The mere mention of the St. Louis’ Dutchtown neighborhood to your average St. Louisan invokes a wild arrangement of responses from ardent passion to a cratering negativity. The neighborhood, one of the most dense in population in St. Louis City, has Germanic roots and became a popular working class community. That is, until the mid 20th century when St. Louis began seeing its decades-long population decline led primarily by “white flight” – a demographic transition that contributed to vacancy and abandonment across the city and region.
Dutchtown saw its population halve, but that’s hardly the full story. Much like other parts of St. Louis, the decline has slowed, or in many cases, been replaced by increases in population. This particular community also diversified significantly and is currently experiencing a modest population increase – a rather historic milestone that may not have yet been noticed by most in the region.
It’s not terribly surprising then that those outside of Dutchtown often speak of the decay. There’s some truth to that perception too. Driving throughout Dutchtown, there are plenty of boarded up buildings. This is particularly tragic in many ways as we have plenty of unhoused people in the region and extensive housing stock simply not being used. The architecture in Dutchtown is also stunning. With gorgeous brickwork as far as the eye can see, corner shops, and mixed-housing from dense multifamily interspersed with single-family homes, the neighborhood has the same architectural quality and urban design as Shaw or Forest Park Southeast.
Their perception is really only half the story. Dutchtown’s many challenges aside, it appears to be in the midst of a steady, community-driven revitalization thanks to the incredibly hard work of its residents. While that work is evident in the higher home values, the many rehabs taking place through its streets, and the shops opening up within its boundaries, the real evidence is within the people. Their hard work has been channeled into multiple mission-driven organizations that collaboratively work together for the betterment of Dutchtown. When Annie Purcell, the St. Joseph Housing Initiative Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator reached out to me about their May 1st cleanup, she emphasized the collaboration of the many community organizations. I agreed to cover the Spring Block Cleanup, already familiar with SJHI and Dutchtown organizations more broadly, but had never attended one of Purcell’s events before.
The May 1st Block Cleanup hosted by St. Joseph Housing Initiative is but one of their many volunteer events. For those unfamiliar with the housing initiative, it is an organization that works to revitalize housing in Dutchtown to resolve vacancy and then offer their renovated units below market-rate. They hope to tackle vacancy and increase home ownership opportunities and subsequently equity for low-income residents as a tool for financial security. They frequently tap into their volunteer network to put in the long work of painting, landscaping, cleanup, and more to make the process as affordable as possible. Unlike some housing and renovation programs, SJHI genuinely puts forth a good product with above average finishes, solid appliances, and with respect for the historic architecture in the city.
It turns out that many of the SJHI volunteers also are active in other neighborhood and community organizations. This particular event was sponsored by a whole cohort, including Cure Violence, Downtown Dutchtown, Dutchtown South Community Corporation, Employment Connection, St. Mary’s High School, and Operation Brightside. Newly elected Alderwoman Schweitzer attended the event as well and contributed to the cleanup efforts. The event was packed, with dozens of volunteers ranging from local families to leadership at the many organizations described above. Most volunteers lived within the neighborhood, but there was also strong attendance from people in the County who may have grown up in the neighborhood – some truly shocked to see the neighborhood clean and picking up steam. There were also some members of big STL area institutions, bullish on Dutchtown. One such member who wished to remain anonymous clarified the importance of bolstering not just South City, put all parts of North City as an essential mission for St. Louis.
That mission and striving for equity across St. Louis reverberated throughout the many conversations I had with volunteers, and there was a palpable aching for more regional collaboration. This event featured a host of organizations, a strong Dutchtown presence with some additional members of the broader STL community, and the success of the event appeared to contribute to a longing for more like this in the region. There were at times members of different organizations connecting, discussing how similar efforts could be recreated across the city – and this very reporter was invited by multiple organizations and institutions to not only report on their progress, but to be a part of it and a connector for such efforts.
Regional collaboration is a sore spot for the St. Louis region. With a sharply divided City and County and a deep history of racial segregation, working together and finding common ground is far from easy. That said, if any community is finding that link, it is Dutchtown. With a growing, diverse population and tough, decades-long challenges, Dutchtown has found a sense of identity and purpose. It is that identity that leads to a single organization like St. Joseph Housing Initiative being able to pull the kind of volunteer crowd it does and simultaneously pull focus on the regional collaboration it has helped cultivate.
It’s also far more than one event. The regional network of organizations fuels and promotes events for all of its partners underneath a core brand. With its ‘Dutchtown Proud’ campaign, it’s common to find yard signs, T-Shirts, and branding everywhere across the community. There is significant buy-in among residents and local business owners. New businesses are often introduced to the network prior to ever opening their doors, or even finding a location, instead seeking guidance from the CID and DT2 first.
Combined with the nearby efforts along Meramec St. from the owners of Urban Eats to create a food hub in what is technically a food desert, the Neighborhood Innovation Center and its efforts to boost community engagement and innovation, the Thomas Dunn Learning Center, and more, the neighborhood is booming with activity and it is all connected. As St. Louis’ neighborhoods each individually find their footing in this century, perhaps the next challenge will be to expand the collaboration for a more unified city and region. St. Joseph Housing Initiative and Dutchtown more broadly have the foundation, the volunteers, and the potential to serve as a model for the region.
Note: If you or your organization are working in St. Louis’ North or South neighborhoods on projects geared toward equity, inclusion, and revitalization, please reach out to Missouri Metro at email@example.com
Real Estate Developer KDG, known for its luxury apartment buildings including Clayton on the Park and The Euclid, appears to be doubling down on their St. Louis City investment. Surprisingly, those plans seem to include some distancing from Clayton, one of St. Louis’ most desirable and expensive suburbs.
Although KDG’s portfolio still includes multiple St. Louis County assets, including Centene Plaza and the under-development Olive Crossing, their recent investment decisions are skewing quickly toward the City itself. KDG just sold its long-held Clayton residential tower, Clayton on the Park, after managing the property for over a decade. KDG had, years ago, converted the building to luxury apartments during the Great Recession. It had previously been home to senior living facilities and even a hotel.
The disinvestment from Clayton appears to go a bit further, as selling one property alone does not signify a meaningful trend. Rather, KDG has long had its eyes set on the vacant land just next-door to its Clayton on the Park tower at 121 S. Meramec. Some might be familiar with this address, as it used to be home to one of the two mid-rise 7-Up towers that were a part of the beverage company’s former headquarters. The building at this address had been demolished, while the other midrise still stands and would be converted to residential apartments under this plan. Chris Stritzel at CityScene STL details this incredibly well.
KDG’s plans as rendered above would have completely rehabilitated the structure still standing today and would have included new infill on the vacant lot to its side. Both would be connected to their former property, Clayton on the Park, via the parking garage. The development would have cost upwards of $70 million and included amenities like a rooftop pool deck, fitness center, and individual work spaces for tenants to use. However, KDG just recently scrapped these plans, shortly before they announced the sale of their neighboring asset, Clayton on the Park.
