New "Uptown" Architecture Disappoints Neighbors

By Alan Van Zandt |

Published 09/30 2013 10:53PM

Updated 10/01 2013 04:21PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) It's been nine years since Heartland Health evacuated downtown by razing its old hospital. The land has stood bare for most of that time.

But, Heartland officials say they're still working to fulfill a pledge they made to the community.

"The objective of the Heartland board is to make sure they left the neighborhood in better condition than when they found it," said Heartland Chief Financial Officer John Wilson.

With the rebound in the housing market comes the first home in the Uptown project. Uptown will consist of nearly 100 homes and other living spaces that will be built on old Heartland land.

The first home has a sale value of $192,500. However, some wouldn't buy it at any price.

"It's inappropriate, and inferior and it degrades the streetscape in the neighboring historic district," said Isabel McGowan, who operates the Shakespeare Chateau Inn at 809 Hall Street, adjacent to the Uptown project.

Some who live in the area say it's a cookie cutter design for the house that could fit into any neighborhood, not of the style appropriate for historic downtown.

"Don't allow a paint-by-number architecture," said Brenda Riley, who also owns property in the area. "We have a whole museum of beautiful architecture up there."

Work is starting on two more new homes in the area but concerned neighbors want work to stop before it's too late.

"Whether it's in the form of a historically correct or appropriate form of residential architecture Or even better yet in the form of a community resource like a grocery or pharmacy," McGowan said. "Wouldn't that be a great thing to have?"

But Heartland officials says builders are doing the best they can.

"They can not replicate what is there," Wilson said. "Really in this day and age no one could. But the issue is that that house needs to fit in that environment."

Wilson says neighbors do have representation on the committee overseeing the Uptown project for the area.

The city's Tax Increment Financing Commission recommended the city council move forward with Heartland's TIF for the Uptown district.

The tax relief had been granted when Uptown was originally planned several years ago, but put on hold when the project was delayed.

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