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Correcting The Creative Class Story

April 28, 2006 Books 9 Comments

Last June I joined a group of people at the now closed Gallery Urbis Orbis for an interview on St. Louis’ “Creative Class.” It was a fun few hours as we all shared our stories and thoughts on the impact of this group on St. Louis. The article finally made it to the May 2006 issue of St. Louis Magazine.

Unfortunately, among all the people and issues discussed that day, some of the facts are a bit off:

Artist and real estate agent Steve Patterson and his partner, formerly of Seattle, were on their way to New York when they thought, “We saw these beautiful old buildings and thought, ‘This is it: We’re stopping here,'” he recalls. “Now I’ve got other Seattle friends looking to buy here, too.”

While I am a real estate agent I have never been, nor will I ever be, an artist. Art is not my thing although you can’t spend five years in architecture school without being creative. Besides selling real estate I also do free-lance design consultation for everything from simple projects to large residential projects.

And I am not from Seattle. Regular readers know I’m a native of Oklahoma City. I have been to Seattle numerous times. The real story is I was ready to leave Oklahoma as soon as classes were done. My friend Mary Ann had spent the summer in D.C. interning at a way too conservative think tank. We decided to be roommates in D.C. The year was 1990 and unemployment was high as was the cost of living. Mary Ann’s mom lives on Lemp so after we loaded up stuff in Mary Ann’s car we drove up I-44 to St. Louis to stay a couple nights before heading to D.C.

As a kid my family traveled quite a bit but that was mostly to Southern cities in Texas and Florida where my brother, nearly 18 years older than me, was stationed in the U.S. Navy. I had been to large cities in college such as Dallas and Los Angeles but they didn’t call out to me. I even had a trip to Kansas City while I was in college but it didn’t beckon me.

We arrived on a hot Saturday afternoon in August 1990. I was behind the wheel of Mary Ann’s Honda Civic. Just past Kingshighway I began to fall in love. With what? The rows of houses along both sides of I-44, most of which have now been razed for the Botanical Heights vinyl box subdivision. We exited at Arsenal and turned onto Lemp. Benton Park was just getting going at that time so it was still a bit rough but I didn’t mind at all. It didn’t take long for us to walk over to Venice Cafe for a drink. I was sold on St. Louis literally within hours of arriving.

The next day Mary Ann, her mom and a gay couple she knew gave me the tour of the town. We stopped at Ted Drewes on Watson (my only time to that location), walked up and down Euclid, and passed by the buildings on Grand that were being razed for what is now Kinko’s & Bread Co. I knew, after seeing only part of the city, that I was home.

After a short visit to D.C. and a train & bus ride back to Oklahoma I got my trusty Dodge Colt and everything that would fit into it (not much) and returned to St. Louis. Hardly the most methodical way to decide where to live. What if her mom lived in Little Rock or Biloxi? Would I have falling in love with those cities the way I did St. Louis? Probably not.

I just bought the May 2006 issue of St. Louis Mag and haven’t read the Creative Class story yet. I’ve been too busy flipping through the pages of ads for new Bentleys and Rolex watches.

[UPDATE 4/28/06 @ 4pm – St. Louis Magazine called me to let me know they’ve cleaned up the story in the online version which can be read here.]

– Steve


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. margie Newman says:

    blah blah creatives blah blah.

    what’s the point if you don’t have an infrastructure to support them?

    if they could get Larry Williams to enforce the two-hour parking meter limit, so downtown retail could survive, now that would be creative.

    if you could get officials to see beyond the parking lot as a development tool, now that would be creative.

    if you could get past aldermanic courtesy, that would be beyond friggin creative — it would be brilliant.

    but I can’t wait to read the article anyway …

  2. rl'e says:

    But Steve, you are an artist! 😉

    http://www.dictionary.com lists the following as one of the definitions of artist:

    A person whose work shows exceptional creative ability or skill.

    You have certainly done this through your efforts to critique the city scape and analize the issues.

    Yours in Literal Meaning,


    P.S. I started reading the article of mention the other day. I am impressed by St. Louis Magazine’s efforts of late. In the past, they would not have ventured east of Skinker, let alone 170 (they could have been called West County Mag.) but the fact that they sought out this group in downtown is a great thing and they do push for a very strong regional focus which is not always an easy feat.

  3. Jason Toon says:

    Great story. As somebody who’s always lived here (and loves it), I sometimes wonder how anybody from out of town falls in love with the place. Maybe we’re not as ordinary as I think.

  4. G-d, I’m sick of the phrase “creative class” and, besides, I don’t think that I have enough money to even qualify as a member.

    As Margie points out, what does it really mean without a supportive culture?

    But, as a resident of Old North St. Louis whose income is far below the city’s average, I live in a city that is full of potential and steer clear of many headaches. There is a lot of support in this city for weird and creative things — it’s just far from the public eye. I sometimes feel like I live in the most creative city in the world, even on days when I don’t leave my block. That a person as relatively poor as myself can feel this way should say something very good about St. Louis, “creative class” theory or not.

  5. SMSPlanstu says:

    Since the “creatives” have been priced out of Downtown why not kick start the riverfront with very cheap unfinished loft spaces in slightly refurbished old industrial buildings?

    Another idea is to do the same for old industrial buildings between midtown and Downtown West or pioneer the rehabs movement across the northside and not just ONSL or Hyde Park? We have plenty of potential!

  6. ^

    Good ideas!

  7. Margie Newman says:

    Michael, you are most definitely a CC member. The bow tie alone would qualify you!

    Yours in creativity,


    PS I don’t deny the role of creatives in revitalizaiton — just their co-optation by so-called leaders as a buzz word/gimmick in lieu of real change. Empty talk about attracting creatives is about as useful as a Downtown NOW development plan.

  8. Margie,

    Thanks for the enorsement, but…will I now be fending away offers from elected officials to appear on podcasts on their websites?

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