Search This Blog (A.K.A. "I Dote On...")

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sorry, St. Louis. You're not great this year.

Last year, St. Louis, and in particular, the Delmar Loop, was honored with the American Planning Association's first annual "Great Streets" designation. It was one of a dozen or so streets across the country selected for being special urban places--with exceptional architecture, public spaces, walkability, transit-friendliness, local retail and restaurants, and general character.

There were two other "Greats" that St. Louis did not appear on--Great Neighborhoods and Great Public Spaces.

Well, the latest Great Streets/Neighborhoods/Public Spaces lists honor cities like Baltimore and Boise, but no St. Louis.

Don't hang your head just yet.

You, yes you, can nominate a neighborhood or street or public space as one of America's great places. Read the FAQ for more details.

One thing, though, is that the APA doesn't seem all that friendly to "most improved" districts. They want areas with "strong identities" and unique local flavor. Do they know the A-bomb that hit St. Louis called deindustrialization/flight of wealth?

I would really like to nominate Cherokee Street to see how they would react. It doesn't fit what appears to be the APA mold--an established street that has enjoyed unequivocal success and has all the elements to remain successful. But what street is more fascinating than Cherokee Street?

Cinco De Mayo 2008 on Cherokee Street. Photograph from

It was once one of the ubiquitous and bustling urban business districts that used to be much more common before commerce moved off of small urban streets and onto highway exits and strip centers. It remained notable in St. Louis even after the auto age only for its length and its onetime success as district. Now it's a schizophrenic, gritty delight of a street, changing with each passing day. It's an arts district in the west, a Hispanic business district in the middle, an antique district on the east.

It's got:
> an anarchist collective bakery;
> one of St. Louis's only local record stores;
> one of its only Art Supply stores;
> an "Arts Compound";
> a magnificent but defunct Brewery awaiting redevelopment;
> the Casa Loma Ballroom;
> restaurants of various Hispanic ethnicities found in very few other spots in the St. Louis metro;
> a saxophone museum;
> a vegan diner (the city's only);
> one of the most haunted places in America;
> one of the last of the old St. Louis Greek Revival mansions (a New Orleans escapee?)

...and so much more.

I think, in addition to Cherokee, that Old North St. Louis could be a great nominee for Great Neighborhoods. Their resolve and determination to improve the neighborhood stands up to any neighborhood in the nation's definition of success.

Anyone want to help me nominate? Let me know. 2009 is not that far away!


Old North St. Louis Restoration Group said...

Thanks for the kind words about Old North St. Louis. Among the many reasons the revitalization of Old North is picking up steam: the great wave of young, community-minded creative types coming in to breathe new life into the neighborhood's vacant historic brick buildings. Check out the current post at for a profile of one such couple.

Matt M. said...

I hope to be an ONSL rehabber soon! Just give me two or three years first!

Fashion STL Style!

Fashion STL Style!
St. Louis Gives You the Shirt Off of Its Own Back!

Next American City

Next American City
Your Go-To Source for Urban Affairs

Join the StreetsBlog Network!

Join the StreetsBlog Network!
Your Source for Livable Streets

Trust in Rust!

Trust in Rust!
News from the Rustbelt

Dotage St. Louis -- Blogging the St. Louis Built Environment Since 2008

Topics: Historic Preservation, Politics and Government, Development, Architecture, Urban Planning, Urban Design, Local Business, Crime and Safety, Neighborhoods, and Anything Else Relating to Making St. Louis a Better City!