Why You Should Go to the Chouteau Greenway Events this Week

If you haven’t yet heard of Great Rivers Greenway (GRG) or specifically the Chouteau Greenway, you’re missing out on one of the most exciting developments planned in St. Louis.  GRG, the regional public agency created in 2000 to maintain and develop the metro’s trail network, has begun planning a massive new project: the Chouteau Greenway.  Continuing a national trend of urbanism landscape interventions, the new greenway will connect the Arch Grounds to Forest Park via a continuous pedestrian corridor.  For this specific greenway section, GRG decided to go all in by launching a design competition that received 19 international bids and has since selected 4 finalists.  These finalists, each receiving a privately funded $75K honorarium, now have until April to design a full plan.

While developers and business leaders have long promoted big projects to St. Louisans with failed promises of large-scale revitalization of the urban core, this greenway could actually get the ball rolling.  Whether you’re a chronic skeptic or cavalier Show-Me enthusiast, you’re likely wondering how this project will be any different than the rest. Let me explore how the Chouteau Greenway could spark widespread urban revitalization.

The project provides a great opportunity for St. Louis with vast potential for large-scale economic development, improved social equity and mobility, and more resilient ecological infrastructure.  We should measure success across all these dimensions.  Fortunately, in the context of similar projects in other cities, St. Louis is well positioned for the Chouteau Greenway to achieve ambitious goals.  While I hope to inspire optimism and support, above all, I desire to encourage active community participation.  Starting with the community meetings this Thursday and Saturday, we all have an opportunity to do so.

Now, let’s consider how other cities have approached similar projects, and how St. Louis stacks up:

Economic Development

In 2009, New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation completed the conversion of roughly a half-mile stretch of elevated industrial rail to a linear park known as the High Line. Since then, the trail has been extended only one mile further, leaving a massive boom of economic development in its wake.  Two years after opening, the New York Times attributed $2B in economic development directly to the High Line–not a bad return for the initial $153 million spent.  Further, the city expects $1B in increased tax revenue over the next 20 years.  With more than 7 million visitors annually, the High Line proves the effectiveness of good design, adaptable reuse, and placemaking in economic development.

While it’s tough to compare St. Louis to New York, given its size, the economic development generated by the High Line suggests great possibility for the Chouteau Greenway.  In many ways, our Greenway will be built on greater fundamental strengths. The High Line expanded a short 1.5 miles through the transitioning neighborhood of Chelsea; the Chouteau Greenway will cover roughly 5 miles through St. Louis’ institution-rich central corridor. By connecting people with where they are to where they want to go, the project would incentivize continuous investment throughout the central corridor and bolster the tax base.  The Chouteau Greenway will go farther than any other recent large-scale project in promoting a vibrant urban core, where people want to live, work, and play, which is essential to the health and growth of the entire region.

Potential Chouteau Greenway path and connected institutions

Social Equity

Even with all its benefits, the High Line is not without criticism.  The consequential economic development largely excluded lower-income communities of color, and dramatic increases in living and housing costs around the High Line displaced many long-term low-income residents.

The High line isn’t the only greenway to face critique.  Atlanta’s Beltline project also struggled to ensure equitable distribution of economic gains.  The city required Atlanta Beltline Inc., which manages the project, to fund at least 5,600 affordable housing units around the trail network by its completion date in 2030.  Though a noble promise, its realization has fallen significantly behind with the managing agency primarily to blame.  For these kinds of projects to achieve the full-scale urban revitalization they desire, they must consider those populations that stand to suffer from the very beginning.

While St. Louis happens to be one of the most affordable cities in the country, many of its best amenities are concentrated in higher income areas around the central corridor and in south city.  The Chouteau Greenway can and needs to improve equitable access to those amenities.  In addition to the physical aesthetics, the final design plan must include planning controls and funding mechanisms to ensure new affordable housing development as the area experiences increased investment.  The public must engage with and hold GRG accountable.  For starters, we could encourage them to join the High Line Network, a collaboration of similar projects, which aims to learn from earlier mistakes and tackle the gentrification caused by these projects.

