What Makes a Great St. Louis Street Great? Great Streets of STL Wants Your Input

{rendering of the South Grand streetscape project}

With a growing number of projects like the redevelopment 14th Street in Old North St. Louis, the Washington Avenue Loft District Streetscape improvement downtown, the Loop Trolley project in University City, and South Grand and Manchester Avenue traffic lane reductions, there is a continued focus on development of great streets in St. Louis. The St. Louis Great Streets Initiative, started by the East-West Gateway in 2006, is another example of growing commitment to great streets in St. Louis. The city has also passed the “Complete Streets” bill, as of June 11, 2010. Though this bill does not guarantee the creation of great streets, it signals new promise for the future of streets in St. Louis.

The pursuit of great streets arises due to decades of automobile centered development. Generations of designers and planners of new streets have neglected pedestrian comfort and social interaction for the sake of greater auto mobility. They promoted placelessness by emphasizing big box development, strip malls, excessively wide streets with too many lanes and an overall separation of uses. This kind of development is, unfortunately, the face of both the urban realm and the sprawling American suburban landscape.
The creation and restoration of main streets, traditional commercial districts, downtowns and mixed-use centers are part of the attempt to rectify problems caused by auto-centric development.  The success of these places, in part, depends on how well the street looks and functions. Traditionally, great streets were the lifeblood of the community. Great streets draw businesses, residents and visitors to an area. They provide safe, comfortable, walkable environments.  Great streets emphasize the history, culture and aesthetic of the community, while functioning as a catalyst for the local economy. For these reasons they are highly important.
In order for St. Louis to come up with a strategy on how to facilitate the emergence of more great streets, it might be best to inventory and learn from great streets already in existence. What better way to explore those streets than to ask citizens to voice their affinity for current great streets? In doing so, planners, developers and designers could better understand what great streets exist, what makes them great in the eyes of those visiting them and learn how to promote the emergence of new great streets.
For a discussion and poll of your thoughts on great streets of St. Louis please visit: http://www.greatstreetsofstl.com/