Monday, December 22, 2008

Flux Capacitor...Fluxing

Let's go back in time, to November 1968. This picture was taken at the corner of 7th and Washington on the day after Thanksgiving, 40 years ago. I LOVE this picture; I find myself staring at it all the time.

Having been downtown on the day after Thanksgiving this year and the last few years, I can attest that there were a lot fewer people on the streets than there were 40 years ago. This year, the vast majority of the people I saw downtown were there to attend the Show-Me Bowl high school state championship football games at the Edward Jones Dome. It was enough to add a little life to the streets, but certainly nothing like the picture above.

When I think about the future of downtown and how I'd like for it to look and feel, this is what I want.

How do we get back to this point?


Anonymous said...

Brian, that is indeed a beautiful picture showing how the past can become the future again. I think the KEY will be to lure West County residents to come and LIVE Downtown. They will only do that if there are good public schools, free/cheap parking, low/negligible crime, good access to acute medical care, convenient grocery shopping, and good neighbors, who serve to enhance one's own life. People are judged by the company they keep, and people are attracted to living in places where they see 'attractive personalities' living. What such personalities live Downtown, and roughly where? Would these celebrities/personalities help the area by giving their time for free, to promote Downtown? That would go a very long way. People never started wearing Reeboks or Tommy Hilfiger or drinking Pepsi, until they saw someone famous doing it! I do believe we can get to this picture, and better, but it will require sustained effort. There are 2 kinds of people in West County: the one who says "I wouldn't even go Downtown without three armed guards" who is obviously still living in 1992, and the other, who is aware of the boom and wants it to get even better. The 'bad image' of Downtown, from 15-20 years ago, is almost indelibly marked into the psyche of many an accomplished Saint Louisan, unfortunately. We need to take these people by the hand to Downtown and show them something to make them change their minds. Your blog does a fantastic job in raising awareness of all the good stuff that happens Downtown, but we need more than talk and blog. We need action. On that note, why is UCity so beautifully decorated for Christmas, with the street decorations, while I see nothing like this Downtown? People need to put their money where their mouths are. Joe Edwards has done a tremendous job with UCity (both sides of Skinker) and he has even honored Downtown with his great bowling alley, but he can't do it alone. Everyone needs to pitch in and make this happen - together. United we stand. The streets are disappointingly quiet Downtown, I agree. They will remain so unless we have an attraction that makes people want to live there. Whenever I go to Maui, I always find myself seriously considering moving there. I don't because it's just "too far". We have all the ball game attendees and convention attendees, from both Saint Louis and across the nation. Shouldn't we be targeting these people about Downtown Saint Louis? They're a captive audience desperately looking for soomething fun to do. Most of them are in town for at least 1 night, and they need to be catered to, the same way tourists are worshipped in Vegas, in The Bahamas, in Maui, the Mediterranean, even New York City. If you're a stranger in town, you need to be MADE TO FEEL WELCOME. This will spill over onto our local county neighbors, who will start liking, nay loving, Downtown once again. Then watch that photograph come back to life. This requires action not just by businesses, but also by the City governmental officials, including the permits people, the water division, the Streets Department, the Treasurer's office and everyone else. They cannot afford to push their weight around as if they're Chesterfield - they're not. They're desperate for business. Saint Louis City has a choice. It could regulate itself into the wilderness, like Overland has (where they have lots of rigid rules, and have scared away new business and landlords, because they're so petty), or it could 'WORK WITH THE LANDLORDS AND THE BUSINESSES' and grant temporary occupancy permits, if things aren't quite perfect just yet, so that the business can open, generate revenue, and then can afford to get that bathroom fixed, or that light working. The City cannot keep fining businesses and landlords, who are doing their best to make the area come alive, just because something isn't 'perfect'. I know politicians are corrupt, and I know unelected tenured officials are lazy, but something has to be done, or else things can rapidly deteriorate into a North City style landscape (again).
We need to work together, and that photo WILL come back to life again.

MH said...

Sorry, I love the enthusiasm above, but West County people are not the solution. They are already gone and their minds are made up. However, their kids and grandkids will be the ones to wake up and realize that the city is the place to live, work and play.

Also, the real goal should be to lure those from other cities/states with fresh ideas. Almost my entire circle (including me) of friends/coworkers/neighbors (nearly my entire block) are people from other cities and states who moved here and love it. These are the kind of people that will really make a difference.

Lastly, I never want to see the city approve partially functioning spaces or unfinished spaces and allow them to be open for business. You may think it is bad for the city, as you describe above, but the one thing that really annoys me the most about this place is how everything is built half-a**ed and the city lets it happen and the developers/business owners as well as the city leaders think that as long as people are building/opening "something" it is good enough. It is a disgrace and makes a lot of businesses and developments seem like they are run by hacks.

My two cents.

Doug Duckworth said...

The solution is to compete with other cities not our own suburbs. We don't need to turn downtown into a gated community full of parking lots and defensible space planning.

Market St. Louis Internationally for it's cheap, historic housing and cultural attractions. Stop worrying about West County.