4/02/2006

Days appear numbered for Allenton MO: St Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, 2/20/06

By Margaret Gillerman

For 40 years, folks in Allenton have come regularly to Janet Delmain's bright blue house with white shutters on Main Street for their haircuts.

As she clips, Delmain, 66, hears her customers' stories, celebrates life events with them and shares their joys and sorrows.

But most of that will be gone soon - not just Janet's Barber Shop, but most of Main Street, as the core of this one-time farm and railroad community is bulldozed to make way for a 1,000 acre project that includes 1,200 houses and a shopping center. The $539 million Eureka South I-44 Redevelopment also would include parks and land for at least one school and a new Eureka recreation center. The city annexed the Allenton area, directly south of Interstate 44 from Six Flags, several years ago

The Eureka Board of Aldermen is expected to vote tonight to approve a redevelopment agreement that will allow the project to proceed. The agreement allows the use of eminent domain, if needed. Two weeks ago, complaints prompted the board to postpone a vote to give the residents more time to negotiate with the developers. At the time, Eureka officials estimated that only ten of the dozens of property owners had not signed sales contracts.

Critics of the project also are unhappy with its potential impact on I-44 traffic and with the use of tax increment financing, which has been approved.

Supporters say that the redevelopment will bring needed tax revenue and customers for Eureka businesses. The developer also is building a new, safer bridge over railroad tracks and into Allenton. The late Don Breckenridge donated 400 acres for a park.

Most of what remains of downtown Allenton, consisting of about two dozen houses and trailers, an antique store, pawnshop and churches, will be replaced by a shopping center anchored by a Lowe's Home Improvement Center. The Word of Faith Church will remain for now.

Many of the new houses would be built on the old Wallach Farm in the Allenton bottoms - and east of Allenton on city-owned land.

Delmain's parents' old house, which her brother Bill now rents to tenants, is staying - for now.

A few blocks away, David Bradshaw, 18, says he and his whole family are sorry to go, as most longtime families are. His great-grandmother, Gladys Ray, sold the property because she believed she had no choice, he said.

For Delmain, deciding to abandon her family homestead has been wrenching.

"Better, I decided, to go peacefully, than with eminent domain and lawyers. My nerves couldn't handle that," she said


St Louis Post-Dispatch: www.stltoday.com