Emerson Park Neighborhood Revitalization Plan

[ Contents ]


Objective: Creation of a distinct land use pattern that facilitates growth in housing and retail uses and improves the quality of local infrastructure


A. Zoning Element of the Emerson Park 1998 Revitalization Plan

The exact origin of zoning as a land use tool in the United States is difficult to determine, but its roots may be traced back to a plan for the U.S. capital in 1790 under President Washington. Over one hundred years later, the Supreme Court legitimized zoning as a state power. The case of Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company in 1926 upheld the right of a village to zone land into particular use districts. Zoning is defined as the division of land into use districts and the prescription and application of different regulations in each district. Zoning attempts to regulate the height and bulk of buildings and prescribe the use of buildings within certain designated districts. Zoning is the most effective tool available for the implementation of land use controls. These controls insure livability for both residents and business owners by coordinating compatible uses, in order to provide for the well being of residents in terms of public health, safety, and welfare.

The East St. Louis Zoning Ordinance was originally written in 1944 and has not been updated since 1974. The current zoning map, which displays the location of land uses and the regulations for such uses, has not been revised since 1986. A Comprehensive Plan has not been written for the City of East St. Louis since 1960. In the State of Illinois, the validity of a municipality’s Zoning Ordinance is based upon the quality of its Comprehensive Plan. The lack of either a planning or zoning department within East St. Louis has made the drafting of a new plan difficult. The absence of these departments has also made code enforcement difficult.

Fiscal and administrative problems have impaired the City’s ability to regulate land uses and conduct code enforcement, allowing violations such as illegal dumping, waste storage, and incompatible uses to occur in many areas of the community. The advent of the recently formed East St. Louis Planning Commission provides an opportunity for changes to the Zoning Code that will mediate the problem areas. Several neighborhood and not-for-profit organizations have also organized around these issues. Together, the basic steps necessary for creation of a Comprehensive Plan and an updated Zoning Ordinance with strict code enforcement is developing.

Zoning and Land Use in Emerson Park

The number of abandoned structures and vacant lots that exist within Emerson Park pose serious safety and environmental hazards to neighborhood residents, particularly children. An incongruent mix of commercial and industrial and residential uses has created pollution, safety, and aesthetic problems for all members of the community. Emerson Park has suffered a tremendous loss of housing stock in the last twenty years, reducing the existing level to nearly one-third of what it was when the current Zoning Ordinance was last updated.

Non-conforming and incompatible land uses greatly distract from the residential nature of the area as heavy industrial and manufacturing uses exist unbuffered from single family houses. Physical remains of such uses can be seen in the form of red pigment that blankets houses, streets, and vegetation directly adjacent to the Harcross Paint (Elimentis) factory. The remaining borders of the neighborhood consist of two interstate highways, which simultaneously provide easy access to the area while isolating it from greater East St. Louis. Flooding and drainage are issues that need to be addressed immediately, as an extensive floodplain exists within the neighborhood. Standing water is often found at Central City Homes days after a rain. With the introduction of the light rail system into the neighborhood, increased commercial, retail, and transit-oriented development will greatly enhance both the quality of life and commercial viability of Emerson Park. The current zoning in Emerson Park allows for the future creation of manufacturing, industrial, and highway commercial developments within the neighborhood, unbuffered from residential uses. Potential development is threated by a zoning scheme that promotes incompatible uses.

Emerson Park is bordered by interstate highways to the south and west, railroad tracks to the north, and industrial uses to the east, but maintains a strong residential core within the center. Lack of commercial services force residents to travel well beyond the reaches of their neighborhood for basic goods and services such as groceries, dry cleaning, restaurants or hardware. Reinforcement of the residential area is necessary to attract retail investment within the neighborhood. The introduction of the light rail system should help facilitate such investment, as commuters will influence the implementation of transit-oriented development. The potential for infill housing and increased traffic through the area will greatly affect the present character.

