Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Locust Street Blues

I took a walk down Locust Street today and encountered numerous Shriners who were in town for a convention this week (Their fezzes made them easy to identify!). Many of the conventioneers that I passed on the street had puzzled looks on their faces as they explored downtown. I stopped to briefly chat with two gentlemen who looked especially perplexed as they searched for somewhere to get a bite to eat – I pointed them to Rooster and suggested the Pasta House Express in the Old Post Office as a secondary suggestion while pointing out that our downtown is in a period of transition, as they probably noticed. I have to say, I was slightly embarrassed at the current state of affairs, and I hate having to apologize to out-of-town visitors for the condition of certain portions of our downtown.

It got me thinking about just how desolate most of Locust really is, at least in the heart of the CBD, east of Tucker. While there are some random bright spots, it’s largely dead.

500 Block North – The parking garage that once featured a ground-floor Woolworth’s store (which is now used for additional parking). The garage hangs over the sidewalk, making it not particularly pleasant to walk under.

500 Block South – The vacant Mercantile Library Building, just begging to be renovated.

600 Block North – The vacant St. Louis Centre and its hulking skybridge. While it’s scheduled to eventually be redeveloped, right now it’s just sad and depressing.

600 Block South – Macy’s department store. Good, but the skybridge makes you want to avoid this entrance altogether.

700 Block North – The U.S. Bank Building’s pointless driveway and green space on the former site of the Ambassador Building on the eastern portion, U.S. Bank offices in a restored historic building to the west.

700 Block South – A parking lot, Lashley & Baer’s offices in a handsome historic building, Hamilton Jewelers in the truncated, but historic, xx Building.

800 Block North – Old Post Office Square is under construction and will be bordered by the Roberts Orpheum Theater and the Roberts Tower. As these projects are completed, this will easily be the best block between Fourth Street and Tucker.

800 Block South – The newly revitalized Old Post Office, with St. Louis Public Library branch and Pasta House Express.

900 Block North – Roberts Lofts in the Board of Education Building. Despite the fact that the building was renovated some time ago, the first-floor retail spaces remain vacant. The remaining smaller buildings on this block are owned by the Roberts Brothers and are mostly vacant. A tiny health food store in the first floor of the St. Louis Design Center Building is the only retailer on the block. The other buildings remain vacant, but would be relatively easy to renovate due to their small size. The tudor building at the end of the block would be perfect for a restaurant or pub.

900 Block South – The parking garage which will eventually house the downtown Schnuck’s store, and the Syndicate Building, which will be adding a plethora of new retail tenants soon. They could not come soon enough.

1000 Block North – The soon-to-be-renovated but currently vacant Farm & Home Savings Building and the 1015 Locust Building, which is slated to receive exterior improvements. A Chinese restaurant is the only retailer on this side of the street. 1015 Locust has a small art gallery on the first floor.

1000 Block South – A small loft building renovated by LoftWorks, which will house Left Bank Books and a basement music venue owned by Dave Bailey, is the only structure adding vitality to this block. The remaining buildings, Blustein’s Bride House and the Alverne Building, are vacant. I wish Craig Heller would take on the Blustein’s Building!

1100 Block North – Large vacant parking lot at the corner, which would be perfect for new construction. The Spool and Thread loft projects add a little life. A dentist’s office is under construction in the old Blend space, and Salt of the Earth appears to still be doing okay. A graphic design firm occupies an old rental car building at the end of the block facing Tucker.

1100 Block South – The renovated Louderman Building is home to furniture store UMA and Rooster, a successful eatery. Band Box Cleaners is in a small building next to the Louderman. A parking lot and parking garage with first-floor Papa John’s make up the rest of the block.

So that’s it for Locust Street. Hopefully all the talk of improvements along this street will become a reality sooner rather than later.


JMedwick said...

With Washington improved, upgrades to Locust are key to connect successful streets like Olive and Pine with Washington. Of the sections of the corridor, the one I am most concerned about is the north side of Locust between 8th and 10th. With the addition of a bookstore and a Schmucks coming to the area, there should no longer be excuses for vacant store fronts in Roberts owned buildings. To build the critical mass of retail in the area and to build off the addition of major retail anchors such as a grocery store, downtown needs for those storefronts to be filled.

susanb said...

I like this look at Locust Street. I work downtown, love walking around the area, and would like to see the momentum built in the last number of years continue. Could you tell me more about yourself? I'd like to point some of my architecture colleagues to your blog but would first like to know more about you. Your profile on the blog doesn't give much information. Thanks.

Matt M. said...

If you have the Locust Street Blues, try Pine or Chestnut! It's all relative! :D

Anonymous said...

I work for the R Bros and there are some plans in development for the western end of the block. Visible activity is slow due to permits, historic preservation and most importantly the lack of tenants that are willing to be "pioneers" We expect that the addition of the Schnucks will create the necessary assurance for the followers.

Brian said...

That's great - thank you for the update. So I guess the plan is to preserve and renovate all of the buildings on that block?