Former mayor Vincent “Mel Carnahan’s just a redneck from Rolla” Schoemel’s eminent domain crusade against an auto mechanic’s garage is over.
58-year-old Jim Day gets to keep his business.Grand Avenue is a north-south drag in St. Louis that has seen better days, especially on the north side. But in all fairness it’s seen worse days too. Some 20 years ago an abandoned movie palace reopened as the Fox Theater, a venue for live music, comedy, and other shows that are too small to fill an arena but too large for a nightclub. I was going to say “too classy” for either, but while that would apply to Tori Amos, I don’t think that applies to Larry the Cable Guy.
Nearby, another former movie palace is now Powell Symphony Hall. The St. Louis Symphony plays there.
Grand makes sense as an area for redevelopment. It already has lots of attractions. The Saint Louis University campus is there. And there are a large number of vacant buildings there.
And while I suppose Jim Day’s garage, which looks like it once was an Amoco station, may not fit into everyone’s vision of a ritzy high-society stretch of town, the fact is that the people Schoemel wants to attract to Grand aren’t going to live right there. Drive onto the side streets of Grand, and you’ll find working-class neighborhoods–the kinds of people who need a decent mechanic. Most of them rent, rather than own. They’re the kinds of people who don’t really have lots of disposable income to be spending at an art gallery. A lot of them are immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrants who are still trying to establish themselves and have dreams of buying homes elsewhere. An auto mechanic is a good thing for them to have nearby. An art gallery is little more than a distraction to their American dream.
So I’m glad the garage gets to stay. And if Schoemel really wants to rejuvinate the neighborhood and make the rejuvination stick (rather than just be concerned about appearances), it seems to me the area really could use a good-sized grocery store. The further someone has to drive to get groceries, the less likely he or she is to want to live there.
But what do I know? I’m just a working-class citizen. Schoemel probably thinks I’m a redneck too.
Imminent domain should only be used rarely and never for a redevelopment effort. If outside or governmental interests want property for redevelopment they should pay what ever price is required to convert the owner into a willing seller (and if the price is too much and the local government is involved, they will hear about that at the ballot box). If the person still won’t sell, well, too bad.
I should have said "eminent".