Goals of Emerson Park’s Zoning Proposal

Throughout the neighborhood planning process for the Emerson Park 1998 Revitalization Plan, it became obvious that if the neighborhood was to achieve its goals of residential stabilization, economic vitality, and positive growth, the zoning in the neighborhood would have to be changed. The following zoning proposal for Emerson Park makes several changes to the current zoning map and land use configuration. The proposed changes were made in an effort to:

The zoning proposal is based entirely on the current zoning code of the City of East St. Louis. It uses the zoning classifications and permitted uses specified in the 1974 document. The proposal suggests the addition of an Open Space (OS) designation and additional or changed permitted uses in each of the Code’s categories. The zoning categories, permitted uses and the proposed changes are shown in Table 7.1. Current Land Use, Zoning and Proposed Zoning maps are included here as Maps 7.1 to 7.3

Zoning Proposal

1. Rezone Highway Commercial (C3), Medium Manufacturing/ Industrial (M1), and Heavy Manufacturing / Industrial (M2) to zoning classifications that are compatible with residential land uses.

Four non-residential zoning designations exist in the residential core of Emerson Park; C1, C3, M1, and M2. Neighborhood commercial (C1) zoning should be encouraged in this area. C3 should be reserved for west of 9th Street along Interstate 55/70 and south of Interstate 64. Possible uses are storage facilities and enclosed light industrial uses. Access to both Interstates 55/70 and 64 make west of 9th Street ideal from a maneuverability standpoint, limiting deliveries and waste pick-up to the edges of the neighborhood, away from residential uses. The three spots of C3 within the neighborhood’s core can pose potentially serious threats to the livability of Emerson Park. M1 should be reserved for the northern periphery of the neighborhood, north of the Southern Railroad, on land that is currently vacant. Possible uses include all light industrial uses, storage, and distribution facilities. M2 should be removed from the neighborhood, except for the existing Elimentis facility and the land owned and operated by Elimentis. The M2 zoning designation in the southeast area of Emerson Park is currently a threat to future housing development.

2. Relocate industrial, manufacturing, and warehousing uses away from residential uses.

Eliminate non-conforming land uses in order to provide for public health, welfare and safety. Manufacturing and industrial uses impact the surrounding environment differently than residential or retail due to transportation requirements, waste storage and disposal, and chemical byproducts from production processes. Air, soil, and water quality are all severely affected by manufacturing and industrial activity, thereby affecting the overall quality of life in the immediate area. Currently, several trucking and auto-related businesses operate within this area, posing safety threats for neighborhood children and creating both air and noise pollution (refer to the dark grey parcels on the land use map). These businesses should be encouraged to remain in the neighborhood and move into appropriately zoned areas. In many cases, moving these businesses will improve their facility capacity, access to transportation, and improve their visibility.

3. Protect residents from noise, air and visual pollution from nearby factories, interstate highways and railroads.

The Harcross (Elimentis) Chemical plant should be buffered from residential uses to reduce the industrial impact. In order to increase compatibility of land uses within the neighborhood, residential and industrial uses should be separated by open space. A natural buffer in the form of open space should surround Elimentis on the north and south sides. This open space would allow for a less harsh transition between residential and industrial uses. Also, there should not be any residence located within 400 feet of an industrial use. The current zoning code specifies a distance of 200 feet.

4. Neighborhood Commercial (C1) should be concentrated around the new Metro Link extension.

The types of services available in Neighborhood Commercial districts are attractive to both local residents and commuters. The lack of retail facilities in the neighborhood and the success of small-scale commercial at other transit stops are catalysts for neighborhood commercial development. Retail shops and restaurants should compliment the residential character of the neighborhood. With the construction of multiple family units directly across from the transit stop, it seems likely that any introduction of commercial services will define the station as a major hub of activity within not only the neighborhood, but the community as a whole. Typical transit-oriented development of this nature usually extends ¼ mile from the station. Integration of social service or community service activities within this area should be encouraged to define the station as an element of Emerson Park. Regulation of a diverse mixture of retail and community land uses should function with as much input from Bi-State as possible.

5. Neighborhood Commercial currently found within Emerson Park should remain in place and be enhanced.

The scattered C1 areas within the neighborhood provide for an opportunity where daily activities, living / shopping / participating in community, can be integrated – not separated. Residents of Emerson Park have expressed great interest in small-scale grocery stores, laundromats, dry cleaners, cafes, and retail shops.

6. The majority of the central core of the neighborhood should maintain and enhance its residential character through infill and new construction of varying housing types.

