GOOD Ideas for Cities Draws a Crowd, Highlights Creative Talent, Sets Stage for Future Action

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GOOD Ideas for Cities - St. Louis (Listen to "GOOD Ideas for St. Louis" from St. Louis Public Radio's St. Louis on the Air with myself, Patrick Brown, Special Assistant to City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and urban leader for the GOOD event, Kevin McCoy, printmaker and business owner and member of the ACTivate the City team, and Maggie Hales, Deputy Executive Director at East West Gateway Council of Governments and urban leader, as guests.)

846 individuals showed up to hear from seven teams tasked with designing creative solutions to problems in St. Louis. That number may be the single more important thing about the GOOD Ideas for Cities event this past Thursday at the Contemporary Art Museum. St. Louis responded and while some see the event as the start of something new, it's more accurate to see it as another indicator that the St. Louis community is changing, that civic engagement is on the rise.

846 people showed up because dozens of organizations across the region have been organizing to build awareness and engage residents in new ways. nextSTL along with Urban Review STL served as media partners, alongside more established media, the Mayor's Vanguard Cabinet was well represented, not just in attendance, but on the seven design teams and groups from Metro to Trailnet have increasingly focused on public engagement. To pull off an event like this, a city has to already have a lot going for it.

And yet, the first question after event is "will action follow". GOOD Ideas for Cities is focused on action, and one presented design will be chosen by GOOD and the teams to push ahead and attempt to become reality. But whether that happens or not, action will follow. Perhaps Maggie Hales personifies this action when she stated on St. Louis on the Air that she's personally been inspired by the event to work more creatively within East West Gateway and to see through some of these ideas to reality. If the GOOD event were to serve only as this sort of inspiration, it would be well worth it.

The payoff is going to be future collaboration and efforts that we are not aware of today. The St. Louis community needs 846 people to attend events like this so that we have 200 people volunteer to plant community gardens with Gateway Greening and so that 40 people will show up at the next community meeting about a proposed historic preservation district, so that 4 people show up at a Land Reutilization Authority meeting. A number of these comments mirror what was said on St. Louis Public Radio. Be sure to listen to the podcast to learn more.

Through this experience, East West Gateway is now better connected to Metro, KETC and individual members of the community. This is the case with each and every team. The local leaders are an impressive list, which includes St. Patrick's Center to Lambert International Airport, Washington University, Mayor Slay's office, Great Rivers Greenway, the Partnership for Downtown and many more. Teams themselves were empowered to make the city a better place. Check out the individual team profiles here.

The Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Beacon both covered the event and have good round-ups. Brief descriptions from memory of each proposal would be insufficient and shortchange the ideas themselves and so will not be attempted here. Updates and additional information is available at the GOOD Ideas for Cities – St. Louis Facebook page. Videos of each presentation are not yet online, but will be made available and posted here soon. Until then, at least two teams have put their presentations online:


STL Provocateur GOOD Ideas for Cities – St. Louis Presentation

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  • Imran

    To GMichaud. I feel the same way. I dont think the new wave of engaged urban minds will let Biondi live this down though. Its sort of like the century building debacle of this decade. Until the city grows back its spine and can stand up to the political muscle that institutions flex, the results will remain sporadic.

  • GMichaud

    I agree, information on the presentations would be great, and
    I deeply appreciate the time you (and others) put into maintaining this blog.

    That being said I hope don’t mind my usual of the wall
    comments. I wonder how, with a title of Good Ideas for Cities,  the current conversation about SLU, and its
    plans on the southeast grand and Chouteau are not a focus.  This project is happening now, it is one of
    the most important sites in for the future of St Louis and it defines the
    meaning of urban design.

    Here is a response I recently wrote at Urban Review, now
    buried, involving the already built research building across the street.

    Doisy Center Plaza could be salvaged with an urban approach.
    Here is a simple concept, the Doisy Center should be surrounded by dense buildings.
    If the Pevely is not retained, row buildings at street level along should climb
    Grand Ave with parking behind. Also buildings on the street across the intersection,
    just North of the Pevely site should do the same. In future city plans Captain
    D seafood and going east are replaced with density. And the non dense northern
    edge of Doisy along Carr Ave becomes an attractive walk and drive, quieter but
    still with density defined by architecture (and parking behind).

    The Plaza at the Doisy Center then becomes an important public space. It
    becomes a destination. It is physically shaping the environment to maximize its
    potential. The proximity to major transit becomes a plus for the University,
    for the Hospital, for the city, for the citizens, this in turn supports pedestrian activity and the general success of transit. 

    The organization of the space and environment around the Doisy Center is
    meaningless now; the Pevely site is a unique opportunity to forge a new future
    for St. Louis and for St. Louis University.  There are not many significant
    sites connected to light rail. To ignore this fact is pure madness.

    The failure of SLU leadership to act in its own interests is bad enough. The
    fact City Government is not even in this discussion indicates even greater

    As the design charette on the Pevely Building demonstrated, there are many
    possible solutions.  To settle for the current SLU solution for the Pevely
    site is a major failure on the part of the corporate/government establishment.”

    The fact remains, decisions at this site on Grand and
    Chouteau are central to the future of St. Louis.  It is the premier site in the region and the art
    of architecture and urban planning should reflect that. There is major and
    important questions in play, why not take a stand on them? Otherwise Good
    Cities will become another exercise in paperwork and futility.

  • Queen city builder

    i’m from cincinnati and i’m curious about the good project in st louis – we’re thinking about a team for the may event. we don’t think of ourselves as creatives or designers, we think of ourselves as citizens. what if i want to contribute intellectually and physically to the city? ya know, like, not participate in someone’s branding but buy a building or start a business or run for office? how about cooperatives or benefit corporations? how do the beacons and pencil drawings help? i thought this was all about converting boosterism to engagement.

    perhaps the queen city gets lucky because we didn’t go first. 

    it looks nice, in any case.

    • A citizen

      If all you took away from the aforementioned presentations was “beacons and pencil drawings,” you weren’t paying close enough attention. View them again and I think you’ll find answers to some of your questions.

  • Kuan Butts

    We got to hear some of your opinions on the GOOD Ideas through the public radio piece, but it would be really interesting if you (Ihnen) went through and did a review of each project. As I am sure most/all readers will agree, your opinions are widely respected (as I think your readership numbers exemplify), so such a piece would be insightful and contribute greatly to the post-GOOD discussion.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Well thanks. I may do that, but wanted to wait until I could embed a video of each presentation so that the reader could hear and see the event. That, and I do believe that the greatest value of the event is to be found in future collaboration and the energy/inspiration provided and less in the specific ideas. Once the videos are up I hope to find time to look at specific proposals.