While some may suggest or feel that Clayton is losing steam, this move appears to be an individual investment decision rather than a growing trend. It is indicative of a market that has more strongly embraced the City of St. Louis in addition to but not instead of Clayton. Although KDG is shifting its set of priorities, there are multiple other developments currently reshaping the Clayton skyline, adding new residents, hotel guests, and Class A office space.
Clayton’s continued strength aside, it is evident that development has been heating up in the City of St. Louis. In 2020, over $1 billion in building permits were awarded, and there are currently thousands of residential apartment units under construction and in development. The Central West End saw the rise and completion of the new 100 on the Park high-rise apartments. Similarly, Downtown saw a new residential tower, One Cardinal Way, open by Busch Stadium amid major announcements by developers for hundreds of other units within Downtown limits.
The momentum clearly has not gone unnoticed by KDG. In the hot Central West End neighborhood, KDG is currently well into the construction of a residential apartment building on Laclede Ave. 4545 Laclede will host 200 units between its 7 stories, adding considerable density to an already vibrant corridor. Demand in the CWE is striking, and KDG is looking to offer new options for residents looking to enter the neighborhood with its many nightlife, shopping, and restaurant options. The building will feature “micro-units”, studios, 1, and 2-bedroom units. The average size of the micro-units will be 386 square feet, with larger units available for those who need additional space.
KSDK reports that other amenities like a fitness center, golfing green, pool, and yoga studio will be available for residents. Moreover, while some locals might be shocked at the size and inclusion of the smaller units, they are an excellent way to maintain some modicum of affordability for residents looking to live in certain areas. Common in bigger cities with higher rent prices, micro-units also have considerably higher occupancy rates than traditional units, while also promoting sustainability and more efficient land use according to the Urban Land Institute.
KDG is also doubling down on the neighboring Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, more commonly known as The Grove. The company partnered with another developer, Green Street, on two large mixed-use buildings at the corner of Sarah and Chouteau. The two buildings, Chroma and Hue, share amenities and wrap hundreds of units, a coffee shop, hair salon, and other restaurants – significantly densifying and activating the East end of The Grove. KDG is responsible for the onsite property management at the two properties. Hue just recently wrapped up construction, and we were able to meet Green Street VP of Marketing, Liz Austin, for a construction tour covered here.
In the neighboring Cortex neighborhood, an emerging innovation hub bolstered by Washington University and SLU, KDG is at the forefront of the efforts to bring 24/7 vibrancy through a residential component. The Cortex master plan envisions offices, hotels, entertainment, and apartments to activate the community throughout the day. To date, there has been significant progress. With a new Aloft hotel that opened its doors during the pandemic, a new MetroLink station, and tons of investment into labs and offices like the soon-to-be world’s largest neuroscience facility, the area is booming.
KDG hopes to add the key missing link: apartments. The whole plan, dubbed “Cortex K” will host a variety of uses from apartments to office and retail, but apartments are the piece that could truly stitch the community into a neighborhood, while also helping connect it to the vibrancy of The Grove.
There will be three structures built in two separate phases. The first is a 7-story mixed-use building with 160 apartments, 18,500 square feet of office space, and 2,150 square feet of retail space. As KDG is quick to point out, this building will contribute to a neighborhood of over 500 residential units combined with the Chroma and Hue developments when complete. The TIF agenda notes that the apartments will include amenities like a fitness center, club room, outdoor deck, and more. Recent KDG apartment buildings have generally also included flexible workspaces for residents, pools, coffee, etc. Phase 1 is expected to cost $37 million according to the TIF packet.
Phase 2 will include an office building and garage, which will be part of the same complex as imaged in the renderings from KDG above. The Cortex K office building will bring 125,000 square feet of Class A office space to the City of St. Louis, in addition to 7,000 more square feet of retail space. For construction to proceed, KDG is looking to prelease at least 50,000 square feet of the usable space. The budgeted cost for the office building is an estimated $40 million.
The garage is expected to hold approximately 610 spaces and is still in a preliminary design phase. Although the garage is fairly large for a district that features a MetroLink station, it is not street-facing and will likely be shared by residents and workers alike. The project is certainly a decent example of transit-oriented development (TOD) still with the combined density and access to nearby transit options. This portion of Phase 2 will be an additional $17.9 million.
KDG is also promising to make various public improvements to the surrounding infrastructure – something common for developers when requesting tax-incremented financing from municipalities. Although the plans are still “very preliminary”, KDG expects to spend up to $3.5 million on streetscape improvements, lighting, utilities, sidewalks, and bike lanes. The improvements will be carried out for KDG on behalf of the Cortex.
In the April 7 TIF agenda, KDG is requesting $14 million in assistance from the City of St. Louis for this development – 14.25% of the total development costs. TIFs have been under increasingly intense scrutiny by St. Louis residents for a variety of reasons. Many suggest it is a form of corporate welfare that takes necessary funds away from the city, and others a necessity to attract and retain beneficial developments.
Historically, the City of St. Louis lacked a transparent, thoughtful, and consistent plan on how it would award TIFs to developers. State Auditor Galloway released an audit of the program and called for increased oversight and transparency to ensure a level playing field just under a year ago. Much of the controversy from residents stems from the fact that the TIFs are often awarded to developers in the most economically successful districts, predominantly in the Central Corridor. The Cortex K TIF request is likely to face similar scrutiny from residents.
The project itself, however, will certainly contribute to a fast-growing region in St. Louis City. Additional apartments, office, and retail will go a long way toward connecting The Grove and Cortex. Vibrant, 24/7 neighborhoods with transit access are more sustainable, enjoyable, and attractive to residents and are crucial to developing a strong, urban corridor.
As an investment decision, choosing to double down on the City of St. Louis instead of the very strong Clayton market also represents a growing source of demand that residents might not yet have noticed. There are thousands of units under construction in the city, and new home construction is off the charts. While the city is still seeing depopulation on its North Side, stemming from decades of disinvestment, redlining, racial covenants, and a 1970s plan that essentially would cut off efforts to sustain the North side (though not officially enacted, it was essentially still practiced for years), its Central Corridor and many South Side neighborhoods are booming.
The tricky act for St. Louis, however, is to find a way to extend this success, without displacement, to other neighborhoods that see little investment. With any luck, including the emerging “North Central Corridor” and a Mayor dedicated to racial equity, the City of St. Louis may yet see that day come sooner rather than later.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch, like many print newspapers across the U.S., must confront a more difficult environment as online media diverts customers away from more traditional news sources. Even as legacy organizations like the Post seek to adapt, growth seems nearly out of the question. Rather, of the 25 largest legacy print newspapers across the country, including the Post, average weekday circulation was dropping at nearly double digit rates year over year as of 2010 – when the Post publicized its own circulation woes.
