Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Downtown West Neighborhood

Downtown West (DTW) is a neighborhood of St. Louis 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 1990s count) 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's got nearly 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:
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.
The C.F. Blanke building that Nestle occupies:
 Vin De Set, I'm told the roof top seating has some of the best views in town:
 More from the south side of DTW:
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:
Here's the new police station which is also in DTW on Olive, the building was purchased from AG Edwaryds/Wachovia/Wells Fargo:
 City Hall which dates back to 1893:
Here is a post card of the structure in it's original state.  The central tower and lesser spires that face Tucker on each end were removed in 1938 due to structural issues:
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:
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
Other sites on the northern edge of DTW:
Who wants some Skittles and a Marby Red?
I'd love to know the story on how this flounder survived in the middle of a surface parking lot:
The northern edge has the highest concentration of open lots, cleared land and buildings lying in wait for their turn to re-shine:
 Some political commentary:
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 athe buildings, I'll just let the pictures tell the story.  Here goes:










 
 






 



















































Was this a grocery store at some point?  If anyone knows what sign used to adorn the top, please let me know.
Remember to look up, there's interest on nearly every building cornice:
Peak through the alleys and down the streets to view the awesome urban vistas:


Cool signs:
There are many, many short 1 and 2 story blond brick structures of note in DTW:
My favorite spots in DTW:

I've got to mention the other major institutions in DTW.  The Central Library is undergoing a $74M facelift:
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 according to this source should be open in Fall, 2011.
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 Amtrack and Greyhound Stations. 
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.
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.
The Soldier's Memorial Military Museum open to the public since Memorial Day, 1938:
The Imagine College Preparatory High School on Jefferson Avenue:
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:
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.

8 comments:

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Danny said...

Something must be done about Union Station. I was there last year to escape the rain during the Rib America Fest. I was saddened to see all of the rain making it's way into such a majestic old building. So much could be done there to draw people.

samizdat said...

If you were on a public sidewalk, the Ameren rent-a-guards had no right to stop you from taking pictures of the the Ameren building. No right whatsoever. Tell 'em to call a cop or the FBI next time, if they decide to get all Clint Eastwood on you. You have rights under the Constitution, so use them.

Mark Groth said...

^samizdat, you are correct I can do whatever I want if on public property, and that's always been my line. However, I was on their private property on one occasion and they showed me exactly where the property line was, but still indicated they don't like people taking photos of the property...probably because it's an unimpressive suburban campus-styled building :)

Anonymous said...

the sporting news building..is it occupied? It would be cool to live there and restore the sign outside. What's the address?

Tonya said...

Loved the photos. I live in DTW (in the Tudor Building) and I absolutely love it. I'm going to share this with my out of town friends and family that ask me what downtown is like :-)

Anonymous said...

Friend of mine moved into the Park Pacific building. I could sit down and admire the lobby for hours. I'm not a big fan of the common areas on the top floor. (Beautifully paneled former executive office filled with the ugliest furniture ever created) Love the pool and view from the roof!

dkPaints said...

You missed Centenary Methodist Church at 16th between Olive and Pine. 149 years old Gothic structure with second floor sanctuary which seats 2800. Wonderful old building housing a very active and involved city church. Open House on September 20 between 1 and 3 for anyone interested.