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Since Lambert- St. Louis  International Airport has failed to attract commercial jet hubs and international cargo, they’re desperate to do anything for the milk and honey. Honey, it seems, is the first step.

A beekeeper has signed a contract with Lambert to keep bee hives on the property that was once Freebourn Park, leasing the land from the airport for $75 dollars a year. Don’t think all that money is going to help Lambert pay their $1.4 billion dollar debt down. 80% of the $75 annual rent will likely go towards the FAA first.

I applaud the fact that Lambert is working with an individual to utilize the land in a cooperative and eco-friendly manner. Allowing a beekeeper to keep hives on this empty North County land is a great idea and I am glad Lambert is allowing it. Besides, anyone keeping hives during these times of bee colony collapses is a hero in my book. The City of St. Louis already begun patting themselves on the back for adding this project line to their sustainability action list. The fact that the hives have been approved is very telling. The hives are the equivalent of the city conceding to the end of their cargo shipping hub pipe-dream, at least for this year-long contract. I have a feeling that the bees are here to stay and the beekeeper’s contract will be renewed for many years to come.

There isn’t much that Lambert-St. Louis International Airport can do at this point to pay down the $1.4 billion dollars they owe for building their little-used runway. They can’t attract passenger planes. They can’t attract international air freight. They can, however, attract bees. They will soon have the honey and now it’s time to collect the milk. Let’s add some cows to where our ranch-style houses once were.

You can find the Post-Dispatch’s July 8th, 2013 article on the Beekeeping agreement here.

I want to give my thanks to Mr. Fehrenbacher for being a strong ally for the City of Bridgeton, a vocal opposition of the Lambert Runway Expansion, and a leader in Carrollton’s fight to exist.

You may read more about Tom Fehrenbacher on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website article here.

In case we need yet another reason why Aerotropolis at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will likely not be built anytime soon: Illinois is reaching agreements with China for ground and water transport of Asian goods while Missouri has historically remained focused on solely attracting air cargo at Lambert. While this will not likely replace coastal ports nor do I believe this will have as much of an upward impact on Illinois economies as their local leaders boast, ground and water transport have a better chance of attracting trade partnerships than air cargo. Illinois has once again learned to diversify where Missouri and St. Louis leaders put on their blinders to focus on one option.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (STLToday, December 30, 2012):

The port district’s ability to use roads, rails, river and other modes of transport for goods makes it attractive to local and foreign developers, said Ellen Krohne, executive director of the Southwestern Illinois Leadership Council. The Edwardsville-based council is a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging growth and development in Madison and St. Clair counties.

The new agreement with Wuhan, she said, is also a boon to Madison County and the region because it opens doors.

“It gives the Chinese an opportunity to invest in Madison County,” Krohne said, including opening businesses and hiring workers. The county’s workforce, educational system and geographic location also make it competitive in competing for Chinese trade.”

The rest of the article can be found here.

Evidently there are some proposals being requested as ballot initiatives to limit the use of eminent domain in Missouri. Although I am skeptical of their movement past the Secretary of State, I would like to know more of exactly what these proposals state. This could be an interesting story to follow, especially if one of these four proposals finds itself in front of Missouri voters in less than two years. From yesterday’s Post-Dispatch, as reported by the Associated Press (entire article):

Supporters of Missouri proposals to reform laws on the use eminent domain can begin working to get their measures on the 2014 state ballot.

The secretary of state’s office says four initiatives have been approved for circulation, allowing backers to begin getting registered voters to sign petitions.

Backers must gather sufficient signatures from six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts and deliver them to the secretary of state by early May 2014.

Groups seeking to curtail the use of eminent domain to take private property have proposed initiatives in recent years. However, those proposals have not qualified for the ballot.

The documentary film Battle for Brooklyn was presented at the Show-Me-Institute’s panel discussion at the Luminary Center for the Arts this past April. If you wish to know more about the effects of eminent domain issues on citizens residing in the way of nearly boundless developments with governmental blessings, I highly suggest checking out this moving film.  During this viewing, I found a number of parallel situations between this particular 22 acre section of Brooklyn in New York being purchased for a new area for the Nets around 2006 and Lambert’s expansion into Bridgeton, Missouri from the 1990s into the 2000s.  

