You Paid For It – Downtown St. Louis (1774)

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – You Paid For It takes a hard look at Downtown St. Louis. An unprecedented amount has been spent to found the city over the past 10 years yet some areas of downtown still look barren. Fox2Now's Elliott Davis caught up with Auguste Chouteau and Pierre Laclede to demand answers.

When it rains, downtown streets are muddy and nearly impassible, unlike better developed cities in the east. Ramparts and stone defense towers studied by a consultant sit unrealized on a shelf. The smell of horse manure is omnipresent. Several homes are made of sod, or inferior materials.

There are of course successes. No settlement existed here 10 years ago. Homes and store houses have been built according to a rectilinear street grid in the French tradition. Families are commonplace now, where five years prior only working men could be found.

City boosters cite infinite growth from downtown's founding to today. "We landed with 31 men in 1764 and we now number just more than 500," stated city co-founder August Chouteau. "The growth in population, traders, business and other commerce is literally infinite. We are growing faster than both Ste. Genevieve and Fort de Chartres."

Shoud the crown and people France be happy with infinite? Why not more? What more should you have done? After all, isn't tax money the only thing making this endeavor possible?

 Monsieur Pierre Laclede, co-founder of the city, defended what his administration has done over the past 10 years while admitting downtown isn’t yet where he wants it to be. "It's not yet Bedou, but I think we have a lot to be proud of. We are in a tough economy, we just missed our beaver pelt quota this month, but continue to see investment none-the-less."

Chouteau admitted that the city needs greater regional planning and cooperation. "The Osages have made St. Louis a diplomatic and trading center, the Spanish and British are moving into the area as well, but we won't be happy until downtown is a true live-work-play attraction," Chouteau said.

But is money being well spent? In addition to necessities, a large sum has been spent drawing downtown streets on a map and assigning names to many of them. The plan has cost taxpayers more than it should have. Should those taxpayers be satisfied with such expenses?

" 'Live-work-play' isn't simply some new urbanism jargon for us. We mean it and think our investment so far is needed to make this a vibrant downtown, a place where people will want to move," Chouteau emphasized.

"It's necessary in the founding of a city to adequately label streets and mark building lots," Chouteau continued. Could it have been done for less money? Laclede says he's never satisfied, claiming "It's never good enough for me. It always can be better."

St. Louis - 1780
{c. 1774 St. Louis – no settlement existed 10 years prior}

This parody was necessary after Elliott Davis of the local Fox2 TV station decided that somehow downtown St. Louis isn't…finished, that $5B in largely private investment over the past decade doesn't mean that the streets don't quiet down after 5pm when 80,000 workers leave. His premise, that an investment that large should have resulted in something more, something better, or that (and oddly contradictory) not enough has been done (invested) to make downtown vibrant, is misguided. The "You Paid For It" TV news genre forever in seach of "boondoggles" and "gotcha" moments has its place, but in this case Davis decided to attack something he doesn't understand and fails to explain. If you choose, you can view his segment here: You Paid For It: Downtown St. Louis Growth.