Wanted: Plan for 3,000 Acres of Business Development in the City of St. Louis

There is a huge swath of St. Louis City that lays underdeveloped, waiting for a cohesive plan to encourage more intensive use. It's more than twice the area of Forest Park, much larger than the NorthSide Regeneration plan and includes one-third of the city's riverfront. It's the North Riverfront Business Corridor (NRBC) and an $800,000 study is underway to help determine what happens next.

Industrial, port and rail development will, and should, dominate the North Riverfront Land-use discussion. This is the city's working riverfront. It should be seen, understood and celebrated. Access for north side neighborhoods, pedestrians, NRBC workers and the residents of St. Louis must be part of whatever plan emerges for the 3,000 acres and nearly seven miles of riverfront.

There's a reason that our city has little connection to our waterfront. It's inaccessible. If you're a cyclist, or care to take a long walk, a portion of this area can be viewed from the excellent Riverfront Trail. Two concepts can help insure that connectivity is maintained and improved. First, access corridors should be identified and developed. Second, "1% for pedestrians" should be used as a measure of accessibility.

This isn't just about spandex-clad speedsters and urban wonderers having a bike path or new sidewalk, approximately 10,000 individuals work in the NRBC. Their quality of life while in and the around the workplace can drive business development and expansion, meeting the city's primary goal of increasing the tax base and adding jobs. While remaining an industrial corridor, quality walking paths, connections to existing businesses and an overt commitment to accommodating people will benefit the city and business.

{central NRBC between city neighborhoods and the river: trestle in lower left, Old North St. Louis in upper left, Hyde Park in upper right, Produce Row in left center, municipal docks at bottom left}

{existing and potential connections}

Some are already at work to reinvision Branch Street, the only direct connection to the Riverfront Trail from north side communities. Trailnet and others are hosting public meetings to gather feedback for planning. A public information meeting hosted by the St. Louis Development Corporation is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. March 24 at the Bissell Point Waste Water Treatment Plant (10 E. Grand Avenue). Great Rivers Greenway (GRG) continues it long-term planning to convert The Trestle, bisecting the southern portion of the NRBC, to a bike path and elevated park.

The trestle is the largest and most significant connection to be made, and if completed as envisioned, will be an incredible asset, but smaller corridors should be protected and developed for people as well. It is the smaller,more numerous connections that dictate quality of life. Howard-Mullanphy, Madison St., St. Louis Ave., Salisbury, East Grand, Adelaide and Carrie can all provide access for north side residents and NRBC workers. Not all will be pedestrian havens, but they should all accommodate pedestrian activity.

{rendering of completed Trestle}

What if 1% of the NRBC were given over to pedestrians? What if 1% of business investment were given to install streetlights and sidewalks? What about a pocket park or two? What if 1% of anticipated tax breaks and other incentives were dedicated to pedestrian improvement? Inviting and entrusting Trailnet, GRG and others to plan identified corridors and Riverfront Trail access would do nothing to hinder the core goals of business development, and even in the backseat of planning, these organizations can add value to that business development.

Development will no occur overnight, but this is an important part of our city. A consultant will be chosen September 23, 2011. Streamlined supply chain logistics, municipal dock expansion and intermodal connectivity are necessities for business growth. Making a 1% commitment to accessibility will enhance current business, create a better environment for business expansion and help connect city neighborhood to our riverfront.
St. Louis North Riverfront Land-use Study RFQ