Well, I've got to play the critic on the new YMCA in Downtown St. Louis. Usually the eternal optimist, this one is a major miss for the people of St. Louis.
Lafayette Avenue has seen a recent influx of investment in the form of modern infill. This important connection between Jefferson and Grand that runs through the Gate District Neighborhood is filling in gaps with some of the most unique housing in St. Louis. Personally, we love the contrast of old and well-done new construction. Take a look at what we mean.
Between June, 2013 and October, 2014 I blogged on all 108 St. Louis parks. As part of that project, I chose not to include Tower Grove Park since it's technically not a city park.
But it would be wrong not to cover it here for completeness sake. And, since I moved to this part of the city nearly six years ago, I've really taken to this park. Driving by the perimeter or within the interior just doesn't do the park justice. This is one of the best walking parks in the city. You have to experience it at a slower pace if you want to take in the full ~289 acres.
I jumped on my 2010 Kymco People S250cc scooter on a sunny, hot morning for a long ride this weekend.
North and Central parts of the city are my favorite places to ride. So much is changing in these parts of St. Louis, sometimes I feel like I lose my bearings on where I'm at. In some cases, new buildings are up, constructions fences are blocking the views I'm used to or sadly, buildings have crumbled or fallen to the ground.
Here are some photos and a couple words on my random ride.
I've been spending a lot of time lately at Kiener Plaza and City Garden taking photos and enjoying the spaces. When you have kids, this place is even more exciting. They love hanging out in both places.
City Garden opened in July, 2009. This lushly landscaped outdoor art and fountain area has been a hit for visitors and residents as well.
It bills itself as an "urban oasis" and it lives up to the claim.
When I blogged on all 108 St. Louis parks, my visit of Kiener Plaza took place in May, 2014. This was the 1980's version of the park that was dedicated in 1962 complete with Reagan-era amphitheater. This version of the park was dead nearly year round aside from some really hot days when families came there to cool off in the fountain, or when there was a programmed rally or event. But make no mistake, this was yet another dead zone in Downtown St. Louis. You can read all about that 2014 visit and see "before" photos, including some historic info on the popular runner fountain HERE.
Kiener Plaza just went through a massive ~$23M redo and was re-opened to the public in May 19, 2017.
I was recently reminiscing about my first trips to St. Louis back in the 1990's delivering windshields to auto dealerships all over the bi-state region.
I was trying to find photos of some of these new car dealerships from the past. Turns out, it's pretty hard to find online history and photos of long gone businesses. I was looking for pictures of Hanna Oldsmobile when I starting finding hints on other auto dealerships.
The best bet is looking through Globe Democrat and Post-Dispatch ads on microfiche.
But, when I was researching St. Louis firehouses, I came across a book that had great photos of the city throughout the years, mainly related to catastrophic fires. It's called, St. Louis Fire Department: The First 150 Years of Service (1857-2007). It is a little hard to find, but can be referenced at the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center at 225 South Skinker Boulevard.
If you pay attention, great things are happening in the St. Louis public schools. One such item of good news is the growing popularity and options around gifted-learning magnet schools.
Notice the plural on schools? Yes, there are now three separate gifted schools.
Kennard Classical Junior Academy, the oldest program located in the North Hampton Neighborhood, had an extensive waiting list, which led to the expanded program at Mallinckrodt Academy of Gifted Instruction in the Lindenwood Park Neighborhood...both in South City.
Yeah, we are the Brick City. We are also becoming the Beer City of the Midwest. The history is certainly there, but the influx of microbreweries since Schlafly broke the mold in 1991 has been amazing to witness.
1991, the year STL malt broke!
Usually we look back at our past and pine for the good old days (World's Fair and Riverboats, I'm looking at you). Fact is, when it comes to beer, the past was indeed great...but the present and future is better.
St. Louis' beer scene is on the rise and getting more and more diverse. I thought we could only sustain maybe five breweries in St. Louis (a city of ~310,000). Boy was I wrong.
