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Ten Things I Love About St. Louis, and Ten Reasons Why I Left:

February 28, 2008 Downtown, Guest, STL Region 79 Comments

Editor’s Note: While Steve Patterson is recovering from his stroke, Urban Review St. Louis will present guest essays from a variety of perspectives. Discuss. Enjoy. Argue. Disagree. Stick around!

Guest Editorial by Margie Newman

Margie Headshot 1

I love St. Louis, even though I chose to leave it. Random reasons:

Things I Love About St. Louis …

  1. The amazing architecture–at least the structures that haven’t been demolished for parking lots. Ahem.
  2. The Arch. How did that happen? In St. Louis? Really!
  3. People like Steve Patterson, Michael Allen, Antonio French, Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier, who’ve put themselves on the line to stand up for this place.
  4. Forest Park. Man, I miss that park.
  5. The North Side. I spent my earliest years in Walnut Park, and I have a deep, abiding, regret-filled love for that part of the city. The brick architecture, the density, the trees, the corner stores. The real feeling of neighborhood.
  6. Washington Avenue’s renaissance. But see below for the flip side of that coin …
  7. The neighborhoods, in roughly this order: Downtown, the Hill, South Grand/Tower Grove, Soulard, Lafayette Square, CWE, the U City and St. Louis sides of the Loop, midtown.
  8. The water towers. Weird and wonderful.
  9. Calvary and Bellefontaine cemeteries. Almost as much as Forest Park.
  10. The art freaks. Even when they’re bellyaching.

But I Left St. Louis Because …

  1. I’m 45, and while the city is getting better, St. Louis isn’t going to become enough city for me in my lifetime–at least not during the part of my lifetime in which I’m continent and ambulatory.
  2. My industry isn’t happening or growing in St. Louis on the scale it is elsewhere, and pay rates for my work are less than half of what they are in Chicago (where I live now). Sad, but a fact.
  3. I spent too much time in St. Louis convincing people, especially “leaders,” that the earth is round. If they hadn’t seen it with their own eyes, they couldn’t imagine it might work here. It’d help if they left town now and then, or listened to experts who came here to share lessons from the outside world (cf. Rollin Stanley).
  4. There was work to do downtown, and not enough of us to do it. I admit: I burned out.
  5. The people who run/ran Downtown St. Louis, the Partnership, and other “civic progress” groups are largely invested in NOT changing things. The old regime is fully entrenched, protecting its piece of the ever-shrinking pie.
  6. Alright, you all knew this was coming, but … the Century Building fiasco. It proves (and taught me) the intractability of reason #5. I still find it unbelievable that it all went down like it did.
  7. Washington Avenue. Yep, it’s cool. But what the hell? Why so much investment focused on and limited to ONE street? Turn north or south at 14th Street, and it feels like you’ve suddenly left Disney’s Main St.
  8. Empty promises. Drive around downtown and ask yourself: weren’t they supposed to re-time these lights? Wasn’t there an article about wi-fi being installed all over downtown … like four YEARS ago?
  9. Violations of the street grid, such as amputating St. Charles Street block by block. Drive down 4th Street and weep.
  10. The unsettling feeling that no one’s minding the store. So many basic things untended. Examples; crumbling infrastructure, inadequate police patrols/traffic control, the sheer number of people running stop signs (and I mean RUNNING them) in mid-town. But hey, check out Ballpark Village! Oh, wait …

I love St. Louis. I miss St. Louis. But I can’t say that I will ever come back other than to visit. Not soon, for sure. But I applaud all y’all for hanging in there and fighting for what we all know St. Louis can be. In a younger person’s lifetime, at least.


Currently there are "79 comments" on this Article:

  1. awb says:

    Good points Margie. We share a lot of the loves and good reasons to leave St. Louis. I’m still here with no plans to leave, but I know the deflating feeling that tugs me in the direction of better urban venues.

    I think your description of our city “leadership” is spot on. They are able to throw money around and use their power to get things done, but they are too entrenched in doing what clearly doesn’t work. They are impotent in effecting change, because they won’t try what has been proven to be effective. It’s all more BIG developments, more parking, dead end streets, and demolition of our built environment–things that kill the urban feeling I crave.

    I was looking at a web page for a local bank yesterday and it broke my heart to see photos of all their branches. Disposable buildings with lots of parking, and difficult entry from the street for pedestrians. Compare that to what we have lost.

    As for the Century Building, what uber development will surpass the elegance and durability of the Century? They spent half a billion dollars on the casino on the landing, and all we got to look at is a green glass building. Sure, some people think the lighting is cool. But in a hundred years, what will it look like? Compare it to the photos of the Century before demolition if you really want to get depressed. Thanks for the link to the website. If it won’t get us down too much, it may get us ready for the next battle.

  2. Otto says:

    If St. Louis is going to make it back, it’s going to take a practical, hard-boiled effort to get the urban economy running. At the end of the day, the rest of the stuff is icing on the cake that will come with a thriving economy. That’s how it worked in New York, Chicago, and originally in St. Louis. Much of the credit in Chicago, for example, has to go to the slaughterhouses and all the other dirty industries that you don’t typically see when you’re admiring the architecture on the boat tour.

  3. whoa says:

    what an effing bummer. some of us happen to love this shit hole.

  4. stlmark says:

    I understand and agree with many of your points. But let me ask you this: how easy do you think it will be to have involvement in city govt and planning when in Chicago? If you have a beef with traffic signals in CHI, how will you be received with you personal complaints? Do you think it will be any easier to advance your personal agenda there as it was here? Are grass roots efforts as easy to get started in a city of 2,833,321 people as it is in a city of ~348,000?

  5. john says:

    Chicago…great decision! Loved living in that exciting and vibrant city. Grass roots efforts are strong and effective…it also helps that the city is loaded with talented, well educated, open minded, civic-oriented, and successful citizens. Even the mayor is willing to challenge the status quo and push for innovative solutions.
    – –
    You’re so right about wanting to leave for reasons 1,2, 3 & 5. Your concerns are common to the numerous and talented friends I knew in StL who have left for greener pastures, and glad they did. Of course they miss Forest Park but not the provincial attitudes.
    – –
    Good luck, stay warm, and I’m sure you already recognize and appreciate the important differences between a prosperous, open-minded city and StL. You WILL have a great time and learn plenty about what makes cities successful.

  6. Mike says:

    I am seeing the neighborhood organizations rapidly getting younger. I think that will filter up to the alderman level and eventually the mayor and decision makers in the city. It will take time. I don’t blame you for leaving. I do hope you check in on the progress though.

  7. Otto says:

    Thanks John, I was just wondering how the Chicago Chamber Commerce felt about this issue. But some of your points are well taken. Unfortunately, St. Louis turns many an idealist into urban roadkill. In St. Louis, lectures don’t get you very far, even if you’re right. You have to do it yourself and then show people why it’s better.

  8. Dennis says:

    Marg, what’s your take on the new bridge situation? In my opinion it’s a total waste. Why does a little one horse city like St. Louis need FIVE bridges leading into downtown? Of the four we already have, everyone keeps crowding onto the Poplar St. bridge because the other three are just a big pain in the neck to get too! They are perfectly good bridges by the way, with almost brand new road decks. The Mckinley bridge just opened a couple months ago. Wonder how many people even know about it? If they would just make these bridges we already have more easily accessable to I-70 we wouldn’t need any new bridge. The article in the post the other day said they expect 40,000 cars a day to use the new one. Just doesnt seem worth it to me to spend over 600 million for 40,000 cars a day. And when I said “one horse city” I guess I was stretching it a bit, but really, compared to other big cities and THEIR traffic we are just a little town. People in Chicago would probably laugh at us if they heard us complaining about our traffic jams. We have no traffic problems here as far as I can see. You get stuck in a jam on the way home and it rarely lasts more than 15 or 20 minutes. That’s nothing. The whole 40 shutdown scare turned out to be a big joke. People just had to finally learn their way around their own home town for the first time in their life and learn a DIFFERENT way to get to work. That’s one of St. Louis’ biggest problems. People are just absolute blockheads when it comes to navigating. I know people who have lived here their entire life (past 50 now) and yet if they have to go into a strange neighborhood they are totally lost. It’s almost as if they’ve never sat down and studied a map of St. Louis. So when I read about this new bridge it kind of makes me wonder. Does the mayor even know HIS way around town? Has HE ever studied a map? Has he ever checked out websites like Google earth or Local.live.com? Seems like if he and the othe big dogs pushing the bridge idea ever did they would see what I see. JUST MAKE THE BRIDGES WE HAVE MORE ACCESSABLE!!!!!! Make ramps leading dirrectly from 70 to the Mckinley, and then in Illinois build a short road connecting that end of Mckinley to 55/70.

