It’s Time to Steal the Indy Cultural Trail

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In 2001 Indianapolis proposed that five central city neighborhoods be designated cultural districts. Taken together, they were home to nearly every significant arts, cultural, heritage, sports, and entertainment venue in the city. The problem? The neighborhoods were poorly connected and lacked an identity. The solution? The Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

Completed in 2012, the $63M 8-mile multi-use trail was funded by $27.5M in private and philanthropic support, and $35.5M from federal transportation grants. A recent study has found that since the project announcement and groundbreaking in 2007, property values within 500ft of the trail have increased by 148%, or more than $1 billion.

The trail has increased revenue and traffic for businesses along the route. The average trail user spends $53 at local businesses. 95% of users feel safe using the trail. 40-50 new full-time, and 47 new part-time jobs were added at businesses along the trail since its opening. In Fletcher Place, 73 percent of businesses responding to the study’s survey were established after 2010, well after work on the Cultural Trail began. The trail also provided Indianapolis a natural anchor for it’s 250-bike, 25-station bike share program. A bike share project in St. Louis is currently stalled for lack of funding.

The Cultural Trail has been a huge success. Beyond the numbers, it’s help change the perception of Indianapolis as a city. The trail has put a new face on Indianapolis, encouraging human-scaled exploration of the city by locals and visitors alike. There’s new residential infill, private investment, and a greater awareness of the city’s cultural assets and urban neighborhoods. Planners from Cologne, Germany to Miami, Florida have traveled to Indianapolis to study this success. St. Louis should do this.

St. Louis has nothing like the Cultural Trail. There’s the Forest Park multi-use path, which doesn’t even explicitly connect the cultural attractions within the park. The new wayfinding is very nice, but visitors still wander the park without intuitive connections. The park also plays poorly with surrounding city neighborhoods. There’s the Gateway Mall hallway, but that’s just a couple blocks.

We also have the Great Rivers Greenway (GRG) system, clearly the nearest example, but it is also clearly falls short. The greenways explicitly aim for a different mission – connecting the region with recreational paths, largely using old rail right-of-way, or unused land. What is the return on investment of the Centennial Greenway along I-170? Not a lot. It’s an effective low-cost strategy to build a lot of miles of paths. But a bigger opportunity is being missed.

Centennial Greenway - St. Louis, MO{Centennial Greenway alongside Interstate 170 in St. Louis County near Clayton, MO}

GRG has become more aware of urban connections. Being a part of the CityArchRiver project may have been more political than practical, but a nice multi-use path has emerged on the riverfront. Unfortunately, it doesn’t connect much, and there’s zero development potential at the Arch itself. The north city Trestle is still being planned, though it would eventually connect to an industrial zone that’s planned to remain an industrial zone.

Then there’s the Midtown Loop idea to connect parts of Cortex with an eventual Chouteau’s Greenway to downtown, and via Forest Park paths to the Des Peres, Centennial, and St. Vincent Greenways. This may be the most frustrating plan of all as it comes nearest to getting it right, and being a economic development asset.

Great Rivers Greenway Midtown Loop

That trail, as currently envisioned, would follow Clayton Avenue, then snake along the MetroLink right-of-way, cut through the Saint Louis University Frost Campus, avoid the center of Grand Center, then follow the old Hodiamont street car right-of-way north and west that today functions as an alley. The route takes the path of least resistance, and so the path of least positive impact. To leverage assets like the Cultural Trail, the Loop would need to run on Lindell and Grand, or least on Duncan through Cortex.

Here’s what’s missing: the investment in St. Louis is being spent in out-of-the-way places, next to Interstate highways, along old rail lines in residential areas, on side streets and empty land on the edges of successful development, and not as a part of it, in the middle of it, where people want to go. We’re not capitalizing on our investment.

{the Hodiamont street car right-of-way}

{the Midtown Loop would run alongside MetroLink light rail right-of-way}

Here’s where the St. Louis Cultural Trail should go: connect the Old Courthouse/Arch, City Garden, Central Library, Grand Center/SLU, Central West End/Cortex/medical campus/Forest Park with off-shoots to Old North, Soulard, and Missouri Botanical Garden. Eight miles of on-street infrastructure connects them all.

The key is building the trail where it will be used, where it will catalyze development and where it can augment the built environment and existing investment. This is more expensive and more difficult than greenways under power lines next to an Interstate, but it also has an exponentially greater impact.

{the Cultural Trail is built as part of the city’s transportation network}

These paths, investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, work best when they act a part of a city’s transportation network, as connective tissue, when they directly address difficult connections. They’re best when not simply a place to walk or ride, but when used to go somewhere, and when, as often as practicable, the path is also a place.

Atlanta’s Beltline has been a big success and is a bit of a hybrid greeway-urban path, a 22-mile circular route connecting neighborhoods around downtown, but running in an old rail right-of-way. Chicacgo’s 606 is a 2.7-mile straight line path on a former rail line, but it connects dense urban neighborhoods that were in need of green space. New York’s High Line is a very different project in a singular city.

St. Louis has museums, parks, and cultural assets that should make Indianapolis (and Atlanta, and maybe Chicago) blush. The city’s historic neighborhoods are as rich, beautiful, and diverse as any American city, but they’re not connected. Current strategy and plans for bicycle and pedestrian paths won’t address this shortcoming. We need to stop doing what’s easy, and start doing what’s effective.

{focusing on clear and safe infrastructure at intersections is key to creating a path network – image by John Greenfield via newcity.com}

{the Cultural Trail would easily fit on many St. Louis City streets}

We’re not doing what’s necessary to capitalize on our assets. Getting to and from, and between, the best our city has to offer is often ugly, uninspiring, and even dangerous. Indianapolis has figured this out in a big way. It’s time to steal their idea.

Perhaps the city’s new traffic engineer focused on how residents on bicycles and walking are accommodated can help pull together a cohesive strategy. Maybe Forest Park Forever with neighborhood partners at Washington University and the Central West End can get started on it. Maybe the next iteration of CityArchRiver can look to the next layer and help connect city neighborhoods to the Arch and river. Perhaps GRG can continue its urban evolution, maybe Trailnet can help with planning.

A St. Louis Cultural trail would not only benefit its immediate environs, it could anchor and give impetus to more basic, affordable, and widespread infrastructure. By planning protected bike lanes, sidewalk replacement, and bike routes to connect with the trail, the network could be effectively prioritized, phased and constructed. The result would be a system much greater than the sum of its parts.

The existing 110-miles of greenways from Dardenne Prairie (37 miles west of the Arch) to the North Riverfront Trail are a great asset to the region. The planned 600-mile network is an important investment, but no organization is yet focused on leveraging what’s best about St. Louis into something greater, on connecting the dots. We are currently doing less with more. It’s time to steal Indy’s Cultural Trail.

St. Louis bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure:

Protected bike lane - St. Louis, MO{protected bike lane, downtown St. Louis}

Gateway Mall hallway - St. Louis, MO{Gateway Mall hallway at City Garden}

{Forest Park multi-use path at Skinker Boulevard – image by Andrew Conway}

{the greenway at WUSTL’s Danforth Campus runs for 1/2mi along Forsyth Boulevard}

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  • onecity

    Maximum impact is delivered by connecting the places people live to the places people work and play, and allowing this movement to occur along both a scenic or recreational path, and a neighborhood path that goes past the major storefront districts on the big commercial streets. It is 100% about day to day utility.

  • john

    “Getting to and from, and between, the best our city has to offer is often ugly, uninspiring, and even dangerous” is exactly right.

    There are numerous routes even in Clayton area that have been unaddressed by GRG & Trailnet. People in STL region are use to ineffective leadership and but the problems are made worse by a structurally divided government.

    A great asset base is being mismanged on a grand scale and leading advocate organizations are wasting resources to construct disconnected trails to no where.

    • John R

      These shortcomings are firmly the result of the local cities, not GRG, and certainly not Trailnet.

  • Trails are great, but the real opportunity lies in complete streets policies that put real infrastructure down, especially as part of planned MRO. Get one of those passed that mandates PBLs on streets that meet certain speed limit/AADT thresholds and it gets much easier to connect them together to form longer trails.

