The State Street Projects - Foreward

This post is a foreword to the last two development favorites that made our list in 2018.

I didn’t want to put too much personal commentary in these last two posts in the spirit of brevity, consistency with the other 18 posts, and to shoot for a level of continuity.

Now, as a parent with multiple kids, I know you don’t pick favorites. Every project that made our list this year has just cause for celebration and excitement. Optimism in our city is pulsing.

But, buildings and neighborhoods are not people, and not all projects on our list are in places of true need, so I’m just gonna cut through the crap and say the Kranzenberg Arts Foundation and Chippewa Park projects are my two favorites from 2018.

You know, a developer getting tax credits to build a new apartment complex in the Central West End or DeBaliviere Place is complicated and not 100% inspiring. But, the work being put into our most vulnerable of South City neighborhoods in Gravois Park and Dutchtown is fully inspiring.

I am so grateful and thankful for the hard work, dedication and vision of the various entities working in the area.

Thank you so much. You are the ones that will bring true change, you are the ones putting your arms, money and time around the crumbling, abandoned and forgotten areas on the “state streets”, an area previous generations of leaders tried to cordon off and concentrate trouble and poverty as to “save” the much more maintained and stable and more monied neighborhoods.

Anyone knows when you concentrate poverty, it never works. Watch the Pruitt-Igoe Myth and it’ll become crystal clear this doesn’t work.

Gravois Park is a diamond in the rough. The architecture is diverse and arguably one of the best examples of St. Louis brick in all the city. The place looks great, with signs of construction dotted all over and speed humps and crosswalks and other signs of investment.

It’s better than it has been in the 10 or so years I’ve been spending time here.

But this part of town is the one that makes me think this could either be North City where decades of disinvestment and abandonment take hold; or it could tip toward a stabilizing area. This next ten years will be crucial for South St. Louis’ “state streets”.

It’s projects like these that will turn the tide toward optimism and not negativity, abandonment and no-dignity/investment/care.

Now, I’m not gonna polish turds here, there is a need for straight talk too. This area is rife with knuckleheads. Ever see those expired Illinois and Missouri plates and “temporary tags”? The cars that owners simply don’t give a F in registering? The drivers that speed and blow through stop signs and high speeds? The careless, no dignity property owners who destroy property and defer basic cleanliness and care? This is that spot.

Ever watch those zombie or apocalypse movies where there are wrecked cars everywhere? Erratic driving and trash piled up everywhere? You can get that vibe at times, right here.

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Sorry, it’s true. Riding a scooter here and almost all of North City can be a dangerous proposition. The drivers are careless and hateful…selfishly looking out for themselves and not giving a care about anyone else around them. Bicylists and pedestrians have to be hyper-aware of the lawlessness that exists in parts of St. Louis or you will die. It’s that simple. And enforcement is just not taken seriously, you can get away with anything in these parts. And it shows.

Now is an urgent time to think about the future of South City. This is the frontlines of where the fight needs to occur. Right here in Gravois Park and Dutchtown.

It is not Marine Villa, Fox Park, McKinley Heights, Benton Park West…it is it’s own thing. It needs help and that help is coming in these two projects.

The final two projects on our favorites list from 2018 are just the medicine we need.

I never want to leave someone with a negative feeling when I write. The idea of arming the racist narratives or the classist suburban diatribes against St. Louis is not my goal. They thrive on these staid narratives and I want to rebel against that so badly. It’s why I’m here writing this today.

But at times you have to provide a genuine assessment in order to frame just how impactful the hard work of some people is going be.

The people behind these projects are the true inspiration to me.

If St. Louis is to reach full potential, we have to dig into our most densely populated, troubled neighborhoods and roll up the sleeves to make a better way for the people who live here now and the people who could consider a move here in the future.

The next two posts are just that kind of risk and rolling up of sleeves that just might be turn the tides.