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Built St. Louis
Vanished Buildings: McRee Town

Numerous media outlets covered the story in 2003, including in-depth articles from:
- the Riverfront Times
- the CommonSpace

The story is long and complicated, involving many players.

There seems to be wide consensus that:
- The neighborhood desparately needed outside help to rejuvenate itself. Crime and drug dealing were rampant.
- Some buildings definately needed to come down.
- True community input was not gathered by the Botanical Gardens.
- Many viable historic buildings are being swept out along with the unsalvagable ones.

Protestors, outraged that so many families were being forced to move so that middle-class housing could take their place, made great sport of mocking a Botanical Gardens exhibit extolling the virtues of biodiversity and natural recycling of materials, when their urban renewal efforts were more akin to slash-and-burn.

Well, these salvaged window sills and lintels show that there is some recycling going on, I suppose.

The city's poor are already facing a housing shortage, exacerbated by the demolition of housing projects north and south of downtown. This mass dislocation has made it worse.

The architectural toll is considerable as well. There is little to be said for wiping out entire blocks of houses and apartments.

The official position is that without a clean site, no developer would show interest in the site.

To which I reply: oh really?

Surgical infill is becoming a standard in more and more urban areas. With a site this size, with a major backer like the Botanical Gardens, St. Louis should be willing and able to demand quality development. Here, as with many urban neighborhoods, that means infill, not clearcutting.

It seems a moot point now. I have not seen plans for the new housing slated for the area. Will it be urban? Will it relate functionally and architecturally to its context? Will it allow for corner stores and small businesses and rental properties and a mixture of incomes?

I'm afraid to hear the answers.

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