It is within this context of a changing media landscape and a shift to online readership that allows us to begin to make sense of the Post’s newer business model. Like many of its online peers, from legacy news media to online powerhouses like BuzzFeed, there has been a growing importance of a sensational headline. Angèle Christin, a researcher and Assistant Professor of Communication at Stanford found that newsrooms across the country are being transformed by metrics and data to increase advertising revenue, often utilizing “clickbait” to draw interest in to an article.
“As online advertising became increasingly competitive, news organizations did what they had to do to survive in this new environment,”
The Post is doing just that, relying on clickbait to increase digital advertising revenues as a result of a greater number of clicks. Of course, as explained by the BBC, clickbait can also be a harmful journalistic strategy. With sensationalized headlines fueling clicks, and therefore revenue, the actual substance of the article behind the headline may be entirely unlike what readers expected. These headlines can be misleading, incorrect, or downright harmful. And while there is nothing inherently bad about news organizations utilizing more modern techniques to drive revenue, there is something wrong if this strategy puts real lives in danger or dilutes truly important stories.
Before diving too deep into the Post Dispatch, it’s important to recognize just how important local news organizations are. For reducing or exposing corruption, explaining hot-button political issues, or simply building community, local news is very valuable. Local issues can often be the most impactful and tangible issues that people face. Local corruption and potholes affect you every day. The decline of local news has already resulted in tangible harms to democratic norms. Of course, without the veneer of national political partisanship that national news organizations adhere to, they can also carry a greater degree of trust. That trust and responsibility can, however, be ignored or abused.
There are certainly enough examples of major publications using misleading or vague headlines to lure readers in. The Post Dispatch has plenty of company in this practice. In fact, CNN’s homepage on the morning of 4/21 has a COVID story with a headline that could possibly mislead.
In this example, the article pulls a reader in because vaccines are currently mired in partisan controversy despite the scientific evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective and remarkably safe. This article utilizes the public controversy to its benefit, ideally bringing in vaccine skeptics who wish to prove their viewpoint while simultaneously intriguing people who already view vaccines as safe. After all, if you see “concerning” next to “Covid-19 vaccine demand”, it raises some questions. While this headline might be dangerous, perhaps that is only the case on the margins. There are much more dangerous examples and this headline likely does nothing beside reinforce existing beliefs.
Any action that reduces vaccine trust and subsequent demand puts the public at risk. There have now been over 560,000 deaths resulting from COVID-19 in the United States, with a total of 31 million infections. That puts the death rate from COVID-19 at approximately 1.8%. Of course, many skeptics suggest that a 98% survival rate makes the U.S. response COVID-19 nothing more than an overreaction, but this death rate is simultaneously incredibly high still and not the full story. There are often lingering effects ranging in severity for COVID survivors.
“Nearly one-third of people with COVID-19 had lingering symptoms a median of 6 months after infection onset”
The study also suggested that people who experience these long-lasting symptoms may face ranging effects from fatigue to persistent loss of smell or taste. As the study notes, many of these individuals are young and otherwise healthy, indicating that even those who are at low risk of death still may well face lasting effects.
This is a long way of suggesting the very clear and obvious notion that the risks of getting COVID-19 on your health are substantially – almost unbelievably – higher than any risks from the vaccine. There are now over 86 million fully vaccinated individuals in the U.S. alone, and there have been some cases where fully vaccinated individuals get sick. The number, as of last week, was 5800 – a miniscule 0.006% of those fully vaccinated. We already knew the vaccines were not 100% effective, but these numbers suggest that they are even MORE effective than the numbers initially suggested. Of those infected post-vaccination, only 74 died. That means that your odds of being infected post-vaccination and dying are 0.00008%.
The Post Dispatch, however, went a full step further than CNN with a headline on April 19 that could fundamentally harm vaccine trust and increase hesitancy. Any person who subsequently choose to not get vaccinated puts their lives at significantly higher risk and damages the public health and potential for herd immunity for the entire region.
This headline is simple and impactful. Writing only that “71 in St. Louis County test positive for COVID-19 after full vaccination” leaves more questions than answers. Most of those questions intentionally would center around vaccine efficacy. The headline capitalizes off of vaccine concern and is the kind of material that can easily be shared as vaccine misinformation. Of course, reading the article or the very small text beneath clarifies that these cases are uncommon, but that’s not the part most people will notice.
In other words, the Post Dispatch is using vaccine hesitancy as a source of profit through clickbait. They are doing so at a time where vaccine demand is meeting supply, both in the region and more broadly across the United States. The effort needed to push the U.S. and the St. Louis area toward herd immunity will be gargantuan, and it will require institutional stakeholders and media doing the opposite of fear mongering for profit. If the Post Dispatch had altered its headline to include a note about vaccine safety or the unlikely chance of “breakthrough cases”, then at least it could have been neutral.
Users on social media were quick to call this headline “irresponsible”, noting just how difficult it has been to coordinate a coherent public health response with a skeptical public. Giving material to conspiracy theorists who do not trust vaccines is certainly not helpful for beneficial for anything but their bottom line. But, as should be expected, evoking anger and anxiety leads to more clicks.
While there is certainly an argument to be made about the unhealthy connection between news media, particularly local news, and capitalism, that is not the point of this article even as it should still be explored. While local news can be instrumental for the health of a region through exposing corruption and informing the public, staff writers need to make enough to support themselves and the infrastructure of a print-media organization doesn’t come cheap either. Even here at Missouri-Metro, we use ads to pay for the site infrastructure. You’ve probably seen a few in this article alone.
Of course, while we should be rooting for the success of the Post Dispatch and hoping for its staff to shape a positive presence in the region, neither their headline writers, editors, or Editorial Board seem particularly interested in doing so.
On the heels of Mayor Jones’ victory on April 6, a dramatic electoral shift we covered here, the Editorial Board at the St. Louis Post Dispatch quickly released a number of articles that showcased some extreme racial insensitivities and cognitive distortions.
The first dropped on April 8th, titled “Editorial: New Mayor, same jail crisis. Someone needs to convey a sense of urgency.” This article, as you probably noticed, similarly uses clickbait to lead the reader to incorrect conclusions. Of Course, Mayor Jones would not even be inaugurated for another 12 days and was still building her transition team following an electoral victory just 2 days prior. The headline is written to direct the reader to the conclusion that Mayor Jones had already been slacking on her job. It does not use the correct term for her position, which at the time was simply Mayor-Elect, not the actual St. Louis Mayor.
While the article brings up valid concerns about how the city must address its jail crisis, it does so first by tearing down the city’s first Black woman Mayor 12 days before she’d even hold the role. The Editorial Board goes on to suggest that Mayor-Elect Jones’ plan to close the “workhouse” jail will just make the current situation worse at the Downtown jail.