Hundreds of housing untis could be added to the study area based on the number of vacant lots and deteriorated homes. The infill area should focus upon the area bordered by 11th Street, Nectar Avenue, 17th Street, and Exchange Avenue with emphasis being placed upon construction of single and two-family structures. The Parsons Place project in the southeast quadrant of the neighborhood requires that the area be rezoned from single family (R1A) and medium manufacturing (M1) to multi-family (R3). Parsons Place is a partnership between McCormick Baron, EPDC, and others to develop 201 multi-family units west of 17th Street. This project, combined with the extension of the Metro Link, is a strong catalyst for economic and residential development. The East St. Louis Housing Authority is also creating 66 units to the north of this area. As many as 100 units could be sited on existing vacant lots and lots with derelict structures. Multiple-family structures should be in close proximity to the Metro-link extension and scattered throughout the neighborhood. Both infill and new construction should take place in this area to accommodate families of varying income levels.

7. The Neighborhood Commercial (C1) designation along 9th Street will increase the opportunity for needed neighborhood services, while encouraging people to access the corridor from other parts of the city.

Neighborhood commercial in the corridor provides a good buffer between residential and highway commercial uses. The neighborhood commercial designation allows for the creation of learning facilities, offices, and community services along with retail uses.

8. An Open Space (OS) designation should be added to the East St. Louis Zoning Code.

The current Zoning Code does not include an Open Space designation, but rather it permits parks and playgrounds to exist in all zoning categories. An Open Space designation would allow for the protection of key open spaces in Emerson Park, such as Cannaday Park and Parson’s Field. Additionally, an Open Space designation should be used to buffer the residential core from railroads, Elimentis, and the Medium Manufacturing zone to the north of the neighborhood. Land zoned as Open Space could then be used for parks, playgrounds, urban agriculture, and community gardens.

Action Steps for Implementing Zoning Proposal:

    1. EPDC members should prioritize zoning and land use changes.
    2. Local business owners of incompatible uses should be encouraged to form a committee with EPDC members, code enforcement officials, and technical assistance providers to locate alternative locations compatible with the zoning proposal.
    3. The zoning proposal, list of current zoning and land use problems, and rationale for changes should be presented to the East St. Louis Planning Commission by the Emerson Park Development Corporation in an effort to gain support for such an endeavor by a city-appointed organization.
    4. Once backing from the East St. Louis Planning Commission is secured, EPDC should lobby for the proposal’s acceptance by the East St. Louis City Council in order to begin updating the current Zoning Ordinance.
    5. Community information meetings should be held to obtain public input regarding suggestions, revisions, and elements of the proposal.

Participating Organizations:


Cost for implementation of zoning recommendations is minimal. Technical assistance can be provided by the Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center and the East St. Louis Action Research Project. Meetings can be held at the Lessie Bates Davis Center at no cost to EPDC.

Table 7.1 (continued)

Map 7.1: Current Land Use

Map 7.2: Current Zoning

Map 7.3: Proposed Zoning

B. Sewer Repairs and Manhole Recovery

In the early twentieth century, sewers were constructed in East St. Louis to transport storm water from populated areas to streams and rivers. This was done to minimize property damage and relieve street flooding. These sewers were also a convenient means for transporting human sewage from developed areas. Thus, combined sewers carried a combination of sewage and stormwater flow. The Russel & Axon, Inc. report, "Sewer System Evaluation for the City of East St. Louis (et al.) Interim Report", indicates that a large portion of the system was constructed out of brick and vitrified clay pipe around 100 years ago. Overall, the sewer system is not designed to handle anything greater that a two-year storm event. Therefore, it frequently backs up into residences and businesses.

Residents repeatedly site flooding as a threat to neighborhood health, particularly at 13th & Exchange. This area is in a prime location for new development in Emerson Park. It is not far from the Metro Link Light Rail Station and the proposed residential expansion. Its proper functioning is crucial to the needs of the surrounding area. In addition to its economic impacts, a failing sewage system adversely affects the quality of life for local residents.

In 1997 an in-depth infrastructure study of East St. Louis, entitled The East St. Louis Enterprise Community Infrastructure Plan, was completed by Horner & Shifrin, Inc. The Enterprise Study inspected only the sewer system near the light rail extension. According to the Enterprise report, 25 % (40,100 ft.) of sanitary sewers will need to be repaired after an overall assessment is completed. 15% (24,000 ft.) should be capable of repairs and 10% (16,100 ft.) will need to be replaced. The following is list of areas know for flooding in Emerson Park that were identified at a neighborhood meeting on September 9.

