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Letter to the Editor: Parking in the Loop

A letter from the Loop Special Business District.

Please take just a moment to listen to the short audio clip that I have uploaded for your review.  

First, there was a new round in the continuing assault on the status of the free surface parking lot just north of Delmar (running between Kingsland and Leland). 

As you know, the Mayor and her allies want to develop garages and condominiums on the Lot. 

Now, because the LSBD seemed to have garnered some support for our position, Lynn Ricci, former Council Member, and ally of the Mayor and her administration, is attacking the Merchants and Property Owners (The Loop) as being a financial drain on the City and its resources.

On Monday, July 92012, she spoke at a Council Meeting (see a transcript of her statement to the Council below or listen to the audio clip here.

It would appear that we will now be forced to marshal resources to prove the value of our economic impact and rebut this new round of attacks.

So much for the partnership that once existed between the and The Loop.

On a side note, Coldwell Banker released their annual "" list on Tuesday and University City made the list! “The list ranks the best places in every state for people who seek social-areas. It is based on the number of restaurants, events and nightlife options as well as how many people in the area take advantage of the social scene.“ 

Why is it that that the entire country can see the value that The Loop adds to University City, except for our Mayor and her coalition? 

Statement

Lynn Ricci 7833 Gannon Ave.  (Monday July 9, 2012)

“This is the first time that I have addressed you from this side of the dais. Loop parking, I am telling you, I feel very strongly about this. I think there is legal exposure here, I believe that this is a wrongful taking. If you start talking about giving parking away, it is a huge cost to the city. You all are making emotional decisions; it makes me wonder what sort of capital or contributions to elections have been given to some of you if this is your position. If you, of course we have budget-reading folks here, so you know from the budget that we’ve been carrying the Loop Special Business District for years. And for you to say the viability and value of The Loop, you don’t know! I think what you need to do is be educated and do a study and see if The Loop is that value that you’re now reporting that it is.  I suspect, I suspect that it’s not. I suspect that this is not a give all, that there has to be some kind of sharing. Which means if The Loop wants free parking then the Loop Special Business District, a revenue generator, can contribute to the cost of it. I can’t believe the great expense the City has with this parking lot, as well as the great liability that the city is carrying if someone gets harmed on that parking lot, it’s us! So I certainly hope that you consider/reconsider this free parking in The Loop, I certainly hope that your goal is to make an informed, educated decision so you’re not going to shoot from the hip, you’re going to want to get information to determine truly the financial and liability implications of the parking lot, the cost of it, and this current move that is being contemplated right now today.” 

Please take the time to share your feelings on this very important matter with our Mayor and elected City officials: 