  • This video says it all! 🙂

    https://vimeo.com/68037407

  • I’m just happy that we’re advocating stealing the programs/ideas from other cities for use here! There’s often an infuriating close-mindedness in St. Louis — a mindset that rejects outsiders and outside ideas — that immediately removes valuable tools from our collective toolbox.

  • Danny

    Which would have a greater ROI? An Arch to Forest Park Cultural Trail through the main artery of the central corridor? Or a Lindell streetcar from downtown to the CWE? I think it’s fun to think about a streetcar, but I think a Cultural Trail down Market and Lindell could be much more feasible just based on cost while having a similar economic and real estate development impact for the city.

    • JZ71

      Umm, neither?

    • Alex Ihnen

      I think a streetcar could have a greater impact, but a Cultural Trail may be 1/10th the cost…so maybe ROI is greater there, and it’s less risk.

  • John R

    A Cultural Trail would be terrific for STL, but I would put it behind bikeshare as a priority… we should have had that yesterday. I also think it could be part of the streetcar planning process.

  • HamTech87

    Exactly. The idea of “recreational” trails in out of the way places is fine, but not as worthy of transportation dollars as something like the Indy Cultural Trail. Sadly, the biggest objections to projects like the Indy Cultural Trail in many cities is the loss of parking and/or lanes for motorists. This is true even in places like NYC where motorists are in the minority. The supposed “right” to store ones personal property, their car, on a public street is deemed sacrosanct.

    • Chicagoan

      It’s disappointing how many car-obsessed people there still are in American cities, especially ones like Chicago and New York, which have great transit systems. It’s sites like these that give me hope. Great discussion on here.

  • Steve Kluth

    This shouldn’t be complicated. A starter trail connecting Forest Park to the Arch Grounds would be a good start. Dedicate a path starting at Kingshighway and West Park, east along West Park to Newstead, south one block to Laclede, east on Laclede to Theresa, north on Theresa to Lindell, east on Lindell/Olive to 19th, south on 19th to Chestnut, east on Chestnut to Arch. Some of this is already in place.

    Extensions eventually could potentially be built along Newstead to the Grove and eventually to the Botanical Garden, west along Lindell and Des Peres to the Loop, and south through Soulard to A/B and the Arsenal once NGA vacates the grounds. A bold addition would be to rebuild the old Spring Avenue viaduct as an exclusive bicycle/pedestrian bridge connecting the SLU campuses and eventually south to Tower Grove Park.

    The starter trail is either along side streets (Laclede, Theresa) or wide underused streets (Olive). The side streets would lose parking, but other than in the CWE it’s not a big loss.

  • Steve Kluth

    This shouldn’t be complicated. A starter trail connecting Forest Park to the Arch Grounds would be a good start. Dedicate a path starting at Kingshighway and West Park, east along West Park to Newstead, south one block to Laclede, east on Laclede to Theresa, north on Theresa to Lindell, east on Lindell/Olive to 19th, south on 19th to Chestnut, east on Chestnut to Arch. Some of this is already in place.

    Extensions eventually could potentially be built along Newstead to the Grove and eventually to the Botanical Garden, west along Lindell and Des Peres to the Loop, and south through Soulard to A/B and the Arsenal once NGA vacates the grounds. A bold addition would be to rebuild the old Spring Avenue viaduct as an exclusive bicycle/pedestrian bridge connecting the SLU campuses and eventually south to Tower Grove Park.

    The starter trail is either along side streets (Laclede, Theresa) or wide underused streets (Olive). The side streets would lose parking, but other than in the CWE it’s not a big loss.

  • JZ71

    Even without dedicated infrastructure, with just a map, St. Louis could put together a pretty awesome tour of its breweries and brewpubs!

    • John R

      STL brewers should definitely copy Louisville’s successful Urban Bourbon Trail.

  • matimal

    And St. Louis would have actual culture to go along with its trail unlike in Indy.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Zing! (It’s true.)

