The Gospel According to Paul

Developer Paul McKee Jr. envisions WingHaven as a "New Urbanist" planned community where everyone will live, work and get along. So why does it look so much like suburbia?

The multistory Enclave luxury-apartment complex, with its dense suburban architecture, sits incongruously amid cleared fields in the rolling, forested hills of St. Charles County, about 30 miles west of downtown St. Louis. With electronic gates at its entrance and surrounded by a high security fence, it looks like nothing so much as a monument to a cult leader's paranoid fantasy. Around it are empty treeless fields, a free-fire zone, perhaps, with the grass cut low so that even a mouse could be seen from the upper-story windows.

But for that desolation, nothing visibly distinguishes the Enclave from other suburban apartment complexes in Maryland Heights, Sunset Hills or Creve Coeur. The Enclave is within walking distance of nowhere. A bag of groceries or gas requires a bit of a drive, let alone getting to school or work.

Yet the Enclave is different. It is part of a grand social experiment by a private developer to see whether the layout and design of streets, office buildings, stores and homes can change the way people relate to each other, the way they think and behave.

WingHaven developer Paul J. McKee Jr. in one of the "neighborhood electric vehicles" (NEVs) that he sells to residents for $10,000.
Jennifer Silverberg
WingHaven developer Paul J. McKee Jr. in one of the "neighborhood electric vehicles" (NEVs) that he sells to residents for $10,000.
"The houses are different, but the amenities are the same -- even the mailboxes."
Jennifer Silverberg
"The houses are different, but the amenities are the same -- even the mailboxes."
Charles Marske of St. Louis University thinks WingHaven is "an incredibly intriguing concept."
Jennifer Silverberg
Charles Marske of St. Louis University thinks WingHaven is "an incredibly intriguing concept."
Despite the high-concept "LifeWorks" philosophy, Tim Fischesser of the St. Louis County Municipal League calls WingHaven "dumb growth" that "is siphoning off the middle class."
Jennifer Silverberg
Despite the high-concept "LifeWorks" philosophy, Tim Fischesser of the St. Louis County Municipal League calls WingHaven "dumb growth" that "is siphoning off the middle class."

A mile farther up the road and over a hill, the mammoth MasterCard Global Technology and Operations Center grips an HOK-designed 10-acre lake. Nothing -- other than perhaps its size -- distinguishes the MasterCard building from any other multistory office building in Maryland Heights or Chesterfield. It, too, is part of the experiment. So are 23 residential developments that, when completed, will contain 1,264 single-family homes, as well as 650 apartments.

The experiment is called WingHaven, and its developers predict that, when fully built, more than 20,000 people will live or work here. And the Enclave will no longer sit in eerie isolation.

Though the experiment is barely half-done, some people are already proclaiming it a stunning success. "WingHaven will be cited for the next 25 years as a great example of a new form of urban development," says Richard Fleming, president and chief executive officer of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association.

In the jargon of developers, WingHaven is a "masterplanned, mixed-use community," as was Chesterfield when Louis Sachs began developing it in the 1960s. Modern office buildings and a commercial strip are taking shape along this stretch of Highway 40, and new single-family homes sprout farther inland in developments with pretentious English names such as Falcon Hill, Hawthorne Village and Wake Forest. There's a community clubhouse with tennis courts and a pool, and an 18-hole golf course. Walking trails wind through WingHaven, and blooms in the landscaped median strip provide a colorful contrast to the monochromatic roadways.

WingHaven takes up 1,200 acres, nearly the size of Forest Park or downtown St. Louis. Unlike downtown, the developer uses rolling hills and remnants of second-growth forest to screen parts of the project from each other. Drive around the new roads of WingHaven, and, as in many a suburban subdivision, the overwhelming impression is of newness and orderliness, of comfort and sterility. Far from the urban chaos, here is a place free of the problems and squabbles of older, disordered environments.

Don't, however, call WingHaven just another subdivision, at least not within earshot of Paul J. McKee Jr. His goals are much loftier. McKee aims to relieve the pressures that make modern life unbearable, or at least unpleasant. He aims to teach St. Louis how to embrace diversity, how to create a real community. Along the way, he plans on turning the St. Louis area into a high-tech mecca.

