis Centre. This was an enclosed four story shopping mall. It costed $176 million with 150 stores and 1,500,000 square feet (140,000 m2) of retail space. By the late 1990’s, however, the mall had fallen out of favor due to the expansion of the St. Louis Galleria in Brentwood, Missouri. The mall’s flagship Dillard’s store closed in 2001. The mall closed in 2006. Starting in 2010, developers began to convert the mall into a parking structure and an adjoining building into apartments, hotel, and retail. The city sponsored a major expansion of the St. Louis Convention Center during the 1980’s. Schoemehl used efforts to retain professional sports teams. The city purchased the Arena or a 15,000 seat venue for professional ice hockey and that was the home of the St. Louis Blues. During the early 1990’s, Schoemehl worked with business groups to form a new ice hockey arena (now known as the Scottrade Center) on the site of the city’s Kiel Auditorium. They promised that the developer would renovate the adjacent opera house. Although the arena opened in 1994 (and the original arena was demolished in 1999), renovations on the opera house did not begin until 2007. This was more than 15 years after the initial development plan. The Peabody Opera House (named for corporate contributor Peabody Energy) reopened on October 1, 2011, with performances by Jay Leno and Aretha Franklin.

In January 1995, Georgia Frontiere, the owner of the National Football League team known as the Los Angeles Rams (now St. Louis Rams), announced she would move that team to St. Louis. The team replaced the St. Louis Cardinals (now Arizona Cardinals), an NFL franchise that had moved to St. Louis in 1960 but departed for Arizona in 1988. The Rams played their first game in their St. Louis stadium, the Edward Jones Dome, on October 22, 1996. By the 2010's, the Rams would go into Los Angeles. Starting in the early 1980's, more rehabilitation and construction projects began, some of which remain incomplete. In 1981, the Fox Theatre, a movie theater in Midtown that closed in 1978, was completely restored and reopened as a performing arts venue. Among the areas to undergo gentrification was the Washington Avenue Historic District, which extends along Washington Avenue from the Edward Jones Dome west almost two dozen blocks. During the early 1990's, garment manufacturers moved out of the large office buildings on the street, and by the end of that decade residential developers began to convert the buildings into lofts. Prices per square foot increased dramatically in the area, and by 2001, nearly 280 apartments were built. Among the Washington Avenue projects to remain in development is the Mercantile Exchange Building, which is being converted to offices, apartments, retail, and a movie theater. More Bosnians immigrants came into St. Louis too. There is a large Mexican, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, and Somalian population in the city too. The gentrification also has had the effect of increasing the downtown population, with both the central business district and Washington Avenue district more than doubling their population from 2000 to 2010.

By Timothy

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