      • Nat76

        Definitely true, but Indy has a few advantages in constructing this type of infrastructure. Downtown is the undisputed king of commerce there and the relatively few cultural/entertainment assets are in close proximity to downtown, making it easier to built a robust network connecting everything. Indy also has fewer old neighborhoods with good “bones”. The limited supply of quality urban housing stock means that when something like this gets built in those areas, they really blow up quickly. Our dollars here get split among so many quality options, so things move along more slowly. I was in Fountain Square last Sunday night and couldn’t believe how much it had changed in a year, let alone compared to where it was around 2000-04. I do think we could apply a few lessons from it though.
        A STL version of this would need to be: buffered/separate, adjacent to commercial storefronts, visually well branded, and it would need to create a strong narrative. Imagine a loop that took you through Lafayette Square, Soulard, Cherokee, up S. Grand, through Tower Grove Park, on to the Hill, and over to the Grove before doubling back. That tells an interesting story about a big section of the city that residents and visitors alike could appreciate.

        • pat

          Hellooooo Gravois

    • Chicagoan

      It feels strange to compare Indianapolis and St. Louis because they’re so different. As previously said, Indianapolis has done a great job of maintaining their downtown business distict. Commerce seems to be thriving there, whereas the DBD in St. Louis is pretty poor right now.

      But, St. Louis is best seen through its neighborhoods. A lot of gorgeous architecture, especially in Lafayette Square (As far as I’ve seen), a neighborhood that can stand toe-to-toe with the beautiful neighborhoods of Chicago and New York.

      Indianapolis feels pretty devoid of culture, though, which I think is something StL has going for it. A cultural trail could tell a real story, if StL did it right.

      Will they, though? I thought I read they shelved the bike-sharing program, after having shelved that downtown trolley earlier.
      The city doesn’t seem super interested in investing in modern urban infrastructure right now.

      • matimal

        This article isn’t about “commerce.” It’s about the artistic, civic, institutional life of St. Louis and Indianapolis. St. Louis’ museums, churches, public parks, historic districts, theaters, and artistic institutions are vastly larger, better funded, and better attended than anything in Indy. Indy lacks anything like Washington U, SLU, a major teaching and research hospital, or anything like Soulard or the Missouri Botanical Gardens, for example.

        • Chicagoan

          I know, I was just commenting on how different the cities are.
          If anyone has ever visited Poland (lovely country), I think a good analogy could be Krakow as St. Louis and Warsaw as Indianapolis.

          Krakow is more cultural and has a number of fine institutions, whereas Warsaw is more about business (and, well, politics).

          If that makes any sense.

          • matimal

            I don’t know Poland or if that’s a fair comparison. St. Louis’ population and GDP are both about a third larger than that of Indy. St. Louis has an economy and population that are significantly larger than Indy and a cultural life that is vastly greater. As a metro, Indy is inferior to St. Louis is every way I can think of.

          • Chicagoan

            I’m not trying to say Indianapolis is a better city than St. Louis. I think downtown Indianapolis is a little bit more bustling, in a commerce-sense. But, it also has a ton of parking lots, where at least downtown St. Louis has a number of grand old buildings (though, a fair amount are vacant).

            St. Louis is a much more cosmopolitan city than Indianapolis, I agree.

          • matimal

            I’m really comparing metros, not downtowns.

          • Alex Ihnen

            I think three days in downtown Indy is a better experience than three days in downtown St. Louis…but if you include Forest Park and add a couple days, or explore the city more, it’s very clearly the opposite.

          • matimal

            I’ve spent three days in downtown Indy. It was two-days too much.

          • moorlander

            How many jobs are there in downtown Indy? Love the idea for a StL cultural trail btw!

          • Alex Ihnen

            Demographia shows Indy: 73,140 CBD jobs (8.3% of metro jobs) and St. Louis: 57,810 (4.4%). Numbers are a couple years old: http://www.demographia.com/db-cbd2000.pdf

          • Nat76

            STL from and urban and cultural standpoint is vastly superior. No doubt about it, and overall, I prefer it to Indy. Indy shines on some nuts and bolts things by comparison: better political agility and a better overall economy that attracts a higher rate of immigration being big ones. The Lilly Endowment is an huge patron of various community initiatives ($8 billion of assets). Metro economy comparison: in 2001, metro Indy’s GDP was 76% of STL’s, but its economic output per resident was 1.21 times that of STL. By 2013, the metro GDP disparity closed to 86% of STL while economic output per resident grew to 1.23 times that of STL. The economic clout gap has closed pretty quickly.