  9. dude says:

    Hooray for the guest poster, it smacks of a chic girl’s mag of ten things lists but hey, lets go with it. I was in Chicago for a weekend get away this past weekend. I know visit in the summer not in the winter… It was a heart breaker for me to see the number of active building cranes in Chicago vs St. Louis espicially that Trump tower going up along the river. That’s probably two names you won’t see in the same sentence, Trump and St. Louis. I realize the Lake front is 10 times more beautiful than the murky Mississippi snaking down between us and Illinois but I’m at a loss of words to describe the difference in energy/momentum. I will say they have the advantage of being pancake flat but I will also say, they are by no means the complete opposite of auto centric. Another fear/thought I have… St. Louis is cited as an “affordable” place to live. I wonder if that translates to less demand for higher paid labor which may likely have higher IQ’s for more mentally challenging vocations.

  10. CHIKCATLROW says:

    [Guest Editor’s note: this comment was flagged by software to be moderated and I missed it. It was originally posted February 28, 2008 @ 22:53 but I retimed it to show later so it wouldn’t get lost in the subsequent comments. My apologies. Here is the completely unedited original version.]


    First – Best to Steve in his recovery.

    I wish I had met you while you resided in STL………I grew up in Chi Town. I had a pass to the CTA at age 15…. I have lived in Chicago, KC, Atlanta, Amsterdam, and NYC……and yet…… here I am; in STL – lived here 4 years. I am 39 and have the following to offer:

    Things I love about STL:
    1. Visit Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee. STL has the most intact fabric of any city in the US…and the 2nd largest botanical garden in the US.

    2. The Arch – It happened by condeming and wrecking the greatest collection of cast iron storefront buildings in the United States. STL -due to its position in history, economic power, and its place in time, STL had THREE times the number of cast Iron buildings present in New York’s Soho district. Unfortunaltey – Urban decline resided in STL pre- WWII, thus plans….were hatched well before any preservation defense to save the physical evidence existed.

    3. People – John Steffen, Kevin McGowan, Amy & Armit Gill, Chris Goodson – money where the mouth is……Did you ever invest 7 figures in a STL building? I have not…..but…..can we really cast a stone?

    4. Forest Park – The greatest asset and detriment STL has. No other city in the
    US has concentrated their public and cultural institutions in a single location so disconnected from from the CBD…….yet on Sunday morning when I tee off, ride a bike, or paddle my kayak……………..peace, solitude, and exhileration….I

    5. GET A GRIP – North STL is the single greatest concentration of poverty and disconnected family social strucutre of any city or neighborhood except Detroit. Soak up the Sun – it is ALL racial……..and not an easy fix. I lived in ATL for 10 years – and STL is the MOST racist city I have ever encountered. No wonder Samuel Clemens chose a pseudonym……!!

    6. Washington Ave – How else would you propose STL start? Wash Ave was the entry to the city in the 19th century, thus it’s buildings reflect that prominence. Year 2000 Investment in infrastructure was focused to drive development – which it has. There are two MODESA projects currently before the MO State legislature that will extend the grid North / South – as you recommend.

    7. “Touchet” – nice ranking – but your premise ignores the fact that Bevo Mill, South City also serve as anchors…….you want cool and hip…but there are lots of sub markets you ignore….did you really live here?

    8. Do you think Saarinen found inspiration in them? (that is a rhetorical question). 630′ above mean sea level is NOT a coincendence……..is homework required for you?

    9. For their vacant abandoned quality or the iconic family fortune gone awry quality?

    10. Do you know any?

    But you left because:
    1. No, it will not, but if people like you do not stay and invest their talent…..how can you critique?

    2. I do not know your industry – but I do know that my colleagues in NYC, CHI, SEA, and SAN F – pay THREE-FOUR TIMES what I do per square foot of living space, commute a minimum of 50 minutes to the “office” and can only contribute 2-4% gross earnings to retirement….due to “cost of living”….but they must be “cultured”? My “commute is 12 minutes…..i am likely a “freak”….i write on bark with charcoal…..

    3. Yes…….Rollin planted seeds; he even watered…..but he did not like to “weed”……….and stomped about the garden with flat shoes………

    4. Wish I could have met you sooner before you gave up on STL…..we are spread thin….

    5. A very generalist comment…..there are many tents in the camp.

    6. What was your solution? I am beyond “familiar” with the economic model associated with saving the exerior facade and inserting a new strucure behind the “historic” facade and the required complicance with seismic retrofit. If you have a cost benefit analysis beyond the published versions…please share!

    7. See 6 in your “LOVE” section. As planners, idealists, and …..here is the secret….(we have no money crusaders)…………The city invested the available capital improvment funds available, to establish a foothold…..a position……a root….
    you have me.

    8. I was in Chicago on 2/22/08 and in Portland OR 01/17/08…..no “free” WIFI…..Socialist Pipe Dream…….?

    9. St Charles St was “ampunated” and the grid abandoned in the 70’s and 80’s……all in an effort to “revitalize” the city. Margie -I believe you made a great effort to advance the city…..but this blog is not a sufficient environment to debate the failed merits of urban planning or ill conceived urban redevelopment objectives……..

    10. The Store – you might be very right….or very wrong. I grew up in a Chicago “Dailey” belief system. Good, Bad, or Indifferent – The Dailey Family has run Chicago politics since 1955…..for 42 of the past 55 years………Chicago is a GREAT city…..The Dailey Family minds the store. It can be a wonderful thing…………

  11. Computer Goddess (Aspiring Chicagoan) says:

    Bravo and Agree with a lot of your points and people who have stuck it out there like Marcia Behrendt and Co. So much for that City Wide Wifi, too. Who was the ad wizard who thought of that and forgot to check with the City Lighting Crew! I love St Louis, my heart will always be here! But much like (Margie). While I am still vertical and just 45, I want to live in a thriving metropolis!! Plus they have much better newspapers and a choice!

