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dc.contributor.authorBerardi, Ben
dc.description.abstractOn July 30, 1993, the newly-unified city of Chesterfield, Missouri bore witness to the most tumultuous disaster since its incorporation in 1988. The levee surrounding the area, fittingly named the Gumbo Flats, breeched in four separate places, the result of a perfect storm of high winter snow volumes and dangerously high levels of rainfall, among a multitude of other indirect factors. Massive flooding drowned the lowland area, leaving the entire Valley submerged under eleven feet of water.

But the flood itself is not the focal point of this article; the real story is how a suburban town, barely five years old, rallied around its residents, city officials, state legislators, and federal agencies to restore, renovate and evolve the Chesterfield Valley area into a real estate goldmine. By analyzing hundreds of city press releases and examining administrative action plans, I determined the critical decisions made regarding the renovation of the levee and the sources of funding that built the now-thriving Chesterfield Commons. In particular, levee enlargement and tax increment financing (TIF) catalyzed the creation of a corporate and community real estate mecca.

Throughout the history of modern disasters, the profitability of capitalism in the wake of a disaster has proven to be a common, and primary, factor in successful restoration and rejuvenation projects. Kevin Rozario, author of What Comes Down Must Go Up, presents the idea of creative destruction as a basis for how disasters pave the way for capitalistic business endeavors. He argues, “so deeply has the link between disaster and development become that even those who have fought most vigorously to contain the ravages of capital have tended to view further destruction as the necessary precondition for healing modernity’s harms” . The Chesterfield Valley is an exemplary model of this belief system, a true “out of the ashes rises the phoenix,” where ingenuity and community came together to direct infrastructure development, and an entire town’s willingness to inject finances where they were needed most established the foundation for a suburban city’s billion-dollar-and-counting economic powerhouse.
dc.publisherDepartment of History, University of Kansasen_US
dc.rightsCopyright 2019, Ben Berardien_US
dc.titleIf You Build It, They Will Come: From Flood Zone to Economic Boomen_US

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