That may or may not be true, but the article suggests that then Mayor-Elect Jones lacked a sense of “urgency” on the matter, using a loaded term that suggests a lack of preparedness or care. Where they could possibly reach that outcome is unclear given that Jones had released a statement about the Community Justice Center uprising the very next day.
In her statement, she addresses the very concerns noted about locks and conditions that the Editorial Board unceremoniously roasts her for not considering. They also give no airtime to the reason why Jones and other city progressives are looking to close the “workhouse” jail, simply chocking it up to adopting “the mantra of progressive activists”. However, this position completely talks down the importance of the various reasons progressives and others are seeking changes to the city’s jail and criminal justice systems. The average inmate at the Community Justice Center spends 344 days behind barsbefore their trial. The city’s other jail, known as the “workhouse” has an international reputation as a “modern-day debtors’ prison” full of black mold and rats.
Simply ignoring these horrendous conditions that predominantly impact the Black community in St. Louis, while writing off the preparedness and care for the issue of the city’s first Black Mayor, is not a good luck. 90% of those imprisoned at the workhouse are Black, and evidently their conditions are of little importance to the Editorial Board.
In another April 8th piece, titled “Editorial: Jones must employ deft diplomacy to build bridges with those she has attacked”, the Editorial Board nullifies Jones’ regional relationships, diplomatic capability, and the validity of her entire campaign and the platform she ran on. Ignoring that the Post Dispatch Editorial Board endorsed her opponent, Cara Spencer, who ran on a fairly similar progressive platform, these claims should be validated if they bother to make them.
In one example of Jones’ supposedly having a tenuous relationship of those she must work with, the Editorial Board bring up Police Union head Jeff Roorda. Jones did in fact say that Roorda would not have a seat at her table, but Spencer also called for the very same thing. The Board calls this an example of Jones’ “vengeful tendencies”, but if that was the case, why is the same not applied to her opponents or most progressive St. Louis politicians? Moreover, why use Roorda at all when he lobbed insults at Jones like “laziest-legislator-of-all-time”, “cop-hater” and “race-baiter”. Despite his herculean efforts to appose police reforms, his own actions get no airtime with the Post Dispatch Editorial Board in this piece.
If the Editorial Board took the time to write a whole piece about her broken relationships, then there must be other examples, right? The only others mentioned are the Board of Aldermen, Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and the city bureaucracy itself. Perhaps there is some distrust between the Aldermen and the Mayor as that usually tends to be the case. It is not as though Mayor Krewson always got along with the legislative body. In fact Krewson was steadfastly in favor of Board reduction, a position that did not gain much favor with many Aldermen. Moreover, she had a tenuous relationship with the more progressive members of the legislative body.
So where does Mayor Jones stand with these important relationships? Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed promised to endorse Jones if he did not proceed to the runoff, as would end up being the case. She already has his support, but what about the rest of the Board? With the success of the #FlipTheBoard and the newly dominant progressive majority on the Board, Jones has a rare opportunity to make progress on her progressive agenda. Jones had a full 14 current members endorse her run, versus just 4 for Spencer.
On the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, made up of just 3 elected officials including the Mayor, Board of Aldermen President, and Comptroller, Jones has similarly strong relationships. With Reed’s former endorsement and a strong statement of support by Comptroller Green, there seems to be far less strife than the Editorial Board would suggest.
With little real support for their strangely mean-spirited claims of poor diplomacy and relationships, the Board ends their piece with claims that Jones cannot be trusted with the $500 million windfall coming from the Federal Government and that her victory is anything but a mandate. They suggest that the money is not “solely hers to spend as she likes”, as though Jones had ever suggested that it would be. Rather, she has adopted a community input plan for the funds alongside a promise to “work with the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and Board of Aldermen to appropriate stimulus funds”.
The Editorial Board falls victim to stereotypes about Black people that are still woefully common to see today. It’s a common stereotype that Black Americans just don’t know how to manage their money, or that they cannot be trusted with their finances. There is a rather good explanation on this stereotype here that I recommend you take a few minutes to read. Regardless, it is evident that the Post Dispatch Editorial Board simply does not trust Jones to uphold her responsibility even though the voters widely adopted her as their new Mayor. Even that victory is downplayed, with her majority 52% support not counting as mandate to the Editorial Board.
We’ve covered just how important the role of local media can be for cities. Here in St. Louis, the responsibility is even greater. With historic levels of violence, the COVID-19 pandemic, a State Government that seems intent on neutering big city agendas, and politicians who need to be held accountable, there is certainly enough material. Yet, instead of utilizing the very real issues responsibly, the Post Dispatch utilizes racial tropes and stereotypes to further false narratives. They also use fear mongering and misdirection through clickbait, influencing potentially deadly behaviors and sowing distrust in the most important public health battle of our generation.
Where did the Post Dispatch take this turn toward racism and irresponsibility? That will be important to explore, and even more important will be the necessity of resolving these issues to resume and correct its important role in our society. For now, it is incumbent on readers to beware of its recent tendencies and to demand better from what can and should be one of our greatest assets.
In one of the biggest electoral shifts in St, Louis’ history, Mayor-Elect Tishaura Jones and multiple progressive Aldermanic candidates changed the entire political dynamic of the city. Mayor-Elect Jones defeated Alderwoman Cara Spencer with 51.68% of the vote compared to Spencer’s 47.77%. The April 6 election also had nearly 30% voter turnout – a significantly higher percentage than the March primary’s 22%. Contrary to some opinions that have spread online to varying degrees that suggest this was a low-turnout election, 30% voter turnout is significantly higher than average for municipal elections.
Jones will be the first Black female Mayor of St. Louis in the city’s long history, and only the second woman to be Mayor following Mayor Lyda Krewson. Her win is also unique in that she carried significant, majority support not just in the overall percentage but also in terms of the various North City Wards and even some in the Central and Southern Wards. Due to the changes recently adopted through Prop D’s Approval Voting mechanism, Jones and Spencer faced off with no other contenders in the April election. Jones, as a result, carried a majority of the voters unlike previous elections where the winner generally only received a plurality.
Mayor-Elect Tishaura Jones and Campaign Volunteers
With a voter mandate at her side, Mayor-Elect Jones also has considerable wind in her sail powered by a strengthening progressive Aldermanic coalition. Progressives across the city had commendable electoral showings, with the #FlipTheBoard movement claiming 4 out of 5 Aldermanic targets. Led by Alderwoman Megan Green, #FlipTheBoard intended to create a more progressive majority on the Board of Aldermen, making it theoretically easier to pass more progressive legislation. In St. Louis City, the Board of Aldermen holds the majority of the policy and legislative power, meaning that whatever Mayor holds the executive office also needs to rely on a BOA that shares similar goals.
Due to COVID-19, the inauguration will be physically limited with attendance capped to only a few guests at City Hall. The ceremony will begin at noon, however, and will be available to stream via YouTube for all who would like to watch. If you are interested in attending in person, the third and fourth floors in the rotunda will be available until they reach max capacity. You can stream the inauguration below and witness the historic ceremony.
In the short time between the April 6 election and the April 20 inauguration, Mayor-Elect Jones has been working to build her Transition Team and build her future executive staff. The Transition Team includes many St. Louis activists and policy experts, including:
Les Bond, chief executive officer of Attucks Asset Management, LLC
Jared Boyd, chief of staff and counsel of the St. Louis City Treasurer’s Office
Rodney Boyd, partner with Nexus Group
Patrick R. Brown, former chief of staff in St. Louis Mayor’s Office and community development executive with Ameren Missouri
Nancy E. Cross, former vice-president of SEIU Local 1
Nahuel Fefer, Justice Catalyst Fellow at ArchCity Defenders and former senior advisor in St. Louis Mayor’s Office
Bob Fox, retired business owner
Sandra M. Moore, managing director and chief impact officer with Advantage Capital
Rosetta Okohson-Reb, managing partner and chief executive officer of MO Political Consulting
Kayla M. Reed, executive director of Action St. Louis
Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders
Mike Talboy, former Missouri state representative and director of governmental affairs of Burns & McDonnell
For other positions available in the Jones Administration, visit her Transition Website here.
While Jones works to build her team, she is also seeking input from the community for how her Administration should spend the $517 million that St. Louis City will be receiving from the Federal Government. Her immediate plans prioritize direct relief for those most impacted by COVID-19. Her plan can be viewed here, but include key provisions like Emergency Shelter & Rapid Re-Housing, Small Business Grants, and Rental, Mortgage & Utility Assistance. Jones has released a survey for those interested in sharing their input regarding how the funds should be spent on her website as well.
St. Louis City is a notoriously difficult city to lead. In its “Weak-Mayor System”, the executive often finds their plans stymied by a Board of Aldermen not too keen on pursuing those same goals or the lack of a voter mandate. Mayor-Elect Jones, however, finds herself in a different position entirely. With majority support through St. Louis’ new Approval Voting system, St. Louis’ general shift toward progressive policy solutions, a significantly more progressive BOA, and support that extends far beyond only North City wards, Jones might find success in ways previous Mayors have not.
There is no doubt that the job will still be incredibly difficult. Leading a city scarred by COVID-19, centuries of institutional racism, uneven opportunity, and doing it all while simultaneously combatting a State Government that generally targets St. Louis area policies will be no walk in the park. However, Jones has real opportunity, perhaps a historic chance to steer the city towards equity and solutions for all, including those who have been hardest hit not just through COVID, but throughout the city’s long-lasting history of racist policies.
The City of St. Louis is boasting thousands of new apartment units, some already under construction, and other still awaiting approval. Across the city, hundreds of new homes and gut rehabs are revitalizing the historic street grid. We’re also seeing some incredibly cool, dense projects underway that will continue to bring back a true city feel to St. Louis City. The development discussed in this article does this particularly well. By replacing a large parking lot in one of the city’s most dense neighborhoods with a sizable multifamily building, LuxLiving is adding tons of life and street activation to a street that has so much potential. The Chelsea, the latest from LuxLiving, is one of the most amenity-packed, high-tech buildings to ever rise in the city. We cannot wait to share it with you below.
Zeroing in on DeBaliviere Place
DeBaliviere Place has seen enormous change over the last decaded, located just East of the somewhat better known Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood that famously borders Washington University in St. Louis. DeBaliviere Place extends from DeBaliviere at the History Museum East to Kingshighway and the Central West End. Despite its proximity to one of the city’s most dense and wealthy neighborhoods and the presence of some gated communities filled with exclusive mansions, the area had lacked new investment for decades.
Much has changed recently. We wrote about “The Changing Face of DeBaliviere” last year, highlighting the many dense multifamily developments currently underway that will add commercial retail, a grocery store, and hundreds of new units adjacent to the Metrolink station. As those projects continue chugging along toward their completion, we had an opportunity to highlight one of the most exciting nearby apartment communities: The Chelsea.
LuxLiving & The Chelsea
DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a sponsored post, and Missouri-Metro was NOT paid for this article. Missouri-Metro tours various projects under construction, and the article was reviewed prior to being published by Kyle Hennessey at LuxLiving to ensure that the facts and figures are correct. There were no changes made.
LuxLiving currently has over 2000 units currently under construction or in pre-development in the St. Louis area. The Chelsea’s 152 units no longer factor in the count as it is already nearing its max occupancy, despite the fact that construction crews are still onsite putting in the finishing touches. Kyle Hennessey, LuxLiving’s Director of Operations, credits this to his leasing team and the high demand for top notch amenities and the city’s massive Forest Park across the street.
While Hennessey is unabashedly prideful of The Chelsea’s many next-level amenities, many that I have not yet seen before in the St. Louis market, his ambition is for each upcoming project to one-up anything that comes before it. That ambition extends to The Hudson just a few steps away on DeBaliviere Blvd. and its soon-to-be 155 units. LuxLiving is also making quick progress on several other large projects, including the SoHo in Soulard and the McKenzie on Delmar.
Even with these other developments on the horizon that promise to dethrone The Chelsea, Hennessey’s hour and a half + tour did not disappoint. Rather, it is beyond evident that The Chelsea will offer some impressively fun amenities and gorgeous units that are a step above anything we would have seen in STL a few years ago.
The Chelsea was built straight atop a former parking lot in one of the city’s most dense neighborhoods. Walking down Pershing today evokes a sense of city living and excitement that reminded this author of strolls through Chicago and New York City neighborhoods. In a city still working to shake off its devastating urban renewal in the 20th century that demolished dense housing blocks (in predominantly Black communities), this is a rather unusual and special feeling.
The Chelsea has a very inviting entrance with humongous windows looking into the lobby, gym, and café. The outdoor patio will soon host bistro tables for the café and coffee shop inside, one that will soon serve the public as well. Despite the neighborhood’s density, residents are serviced by surprisingly few coffee shops until they reach the adorable and friendly 2Schae Café at Pershing and Union. The front is also being meticulously landscaped, and the gym will also open up to the outdoors for certain workout regimens with the massive garage-windows able to open at the touch of a button.
Upon entering the building, residents are greeted with the first sight of the high tech features spread throughout the structure. At most doors, entry points, and elevators throughout the building, residents are prompted to use their phones to proceed. Residential units are tied to an application for security and convenience, while the app can also be used to pay for beer on tap.
Residents and Guests interact with the building system as soon as they reach the door.