  12. Jim Zavist says:

    I have the opposite perspective, having moved here just 3½ years ago. It’s been a learning experience, one that hasn’t been colored by too many preconceptions and too much political baggage. Ane yes, this site has been invaluable in understanding a lot of the whys and why nots about life around here.
    As for Margie’s observations, I don’t have a lot to add. Not knowing her “industry”, I can’t really comment on the opportunities, or lack thereof, here. Many of her other negatives are directly (and indirectly) related to the city’s shift from an industrial economy to a service economy. Blame NAFTA or “the unions” or industrial growth in the third world or even desgregation, but the world St. Louis knew and thrived in in the first half of the twentieth century is gone and won’t be coming back. So, in some ways, it’s not surprising that we are, or appear to be, struggling to find our place in a “new world”, but so are many other “rust belt” cities. Still, there are two sides to “twice the pay”, including significantly-higher housing costs and/or longer, more-expensive commutes. And yes, until we move past a mid-century Chamber of Commerce mindset, we’re going to continue to repeat past mistakes.
    Our “crumbling infrastructure”, both public and private, is directly related to a lack of money. There also seems to be a focus on making “big” projects happen, instead of making a lot of small, incremental “successes” happen. Unfortunately, the bigger the project, the bigger the incentives seem to be, leaving less and less for our day-to-day “challenges”. Addressing simple things, like eliminating the city income tax, would make the city a lot more attractive to “new” businesses. I know of firms in Clayton who are looking to relocate within the region within the next year. And while “all options are on the table”, the city sales tax has pretty much eliminated the city from their consideration. They’re not looking for a subsidy, but they are looking at overhead costs, for both their employees individually and for the firm as a business entity. Much like Social Security, you can’t expect to tax a shrinking population (both residential and business) at ever-increasing rates to fund the same level of services. The “right” answer is to focus on governmental efficiency, reducing taxes and red tape and attracting new jobs, 10, 20, 50 at a time. Centene’s thousands may have been a “win”, but at what cost? Is it “fair” to give them a break on city taxes while imposing them on hunderds of smaller businesses? If we were able to grow our employment base by 30,000 or 50,000 over the next decade, guess what, many of our other challenges would solve themselves!
    Finally, I have mixed feelings on how much the existing political infrastructure negatively impacts urban life here. As a newbie, it does seem to be an inefficient structure – I’m not sure if 28 Aldermen are really necessary, and I don’t quite understand the need these days for a summer recess. But, as Margie alludes to, the real challenge is one of ATTITUDES. Both “aldermanic courtesy” and the politics of race conspire against real success. Not every problem is ward based, nor can every one be solved with one ward’s resources or “politcal capital”. Combine that with a pervasive conviction that deals are best done behind closed doors and its no surprise that citizens’ attitudes vary from disengaged to distrustful. Real dialogue and more of a focus on working together (yes, across ward boundaries) to make more successes happen eveywhere will do more to turn things around than will “protecting one’s turf” at all costs. In the short term, there would be “inequity”. In the long term, a “rising tide would raise all boats”. I’ve watched it happen in Chicago and Denver, there’s no reason why it can’t happen here!

  13. Otto says:

    Jim, great comment.

    For me the difference is this: If you want to enjoy the benefits of living in a built-out thriving metropolis, then Chicago may be for you. If you want to help build a thriving metropolis, then St. Louis is for you.

    I love visiting Chicago, and there are certainly many great examples in Chicago for St. Louis to emulate. But as somebody who loves city design and architecture, I think there is much more opportunity in St. Louis to make a difference. Moving to Chicago would be almost like retiring (BTW, I would move to New York before Chicago).

    I view today’s Chicagoans as caretakers. The men and women who are responsible for our thriving neighbor to the north are long dead. The fate of St. Louis, on the other hand, depends on what we do in the next 20 years.

  14. john w. says:

    Bravo to the last two comments. Jim, you seemed to interchange in the 3rd paragraph regarding crumbling infrastructure between income and sales tax. Did you mean both?

  15. Jim Zavist says:

    John – you’re right – I meant to say income tax . . .

  16. Margie says:

    I appreciate the responses above and agree with most of them. I certainly agree that if you want to build a thriving metropolis, vs. merely enjoy the benefits of living in one, then St. Louis is for you. I enjoyed being part of the good fight in St. Louis — until I didn’t enjoy it as much.

    Most definitely, the move to Chicago has come with a more (albeit not completely) passive role in the civic scene. There aren’t as many pressing needs. And I’ll also admit that as a result of my decision, my personal life has never been better. I applaud those of you fighting the fight in St. Louis; the best people I met in St. Louis are the fighters who are still my friends. I’m cheering you on from the sidelines to the north. I just wish it hadn’t been so easy for me to decide to move on.

  17. john w. says:

    For how long would the city income tax be eliminated?

  18. Jim Zavist says:

    Hopefully forever, or until our suburban neighbors decided to follow in our “enlightened” footsteps (and the “playing field” becomes more “level”) . . . bottom line, if you give people a financial choice, they’re going to vote for the one that costs them the least.
    I understand the theory – stick it to workers who use city resources while working here, yet aren’t hit with local property taxes because they choose to live elsewhere. The reality is that the city income tax has become an economic-development disincentive. Most jobs aren’t in the city anymore, so we no longer have a “captive audience” – employers have choices. Property taxes in the city are low and can be raised. We now have a “robust” or “the highest in the region” sales tax, thanks to the last election. The reality is that any business pays more in property taxes than a residence does, so by chasing away business, we’re forcing our government to put more of the tax burden on local residents.
    I also understand that taxes are needed to fund government services, and I realize that shrinking government is a tough proposition. What I’m advocating for is looking at our total tax picture, vis a vis our economic development opportunities. We’re doing way more harm than good when we discourage potential employers by being “out of step” with our neighbors/competitors. Do I want my property taxes to go up? No! But it beats the alternative, of continued loss of anything more than retail and service sector jobs . . .

  19. OneShoePam says:

    Geez, I love St. Louis. Maybe you never belong here to begin with…

  20. keep it positive says:

    Hopefully when Steve makes it back he will take my advice that we need to be positive. This post wasn’t nothing more than a conduit to vent our frustration with St. Louis. It isn’t healthy.
    I believe if we start posting positive comments and do away with top ten reason I (hate/left) St. Louis then we all benefit. Another blogger did something similiar when he left for Iowa.

  21. Otto says:

    Margie’s guest editorial was provocative, like a good blog post should be.

    [Editor’s note:  EXACTLY!!!!]

  22. Jeff Vines says:

    It’s easy to get frustrated living in the City of Plans. But for all my gripes, I am constantly reminded why I’ve stuck around. Taking out-of-town friends around our incredible city and listening to them “oooh” and “aaah” around every corner is enough for me. It’s usually followed up with “You paid WHAT? That’s insane!” The simple truth is, St. Louis is easy living. While its easy for us as residents to criticize (and there’s a lot to be critical of), St. Louis still manages to do a lot of things right, and I love being a part of this work-in-progress. I’d go nuts if I visit other cities frequently, but there’s nothing like coming home to the Red Brick Mama. Waking up in St. Louis on a sunny Saturday morning puts me in a good mood– another day to discover something new or reacquaint myself with something old. The passion I have for this city is far beyond anything I could possibly feel in any other city, and I am very proud to live here.

    I like Chicago and I’m thankful it’s so close, but if I ever leave St. Louis, I’ll be New York-bound.

    (Margie, we miss you! Say hi to Alan)

  23. Soon to be ex says:

    My wife and I are in our mid 30’s and moved here a year ago, because we thought there would be opportunities to grow here with the city. Now we’re fleeing back to the coast, for many of the same reasons you cited. So long St. Louis.

  24. thoughts from south grand says:

    good show, i like to visit chicago also

  25. ex-stl says:

    “the Red Brick Mama”

    is that your phrase? I may have to steal it regardless.

  26. Nick Kasoff says:

    These may be 10 great reasons for childless urban enthusiasts in the art world. I too am an urban enthusiast, though to a lesser degree than Ms. Newman. I am also hitched to this area for the next 15 years due to my wife and I both having children by former spouses. Two years ago, we wanted to live in a walkable, urban area, and seriously considered buying a home in the city. We ended up in Ferguson, for completely different reasons than she ended up in Chicago:
    1. No affordable city neighborhood is more than a few blocks from rough areas, unless you want to live in a shoebox at River Des Peres @ 55. We live in a great area in Ferguson, and Castle Point is 3 miles away. Even the rough part of Ferguson is almost 2 miles away.
    2. The inter-racial hostility that makes headlines in the city (and Kirkwood, apparently) does not exist here. We all get along. Really. Makes me wonder whether I’m even in St. Louis.
    3. Our schools don’t suck as bad. Ok, our kids still go to parochial school, but if we were really broke and they had to go to public school, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
    4. My oldest kid can ride his bike to the grocery store to pick something up for me.
    5. I feel no urge to buy “The Club.”
    6. No boarded up buildings. Well, actually there are a couple in the “Kinloch Heights” section, and one on North Dade, but nothing anywhere else.
    7. No earnings tax. Not that it is very much money, I just don’t like the idea of it.
    8. Cops have time to deal with things like stray dogs, because they aren’t buried with unsolved murders and rampant drug dealing.
    9. Strict exterior appearance standards that actually get enforced. No interior inspections at all.
    10. A city government that is, for the most part, efficient, friendly, and oriented toward serving the best interests of the community.
    And the great thing is, we can still go to Forest Park, which is only 15 minutes away. Calvary and Bellefontaine cemeteries are much closer, though I’ve never been there … I’d be interested to know what the attraction is, since they are just 5 miles from my home.