McKee doesn't have a reputation for being a starry-eyed idealist or social reformer. The crusty, white-haired 56-year-old construction executive is better known as a hard-charging businessman, an entrepreneur's entrepreneur. He co-founded and chairs four companies, and he was just elected chairman of a fifth, Enterbank Holdings Inc., the parent company of Enterprise Bank. He's been credited with engineering the hospital mergers that created BJC Health System while he was chairman of Christian Hospitals. He also is a leader in the "biobelt" effort to make St. Louis a leading center for biotechnology.

And he doesn't like subdivisions.

"'Subdivision' is a bad word around us," says McKee, chairman of McEagle Development Corp., the builder of WingHaven. "What we did is, we pulled the people together and created community in a different way. It's not 'I got my own piece of ground, and I want to hide.' It's 'I want to be part of a greater community.' It's a whole different approach."

McKee's rap against conventional subdivision development goes something like this: By clustering people of similar income together, subdivisions have promoted class division. By creating separate and distinct zones for different types of activities, they have subdivided people's lives, geographically separating home from work, from play and from education. That fragmentation has made modern life complex and stressful. More important, perhaps, subdivisions cut people off from community.

"We conflict the idea of a subdivision versus the idea of a community," says McKee. "Subdivisions don't build community, they segregate people. We should divide land, not people."

It's the flip side of the criticism of public housing as warehouses for the poor [Najeeb Hasan, "No Place Like Home," RFT, July 18], which led to the HOPE VI federal housing initiative for mixed-income housing -- except, in this case, the developers of the older subdivisions are the bad guys, and the new developers of places such as WingHaven are the ones ending such warehousing and segregation.

"We've integrated all levels of economics in our community," says McKee. "You can't get that in Creve Coeur, Olivette or Town & Country." Unlike the segregated suburbs of St. Louis County, he adds, "we're building neighborhood."

McKee calls his philosophy "LifeWorks," a spelling McEagle has copyrighted. "If you live, learn, work and play in one place, life is more in balance and ... life works," he says. And when you can't, it doesn't.

The importance of that for the St. Louis region is that WingHaven-type communities will be the core of future economic development, according to McKee. The 21st-century economy, he says, will be built around "knowledge workers," a phrase he has borrowed from management guru Peter Drucker, who defines them as people who work as part of a team to analyze, handle or provide information to their employer that gives their company a competitive advantage.

"What we're discovering is that the knowledge worker is really the driver of the new economy, and the knowledge worker values a lot of things," says McKee. "We think what they value most of all is choice. We think they are making the choice to live, learn, work and play -- some people add 'pray' to that -- in the same place. We're confident that is what the knowledge worker wants."

What knowledge workers want is important, McKee says, because employers will have to accommodate them to stay competitive. "Where, before, companies put their headquarters close to the CEO's home and people would come, today, the CEO has to go to where the knowledge worker is, and he drives or she drives to accommodate the knowledge worker," he says.

So if St. Louis can develop the kind of communities in which knowledge workers want to live, the key companies and industries of the new economy will put their facilities here to get the workers they need.

McKee acknowledges that it's a big dream, but, in market terms, it's a successful one. When housing development started in January 1999, "we sold 550 sites in one week," he says. "People were lining up for a chance to put down $1,000 for a lot on the golf course." John Eilermann, president of McBride & Son, one of four homebuilders operating in WingHaven, gushes that he sold 250 houses in 90 days. (The other residential builders in WingHaven are the Jones Co., Vantage Homes and Mayer Homes.)

Sales have slowed, but they are still well above what the developers had projected before opening the gates. The single-family housing was going to be developed in three phases. McKee estimates that all of phase 1 and half of phase 2, about 650 units in all, have been sold.

"We thought it would take us 10 years to complete the residential component," he says. "We're going to be done in five."


McKee isn't doing it on his own. WingHaven isn't just a story about a maverick capitalist playing with his own money and sponsoring a grand experiment to test his ideas about a new kind of living. WingHaven required, and is dependent on, both private enterprise and public subsidies.

