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Principal Cities vs. Edge Cities

As I was watching CBS Sunday Morning yesterday I was thinking about what to write for today, then I saw the segment Cities on the rise like never before and liked how it started:

Connie Curran remembers her years in the suburbs as “dull.” She told [Seth] Doane she started thinking about moving to the city a month after she moved into the ‘burbs.

“I bought this house – it had a white picket fence,” Curran said. “My sister saw it and she said, ‘You’re on Wisteria Lane!’ It was a great house and it was very peaceful. It was very homogeneous – and it was very boring.”

So last year, at age 61, this nurse-turned-healthcare entrepreneur – who found a new lease on life after beating stage-four cancer – settled into a spectacular home in San Francisco.

“When I saw that view I thought, ‘Now this is city, and this is a neighborhood. I’m living life. This is life. This is the luxury of middle age.”

She defined the luxury of middle-age as the ability “to move to the city and to enjoy the richness and vastness of the things that are here. I hang around 24th Street and usually pick up some flowers, pick up some fruit.”

Curran says walking everywhere keeps her fit. (full story)


ABOVE: CBS News photo of Olive Branch MS (click to view article)

By the end of the story, however, I grabbed my iPad and fired off an angry email to CBS Sunday Morning. What happened?  They talked about the fastest growing city in the U.S., Olive Branch MS. Olive Branch is technically a city, but it functions as an auto-centric suburb of Memphis TN. The fastest growing city in Missouri? Wentzville:

Wentzville is the fastest growing city in Missouri from 2000 to 2008, according to recently released data from the U. S. Census Bureau. Wentzville increased in population by over 200 percent, adding more than 16,000 residents to the city since the 2000 Census.

True, as a percentage increase it is higher but they remain the dull homogenous non-place edge cities many are fleeing for principal cities and first & second tier suburbs. St. Luislost population in the last census count but I suspect the changes are more dramatic. Areas like downtown, Lafayette Square to the south, and Old North to the north, saw population gains.  The biggest losses came from north St. Louis.

In the 1940s St. Louis’ planners didn’t see the middle class trend to the suburbs. The reverse is happening now.  Middle class couples with school age children are still locating in new homes in edge cities but once the youngest starts college the parents seek out interesting and walkable areas.  Those who can afford private schools aren’t waiting, they are living where they want while junior is still in school.

So the story started off great but ended with a family in an edge city as an example of “cities on the rise.”

– Steve Patterson


Screening of ‘The Pruitt-Igoe Myth’ Saturday May 14 at Noon

May 12, 2011 Media, North City 2 Comments

Failed buildings are often forgotten shortly after they are abandoned and razed, if not before. Pruitt-Igoe is different, the public housing complex has been gone nearly twice as long as it stood and it remains of interest around the world.

Child in Pruitt-Igoe. Photo Credit: STL Public Schools

Many were impacted, both good and bad, by having lived at Pruitt-Igoe.   A recently completed documentary, The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, looks at the buildings and the people housed in them:

Destroyed in a dramatic and highly-publicized implosion, the Pruitt- Igoe public housing complex has become a widespread symbol of failure amongst architects, politicians and policy makers.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth explores the social, economic and legislative is- sues that led to the decline of conventional public housing in America, and the city centers in which they resided, while tracing the personal and poignant narratives of several of the project’s residents.

In the post-War years, the American city changed in ways that made it unrecognizable from a generation earlier, privileging some and leaving others in its wake.

The film was directed by Chad Freidrichs and produced by Chad Freidrichs, Jaime Freidrichs, Paul Fehler and Brian Woodman. The film’s Flickr account contains great images. The film can be followed on Twitter and Facebook. Saturday (5/14) you can see the film for $10 at the Tivoli Theater on Delmar, noon.

Here is the film’s trailer:


The filmmakers spent nearly four years on this project. I was shown a rough cut at my loft a couple  of years ago but Wednesday night was my first viewing of the completed film.  I’m very impressed how they showed the good, bad & ugly sides of Pruitt-Igoe.

– Steve Patterson




PR: Volunteers Bring Hope to Homeowners on Lee Avenue

April 26, 2011 Press Release 6 Comments

The following text is from a press release:


Alderman Antonio French, Rebuilding Together-St. Louis, The Acts Partnership, and the Boeing Corporation join forces to rebuild one of the northside’s neediest blocks.

(ST. LOUIS) – Last summer, Lee Avenue experienced a string of shootings and drug-related homicides that left residents stunned and shaken. This Saturday, April 30, Alderman Antonio French (Ward 21) hopes to begin to turn that all around.

This Saturday from 7:00AM to 6:00PM, hundreds of volunteers (many from the Boeing Corporation) will rehab eight homes on the 4100-4300 blocks of Lee Avenue (between Newstead and Fair). These eight homeowners will receive complete home makeovers during year two of Alderman French’s innovative block-by-block “Rebuilding” program—a first-of-its-kind partnership between the 21st Ward and the nonprofit Rebuilding Together-St. Louis. This program works by coordinating a large number of volunteers to target homes on one block, on one Saturday, leaving a lasting impact on the whole block.