As a follow up to the documentary and panel discussion, I came across this article in the New York Times today. From the scathing NY TIMES article by

That said, the arena constitutes only the first part of Mr. Ratner’s 22-acre, $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development. So what we see today is like seeing a naked man with just his socks on — nice socks, but we still can’t be sure what he’s going to look like when he gets dressed. Three apartment towers, the first of which starts rising shortly, will share the superblock with Barclays, obscuring much of the exterior. The arena will loom less like an object landed in the middle of Brooklyn; it will merge into a titanic complex, the towers most likely doing it and the aesthetics of the whole site no favors, the center’s identity focused more around its canopy and entrance plaza.

We’ll see who wants to live next to it. What’s clear now is that Barclays makes the Garden the second-best arena in town, which is to say even worse than we already thought it was. On the up side, losing face and business to Brooklyn may nudge the Garden’s competitive owners to reconsider moving in the coming years to a new site and a better home, which would finally make it possible to fix Penn Station.

I can’t help adding that while public officials went so far as to exercise eminent domain to clear the Barclays site for the arena, pushing out mixed-income tenants and a homeless shelter, these same officials (I speak from firsthand experience) greet any hypothetical question about eminent domain and the Garden like kryptonite.

But I digress.

Sort of, because the Atlantic Yards project also exemplifies how the city, in this case hamstrung by the state, got planning backward, trying to eke public benefits from private interests awarded public subsidies and too much leeway. Development on this scale may take its lead from a developer’s vision but needs to proceed from public-spirited, publicly debated plans for what the city and streets should ultimately look like.

In short, Brooklyn created an ugly and questionably necessary monstrosity in the middle of a historical neighborhood that desperately needed housing for low and middle income people, and it’s only the beginning phase of this highly controversial development. It is about time to see greater vocalizations for public input and the expertise of professional urban planners into such large scale urban developments.

Where would Bridgeton be today had the entire region of St. Louis been involved in the planning of W-1W? Perhaps we would have a functional, new airport outside our metro area, where it should be.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to a young woman who also grew up in the shadow of the buyout. Colleen is currently in college and shared many great stories during our phone interview.  Her memories will sound similar to many of us who grew up in Carrollton. Although all of our perspectives are unique, our individual memories highlight the impact this area had on our lives.

Colleen once lived off Parlier Dr., which was considered by many as the Carrollton Oaks side of the entire Carrollton subdivision. On New Years Eve, hours before the dawn of the new millenium, her family made the move to a town near Mobile, Alabama. Her last school year at St. Lawrence the Martyr concluded with the end of the first semester of 1999. On a recent visit back to Missouri, she took a shocking detour to visit her former neighborhood. Carrollton was a place that she knew well as a child but found it almost unrecognizable as an adult. Colleen remarked that the brick subdivision entrance into Carrollton, “it looked exactly the same as I remembered it!” The bowling alley and the shell of the Carrollton Center shopping center stood at Carrollton’s entrance but little else from her memory remains. The Schnuck’s grocery was gone, having relocated to St. Charles Rock Road near Lindbergh. The Corner Drugstore, Dairy Queen, the video store, Telscher Hardware, almost everything in the area that she knew disappeared or changed entirely.  The largest change, of course, is the stillness of the area behind the nearly-vacant shopping plaza that one stood close to 2,000 houses with a handful of schools, churches, and parks.

Colleen’s family first sent her to St. Mary’s Catholic School for Kindergarten. However, that would be the only year she attended St. Mary’s as dwindling attendance and uncertainty of the school’s future led her family to transfer her to St. Lawrence Catholic School. However, her family would learn a few years later that their new school would also be succumbed to the massive buyout program.

