It's tempting for planners and even plain ol' citizens to approach urban development with the idea that, whatever the development is, it must immediately have an identity.
And so, our city brought us Laclede's Landing, the remnant of the city's warehousing district, revived as a "nightlife district".
Downtown Now! brought us an Old Post Office District. Some refer to most of the "63101" ZIP as the "Central Business District". Some call the area around the Convention Center as the Convention Center District. Now, we have the Loft District on Washington. We almost had the Bottle District, near the Convention Center. We're trying to build a district in disguise--Ballpark Village. And Chouteau's Landing will be downtown's unspoken "Arts District". The Civic Center is yet another district--a product of the City Beautiful movement of the turn-of-the-century that called for grand public buildings to be arrayed along wide boulevards, awing all passers-by (Civil Courts, City Hall, the Municipal Courts Building, all along or near Market Street).
Some of these "districts" have more merit than others. Those that do have found an identity over time. This is precisely how urban areas work: a wedge is developed and, hopefully, absorbed into the urban fabric over time, becoming part of its story.
We need not force a story at the very outset, though. The district-ification of St. Louis leaves it a choppy, disconnected grouping of intentionally single-use districts.
As I've said many times before, Ballpark Village, Chouteau's Landing, and the Chouteau Lake and Greenway (as well as any Arch-Riverfront development) provide a unique opportunity to reconnect a severely tattered built environment. One of the problems of large, private redevelopment schemes is that they are not accountable to the public and, more importantly, developers rarely know how to develop at the macro-scale, and even less often do they work with other developers on completely "separate" projects.
It is my hope that a combination of citizen vigilance and city-led efforts (Planning and Urban Design Agency, anyone?) will mold these proposed "districts" into an organic whole that will reconnect and benefit the city. Identities of each project might become clouded (God forbid someone enjoy a pre-game snack in Chouteau's Landing rather than Ballpark Village OR enjoy an art gallery in BPV)--but this is good. This is what cities are. Developers don't define and give identity to the built environment--rather, it's a mixture of things for which the chief ingredient is time.
5 hours ago