While I can be a harsh critic of the lack of openness of St. Louis's government at time, I must give the city kudos on at least one project: the ever useful "Geo St. Louis".
Now, don't get me wrong. It's definitely not without its kinks. For one, I have never found it by going to the city's main website at http://stlcin.missouri.org. Where is it? This type of tool would be much more useful if it were front and center on the main website. Secondly, it tends to go offline a bit too often; certain links don't work; etc.
Yet, it's a still an immense resource. You can find out who owns a house, how many ordinance violations it has had, whether there's a demolition permit pending, what year the city believes it was built (often inaccurate, especially for older properties, but still), and even images of the property dating back several years. You can grab a property's legal description, assure that a certain parcel is inside a certain neighborhood, find out if it's listed on a historic district. The list goes on regarding the uses of the site (it even has a mini-locational analysis tool whereby you can look at aggregate income and other demographic data of the city with a customizable radius around an area of interest).
For this blog, being able to plug in any address and see whether a demolition permit has been added or whether there's an old photograph of a vacant building on the Preservation Board agenda--it's a lifesaver!
One of my favorite features of this little known site is the "Featured Image" that appears on the main page. From what I can tell, the selection is totally random. Some days we see vacant lots; usually we see vacant crumbling buildings. I always chuckle to myself that the city would "feature" its vacancy and abandonment on this semi-public website, but every once in a while a random photograph showcases the sheer beauty of a restored and revived St. Louis.
Like this home in Gravois Park on Miami:
What a great face to our city! Brick sidewalks, beautiful Second Empire architecture...what could be better?
I appreciate Geo St. Louis for what it currently does and hope the city can find the resources to make it even better. Let's not even discuss their main website, whose outdated interface is like a dingy doormat where wiping one's shoes just gets them dirtier (translation: it's not very welcoming).
Burlington Northern & Sante Fe
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