• Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, the built environment, planning adjacent topics, and anything else that comes to mind. No ads, no spam, and it's free. It's easy to join!

St, Louis - the good, the bad, and ...


Dear Leader
Staff member
A comeback for St. Louis ... well, maybe.

Points in favor ...

* The city didn't fall as far as Detroit ... there's still a good sized population of "blue bloods," middle class and working class in the city limits.

* The metro area is large enough to have a "critical mass" that would encourage gentrification and revitalization. There's money, corporate headquarters, and long commutes -- something places like Buffalo don't have.

* Fantastic housing stock -- solid brick homes.

* Strong colleges and universities in the city core. Most large institutions have stayed put in the city.

* Expanding (and popular) light rail system.

Points against St. Louis ...

* No strong emphais on historic preservation. Maybe the loft movement will save the city's older skyscrapers.

* Urban sprawl. Drive from the West into St. Louis on I-40, and it seems like the sprawl begins about 40 miles from the arch. There don't seem to be any efforts to curb it.

* "East County." The St. Louis area developed in a lopsided manner, with the Mississippi acting as a natural barrier to development eastward. (Thus, the lopsided shape of the urbanized area, and the sprawl to the west.)

* Aesthetics. This is a personal pet peeve, but the city and the 'burbs, with only a few exceptions, are cluttered with high rise signs, billboards, and corporate architecture. The cityscape along the city's expressways more often resembles that of Houston or San Antonio, rather than my idealized image of St. Louis (i.e. gently rolling hills and very lush). Cleveland and its 'burbs are, for the most part, quite pretty.

Dan's verdict -- St. Louis will never be "hot," and its revitalization won't reach Denver-like proportions. It'll fix itself up, though, perhaps more so than Buffalo or Cleveland. Home prices in the city itself will be relatively high, compared to the region as a whole. The inner ring suburbs to the north will be hurting. North St. Louis will experience some gentrification and infill. East St. Louis will continue to bleed.


Dan-- I agree with your observations for the most part, but I disagree with your assertion that St. Louis's suburbs aren't aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps not from the highway, but the suburbs of Clayton, University City, Ladue and most other central corridor suburbs are really beautiful. The north and south suburbs are pretty schlocky though, I give you that.

Living here, I am constantly impressed by what I see happening to this old river city. There is mass reinvestment all over the city, including some sections where "nice" people wouldn't be caught dead a few years ago. The downtown housing boom is well underway, Midtown is renovating buildings left and right, the West End is hotter than ever and there are many large-scale rehab projects underway.

Did St. Louis fall as hard as Detroit? Probably not by most accounts, although STL did lose a higher percentage of its population since 1950 than Detroit did. Detroit's abandonment is widespread, whereas STL's North Side was hit the hardest. I have no doubt that the city hit bottom in the mid to late '90s and is now on its way back up. It won't ever again experience the heyday it enjoyed at the turn of the century, but it will continue to become a better city than it has been in more recent decades.

Some links that may be of interest:

St. Louis City development activity: http://stlcin.missouri.org/devprojects/

Metropolis St. Louis-- young, progressive urban-minded organization, very pro-city: http://mstl.org/

East-West Gateway Coordinating Council: http://www.ewgateway.org/

Last edited: