Even St. Louis' nicest neighborhoods weren't always that way. Look no further than Lafayette Square. Many of the homes surrounding the park that today fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars and are ornate architectural gems were once turned into boarding houses and nearly fell from neglect and desertion that the rest of the city experienced.
It's not that way today, in fact it's a nice little island of a neighborhood. One that is kind of self contained for better and worse. It's perimeters of I-44, Truman Parkway, Chouteau Avenue and Jefferson Avenue sort of damn flow to other neighborhoods, but it's kind of charming at the same time as it feels contained. Depends on the way you look at it. I know residents are well aware of this island mentality, as a tall fence was installed along Truman Parkway that looks like sort of an us vs. them thing as just across the street stand the public housing in Peabody Darst Webbe.
That fence never really sat right with me, but again, I know first hand how hard it can be to fight thieves and criminals. I have a fence around my own back yard and it's brings me peace. I'm not here to judge democratically arrived/grassroots efforts to mitigate crime.
I tend to not like fenced in neighborhoods. But I digress.
Even the tony neighborhood of Lafayette Square has a few remaining signs from the bad ole days when lack of care, investment and eventually neglect and demolition robbed the neighborhood of active spaces.
Look no further than Dolman Street the easternmost street in the neighborhood. I remember when this street was nearly desolate with vacant lots on one side and larger fields of weeds on the other. A google street view image from 2011 illustrates this point:
The last five or so years have brought much reason for hope, though. New homes are going up east and west of this street. In fact, you wouldn't recognize it from the image above.
The homes are faux-historic, but not the brick front, vinyl sides model that show up in many areas of the city with less watchdogs for quality. I know there is a vocal set of people in these parts engaged in making their neighborhood hold the bar high and keep standards lofty.
In the case of Dolman, I think the results are pretty solid. While I likely wouldn't want to spend this much on a home, others do and can. And good for them, they will pay taxes that help our kids's schools and our city. Godspeed people of all income levels, no judgement here. I'd rather everyone root down here rather than Webster Groves or Wellston where St. Louis gets nothing. Here we are getting lots of new residents and investment in a great part of the city.
The real renaissance of Dolman will be realized if the aforementioned vocal contingent will allow a developer to take on the former Bouras mop factory building at Dolman and Park.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in January, 2017 that the new owners of the building want to renovate the building into 50 apartments. And, while I'm sure some NIMBYs want zero renters, this neighborhood seems to have enough ownership that it would easily support some more apartments. Balance and mixed neighborhoods make the best, most vibrant places.
And who would say that Lafayette Square can't use some more vibrancy and eyes on the street and patrons for the businesses within it's borders and beyond?
Nice to see Dolman Street return to a residential street vs. a stretch flanked by weed fields.