Photo by Brian Adler, Missouri-Metro
Once inside, residents and guests are greeted by an impressive lobby lit both by natural light and LEDs sprinkled artfully throughout the interior. The lobby is an open-concept, resort-like space with greenery for a smooth transition to and from the outdoors. As Hennessey put it multiple times throughout our tour, the designers attempted to bring the nearby Forest Park and nature in at every corner, from the carpet and flooring design to actual, live trees in the lobby.
As you probably could tell, the café sits at the back of the lobby near the entrance to the gym. What makes this café unique to the area is the niche it fills for residents who otherwise would have to walk, bike, or drive over half a mile to the next closest corner coffee shop. Perhaps an even more interesting and special characteristic is that The Chelsea and its café also boast a full liquor license. Residents and guests will have access to brunch, bloody marys, mimosas, and various other cocktails in addition to the more normal breakfast and lunch items.
With a decent amount of outdoor seating to be available on the Pershing-side patio, this section of Pershing will host commercial activation that it hasn’t seen for years. Instead of a huge parking lot, the community now hosts a space to mingle and grab a bite to eat – something that we all look forward to returning to when we’re able.
The smoothies and iced coffee will come in handy for those at the gym just beside the café. Although gyms are becoming common place as standard luxury apartment amenities, the gym inside The Chelsea is something special. Instead of just a few treadmills and weights thrown about, this workout space is one that showcases the latest in workout technology with expensive equipment that you won’t see in even some of the nicest gyms.
Residents will enter the gym utilizing their phones, of course, and will be greeted by a green-LED laden space hosting two full stories of workout equipment. The high ceilings are joined by massive garage-style windows that actually do open to the patio out front. Hennessey hopes to see residents utilize both spaces simultaneously and excitedly demonstrated how the gargantuan windows open at the touch of a button.
While I am no exercise expert, I have to imagine that even those who visit the gym much more than I do will spend a good deal of time just figuring out how to use certain pieces of equipment. I mean this in the best of ways. Some will be more simple than others, like the Pelotons, weights, and treadmills. However, residents will also have access to a “smart” boxing exercise, smart mirrors with workout classes, and yoga controlled by an iPad projected onto a large wall. At each machine with a smart feature, there is a barcode that you can scan with your phone that will bring up instructions to help you figure out just what it is you are supposed to be doing. Although they may be intimidating at first, it is one of the best use of QR codes that I have seen in that there is a simple action, followed by a simple explanation, carried out with ease just next to the equipment.
Indoor/outdoor space is a big theme on display at The Chelsea, and residents will also have access to space to the side of the building to hang out with their pets. While a lot of apartment buildings are adding some simple dog runs, Hennessey and his team took things another step forward.
With murals, swings, and a sizable grassy run, residents will have access to a space outdoors that would also serve as a great place to read or just enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. Murals have a big presence at The Chelsea, both outside in the dog park, and inside the gym as well. Color and greenery are just about everywhere.
The outdoors action continued well into the tour, with a large amenity space facing Pershing located on the second floor. According to Hennessey, their pool area is modeled off of resorts and designed for their mid-20s demographic. Alongside the large pool are several pillars that will shoot fire upward, with fountains, grills, and even a bar on top of it all. While the pool deck is still incomplete, they are shooting to be ready for their residents in the next few weeks.
Many residential units will also open directly into the pool deck. Some units are on the same floor and have their patios literally open to the deck. In other words, they could hop out of bed and directly into the pool on nice days. Other apartments on the floors above will simply have decks overlooking the pool and other apartments on Pershing – this seems to be the other options for those who want a little more distance from the noise and activity below.
The second story pool deck directly connects to the “Barcade”, with large windows and doors bringing the pool area’s light and atmosphere inside. This space is one of my favorites that Hennessey was able to show me. If you’re looking to place classic arcade games, pinball, pool, or even skeeball, this is the place. It would be an excellent place to bring your family, friends, or other guests to hang out outside of your unit.
For gamers who prefer a controller, Hennessy and The Chelsea have something special to offer. Available for every day use: NES, Gamecube, PlayStation (1 & 5 – a purchase I was told was not easy and very expensive), and more. The television is surrounded by plaques of classic retro video games framed carefully with love. If you are at all nostalgic about old video games, this place will win over your heart.
Of course, there’s also the “bar” part of “barcade” – and it does not disappoint. With 6 different beers on tap, residents can pay for their drinks by the ounce by holding their phones up to the scanner while pouring their brew. There will also be special events with discounted pricing – as Hennessey noted, they have a tendency to hold pool parties at their new properties.
Believe it or not, there are still more impressive amenity spaces to cover. Hennessey and LuxLiving are hoping to create a place where residents have it all without having to leave the building. Something I appreciated about the spaces is that they tend to promote physical or social activity, or both.
The Golf Lounge is a space residents can reserve either to watch the big game…or to play in one. The room, with its loft-height ceilings and splashy interior design, will put your friends’ Superbowl parties to shame. The humungous projector serves duel purposes: watching and playing. The projector is hooked up to a nearby computer with a golf simulator that recreates actual PGA tournaments for residents to play.
How does this nifty golf simulator work? Well, you grab one of the many actual golf clubs in the room, stand on the green, choose a PGA map, and whack the actual golf ball as hard and direct as you can. As the ball hits the projector, the simulator can record how far and where it is going, and it will proceed to create a virtual mockup of your golf ball flying somewhere on the golf course. It also shows tons of data about your shot for you to brag to your friends or family who actually golf.
When residents finish their 18 holes or wrap up at the gym, they’ll be able to relax at The Chelsea’s spa. Hennessey saved this part for last on our tour, allowing me to see the room just as it neared completion. While the large glass divider in the room was on the way, the spa still impresses. I’m not talking about a simple pet spa – a commonplace luxury apartment building amenity – but an actual, human scaled spa.
With a steam room, sauna, and television designed to connect to relaxation apps, the rooms are intended to offer a break from work unmatched by any other apartments in the St. Louis area. My favorite touch was the ceiling lights that are meant to resemble stars when the steam room is activated.
The Chelsea is also intended to be the perfect place for a work-from-home lifestyle. Without having to go far, you can find a comfortable place to work, coffee, lunch, your next workout, recreation, and relaxation. Of course, the building also includes flexible workspaces, a business lounge, and a marketplace filled to the brim with frozen pizzas, drinks, and other snacks that can all be paid for with a fingerprint.
Although it would seem that residents have much they can do outside of their units, the apartments themselves certainly have a lot to offer. They are perhaps some of the highest tech apartments that I have seen as of late. All that begins in the elevators, with the same phone-tap functionality as a security mechanism that allows the elevator to access your floor.