  27. Margie says:

    Hey Nick! Great list, and just the sort of conversation I was hoping to inspire. Re. the cemeteries, on the first nice day in spring, get your self on down to Bellefontaine. Go ALL the way to the back and behold the Wainwright Tomb. Louis Sullivan is the official designer of it, but Frank Lloyd Wright’s hand is obvious (he was a draftsman for Sullivan at the time). If you wait ’til May, the tulip trees will be blooming, and it is truly spectacular. Then wander up and down that magnificent boulevard of dead St. Louis. Really, really gorgeous mausoleums, tombs, trees, views of Baden and the river, and tons of history (not just on “millionaire row” but throughout). William Clark, Adolphus Busch, Thomas Hart Benton, William S. Burroughs and many more. Just wander around (for hours) and enjoy. Calvary holds host to Tennessee Williams, Gen. Sherman, Dred Scott, Choteau and others. There’s even one that says Margaret Mary Newman. : )
    Just don’t get caught in there at five minutes after closing, because they DO lock the gates. Not that I know that from first-hand experience. ; )


  28. john says:

    Margie, Chicago provides so many attractions that one can enjoy everyday, and you will. What really is amazing is how these become part of your daily life and with no need for a car. Here is a short list of ten things you may want to consider.
    – –
    1. WALK everywhere everyday, it becomes an important part of a new and joyous lifestyle. no car needed! Walk through the buildings for shortcuts, take a stroll on the one of the many beaches, walk through Lincoln Park Zoo on the way home or stop at a corner pub to meet friends. Getting tired or somewhat in a hurry, then take mass transit or grab a cab. Parking is no longer a critical element in a daily lifestyle that has no time for such frivolities. You’ll be in much better shape for it too.
    – –
    2. ARCHITECTURAL APPRECIATION (daily!): If you’re a fan of Sullivan, Wright, et al, be sure to head over to the Rookery, location of the offices of Burnham and Root. I’m no longer there to arrange a personal tour of Wright’s office, originally maintained including the furniture, custom desks and many of his original blueprints. As you walk the streets, be sure to visit Carson-Prairie, the Monadnock, the Board of Trade, the old public library building, the Tribune, Wrigley (yes the stadium too!)…the list is long, and no car needed.
    – –
    3. ENTERTAINMENT: Numerous live theater groups are all around, the Steppenwolf, the Goodman, live bands on Lincoln everyday, the Symphony is grand (so is the building), movie theaters galore even with live organ music (Music Box theater), and don’t miss Facet Multimedia, outdoor music in the summer at many Loop office buildings, Ravinia,…be sure to get your weekly Reader for great stories and lists of shows.
    – –
    4. DINING: Amazing, especially if you prefer such ethnic cuisine like gourmet Mexican (visit Topolobampo,Rick Baylis’s place), German, Polish, Italian, Greek, Asian, Spanish, etc. Many of the best places are small family restaurants…inexpensive and good. You walk by these places daily and enjoy the ribs at Belushi’s favorite (he would have them flown to LA).
    – –
    5. MUSEUMS: Art, History, Science & Industry, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and numerous independent art galleries…each will require more than one visit to get a handle on the opportunities to appreciate and learn, no car needed.
    – –
    6. CELEBRATIONS: The Air & Water Show is alive and thriving, don’t miss it. Well known are the St Pat’s parades and the river is dyed green. The Gay Parade back in the early 70’s was incredible but now is used as a political stage. Most of the promoted festivities like the Food fairs are avoided by the city folks as the area is filled with too many from the burbs. Think about heading out of town to Wisconsin or Michigan.
    – –
    7. WI GETAWAYS: Just hop on a train or a bus and head for Wisconsin to visit Wright’s school, Taliesin in Spring Green. Be sure to take your bike as all of WI is a cycling paradise. Many Rails-to-Trails conversions and they’re extensive and well maintained. Don’t miss Door County and be sure to visit Rock Island, a state park, that can only be accessed by a ferry ride, no cars allowed.
    – –
    8. MI WEEKENDS: Take the South Shore Line train to towns like New Buffalo (only 90 minutes away) and enjoy watching the sun set in the Lake while sipping local wines on the beach. All along the shore lines in MI the beaches are beautiful, natural and some of the dunes are over 400 feet tall. Be sure to take your bike there too as it is great cycling country full of orchards and vineyards. The Apple Cider Century is held there every year in the fall. With more time, head further north to Saugatuck and Holland for their tulip and outdoor festivals when Chicago becomes too crowded with suburbanites. Traverse City is wonderful and Mackinac Island is grand, no cars allowed.
    – –
    9. CYCLING: OK, I’m biased, but Chicago is a great cycling town with effective advocacy and a supporting mayor. Get up when the sun rises and take the Lake Michigan bike path to Hyde Park for breakfast. Tour my alma mater the U of C…great campus, great hospital, great library, etc. You’ll be amazed of how many others are already out cycling, jogging, walking and rollerblading so early. Otherwise head north to Evanston, Glencoe, etc. visit the many beaches, Northwestern U, and, as Steve will tell you, the great vegetarian restaurants that have been there for decades. No “just Washington ave” problems here…take the bike paths out of the City to the Botanical Gardens – the paths are in dense forests and you can’t believe your in one of the world’s largest cities.
    – –
    10. RELAX: Yes there are so many things to do you will be initially overwhelmed with choices. Simply watch the sailboats especially in the fall when they enter the river for storage as all the bridges must be raised. Sit on one of the many beaches, watch the waves and enjoy the views. If you like Bellefontaine, be sure to visit Graceland. Visit Lincoln in Grant Park or Grant in Lincoln Park, or whatever…
    – –
    Chicago provides so many attractions of walkable-street level features and provides incentives to artists and other creative business types. The City is constantly changing and strives to better the quality of life for everyone, at all income levels…get involved! Life is too short to miss this kind of lifestyle. I heard about your experience of being locked in last year just as it happened. You’re clearly adventurous and Chicago will be your kind of town. Enjoy it, I’m sure you will.

