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MetroLink Access Brings Economic Viability to East St. Louis Community|
by Bob Moore, SLFP
© 1998, Saint Louis Front Page
EAST ST LOUIS (Dec 2) - For many struggling communities, MetroLink may be the thread that holds everything together. Terry Schaeffer, chairman of SWIDA and president and CEO of West Pointe Bank and Trust Company in Belleville, strongly believes that MetroLink provides a very vital means of access that appeals to everyone.
In an interview following the recent ground breaking of the new 150-room Casino Hotel on the Riverfront, Schaefer related how viable MetroLink will be to East St. Louis. "The fact that it passes through East St. Louis, which has become a major destination now, certainly improves the accessibility and visibility of the community. I certainly think that the MetroLink and the MidAmerica Airport will play a role in being major infrastructures to assist in the development of this city."
I don't think there is any doubt that the Airport is going to work," said Schaeffer. "When all of us, as citizens, can board anywhere in the middle, but ride from one airport to another airport, that brings visibility to the community. As an analogy, the reason that Waterloo and Columbia are growing as they are is accessibility and visibility. They were sleepy, but strong, communities for many decades until the Interstate. Many people see opportunity," he said.
The City of East St. Louis has designated the Emerson Park neighborhood as a prime area for the development of new housing. Plans call for high density, single-family residential and medium density, single-family residential near the intersection of Interstate Highway 55/70 and Interstate Highway 64 at 15th Street. The Emerson Park Metrolink Station will include 885 parking spaces and a small commercial site on the station property.
Hall Park MetroLink Station is located immediately adjacent to the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center, which is under construction. The location is just north of Interstate Highway 64 at 25th Street in East St. Louis.
Just south of Highway 64 near its intersection with Highway 255 is the Washington Park MetroLink Station. This station, with 687 parking spaces is accessible from Illinois Route 111 and Old U.S. 50 (St. Clair Ave.). Nearby employers include the Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center, East St. louis High School and the Bi-State bus garage. Proposed development includes single-family residential, retail, restaurants and hospitality.
Casino Queen to Build Hotel on East St. Louis Riverfront
In the past five years, several major developments dramatically affected the economic future of East St. Louis. "We set the precedence and the ability to operate a business over here in light of all the negativism that has existed," said Craig Travers, GM of Casino Queen at the ground breaking of the $13 million hotel and entertainment center. Two years ago, owners of the Casino Queen began working on a proposal for a hotel adjacent to its facility on the Riverfront, just south of the MetroLink Station at the Eads Bridge. "This is a true site where you can attract people and have a view of the city of St. Louis."
Travers does not believe that the present location of the Cargill, Inc. complex, formerly the Continental Grain Co. Elevator, will affect the Casino's development. "We have been able to operate efficiently and profitably in this location for the past five years and we're not bothered by the issue at this point."
He pointed out that the Casino has ninety-five acres on the Riverfront which will provided plenty of room for future expansion without any infringement on the Grain Elevator.
Mayor Gordon Bush, of East St. Louis, indicated that there are plans to relocate the elevator. "We are trying to put the funds together to move the Grain Elevator to the north but within the city of East St. Louis. It will take private capital to do that, but we believe it can be done. We need the prime site where the elevator sits," he confirmed. He added that once the Casino Hotel is built, the city will have the impetus to move ahead with plans to move the elevator north on the Riverfront.
New Housing Developments Take Shape in East St. Louis
Schaeffer noted that originally there were plans for a high rise housing project on the Riverfront. Those plans were surrounded in controversy and the project was ill-fated. "However, we are a part of two new housing developments. These are not 'housing projects' as we knew them in the fifties and sixties that were subsidized. These are new residential, single-family housing developments beginning in the City of East St. Louis.
Will there be an opportunity to build multi-family, multi-story housing developments on the Riverfront? "We certainly hope so, because the lifeblood of any community is the strength of its citizens and the willingness and desire to live there. That's what attracts businesses. People have to live and work in a community for businesses to see an opportunity to locate."
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