While I have heard it said that "St. Louis is its own animal" and "you can't just import ideas from elsewhere," I mostly disagree with this statement. Great cities don't insulate themselves from great ideas simply because all local conditions are not at complete parity with the source of the innovation in question. On the flip side, I'm not saying that just because one idea works somewhere--such as New York City's recent closure of portions of Time Square to automobiles--that it will work somewhere else just the same (imagine trying to transform South Kingshighway into Times Square!). We do need to be judicious in floating new ideas and attempt to tailor them to St. Louis's realities.
Here's a relatively noncontroversial suggestion: let's try to emulate New Orleans' Jackson Square with our own Lafayette Square.
Jackson Square in New Orleans is a truly unique place in this country. It's the city's original public square, platted by its French founders in 1718. The famous St. Louis Cathedral flanks the square, which is a gated and lushly landscaped public park with a statue of Andrew Jackson inside. Jackson Square is truly the center of the city, located inside the French Quarter, and invites throngs of people daily.
Jackson Square with the St. Louis Cathedral at center. Source.
This is less true with Lafayette Square in St. Louis. Lafayette Park was a set-aside from the once sprawling St. Louis Commons, once considered far outside the developed city. Therefore, Lafayette Square was intended to be a rural respite from an expanding city, not the center of the action like Jackson Square, which retains that function to this day. Still, as we know, times have changed since the mid-19th century, and Lafayette Square is a central St. Louis neighborhood known to have a somewhat regional draw--like Jackson Square.
Even so, I find Lafayette Park to be a little too quiet on the average day. One of the Midwest's most breathtaking neighborhoods--Lafayette Square--deserves more admirers.
One way Jackson Square invites people in is through art. Artists rent a segment of the fence surrounding Jackson Square and tourists and locals alike peruse the offerings around the square. This seems like a wonderful idea for at least a portion of the much larger Lafayette Square!
Here's what I mean:
Here, Jackson Square's peripheral fence is covered in art. During high tourist season, the whole square is surrounded by art. Source.
Imagine a segment of Lafayette Square covered in art every weekend, creating a new draw to the neighborhood and a new use for the park. Lafayette Park's fence is not nearly as tall, but I think the fence could still support a few smaller pieces. I know Lafayette Park has featured painters and artists before, but I could see a weekly or at least monthly event from April-October being very popular.
I think people would flock to an "art market" at Lafayette Park. Just look at the views! Source.
Perhaps establishing Lafayette Park as a go-to source for local art would inspire some of the neighborhood's remaining commercial spaces to fill up with galleries that would only complement the weekly/monthly art market.
I'm not saying that Lafayette Square can or should be Jackson Square in New Orleans; only that the art display is a great use of the park gate and its beautiful surroundings. It's a great way to activate the park and its surroundings.