  29. Jim Zavist says:

    OneShoePam & Keep It Positive – identifying disincetives is not being negative. I moved here out of choice. St. Louis had and has a lot to offer, including a central location and great housing values. But things are not perfect and “all rosy”, and one big way to make positive changes happen is to discuss the “problems” and to propose, and work for, improvements.
    Trust me, relative stagnation ain’t all bad. Booming areas face a whole different set of “challenges”, including gentrification, sprawl, increasing congestion and impacts on and to natural resources. Still, there’s a significant difference between slow or reasonable growth and negative growth and disinvestment. St. Louis, as a whole, has walked fine line between the two for decades, with some/more neighborhoods/wards on the positive side, and some/fewer on the negative side. And, for better or worse, the region overall is doing well.
    What the city is facing is not much different than what many other “core” cities have faced and what many inner-ring suburban cities are beginning to experience. The difference is that some core cities (Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Portland, maybe Atlanta, maybe Pittsburgh, maybe Kansas City) have been more “successful” at reinventing themselves, to be relevant and successful in the 21st Century, while others (St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo) are still struggling in many people’s eyes.
    I continue to point at jobs as the big definer of success – good jobs bring talented people who have the resources to invest the rebirth of a neighborhood and a city. It may not be “fair”, but if you’re making minimum wage, you can’t afford to do a great renovation or support trendy boutiques or classy bistros – it’s more an everyday struggle just to survive. You can’t pay the taxes necessary to maintain the city’s infrastructure, and the unfortunate truth is that poverty breeds and attracts street crime.
    The cities that are more “successful” are doing so for multiple reasons, some very tangible, some very intangible. St. Louis is not in the sunbelt, the summers are muggy and the winters are dreary, but the same can be said of Chicago. Sure, Phoenix and Portland and Denver have great weather, but they’re also attracting businesses for pragmatic business reasons, simple stuff, like lower taxes – taxes in California are viewed by more and more as confiscatory, and moving “across the line” to Arizona or Nevada or Oregon or Colorado becomes more and more attractive. Much has also been made recently of the importance of attracting the “creative class” to drive a city’s vitality. We have our pockets and we could probably use more, but it’s truly an intangible – what’s “cool” changes irrationally.
    Bottom line, we don’t suck, but we could do better. Is that “negative” or “an honest assessment”. Do we want the negatives that being truly cool would bring, things like huge spikes in housing costs? Or, are we satisfied to enjoy “our little secret”, warts and all? One group to ask would be one long-time but soon-to-be-ex-resident, the Sporting News (who announced their move from St. Louis to Charlotte this weekend). Unless their primary goal is get much more involved in NASCAR, they’re moving to North Carolina (and out of Missouri) for pragmatic business and lifestyle reasons – it would be good to know why . . .

  30. northside neighbor says:

    Does anyone know if Kids growing up in the Chicago area have as much wanderlust as kids growing up in STL? What about parochial school education? St. Louis is tops (well, second to N’awlins), but what about Chicagoans? Are they likely to send their kids to parochial/private schools if they can afford to? I’m pretty sure New Yorkers do. Yeah, we can knock this place, but compared to lots of places, STL is damn good. And we’ve made tremendous progress. When you have ex-patriots still paying attention, you know this place gets under your skin. What about Chicago, does it get “under your skin” the same way? I’d think for a newcomer, it would be harder for that to happen compared to how it does for so many here in STL. One reason for STL getting to people, it’s so easy to get “engaged”. And it’s so easy to get around and experience everything here.

  31. Randy V. says:

    I think Margie’s post really nailed the key frustrations shared by many of us living in St. Louis City. Sometimes I’d love to force all the civic power brokers here to visit the great cities of the world before exerting their backwards and ill-conceived policies on our fair city. To think of all the things we could be doing that we aren’t to bring the city back is enough to make me pull my hair out. But at the end of the day, I try to remind myself that no place is perfect, and only one place is home. I love this troubled, beautiful old city!

  32. Otto says:

    JOHN, if Chicago is such a wonderful, walkable city, why are you spending all your time inside writing 1000 word posts on a St. Louis urban design blog? Oh yeah, Chicago weather.

  33. Margie says:

    Hay CHIKCAT … thanks for the thoughtful reply. I’ll address some of the bigger questions in a later post, but for now, I’ll answer the easy questions: yes I know some art freaks (ahem). And no I don’t agree with: “but this blog is not a sufficient environment to debate the failed merits of urban planning or ill conceived urban redevelopment objectives……..”

    My solution for the Century was not “mine” at all, but one I publicly advocated while I was the president of the Downtown Residents Association: Kevin McGowan and Craig Heller’s plan to restore the building as a mixed-use residential/retail/parking structure. Watching these developers (both of whom I remain fans of, BTW) be threatened, bullied and ultimately extorted into publicly withdrawing and discrediting their own plan was one of the most sickening forms of “civic progress” I can imagine. It disillusioned me in the truest sense. I am still angry about the injustice of this act and the complicity and cooperation of the “leaders” of the groups I mentioned.

    Note that I fully understand these are actionable statements — if they were not true.

  34. mary herbert says:

    Walnut Park! Wow, what a thrill to see a reference to my old neighborhood. How rarely is it mentioned in the media now, except in a negative context. I spent happy childhood years in Walnut Park, loving the things you mention: brick houses, lots of trees, corner stores. Walbridge School, Herzog School, the West Florissant branch of the St. Louis Public Library, the Rio movie theater, and beloved local bakery on Riverview. It was a good area to grow up in, and perhaps some day will be again. Thanks for mentioning Walnut Park, and I hope Chicago gives you equal pleasures in its own special neighborhoods.

  35. GMichaud says:

    Chickat, if “this blog is not a sufficient environment to debate the failed merits of urban planning or ill conceived urban redevelopment objectives……..” Then what do you suggest? It’s not like the city has open forums to try to work out various urban planning problems. In fact the general response of the city is similar to what happened with the Century Building. That is to serve the elite insiders, or the “old regime” as Margie calls them.
    In fact St. Louis is bursting at the seams with it’s need to find different approaches. If anything I see this blog and others like it laying the philosophical foundation for citizens to step into the huge chasm left by an unresponsive leadership.

    I just want to add that I agree fully with JZ and his comments about taxation and the city. It is another area leadership has failed to take initiative.

  36. Tim E says:

    I would say for most us that our moves from one place to another place have a lot more to do with relationships. Be it family, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses or careers then any city itself. For me, my move from the Chicago area to St. Louis is becuase of the girl that I married. Did I like Chicago, yeah. I can also easily tell you ten things that I didn’t like. The same is true for St. Louis. My point, I come to appreciate what St. Louis has to offer in its own way. So give me Forest Park, the Arch over saving every single old building made of brick, free institutions from a world class zoo to an art museum, The Garden, Science Center, Magic House, CWE, Loop, the hill, Washington Ave Crepes on a Sunday morning, Budweiser, The Blues, a baseball team that occassional wins a few, cheap housing with cheap taxes, the metrolink, no traffic when I go pick up my wife downtown, A bit trodden Lambert Airport that is only few minutes down the road, and finally my run along the Des Peres River “which is not a river anymore” trail but doesn’t require me to find a parking spot nor fight weekend crowds for space on the pavement. In the meantime, eventually a few roads will be rebuilt and bridges will be replaced, a few more miles of trails will be added, metrolink might be expanded and politics will always have the race factor. I’ll take it.

  37. ex-stl says:

    “bark with charcoal”

    not to be under-rated.

  38. thought so... says:

    For folks harsh on the preponderance of St. Louis families with kids in private/parochial schools, the Chicago Archdiocese boasts“the nation’s largest non-public school system…”

  39. Rolla Observer says:

    Congratulations on having the courage to make the move. I hope you find what you are looking for – it is rare for someone to pull themselves out of the muck as they grow older. You are right, get on with your like while the getting is good.

    best wishes

  40. Dougie from the north side says:

    Leaving St. Louis for Chicago…how cliche and unoriginal.

    And what’s with the Walnut Park reference? Are you from North City, or did you just “love the view” and “love the neighborhood” from your downtown loft.

    Good riddance and enjoy your next Starbucks yuppie

  41. Jim Zavist says:

    A recent newspaper article included a really troubling statement: “Enrollment in the city schools has plunged from 44,000 to barely 28,000 in six years.” Students are either a) switching to charter schools, b) switching to parochial schools, c) switching to private schools, or d) moving out of the city completely. I seriously doubt that this 40% drop in students is reflected in a 40% (or even a 20%) drop in the school system’s budget. This “perfect storm” (of increasing taxes and declining services) is a microcosm of why it’s harder and harder for St. Louis to compete with its suburban neighbors. So while I have fundamental concerns about the concept, in our case, it may be time to consider vouchers as one way to start to attract both businesses and families back into the city . . .