Table 7.2
Flooding Problem Spots as Identified by Residents
Emerson Park

Location of Persistent Sewer/ Flooding Problems as Identified by Emerson Park Residents

9th & Exchange

11th & Exchange

11th & Lynch

11th & Walter

11th & Winstanley

13th & Exchange

14th& Walter

15th & Exchange

15th & Lynch

15th & Wieman

17th & Natalie

18th & Lake

18th & Lake

18th & Lynch

18th & Wieman

In addition to flooding, missing manhole covers present a serious threat to the safety of local residents. These missing covers allow trash and debris to enter the sewer system, obstruct drainage and damage the overall system. The University’s infrastructure survey found 18 missing manhole covers. The Enterprise study found 99 manholes (33%) to be in poor condition (i.e. cover not secured, clogged, deteriorated, etc.). These manholes should be inspected and cleaned out. Additionally, 59 blocks lack manholes all together.

Implementation Timeline: Year 1 - 2

Action Steps:

  1. Develop a Request for Proposal (RFP) to conduct a complete assessment of the subsurface infrastructure. The Enterprise study prescribes that a video camera survey be made of the sewer pipes. This can better assess the structural repairs necessary. Due to the expense of a video camera survey, a less expensive smoke test, in which the system is filled with smoke and leaks are located where smoke escapes, should be conducted. The RFP should include installation of 18 new manholes, the inspection of 99 manholes, and investigation into creating new manholes on the 59 blocks currently without manholes.
  2. Advertise the RFP in order to secure competitive bids for the assessment. Choose a contractor.
  3. After this primary assessment, a Request for Proposal (RFP) would be circulated regionally and followed by the selection of a contractor for the repair / replacement work.
  4. Begin Work
  5. Monitor and evaluate the impact on infrastructure testing, repairs, replacement, and installation by:
  6. Assessing the success of the repair after major rains for 1 year. Compare results to previous recorded data.
  7. Survey the residents to account for the increase in quality of life from the sewer repair.

Participating Organizations:


According to Bob Miller from Specialty Waste Services, a smoke test will cost approximately $.30 per linear foot. A video camera survey will cost approximately $3 per linear foot. According to the Enterprise Community Infrastructure Plan, the sewer repairs / replacement will cost $117,000.

According to the City of Champaign Public Works Department, bolt-lid manhole covers are $175 each. Inspection and cleaning are estimated at $50 per manhole and new manholes are $2,100 each.

A contractor will need to be hired to assess the area and conduct the repairs. A fee cannot yet be determined. The budget does also does not include the staff/overhead costs to the City’s Public Works Department – these are straight repair and replacement costs.

Contract fees are not included in the budget.

Possible Funding Sources

C. Tree Lined Right of Ways

The University land use survey found that on average, over 60% of dwelling units do not have shade trees in the right-of-ways in front of the structures. Tress provide the following benefits:

This program, Tree Lined Right of Ways, plants, prunes and removes the trees in the right of ways that have either been removed, died or become diseased over the years. A grant proposal with the Urban Resources Partnership has recently been awarded for this project.

Implementation Timeline: Year 2

Action Steps:

  1. Poll residents to identify diseased or missing trees and trees that are in need or pruning.
  2. Hire a tree service to determine the life of trees that were identified as being in need of removal.
  3. Recruit neighborhood and University of Illinois volunteers to conduct the non-professional labor.
  4. Select a weekend in the Spring to do the work.
  5. Send out flyers to all residents asking for volunteers on the "tree weekend".
  6. Purchase supplies, equipment, and reserve rental materials for the tree planting
  7. Remove 20 diseased or dead trees, prune 50 trees and plant 185 trees.

Participating Organizations:


The following budget was developed for the URPs grant in July 1998. It includes both financial and in-kind expenditures of $100,000 each. The full request is pending.

TOTAL = $100,003.20 $100,001.68

D. Lighting Emerson

According to the residential survey conducted in February 1998 in Emerson Park, 60% of residents claim that their street lights are in poor physical condition and that lighting is poor in many areas. Proper lighting is essential for safe automobile and pedestrian traffic. In the words of one resident, "Well-lit streets are safe streets!" Regular maintenance of existing lighting and the construction of new lights in dark areas will promote the neighborhood’s commitment to crime prevention.