The Summer Day Camps at Bridgeton were a popular activity for Bridgeton kids for generations. Colleen shared with me many great stories of attending Bridgeton camps in the summer. She attended camps at O’Connor park for one summer and Freebourn for many more. She recalled her favorite counselors at Freeborn, including Wendy, her counselor at O’Connor park who made Colleen her camp helper. She recalled typical camp stories, like girls vs. boys games, kickball, swimming, and her favorite tree that was so hollow she could climb inside. I too attended camp until the 6th grade, at Gentry Park and then Freebourn. Having also been a young camper, riding the yellow busses everyday to run and play, make crafts, go swimming, and just be kids all day, it was easy for me to visualize her many experiences as my own.

On her most recent return trip to the area in March, she found that Freebourn Park no longer exists. The landscape still has some etchings of its past era as a municipal green space. If one could remember the geography of the way it used to look, you could find the edge the ball field, a rectangle of where a pavilion was, and if you went back far enough, you could find the outcropping of rocks where the playground equipment used to be. The natural features of the area remain exactly the same. The lazy hills and wooded gully that divided the park exist in stark contrast to the artificial leveling of Lambert’s runway across the street. Far in the back of Freebourn Park is still home to a dense forest, whose trails along a clear, flowing creek have surely now been reclaimed by nature.

Colleen’s memories of Carrollton go well beyond summer fun at the parks and the pool. They are deeply a part of how she lived as a young child. She vividly recalls times of playing outside with the neighborhood kids everyday until dark, riding her bikes or skating down the hill of Parlier. Colleen is not alone in saying that Carrollton was a safe place for kids to play outside. Like so many others, Colleen recalled exciting times at the St. Lawrence Carnival. She and I both have memories of the Corner Drugstore and their selection of five-cent candy. One of my favorite stories from her was of the mischief she caused at Schnucks, where she tried to sneak some Jell-O out of the salad bar and caught with swift consequences.

She also raved about Bridgeton’s annual 4th of July Parade through the whole city. The parade was a favorite event because the entire community came together to build, ride, or watch the colorful floats and to be a part of the music and excitement of the annual festivities just before the city’s large fireworks display.  Of course, the highlight of the parade for kids is always the large amounts of candy and trinkets to be caught from the passing floats. Colleen became popular with other Bridgeton campers when she brought her 4th of July parade candy back to camp to share.

Those happy childhood memories would be forever altered at the announcement that their family’s home was due for airport expansion buyout. In January of 1999, Colleen developed the confidence to try out and participate in the school’s talent show. She had diligently practiced and had such a great time with her final performance that she was sure she wanted to do it again the following year. That was about the same time her parents had been contacted by the airport for the buyout. They used that opportunity to break the news to her that she would be in a different school by the same time in 2000 because their home on Parlier would be lost to the airport. Colleen remembers the tears that tragic news brought to her child self, not understanding why the airport would need her or her friends’ homes.

It was difficult enough for the adults of an entire community to come to grips with Lambert’s ‘disruption’ (a term used often by expansion proponents when referring to the effects of the massive buyout). However, to not only process the uncertainty of the situation (by this time, Lambert’s master plan has been repeatedly altered and not executed), schools and families had the added unimaginable task to explain to children that their community would disappear. Below is an article from 1998 that discusses how many schools were affected and the reactions by officials:

Sun January 25, 1998 C1, C7

St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Carolyn Bower

Airport Expansion Would Uproot 6 Schools; Runway plan may displace 1700 North County students, Teachers, staff wait and wonder

Berkeley High School 8719 Walter Ave. in the Ferguson-Florissant School District; 375 students, 65 staff, Age of building: over 40 years (in 1998)

Caroline Support Center at 67038 Caroline Ave.  in the Ferguson-Florissant School District; 296 Students, 31 staff, building: over 100 years

St. Mary’s Catholic School at 4601 Long Rd. in Bridgeton; 65 students, 15 staff, over 100 years old

Carrollton Oaks Elementary in the Pattonville School District at 4385 Holmford Drive in Bridgeton; 360 students, 40 staff, 30 years old,

Carrollton Elementary in the Pattonville School District at 3936 Celburne Lane in Bridgeton; 377 students 45 staff, 30 years old

St. Lawrence Catholic School at 4329 Dupage Drive in Bridgeton;  334 students, 20 staff, 30 years old

“This is very difficult for children,” said Peggy Grigg, principal at Carrollton Elementary. “Children need a great deal of structure in their lives,” Grigg said. “They need to count on people being there, people taking care of them. Schools are part of that structure in their lives.” Hugh Kinney, superintendent (Pattonville) of the school district said: “We have an opportunity with these challenges to make good things happen for the district. My hope is that it will happen in a timely manner. The hardest part is not knowing.”

