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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Two Great South Side Avenues: Jefferson and Gravois

Like many neighborhood or business groups of today, the Jefferson Gravois Business Association (JGBA) maintains a Facebook page.

Their page contains over 150 photos of the commercial buildings that line both streets: Jefferson, from I-44 to Arsenal; and Gravois, from Russell to Arsenal.

The photographs display a bevy of sound, though altered mixed use buildings that, together, could be something great. Unfortunately, both streets are too wide. This means that each side of the street is divided by a gulf of asphalt; not a friendly environment for a walkable, pedestrian-oriented district. Gravois is often busy during rush hour, while South Jefferson never seems to carry the traffic load to justify its width. I have called for a median to be placed on South Jefferson to slow traffic; Gravois needs wider sidewalks, taller and more consistent tree cover, new pedestrian lighting, and a transit right-of-way as well (light rail, streetcar, or bus rapid transit).

But improvements to each street is not really the subject of this post. It's to point readers to the individual buildings on each street. One can see their potential to be sewn together into a cohesive, even vibrant district if the nature of their host streets were to change. Gravois, for one, is a street I've been up and down hundreds of times, whether by bus or car. There are always surprises and secrets missed when using a street as a highway rather than a pedestrian pathway. If you scroll through all of the photos, I think you'll agree with me that both streets are surprisingly full of character despite their often very ugly and unfortunate gaps (gas stations, fast food, etc.). Thanks to the Jefferson Gravois Business Association for the pictures below!

2600 Block of Gravois

2600 Block of Gravois

2700 Block of Gravois

 2800 Block of Jefferson

These are just a few underutilized examples. Again, you can view all of the photos here. The JGBA service area includes some famous St. Louis landmarks as well as some newbies who have taken their chances. Trader Bob's Tattoo has been on South Jefferson since the 1930s, while Bittersweet Bakery has risen quickly in status to become a must visit Gravois spot having just opened last year. Let's help the JGBA keep these and other businesses viable! After South Grand's road diet and streetscape improvement project is completed, the Great Streets program should turn its gaze toward Gravois and Jefferson in what the JGBA calls the "heart of south St. Louis".


Kara said...

Gravois is the perfect street for a streetcar line with right of way. There is also room for wider sidewalks which would make the high traffic street that it is more pleasant to stroll down. And since it goes along or crosses nearly every south city neighborhood, there is a ton of untapped potential. I agree that we should be thinking urban boulevard here and not suburban strip.

Chris said...

MoDot is currently taking suggestions on the improvement of Gravois. Remember, it is a state highway, so we can get the state to make it a better street if we demand it.

Brian said...

I agree with Kara.

Just checked out the photos, and it looks like California Donut is going to reopen! That building has one of the best signs in the city.

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