Once in the hallway, residents are greeted with a swanky interior that reminded me of some of the more luxurious hotels in Las Vegas – think Wynn/Encore, Aria, Vdara, etc. With a dark color palette and clever lighting features, along with some rather fancy looking art, the hallway itself deserves some attention and praise. If you were hoping to impress your parents or significant other, this just may do the trick. The entry to each unit has a LED-lit room number, and the doors themselves are substantial. To access your unit, you again, you guessed it, tap your phone to the scanner on the handle. Morale of the story: do not lose your phone.
The first unit I saw was a 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. As soon as the door opened, I was surprised to see the amount of natural light in the space. The first thing you’ll see is the kitchen, and most of the kitchens in the building are pretty similar. While on the sixth floor there are a couple of extra niceties like a gorgeous range hood, every unit has a smart refrigerator, 2x thickness quartz countertops, tons of cabinet space, all stainless appliances, a large designer faucet, and LED lighting above and below you. The unit pictured below includes the range hood.
There is, of course, a large sputnik light included as well. The smart refrigerators are in every unit down to the studios too – meaning that everyone has an additional screen to interact with. The 2x thickness quartz countertops really do look and feel nice as well. Their color really goes well with the flooring and paint to create a very open and airy vibe.
What might not be immediately obvious is that every bit of the apartment is filled with technology. The sixth floor unit pictured here has a special surround sound speaker system already built into the ceiling with easy plug-and-play controls for residents. However, every unit also will have an Amazon Alexa in addition to a Google Nest WiFi Thermostat. While the Nest Thermostats might seem initially gimmicky, I was glad to see them here because they are generally more sustainable than normal thermostats. With their smart programming controls, it tends to conserve energy in the long run.
For every Chelsea unit, saving energy might not be the most important priority for residents because their energy, water, and other utilities including Internet are all included in the rent (even 1 parking spot). That said, with no real incentives to conserve on the financial side, having a more sustainable solution with the Nest is a good idea.
The gallery just below shows the rest of the 2-bedroom unit. Each bathroom is a full bathroom, and both have rainfall showerheads. One in particular, in the second photo below, also has water that can shoot from the wall to create a more immersive experience. There are also two separate walk-in closets, in addition to a full washer and dryer setup.
Hennessey also took me to see one of the studio units on the fifth floor. With just over 400 square feet, space is utilized incredibly well. It helps that the model is furnished, which residents can opt in for, to help visualize how space can best be used. I have lived in a studio at a luxury apartment building before, and the design of this unit is far more intentional than what I am used to for a similar square footage.
Studios still boast a full-size kitchen with the same impressive set of appliances – even a kitchen island! Though, I do imagine that island will double as your only dining table. There is, of course, still a full bathroom with the same great materials, lots of storage space, and a washer and dryer in the hallway. While it may not seem like much to those who are used to more space, I hope you’ll take my word for it that this furnished studio is one of the best around.
Having never embarked on a 90+ minute tour before of an apartment building, I would have never quite expected the amount of fun activities and amenities that residents at The Chelsea will have access to. I have seen some of the most historic, expensive, and expansive units in the city, but this building does truly offer something special.
I’m encouraged to see this kind of investment in the city. Of course we need investments for all incomes and in all neighborhoods (some of which, as we discussed earlier, are in greater need than others), but having some place that’s a little extra, that goes a bit wild, brings me joy. Perhaps we’ll retain a few more college graduates or attract a few other young professionals, and one way or another, we’ll have more people enjoying our beautiful city.
QuikTrip, a privately held company with gas stations across the St. Louis metro area and beyond, is looking to expand their holdings in South County with a controversial new location. The company, with nearly 70 separate stations across Greater St. Louis, has its sights set on 5039 Lemay Ferry at Butler Hills Rd.
The location is currently occupied by the Kassebaum Building, a historic, two-story mixed use structure that is #26 on the list of Historical Landmarks in St. Louis County. Built in 1913, the building was just barely spared by a highway widening and was first constructed in what was at the time an unplanned settlement. The full building history is available on the St. Louis County website.
The Kassebaum Building – Google Maps
South County is not known for much urbanist and human-scaled architecture, home to relatively suburban municipalities and neighborhoods that are generally car dependent. The Kassebaum is one of the few remaining commercial structures in South County that was designed for people, not cars – with mixed uses and not overrun with parking. The intersection would lose its last breath of historic character should the demolition occur and upon the construction of new QuikTrip.
Mehlville, Concord, Sappington, and Green Park residents would have to drive significantly farther to escape the suburbs and experience mixed uses that have been preserved for over a century. Worse yet, residents gain very little with a new gas station. The Kassebaum is located in the highlighted section below, where residents already have easy access to over a dozen other options within just a few miles. That list includes a QuikTrip just North of 255.
St. Louis has a long history of demolishing historic, urban form for suburban developments that significantly lower tax revenues and preserve a car-centric culture. From the City and its legacy of urban renewal that tore down dense, predominantly Black housing to the County and its municipalities razing entire historic neighborhoods for highways, the region has a poor record of preservation. However, to place the blame entirely on the various local governments would be to ignore the fact that many corporations are primary offenders in this process.
QuikTrip, for example, has contributed significantly to the process. Razing the Kassebaum would not be its first transgression, with other recent stations tearing down historic buildings even closer to the Central Corridor. At its Jefferson and Chouteau location, two mixed-use buildings were torn down – NextSTL.
The Jefferson and Chouteau QuikTrip is perhaps nearly as harmful, if not more, in that it demolished urban form and good 2-3 story density very near to the City’s strongest urban corridor, Just a couple miles from Downtown and near some incredibly dense and thriving neighborhoods, opportunities for retail and residential living were taken away as St. Louis plunged itself even further down the rabbit hole of being unfriendly to pedestrians. Such decisions directly contradict other urban efforts like transit-oriented development, extended Metro access, and even tend to encourage harmful behaviors like driving (both in terms of how it affects the environment and the obvious notion that walking and biking is healthier).
While it is unlikely that the QuikTrip proposed at the Kassebaum site will be stopped or amended, St. Louis residents from the County and City alike should question whether a city is most successful as a suburban, sprawled, and car-oriented landscape versus a more urban, dense, and walkable city. Doubling down on an urban design focused on cars means doubling down on environmentally unsustainable practices instead of one that fosters healthier lifestyles, environmental sustainability, and successful corner shops with mixed residential uses. Change will take time, but St. Louis needs to really consider whether an additional gas station is worth erasing historical architecture and sliding the region backward.
For now at least, it seems that the Kassebaum QuikTrip will continue modeling the former. In respect of the rich history of the original building, QuilTrip plans to include a small brick “Kassebaum” sign at the corner.
Green Street has multiple projects underway in the St. Louis area, with hundreds of units coming online in St. Louis City and a humungous proposal to revitalize Old Webster in St. Louis County. We recently reported their quick growth as they are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars and tons of new infill to the region.