          • matimal

            Where would you rather live?

          • Nat76

            I already mentioned that overall, I prefer STL to Indy. But having lived in both, they’re very close. There is more to love about STL, but there is also more to strongly dislike. What you or I prefer doesn’t really matter though, does it? More people are moving to Indy than they are STL (on a regional basis). Their economy is growing faster, and the GDP gap is much smaller than STL being “about a third again” larger as you claimed. A weakness of this region is that people are often dismissive of what other regions are doing, particularly when they categorize these regions as “beneath” STL. They live too much on past glories. Residents with this attitude could do the same to Minneapolis (and other places) in the 70s or 80s. Regardless, the region needs to do a much better job of collectively leveraging its cultural and historic assets, education centers, etc. if it wants to maintain the relevance it currently has. If not, the region will continue to be overrun by competitors. That competitor might be Indy, or it could be Columbus, Nashville, KC, or somewhere else.

          • matimal

            St. Louis is losing companies to bigger metros, not Nashville, KC, or Columbus.

          • JZ71

            The first part of fixing any problem is admitting that you have a problem to fix. Is St. Louis perfect? No! But it does have a lot of things going for it, things that we can all build on. Putting on blinders, and insisting that St. Louis is better, in any and every way, is both counter-productive and short-sighted. There is little disgreement that the region is fragmented, politically, that downtown St. Louis is a shell of its former self (and facing significant competition, both regionally and nationally), and that other metro areas are doing better economically (and growing, both in population and economically). Yes, it’s a “judgement”, but one based strongly on fact. And while I’m no fan of copycat efforts, just for the sake of copying, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeing what does “work”, elsewhere, and seeing if any of the ideas can be applied here. It’s certainly not an admission of inadequacy or inferiority, it’s just how any city or any region continues to evolve, in a positive direction.

          • matimal

            What did I write that suggested I oppose the improvement of St. Louis?

          • JZ71

            Most of your posts are that St. Louis is “equal” or “better” than “X”. The implication is that we have nothing that needs improvement: “As a metro, Indy is inferior to St. Louis is every way I can think of.” “St. Louis easily equals Atlanta in innovation.” “St. Louis’ museums, churches, public parks, historic districts, theaters, and artistic institutions are vastly larger, better funded, and better attended than anything in Indy.” “I’ve spent three days in downtown Indy. It was two-days too much.” “And St. Louis would have actual culture to go along with its trail unlike in Indy.” NO city is better, in every way, than any other city, nor is any city worse, in every way, than any other city, either. Like KevinB stated, “I’m just happy that we’re advocating stealing the programs/ideas from other cities for use here! There’s often an infuriating close-mindedness in St. Louis — a mindset that rejects outsiders and outside ideas — that immediately removes valuable tools from our collective toolbox.”

          • matimal

            Not at all. Your projecting. I’m all for major changes in St. Louis. I just think that St. Louis’ biggest problem is that it doesn’t believe in itself; that St. Louisers want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I’m just reminding everyone that they shouldn’t do that. Building a “trail” to connect largely non-existent “culture” in Indy is a very different game from having actual culture to connect as St. Louis does. We shouldn’t indulge the St. Louis inferiority complex, but bring a realism to the metro.

        • Alex Ihnen

          On the flip side, I’d say that St. Louis lacks anything like IUPUI. Among other things, it has a ~Top 100 law school, a medical school (Indiana) as large as SLU/WUSTL combined, more than 30,000 students, and it’s right downtown. I think its presence bodes well for Indy as the campus continues to grow. The campus also recently completed a $1B fundraising campaign.

          It also helps that Indy is the state capital, that downtown is nearer the population center of the region than STL’s, that it’s by far the largest city in the state, and centrally located in the state. But yes, the cultural assets from the zoo, to theatre, to parks, the symphony, etc. can’t compare. That’s why I think a Cultural Trail in STL would be amazingly successful.