Clearly what helped launch WingHaven in a big way was the relocation of MasterCard from Maryland Heights.

And getting MasterCard to move 2,000 employees into WingHaven propelled other companies as well. There are three corporate tenants in three buildings at WingHaven now: MasterCard, Nordyne and GLA/Everest. But MasterCard accounts for 550,000 of the combined 695,000 square feet of office and research space. It cost $115 million to build that space, but $100 million of it was for MasterCard alone.

McKee's LifeWorks vision was one of the things that appealed to MasterCard, says Linda Locke, a company spokeswoman, but it wasn't the only thing, or even the most important thing. The most important thing, she says, was the state's incentive package, "which made the case for staying in Missouri."

When MasterCard began making noises four years ago about moving out of state, the machinery of government cranked up, offering a patchwork of subsidies to keep the company in the region. As St. Louis County sought to keep the company from leaving the county, St. Charles County, along with the city of O'Fallon, entered the fray, offering millions in subsidies, trying to land the big fish. Then-Gov. Mel Carnahan pushed the state's economic-development officials to work out a deal to keep the company in state, if not in St. Louis County.

After months of ever-increasing offers of financial incentives, MasterCard announced in January 1999 that it would relocate to WingHaven.

Using a program begun in 1982, the Missouri Development Finance Board sold $154 million of industrial-revenue bonds to finance MasterCard's $100 million office and data-center complex and the $35 million worth of equipment and furniture that is going into it. MasterCard's bank bought the bonds. Each month, MasterCard makes a payment toward retiring them, and the state credits that payment against the company's state income taxes. In other words, every dollar that MasterCard pays on the principle and interest on the debt reduces its state income tax by a dollar.

It has generally been reported that MasterCard's tax benefit was capped at about $40 million. In practice, the public subsidy is worth much more than that. Until MasterCard pays off the bonds, a nonprofit corporation set up by St. Charles County owns the building. As a nonprofit, it does not pay local real-estate taxes or personal-property taxes, and neither does MasterCard, because it owns neither real estate nor property. When the bonds are paid off, the property will be turned over to MasterCard and, presumably, will be put on the tax rolls.

A total of 11 taxing districts assessed real-estate taxes in O'Fallon in 2000, at a total rate of $7.15 per $100 of assessed value. Not only do those taxes support the city, county and state governments, they pay for roads and bridges, schools, libraries, the fire department, the community college and ambulance, alarm and handicap services. MasterCard pays none of it. At an assessed value of about $40 million, MasterCard saves $2.8 million a year.

McKee says the local jurisdictions negotiated with MasterCard the number of years the nonprofit will own the facility, and the total value of the local benefits MasterCard is getting is $32 million.

That's not all. The state is spending $13.4 million to construct an interstate-highway-quality interchange on Highway 40 to serve MasterCard, and St. Charles County has pledged $8.4 million for the construction of WingHaven Boulevard, a new "outer belt" that links the new Highway 40 interchange with Bryan Road, which connects with I-70. The state will spend millions more to build a WingHaven Boulevard-Page Avenue interchange on the north side of WingHaven.

All that road construction made the location a great one. With the county's construction of WingHaven Boulevard to Bryan Road and I-70, the site MasterCard chose is served by both Highway 40 and I-70.

Tim Fischesser, executive director of the St. Louis County Municipal League, says he was on a St. Louis County committee assigned the task of finding a site for MasterCard. "They told us right from the beginning they wanted to be on Hwy. 40," he says, "which was like tying one arm behind our back" because it excluded sites in St. Louis County, both in Maryland Heights and along I-70.

MasterCard ended up with three choices along Highway 40, one in Town & Country and two in O'Fallon, including WingHaven. With land prices running $300,000 an acre in Town & Country and $270,000 an acre in O'Fallon, McKee gave MasterCard another reason to choose WingHaven: He offered to give them the 52 acres they wanted for free. That inducement was worth $14.1 million. "I'm not in the habit of giving away 52 acres of land, but it was worth it," says McKee.

