Championed by community grassroots activism, Emerson Park Station was built on the St. Louis MetroLink light rail red line linking a low-income community in East St. Louis with the regions main employment centers.
Project Type:Station Project Mode:Light Rail Average Weekday Riders:1,719 Length (mi):0.00
Economic Distress:1.30 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):392 Population Growth Rate (%):0.35
Employment Growth Rate (%):0.89 Market Size:576,935 Airport Travel Distance:34 Topography:4
Region:Great Lakes / Plains State:IL County:St. Clair
City:East St. Louis Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:East St. Louis
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Transit GIS Lat/Long:38.628608 / -90.137514
Initial Study Date:1998 Post Constr. Study Date:2007
Constr. Start Date:1999 Constr. End Date:2001
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2000 Planned Cost (YOE $):7,000,000
Actual Cost (YOE $):3,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):4,058,484
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||0.36||0.33||0.69|
|Output (in $M's)||0.92||0.84||1.76|
The Emerson Park Station, on the St. Louis MetroLink light rail red line, has been the cornerstone of revitalization of the dynamic Emerson Park neighborhood in East St. Louis, IL, one of the poorest cities in the country. The Emerson Park Development Corporation (EPDC) fought to convince regional, state, and federal agencies to back their vision for the revitalization of their neighborhood, which was focused around the new light rail station. The $3 million station opened in May of 2001. In the past 6 years, ridership has more than doubled. An estimated $65 million has been invested in new housing development on sites surrounding the station on the many sites left vacant by abandonment. So far, a limited amount of commercial space has been developed in the immediate vicinity of the station, bringing eight new jobs to Emerson Park.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
Emerson Park is a sixty-block enclave within the post-industrial city of East St. Louis, IL, directly across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis. Three hundred miles southwest of Chicago, East St. Louis is a hub for four interstates (I-55, I-10, I-64, and I-44), giving the City outstanding national interstate access.
Emerson Park neighborhood is enclosed by interstate highways and rail tracks. The Emerson Park Station serves passengers on the St. Louis's MetroLink light rail system. The red line links Emerson Park with Lambert St. Louis airport (45-minute travel time), a major employment center for lower-income transit-dependents. The MetroLink red line connects the neighborhood with a number of other key centers of employment in the metro area including tourist centers and shopping malls, hospitals, financial centers, military installations, entertainment centers, and academic institutions. From the Emerson Park Station, three Metro bus routes connect with homes and businesses throughout the neighborhood.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
East St. Louis is in the Metro-East portion of the St. Louis Metropolitan area. The latter encompasses two states, eight counties, and 188 municipalities. The City of St. Louis, at the core of the region, experienced significant population decline during the second half of the twentieth century, when the population dropped by 50%. East St. Louis fared even worse over the past fifty years, its population has collapsed by over 70%. East St. Louis currently has about 25,000 residents with a median household income of $21,000 -- only 60% of the US average. Over one-third of families live below the poverty level. Large tracts of land and buildings have been abandoned, leaving open spaces typical of the "urban prairie" landscapes found in older cities where supply of land exceeds demand.
East St. Louis' industrial base collapsed during the last half of the twentieth century when the city suffered from corruption and mismanagement. In the 1970's, there was virtually no employment base. In the 1980's, a Woolworth's store was the city's sole sources of sales tax, generating about $50,000 a year. Trash pickup and sanitation services were suspended due to fiscal bankruptcy. The city became a hot spot for toxic waste dumping by surrounding chemical plants. Night clubs, catering to the baby boom population across the River with the late operating hours and legendary blues entertainment, started to flourish. During the 1990's, riverboat gambling on the Mississippi gained popularity and casino jobs were added to the mix.
The Emerson Park neighborhood is a sixty-block enclave developed between 1910 and 1920 to house workers who labored in the rail yards, meatpacking plants and smelters of nearby National City. As the East St. Louis economy collapsed, Emerson Park homeowners left the area in droves. The neighborhood's population fell from 5,600 to 2,040 between 1960 and 1990. Buildings were abandoned and eventually demolished, leaving overgrown vacant tracts. In 2001, when the station opened, about 75% of Emerson Park Neighborhood's potential workforce was unemployed. Half of the residents were on public assistance.
Despite the neighborhood's poverty, the community-based Emerson Park Development Corporation fought to have the station location moved to their neighborhood. Neighborhood activists have leveraged the placement of the Emerson Park station as a catalyst to attract a number of private developments that have started to reverse population decline and to absorb vacant lots in the neighborhood. Parson's Place, the area's first new private housing development in sixty years, more than doubled the population of Emerson Park, from about 765 in 2000 to 1, 450 in 2007. Other projects followed, such as River City Place, adding rental and for-sale housing units for new and existing residents of the neighborhood.
The station and the surrounding developments it has helped to catalyze have improved the image of the neighborhood in the last ten years. The goal of Emerson Park Development Corporation is to have a business or a house on every parcel in the neighborhood by 2015. Toward this end, an aggressive campaign of demolition of abandoned buildings and new infill construction is being undertaken. Currently, there are plans for 210 new and renovated housing units and a new elementary school. As of 2007, the Emerson Park neighborhood was home to 124 businesses. Nearly three-quarters of these are small businesses.