          And FWIW, the St. Louis economy is ~18% larger than Indianapolis, and there are ~1M more people in the metro area. St. Louis compared to Indy is more about business and more about culture. (Indy’s a lovely place though)

          • Chicagoan

            Great point, I forgot about the whole “state capital” thing. That’s a few jobs, right? 🙂

          • matimal

            How many state capitals are centers of innovation?

          • Chicagoan

            I think you’re taking my comments the wrong way. I was just trying to say that these cities have a much different feel to them.

            Indianapolis feels sterile, but has a pretty decent DBD. St. Louis doesn’t have much of a DBD, but it has awesome neighborhoods.

            I just think they’re hard to compare. I like StL a lot more, though.

          • JZ71

            Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Atlanta, Madison (WI), Austin, Nashville, St. Paul (MN) and Boston, to name few . . . but you’re right about Jeff City and Springfield!

          • matimal

            Phoenix is a real estate economy. Atlanta is a near sourcing center for established businesses fleeing the northeast/Midwest. Nashville is an even cheaper near-sourcing center for established businesses fleeing the northeast/Midwest, Madison is a college town. Denver is a resource hub. No innovation in any of these. they’re places to do it more cheaply or conveniently, not to do new things. St. Paul has some innovation, and Boston has biotech, but lost it’s lead in other areas of innovation awhile ago. Austin is the one that might actually be a center of innovation.

          • John R

            I’m curious how you would stack STL up with these other cities/regions. How would you compare Atlanta to Saint Louis, e.g. as a center of innovation?

          • matimal

            St. Louis easily equals Atlanta in innovation. St. Louis creates its innovation internally (or ‘organically’ as financial types say) and Atlanta imports it with big tax credits and subsidies. Nashville is following Atlanta’s lead. Denver is a resource extraction headquarters economy. Little innovation there. The problem with innovation is that it can easily be ‘offshored’ these days. Monsanto or the startups in Cortex can come up with something genuinely innovative and it can be turned into an actual business in Nashville or Atlanta to take advantage of the subsidies and tax credits.

          • John R

            You seem to underestimate Atlanta’s start-up and research industries… yes, ATL has landed many high-profile corporate relocations but it also has a strong research base with excellent universities and a significant start-up industry. What’s going on in Cortex, BRDG and downtown with research and start-ups is promising, but to date we have nothing like Midtown ATL which is a booming mix of established tech firms and start-ups (the latter of which are moving to lower-rent districts in the city because the bigs are jacking up rates). I’m pretty sure they have more start-up activity and funding than we do, at least for now.

            I don’t know as much about Denver, but I do know that the Denver/Boulder area is a hot start-up market as well. Both are regions attracting loads of talent and re-shaping local economies. It’s a competitive world out there, and hopefully we can hold our own, but my sense is as a whole we’ve been falling behind in the post-recession era. We’ve got to hustle harder, provide even more capital for start-ups and make better decisions.

          • matimal

            “Tech firms” and innovation are not necessarily one in the same. I’m sure much of the “tech” going on in Atlanta and other southern cities is not cutting edge innovation, but is established business activity being located in a cheap place to do business and to live. Just because a pseudo post-industrial ‘work space’ is filled with young people staring at computer screens doesn’t mean that genuine innovation is going on.
            It is a competitive world out there and places like Indy, the original subject of this post, are at a serious disadvantages in their social and cultural offerings.

          • John R

            I just think you’d bring more credibility to your arguments if you were to acknowledge the strengths and competitiveness of other regions more…. to say that Atlanta, which has such assets as Emory University, Centers for Disease Control, Georgia Tech, a strong start-up culture and an established corporate base is producing no innovation just seems misplaced. And Indianapolis is no slouch, either.

            And the big concern I have is that places like Atlanta and Indianapolis appear to be doing a better job of making the most of what assets they do have.

          • matimal

            Whose side are you on? More importantly, why should I do what countless others have already done? You won’t inspire change in St. Louis by endlessly dumping on St. Louisers. Change happens when people see hope, not when they’ve lost all hope under the weight of endless cataloguing of their weaknesses and failures.

          • John R.

