There continues to be a lot of infill development being proposed all over the city. October's proposals caught my eye because they are in my neck of the woods. I visited each site in Benton Park, Compton Heights, Lafayette Square and McKinley Heights to check out the scene and hopefully get some final photos of empty lots that will soon have foundations being dug.
The stretch of South Grand Boulevard between Arsenal and Utah was named one of the country's "Great Places in America" by the American Planning Association.
It's always good to get recogintion on the national level for things every St. Louisan knows. Our city can compete with the best and we are a hidden treasure.
Here's a list of the winners including streets, neighborhoods and public places that represent the gold standard of thoughtful and deliberate planning:
- Heart of Missoula, Missoula, Montana
- Over the Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Seward, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Peal, San Antonio, Texas
- Uptown Greenwood, Greenwood, North Carolina
- Congress Street, Tucson, Arizona
- Lincoln Avenue and Giddings Plaza, Chicago, Illinois
- Mainstreet, Waterloo, New York
- Park Lane, Kirkland, Washington
- South Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri
- County Home Complex, Pitt County, North Carolina
- Market Square, Knoxville, Tennessee
- Mill Creek Linear Park, Bakersfield, California
- Rosa Park Circle, Grand Rapids, Michigan
- San Angelo Concho River Walk, San Angelo, Texas
Here's a short video from the APA showing snippets of each winner, South Grand used Ritz Park as the visual:
The reason we got this designation was due to the lane reduction, sidewalk widening, environmental easing in the form of runoff management/landscaping and the remaking of Ritz Park. It really does look nice.
But, the thing that makes this stretch of Grand a great place is that it is functional. It serves people who live here over just people who visit here. Residents benefit from this street. It is walkable in every way. You can enter businesses from the front, the alley and side streets.
There is much more here than just restaurants, but those that are here aren't just high-end regional draws, they serve the neighborhoods surrounding Grand with with excellent, affordable food (in most cases).
Tourists and visitor from the burbs feel welcome here which is great. But, residents see neighbors here too. It's a place that serves all.
Our family optometrist is here. If you haven't used locally owned Lucas Optometry, then you are missing the boat. This place is great and the people that have worked here for years are familiar, like warm acquaintances. I get into a conversation about fishing in Willmore Park and kids going to school in the city and urban issues. It's fun.
There is a legitimate international market, Jay International, that has everything you can't get at the supermarkets. It is real, priced right and serves the immigrant population well.
Ice cream is a reward for kids. The Tower Grove Creamery is manned by many local kids and owners that talk to you and care.
You can mail a package at the post office, you can fill up your tank at a cool looking gas station, you can get your hair cut fancy or barber shop style. You can find a home away from home workspace at the Gelateria, you can bank here, you can get Xmas trees here.
It is a functioning, neighborhood corridor and street that serves people with diversity. It is worthy of all praises and it looks better than ever.
It truly is a great city street. We need to focus on smart design and development so more of these corridors can pop up in other parts of the city where lots of people live, including Morgan Ford, Martin Luther King, St. Louis Avenue, Page, Chippewa, Broadway you name it.
The build-up to the great eclipse of 2017 had me rolling my Gen-X eyes in cynicism. I expected clouds. What I got was a most memorable afternoon filled with the sights and sounds of my little pocket of the city. It was a grand spectacle. Here's a recount of some of the things that caught my ear as well as my eye on August 21st, 2017.
Lately I've been giving some thought to national chains in the city, from Chic-fil-A, which is building it's first St. Louis store on a massive lot in the Lindenwood Park Neighborhood along Hampton to Target, JC Penny's, etc. I think we need a mix of chains and locally owned small businesses to thrive. Here are some thoughts.
A guest post from Monica Groth-Farrar highlighting the joys of city living. Monica is a talented writer and St. Louis City resident. She is the debut author of the hilarious and delightful novel: "The Big Let Go".
Oh yeah, Monica is also my sister and the person responsible for tipping my trajectory to the west toward St. Louis and single-handedly turned me on to countless records and political & social views that changed my life.
Lafayette Avenue has seen a recent influx of investment in the form of modern infill. This important connection between Jefferson and Grand that runs through the Gate District Neighborhood is filling in gaps with some of the most unique housing in St. Louis. Personally, we love the contrast of old and well-done new construction. Take a look at what we mean.