  42. Hard to say anything about the SLPS stats without knowing if the missing students simply switched to charter schools.

  43. thought so... says:

    Given the high rate of non-public school attendance in the thriving urbopolis of Chicago, maybe the lessening role of our public school system is a positive sign! We’re getting more like Chicago 😉

  44. r. willis says:

    hey, Margie, good to hear from you. as you know, I have been involved for several years in a particular aspect of trying to improve the place — transportational bicycling advocacy –, and while there has been slight progress, I remember your words when you left, about wanting to sit at the banquet table instead of always trying to build it. in a few months I will be moving (at the age of 55) to Portland, Oregon — where there is still a lot of work to do, but a considerably lower frequency of being run off the road by rednecks in pickup trucks.


  45. northside neighbor says:

    Portland is in a serious housing slump, made less so by restrictive growth policies, so maybe you can get a good deal on a house right now. Get used to seeing lots of public displays of androgynous armpit hair. Hopefully not at banquet tables!

  46. portland-loggers says:

    Out here in Portland, our rednecks are all the pissed off loggers. The last thing we want are a bunch of granola crunchers telling us how to live. We’ve already had our fill of those types moving here from California.

  47. Brian says:

    Having made the move to plastic Charlotte last year, I sorely miss the grit of St. Louis and its authenticity. I just bought a place in a Maplewood-looking, University City-acting neighborhood that reminds me the most of back home, which is hard to do in the New South. But surrounded mostly now by progressive capitalists transplanted from all corners of the Americas, I don’t miss the ingrained mentality for mediocrity holding St. Louis back.

  48. James says:

    “To create and promote an environment in the city of St. Louis that attracts and retains young people.”

    Reading this I wonder if we accomplished anything.

  49. Otto says:

    James wrote: “Reading this I wonder if we accomplished anything.”

    Metropolis accomplished a ton. But the mission has always been flawed. The City has done well attracting and retaining young people. It’s the folks in their mid-30s with young families who leave, depriving the City of a thriving middle class.

    Because we are all stating our intentions, I would like to state for the record that I have spent extensive time in each of Chicago, Portland, and Charlotte, and I have no interest whatsoever in moving to any of those cities.

  50. James says:

    Well, I was kind of joking, but that is exactly true. The mission was fine when we were single or just married and in our twenties (or early 30’s.)

    As someone whose child is about to start school I feel absolutely justified in saying that the school district appears to be doing everything it can to force us to move. We’re planning on staying put and making sacrifices to do so, but it has been difficult.

  51. Northside Neighbor says:

    If this were Chicago, you could put your child in one of the “largest non-public school systems in the country”.

    St. Louis gives you the same option. Or you can give it all up and move to St. Charles or Jefferson County for a decent public school.

    People in Chicago probably have the same option. People choose urban Chicago and private education every day, just as St. Louisans do.

    Hell, move to Chicago to an area with decent public schools if you want. Just quit complaining about St. Louis!

  52. Margie says:

    Re. Walnut Park cred: I went to Mark Twain (SLPS) on Ruskin and then St. Philip Neri (now defunct) on Thekla. I walked Calvary for fun WAY before it was cool to do so (think 1968). My dad spent his childhood in Walnut Park and lived in the same bungalow where we did when I was a kid. (He moved there from Kerry Patch in the 1920s.) So yeah, I have reason to love the North Side. You may now proceed with your tirade against my yuppie ways.

  53. Northside Neighbor says:

    The white population in lots of North City didn’t start emptying out until the late sixties and early seventies. So there’s lots of white people in their 40s and 50s today who grew up on the north side. North County and St. Charles is full of them. Just like South County and Jefferson County are full of former Southsiders. No difference. Lots of people have a connection to St. Louis. It’s a part of our charm. It’s no wonder they call this place a “big small town”. It is. I doubt Chicago can claim that distinction.

  54. ^That’s why I partly blame the situation of the North Side on those who left. Well, those people, the Federal Government, and Real Estate and Banking Industries that profited greatly from suburbanization.

    St. Louis, no doubt, has a lot of issues to overcome. However, this makes it a great City for people who want to fix them. I like Chicago a lot for many reasons. Due to geography, it’s great for a weekend, or longer, visit. But it’s also extremely expensive. In St. Louis, for a significantly lower price, one may own a condo, loft, or house. Renting is a lot more affordable as well. This makes St. Louis a good investment, as I believe we will eventually see increasing demand for housing.

    The biggest problem is our political “lack of leadership.” However the solution to this problem is to change leadership then the system under which they operate. But the institutions and political culture, thus rules!, of this City are entrenched against change and have been so for decades. Change then, of course, requires a necessary accumulation of people who want to invest their time and energy for such a change. Such an effort would be well beyond something like an Aldermanic or Mayoral Recall. Unfortunately, as long as we continue to lose young educated people, those well suited for sustained reform, such an outcome becomes less likely, or at least severely delayed.

    We need to resist the inclination to pack bags and leave. But it’s not hard to understand why this individual decision seems attractive and rational. Yet when a collective group picks up and leaves, the City suffers as it lacks the social capital required for progress or mere sustainability! In effect the same flight that created the initial problems is propagated.

  55. northside neighbor says:

    Blaming a lack of leadership for a reason to dislike one’s hometown rings pretty flat. We’re making this place together. We don’t need others to “lead” us. Besides, how is that “creative”?

  56. thoughts from south grand says:

    st louis is not chicago

    st louis does not want to be chicago

    st louis is a small town, chicago is a big city

    if for some reason i wanted to move to chicago, i would instead first move to phoenix, atlanta, sacramento, seattle, san fran, minneapolis, Albuquerque, la, vegas, Baltimore, dc, phili, but chicago,

    bunch of pasty white people freezing while they watch a crappy baseball team?

    Chicago? For real ?

  57. Mike F. says:

    I have to laugh hard at the above “attacks” of Margie’s urban persona. Yuppie? She is not young…lol She is however the most urban and dedicated downtown STL spokespersona we have ever had. She was here fighting the fight and living the life long before most of us down here. She made some great points. Don’t attack. Discuss and formulate ways to deal with the issues our city faces. We are the biggest small town in the midwest. We have illusions of being a big city, and we do have some of the perks of a mid-level city, but we are what we are. Let’s work to make it better, let’s get some 30-40 year olds up to the table to talk toe to toe with the powers that be. Let’s nurture some of the 20 somethings into the future powers of the city. Change is good, criticism fosters change, and discussion is the seedling of possible changes. None of us are going to see sweeping changes in our lifetime, but let’s all lay a foundation for a new city for our kids. (Wow, I have been watching to many Obama speeches apparently) Spend your money in your neighborhood. Frequent the cities small businesses. Make every neighborhood a small downtown of its own. Without the small businesses, development will stall. Margie was one of the “get it” people in the city. She is missed. But there are many people here who can effect the same momentum. The city is great and unique. Let’s just be ourselves and encourage our neighborhoods to continue the developments we have seen.

  58. John says:

    I am disappointed to see the attacks on this woman.
    Margie, I’m sorry you left. Chicago is a fantastic place, has some of the same dynamics that we do here in STL, but for a number of reasons we can never be Chicago. Each city can learn from each other.
    This blog just shows that the 130 year old inferiority complex that we have as St. Louisiand in regards to Chicago is still intact. It’s not very productive and we need to get over it.

  59. Brad says:

    Honestly, the fewer privileged white yuppies we have here, the better. Whoever said that St. Louis is the most racist city in the country is absolutely correct (although, Milwaukee could be considered.). Atlanta is nowhere close. St. Louis is divided on an existential level.