In their latest press release, Green Street announced that Thomas “Toby” Martin has been named Green Street’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), effective immediately. We have been told that the company is hiring quickly and reorganizing to accommodate for their growth, while the firm is also vertically integrating with its recent acquisition of HDA Architects.
Martin previously worked in senior roles at other large real estate firms including Cushman, Duke Realty, and NAI Desco Commercial. He also started his own real estate firm, Martin Properties, in 2004. Martin will work alongside Joel Oliver, who has been promoted to Managing Director and Senior VP of Development. They intend to work closely with CFO Luke Pope to identify new markets and opportunities for future developments.
“Joel has done an incredible job of sourcing creative financing to support our workforce housing model…With his guidance, we will be able to duplicate our efforts in multiple communities where the need is great.”
Phil Hulse, founder and CEO of Green Street.
Green Street recently completed HueSTL, part of the Chroma development, in FPSE. Missouri-Metro was invited by Liz DeBold Austin, SVP of Marketing, as it neared completion for a construction tour to share with our readers. Hue is now at or near occupancy, and Green Street is working quickly to complete the nearby Terra and Union-STL developments just south of Manchester in FPSE, often referred to as “The Grove”. We have included some recent photos of the construction below, where fences have just gone up and construction equipment is onsite.
Stay tuned for more development updates here at Missouri-Metro.
As the St. Louis City SC MLS Soccer Stadium continues to rise at the massive construction site in Downtown West, the team has frequently released exciting new renderings that showcase the entertainment district, style, and amenities that guests will enjoy.
The new renderings below include the team’s training center, lounge spaces, practice field, club HQ, fan pavilion, and a view of the larger campus overall.
Training Center & Lounge Spaces
Downtown West Campus
We already have an idea of what the stadium will look like from the exterior, as can be seen below, and on the interior in some lounge spaces.
St. Louis City is poised to have its first municipal election utilizing ‘Approval Voting‘, a method of voting that voters overwhelmingly adopted in November 2020 with the passing of Proposition D. Tomorrow’s March 2nd municipal primary election will be the first time St. Louis voters get to vote for more than one candidate for a given office. St. Louis is one of the first U.S. cities to adopt such a measure, with Fargo being the first just under a year ago.
While voters are used to choosing a single candidate, the city’s new voting system passes with Proposition D allows voters to choose multiple candidates that they approve of. There is still a primary and a general election, with the primary taking place March 2nd and the general/runoff on April 6th, but the candidates in the runoff will no longer represent the top candidate from either party.
Instead, Proposition D has instituted nonpartisan Approval Voting, which seeks to create more opportunity for different ideas and parties to gain momentum and make an impact on elections usually dominated by the two-party system. Moreover, the new system is intended to better reflect actual voting preferences. Proponents of Approval Voting explain that under the more traditional ‘Plurality Voting’ method utilized in most of the U.S. and formerly in St. Louis, voters often chose the “lesser of two evils” rather than their most preferred candidate. The reasoning behind doing so rested in seeking to prevent your worst case scenario rather than improving the chances for your favorite candidate.
Just how does Approval Voting supposedly better reflect real preferences? On the March 2nd primary ballot, voters will not see party identifications, despite each candidate (at least in the Mayoral race) publicly tying themselves to a party. Moreover, and perhaps the most significant difference to St. Louisans, is that voters may vote, or “approve”, of as many candidates as they like on tomorrow’s ballot.
The top two “approved” candidates, which are intended to reflect voters’ real interests, then would advance to the general election runoff on April 6, where only two candidates for a given seat will face off. Proponents of Approval Voting suggest that the top two candidates who make it to the runoff in April will have broader support than candidates who squeak by on a plurality.
The list of candidates for the March 2 primary can be found via St. Louis city here. Polls are open from 6AM to 7PM, and you can find your polling place here.
St. Louis City has for years relied upon its Earnings Tax revenue for a significant portion of its annual revenues, now comprising of over a third of the city’s expected revenue each year. In 2020, St. Louis raked in just over $191 million, a sum that has quickly grown over the past few years. With the city seeing incredible investment and high paying jobs in the medical, geospatial, and tech sectors at the Cortex, Downtown, and beyond, it has seen a 9.97% increase in revenue over the last two years alone.
Although there is a real and warranted debate over how the city allocates its funds in relation to equity and incentives, there is no doubt that eliminating the revenue in one swift motion would be disastrous for the city, its growth, and its most vulnerable communities. Gregory Daily, the city’s Collector of Revenue, has been waging a long education campaign on the tax for some time, pointing out the direct impact on city services that residents rely on every day. From parks to streets and lighting, the Earnings Tax impacts every city resident. While many communities might not know their Neighborhood Stabilization Officers by name, these civil servants work incredibly hard to make our communities safer and more economically resilient.
Parks are imperative for public health, while emergency services are critical for maintaining the day-to-day safety of St. Louisans. While I share the views of many in our city that St. Louis, among most U.S. cities, spends too much on policing with too few positive results, police are but one aspect of critical emergency services. Moreover, the City is just now experimenting and investing in community-driven violence reduction through Cure Violence and emergency dispatch that redirects some calls away from police. These measures are not enough, but they are an important start as we strive to prevent horrific tragedies that have predominantly affected communities of color. Even now, we have difficulty adequately funding these new services. While I share the hopes of many that some police funds will be redirected to other innovative and community-driven programs, addressing inequalities becomes many times harder when lower revenues have to be split among the same number of services.
Perhaps the conversation would be different if opponents of Proposition E, the Earnings Tax, actually presented an alternate funding source for the City. If you’ve been paying attention – they haven’t. There is no plan to replace these funds, and the end result would be a City that has its budget nuked, cratering its budget with little time for the City to prepare. If you felt that St. Louis Streets crews were slower than you’d like already with plowing snowy streets or filling potholes, I expect that their performance would decline much more with significantly less money for employees or vehicle maintenance. For our already cash-strapped fleet of refuse vehicles much in need of service, citizens might expect less consistent trash pickup and more frequently overfilled dumpsters.
While some might feel this is a deserved consequence for a bureaucracy that has not served everyone adequately, such a drastic and reactionary loss of revenue would do nothing to resolve the City’s shortcomings. Instead, St. Louis would struggle that much more to attract investment, new residents, and to invest critical dollars into its low-income neighborhoods. Tax dollars should go back into our communities, and it would be incredibly difficult to pass individual tax measures for individual programs that would be lost. Others might argue that the Earnings Tax prevents growth, population, and investment. At first glance, that argument is reasonable, but with hundreds of municipalities across the United States levying income taxes, including cities like Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, New York City, Philadelphia, and more, this argument falls flat quickly. In fact, St. Louis’ Earnings Tax tends to not even fall in the higher percentages of income taxes levied in comparable cities.
I urge all St. Louis City residents to Vote YES on Proposition E, to preserve our Earnings Tax, and to preserve our critical city services.