Groth Guide to Downtown West

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Downtown West neighborhood - STL Downtown West is a St. Louis neighborhood bound by Tucker/12th Street to the east, Cole Street to the north, Jefferson Avenue to the west and Chouteau Avenue to the south. The 2000 census data counted 2,204 residents (11% decline from 1990) of whom 50% were black, 44% white, 3% Hispanic/Latino and 2% Asian. 2,073 housing units were counted, 80% were occupied, 99% rental, 1% owner. And for once, we have some good news in 2011 friends, this neighborhood saw an INCREASE in population from 2000-2010 in the 50-100% range in both density and population. Woo hoo! This is a great…fun…important part of our city.

Most people in the region, and even city residents consider DTW to be Downtown. In fact, DTW doesn’t even have it’s own link on the city website, it simply points to the DT website. This is yet another data point toward my hypothesis that St. Louis could consolidate many of its neighborhoods down from 79 to ~50. But make no mistake, this is an important part of the city, and one of our greatest, most high-profile parts of town. It is a distinct neighborhood gaining population and is an extremely important connection between Downtown and the burgeoning Midtown area giving us a more and more impressive central corridor.

I’ve struggled with how to best represent the most important neighborhoods of St. Louis. The Central West End, Tower Grove South, Downtown, DTW are all large, overwhelmingly beautiful neighborhoods. You could almost take a picture of every building. These are the places that define us now and will define us in the future. To many in the region, these are the only neighborhoods they will see and judge us upon.

This is one of maybe 4 neighborhoods in St. Louis where much of the beauty and nuance is toward the sky. You really have to look up to notice all the amazing architecture that’s going on and still exists in it’s original glory. DTW has a big-city feel and the influx of new residents makes this part of town way more bustling with street level activity compared to 10-15 years ago. I took my photos on a Sunday morning; and, while there were very few businesses open, there were many pedestrians jogging, walking dogs and strollers and generally commuting by foot and bicycle. It was really good to see.

So, I will apologize in advance for the length of this post. It’s hard to capture the most impressive neighborhoods with just 100 photos. This one has more than 200…everywhere you turn there is something worthy of note or contemplation. Let’s start with the light industrial sites visible from Chouteau Avenue on the south. Here’s the progress on the future home of the sheet metal workers union and DynaLabs:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

There are other businesses along here including paint companies, Nestle and of course Ameren UE. I was stopped by Ameren guards and they insisted that I not take pictures of the Ameren campus for security reasons….damn it Al-Qaeda, you win again. They were very cool about it though, and I obliged. But with so many images of Ameren available online, I figured I’d toss in a few:

Ameren UE

Ameren UE

Ameren UE

Ameren UE

Other businesses:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

The C.F. Blanke building that Nestle occupies:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Vin De Set, The roof top seating has some of the best views in town:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

vin de set rooftop

More from the south side of DTW:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

And then there’s the eastern side of DTW bound by Tucker Boulevard or 12th Street which has some familiar institutions including a Federal building just north of I-64, the current…soon to be former Police Station and Academy dating back to 1927:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Here’s the new police station which is also in DTW, on Olive, the building was purchased from AG Edwards/Wachovia/Wells Fargo:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

City Hall which dates back to 1893:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Here are a couple older images of the structure in its original state. The central tower and lesser spires that face Tucker on each end were removed in 1938 due to structural issues:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

There are a couple butt-ugly installments along Tucker including the out of place US Bank branch (one of the worst in town) and the unfortunate and hideous parking garage that hugs the awesome Park Pacific building that is under renovation. Yeah, yeah, two steps forward and one back, right. But really, this garage is one of THE most hideous in the entire city and it faces a major north south street in a high profile part of town. I will assume the architect will not have his/her name etched into this one as our proud fore-fathers did on their masterpieces of the Industrial Age. The Park Pacific building is one of my favorites in town though and I’m happy it’s finding new life:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

The garage falls well short of previous renderings, which often happens, but looking closely, maybe they’re not too different. Hopefully they can build on top of the garage as shown:

Park Pacific_old rendering_2

The north side of the neighborhood is largely light industry and shipping/warehousing operations that are not really worth photographing. There are some other interesting sites though, including the Franklin School designed in 1909 which was handsomely converted to senior apartments.

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Other sites on the northern edge of DTW:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Who wants some Skittles and a Marby Red?

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

I’d love to know the story on how this flounder survived in the middle of a surface parking lot:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

The northern edge has the highest concentration of open lots, cleared land and buildings lying in wait for their turn to re-shine:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Some political commentary:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

But it is the heart of the neighborhood that has seen the most renovation and excitement. You could say Market Street is the heart, and make a strong argument with Union Station, the Peabody Opera House, City Hall, etc, but to me Washington, Locust and Olive have become the real heart of DTW.