MasterCard aside, O'Fallon reportedly spent an estimated $100 million on infrastructure for WingHaven, including roads, sewers and water mains. In 1994, for example, the Duckett Creek Sanitary District began a $32 million expansion to support growth in the area in which WingHaven now sits. That plan included the construction of a second wastewater-treatment plant at a cost of $16 million. The treatment plant began operating in 1997, the same year McKee got interested in the WingHaven site. Without that sewer system, "no development south of Interstate 70 could happen," McKee says. But that investment wasn't made just for WingHaven. St. Charles County was already one of the fastest-growing counties in the Midwest when McEagle bought the site in May 1997.

In any case, all the above public subsidies for WingHaven and its corporate tenants amount to $193 million, a figure not far from what the St. Louis Cardinals are asking for to build a new stadium downtown.

Fischesser argues that the WingHaven subsidies are in addition to the help it gets from the $900 million Page Avenue extension, without which the development probably would not have taken place. Fischesser is also convinced that WingHaven provides no reprieve from urban sprawl. Many of the workers and residents of the development will be St. Louis County transplants, he says. But the migrants include no low-income families. "It is siphoning off the middle class," he says, and, in the end, neither St. Charles County nor St. Louis County will be able to maintain all the infrastructure they've built. He sees WingHaven as an example of "dumb growth, which we have a bit too much of in this region."

When MasterCard announced it was moving to WingHaven, says McKee, it "was like dying and going to heaven." MasterCard brought invaluable publicity to WingHaven -- the company's Jan. 7, 1999, announcement that it had picked WingHaven came at a good time to boost interest in home sales, which began that month -- and attracted the attention of other companies. In addition, the 2,000 employees there will help support the retail stores McKee wants to develop, and they will become prime targets for the development's homebuilders. "They have an average income of $60,000 a year," says McKee. "That's the average out of 2,000 employees," he emphasizes. Noting that MasterCard recruits worldwide for positions at its Global Technology and Operations Center and is transferring 500 jobs here from New York, he says, "We expect their employees will buy homes in WingHaven." So far, about 50 MasterCard employees have bought homes at WingHaven.

Besides the MasterCard complex, two more office buildings, totaling about 130,000 square feet, are under construction. The larger of the two will become the headquarters for three of McKee's companies. In addition to McEagle, they are Paric Corp., the construction firm building all of the offices, and Environmental Management Corp., which manages water and wastewater-treatment plants. Combined, the companies earned $315 million last year and employed about 350 people in the St. Louis area.

McKee says that total investment in WingHaven will top $750 million by the time it is done, producing 2 million square feet of office space, 2 million square feet of research-and-development space and 400,000 square feet of retail space. Between 9,000 and 15,000 people will work in the development, and 5,000-7,000 people will live there, for a total "community" of about 20,000. He estimates that the apartments, office and houses completed so far, plus the $3 million clubhouse and the golf course, have cost about $250 million to build.


The third phase of residential development at WingHaven, just getting under way, will feature "New Urbanist" designs: traditional housing styles set close to the street and clustered around a "village center" with small shops.

New Urbanism is an unconventional, retro school of American urban design that has gained popularity nationwide over the last 20 years. New Urbanists advocate pedestrian-friendly communities with rectangular blocks instead of winding streets, with shops within walking distance of houses. They like big front porches and small front yards; hidden garages with granny flats above; alleys; and apartments above stores. They argue that such designs connect people, creating a sense of community and reducing crime.

New Urbanist design ideas will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in the city of St. Louis or any of the older suburbs; McKee likens WingHaven's to Kirkwood's or Webster Groves'. New Urbanist-designed towns have sprouted on formerly undeveloped land in Florida and California. The most famous is Disney's Celebration, but more familiar perhaps is the picture of another New Urbanist town, Seaside, Fla., which was the setting for The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey.

"'LifeWorks' is again one of the claims made by New Urbanists, and the jury is still out on whether it is incredible hubris on their part," says Jacqueline Tatom, director of the master's program in urban design at Washington University. "It is based on an idealized representation of what cities used to be. They have an ideal that everyone walked and knew each other and got along, and we know it wasn't true, so it is a rose-colored vision of the past."