At the dinner table and in school classrooms, students have begun to talk abut what airport expansion will do to their school. Mary Hornberger said her first-graders say things such as, “My mom says we have to move somewhere because the airport may take our house, and we may not be able to go to this school.’

Jim Schwab, principal at Carrollton Oaks Elem: “Although we go on and do the best job we can educating students, a dark cloud hangs over our heads. We would like to know what’s going to happen and when it will happen. Then we can start making plans.”

“Why do we have to move? Why do we have to sell to the airport?” were questions that Colleen and more than estimated 2,500 other students (from schools affected by the buyout and students living in homes in the buyout but attend unaffected schools) asked their parents, teachers, principals, camp counselors, and others. The answers to those questions are just as complicated and open-ended as it is today; one that many of us are still trying to find.

Colleen shared with me the last memories she had in her home and with her Bridgeton friends before moving out on New Year’s Eve of 1999. She remembers her mom cleaning the house spotless, scrubbing for weeks in anticipation of the arrival of Mr. Goldman, the home inspector contracted by Lambert. He came around sometime in November, knowing that this would be the last holiday season they would spend in their home. Her parents had two large older dogs that had damaged the carpets. She remembers vividly the effort of replacing the carpets of her brother’s room and steam-cleaning the carpet in her room for the inspection. To her, it seemed so odd to clean and replace carpeting in a home that would be later torn down. Colleen’s birthday was also around that season, so her parents treated her to a dinner at Red Lobster. Afterwards, she was then given a surprise birthday party at the Bridgeton Community Center in a special room overlooking the pools. It would be a last but joyous occasion with her childhood Bridgeton friends. Two days after Christmas, the family began the task to pack their things and have one last garage sale. Colleen can remember that her family took the refrigerator and the oven while the rest of the appliances remained. The home’s specific characteristics; the fireplace, the built-in shelves of the living room, the loft over the garage, a pool and brick patio all had to stay behind.

Colleen’s family made a trip to the area in the spring of 2001. Her vacant home remained standing a year and a half after her family left. Other homes around were in varying degrees of existence, much of which remained the same as she remembered from a few years ago.

On September 7th, 2001, the family passed through the Carrollton area once again. John Calvin Presbyterian Church stood tall, and much of Parlier Street and Bonfils Lane were still there and labeled. Her house, along with her pool, brick patio, and favorite trees were nothing more than a grassy patch of land. However, plenty of other homes remained. Four days after her trip, an event happened which would forever change the way the nation traveled by air. The September 11th attacks put the airline industries and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport into an economic dive that they have yet to recover from. However, by spring of 2003, when the family made another trip into Missouri, they saw a dirt mound that would later become Runway 11-29 encroaching its way to Larchburr Lane, creating a dead-end at Bonfils.

Whether the residents lived in Carrollton their whole lives, or only a few years, it is clear that a declaration of eminent domain has a human impact that is never fully accounted for in initial planning or adequately compensated. The events surrounding a forced buyout of someone’s home and property are life-changing, painful, and span an entire spectrum from being a major inconvenience to the cause of traumatic stress, with everything in between. For every place once occupied, there is a human memory.

Thank you Colleen for sharing your memories with us!

The Show-Me Institute and nextSTL present a free advance screening of the Battle for Brooklyn, a documentary about the abuse of eminent domain to make way for luxury housing and a stadium.
The screening will be held:
Monday, April 23
7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
The Luminary Center for the Arts
4900 Reber Place, Saint Louis MO 63139
 

PLEASE RSVP AT: http://showmeinstitute.org/eminent-domain-apr12

Afterwards, we will host a panel discussion about the threat of eminent domain in the Saint Louis area. Panelists include:

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