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Be My Valentine St. Louis

February 14, 2011 Events/Meetings 18 Comments

stlheartHow do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” wrote 19th century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I’ve had a 20 love. The relationship wasn’t always ideal, thoughts of breaking up occurred numerous times.


I never figured out how to quit St. Louis. Here are ten reasons I love St. Louis:

  1. The compact/walkable street grid
  2. The 19th & early 20th century vernacular architecture
  3. The long & rich history
  4. The challenges we face as a city
  5. The diversity of the residents
  6. The openness to the LGBTQ community
  7. The Mississippi River
  8. Our many public parks
  9. The growing group of young urbanists activating the city.
  10. The enormous unrealized potential.

I could more easily list reasons to hate St. Louis but 100 of those aren’t as strong as the above 10.  Please add your reasons to the list in the comments.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Lou Hamilton says:

    Steve-great post! Add resilience to the list- we are a community that never gives up.

    Ok, now a question- I know what the LGBT stands for, but what is the Q?

  2. JZ71 says:

    Since I've only been to OKC once, I can't compare its street grid to ours, but our pre-1940 parts seem to be pretty similar to pre-1940 parts in other cities. I'm guessing that 1, 4 and 10 go together – it's called stagnation or benign neglect. The cities that seem to be much less walkable, overall, are also the ones that have grown explosively since WW II – Phoenix, Tampa, Atlanta and Las Vegas, to name four, yet even those have compact, walkable urban cores. (Plus suburban St. Louis [region] is probably less walkable than some other areas – try walking Manchester anywhere west of Kingshighway!)

    I have to agree on 2, 3, 7 and 8 – age and geography define any area, and we have a lot to explore and to be proud of. We also have a lot to maintain, and that's a challenge that will require growing our economy, since nature and the brick thieves have their own agendas. The real challenge, moving forward, for both the city and the region, will be balancing preservation and economic growth. We need both, yet too many seem intent on one at the exclusion of the other.

    I can't really comment on 6, since I've had limited exposure here, but my experience elsewhere is that the LBGTQ community seems to be more open, in general, than the straight community, since many have faced similar challeges in growing up and defining themselves. My direct experience is that the straight community is certainly more closed here than in other, growing, communities – I don't know if it's a symptom or a cause, but it certainly creates a different dynamic and its own set of challenges.

    Number 5, the diversity, is an interesting one – in some ways I have to disagree. We obviously aren't all lilly white mid-class, but we also have a higher-than-average percentage of African-Americans, reducing, significantly, the percentages of other significant racial groups, specifically Hispanics and Asians. Plus, the racism and segregation here seem to be much more palpable than in many other cities. Throw in crime and poverty and we have some diversity issues / extremes that aren't so great.

    I hope you're right on Number 9. I'm seeing and feeling the same thing, but it's so tenuous that I'm not sure that it's real. I'm thinking that the key to making it all click will be fixuing the SLPS. Most of us don't stay single, and all of us are getting older, with the cycle of life here seeing far too many families moving on from the city when their kids approach school age. Since I doubt that the GLBTQ is big enough to repopulate St. Louis in its entirety (although it does create an interesting visual), we're going to have to figure out how to keep more families with kids from moving out.

    Finally, shouldn't you provide attribution to your obviously copyrighted cartographic source? Much llike how you insist on doing so for photographic ones?

  3. The Dude says:

    Successful cities capitalize on what makes them unique. Your post is a classic example of how your city completely fails to set itself apart. With the exception of its location on the Mississippi River (a geographic advantage that St. Louis doesn’t take advantage of) this is a litany of truisms that could be applied to most pre-automobile American cities. And your truisms aren’t even particularly true. Diversity? Really? Where are the massive numbers of immigrants—in particular Latinos—who have reinvigorated neighborhoods in successful 21st Century cities? Openness to the LGBTQ community? You’re surely not talking about St. Louis. The growing group of young urbanists activating the city? The number may be growing, but St. Louis has neither the “hip” factor, nor the job base to compete with New York/Chicago/L.A., never mind places like Austin/Portland/Seattle. I would, however, have to agree wholeheartedly with point #10: There is enormous unrealized potential, that will never be full realized until St. Louisans stop patting themselves on the back about the scant progress they have made, and start taking cues from cities that have actually managed to become players in the global economy.