Between June, 2013 and October, 2014 I blogged on all 108 St. Louis parks. As part of that project, I chose not to include Tower Grove Park since it's technically not a city park.
But it would be wrong not to cover it here for completeness sake. And, since I moved to this part of the city nearly six years ago, I've really taken to this park. Driving by the perimeter or within the interior just doesn't do the park justice. This is one of the best walking parks in the city. You have to experience it at a slower pace if you want to take in the full ~289 acres.
I jumped on my 2010 Kymco People S250cc scooter on a sunny, hot morning for a long ride this weekend.
North and Central parts of the city are my favorite places to ride. So much is changing in these parts of St. Louis, sometimes I feel like I lose my bearings on where I'm at. In some cases, new buildings are up, constructions fences are blocking the views I'm used to or sadly, buildings have crumbled or fallen to the ground.
Here are some photos and a couple words on my random ride.
I've been spending a lot of time lately at Kiener Plaza and City Garden taking photos and enjoying the spaces. When you have kids, this place is even more exciting. They love hanging out in both places.
City Garden opened in July, 2009. This lushly landscaped outdoor art and fountain area has been a hit for visitors and residents as well.
It bills itself as an "urban oasis" and it lives up to the claim.
When I blogged on all 108 St. Louis parks, my visit of Kiener Plaza took place in May, 2014. This was the 1980's version of the park that was dedicated in 1962 complete with Reagan-era amphitheater. This version of the park was dead nearly year round aside from some really hot days when families came there to cool off in the fountain, or when there was a programmed rally or event. But make no mistake, this was yet another dead zone in Downtown St. Louis. You can read all about that 2014 visit and see "before" photos, including some historic info on the popular runner fountain HERE.
Kiener Plaza just went through a massive ~$23M redo and was re-opened to the public in May 19, 2017.
I was recently reminiscing about my first trips to St. Louis back in the 1990's delivering windshields to auto dealerships all over the bi-state region.
I was trying to find photos of some of these new car dealerships from the past. Turns out, it's pretty hard to find online history and photos of long gone businesses. I was looking for pictures of Hanna Oldsmobile when I starting finding hints on other auto dealerships.
The best bet is looking through Globe Democrat and Post-Dispatch ads on microfiche.
But, when I was researching St. Louis firehouses, I came across a book that had great photos of the city throughout the years, mainly related to catastrophic fires. It's called, St. Louis Fire Department: The First 150 Years of Service (1857-2007). It is a little hard to find, but can be referenced at the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center at 225 South Skinker Boulevard.
If you pay attention, great things are happening in the St. Louis public schools. One such item of good news is the growing popularity and options around gifted-learning magnet schools.
Notice the plural on schools? Yes, there are now three separate gifted schools.
Kennard Classical Junior Academy, the oldest program located in the North Hampton Neighborhood, had an extensive waiting list, which led to the expanded program at Mallinckrodt Academy of Gifted Instruction in the Lindenwood Park Neighborhood...both in South City.
Yeah, we are the Brick City. We are also becoming the Beer City of the Midwest. The history is certainly there, but the influx of microbreweries since Schlafly broke the mold in 1991 has been amazing to witness.
1991, the year STL malt broke!
Usually we look back at our past and pine for the good old days (World's Fair and Riverboats, I'm looking at you). Fact is, when it comes to beer, the past was indeed great...but the present and future is better.
St. Louis' beer scene is on the rise and getting more and more diverse. I thought we could only sustain maybe five breweries in St. Louis (a city of ~310,000). Boy was I wrong.
Forest Park continues to assert itself as the premier park in the region. Of St. Louis' 108 parks, and Tower Grove Park, it is the crown jewel. Largely due to the successful public/private partnership that is Forest Park Forever...
The investment and transformation of this park has been nothing short of stunning. This park was in much need of upgrades and leadership...a master plan.
As the years have passed, we've seen high profile projects transform the park including the Grand Basin at the foot of Art Hill, the meandering creeks, the golf courses, the Spanish Pavilion, the way finding, the landscape...all fantastic upgrades.
The results have exceeded by expectations on nearly every level.
One of the questions I've been asked over the years is who named and plotted out the 79 neighborhoods of St. Louis.
Through a recent Twitter conversation with someone trying to understand how old the name of their neighborhood is, the topic is once again top of mind.
You know, it would be kind of cool to have a born on date for neighborhoods in the current vernacular.
"Fox Park, Established 1885" something like that...you catch my drift?