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Kirkwood Approves Downtown Building Purchase, Gas Station Expansion

The council voted in favor of the $1.25 million land purchase in spite of some opposition by residents.

The yellow slips for residents to speak quickly piled up prior to Thursday night’s Kirkwood City Council meeting. Residents packed the council chamber as they sought to comment on two of the most contentious items in the agenda: the purchase of two downtown buildings for parking and .

Downtown buildings purchase

Before the council was a second and final vote on the $1.25 million purchase of two businesses located downtown at 107 and 133 West Jefferson Ave. The city council plans to demolish the two buildings and expand an existing parking lot there. The existing lot currently offers 44 small parking spaces. The expansion of the lot would increase that to 90 standard‐sized parking spaces.

Residents speaking before the council on Thursday night were divided on the issue.

“I would encourage the council to think of something that’s not destructive, something creative,” said John Chappell, Kirkwood resident. “I see this as just an excessive amount of money for a purpose that will not benefit Kirkwood as a whole.”

Gina March, vice president of marketing at the Kirkwood-Des Peres Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of the purchase. She said Kirkwood is in much need of more downtown parking space.

“The chamber, working on behalf of our members, is dedicated to a partnership with the city to maintain the vibrancy of the downtown area, yet there continues to be frustration by many businesses because of the problem with parking,” March said. “The prospect of purchasing land already adjacent to a prime parking area will offer the ability for enhancing sales tax revenues, revenues necessary to keep the city running... It takes courage to seize an opportunity amongst opposition.”

When it came time to vote on the issue, the council was also divided. Council members Gina Jaksetic and Gerry Biedenstein voted against it, while the rest of the council voted in favor.

“Pretty much from day one I have been opposed to this,” Jaksetic said. “...Probably the worst part about this to me is that we are doing this with taxpayers’ money.”

Mayor Art McDonnell said the city’s first step will be making the property into a parking lot, but said the council does not rule out that the property could be made into something else in the future.

“A lot has been said, and I certainly think this is a very strategic and rare opportunity for Kirkwood to be able to buy these two pieces of property,” McDonnell said.

Ron G. December 16, 2011 at 12:11 PM
What a pitiful use of tax payer money and two examples of insensitive elected officials out of touch with the wishes of their constituents and residents of their community. Thankfully, we have elections where they can be held accountable and voted out of office. Regarding addressing residents needs on Simmons, cars will now be able to enter and exit the Mobil via Simmons, with no ordinances nor violations permitted for improper turns to and from the private property. Not to mention the cars that will now cut thru from Geyer. Who is responsible when a child is struck by a car on Simmons walking to or from school, because our elected officials saw nothing wrong with allowing a curb cut on a residential street where no sidewalks exist?
Ellen Wentz December 16, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Regarding Kirkwood's frivolous spending on a parking lot. It's the process that was flawed. No reviews or consultations with traffic engineers, planning and zoning, Vision 2015 or the citizens. This reeks of the good ole boys club. Bottom line, if you're one of them, vote for them in the next election. If you're not, vote them out!
Keith Miller December 16, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Gina, VP of Marketing, if you want to be sure that others will accept it, call it courageous. "Controversial" only means 'this will lose you votes". "Courageous" means "this will lose you the election." At least I hope. A quote by Art when he ran unapposed in the former election "It goes along with what I have learned in retailing, that you have to respect everyone and be a good listener. Get the facts, then make common sense decisions based on the best interests of Kirkwood." Tearing down historic buildings, business expansion damaging Kirkwood charm and neighborhoods, acting against the desires of his constituents, careless spending, making decisions behind closed doors, selling his in-law's home for close to 1/2 a million dollars to Kirkwood to tear down and build a minuscule park are definitely not what I consider acting in the residents interests.

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