Thursday, June 12, 2008

Downtown? It's Academic.

Ever since SLU and Wash U. relocated from their original locations on Washington Avenue back in the late 1800s, downtown St. Louis has lacked the academic presence that many other CBDs have.

The one bright spot has been Webster University, which has maintained a presence downtown for over 30 years and made a big splash a few years ago when it moved its downtown campus from the Lammert Building to the renovated Old Post Office.

Now Lindenwood University is apparently considering establishing a downtown campus, which would be great for working professionals and any students who are looking to conduct their studies in an urban environment.

Which other local universities could stand to benefit from having downtown locations? UMSL and Maryville are two that come to mind. With campuses in the far reaches of North County and West County, respectively, these schools could possibly benefit from having downtown satellite locations.

Building the Touhill Center on the UMSL campus instead of reusing the Kiel Opera House still ranks as one of downtown’s greatest missed opportunities. Perhaps though UMSL could still establish a permanent downtown studio for its student artists – they’ve already used the old Galaxy space on Washington Avenue for exhibitions.

In the for-profit realm, the University of Phoenix recently moved to a new home in Met Square, and there’s certainly room downtown for other schools.

How about a St. Louis branch of the Art Institutes to bring more of a creative presence downtown?

Or maybe a cooking school? Johnson and Wales’ new Uptown Charlotte campus has helped play a role in that city’s urban boom – perhaps they or Le Cordon Bleu would consider downtown St. Louis. At the very least, maybe Forest Park Community College could move its esteemed culinary arts program downtown, where it would have a built-in “test market.”

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