Unlike other New Urbanist communities, McEagle has managed to concentrate enough jobs in WingHaven to provide work for everyone who lives there, but the result is still a failure to break with the commuter culture. WingHaven businesses still will rely on commuters because they will have more jobs than the development has residents. That would be true even if filling jobs was just a numbers game. But it isn't.

"Job mobility and house mobility are very different," says Tatom. "People change jobs more frequently than they change houses." The whole idea of creating a noncommute community in a dispersed metropolitan area "is very problematic," she says.

WingHaven, McKee counters, is the kind of community that people who can live anywhere will choose to live in, even if they change jobs. And because they live there, more companies will come wooing them, and they will have their choice of good local jobs.

Despite McKee's repudiation of subdivisions, the initial development looks quite conventional, says Tatom, with its office buildings and apartments on the south end of the site along Highway 40, single-family homes almost a mile away on the north end of the site, and the golf course and clubhouse acting as a buffer between the two.

It is only in the third phase of residential development that WingHaven takes on the pedestrian-friendly characteristics of New Urbanism, and Tatom suspects that the demands of marketing had a lot to do with it.

McKee readily admits that WingHaven has evolved and did not begin as a pedestrian-friendly New Urbanist community. WingHaven as a whole is not designed for pedestrians: Sidewalks, for example, which run on only one side of the street, suddenly switch from one side to the other, even when the street is expected to carry 60,000 cars a day, and office buildings sit behind parking lots, creating asphalt deserts between future residential neighborhoods and between residences and the clubhouse.

McKee does hope, however, that people throughout WingHaven will choose to get around on electric carts, which he sells for $10,000 apiece and calls "NEVs," for "neighborhood electric vehicles." Looking like stylized golf carts (although they can't be used on a golf course), each NEV seats four and includes a "grocery pack" in the back so that people can use them instead of their cars to go grocery shopping -- that is, if there were a supermarket in WingHaven. The NEVs are not street-legal in most municipalities, but McEagle got O'Fallon to agree to let people drive them on the streets in WingHaven -- exit the development in one, though, and you're breaking the law. Even that limited use, however, qualifies NEV buyers for the federal government's electric-vehicle tax credit.

McKee says he did not embrace New Urbanism until after the plans for the first two phases of housing were complete. "We relied on the golf course to sell phase 1 and 2," he says. That's a typical approach for developers of suburban subdivisions, but it raised the problem of how to sell homes that weren't around the golf course. WingHaven's home sales dropped dramatically after the heady first few days. McKee's figure of 550 home sales during the first week is impressive, but as those lots bordering the golf course were snapped up, sales stalled. Only 100 additional houses were sold in the next 18 months.

WingHaven's phase 3 isn't near the golf course, McKee says, "so we asked ourselves, 'What would we use for phase 3?'"

He had reason to be concerned.

"The huge basic demand for suburban housing has been met," Tatom says, "so developers are adding amenities to try to get a market edge over their competitors." In O'Fallon, that competition is intense. At the intersection of Post Road and Highway N, at WingHaven's northwest corner, at least 20 different promotional signs for new subdivisions are crowded together like competing protesters trying to cover each other's signs in front of a television camera. With so much competition, how does one development distinguish itself from others? That was the question McEagle had to answer.

Early last year, McKee and his senior staff at McEagle jetted to Florida to visit Celebration, Disney's New Urbanist community. "They had neotraditional architecture and a town center geared for walking, and homes around their town center sold a lot better than homes around their golf course. So we studied other New Urbanist communities."

Then they took six months to plan phase 3 as a pedestrian-friendly New Urbanist community.


McKee, however, insists that diversity was a goal at WingHaven long before his journey to Celebration. "We set out as a goal when we began that economic diversity was a driver here," he says, because "if you have true economic diversity, all the other diversities will find their home. Whether it is racial, religious or ethnic diversity, it will follow economic diversity." Then, if the community is designed correctly, "people will learn to live together, like in old-time cities, like they did in St. Louis 100 years ago."