            I’m on the side of developing and executing policies and programs that will help make STL City and region a truly vibrant and engaging place that will enable it to better fulfill its tremendous potential. This requires a dispassionate assessment and understanding of our strengths and weaknesses in comparison to other regions. I don’t recommend that you, or anyone else, endlessly dump on St. Louis.

          • JZ71

            Innovation occurs in many fields, not just compters and bio-tech. My only point was that the cities I listed, all state, capitals, are doing well, economically (and far better than Jeff City or Springfield). If you want to separate “innovation” from economic success, so be it, but economic mesures are usually a good way to measure how well “innovation” is working out in the real world.

          • JZ71

            Innovation occurs in many fields, not just computers and bio-tech. My only point was that the cities I listed, all state, capitals, are doing well, economically (and far better than Jeff City or Springfield). If you want to separate “innovation” from economic success, so be it, but economic mesures are usually a good way to measure how well “innovation” is working out in the real world.

          • matimal

            Doing well and being centers of innovation are two different things. I don’t think the boom in Nashville is a sign of its innovation. It’s a sign of established businesses finding a new place to lower their costs. Nothing new is coming out of Nashville.

          • matimal

            Look at per capita wages or per capita gdp by MSAs and you’ll see where the innovation is.

          • matimal

            IUPUI is a branch campus of two institutions not centered in Indy. I find it hard to believe that it’s economic impact can equal Washington U and SLU. The total university budgets and the value of research activities are what matter about an institution.

          • Alex Ihnen

            IUPUI’s economic impact isn’t near equal to WUSTL/SLU, but it is becoming a major university, in size and impact. Its growth has been pretty amazing. Its impact is much larger than the perception of it as branch campus.

  • Bryan Kirchoff

    A very intriguing concept, but I would want more of a baseline to judge it. Certainly economic activity is spurred along new infrastructure, but the real questions are “Is other local economic activity simply migrating over to where the infrastructure is?” and “By having said new infrastructure, do people spend more than they otherwise would?” We would need to know how much of the property value increase is due specifically to said trail, versus simply to a recovering housing market and the value advantage new/rehabbed construction has over existing stock.
    St. Louis
    St. Louis

    • Nat76

      I agree that the economic impact is somewhat overblown because those types of studies ignore the fact that expenditures in one area cannibalize expenditures elsewhere. Despite this, the trail has done very well for the city. A lot of the economic boom along the trail is going into locally owned places along Mass and Virginia Ave. Local places get better multipliers than nationals (where $ gets shipped back to corporate HQ).

  • stlhistory

    Having walked the Cultural Trail last year, I can say I was absolutely blown away. At the time, I wondered how they accomplished it and how we could do it here. I also spent $50+ at a local place I otherwise wouldn’t have visited.

  • Chicagoan

    I can testify that The 606 is absolutely fantastic. It runs through Bucktown, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and Wicker Park. Bucktown, Logan Square and Wicker Park had already been popular before The 606 and are now blowing up as a result of the “linear park”. Developers have already started trying to tie The 606 into their properties (see: “Only three blocks from The 606!”).

    Humboldt Park, a neighborhood with a fabulous park and a number of grand boulevards, seems to be awaking from its slumber and developers are now starting to circle. A lot of new construction and renovation is going on in the neighborhood now and it seems like The 606 is going to be what’s going to push Humboldt Park over the edge, finally making it a more developed neighborhood.

    It’s just a great, alternative way to see the city. Some people even use it for commuting to and from work.

    I’d love to see StL get something like this!

  • T-Leb

    GRG is about open space, soil and water protection. They buy/easements lots of pieces of land to create the River Ring in our region. And they do what’s easy first but have also done some larger/expensive/complex projects all over the region. IL, last time I checked, still has to do some work, some trails are still gravel and not paved if you take riverfront trail to IL and come back on McKinley Bridge. Connections to Grant’s Trail from Jefferson Barracks will be expensive and I believe bring incredible value. Jefferson Barracks Historic Site connected to a National Park (Grant’s Farm) is good stuff.
    Do remember most city streets are not crowded with traffic and are easily biked. But I too enjoy better infrastructure and think a cultural trail would be really cool, if significant and not done on the cheap like some GRG existing projects.