My co-author, Joyce Cheney, did a good job describing these events in our book, “The First 100 Years, Maplewood, MO.” Writing from her own research, she had this to say.
Attention K-Mart Shoppers
James O. Holton, president of Citizen’s National Bank in Maplewood decided to take redevelopment into his own hands. Holton gathered fifty-seven local businessmen at The St. Louis Club and presented his vision for redevelopment: a six-block stretch of Manchester Avenue and surrounding streets, from Oakview Terrace to Big Bend would be rebuilt with retail venues in a park-like setting. The anchor building would be a new Citizen’s Bank.
Holton told the group that business profits had actually been rising and that businesses that had packed up and left had done so for their own reasons, not because Maplewood was unprofitable. Holton vowed to restore the area to its former level of prestige.
Though the proposal was controversial from the start, the city approved the plan. Developers started buying targeted homes and businesses, and a few homes were demolished. Wreckers razed EJ Tire Company in the building once occupied by The Wedge to make way for a five-story, $1.1M building-two floors for parking and three for medical and professional offices.
Angry citizens launched a referendum and succeeded in halting the project. Then another group launched a petition drive to put the project up for a vote, and the plan was resurrected. Mayor Hammes announced to a capacity crowd at a City Council meeting that the plan was going forward- and that a J.C.Penney Department Store would anchor the development. The very next day headlines in The Post-Dispatch screamed that Penny’s was not coming to Maplewood. Holton’s funders backed out and buyouts and demolitions ceased. Holton’s development plan called “A Return to the Maple Leaf” was dead – for the second time.
Just months later the City of Maplewood and Holton made another announcement. They were resurrecting one segment of the previous several block plan and bringing in a K-Mart. … Citizens rallied in opposition to the plan and called their group “I CARE.” The group vehemently objected to invoking eminent domain to seize owner-occupied homes. In spite of I CARE opposition … Some residents lost their homes and became renters in the new surrounding apartments. … Maplewood faced economic drought in the 1960’s and 70’s from forces beyond Maplewood. … The modified development plan moved forward. But it cost Mayor Hammes his job: he was recalled and replaced by Henry Liessing. This new mayor was shortly recalled as well.
Maplewood voters had lost confidence in their government. A citizen’s group felt that Maplewood needed a new government structure, one in which the mayor wielded less power. Though the town’s three commissioners were elected, in practice they ran as a slate and came to power on the mayor’s coattails. In 1976, Maplewood’s current charter form of government was put into place. Today Maplewood has a mayor and six councilman (men and women), all elected. Mayor and councilmen all have one vote on issues that city staff and citizens bring for Council consideration. The city manager and staff carry out city plans and policies and run day-to-day Maplewood.
Joyce Cheney 2008 from The First 100 Years, Maplewood, MO pgs. 80-83.
Good job, Joyce! Joyce included more detail than I have room for here. Our book can be found at the Maplewood Public Library or purchased at the office of the MCBF (pronounced Mac Beef. Maplewood Community Betterment Foundation) at 2915 Sutton Ave in our fair city.
On the same subject, I just reloaded the photographs for these two earlier posts.