Thanks,

Jessica Bueler
LSBD President

Jennifer H. Smorodin July 19, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Really? A new condo development in the middle of probably the worst housing market in a generation? How about leaving the Loop parking lot alone, and focusing on helping home-owners of existing homes make their homes more saleable instead. Just sayin'. Maybe not the best time to be building more housing units that people can't get loans to buy.
George Lenard July 19, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Please, everyone, take a deep breath. Ms. Ricci is now a private citizen who speaks only for herself, not for the City and not for "the Mayor and her administration." After you exhale, realize that of course the Loop and Loop businesses are valued by the vast majority of U. City residents and by the Council, Mayor, and City Manager. As I recall, a year or two ago a proposal to replace the free parking with metered parking was soundly rejected due to opposition from all corners. I haven't heard any new proposal to eliminate free parking. If and when something concrete is proposed for constructing any buildings on that space, I'm sure there will be adequate opportunity to ensure that proper free parking in a multi-story structure is included; and multi-use construction there could be a nice addition to the Loop. I find it disturbing that what I see as a non-issue has blown up into such a brou-ha-ha. I am confident that if the author of this article were to sit down with the Mayor and City Manager, this could be put to rest. I would also encourage Loop merchants to discuss with Ms. Bueler whether you desire that she have carte blanche to publish letters to Patch as "from the Loop Special Business District." If this letter and her previous one was approved by a majority of the organization, that designation is appropriate, but if not, were I a member of the organization I would ask that she not write on its behalf, stridently "stirring the pot," without membership approval.
Linda Reimann July 19, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I second George's comment. And I would add that both the Mayor's original "censorship" charge in her "Letter from the Mayor" published elsewhere on this site, and the Loop SBD responses have been inflammatory, misleading and have failed to focus on the issue at hand. Namely, can we have a community where we can entertain various proposals for future development without public mud-slinging whenever the desires/views of one side or another are challenged? It saddens me. We live in a community where many are working tirelessly to make progress and improvement - in the business community, in the schools and in government - I know this to be true as I have known and worked side by side with many of these folks. And yet if you were an outsider reading the Patch or dropped into one of our city council meetings you would get the impression we value argument and status quo over inclusion and progress. I challenge each of us to be better than this.
Paul Martinez July 19, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I agree George. I heard that Jessica demanded a meeting with the City Manager to tell him and the Council what they should do with the city lot. When did the city cede authority to her? Why should she determine what is best for the whole community? As a SLU law student, I am looking for high end condos in the Loop area. There is nothing but Washington U properties and some slum lord apartments there now. Seems to me that she is throwing away the partnership with nasty rants online.
Jeff Hales July 19, 2012 at 04:01 PM
The tone was set by the mayor in her blog on July 8th when she excoriated unnamed Loop business owners for embracing and engaging in censorship and attacking the area's long term future. Any constructive dialog ended with that. The fact is that there are no people more invested in the long term viability of the Loop than the business owners, many of whom have taken extraordinary risks and made substantial investments. The Loop would not be what it is today without them and their voice is important. That is why it was so profoundly disappointing that Mayor Welsch chose to attack and marginalize these business owners in her blog. With her blog post, Mayor Welsch thrust this issue into public arena, into the last council meeting, and into the news. She threw the equivalent of a molotov cocktail because they didn't agree with her and now she and her supporters seem surprised at the backlash that has ensued. Sadly, it's nothing new from the Mayor that brought us the "civility pledge". Do as I say, not as I do.
Earl Higgins July 19, 2012 at 04:17 PM
George, I like your style. More people need to "take a deep breath" and look at the actual facts before slinging mud and acting like the sky is falling. That parking lot is quite large and it is absolutely a valid topic of discussion whether or not it could use some development. Although I live close enough to The Loop to walk, I agree with the LSBD that free parking is essential to its success. I really believe there is a way both "camps" can be satisfied. Really, we all want the same things! Let's start working together.
jeff weintrop July 19, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Did you know that the Loop has 1429 parking spaces? That is less than 50% less than what is required by code! So the mayor and her cohorts want to remove 400 plus spots so that in the future some developer can put more apartments there? As a Loop merchant for 25 years the "free" parking is paramount to most of us staying in the Loop and competing with other shopping districts. It provides a place for our employees to park, our customers to park, AND looking into the near future, it will provide a place for Loop Trolley riders to park! For the past 13 years I have been to countless meetings about this and quite frankly don't understand why we keep having to defend our need for this. As of yesterdays count, FORTY business signed a petition and agreed to speak cohesively as business owners in the Loop. Jessica Bueler is not some "cowboy" going off on her own - we have discussed this issue and every Loop general meeting and Board meeting and she is voicing our consensus and concerns. There are many of us who have spent years building, investing, creating opportunities and for supporting U City. We hope to still be here when their terms of office expire and hope we can have more open conversations with the next administration. I say shame on these politians who just want to stubbornly make edicts from their office without listening to their constituents!
modavid July 19, 2012 at 07:47 PM
The Coldwell Banker "Best Places to Live" was a Missouri city ranking where University City was ranked 19th in the 20 named. It was not a national ranking.
Earl Higgins July 19, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Jeff, interesting to read your input. I take it you are a business owner of something in The Loop? Just curious, if you don't mind sharing, which business? I am not, I merely live nearby. And of course, patronize our fantastic Loop businesses every chance I get. I am curious what code you are referring to when you say we have less than 50% of what is required. I'm not attacking you, I honestly want to know. I believe we'll want the same things: for Loop businesses, and University City in general, to not only continue to be a great place to live, but remain St. Louis area's number one family-friendly and adult-friendly social destination!
Darcy Nayler July 20, 2012 at 08:30 PM
I am the one employee of the Loop Special Business District and I have been very proud to respresent The Loop through by job for the last 2 years. I have learned many things during my time in The Loop but what I have learned the most is how passionate, dedicated and involved The Loop business owners are to this very special section of University City. People need to remember that these businesses are so important to the owners, its not just a paycheck but its thier family business, its who they are and they are proud of that. So yes owners of the businesses can be passionate at times and that is why The Loop has been so successful. Over the last 2 years I have never once seen a Loop employee speak rudely at a meeting or "demand a meeting" without going through the proper channels. Every member on the board is a VOLUNTEER and they are not getting paid for thier hours they devote to the Loop and Jessica, our president spends more hours working on The Loop than I do and I get paid. As a resident of U City I am grateful for the many hours Jessica and her cohorts spend on The Loop. The members of The Loop SBD are passionate about The Loop and one of the things that we are passionate about is parking. We also care about our neighbors in Parkview Gardens who will not be able to park if the paid parking goes into effect because of people parking in front of thier homes or our hardworking employees who couldnt afford to pay to park every night. Darcy Nayler
Gregory Pace July 23, 2012 at 02:59 PM
I look forward to the promised "economic impact of the Loop dissertation" that Ms. Bueler will 'marshal' in 'rebut' to these 'attacks.' A 2008 survey of registered voters in U City commissioned by Julie Feier showed that 64% favored paid parking in the municipal lot behind Cicero's (see the 8/4/08 city council study session minutes). Does Ms. Bueler feel 'attacked' by 2/3 of the good citizens of U City?
Richard Escoffier July 24, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Interesting batch of letters from the condominium crowd. First off this is no small thing—this is not just about “free parking”. This is really about the conversion of portions of the surface lot to garages that sit under condominiums. This is also about an unsettling double standard used by a tightly knit group of residents who support the Mayor. The merchants and property owners who helped engineer the turnaround of the Delmar properties should be heard; not diminished by a woman (Ricci) who is entitled to her opinion, but who clearly can’t match the skill sets or the market experience of the merchants and property owners she is attacking. It is not their point of view that she is attacking—rather, it is their standing to object (as legitimate stakeholders)—her claim is that the Loop is a drain on the City’s resources and that the residents have surprisingly been carrying the merchants around for decades. The merchants believe, with good reason, that structured parking is not generally preferred by the region’s users. Converting something that is working (and has been central to the revitalization of the Loop) into something that will almost certainly reduce the number of visits to the Loop (and revenue to the City) would not be a choice that good thinkers would knowingly and voluntarily make. The merchants and property owners are trying to save themselves and the City from a disaster that is clearly avoidable.

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