He says that what McEagle "set out to do is make it so anyone can live in WingHaven and work in WingHaven." They planned 23 "villages" with different price ranges, starting at $90,000 for a condo in a "four-family flat," stepping up to a $125,000 home, and so on, up to $600,000 townhouses in a private gated neighborhood. And there are apartments -- eventually there will be a total of 650 -- with rents starting at $700 a month.

Those price ranges, however, target only "a limited part of the [economic] spectrum," says Charles Marske, chairman of the sociology department at St. Louis University. There are many people who can't afford a $90,000 home or monthly rent of $700, he says. So the "anyone" in McKee's market-oriented approach is anyone in the market for a new house, not anyone in society.

How wealthy does someone have to be to afford a $90,000 home? According to a local mortgage-loan counselor, if someone saves $5,000 for a down payment, which many people can't, and their monthly payments on other debts (credit cards, car loans, student loans) total no more than $200, that person would still need an annual income of nearly $37,000 to qualify for a mortgage to buy a $90,000 condo. Because that income is nearly equal to the median income in metropolitan St. Louis, the economic diversity targeted by McEagle is a diversity shorn of the bottom half of society. And because only 84 of the 1,264 for-sale homes are priced at $90,000, even this nod to the middle seems little more than a token effort.

The $90,000 condos are sold out. So are the small number of $125,000 villas and houses. Aside from some $93,900 row houses under construction in phase 3, the next-lowest housing price in WingHaven is $140,000, which requires an income substantially above the median St. Louis-area income. The nine WingHaven "villages" have recently been advertising houses ranging from $140,000-$500,000. But even that limited range is much broader than what's targeted by the typical subdivision, says Tatom. "Typically you build to a very narrowly defined market," she says. McKee adds that homebuilders "thought we were crazy."

The argument -- from McKee and New Urbanist advocates -- that part of the fragmentation and segregation in modern society is a result of development practices that target particular income groups is widely accepted among architects and planners, says Tatom. "If you have a subdivision that only has three-bedroom houses, you will have segregation. There is no doubt about that," she says. At issue is how to overcome it. WingHaven, she says, "is part of a larger discussion where everyone is trying to figure out what to do about the very real income and lifestyle segregation in modern developments."

Although he's pushing for "economic diversity," McKee says, he never intended to imply that a cashier making $7 an hour at the planned Walgreen's or a gas station would be able to afford to live in WingHaven, if that was the household's sole income. He's a businessman, after all, and such language must be interpreted in terms of the market -- in this case, the new-housing market. "What I do believe is that the mix of housing at WingHaven is relatively rare in the region," he says. "It allows a senior company executive and her family to choose to live in the same neighborhood as her administrative assistant -- and vice versa."

Making that mix work takes more than just throwing different housing styles together, he adds. It takes careful design and layout, which is why WingHaven is experimental.

Americans have always been ambivalent about small-town life and the past it represents. For every Disney-inspired view of idyllic small towns, there's an equally negative view. Where some people see a Mayberry R.F.D., others see the prison village of The Prisoner, with its equally quaint architecture and pedestrian town center. Where McKee looks in the rear-view mirror and sees a world where everyone got along, others see a world of Jim Crow laws, repression and routine violence.

New Urbanism is not free from that duality, either. "There's an element of physical determinism ... [and] modern social determinism to it," Tatom says. "They believe they can influence how people live by manipulating their environment. They claim that simply by the physical design of the community they can change some very fundamental cultural and commercial ways of doing things."

McKee calls it "managing the intersections" where people meet so that they are forced to get to know each other and learn to live together. Part of managing the intersections involves managing recreational choices so that the community clubhouse, for example, becomes a place that everyone in the community uses for summertime recreation, which is why every homeowner at WingHaven gets a free social membership. Another part of managing the intersections involves managing the effect that someone's property exterior has on other people in the community. WingHaven has a detailed set of building and landscaping standards, even covering such things as mailboxes and sprinklers, written into each deed as indentures. "Even the mailboxes are the same," says McKee. "The houses are different, but the amenities are the same. That's the idea of trying to create the individuality of the home but create the commonness of the community."

