Week of April 14, 2004

But guys, the caricature of the Roberts brothers on the cover was buffoonish. You did them an injustice there. They're not emperors, but dedicated visionaries who are the only people in St. Louis (black or white) with economic clout who are trying to reverse the living conditions and job opportunities for an area that the white political and economic power structure has turned a deaf ear to.
Kevin E. Glass
St. Louis

A modest proposal: It is more than admirable that the Roberts brothers desire to turn around the north side. But I noted with some concern their intent to build at least twenty houses on the Enright School property they recently purchased from the reeling St. Louis Public Schools.

I worked as staff architect for the schools for fifteen at times architecturally fascinating years, during which I spent time in all 107 buildings. (My last year with St. Louis was 2000; I'm now district architect for the Parkway School District.) That old school actually used to be four separate buildings; about half the classrooms are rather small for classrooms but might lend themselves to condos. The rear section could be changed to garages, as they were industrial-arts areas. There are three gyms, two of which are on the top floor; the third, complete with columns, is in the basement. The top-level gyms could become quite the loft-type apartment. The lower one could be a fitness center for residents.

However, twenty houses, apparently destined to be built on the existing Soldan High School track (which was evidently bundled with the Enright School sale), could tarnish the project a bit. The Roberts could get a major plus out of the plan by helping the financially strapped district refurbish the adjacent Soldan football stadium and add a track to the field to replace the one in front of Enright. That way the Roberts could bask in the sunshine of saving a landmark, redevelop an important sector of a neighborhood and bring back a neglected tennis court and football stadium.

Finally, an aside regarding your correction of March 31: The twin boilers in Enright's basement, stamped "Washington University," are dated 1901, which indicates that the building might be somewhat older than what the Landmarks Commission, most ably headed by Carolyn Toft, believes -- unless they were cast and then sat around for some time before they were used, which is certainly possible. At any rate, St. Louis Public Schools possessed a rich legacy of the architectural history of the district dating back to 1870. I hope the school board's dismantling of the district's archives and buildings-and-grounds departments has not sent much of this heritage to a landfill.
Scott Ritter
St. Louis

Up in the Air
The runway to nowhere: It is understandable that with the downsizing of American Airlines, the other airlines serving Lambert are going to pick up the burden AA would have carried [Bruce Rushton, "Cash Landing," February 25]. One only has to look at how the Lambert expansion was conceived and sold to a gullible media, elected officials, businesses, public and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Instead of pausing the expansion after the events of 9/11, Lambert management plowed on as if nothing happened. When questioned about the effects on Lambert, director Leonard Griggs is quoted in the October 2001 Airport Commissioners meeting minutes: "Mr. Griggs stated that W-1W is in no jeopardy because we programmed the development and the spending for W-1W based upon the fact that we could have lost TWA." In July 2002, St. Louis lobbyist Jim Brown, testifying before a Missouri Senate Committee on Governance, had this to say: "The entire financial plan for W-1W was based on TWA not being here."

TWA is gone, and its successor, American Airlines, has cut over 200 flights at Lambert. If the assumption that Lambert could survive without a hub carrier is correct, why is the airport in such financial straits that it is going to need more money from the public to keep operating?

Don't blame the financial hit on the loss of the AA hub. Put the blame where it belongs -- at the feet of Colonel Griggs and the city of St. Louis.

Facing up to a pending financial crisis, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has dragged out the tired old faces of former senators Eagleton and Danforth to try and sell the public on contributing financial aid for Lambert. Eagleton and Danforth were leading cheerleaders for the W-1W plan. At meeting after meeting, they were the main speakers urging the public to support expansion. Eagleton is also remembered as helping bring the LA Rams to St. Louis. The region and the state are still paying for that one-sided deal. His latest endeavor was trying to get the state and region to pay for the new Cardinals stadium.

Slay says he will not let Griggs stand in the way of changes of Lambert governance. Since 1997, on more than one occasion, Slay himself has stood in the way of regional governance proposals for Lambert. Why should we believe him this time?

I agree with Alderman Jim Shrewsbury that Lambert is like a taxi driver: It is going to take the region on a wild financial downhill ride, not knowing where it is going or when and where it will stop.
Rowan C. Raftery

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