In the mid-1980s, the St. Louis Regional MPO (F/K/A East-West Gateway Coordinating Council) studied opportunities for transportation improvements in areas with a high proportion of transit-dependents. In 1993, the Phase 1 St. Louis MetroLink corridor consisting of 18 stations and 18.5 miles of track was opened, linking downtown East St. Louis with Lambert International Airport. Planning for St. Clair County Extension came underway shortly thereafter.
Metro, the St. Louis transit authority, and the MPO conducted studies to determine economic development opportunities for the potential station locations. The well-organized community-based Emerson Park Development Corporation persuaded regional authorities that locating the light rail station in their neighborhood would have more profound economic impacts on the city and its residents. The Authority's initial choice for a station site would have been solely a park and ride facility, with no positive development impacts on the surrounding area, due to a lack of sites and community organization.
Emerson Park Development Corporation made a convincing case that the site in their neighborhood would be less costly to develop, would provide better automobile access, and would present more opportunities due to the large supply of vacant land in the surrounding area for new housing, commercial space, parking, and community facilities. Construction at the site lasted approximately 18 months. The $3 million station opened in 2001. To facilitate pedestrian and vehicular access to the station, street and sidewalk improvements were made in the vicinity.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
Daily ridership more than doubled from 1000 daily boardings in 2004 to 2,100 daily boardings in 2007. Last year, there were 536,313 annual weekday boardings. A Park-n-Ride lot surrounding the transit station on three sides, with 840 parking spaces.
Based on 2000 Census data, one-third of East St. Louis residents work across the river in Missouri. The Emerson Park Station links the neighborhood with many of metro St. Louis' main employment centers. These include downtown St. Louis, Clayton, Laclede's Landing, two regional hospitals, four major universities, the Convention Center and Stadium, Union Station, the Galleria Mall, Scott Air Force Base, and Lambert International Airport. This gives transit-dependent low-income neighborhood residents numerous employment options.
In 2009, IDOT awarded the construction of a pedestrian bridge near 15th Street in East St. Louis. This walkway will allow pedestrians to safely cross over I-64 from Miles Davis Elementary to the Emerson Park MetroLink station. There are plans to build a community center just north of Miles Davis School. The new pedestrian bridge will directly connect the school and community center with the station.
IDOT is planning a number of improvements projects for interstate and local roads. The connections between Olivette Park and Goose Hill Neighborhoods will be improved. The state has recently acquired several easements from Metro at the Emerson Park MetroLink Station for the construction of the on-ramps for the New Mississippi River Bridge. Completion is expected for that project in 2015.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The Emerson Park MetroLink station site includes a single train platform, a site for future retail development, a ticketing portico, a pathway that connects the future retail site to the neighborhood, a park-n-ride lot, and an overflow parking lot. The station is surrounded by a mix of new single-family and low-rise apartment buildings on the east. West and north of the station, large park and ride lots provide 840 parking spaces for commuters. To date, there is very little commercial development in the area. Areas designated for commercial development are more than one-quarter mile from the MetroLink Station site. The majority of commercial uses are now clustered along 9th Street, which serves as the gateway to the neighborhood from I-64.
Within the past ten years, a number of private housing developments have flocked to sites surrounding the station. Flanking the station on the south is the first phase of Parson's Place. Between 2000 and 2002, 174 units of new market-rate and affordable housing were built here. Under Phase 2, an additional 102 apartments were built, for a total of 276 new homes. The East St. Louis Housing Authority has invested in the development of Central City Homes, consisting of 84 new apartments serving the general market and providing public residential assistance.
In 2003, EPDC entered into a partnership with Charles F. Vatterott Company to create the River City Place development with 24 affordable homes surrounding the Parson's Place area. Other significant developments in the station area include the Central City Apartments, an 84-unit development by Chicago-based Eastlake Development Corporation completed in 2005.
The Emerson Park Security and Commercial Building opened in 2003. The facility houses Metro and St. Clair County security forces, enhancing safety and security in the neighborhood. The Emerson Park Security and Commercial building provides 4,200 square feet of office and retail space adjacent the transit station. At present, the commercial building is fully leased. The building contains a Metro Security office, a cafe, a hairdresser, and a business-support service. It is estimated that eight individuals are employed by these businesses.
Two key non-transportation factors have helped to make the Emerson Park Station a success. The first is neighborhood activism catalyzed by effective community organization. Without the persistent advocacy of the Emerson Park Development Corporation, the Emerson Park Station would have been built in a different location in East St. Louis where it would have performed as simply a park and ride facility, rather than as an engine for community development.
The second factor is East St. Louis' high poverty rate ? currently about 35%. Because the East St. Louis is one of the most deprived cities in the country, they are eligible for numerous EDA, DOT, HUD, and other federal and foundation funding, These sources have been effectively tapped by state and local agencies for new infrastructure, housing, and community facilities which have helped breathe new life and hope into the neighborhood.
Bi-State Development Organization/Metro
Real Estate Division City of East St. Louis
Community Development Department
John Roach Development, St. Louis MO
East-West Gateway Coordinating Council of Governments: Communications and Research Department
Emerson Park Development Corporation
UIUC, School of Architecture
University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Case Study Developed by ICF International