Ecological Resilience

We are familiar with Hurricane Harvey and the tremendous damage it wreaked on Houston.  What you may not know is that a Greenway network, regional in scale like GRG, presents Houston with a viable solution for future storm events.  Their Greenway may also accomplish economic development goals, but its impetus would be to protect the city from another hurricane like Harvey.  Building resilience has become a top priority.  The Bayou Greenway network would provide the city with a natural system to retain and direct the flow of water and well as provide a community amenity.

Like Houston, St. Louis has a great opportunity for ecological planning.  At the confluence of three major rivers, St. Louis’ aging water infrastructure is a pending liability. The city experiences one of the highest rates of flooding in the country.  While the Metropolitan Sewer District works to win a national infrastructure loan and repairs the aging system, I wonder how much consideration has been given to the natural systems that could just as effectively relieve infrastructural pressure.  Great Rivers Greenway, and specifically, the Chouteau Greenway presents a significant opportunity to support a sustainable solution.  Historical Chouteau’s Pond, which lies directly in the new greenway’s path, was drained back in the 19th century and replaced by a now underutilized rail yard.  Its remediation back to a pond would not only provide a tremendous city amenity but also might help reduce the burden on the city’s storm system.

While there is still much to be worked out, and the design competition has just begun, the Chouteau Greenway gives St. Louisans a real reason to be optimistic.  To ensure a successful and equitable result, we must turn that optimism into engagement.  The two upcoming community events this week present a great opportunity for those who wish to learn more and be a part of shaping the region’s most exciting project.

Meet the Designers Night
WHO: Area residents; representatives from Great Rivers Greenway and other St. Louis area partners; and representatives from the four Chouteau Greenway design teams, led by James Corner Field Operations, Stross Landscape Urbanism, W Architecture & Landscape Architecture, and TLS Landscape Architecture, OBJECT TERRITORIES and [dhd] derek hoeferlin design
WHAT: Meet the Designers Night, featuring presentations from the four design teams selected for the Chouteau Greenway Design Competition
WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 4, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (Presentations will get underway at 6:15 p.m.)
WHERE: Local 36 Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall, 2319 Chouteau Ave, St. Louis, MO 63103

Community Day
WHO: Area residents, representatives from Freedom Arts & Education Center and Great Rivers Greenway and other Chouteau Greenway partners
WHAT: Community Day, in which attendees can create a mural for the Chouteau Greenway project, view acts by local performers and learn more about the project
WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 6, from 9 a.m. to noon
WHERE: Harris-Stowe State University’s William L. Clay Professional Development Center, 3026 Laclede Ave, St. Louis, MO 63103

  • Nick

    It’s interesting that the author decided not to cite any economic development stats from other GRG greenways in St. Louis. I would expect the results from the Chouteau Greenway to be less like the High Line than, say, the riverfront trail, Centennial greenway, or River Des Peres trail.

    The author states that “it’s tough to compare St. Louis to New York.” Then why not compare St. Louis to St. Louis? If other GRG trails have not transformed the city and brought enormous economic benefits, why will this one?

  • Kirch Stl

    You know what’s best about this discussion? A healthy dose of respect. It’s a perfect example of how a discussion board should be. Congrats to all who’ve (for the most part) respectfully offered opinions.

    I live in the CWE and am crazy about everything happening here. I’m personally not bothered by the look and feel of the Cortex district, in fact I like it. I also like how many of our buildings in the area are being repurposed/rehabbed. It’s my opinion that all these things can live together to add to our vibrant CWE/Midtown. I respect others stronger opinions on the subject, but I’m happy either way to simply see things moving in a positive direction.

    • STLrainbow

      Yeah, I think the question of the form of Cortex as it’s taking shape is extremely interesting and one of importance. I would have preferred to see more selective demo than what they chose to engage in and think it will be a less authentic, uniquely Saint Louis district than it could have been but it’s not as if it’s a disaster. The issue would make a good post on nextstl… maybe I’ll take a stab!

  • GreenThumb

    I attended a session on Chouteau Greenway and already submitted some input on a questionnaire. It’s definitely a plus for the city, particularly if those city bikes become available that are $1/.5 per hour/half hour to rent. Connections to neighborhoods are important as is public safety.

