Dear the Three Entities (Webster University, Eden Seminary & City of Webster Groves),
Webster University's unapproved Final Master Plan includes an expansion across Lockwood Ave. into 5.25 acres of Eden property. Here are three significant factors dealing with this property:
1. From a high integrity, educated, experienced and credible source, Webster University DOES NOT OWN any of the 5.25 acres. Ownership remains solely with Eden Seminary - regardless, that for the last 7 months, Webster U and Eden have continuously referred to "some agreement" (as worded in the approved Ordinance #8753) or that a "business transaction" has already taken place between them.
2. Many residents have argued for 2 1/2 years that a range of problems will occur if Webster U crosses Lockwood into Eden, such as increased car and pedestrian traffic, parking congestion, decreased property values, etc. But I also asked the missing question: Does Webster U really need to cross Lockwood into Eden? In my opinion, a study of the facts and evidence leads to one, inescapable conclusion that Webster U DOES NOT NEED to cross Lockwood and, instead, can achieve all of its Final Master Plan goals on its core campus south of Lockwood. As such, if Webster U is allowed to cross Lockwood, it would be a tremendous waste of money and under-utilization of a beautiful piece of prime property.
3. If Webster U does not expand into the Eden property, the fun and exciting challenge for our community is to CREATE NEW IDEAS AND PROPOSALS that 1) help meet Eden's desperate need for money to build its capital fund and endowment; 2) be good for our community and its character; and 3) promote for-profit ideas that add to the City's tax revenue base.
Just to get the ball rolling, here are 5 proposed ideas for your consideration:
- Single Family Homes - Extend what is already there. Eden Seminary sits in and is surrounded by the great homes of the Webster Park neighborhood. On judgment, it is probably possible for a developer to build 1-2-3 new beautiful homes and spacious yards and "wrap" Webster Park around that end of the seminary.
- Aging Boomer / Senior Independent Living Complex - The oldest Baby Boomers, America's largest generation group at 79 million, just turned 66. Webster Groves needs to get prepared for the onslaught of Aging Boomers / seniors in our community that want to stay and live in Webster Groves as empty nesters but do no want the cost, trouble, and upkeep of a big house and big yard. Thus, what could go in this property are new affordable townhouses / condominiums / apartments for independent Aging Boomers and seniors (Provisions Living west on Lockwood is focused on assisted living and there appears to be adequate long-term care facilities in our area). This complex would be targeted to independent, active seniors who still live vital, 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 longed for a new hotel to accommodate out-of-town Webster Groves family members, Webster University and Eden Seminary visiting families, business people, and others that is uniquely and creatively designed to match and fit with our community's character, size, and architecture. The fact is: our city really needs a great smaller, boutique hotel and the Eden property could be perfect, with its entrance and exit off Lockwood. 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 meetings 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, could this property become a community art center, where the Luhrbuilding could be transformed into an art gallery, artist's studios for rental; art classes, etc., and surrounded by art gardens, sculpture park, etc., and all adjacent to the Eden green space, home of Art & Air.
That's it for now. I'll keep thinking. Hope this helps get your creative juices flowing. Any feedback or comments on the above 5 ideas is appreciated and any other new ideas you may wish to share are valued and welcomed.
Dave Buck; firstname.lastname@example.org; 952-0910 cell