On occasion, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other sources (this article is good for a laugh at google translation)will report new information regarding the possible conversion of the new runway to a hub for Chinese imported goods. The last time I checked in, Mid-America Airport in Illinois had already received a test flight from China. However, many politicans in Missouri, including Claire McCaskill, are still pushing for the Chinese hub at Lambert Airfield as a way to create new local jobs.
The idea of turning what was once Carrollton into a holding pad for cheap plastic goods created under questionable labor practices does not personally sit well with me. This is because I am a former resident of the area and as such, I have fond memories of the place I once knew as my home. I have a personal attachment to the redbud tree my mom stuck in the ground as a flimsy stick and somehow grew up to be an impressive purple spectacular every spring. Therefore, of course it makes me sad to think that tree may be bulldozed to make way for large metal containers of vogue cardigans and video cartridges.
Carrollton is gone. Other than the natural elements that quickly came in to reclaim the land Lambert tore up, everything else that I recognized as a kid simply does not exist. The old familiar memories are added to with new fond memories everyday, taking me further and further away from Carrollton.
I once argued for Carrollton to be turned into a park or nature reserve and I do still hold that small, selfish little wish. I would not have to worry about cops if I wanted to walk across the space my home once stood upon. It would be a wonderful spot for people in North St. Louis County to have a large meadowy expanse, outlined with lush trees and prancing wildlife. Even with the roads removed, there will still remain large paths to roam and wander. You will come across old growth oaks and maples sprinkled with ornamental dogwoods and redbud trees planted by people who called it home. One would spot deer, raccoons, turkey, foxes, and other natural habitat that Carrollton will become a haven for. The urban escapist will be completely enveloped within this forest surrounding, at one within the harmony of nature’s existence… for about 15-20 minutes until the next giant silver jet overhead looms in at its usual low approach with a deafening noise.
The planes take the romance out of the nature. Still, I am truly all for Carrollton being a park over its current state. I just do not realistically think its going to happen. I believe, given its proximity to an international airport, heavily utilized railroad and three major highways, the decision makers that be will plan to industrialize the area in some fashion. Carrollton may be a giant hub for Chinese merchandise. If the current plans with the Chinese fail, it may be sold by Lambert to become a business park. The area has a great chance of becoming some kind of commercialized zone, and very little chance of becoming a natural reserve. One of the last reasons it will not be a park is due to the ‘asbestos contamination’ of the ground. With the various lawsuits brought to court over the methods of demolition of the homes, the area is somewhat likely to be considered a contamination site, no matter how little asbestos may actually remain. The extent of the asbestos removal in the Carrollton homes is completely debatable, but the lawsuits still lessens the chances for any possible future development as a park for human use.
Whatever does happen in the future, Carrollton will continue to sit in its deplorable state as a barely secured, gated off wasteland for a very long period of time. With this current appearance, the disasterously overdrawn time-line for the buyout of residents, the embarrassing handling of those homes once in Lambert’s possession (as identified in this blog), all combined with the rarely used runway built as result, that the residents see such shame and disgrace in Lambert’s actions. In other words, it was “all for nothing.”
For now, and for a long time, the destruction of Carrollton will be seen as ‘for nothing.’ However, the ‘nothing’ state cannot be permanent. Wounds, deep as they are, must heal and something has to happen to the land. That something just may be something good, something that creates jobs. Who knows, maybe it will generate enough good paying jobs for residents in Hazelwood, St. Ann, Maryland Heights, and the remainder of Bridgeton. These are areas who saw job losses from Boeing, the closing of the Ford plant and a general social decline. Maybe with jobs from a hub (or some other commercialization of the Carrollton area), we will see a rise in the middle class complete with redevelopment of good businesses and infrastructure again in these neighboring townships. This is all wistful thinking, but it is not entire impossible. It is unlikely that St. Louis will build any more automobile plants and airplane manufacturing facilities. Learning to diversify the area’s industries and skills and finding business solutions that will create jobs is key to revitalization.
I groan when I think about my beloved home becoming a Chinese shipping warehouse. I would rather see goods produced by working US citizens over our current insatiable lust for cheap, disposable products made overseas. In my mind, the Chinese hub is a symbol of that disease. As long as Wal-Mart is in business (not just WM is at fault), our country will continue to decline in manufaturing and the remaining focus of employment will become more service-oriented, a shift that is not sustainable for the entire population. Unless there is a swift, societal change, those cheap ‘goods’ will continue to flood our country and its become a matter of who gets paid to distribute them. The last time I checked, St. Louis is in a great need of jobs. Individuals formerly in manufacturing or distribution industries are currently in the most need of work. A park in Carrollton will not generate nearly as many jobs as an industry there. If it means poverty or secure employment, I would much rather see future families live comfortably in the middle class because of a job granted in the former Carrollton area. I do not know if any jobs created from any future industrialization of the area would be jobs good enough to sustain families and provide benefits. I am just speculating with a bit of hope. Remember that hope, being active and vocal in local politics, and our vote is all we have. It takes work, but it is enough to get things done.
Would I like for Carrollton to be a park? Yes.
Isn’t that selfish? Yes. I only think this way because I used to call it home. Its a selfishness I can get over in time if it actually being used to to provide for a stable middle-class St. Louis. If not being used at all (as its current state), or if the jobs created by a hub are for slave wages then no, its not selfish to rather want a park. Nobody knows what will happen.
Would I like to see the area turn into a hub? No, because of my position on importing Chinese goods. However, I know it MAY be good for jobs in the area. Therefore, if it creates GOOD jobs, then yes, do it. I won’t like the global principle of it, but can understand and deal with the local rationale.
Is it likely to be a hub (or other industry) anyway? Yes.
Chance it could be a park? Probably not, given Carrollton’s relative location to transportation: railroad, highways and Lambert Airport.
Will it turn into a viable producing area anytime soon? Nope. Lambert isn’t known for moving swiftly. Try flying from there sometime. : )
What would be the BEST use of Carrollton for St. Louis? Depends on the economy. In an ideal economy, the best use would be a park. In a better economy (the likes of which we have not seen in a long time), Carrollton could be benefitiary as a business or industrial park, again as long as it provides sustaining jobs. In our current economy, I can see why our leaders would want for Lambert (thus Carrollton) to create a Chinese shipping hub as a means of producing local jobs. Hopefully those jobs would be good for St. Louis, but again the principle of tranferring our industries overseas for cheap labor is slowly choking our nation inside out.