Forest Park continues to assert itself as the premier park in the region. Of St. Louis' 108 parks, and Tower Grove Park, it is the crown jewel. Largely due to the successful public/private partnership that is Forest Park Forever...
The investment and transformation of this park has been nothing short of stunning. This park was in much need of upgrades and leadership...a master plan.
As the years have passed, we've seen high profile projects transform the park including the Grand Basin at the foot of Art Hill, the meandering creeks, the golf courses, the Spanish Pavilion, the way finding, the landscape...all fantastic upgrades.
The results have exceeded by expectations on nearly every level.
One of the questions I've been asked over the years is who named and plotted out the 79 neighborhoods of St. Louis.
Through a recent Twitter conversation with someone trying to understand how old the name of their neighborhood is, the topic is once again top of mind.
You know, it would be kind of cool to have a born on date for neighborhoods in the current vernacular.
"Fox Park, Established 1885" something like that...you catch my drift?
Growing up less than ten miles east of St. Louis, my family rarely brought us kids to the city even though my dad worked downtown. The occasional visit was to the Zoo, a Cards game, Union Station, St. Louis Centre or the VP Fair/air show.
My earliest memories of St. Louis are my dad taking me to his work (Market Street) and taking me out to lunch. There were people everywhere, I loved it. Women would change out of their heels into athletic socks and Reeboks and briskly walk to lunch in professional attire except from the ankles down. It felt like NYC to this suburban cul-de-sac kid.
I'm writing this blog to share some thoughts on the future of hiring civil servants and searching for candidates to fill important city offices and positions.
This issue became top of mind when a recent ballot initiative in April, 2017 came up called Proposition C; it's goal was to provide hiring preference for citizens of St. Louis for public jobs.
The topic sprang up again just this week when our new Mayor took office. On her first day she accepted the retirement/resignation of the acting Chief of Police, Sam Dotson.
That is a big, important position to fill.
While I'll hold who I voted for in the primary and general elections close to my chest, I will say that I'm really happy to have Lyda Krewson as our next Mayor.
The first woman Mayor of St. Louis! That's history right there!
Whew, it's time for some fresh faces, no?
Now, I realize a Mayor doesn't really do a whole lot in St. Louis' weak-mayoral system, the Aldermen/women have that larger responsibility; heck sometimes I feel like the Comptroller and the director of the STL Development Corporation play more of a crucial role in our immediate future.
That said, I am really happy to see what she can do, and a Mayor really does set the tone for a city government and is the face to the region and beyond.
Netflix recently made "The Sunshine Makers" available for streaming.
This 2015 documentary chronicles the life and times of two men, Nicholas Sand and Tim Scully, who together set in motion the psychedelic revolution of the late 1960's. Both men were idealists who thought that if everyone would just drop a little acid, the world would be a better place. People would be kinder to each other and the planet, have a larger awareness outside of one's own selfish desires, etc, etc.
Scully was a sharp scientist who knew the formula to make lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and had a method to produce and tablet it for distribution. Sand was driven by idealism and spiritualism and bent on bringing the psychedelic experience to the masses. The two became underground chemists who made the drug and did indeed change the world...for a little while anyway. They made massive amounts of LSD and got it in the hands of an entire generation, globally.
I attended the Fox Park neighborhood association meeting this past January and was pleased to find an agenda jam packed with topics and speakers. It was exciting to just sit back and listen to all that is going on in my neck of the woods. There were politicians running for offices, not-for-profits speaking to new and exciting projects, and volunteers working their tails off to make Fox Park a nice place to live.
One of the guest speakers at the meeting was Rocco Danna, the McKinley Heights Neighborhood Association Chair of Development. McKinley Heights is the neighborhood directly to the east of Fox Park. The neighborhoods are very similar, especially in that they are both historic districts. We both have the same challenges and assets. We are good neighbors.
Danna came bearing good news...at first, followed by a plea for help in honoring the historic codes of the neighborhood.