    • GreenFoodsOntheGreenway

      Maybe we should take a play from the Detroit playbook and vigorously pursue those pockets of urban farms and have them throughout the city where there are vacant lots. By providing fresh fruits and vegetables to every neighborhood in a systematic way, this can help “green up” areas and serve community needs. Every neighborhood should have multiple urban farms with very low cost fresh foods. There’s just not a lot of grocery stores in the city that offer substantial produce options. Here’s an idea: What about putting a farmer’s market somewhere along Chouteau Greenway? Green foods on the greenway . . . like that idea.

  • Goat314

    Cortex is one of the best recent developments to happen to St. Louis. Yes, we lost a few older buildings, but I honestly feel it was for a better and higher use. As far as urban form, I think Cortex has pretty decent urban form relative to most new office construction in St Louis.

  • Ihanaf
  • Luftmentsch

    “Social equity” starts with getting jobs back into the city. The decline in city revenue directly affects the quality of life and the opportunities for social mobility among low income city residents. That decline can only be turned around by attracting middle class jobs and getting people to move here. Do you realize how hard it is right now to get a company based in the County or St. Charles to even consider moving into the city? Do you understand what a dismal failure we’ve had in trying to attract companies from other regions to move here? If you care about social equity, then you should applaud the Greenway simply because it’s in the city and represents a decent chance at repairing our dismal reputation. Enough already with the Northside vs. Central Corridor b.s.

    • STLrainbow

      This is disappointing to see. Our Central Corridor is growing nicely and seeing ever-increasing investment, The challenge of our time is to do our best to ensure these investments are a win-win for all of our residents, particularly with projects that are driven by public $$. By addressing these equity issues early on in a project like this, we give ourselves a chance to maximize our investment and create a truly better Saint Louis.

      • Luftmentsch

        The city’s job situation is dismal. Much of the investment you mention has been part of an effort to jumpstart job growth. As of now, Boeing, Microsoft, Square notwithstanding, it’s a tiny blip on the screen. It’s ridiculous to talk about “the Central Corridor” as if the whole strip, from Downtown to Clayton is booming. Clayton is booming; the city, not really.

        • Nicholas

          When compared to the 90s and early 2000s, the CWE, Cortex, Midtown, Grand Center, portions of downtown (and I’ll throw in the Grove and Shaw for good measure) have all made vast improvements. Maybe it’s not Manhattan, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.

        • STLrainbow

          While I completely agree the city needs more jobs, I’m honestly having a hard time seeing where you’re coming from on the issue of equity. I didn’t say Central Corridor is booming, but it indeed has been growing and this growth has been accelerating (results vary by n’hood/section). There certainly are equity issues going on right now, including a degree of gentrification and pretty rapid racial change, particularly in the CWE/FPSE/McRee Town/Shaw hot zone down to MOBOT that is part of this greenway.plan, As the Central Corridor becomes hotter and hotter, these issues will become more and more acute if we don’t address them,

          The more that we can do to ensure that this exciting greenway addition to the city benefits as many existing residents as possible and attracts new investments and diversity just seems non-controversial. Is there anything specific you can mention where not addressing equity issues as part of the process is a bad thing?

          • STLrainbow

            I’ll add the planned redevelopment of the Steelcote Paint building reported today in the post-dispatch is a great illustration of why we need to think about equity issues now and throughout the project. Things are heating up.

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  • STLrainbow

    Nice piece, William. I look forward to seeing how this project develops and if all goes well and with good public involvement it could become a great asset for all of Saint Louis. fwiw, Detroit’s ambitious greenway plans building upon the existing Dequindre Cut, etc. can also serve as a guide for the possible.

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  • Kevin

    While the article acknowledges the comparison between NY and St. Louis is tough, it also leans on the High Line’s success in order to make an argument. The High Line is way more a part of the city fabric than the Chouteau Greenway proposes.

    Stepping off the High Line puts a pedestrian next to amenities and right back into the city. (I realize these amenities were not there before the High Line but there was always potential.) As Cortex and much of the proposed Greenway is currently being designed (and built), there is no potential for dense retail or mixed use around around the Greenway. It will only feel disconnected, not intimate like the High Line. Pedestrians will hop off the Greenway and be surrounded by parking garages, office buildings, and dead space. Cortex, BJC, etc. are glorified office parks and running a Greenway through them will not make it Chelsea.