So from here on out, I’m just going to try to show you what I think is cool about DTW and you can go out and explore the rest. I won’t bog this down with addresses and current uses of the buildings, I’ll just let the pictures tell the story. Here goes:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

The Plaza Square urban renewal development. One building has been redeveloped as Blu City Spaces. The blue paint brings back an original color:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

blu city spaces

Plaza Square

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Was this a grocery store at some point? If anyone knows what sign used to adorn the top, please let me know.

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Remember to look up, there’s interest on nearly every building cornice:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Yes, that appears to be a hippopotamus:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Peak through the alleys and down the streets to view the awesome urban vistas:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Cool signs:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

There are many, many short 1 and 2 story blond brick structures of note in DTW:

My favorite spots in DTW:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

My favorite spots in DTW:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

I’ve got to mention the other major institutions in DTW. The Central Library is undergoing a $74M facelift:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

St. Louis Central Library

St. Louis Central Library

The stacks were notable for their glass floors and pneumatic tubes that once delivered books to the circulation desk (photos from Flickr user Brick City):

The stacks have now been cleared to make way for a new lobby (demo photo by the Post-Dispatch):

St. Louis Central Library

St. Louis Central Library

The library under construction:

St. Louis Central Library

The Scottrade Center is home of the St. Louis Blues…LET’S GO BLUES! And the former Kiel Opera House, now called the Peabody Opera House, is undergoing a fantastic renovation and is scheduled to open fall 2011. Having sat empty for years, the opera house remains in incredible condition. It will be an incredible addition to the Downtown West neighborhood.

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Interior renovation underway (photos by Tom Paule Photography):

Peabody Opera House

Peabody Opera House

An amazing pre-renovation shot from the Post-Dispatch. Incredible considering this space has sat vacant for years:

Kiel_Peabody Opera House

And another pre-renovation shot, this time the lobby by Brick City:
Kiel_Peabody Opera House

DTW is also a hub for mass transit with connections to the blue and red lines of the MetroLink which stops at Union Station and the Civic Center. It’s also home to the city’s comprehensive transit hub with Amtrak and Greyhound. The Megabus doesn’t use this station but does stop nearby.

The Union Station stop is at the south end of the train shed:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

The multi-modal transit station is just two blocks east:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

I like to admire the outdoor art at the MetroLink stops, it reminds me that we decorate the things we hold dear and value as important places.

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Union Station is as sharp looking as ever and has huge potential. This place could be so much more than it currently is (an aging indoor 80’s mall concept for tourists). The former train shed is a beauty too.

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

The structure is still beautiful, but it has lost nearly all of its context. The train shed and station were once the center of life in the city. Quite literally the gateway to the Gateway City:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

The Gateway Mall through Downtown West isn’t the most inspiring of public places. There are a few gems though, most notably The celebrated Meeting of the Waters by Carl Milles. First, some background:

Civic Improvement League, organized in 1901, called for razing the area to create a central parkway. The 1920s saw the clearing out of a portion of the area with the creation of the Soldiers Memorial and Plaza, Kiel Auditorium, the widening of Market Street and the construction of the Aloe Plaza opposite Union Station. Development of the Aloe Plaza was made possible by an $87 million bond issue in 1923. The fountain is an allegorical depiction of the Meeting of the Waters, the Mississippi (main male figure), the Missouri (main female figure) and the seventeen main tributaries which empty into them (water sprites, mermaids, and fish).

The sculptures and fountain were unveiled May 11, 1940 and purportedly cost $225,000 to construct. First photo by Flickr user G. O’Graffer.

aloe plaza_Flickr G O'Graffer

aloe plaza postcard

The surrounding blocks of the Gateway Mall have been reinvisioned over and again. The latest Master Plan can be read in the nextSTL Scribd library. Plans call for more active uses for the space, including the possibility of an urban mini-golf course:

gateway mall master plan segment

The Soldier’s Memorial Military Museum open to the public since Memorial Day, 1938:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

The Imagine College Preparatory High School on Jefferson Avenue:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

And of course the unmatched, amazing City Museum and Lofts. Whenever I talk to people about what it’s like to live in the city vs. the suburbs in reference to having kids and raising a family, I use the Magic House in the palatable suburb of Kirkwood, MO which is a tidy, vinyl-sided, safe, sanitary place to take the kids for a fun day of activity. Then you contrast that with the City Museum, a freakshow of creativity and imagination. It’s gritty, beautiful, dangerous as hell, kind of scary, challenging and very VERY unique. It’s a totally great city experience and defines what I like about St. Louis and think is superior to the suburban upper crust suburbs. This is a must see place for adults and kids of all ages. You can also live in the City Museum Lofts! It’s not possible to show off City Museum in a few photos. You simply must go there:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

How about a wedding on the roof? This shot’s by Ryan Gladstone Photography:

And the lofts:

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Downtown West neighborhood - STL

Cheers to Downtown West for the gain in population and loads of activity from 2000-2010! I hope to see more and more choosing to call this place home and more and more rehab and infill throughout the area.

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