Continuing the tradition of my 1,000th post, I will again address a serious threat to the City of St. Louis
When was the last time you heard some say the following? “Hey guys, let’s go take a stroll down Kingshighway in between Highway 40 and Interstate 44!”
Even if you replace “Kingshighway” with “Grand” or “Jefferson,” I have a feeling the answer is still a categorical “Never.”
Why is that? Why has a whole swath of the city become a no-man’s land, devoid of houses, stores and really anything of value other than some rusty industrial buildings, most of which are empty? Was it always like this? Scanning over old property records and Sanborn maps, it’s clear that the large Mill Creek railroad tracks have long occupied the area between Highway 40 and Interstate 44, so that could explain some of the malaise that occurs in this wide swath of land from Jefferson to Kingshighway. But the bookends, Dogtown and Lafayette Square, show that there was life in these areas, and indeed life still remains in those two vibrant neighborhoods.
I strongly believe the real culprits are the interstates which have sliced off the central portion of the city from the north and south sides. No one likes walking over an interstate, as planners realized in Washington, DC, luckily before the interstates could be completed in that city. Now, you can walk all the way from the Washington Monument to the District border in most directions and never have to confront the hell of an interstate on-ramp. In St. Louis, however, the central city neighborhoods were left isolated and targeted for “experimentation” on the part of city leaders who could use the different, admittedly suffering Compton Hill and McRee Town areas because they lacked strong advocates and neighboring areas to fight them.
Thankfully, the days of interstate building are over, but there’s something just awful about the drive down what should be the major avenues of the city. It almost seems like the city’s planners gave up on the area between the interstates, and started redesigning Kingshighway, Grand and Jefferson to get people in cars through the wasteland as fast as possible. We can do better, and the wastelands can hold new buildings again–or for the first time.
Let’s work so that some day that Central St. Louis is the actual center of the city, and not the barren border lands between two vibrant halves.