    Do not get me wrong, I like the idea of the Chouteau Greenway but lets stop pretending it will be the High Line. Unless we rezone and/or institute denser form based code along much of the Greenway’s length, it will never have a mixed use feel. It will be another really attractive walking/biking trail (which may be okay) but we need to decide together if that’s what we want.

    • Will

      I completely understand your skepticism, but allow me to offer an alternative. While Manhattan is a much denser area and may not serve as the best comparison, Atlanta’s Beltline, which is expected to generate $20B in economic development, exists in an urban environment far less dense, walkable, or amenity-rich than St. Louis’ central corridor. They too struggled with dead space and parking garages, which are now being transformed into mixed-use walkable communities – in car-dependent Atlanta no less.

      I would also mention that the Choutea Greenway segment has yet to be designed – they have announced 4 finalist design teams, but their work has yet to commence. It is specifically for those reasons you mentioned above, the need to require proper form-based zoning and activate dead space, that we must be involved as a community in its design. I hope to see you at these community events!

      • Kevin

        Impressive event last night! I was very happy to see such a great turn out. The 4 finalist teams were all impressive as well.

        Thanks for all your work on this. I’ll be sure to keep providing some input.

    • Nick

      I’m often surprised at the negative views of what Cortex is on this blog. I actually live within the boundaries of the district and really like the area, as do virtually every one of my neighbors that I know. There is a lot actually within the district that is walk-able, more so than people give it credit. Second, complaints about too much parking and too much of a suburban feel…what else do you think would exist in those spaces if they weren’t parking lots (never mind the fact you obviously need parking for the workers btw)? The other option is empty lots. How would that be any better?

      • jhoff1257

        Hey! Here is a non flippant reply to you! 😉 I totally agree. I’ve seen a lot of negative comments about Cortex being too suburban, car dependent etc, and while there is some truth to that, it’s a vast improvement over what was there just a decade or so ago. 300+ companies and after the Microsoft building opens nearly 5,000 jobs. That is stunning for a city like St. Louis in my opinion. And Cortex is only going to keep growing, I read somewhere just yesterday (or maybe Tuesday) that planning is already underway for another lab building (in addition to the one going up and the coming Crescent renovation) that should be announced relatively soon and that article also mentioned they plan on moving forward on a residential component later this year.

        Yes, there are lots of parking lots, some other empty lots…but if Cortex can keep doing what it’s been doing for the last 10 years or so I see no reason why it won’t be a very dense, urban neighborhood in the near future.

        • Nick

          WooHOO…we agreed on something 🙂

        • STLExplorer

          My main beef is that so many smaller building have been torn down to make way for those parking lots. I used to walk and bicycle through the area while I was a student at SLU (’05 to ’08), and it was certainly a run-down industrial area, but the buildings had character and many should have been left standing to serve as homes for new businesses that outgrow their incubators. It’s great that some larger buildings have been preserved, but it’s the little ones that make a place what it is. I’ve quoted this same line in similar comments, but as Jane Jacobs said “New ideas need old buildings!”

          • Ihanaf

            And its not just that CORTEX tore down beautifully scaled historic buildings though that is their biggest failing. The hyper-branding also annoys me. As if to declare that the City is not good enough so we must reshape every manhole cover, every street light and create a stand-along community where people driving in might be impressed. I am surprised they have not tried to block streets and put up designy gates everywhere.

            I would be gladly be wrong about this but so far I can’t shake the impression that CORTEX is not much more than the latest iteration of an office park built to the latest trends, propped up on tax incentives and destined to age/become outdated all at once in ?20 years.

          • Nick

            Cortex has obviously made an effort to spare several historic buildings in the district; it’s not like they are just on a tear to bulldoze. I am curious though, what specifically would you say has been torn down in recent years that is historic and could’ve been repurposed? The buildings at the southwest corner of Sarah and Clayton were not very old, nor architecturally interesting, and the same goes for the southwest corner of Duncan and Sarah (you can actually still see what was there on Google maps satellite view). There may have been some historic old factories that were torn down at some point, but given what they’ve done with the West End Lofts, 4240, CIC, and their plans for the Crescent Tool building, it’s obvious they a make a strong attempt to repurpose old buildings.

