Destroying Homes Since 1992
November 21, 2007 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Discussion of the beauty and consequences of urban decay pops up here from time to time. In 1992 Lambert-St. Louis International Airport began its expansion program. The airport's website has a timeline and lots of photos. Since the planning began, there has been a fair amount of controversy of one form or another surrounding the expansion. Despite all the shininess of their press releases, things are progressing very slowly. The people who have been impacted most, however, are the people who lived in the communities on top of which the expansion is happening. They have all been displaced.

Documenting the fate of Carrollton, one neighborhood purchased in its entirety by the airport, is local artist and former resident Desy. Her blog 56 Houses Left and her photo stream is both sad and beautiful as it documents the neglect, decay and ultimate destruction of a once thriving area. It is an excellent counterpoint to the picture painted by the airport. Some houses have been burned, some have been tagged by racists, some have been demo'd, some strangely ignored, and some people are holding out.
posted by jeffamaphone (11 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Carrollton? Thriving?

You keep using that word....

The real shame was, in the end, we didn't need the runway. We *desperately* needed the runway when TWA was around -- some of the tricks they developed to keep traffic moving when the weather was bad were frankly scary, but one does not build Runway 11/29 in a day, and by the time it opened, TWA was gone, and AA had seriously reduced their schedule.

They tried to cut some costs -- they dropped the plans to move the AA maintenance base, which also meant they couldn't certify Runway 29 as a Category III ILS (the buildings are too close.) -- but the real cost was the runway, and by the time we knew it wasn't needed, it was almost finished.
posted by eriko at 4:14 PM on November 21, 2007

Great post. I live in Louisville, Ky and we went through this same thing about ten years ago. There was a lot of debate, but in the end the airport authority condemned several neighborhoods and then bulldozed them. I think what most pissed off people was not that the city needed their land to expand the airport, but that it was done so heavy-handed (The neighborhoods were declared "blighted", seized, then leveled). There was a bit of blowback after it was all over and people realized their land was taken not for expansion of the airport per se, but for the industrial areas surrounding the airport... it really was about the cargo capabilities, not passenger traffic. I'll bet at Lambert it's the same situation.

The Lambert process seems very slow, Louisville did their expansion in about 7 years.
posted by Mcable at 4:27 PM on November 21, 2007

Interesting post - They needed Denuto "It's the vibe of the thing."
posted by tellurian at 4:43 PM on November 21, 2007

St. Louis is awesome at dragging its metaphorical feet. (Witness many hometowners insisting that St. Louis would have remained the #4 city in the country if we'd gotten around to a second Mississippi bridge, which would have to a large extent mooted Chicago's growth.)

I work just north of Carrollton - just over the ridge. We cut through the abandoned streets on our way to lunch sometimes. Because our office property used to be the sewage plant for, and was thus built at the same time as, the subdivision, our power and phone lines come from wires that used to feed the neighborhood. Consequently, the main feeders are poorly maintained, and when the monthly power or phone outages occur, the power company can't figure out how to get us fixed back up - no one else adjacent to us is ever out.
Pain in my ass.

The tunnel under the runway is cool though.
posted by notsnot at 4:46 PM on November 21, 2007

I saw something similar happen to the area I grew up in (I hesitate to call it a neighborhood, as it was far too rural to be anything other than a community). In the 1990s, a rapid growth in the number of aircraft flying into the Detroit Metro airport led to a corresponding growth in the number of noise complaints. While the airport was able to redirect planes around the more highly populated areas, that meant that the area to the southwest (the least densely populated area) got all the flights. It was loud. Always. And it was going to get worse when the midfield terminal was finished. So the airport authority bought all the houses under the flight path, and condemned them. There were a couple of late holdouts, but even they were gone within a couple of years after the terminal was finished. It looked like a ghost town for years, but now all the houses are gone. Many of them were sold and moved, others just demolished and the rubble hauled away. It's now all vacant land, not worked at all.
posted by jlkr at 7:39 PM on November 21, 2007

Work and vacations take me through Lambert 2-5x/year. It's one of the most desolate airports I've ever seen, especially the terminal that everybody but Southwest uses. I doubt there will ever be a need for the new runway.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 8:39 PM on November 21, 2007

The St. Louis area also has another airport that nobody uses. Check out the awesome desolation.
posted by zsazsa at 9:51 PM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I read something a while back about how, when they first started doing the expansion, they found this weird, unaccounted-for building on airport grounds. Turns out the building was a storage site for massive amounts of radioactive waste. So what did they do? They moved all the radioactive waste to some other random warehouse in North County, where it sits to this day. Kinda scary.

Anyway, good post Jeff. It's weird that Desy's blog has the same name her BBS had back in the day. It would be the equivalent of you starting a blog called The Alternative Factor or my starting a blog called TLBOTAR.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:11 PM on November 21, 2007

I think what most pissed off people was not that the city needed their land to expand the airport, but that it was done so heavy-handed (The neighborhoods were declared "blighted", seized, then leveled).

There really ought to be some federal oversight over this kind of thing.
posted by delmoi at 1:45 AM on November 22, 2007

I think Lambert serves one purpose and that's to puddle jump people 17 times a day to ORD so then they can catch the real flight to where they are actually going. I've actually driven to Chicago to fly out sometimes because it was cheaper and shorter than the route out of St. Louis, which was just puddle jumping me to ORD so I could fly... you get the idea.

The airport itself is really run down and has been since TWA left. The only thing it has going for it is that it's one of the few airports with designated smoking areas.

But yeah, the tunnel under the runway is cool.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:42 AM on November 22, 2007

STL can have thunderstorm delays, and many of them;
an extra runway gets the airport caught up much faster.

Commuter jets actually reach New York City and Houston from STL.
posted by _squid_ at 6:44 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

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