The gates around Coleman Hawkins Park at Felix Street Square are still under construction, but one city leader has tried to stop that work.
At the City Council meeting Monday, Councilman Brian Myers made a motion to stop construction on the Downtown gates due to complaints from area business owners about how they look.
The motion failed 7-1. Director of Public Works Andy Clements told the council that some progress payments had been made on the gates already and there would be a cost associated with stopping construction.
Myers said the process to get the gates built was done without the consideration of business owners Downtown. Myers owns Downtown businesses The Lucky Tiger, The Tiger’s Den and The Metropolitan with his wife.
“These look terrible,” Myers said. “We’ve made a horrible mistake allowing this to happen and there are Downtown business owners that are extremely angry that we’ve allowed some hideous structure like this to be put in the heart of our Downtown.”
Dana Massin, owner of Manic Snail on Francis Street, said the gates are not a good fit for the area they are in.
“I think the gates are really disappointing,” Massin said. “Aesthetically they don’t at all fit in the background of historic Downtown st. Joseph. I think they detract from one of our greatest assets as a community, which is our historic architecture.”
The gates are being constructed with up to $200,000 from the hotel-motel tax fund and are seen as a safety measure by the Downtown Partnership.
Massin said she would rather have seen a different safety measure used.
“I think that the safety should be addressed, but I think it could be addressed in a number of ways,” Massin said. “I don’t believe the gates that are currently there were the best use of that funding or the best safety measure.”
Myers agreed that some safety measure is needed near the park for events, especially due to the concessions building being across Seventh Street.
He said the gates were originally supposed to replicate a Downtown archway that was over Felix Street near Eighth Street during the First World War, but the way they are being built is not what was promised.
“We were all assured by one particular group Downtown that this was going to be the best thing and it was going to look great, it was going to look like the Downtown gate and archway that we had in the 1920s,” Myers said. “Looking at the renderings of what those were originally and looking at those monoliths from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ that we’re stuck with, I would disagree.”
Becky Boerkircher, executive director of the St. Joseph Downtown Partnership, said the gates will be getting brickwork and lettering that will make them more aesthetically pleasing. She asked that people be patient and wait to see the final design.
The InterServ Board of Directors has announced that Bridget J. Supple of St. Joseph will be the social service agency’s next executive director.
Since the age of 15, Supple has been involved in the faith-based organization, and in October, she will become its leader. She will replace David Howery, who is retiring from the agency after 20 years as executive director.
“I started off as a volunteer here when I was 15 in the child care center on Messanie Street, and it’s kind of interesting to come back now as an employee 30 years later,” Supple said. “And now to have the lead position is really interesting. It’s daunting and humbling.”
Supple has worked in leadership with InterServ for more than a decade, becoming the executive director of the InterServ Foundation in 2008. During that time, she helped lead a $5 million capital campaign to build a new InterServ Community Center at 5400 King Hill Ave.
According to Ken Newton, president of InterServ’s board of directors and a senior reporter and columnist for NewsPress NOW, this management of the capital campaign and other projects is partly why Supple was selected for the position.
“Bridget has the vision and the heart to lead InterServ,” Newton said. “Social service work requires efficient management, a good funding base and mission-driven outlook. The board believes Bridget has the right qualities to take the organization forward.”
Supple said she would like to focus more on building up the youth programs that InterServ has to offer when she officially steps into her new position.
Whiskey Creek Wood Fire Grill has closed, and its owners will be constructing a new pizza restaurant in St. Joseph in 2020.
Whiskey Creek, which was located at 4016 Frederick Blvd., had been in operation for 20 years. Its owners plan to open an Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom next year at the corner of the Belt Highway and Frederick Boulevard on property owned by East Hills Shopping Center.
The restaurant had continued operating after the 2016 closure and demolition of the Ramada Inn, which had adjoined it. Whiskey Creek officials told News-Press NOW in early 2017 that the hotel’s demolition had led some to wonder whether the restaurant would remain open.
The former hotel property was later purchased by Steven Craig with Craig Realty Group, and it was announced that the corner would be re-developed.
“We are saddened to end in this manner, but we knew the end was in sight as we were informed that our lease would not be renewed,” Jim Gardner, the restaurant’s owner, said. “We have been operating basically month to month, and the facility has been rapidly declining.”
Gardner said he had been trying to find another site that would be suitable to rebuild Whiskey Creek, but after looking at several opportunities, it was determined the best site available was located at the corner of Belt and Frederick on property owned by East Hills Shopping Center. Because the site is under an exclusive clause protecting Texas Roadhouse, it was determined that Whiskey Creek could not locate there.
“Our company also owns and operates several Old Chicago Pizza and Taprooms, so we have elected to build a new restaurant at that location,” Gardner said. “It is hoped that construction will begin on the new restaurant yet this fall, with an opening planned for 2020.”
St. Joseph has sidewalks that do not directly connect pedestrians to other areas of the city, and there also are a lack of sidewalks on heavily populated streets.
About 20 years ago, regulations were put into place to encourage newly constructed properties to build sidewalks, according to Andy Clements, director of Public Works and Transportation.
“So any road that’s developed in St. Joe, or sewer that’s built, or business redeveloped — they have to do a sidewalk or whatever, stormwater — that was all in those standards, and they’re all published,” Clements said.
The timeline of discussions for the business located along the South Belt Highway near Messanie Street. began back in 2017. At that time, the fire and engineering departments made the businesses aware of different requirements.
“We did waive a requirement for the Messanie side, due to topography,” St. Joseph City Manager Bruce Woody said.
Still, the sidewalk along the Belt Highway was never constructed and the city again made RNR Tire Express aware of their responsibility as a new business to put in a sidewalk.
“They were sent a letter in April of 2019, again, communicating the fact that there were several incomplete items including sidewalks,” Woody said. “That letter also identified to them the process by which the city could go in and construct the sidewalks and bill them. We certainly encourage them to do it at their own expense, which could be done more expeditiously and less expensive.”
The origin of the complaint came from a reader’s submission to “It’s your call” in the Sunday, June 30, edition of the St. Joseph News-Press. District 2 City Councilman Marty Novak brought up the reader’s note to his colleagues on the council and city staff.
“People talk about Stockyards Expressway, why was there a sidewalk to nowhere that ran in front of (the Water Protection Plant),” Novak said. “We want to follow the rules, and I don’t think that’s too much to expect that from other businesses.”
The growing pains of constructing sidewalks on the South Belt Highway could be a relatively new experience for St. Joseph, as the real estate in the area continues to grow in the area.
“We are progressing,” Mayor Bill McMurray said. “And part of the price of progress is sidewalks.”
The News-Press NOW reached out to RNR Tires Services, but the company did not respond for comment.
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