          • Ihanaf
          • Ihanaf
          • Ihanaf
          • Ihanaf
          • Ihanaf
          • Nick

            What intersection was this?

          • Ihanaf

            The last one, somewhere on Duncan.

          • STLrainbow

            Those were right across from the @4240 Building…. could have made for some very cool spaces.

          • Adam

            Several of these were completely pointless losses–clearance in preparation for undetermined future development and for empty space.

          • STLrainbow

            Just some background, while West End Lofts and the CIC/Center for Emerging Technologies buildings are in the Cortex District, they were not redeveloped by Cortex. With the exception of @4240 and Crescent, Cortex has valued demolition. some were reasonable demos but too many were misguided, imo.

          • Nick

            Fair enough that I’m convoluting the enterprise with the district. However, if Cortex (the enterprise) never existed, or located somewhere else, the West End Lofts and CIC would probably still be vacant buildings.
            That’s what the naysayers seem to be discounting. If Cortex never existed, or decided to build a bunch of buildings in the county somewhere, we’d just have a bunch of empty warehouses along with fewer jobs and fewer people residing in the city…very possibly forever existing as yet another depressed corner of St. Louis. The fact that the district is NOT that, is, in my mind, forever the ultimate argument in favor of the decisions they have made.

          • STLrainbow

            Just a bit more background. The Center for Emerging Technologies actually pre-dated Cortex and West End Lofts came online in Cortex’s infancy so those two and others in the area would have been developed regardless; eds & meds corridors across the nation are booming and while Cortex certainly adds to the development interest, there would still be significant activity in the area. Further, Cortex is a partnership of the major institutions in the area; it wouldn’t have been located out the county,

            Anyway, I don’t think anyone is saying Cortex is a bad initiative or not a positive,,, I think it’s great; just that it could have saved a few more of the older buildings and done better to-date with the design, etc, of the new and created an equally vibrant (if not more-so) and uniquely Saint Louis mixed-use innovation district,

          • Nick

            Perhaps Center for Emerging Technology as an institution has predated Cortex, but its current home, the former Dorris Motors building, wasn’t renovated until June 2015. WEL came in five years after the founding of Cortex. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume the existence of Cortex, even if early on, was a major influence on the developer to put his money into the project vs. something else.

            It definitely would’ve been cool for the area to have hung on to more of its old buildings, and certainly would’ve been more urban. I’m just willing to bet there was a strongattempt to come up with a plan to utilize the existing buildings for the Cortex mission, and only when no feasible plan was presented were they torn down. I have no proof of this of course but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

          • STLrainbow

            CET has been at that location since 2001 or so; the more recent work was at their facility but wasn’t for a new location. As to Cortex giving some of these cool buildings a fair shot, it wouldn’t have things like a grass lot at the NW corner of Vandeventer and Forest Park Avenue if it had historic preservation as a core value… it just wasn’t the direction it wanted to take. We’ll have to wait and see what eventually will come; maybe it’ll wow us. Man, that Target rumor seems like ages ago,

          • jhoff1257

            I don’t disagree that they should have saved some of those older buildings, but here we finally have some real, measurable progress in terms of business growth and jobs (with TONS more to come) and all people here seem to do is just bitch. Cortex is still in it’s infancy and is only going to get bigger, denser, and yes even more walkable (and transit friendly with the new LRT station). People should be excited about things like this in St. Louis. But at the end of the day, it’s St. Louis…so I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised at the constant cynicism.

          • Kevin

            I am not here often enough to speak on how many people do or do not “bitch” about Cortex.

            However, almost all other media outlets trumpet the success of Cortex. I think its safe to say that it gets plenty of praise – and rightfully so.

            It is ultimately a good thing that the urbanist blog is sometimes critical of Cortex. I’d like to think urbanists (and others like us) can keep the success of Cortex in context while also holding it to a higher standard.

          • NewConstruction4NewGeneration

            I do like historic buildings in a nostalgic way but I also like new ones that are directed toward the future. New construction for the next generation is also a good idea. Changing times and changing buildings. Sign of progress and that we are not limited to the past but are planning for the future. 21st century is good too.