    The solution isn’t “doing something” about Meacham Park or North City or Kinloch. The solution is having less stereotypical white people. New York and San Francisco and Chicago have plenty over-moneyed white folks who are too consumed with their own ambition to truly care about anything or anyone else. St. Louis can’t compete. The talk about the “creative class?” Gawd. I make my living as a creative. I take it seriously. But when I read that statement, one thing’s clear: it refers to white, college-educated individuals.

    That’s a homogenous population and one of the worst offenders in the class divide that’s killing this country (NB: being white and college-educated doesn’t mean that you’re bad. It’s just that those folks tend to be wretched.). The powers in Downtown St. Louis have concluded that the way to revitalize the city is to draw as many of these people there as possible. To quote David Simon, those are the worst types of “white people,” the truly “soulless motherf***ers” who just suck the life out of everything. THEY are the ones who displace the radical, bohemian, independent-thinking artist/intellectual types. I’m not trying to glamorize the chain-smoking, black-coffee and whiskey sipping types, as if they’re the solution to everything. But $200K lofts? Fashion boutiques selling $300 jeans and $75 t-shirts? Please. That’s not revitalization. That’s urban homogenization, the city equivalent of Chesterfield and St. Charles. Ick.

    I returned to St. Louis because 7 years ago, it was largely devoid of that. Now it’s creeping in everywhere. God help us.

  60. Brad says:

    Part of the allure of TRUE city living has to be the danger in it. Is that a little too harsh? I don’t know. Maybe. Think about NYC pre-Rudy. Think about Times Square in those days. For all the hiccups and dirtiness there, and it existed in spades, there was above all a SENSE OF COMMUNITY.

    That’s what’s missing, folks. Community. Knowing your neighbors. Caring about them.

    Unfortunately, that’s not a subject taught in schools and in Generation Narcissism, it’s slipping further and further away. When children are told that it’s “all about them” and that they inherently deserve whatever they want, things corrode. As Cormac McCarthy writes in “No Country For Old Men,” “Anytime you quit hearing “sir” and “ma’am”, the end is pretty much in sight.”

    Civility counts. Concern for others counts. When I say “danger,” I don’t mean “let’s get more crime here so everyday looks like an episode of The Wire.” No. I mean an edge, though. Just a little conflict. Some rivalry. Contrast. When you get that, you get things that contribute to rich and varied lives. Things like a newspaper where there are beat reporters. Beat cops. Storefronts. Galleries. People who care. You’ll find that this isn’t necessarily a geographic thing; Generation Narcissism is everywhere and it’s gaining traction daily. The more successful cities, the cities where white people like to move to, well…they just cater to it. What you’re seeing in St. Louis is a struggle with that, because the strong communal aspect of this town isn’t gone yet. While the loft builders and nightclub owners and the Alive Magazine crowd are doing their best to obliterate it, it’s not dead yet.

    The thing is, most young white people aren’t that concerned with community. They’ll go elsewhere to fulfill their self-interest.

    So to those who can’t make it work in St. Louis, who lack the balls and the soul to support it and invest in it…leave. Good riddance. We don’t want you. A community has to reject contaminants to remain intact.

  61. Margie says:

    I had one goal only in posting here, and that was to help keep some traffic going in the interim as Steve recovers. I chose my topic with that in mind, expressed my sincere PERSONAL opinions … and then ducked. You all haven’t disappointed. ; )

    With any luck we will soon be hearing from Steve again … maybe sooner than you think!

    Cheers, Margie

    PS I’m writing this from the Starbucks parking lot in Springfield IL, and hope to see some of y’all when I get to STL in a few. What! You don’t like Starbucks?

  62. Jim Zavist says:

    Brad – I disagree, but not completely. On your point about St. Louis being the “most racist city in the country”, yes, racism colors way too many discussions in this city.
    No real city “stays the same”. It’s either getting “better” or it’s getting “worse”, and yes, that definition IS in the eye of the beholder. The reality is that St. Louis is big enough (and struggling enough) that there’s room, at least for the forseeable future, for EVERYONE!. Bottom line, we need more people, and I don’t care if they’re “privileged white yuppies”, or “radical, bohemian, independent-thinking artist/intellectual . . . chain-smoking, black-coffee and whiskey sipping types”, hard-working south-city hoosiers or single black parents struggling to make ends meet on the north side. As you point out, diversity is both the key to success and a huge marker of our “soul” as a city.
    “The powers in Downtown St. Louis have concluded that the way to revitalize the city is to draw as many of these people there as possible.” Well duh, yeah, they’re the ones a) are actually willing to consider moving in, and b) have the resources to do so! The alternative is a gradual (or not so) decline into oblivion. I understand, the “bohemian” lifestyle demands gritty surroundings and cheap rent. But both conspire to an ultimate collapse of the built environment. The one thing St. Louis isn’t lacking is a gritty environment. Is it “fair” that some parts of town are gentrifying and some low-rent-paying residents are being forced to relocate? Probably not, especially if you’re one of ’em. But the one big difference between here and many other cities (NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Denver) is that there ARE viable options. Benton Park is not Soulard is not Lafayette Square. North St. Louis is not Washington. There are plenty of properties available here, including “gritty” ones, for a quarter or a tenth of what you’d have to pay in those cities. Yes, many also come with “gritty” neighborhoods and undesirable neighbors, but if a “pre-Rudy” ambiance is what you desire, there are, unfortunately, plenty of “opportunities” around here.
    “The thing is, most young white people aren’t that concerned with community.” True. The same can be said of the black gang bangers on the north and south sides – they’re sure as hell NOT helping the community, either. And, unfortunately, the same can be said of way too many working folks, retired folks, homeless people and, yes, “bohemian” folks. Most of us are spending most of our time working “for the man” to put food on our tables and a roof over our heads, leaving little/not enough time to reach out, become involved and to build a community. (Then, again, community is in the eye of the beholder.) Combine that with a political structure that prefers to function with as little public input as possible, and what you see is what you get . . .

  63. rick bonasch says:

    In reply to the last two posts regarding community, from what I’ve seen, “sense of community” is by far one our city’s greatest strengths. It drives what happens here. One of the good outcomes of our aldermanic form of government is that it brings local people together around local issues. With 28 wards, government is so local, that it’s very easy to get to know your aldermen and often many others. Another sign of our community driven town is the huge numbers of organizations and groups of many stripes. Over the past few years we’ve see a rise in blog groups and built environment groups. Metropolis St. Louis was on the cutting edge of that movement. And for decades previously, organizations have formed up and been sustained by interested citizens and neighbors all over this city. And it continues. Our successes today can usually be linked to community based efforts. Witness the growth in Old North St. Louis, Skinker DeBaliviere, the Ville, and other neighborhoods all over town. On the path to revitalization, community organizations have been a key partner. Senator Danforth made an important point about this in discussing downtown revitalization efforts. He stated that St. Louis is not a spectator sport. People need to get involved. His goal to strengthen the connections between the Arch grounds and downtown won’t happen unless regular citizens step up and push the agenda forward. His point holds true all the way down to the neighborhood and block level. And this is one of the differences between St. Louis and many other places. In lots of markets, the places with less to do and the “banquet table” already set, you don’t see the active community life we have here. We all have choices on how we want to live. We have chosen to live in St. Louis to be a part of it. This town creates a sense of community. It’s one of our greatest strengths. Steve’s blog contributes to it. KDHX contributes to it. Our countless neighborhood groups contribute to it. And each one of us is vital to it being sustained.

  64. r. willis says:


    I would be pleased to live in a city in which women understand that they are not required to shave.


    I have no interest in speculating in real estate, but thanks for the heads up.


  65. westnotbest says:

    The cost of housing affects the local economy for everyone, regardless of whether you’re an owner, renter, or transient. When their is a lack of affordable housing, everyone suffers.

    Portlan’s Community Development Networkhighlights the negative impacts on the broader community when their is a lack of affordable housing.

