December 5, 2020

Letter to the editor: Webster’s unapproved final master plan

Webster University’s unapproved final master plan includes an expansion north across Lockwood Avenue into 5.25 acres of Eden Seminary property.  Here are three significant factors you need to know dealing with this property:
1. From a high integrity and very credible source, Webster University does not own any of the 5.25 acres.  Ownership remains solely with Eden Seminary — despite Webster and Eden continuously referring to “some agreement” or that a “business transaction has already taken place between them.”  But with neither institution sharing details, it raises huge doubts.
2.  Many residents have argued for two-and-a-half years that a range of problems will occur if Webster crosses Lockwood Avenue into Eden, such as increased car and pedestrian traffic, parking congestion, decreased property values, etc.  Additionally, in my opinion, a study of the facts and evidence in the final master plan lead to one, inescapable conclusion: Webster really does not need to cross Lockwood Avenue and, instead, can achieve all of its final master plan goals on its core campus south of Lockwood Avenue.  As such, if Webster is allowed to cross Lockwood Avenue, it would be a tremendous waste of money and under-utilization of a beautiful piece of prime property.
3.  If Webster does not expand into the Eden property, the challenge for our entire community is to create new ideas that:
— Help meet Eden’s desperate need for money to build its capital fund and endowment.
— Fills a significant community need.
— Are for-profit ideas that add to the city’s tax revenue base.
Just to get the ball rolling, here are five new ideas for your review and consideration:
— Single family homes — extend what is already there. Eden Seminary is already surrounded on two sides by the great homes of the Webster Park neighborhood. On judgment, it is probably possible for a developer to build one, two, three or more new beautiful homes and spacious yards and “wrap” Webster Park around the corner of Joy Avenue and extend east on Lockwood Avenue.
— Aging baby boomer independent living community — the oldest baby boomers, America’s largest generation group at 79 million, just turned 66.  Our community needs to get prepared for this growing population who want to keep living in Webster Groves as empty nesters but without the cost and upkeep of a traditional house and yard.  Thus, what could go on this property are new townhouses and condominiums designed for independent, aging boomers (Provisions Living west on Lockwood Avenue is focused on assisted living and there appears to be adequate longterm care facilities in our area). This community would offer more convenient living for independent aging boomers who enjoy active, involved lives.
— Unique, boutique hotel — this is an idea that Webster Groves has considered several times in past years, but perhaps its time has come. Webster Groves has long needed a new, charming hotel to accommodate out-of-town family members — Webster and Eden visiting parents and families, business people, and others — that is uniquely and creatively designed to match and fit with our community’s character, size, and architecture.   Check out the Seven Gables Inn in Clayton for creative inspiration.
— Retreat/conference center — For-profit retreat and conference centers are big business and the good ones are always in high, year-round demand. The conference center could be designed to provide unique space to handle large conferences or small group breakout sessions. The retreat could accommodate weekend retreats or weekday seminars where the attendees stay overnight on campus.
–  Community art center — given Webster Groves’ commitment to the arts, this property could become a community art center. The Luhr Library building could be transformed into a major community art gallery with  artist’s studios for rental, art classes, etc. All surrounded by art gardens, all adjacent to the Eden green space, home of art & air.
That’s it for now. Hope it helps get your creative juices flowing. Any first impressions, gut reactions or other new ideas are valued, welcomed and appreciated. Just send to my email below.  Thank you.

­— Dave Buck, Webster Groves resident
davedbuck3@yahoo.com

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