      • Ihanaf

        Empty lots or auto-centric construction. Are we sure those are the only possible options? I think the Grove would beg to differ.

        And unless pedestrians feel safe and welcome 18 hours of the day (or more), the neighborhood is not walkable in the urban sense even though it is physically possible to transport oneself on legs through it.

        As for parking, put it in garages screened with other functions or put it underground.

        • Nick

          The Grove is an entertainment district…completely different function from Cortex. And I’m sure if demand increases for additional commercial space in Cortex, you’ll see those parking lots turn into buildings and parking moved underground (BTW they are building a garage at Duncan and Sarah). Until then, why waste the money on unnecessary infrastructure? I’d rather see the money go to the Crescent Tools rehab and other projects. And maybe Cortex doesn’t fit your arbitrary rules of what is pedestrian friendly, but it’s filled with pedestrians all day long.

          • Ihanaf

            The Grove is a mixed use district. People work there, live there and visit there for entertainment. Its a dynamic neighborhood because it does not try to separate different functions.

            You really need to read Jane Jacobs…..

          • Nick

            Thanks for the pictures. Definitely some cool buildings that are no longer around. We can agree to disagree, but to me and to many other St. Louisans, the transformation from a depressed warehouse district with cool buildings to a successful office/technology district with a more suburban feel justifies the losses.

          • jhoff1257

            This is spot on here. I don’t quite understand the comparison to the Grove either. You don’t just spend tons of money to build garages and buildings that people don’t need yet. And his comment that Cortex will be done in 20 years? Hahahaha, in 10 years over 350 companies and over 4,000 jobs. Yeah, that’s totally destined to fail lol.

            Recent update on the district from December 29th, 2017.
            http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/2017/12/29/big-plans-ahead-for-cortex-development/

            These things take time, as Lower said in that article…Cortex is just a teenager right now. My guess is we’re going to see a lot more from Cortex. Too bad we can’t change that ever present St. Louis pessimism.

          • Ihanaf

            You can choose to live in the moment. I would rather take a long view. The AT&T building downtown was probably the shiniest thing in the city a few decades ago, creating jobs, promising prosperity. Though I’m sure you will say that was completely different. In how many different ways must we fail? This is not pessimism. Its learning from the past.

          • jhoff1257

            The AT&T Tower is an awful comparison. It was a single use tower built for a large telecom. Even if AT&T had kept their headquarters here they still likely would have shed thousands of jobs because of the near constant changes in that industry.

            Cortex is home to hundreds of companies that do hundreds of different things, some of which may the next big name in town. I don’t think anyone would have predicted World Wide Technology being worth over $9 billion after only 20 years in existence. I am taking the long view, bud. Cortex has a bright future ahead of it, a lot brighter then AT&T. We get it though, they tore down some old buildings and you’re pissed about it. That sucks, I generally prefer to keep those buildings around too, but I’m quite happy with the 4,000+ new jobs to the city and hundreds of new ventures that will likely produce significant results to the city over the next few decades. The renaissance in this area is only just beginning. Enjoy the rest of your day.

          • Ihanaf

            The number of jobs created is irrelevant to this discussion. The same jobs could have been created with preservation being a bigger part of the picture.

            We don’t have to fall for the same old false choice.

          • Nick

            You have no way of knowing this to be the case. In fact, it’s almost certainly not true. And say it were true….then why would profit-maximizing businesses continually go through the exercise of tearing down old buildings for new structures if the outcome were to be the same? Just for the fun of annoying nextstl commenters?

          • Ihanaf

            So much to unpack and respond to here. I am going to drop it though. Agree to disagree, right?