    Portland (like much of the west): It’s a pretty place, with a high cost of admission.

  66. studs lonigan says:

    I read Brad’s depressing tirade of vitriolic generalizations and hackneyed, fish-in-the-barrel honky-bashing more than once before deciding to reply. This “homogenous population”, i.e., the “creative class” is “one of the worst offenders in the class divide that’s killing this country”? Really? I think instead of HMO, pharmaceutical, and oil company execs who profit obscenely off of human misery, wrap themselves in the flag and eat lunch at Bush’s ranch while they do it. I think of the Republican party pimping itself out to the most ignorant, vindictive, godbag hypocrites in America, stoking their bigoted fears of gay marriage and immoral stem cell research to pack the polls and return the most shockingly horrid president ever to the White House. It’s a false-consciousness wet dream right out of an Emma Goldman speech. I think of rigged elections in Florida and Ohio and Al Gonzalez unable to recall what he did five minutes ago. I think of Bill Clinton and Co. dithering and dicking around over the semantics of “genocide” instead of intervening decisively in Rwanda. I think of our splendid attorney general, who isn’t quite prepared to condemn water boarding as “torture” or as an “interrogation technique”. Yeah, that’s a tough one. Locally, I think of decades of coordinated efforts to marginalize the urban environment by allocating taxpayer funds to heavily subsidize infrastructure and highways to ever-metastasizing, featureless, exurban vistas cluttered with nondescript vinyl houses and strip malls next to cornfields populated by idiots who love to bray about the sanctity of the “private market forces” that built their “neighborhood”, while every inch of their septic tank was paid for grace of public dollars. Interestingly, like Brad, many of these “soulless” folks subscribe to the view that the urban core is, or at least should be, the concentrated domain of minorities and the impoverished. The word “urban” is code for (wink!) “lots of blacks”. To them, anyone else who chooses to reside in the city and likes it must hanker perversely for some chaotic bazaar of social dysfunction and random, senseless violence, 200K loft notwithstanding. TV shows and the local news feed this benighted preconception. The view of urban white people, particularly those who are relatively affluent and educated, as brazen interlopers in the swarthy homeland of “grit” is a tiresome, ignorant distortion rooted in a demeaning and limited view of what cities have, can, and should be. Existence precedes essence. A city is a living organism, animated for good or ill by those who animate it, irrespective of color or class. A prescription that posits it as an abstract, simplistic, romanticized decay mall of monochromatic “community” is for Endsville, not St. Louis

  67. Alan in Chicago says:

    Well…Studs…dude…I wanted to shove something up Brad’s a** myself but just didn’t have the words. Thanks for writing what I would love to have said myself.

  68. r. willis says:

    okay, westnotbest, but your earlier post talked only about the bubble — the bursting of which actually tends to lower rents


  69. westnotbest says:

    Everything is relative. The west is known for its wild swings up and down. St. Louis is known for being slow and steady. Even with a bubble burst, places like CA and OR are still high priced. Meanwhile, STL remains a steady, affordable alternative.

  70. r. willis says:

    which brings us back to the original thread: st. louis is affordable because it has not much to offer


  71. studs lonigan says:

    I think that based on what you pay here for spacious/high quality real estate, world class entertainment/culture, (sports, symphony, museums, universities) food, i.e., (“restaurant scene”) etc., St. Louis is a bargain. Yeah, it doesn’t offer the cutting edge of anything, but how essential is that to most day to day lives? If you want to become a famous actor or cinematographer, get outta town; if you want to be a multimedia performance artist utilizing Jell-O, dry ice and electric violin, move to NYC, join the throng and your five room mates. Some passions really trump a groveling worship of the food source here in the hot prairie wind. Still, I wish more such people would actually stay here and view creation of a local “scene” as a sort of secondary part of their creative endeavors, rather than rushing off to join an established, crowded one somewhere else. I wish we had more refreshing weirdness, more edge, more creative people who envision themselves as part of this “picture”, albeit at times a blank canvas.

  72. Ken says:

    “Watching these developers (both of whom I remain fans of, BTW) be threatened, bullied and ultimately extorted into publicly withdrawing and discrediting their own plan was one of the most sickening forms of “civic progress” I can imagine. It disillusioned me in the truest sense. I am still angry about the injustice of this act and the complicity and cooperation of the “leaders” of the groups I mentioned.”

    Margie, if St. Louis left you disillusioned, I wish you luck in Chicago. I do not know your industry, but isn’t it exciting that you were so close to a major event in St. Louis. Albeit a losing effort. But you fought the good fight, and raised awareness. I doubt, unless you have some connections, that the closest you will come to impacting major changes in Chicago will be reading about them in the Tribune.

    Enjoy the ocean lil fish.

  73. Bittersweet Sentiment says:

    I moved to Chicago after graduating college a little over year ago, and I understand you completely. Why did I leave? Because of opportunity to expand my horizons.

    I love St. Louis to death, but it seems futile to care about it. It’s impossible to get things right. There’s too much discord. Too much separatation and ignorance, that it would take something major to change it, too major to comprehend. There’s too many munincipalities, too many aldermans, too many finger pointers, too many show me’s, a freaking city divided by city/county.

    Stop arguing and work towards a goal and like as a community, St. Louis, or eventually you’re going to lose ALL of your talent. I cannot comprehend how backwards people can be in a city with so much potential. How they cannot see the potential is beyond me.

    Tell me something, why would a guy in his young 20’s want to stay in St. Louis? True, there are just some amazing aspects, but after a while, the depressing slow progress and backwards thinking really gets to you. People with talent need environments where possibilities are endless, not limiting, as it seems in St. Louis.

    The story about the Century is downright depressing, but it’s sadly not surprising. I guess that’s what happens when you have a history of leadership being oppressive and anti-progressive for reasons beyond me.

    So to the leaders of Stl, and the sh&t bag parochial self-absorbed politicians that keep our city down, go F@ck yourselves. And if you wanna piece of me, come up to Chicago. Daley’s doing a fine job, and I’m happy that my tax dollars are actually working towards something. I can’t WAIT till those old douchebags in stl die off. They won’t be missed.

    Sorry, the riverways were never going to be a better choice than the railways, and the only way you could see that is with VISION, a term St. Louis leaders seem to lack….and balls to back up that vision.

  74. Margie says:

    Hi Ken,
    This little fishy is finding the lake water just fine, thanks.

  75. ozinwichita says:

    I have to chuckle in reading this blog. I stumbled across it whilst looking for information on relocating to the St. Louis area for as someone in this blog pointed out relationship reasons…family. I am currently living, and luckily temporarily, in Wichita KS, where the sense of inferiority is rife in the Opinion Line of the newspaper. It is the largest city in Wichita with a small town mentality. Now having lived in England, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Iran etc. as well as many states in USA, I have come to learn that each place has its good and bad and a lot of it depends upon what you as an individual want, need and like. For example, here in Wichita there are very nice, albeit narrow minded people, no rush hour traffic to speak of, reasonably low cost of living, rather boring dining scene, some ethnic diversity who tend to keep to themselves, anyway, in total just not my cup of tea. That does not mean to say that it would not appeal to others and suit their needs just fine. Since I realize that no one place can be perfect, and it looks as if St. Louis will be a destination for us, I am interested in viewpoints of where to live and things to do. Anyone know of a good blog, forum etc. to work on my research? We are going to move with no kids, but dogs, like the more European feel to a neighbourhood wherein one can walk to restaurants, stores etc. We do not want a large house with a large yard to care for but rather something on the urban feel though with a small yard (I’m not into dog walking on freezing days!) A place that is dog friendly with perhaps dog parks. A reasonably safe area with a low crime rate, I understand living in a city will not afford me perfection. Suggestions? Ideas?

    Thank you

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  77. sylvio says:

    hi i saw a distinct and stronger racism when i was livin in new orleans then i do here.


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