The Sunny Side of the Street

18 06 2012

The alleged Center of the Universe

A walk down Chippewa sheds light on St. Louis Forestry’s policies and practices

by Will Delaney

The Donut Drive-In, at Watson and Chippewa, is a Route 66 landmark and the alleged Center of the Universe. To be accurate, the Center of the Universe is thought by some to be inside the hole of one of the millions of glazed donuts that the shop has deep-fried here since 1954. But there is a lack of consensus among quantum physicists as to which hole that might be. The continuing enigma is an inexplicable leftover of the Cold War, steeped in hot grease and shrouded in secrecy.

Theorists postulate that the portal into the void may have passed decades ago, running its course through the digestive tract of an unsuspecting southsider, or it could very well be in the next batch of glazed delicacies to come out of the fryer. To be on the safe side, I ordered a couple of custard-filled pastries instead. They don’t have holes. I am normally less cautious, but recent events, which I attribute to the approaching summer solstice, have raised my guard. Under current karmic conditions, it was too early in the day to risk being swept into the vortex of a freaky donut hole that defies scientific explanation.

I ate breakfast in the asphalt parking lot, leaning against the west-facing wall of the concrete-block building, a location chosen not for its scenic view of the nearby car wash, but spurred  by extreme solar conditions, which by 10 a.m. were already turning city streets into a blast furnace.

After my fine-dining experience, I walked down Chippewa to the Target store at Hampton Avenue. The blazing June sun turned the leisurely, half-mile stroll into a forced march through the Sahara. The only shade I encountered between the Center of the Universe and Target was in the 6200 block of Chippewa, where a neat row of brick bungalows occupy the south side of the otherwise commercialized street.

Unlike the donut hole, there is no mystery surrounding the difference between the shady side of the street and its sun-baked, commercial counterpart. It’s simply a matter of urban planning gone awry.

Under the policies of the St. Louis Forestry Division, street trees in front of single-family residences are considered more of an economic boon to the city than having them in front of rental units or commercial properties. The absence of trees on Chippewa between Watson and Hampton is an example of Forestry’s misguided policies. Those policies are based, at least in part, on an expensive cost-benefit analysis prepared for the city by a private consultant in 2009.

According to the findings of the study:

“… Street trees located in front of multi-family homes will not increase the property value at the same rate as single-family homes. Furthermore, street trees located adjacent to commercial and nonresidential properties do not create the same resale potential as residential areas. If the City were to continue planting trees throughout all twenty-eight wards, particularly around single-family homes, the property value would continue to increase in association with canopy cover. Then, when property taxes are reviewed and sales tax is paid on a sold property, the City of St. Louis will ultimately benefit from higher property values. …”

The 2009 city street survey also advocates providing shade trees to stimulate “frequent shopping, [and] longer shopping trips.” I noticed the application of that recommendation once I reached the Target store. In the parking lot, a fat, bald, city cop was cruising slowly in his squad car, talking on his cell phone. The windows of the police car were rolled up, an indication that the air conditioner was blasting cool air out of its dashboard vents. As the cop circled lazily around the half-empty parking lot, I noticed several gaps in the broiling asphalt where half-dead saplings had been planted.

It was time to shop till I dropped.

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2 responses

18 06 2012
vonboeger

I’m gona ride me a cannonball right outa here. Dig?

18 06 2012
Journal of Decomposition

Dig.

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