          • John

            Your last point is spot on about the ever present STL Pessimism. I’m from STL but have lived in both San Francisco & Chicago for about a decade…now just came back ~2 years ago. You know what’s interesting? You’ll hear a lot of people from the Greater Area claim that they love Chicago and always enjoy going there for a short weekend stay. Then, their next statement will be that they’d never visit Downtown STL outside of going to a ball game due to the fact that it’s too ‘dangerous.’ Wait, STL is dangerous, but all of a sudden Chicago is in some green zone that I’ve never heard of before today? Look, after having lived in two large cities in the US, I can confidently state that most, if not all, cities in America have a sizeable portion of crime, most of it being petty but from time-to-time, stuff happens, and that’s just what goes with the turf of stepping foot into an urban area (heck, even crime occurs in the safest suburbs every once in a while). I have a difficult time accepting that St Louis has more crime than any other US Metropolis (our statistics are clearly misleading due to the city/county divide)…like always, just be smart and stick to the safe areas if you can with a group of folks. This same pessimistic attitude is certainly geared toward our economy…yes, while there’s probably room for improvement (again, like most cities out there), we’re a Greater Area of less than 3M people and we have ~10 Fortune 500 Companies…that’s a statistic worth being proud of and worth looking to improve upon as well. And most of the companies that left STL in the 80s & 90s didn’t do so because they hated STL, it’s because they were probably bought out by international firms, a phenomena which has affected probably every city in the US, not just St Louis. In my opinion, we as a community should probably focus more on developing and maintaining new companies, and less on the strategy of ‘keep every massive company at all costs!’ The truth of the matter is that companies are going to get bought out over time, but if you can create a venue where companies can thrive, then new ones will always be knocking at your door step. Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now 🙂

          • John

            One last point…I don’t mind if locals provide constructive criticism either, but most of the time they offer no recommendations on how to make the situation better…who was it that said that throwing out problems without offer solutions is the definition of whining? LOL.

          • Ihanaf

            Not sure if this is directed at me but I can offer up many recommendations if you really are interested.
            As for the narrative of pessimistic St Louisans…. I have been an advocate for the City for my 8 years of living here….. in the city. There is a definite counter-narrative now to the suburban mindset you refer to.
            I can be proud of the City and I can be critical of choices being made. The two are not mutually exclusive.

          • John

            Nah I wasn’t aiming the statement at anyone in particular to be honest, mostly just people who I grew up with in STL who never left the city to gain new perspective and think that STL is the worst city on the planet in every facet possible. Having lived away from St Louis for so long and having now come back, I’ve come to see it as, to your point, a city that doesn’t always make the best decisions but still has a lot to offer too, especially in the way of free or inexpensive entertainment. Many of the fun stuff in St Louis that we may see as entitlements actually cost a lot to enjoy in other cities…again, having lived away from St Louis has allowed me to recognize this phenomena.

          • jhoff1257

            This is all very correct.

        • jhoff1257

          If you have the financing to put up a bunch of garages that the district doesn’t need yet, I’m sure Dennis Lower would love to talk to you.

          • Ihanaf

            If I had the financing, I would rather have spent it saving the many historic buildings that could have anchored a true renaissance.

      • Kevin

        Obviously, the growth and existence of Cortex is a good thing for St. Louis. It is also obvious that the district is nowhere near finished and will continue to grow. I am not asking for every parking lot to be filled now and every dead space to be activated.

        Unfortunately, the ceiling for Cortex as a true mixed use, urban neighborhood is definitely lower than previously imagined. The suburban feel comes from the setbacks of the new buildings, the uninspired designs, and the spaces between the buildings. It is all less dense and urban than the feel of the old industrial district itself. Just look at the form of the Aloft Hotel and its relationship to both FPP and Duncan.

        I do not think it is pessimistic to be critical of Cortex right now. I hope it forces better design in the future.

        • Nick

          I understand the district has a suburban feel, and I appreciate efforts to make the area seem more urban. The issue of course is that form almost always follows function. The old industrial district was denser because StL at the time of its construction was denser. That’s not the case today. And while we may loath suburban city scapes in a former dense urban center, isn’t it at least within the realm of possibilities that Cortex is optimally designed for its current function, which is primarily an office/technology park vs. a mixed used dense urban space? And perhaps it is actually part of the reason for its success?

        • STLrainbow

          That’s pretty much my opinion… Cortex chose to demo some great buildings and go in a different direction; if what was going up was inspired, solid urban design that would be fine but so far the new construction hasn’t given me much confidence. Hopefully they’ll up their game with future buildings and it will be interesting to see what Koman brings to their acquired holdings.