The University infrastructure survey found a need for 21 overhead streetlights. In August 1998, residents identified 9 areas of the neighborhood that lack adequate lighting.

Table 7.3
Inadequate Lighting Areas as Identified by Residents
Emerson Park

Inadequate Lighting as Identified by Residents

9th & Lake

11th & Bowman

11th & Exchange

11th & Lake

13th & Nectar

13th & Winstanley

15th & Lake

Cannady Park

17th & Winstanley

Central City Homes


Implementation Timeline: Year 2

Action Steps:

  1. Confirm street light designations with ESL Public Works and Illinois Department of Transportation based upon local traffic statistics. Map 7.4 shows possible street light locations. Each of these must be tested in terms of electrical efficiency, structural soundness and age.
  2. Request the evaluation of streetlights by Ameren Union Electric.
  3. Discuss the importance of these improvements with the ESL CAN Advisory Board, including resident input from an EPDC meeting.
  4. Develop a prioritization schedule of lighting improvements and lobby for implementation.
  5. Secure the implementation of improvements based on the prioritization schedule.
  6. Evaluate the lighting improvements based on the following criteria:

Participating Organizations:


According to the City of Champaign Engineering and Development Services Division, ornamental streets lights cost $2,800 each. East St. Louis is serviced by Union Electric. Lou Apple Smith, ESL Union Electric Sales Representative, should be contacted for specific costs, when sites and designs are determined. (Phone: 618-482-2260).

Possible Funding Sources

Map 7.4: Proposed Street Light Locations

E. HELP Streets and Sidewalks

During the city’s decline of the 1970’s through the 1990’s, a shrinking tax base and widespread abandonment made it extremely difficult for the city to maintain its roads. Today, as a result, streets and sidewalks are often noted as the most critical issue facing the city. Many residents have commented that without adequate streets and sidewalks, all the new development potential does not matter. Two infrastructure assessments have been conducted in the last few years, one by Horner & Shirfin and the other by the University of Illinois. Both yielded similar results (see Data Book, pg. 51). The results of the University assessment are below:

Sidewalk Condition


















Uncollected Data



Total Length



Many streets have large potholes and cracks, which cause costly damage to automobiles, present a tripping hazard, make all forms of transportation difficult, and deter investment. Currently, asphalt and concrete are the predominant paving materials next to brick. Several of the streets still maintain their original brick composition and should be preserved if they are in good condition, due to aesthetic, traffic calming, and durability benefits. Fortunately, many of the worst streets in the southern portion of the neighborhood are being replaces as part of the Parsons Place project and the MetroLink extension.

Sidewalks are crucial to encouraging pedestrian activity within any environment. In a community such as East St. Louis where car ownership is relatively low, sidewalks are not only an aesthetic improvement, but also a means of transportation. Safety is greatly enhanced by the existence of sidewalks for both children and adults. Adequate walkways help outline pathways, facilitate social interaction, and establish sense of place. No sidewalks in Emerson Park are in good condition. When residents were asked which sidewalks were in need of repair, the overwhelming response was, "All of them!"

Implementation Timeline: 2 - 3

Action Steps:

  1. Review the infrastructure improvement plan included in the Enterprise Community Infrastructure Plan by Horner and Shifrin.
  2. Add additional repairs and replacements to the existing plan. The EC plan focuses almost entirely on the southern part of the neighborhood. Use the data included in the Appendix to identify all street segments that need improving or replacing (the Appendix lists each street segment and its current condition).
  3. Develop a plan with the City, CDBG and the Empowerment Zone for the implementation of much needed work.


The City of Champaign Engineering and Development Services Division states that streets, with a 4" asphalt pavement and 12" lime subgrade, with curbs included costs $122.38 per linear foot and sidewalks are an additional $24 per linear foot. The estimated cost of street and sidewalk replacements is below.

Sidewalks Rated as Poor to Destroyed

Streets Rated as Poor to Destroyed

Linear feet

Linear feet



Cost per linear foot

Cost per linear foot



Total Material Costs of Replacement

Total Material Costs of Replacement




These figures do not include the costs of maintenance or repairs.

Possible Funding Sources:

Document author(s) : Cathy Klump
Last modified: 27 September 1999, Deanna Koenigs