Lambert Planners Spare Big Hotels but Landmark Henry the Viii, Three Motels Face Wrecking Ball

Article excerpt

Plans to expand the airport would spare most of Lambert's hotel row - at least for now.

The $1.7 billion plan would spare the larger hotels nestled south of Lambert's terminal on Natural Bridge Road - the Airport Marriott, Drury Inn and Hampton Inn - and a handful more near Interstate 70 and Lindbergh Boulevard. In fact, the expansion could shower them with new business as air traffic continues to climb.

But the plan to add a third runway through Bridgeton would take a landmark hotel - Henry the VIII Hotel and Conference Center - as well as three "mom-and-pop" motels along Lindbergh Boulevard.

The owners of those motels say the demolition would knock them out of the business forever.

Typical is Gary Moore, who with his wife, Theresa, has owned the Linair Motel on Lindbergh Boulevard across from the Henry the VIII for 13 years. They do a brisk business, mostly with business travelers who stay for weeks, or even months, while working with firms like McDonnell Douglas.

The expansion plan would cost the Moores their motel and two homes on three acres. They said they could never find a small motel anywhere else with the steady, year-round business they now enjoy.

"Once you lose a business like this, where do you go?" Moore asked. "This is a mom-and-pop motel, and there aren't many out there."

Lambert officials announced July 6 that they had chosen the W1W plan that would raze about a third of Bridgeton, without identifying specifically which homes or businesses would go.

After huddling for a week with planners and consulting with the Federal Aviation Administration, the airport provided details of what would be razed to make way for the new runway.

The expansion would take about 1,500 homes and 70 businesses, most of them along Lindbergh Boulevard and Natural Bridge Road west of the airport. The airport expects to spend $400 million buying those homes and businesses.

On Thursday, hundreds of Bridgeton residents and businessmen complained about the plan during a public workshop - the sixth the airport has held on the expansion process.

The expansion aims to increase the number of landings possible during bad weather, when the airport is limited to a single runway. That delays flights here and snarls connecting flights across the nation.

The new runway would put enough distance between runways to allow air traffic controllers to use two at once in bad weather. Airport officials could not say last week how often one runway is closed because of the weather.

The airport will formally propose the plan to the FAA in September. The FAA must study the effect on the environment, and the agency is expected to decide the plan's ifate next year. If Lambert wins the FAA's approval, it can begin buying property.

Bob Dopuch, the airport's planner, said Lambert's boundaries would gerrymander around many businesses like the hotels in the hope of limiting disruption and trimming Lambert's costs for buying land.

The hotels it would spare - including the Marriott, Hilton, Drury Inn, Hampton, Holiday Inn and the Radisson - have a total value of $130 million or more, says the St. Louis County assessor.

In contrast, the Henry VIII and smaller motels on the hit list have a total market value of about $8.5 million.

One of the private consultants who drafted the plan, Mike Cullivan, has since been hired to work full time for the airport.

Cullivan said that for a time, planners worried that hotels south of the airport and those near Lindbergh and I-70 would have to be razed to allow planes taking off on the new, third runway to clear them safely. …