    • Jeff says:

      Dude, you forgot one. St. Louis' biggest failure is its whiny populace of negative, self-loathing detractors that seem way too preoccupied with what is wrong with St. Louis and therefore aren't able to enjoy all that's fucking great about this old red brick mama in spite of its many already-acknowledged shortcomings. I agree with some of your points, but your bad attitude is tired, predictable and depressing.

      • Jeff says:

        Recommended reading for The Dude: http://www.riverfronttimes.com…/
        A little dated, but the spirit remains very true…

        • Guest says:

          I live in Chicago. Our business community thrives on a steady stream of young, educated professionals who've opted not to return to places like St. Louis, Detroit, and Cleveland. Thank you for burying your heads in the sand–please keep draining your brains our way.

          • Peacetrain12 says:

            Dude! You live in Chicago! You must be SO COOL!!!!!!

          • RVSTL says:

            Looks like another Midwest city has a draining problem of its own:


            For the first time in decades, the City of St. Louis is expected to post a population GAIN when 2010 figures are released.

          • The Dude says:

            Of course, when a city loses more than half of its population, it has nowhere to go but up. The difference here is that Chicago's slight population loss in the past decade (after a decade of growth) is the result of an exodus of poor–primarily African-American–residents, many of whom have gone to the 'burbs (the Chicago metro area grew by 1/2 million). Gentrification is the unfortunate downside of the city's economic growth. Now if Chicago, like St. Louis, were to hemorrhage half of its population, then I would be worried. But that post-armageddon scenario would still leave us about 3 times larger.

          • Chicago has 234 square miles to St. Louis' 66.2 square miles, three and a half times more area.

          • The Dude says:

            Then let's do an apples to apples comparison:

            City of Chicago 12,557/sq mi
            City of St. Louis 5,760.7/sq mi

            But we digress…My initial point was that in order to compete, cities need to communicate what makes them unique. If you are trying to tell a recent college graduate why he/she should move to St. Louis rather than Chicago or another vibrant city, none of your 10 points argues your case: most describe Chicago (and other cities) equally well, if not better than St. Louis.

          • RVSTL says:

            A lot of people would contend that St. Louis is also a vibrant city. It's just not saturated with post-collegiate frat boys/sorority chicks like Chicago is.

          • RVSTL says:

            I disagree with you here. Detroit and Cleveland have lost half their population as well, and they continue to lose more. So your assertion that “it has nowhere to go but up” is not true at all. St. Louis could have continued to slide, but it didn't. You can justify Chicago's 7% population decline all you want if it makes you feel better, but it doesn't change the reality that Chicago struggles with very serious problems, including SEVERE racial polarization (worse than STL), political corruption, socioeconomic disparities and population decline. That's not to say it isn't a great city; it is. Just because cities have problems doesn't mean they can't be great places to live. St. Louis is far from perfect, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a great city to call home…and it continues to improve because so many people have stopped ditching it in favor of “ideal” places like Chicago and instead have committed themselves to strengthening communities here. That's a promising trend.

          • Jeff says:

            ***Newsflash*** Chicago lost 200,000 residents in the last 10 years. The New York Times reported last week that Chicago is the 4th most segregated city in the nation– more segregated than St. Louis: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02

            Maybe you need to dig your own head out of the sand.

  4. RVSTL says:

    No city is perfect, and St. Louis of course has its serious problems. But I'd assert that the quality of life in St. Louis is better than that of 90% of American cities, due in large part to its relative affordability, wealth of culture and entertainment, access to big city amenities without a lot of the big city hassles, amazing historic architecture, rich urban fabric, and most of all, SOUL. You couldn't pay me to live in a “hot” city like Austin or Portland or wherever pop culture says is cool now. Anyone would be naive to think that these younger, “more exciting” cities are without their own serious issues. No place is perfect, but St. Louis stacks up pretty damn well in my opinion.

  5. Charlie says:

    Another reason I love St. Louis: all the great local bloggers like you.


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