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Sunday, June 21, 2009

7 Reasons to Save the San Luis: #1 Increasing St. Louis's Civic Awareness

There's just one more day before the Preservation Board meets to decide the fate of the San Luis Apartments on Lindell Boulevard. And now I'm up to my #1 reason that the San Luis should NOT be demolished for a parking lot.

One thing I have noticed with the San Luis controversy is the idea that St. Louisans can rise up and demand a better physical environment in their city. We do have a say in decisions that make our city less livable in the long run.

A successful defeat of a very ill-conceived parking lot at a high profile corner in the city will send the message to developers, politicians, and other residents that St. Louis is no longer operating in the old manner. No longer will citizens put up with bad plans hatched by people with no clue about what makes great cities--and what unmakes them.

The San Luis controversy is a part of a fledgling movement in St. Louis of urbanists, preservationists, and other civic activists affirming and reclaiming the squandered urbanism of the city. A victory is important in conveying that we're serious, we're dedicated--yet we won't stop even in the face of defeat. Cities, after all, aren't made or broken by a single corner or intersection--it's the whole panache, the tableau. But we recognize that those corners are crucial in painting the whole image. We will no longer accept people carelessly extracting the myriad images that make up our urban mosaic.

The San Luis has already been instrumental in increasing St. Louis's civic awareness and confidence. A victory in defeating a bad plan to replace a monument with asphalt will only broaden the stride.


Michael R. Allen said...

I agree with you, Matt, except on use of the word "fledgling." Our movement is at least fifty years old (Landmarks Association's age), and many of the allies in the San Luis effort have been involved in preservation and urban revitalization since the 1960s. The preservation movement is an institution, whether people like it or not.

Matt M. said...

Perhaps fledgling is an incorrect usage, since Landmarks has been around so long and has done many great things. Something I feel is more accurate would be to say that there is a "widening" movement. I think there's a newfound confidence in St. Louis and it's attracting people beyond the "usual suspects". This is not to demean that great work by those individuals who have laid the groundwork and who have been graceful stewards during much tougher times. No disrespect intended.

STLgasm said...

Matt, I wish you were able to read this posting at the meeting this afternoon. Great post.

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