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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Recontexualizing residential in Midtown/Grand Center...

Often, on this blog, I speak of grave threats to St. Louis's diminished (and diminishing) urban context.

There are too few examples of sound, aesthetically pleasing infill reclaiming sections of lost urban landscape. The North Side has plenty of plots of land on which to evoke the old, dense urbanism of the past, but these opportunities have mostly been undercut with cheap construction, not enough trees, and no retail/commercial anywhere near the neighborhood. A lot of those things are understandable in such a disinvested area.

But what about a city's self-conscious Arts District?

In St. Louis, that's Grand Center/Midtown. And that district's two anchors, Grand Center Inc. and St. Louis University, have been all too happy to steward Midtown's residential (and mixed use and industrial) context off the planet.

Rather than see the scattered residential buildings as assets to redevelop the neighborhood, both entities ignored them entirely, watching them decay into convenient parking lot opportunities.

Exhibit A - The Central Apartments

Exhibit B - 3740 Lindell

Exhibit C - Wagner House

And that's only from the past year or so!

It's incredible that there was little outcry over SLU's haphazard demo's. Midtown's residential context--one that once housed upstart St. Louisans in very dense but luxurious quarters, eventually alongside the lower classes--is nearly gone.

Luckily, a new context is arising in the ArtHouse development.

Eco-friendly, attractive, contemporary, urban, dense--these are great features to add to Midtown. This development, though not affordable to anyone but an upper middle class, is definitely a start at turning Midtown around. It could once again be a residential neighborhood if this wise developer's plans catch on.

Of course, I'd like to see some diversity in the neighborhood, both of types of buildings and people, but ArtHouse is a great rallying cry for bolder design and urban intimacy, even perched on their little hill as the units are.

I look forward to one force in Midtown/Grand Center trying to restore and recontextualize rather than destroy and leave lifeless strictly utilitarian surface lots.


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