Saturday on Lee Avenue is the first of three “Rebuilding Days” that will take place in the 21st Ward this year, with the goal of repairing at least 50 homes over the summer and fall of 2011. Each targeted block will also receive needed city services, such as alley and sidewalk repair, demolition of vacant properties, tree-trimming, and street light replacement, as well as assistance in organizing block units. Saturday, volunteers will be doing everything from emergency plumbing and roof repairs to minor tasks like painting and landscaping.

“The residents of Lee Avenue have lived through violence and tragedy during the last twelve months,” Alderman French said. “We are going to do everything we can with the resources we have to rebuild these blocks and show these homeowners that they are not alone. With the help of the volunteers and donated materials that Rebuilding Together and Boeing bring to the table, we can really stretch each dollar we have as far as it can possibly go.”

“Rebuilding Together is grateful for the substantial financial commitment of Alderman French and the 21st Ward,” said Dave Ervin, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together. “We are thrilled to be helping over 50 families repair their homes in the 21st Ward this year thanks to the support of Alderman French, volunteers from Boeing Corporation, and the valuable support from the skilled trades.”

Work is already underway on Lee Avenue, as several long-vacant buildings are being demolished this week in preparation for Saturday’s event. For more info and to volunteer, please contact the 21st Ward TMAP Office at 769-9000.





PR: Mayor Slay, City Officials to Participate in St. Louis Serves Day Saturday, April 16th

April 15, 2011 Press Release Comments Off on PR: Mayor Slay, City Officials to Participate in St. Louis Serves Day Saturday, April 16th
ABOVE: Opening of phase 1 of Stray Rescue, July 2010

The following text is from a press release:

Mayor Francis G. Slay and other City officials will join hundreds of St. Louisans to participate in St. Louis Serves Day on Saturday, April 16th. AmeriCorps St. Louis, in partnership with the Office of Mayor Francis Slay and the United Way of Greater St. Louis, will organize volunteers to complete “done-in-a-day” projects that range from school and neighborhood beautification projects to exercising adoptable animals. St. Louis Serves Day is part of the Gateway to Service Initiative, which promotes St. Louis as a “City that serves.”

“St. Louis Serves Day is a great way to get involved and give back to your community,” said Mayor Francis Slay. “I encourage all City residents to participate in this event. It doesn’t take a certain education level or specific skills to serve – anyone and everyone can get involved to improve their community.”

Volunteers may sign up for projects at: http://www.stl.unitedway.org/getinvolved/volunteercenter/volunteer/stlserves.aspx.

St. Louis Serves Day projects in the City include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Exercise adoptable animals at Stray Rescue of St. Louis (2320 Pine St.) – 8 a.m. to noon
  • Incubator farm field work at International Institute to prepare an incubator farm (4030 Folsom Ave), which will offer agriculture-based career training programs for refugees – 9 a.m. to noon
  • Spring cleaning with St. Vincent de Paul at St. Vincent’s Church Projects (1408 S. 10th St.) – 9 a.m. to noon
  • Set up for the Earth Day Celebration in Forest Park’s Muny Grounds – 9 a.m. to noon
  • Play with children at Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club (2901 N. Grand Blvd.) and help with registration and food service at an educational reunion event for current and past Haven of Grace clients – 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Assist Gateway Greening perform general spring cleaning in the Bell Garden (3871 Bell Ave) – 9 a.m. to noon





PR: ‘Let Freedom Ring’ on Monday

The following is a press release:

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Christ Church Cathedral is hosting “Let Freedom Ring” — a daylong reading of his writings and speeches on Monday, January 17, 2010.
For the second consecutive year, the Nave of the Cathedral (13th and Locust, across from the Central Library) will be open from 9 am through 5 pm for the reading, which will be accompanied by a visual display of pictures of the civil rights leader. The public is invited both to come and listen and also to take part in the reading. There is no admission charge.
Leaders have been assigned for half-hour reading shifts, but anyone in attendance is invited to be part of the reading as well by coming to the lectern and indicating they wish to take over for a time. Whenever they wish to stop, someone will be ready to take their place.
“Like scripture, Dr. King’s words don’t just have meaning for the generation in which they were written, but new meaning for every generation,” says the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, provost of Christ Church Cathedral. “We’re hoping people will come and let these words just wash over them and also participate in reading them. Whether people come for 10 minutes, an hour or all day we want to provide chance for everyone to hear these words, let them re-enter our consciousness and continue to form us today.”
“Dr. King embodied the deepest tradition of our faith being a balance of reflection and action. There are many wonderful opportunities for action in our communities. We are providing an opportunity for reflection to inform our actions not just on this one day but every day.”
“We had a steady stream of people who came last year. A few stayed most of the day. Some came for an hour or two. Some just for a few minutes. Many of them talked about how moving it was not just to hear Dr. King’s words but to have the chance to speak them as well.”
This is the second year Christ Church Cathedral has offered this observance. You can hear the story local NPR affiliate KWMU did on it last year at http://tindeck.com/listen/xjtv.
Please address all questions and requests to the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at mkinman@gmail.com or 314.348.6453.