Pressures, both legal and economic, are mounting on suburban cities to create economically diverse communities. St. Charles County's conservative county executive, Joe Ortwerth, has already sounded the alarm over high housing prices in his county. The lack of affordable housing, he says, threatens to derail the county's economic growth. How? By keeping "entry-level labor" out of the county. Without such workers, the service sector can't expand to serve the growing population of affluent residents, and the quality of life begins to suffer. Ortwerth has embraced McKee's market approach, even though it can't accommodate the low-wage workers St. Charles needs, and is encouraging more developers to build subdivisions with a broader range of prices.

At the same time, restrictive covenants and zoning laws are coming under legal attack around the country, says Tatom. About 15 years ago, a court in New Jersey ruled that the affluent community of Mount Laurel could not use zoning or income covenants to bar the construction of low-income apartments. Since then, she says, the idea that every community has a legal responsibility to provide housing for a broad range of people has spread. More recently, courts have forced affluent suburbs near Baltimore and Dallas to accommodate public housing.

Though such issues are still in the courts, Tatom says, the consensus among planners is that those restrictions ultimately will go the way of restrictive racial covenants. New Urbanism offers a blueprint for varied housing on which a community could argue it is providing housing to a broader range of people.


Even if the range of housing at WingHaven is limited, the idea behind the mix still is "an incredibly intriguing concept," Marske says. "We are an incredibly segregated area.... If he is able to attract a large number of minorities, it could say that if people feel comfortable economically; race isn't as important as we thought. On the other hand, if he doesn't attract minorities, it is a reminder that race is a powerful separator."

Marske says his gut feeling is that race "is a major, major factor separating people, even if the standards of living are very similar." He calls McKee's statement that people lived together well in the past as Pollyanna-ish. "People moved to the suburbs to get away from blacks," he says. His own ancestors moved to the Hyde Park neighborhood of St. Louis after the Civil War, and the family stayed there through births and deaths until after World War II. "I know why they moved away -- they moved because blacks were moving into the neighborhood," he says.

With about half the planned homes already built and sold, it seems Marske may be right. A cursory drive through WingHaven on a recent weekend revealed people on the golf course, at the pool and barbecuing in their back yards. But the only nonwhites were Hispanics cutting the grass along the roadways.

Eilermann, president of the primary homebuilder at WingHaven, says most homebuyers at WingHaven have moved there from Chesterfield or elsewhere in St. Charles County. Tatom isn't surprised by that and notes that both of those communities are very white. Attracting buyers from Chesterfield and St. Charles "doesn't do anything for changing the social mix," agrees Marske, himself a Chesterfield resident. "If they really wanted to bring African-Americans in, they probably need to do some target marketing and recruitment in the suburbs where they live." The question is whether African-Americans would want to live at WingHaven. "O'Fallon is pretty far from where most blacks in St. Louis live," Tatom notes.

Of course, it is the homebuilder rather than the developer who markets new houses to potential buyers, but McKee, who says WingHaven will be a showplace for living with diversity, also insists that no targeted efforts are needed to include minorities. He stands firm in his belief that "economic diversity drives all other diversities."

That belief, says Tatom, contains racial stereotypes: "It assumes that blacks need lower-cost housing. But there is a black upper-class market." Plenty of middle-class blacks have left the city of St. Louis, she adds, but, for the most part, they have not moved into white subdivisions.

Despite all their concerns with McKee's plans, Marske and Tatom both applaud his effort, if only because American suburban life is so dismal. "There are so many cookie-cutter developments, I'm impressed by people who are thinking, even if I don't agree with their thoughts," Marske says. "I'm glad to see the guy playing around with this stuff. It will be interesting to see if it does trigger some things."

Even falling short of McKee's professed ideals, WingHaven really is different, Tatom says. "If he didn't claim quite so much, we would appreciate better what he is trying to do," she says. "Maybe it will be better [than a conventional subdivision development]. It certainly can't be worse."

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