If mega-billion-dollar firm Centene’s plans come to fruition, the remainder of the ‘Clayton hole’ will be as much a memory as when Forsyth Boulevard was a mud road. The city has a few steps to take first, including deciding whether to re-zone and listening to input at upcoming public hearings. The managed care provider could spend upward of $770 million to expand its corporate campus to the south of Forsyth and the east of Hanley, taking up the remainder of the formerly vacant 16 acres near The Ritz-Carlton and the Clayton Plaza condo mixeduse complex. Renderings show that one office tower would occupy the last remaining vacant space of the ‘hole’ behind the hotel. The proposal is so intensive that it is composed of four development ‘subdistricts,’ and Subdistrict 3 (just east of The Ritz) would be taken up by the tallest new addition to the Clayton skyline: a 34-story, 1.2 million-square-foot structure with a 1,000-seat auditorium. This would seriously transform the east end of downtown Clayton, at the juncture of Forest Park Parkway and Forsyth: ‘hole’ no mo’! With more than 3,000 potential new parking spaces, the city will carefully consider impact on traffic through the county seat, as well as the effect on residents. That’s not all: Centene also has requested that Clayton subsidize the ambitious project, which will include a new hotel, residential units and street-level retail. Along with the aforementioned skyscraper, Clayton would cement its reputation as the metro’s ‘second downtown,’ since Centene’s proposed construction also includes an 8-story, 19-story and a 30-story building … one each throughout the project’s other three subdistricts. Officials say the plan would draw 2,000 new Centene employees and create about 1,600 other jobs.

The first step toward solving many a problem is to admit that it’s indeed a problem. Gambling can be a real headache, compulsive—an addiction—for some people. Missouri casino employees served as responsible ‘gaming’ ambassadors during the casino industry’s 19th annual Responsible Gaming Education Week Aug. 1 through 5. (Just add a ‘bl’ and gaming is gambling.) Begs the question: Would you expect the corner tavern or the alcoholic beverage industry at large to do the work of Alcoholics Anonymous? I’d venture to say there weren’t any interventions performed on patrons in the heat of the moment, next moment and moments after that at a one-armed bandit. In any event, area casinos, including River City Casino in Lemay, participated in the weeklong observance, created by the American Gaming Association in 1998 to increase awareness about problem gambling issues and promote responsible gaming practices nationwide. Across Missouri, designated casino employees were charged with educating their peers and patrons with responsible gaming messages during the week. Hmm. Free brochures, including Play Responsibly, Get to Know Slot Machines, Understand the Odds, and Responsible Player Guidelines and Characteristics are available at many Missouri casinos. Puts me in mind of a Bandaid on a gaping wound …

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Could it be that Interstate 70 is lying about its age? Signs marking the site of the first interstate project in the nation, just west of the Blanchette Bridge in St. Charles, announce that the interstate highway system is 50. But the project kicked off there in 1956, which, according to our rudimentary arithmetic skills, means the highway system is 60. Shame on you, you convenient ribbons of asphalt and concrete, for fudging your age by 10 years. (Who do you think you are—Jack Benny, the comic violinist who, with much eye-rolling, insisted to the day of his death that he was 39?) The signs mark the spot where, during the Eisenhower administration in August 1956, the first section of the U.S.-funded network of highways started its way here, there and everywhere, to all four corners of the U.S. of A. There are other states claiming the honor, including Kansas and Pennsylvania, which started a modern transformation of its turnpike in the 1950s. Well, we are the Show-Me State, and they ain’t, so there. (Full disclosure: Upon closer inspection, the signs mark the golden anniversary of the interstate: 1956-2006.) At any rate, get ready to raise a glass … of what, warmish storm water? … to mark the 60th anniversary of the U.S. highway system Aug. 13. Maybe the Feds can spring for two new signs, since those apparently have been there a decade now.

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Before campaign 2016 really gets ugly, are you already ready to dump Trump and have you had your fill o’ Hillary? Count on alternative candidates to fill the levity void. For years the nation had comedian Pat Paulsen. This go-round we’ve got our very own Saint Lois, aka Lois Severin, an upbeat, 81-year-old grandmother and breast cancer survivor. Her campaign colors are pink and yellow, her logo is a smiley face, she is running under the Smilocracy banner, and her goal is to spread 1 million smiles nationwide. She’s stickered people of all sizes, shapes, ages, creeds and colors. Their reaction? Smiles, of course. At this writing, her Kickstarter effort had quite a way to meet its goal of funding a national campaign tour and accompanying documentary, but you have to applaud her noble effort. She’s stickered upward of 15,000 people, places and things in and around the Lou. Even bikers. Even portable toilets. She has quite the resume, and is well on her way toward the modest goal of global happiness. She tried out for an NFL cheerleading squad at age 50. She lived in a VW van with her kids when she was a hippie in California. She taught history and philosophy at Antioch College, and still works about 60 hours a week. Were you frowning at the beginning of this bit? Maybe you’re smiling now. If so, Lois Defeats Frowns!

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It ain’t easy being green, a famous frog once said. Well, the Delmar Loop in U. City has become the metro’s second Green Dining District, which is pretty cool and really wasn’t all that hard, Mr. Frog. One part of the initiative was to phase out Styrofoam to-go containers in favor of recyclable alternatives like cardboard. The following Delmar Loop businesses got the nod: Salt + Smoke, Blueberry Hill, Fitz’s, Three Kings Public House, Mission Taco Joint, The Melting Pot, Peacock Loop Diner, Eclipse Restaurant, Meshuggah Cafe, Pin-Up Bowl, Snarf’s and Piccione Pastry. Maplewood was the first community to achieve certification as a Green Dining District through several dining and drinking establishments also making the commitment to recycle, reduce energy consumption, phase in energy-efficient lighting and equipment, conserve water through smart strategies, and purchase local goods when possible. The Loop also is instituting a new program in partnership with U. City to provide cigarette butt recycling containers outside Loop businesses. U. Citians will empty the containers on a weekly basis and the—yecch—cigarette butts will be recycled into bricks, plastic pellets or whatever else recycling companies do with discarded ick. Meanwhile, the city has distributed 45 new recycling containers along Delmar for customer recycling, installed LED lights to increase efficiency, is using pervious pavement in parking lots to let more rain reach Mother Earth and not swamp the gutters, and provides free recycling to businesses that switch to the city’s solid-waste service in an effort to reduce landfill use.