A couple months back I took a look at a mile stretch of South Broadway, from Cherokee to Chippewa (see A Look At South Broadway Through The Marine Villa Neighborhood). At the time I thought about looking at Chippewa, each time I went down Chippewa on the #11 to/from Target I admired the buildings. For years I’ve admired the mile stretch of Chippewa St between Jefferson Ave and Grand Blvd., I’d even walked, biked and scootered parts years ago. I had to travel it again though.
ABOVE: The #11 MetroBus crosses Jefferson Ave. heading west on Chippewa Ave.
ABOVE: The formerly urban character of the area has been destroyed by an over abundance of surface parking.
ABOVE: Gas stations used to be much smaller in size, now they are commonly used car dealerships.
ABOVE: Senior housing, many residents use the #11 bus.
ABOVE: The building ages and styles are varied. Wood side porches like this are very rare these days.
ABOVE: Many corners have large buildings facing them, no consistent setback to buildings but each block has some up to the sidewalk.
ABOVE: Newer infill housing is spaced too far apart, breaking the established rhythm of the street.
ABOVE: Red bricks vary from building to building, more warm than the new brick used above. The contrast with the beige brick corner building is striking.
ABOVE: Corner buildings mark the corner in various ways, such as this roof.
ABOVE: A few buildings are set way back from the sidewalk
ABOVE: Again the corner building acknowledges its place on the corner. One, two and three story buildings across Chippewa.
ABOVE: This gem is around the corner, facing Nebraska Ave
Most of the storefronts along Chippewa have been remodeled over the years
ABOVE: A former theater is now a church
ABOVE: West of the old theater is a large vacant corner, great for an infill structure or two
ABOVE: At Minnesota Ave is one my favorite storefront entrances! The storefront is currently vacant.
ABOVE: A closed gas station that hasn’t yet become a used car dealership
ABOVE: Another storefront altered years ago, love the faded sign
ABOVE: Yet another unwelcoming storefront alteration
ABOVE: Going west from Jefferson to Grand we’ve been going uphill but in places the building lots are well above the sidewalk.
ABOVE: Another bad storefront that possibly looked like an improvement decades ago. Corner buildings are all at the sidewalk whereas residences vary in setback.
ABOVE: Another quick detour, this time south on Louisiana Ave one block to Keokuk St. to see Dad’s Cookie Co.
ABOVE: Newer houses occupy the former parking lot of the old Sears store that used to be on Grand & Winnebego.
ABOVE: The last block before Grand is a depressing area to walk through, and through is all you’d do.
ABOVE: Former grocery store on the SE corner of Grand & Chippewa was built in 1976 after St. Anthony hospital moved to south St. Louis County.
ABOVE: St. Anthony Hospital faced Chippewa, not Grand. 1900-1975. Image source: St. Louis Postcards Facebook group.
Quite a stretch! Chippewa Ave was never a commercial street the way Cherokee St was, and still is, but it had many neighborhood corner stores. For decades now people have been driving to bigger and bigger boxes to buy merchandise so these storefronts are no longer critical for daily needs.
However, all over this city we’ve seen cafes, niche retailers and others do well in these spaces. With a cohesive marketing plan Chippewa could become a cool street for new businesses. Attract the gays and hipsters to get those vacant storefronts occupied!
Getting someone to take charge will be a challenge though, the south side of Chippewa is in the Dutchtown neighborhood and the north side is in the Gravois Park neighborhood. This gives the mile road a split personality, although neither focus on it because it is an edge.
On the positive side, all but the last block before Grand are in the 20th Ward. I’ve known Ald. Craig Schmid for years and he’s a very nice guy, but I don’t see him leading an effort to attract hip new businesses — they might want serve alcohol in disproportionate quantities to food.
A few years ago, when I was still a real estate agent, I listed and sold the first house on Virginia Ave just south of Chippewa. Thus, I realize the area has real, and perceived, issues but I also think it is worth fighting for. I’m unwilling to write it off, saying the all mighty market has spoken. The market is always changing! In my 22+ years I’ve seen an enormous amount of positive change because people weren’t willing to just discard entire neighborhoods. With some effort the market could be altered to see this mile Chippewa as an eclectic gem.
– Steve Patterson