Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Crystal City Cave Is Lost In Time

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 8:50 AM

click to enlarge All in his mine: Tom Kerr has big plans for his cave, but are they realistic? - PHOTO: JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Photo: Jennifer Silverberg
  • All in his mine: Tom Kerr has big plans for his cave, but are they realistic?
The Post-Dispatch follows up today on a topic Riverfront Times reported more than three years ago.

The story revolves around Jim Kennedy and Tom Kerr. Both are developers who have grand ideas for Crystal City, the small river town about a half-hour south of St. Louis. Kennedy wants to build an iron ore smelter in Crystal City. Kerr wants to turn a nearby sand mine into an underground entertainment district.

Neither project is moving forward quickly.

Indeed, as the daily paper documents this morning, hardly anything has changed since we wrote about the issue in January 2008. Kennedy can't find financing to complete his smelter -- a project that sharply divided the town and was supposed to be completed by the end of this year. Detractors fretted that the smelter would negatively impact property values and the environment. Supporters lusted over the promise of jobs.

Kerr's project, meanwhile, has lead to more head-scratching than anything else. An eccentric character who favors Hawaiian shirts and likes to drive his itsy-bitsy Smart Car through Jefferson County's pickup-truck country, Kerr wants to turn his 200-acre mine into a tourist attraction.

Though, as it's becoming clear, Kerr really has no idea what to do with the series of caves he bought four years ago for $850,000. Initially, he planned to turn the space into an underground sports complex and green industry facility. He even created a website to tout his mega-million-dollar proposal. Now he wants to rent out space in the cave. Make it sort of an underground mall -- with restaurants, dance clubs and senior-citizen shuffle board and bowling.

Given the pent-up demand for grandmas to play subterranean shuffle board, you wonder how this project wasn't completed years ago?

Seriously, though. Something tells me that three years from now, someone else will write an article about the big plans for Crystal City. And it will be the same old story.

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