Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Aloe Plaza and Aloe Plaza West

Aloe Plaza and Aloe Plaza West are 2 of St. Louis' 108 parks.  Combined, they make up 4.3 of the total 2,956 acres of parkland.


The parks are located between Chestnut Street, Market Street, 18th Street and the 22nd Street interchange:


Park space continues east of 18th Street all the way to Tucker where Memorial Plaza, Kaufmann Park and Poelker Park exist.  I'll cover those in the future.

Here's a little history on the park from the city website:
Development of Aloe Plaza was made possible by an $87 million bond issue in 1923. The funds were used for the widening of Olive Street and the clearance and development of land for several plazas in the area bounded by Market, Chestnut, 12th and 20th Streets. Aloe Plaza was named in honor of Louis P. Aloe, who died in 1929. Mr. Aloe served as President of the Board of Alderman from 1916 to 1923 and led the movement for passage of the bond issue.
While Aloe Plaza has been around since 1931 and Aloe Plaza West since 1969, the clearing of buildings to the east occurred in the 1950's, as the following photo was taken in 1955:

"Buildings will be cleared from area shown in the foreground, as part of the Plaza redevelopment. The view was taken from the tower of Union Station, at the intersection of 18th and Market Streets looking northeast. Demolition work will begin April 19. R. Yiher(sp?)/photographer. 4-8-1955. (St. Louis Globe-Democrat)" source
As the city started losing population at a staggering rate, there was less need for business and housing...hence, we get more building demolition and are left with easier to maintain park space.  Unfortunately, as go the buildings and people so goes the well planned, dense city.  Anyhow, we lost a lot of tax generating, vibrancy-creating properties and now we have parks.  Albeit...a very beautiful one in the case of Aloe Plaza.

Aloe Plaza West is really nothing more than grass, a few trees and homeless tents and debris. 



tents set up under evergreens in the distance

Most probably recognize this area as a popular taxi stand at 20th Street.


There is also an awkwardly placed information kiosk which probably hasn't been updated since it was installed.  Most of the fliers posted within it are completely sun dyed, illegible and relate to urban tree care...huh?


Aloe Plaza West is really just idle, wasted space that contributes nothing to our city.  A plan should be in place to make it something, anything more appealing for day time employees, tourists and residents.

This is right by the 22nd street interchange, part of Paul McKee's NorthSide development; and per UrbanReviewSTL, the recent subject of a St. Louis Regional Transit Oriented Development Study. Note how this plan would replace a logical street grid, and the Aloe and Aloe West parks remain:


So maybe there is a future for this underutilized swath of land.


Now, Aloe Plaza on the other hand contains a St. Louis landmark with the 'Meeting of the Waters' sculpture and fountain (finished November,1939 by Carl Milles) taking up most of the park's 3.35 acres in the shadow of the gorgeous Union Station. 

 (interior renovations taking place in Union Station)



For an excellent write up on Aloe Plaza, see the UrbanReviewSTL story from June, 2011.

Here's what it looked like today:








Also adding to the beauty of Aloe Plaza are some nice new park benches donated by various members of the Aloe family:




Notice the black bars on the benches that form an arm rest and separator for park goers?  Those serve another very important purpose, keeping homeless from sleeping horizontally on the benches.


I debated whether or not to address the homeless issue in this park, and ended up feeling it was necessary to mention as it is the culture here.  It's accepted and allowed.  It will be a topic I will have to address if doing honest snapshots of the parks.

And if you were to go check out Aloe Plaza and Aloe Plaza West, you will likely encounter homeless, so I wanted to keep it real.

This has always been a big hang out for homeless people since I can remember.  I'm not the only one who knows this is a homeless hangout/encampment, as people come in from church groups, usually from the suburbs to "feed" the homeless.  They drive up, hand out junk food and then leave.  Of course the homeless leave their trash all over the park.  The course today was entirely made of junk food and sports drink.


Here's the byproduct (cookie, chips and Gatorade trash on the ground, right next to the other drink of choice:



Sure, you can mourn the loss of what once was here when St. Louis was a great city occupied by over 800,000...fact is we're down to < 320,000 now and can't support the businesses that once were.  For better or worse, this a nice park that adds to St. Louis' beauty and photogenicity.  Enjoy the fountain and gaze up at Union Station.  Maybe some day there will be an MLS stadium at Union Station and/or people living in this part of the city again!

Viva St. Louis!

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Mark, we'd like to use one of your pictures for a building we have listed across from Union Station. Can you email me to talk about this further? Thanks