Most St. Louisans are well aware that the new management at Anheuser Busch-InBev, or A-B InBev, has been cutting positions at A-B's onetime world headquarters in Soulard. With financial operations moved to New York City, and with much of the company's leadership in either Brazil or Belgium, the Soulard campus is growing quieter. Don't get me wrong. I believe this is pretty bad news for St. Louis and for Soulard.
But there may be a small--or potentially large--up-side to this.
Take a look at Exhibit A: north Soulard, above Sidney Street.
Despite being hemmed in by Interstate 55 on the north and west and an overly-wide and relatively unadorned 7th Street/Broadway on the east, Soulard is a remarkably intact and physically dense neighborhood.
South of Sidney Street, A-B parking lots pervade and largely sully what could be a great connection to one of St. Louis's greatest urban neighborhoods. Living in the shadow of perhaps the world's greatest brewing legacy should be a saleable amenity, but few Soulard homes are within arm's reach of the complex these days.
Exhibit B: south Soulard, below Sidney Street.
Especially towards 7th Street, surface parking takes over an otherwise intact and beautiful neighborhood. Now, with fewer employees and a gradual shift away from the Soulard campus towards other spots across the globe, could the city reclaim these lots? Would A-B InBev hand them off? At least four square blocks are entirely dedicated to surface parking in an area bounded by Lynch Street on the south, 10th Street on the west, Sidney on the north, and 7th on the east. Well, almost entirely.
A nice Soulard home survives on 9th Street with its outbuilding intact (courtesy of Bing Maps). Anyone know the story behind this odd island in the sea of parking?
At any rate, it serves as a good reminder of how to reinvest in this area. We should seek to return these blocks to that successful Soulard scale--one of the city's most intimate.
I wonder what the status of these large lots is now that A-B in Soulard is essentially being downsized. Do surrounding businesses use these lots as well? Would Soulard residents or A-B InBev really miss them?
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