St. Louis University Naming Mixed-Use District Near Campus

St. Louis University is seeking input from students, faculty, staff and neighbors in naming the city's newest multi-use district. This district being the area of the Midtown Neighborhood bound by South Grand Boulevard, Laclede Avenue, Vandeventer Avenue and Chouteau Avenue.

Look at that map, it's a pretty desolate area with little road access, no residential and a lot of railroad tracks. It's a sparse environment, I rode and photographed the area in August, 2017 if you want to get a taste for what the current look and feel of the area. 

Here's a little information from SLU on the project and the names you can vote for (or write in your own).

In the spring of 2017, Saint Louis University and SSM Health embarked on a significant effort to help promote and guide the further redevelopment of Midtown. Distanced by only half-a-mile, the geography between Saint Louis University’s north and south campuses is burgeoning with exciting developments.

In addition to SLU opening two new SLU residence halls and the construction of the new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital and outpatient care center, the area will soon be home to the City Foundry STL, the restored Armory District and a new Element by Westin Hotel.
— St. Louis University

There are four names you can choose from, or do a write-in.

Option 1: Prospect Yards

At the turn of the 20th century, the area west of Grand was known as the “Prospect Industrial District” and was home to many businesses and an extensive rail yard.

Option 2: The 1818 

Eighteen rail lines used to run under the Grand bridge, connecting St. Louis to the nation. In addition, 1818 is Saint Louis University’s founding year.

Option 3: The Circuit

This name hearkens back to the area’s rail yard history and acknowledges the prominence of power lines there today.

Option 4:The GRID 

Short for the “Grand Rail Innovation District,” this acronym represents the area’s location, historic rail lines and bright future.

The Grid is a bit ironic in that the street/city grid is nearly non-existent and in some parts has been wiped out by SLU in recent years, especially in the area around Compton and Park.

Again, the area under consideration for the name/branding is a tough part of town, so any improvements from the status quo would be a plus. The term "mixed-use" may come as a shock to folks who've been following SLU's development patterns in this part of town. It's pretty sparse and there's plenty of room for cynicism. The proof is right in front of your eyes. 

But any organization can change and improve and decide to be part of the city as opposed to be apart from the city. And, I hope that the folks in charge of this redevelopment corporation understand good urban design and that people who live around here don't want suburban design to creep in and rob the city of it's soul.

Per SLU, the project is being overseen by the St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation, a Chapter 353 redevelopment corporation that encourages and supports quality new development in the area surrounding Saint Louis University and SSM Health’s facilities in Midtown St. Louis.

They have a snazzy logo with a nod to the structures on the Grand bridge.

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Board of Directors

Jaqueline Davis-Wellington
Partner at Community & Economic Development Solutions

David Heimburger
Chief Financial Officer at St. Louis University

Mark Higgins
Dean of the John Cook School of Business at St. Louis University

Candace Jennings
Region President at SSM Health-St. Louis

Michael Lucido
Associate Vice President of Facilities Services at St. Louis University

Brooks Goedeker
Executive Director
— St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation

If you pay attention to development in Forest Park Southeast, you may recognize Brooks Goedeker from Park Central Development, community development organization from Washington University. You can't deny that Forest Park Southeast is looking great these days, so there is hope for this part of town as well.

The lengthly document outlining the redevelopment plan speaks to the overall mission:

The predominant land uses within the Redevelopment Area are anticipated to be private mixed-use development, which could include residential, designed to take advantage of the location of the Redevelopment Area in the central corridor of St. Louis, as well as medical and institutional related uses designed to support the operations of Saint Louis University’s North and South Campuses and SSM Health’s health care and related facilities. In sum, the result of this redevelopment effort will be that the City will experience sustained economic benefits, first through the creation of construction-related jobs and later by an expanding and sustainable base of high quality permanent jobs. Likewise, substantial new private investment will increase the taxable wealth of the community. Finally, the new businesses attracted and created by the critical mass of activity in the Redevelopment Area will anchor a key sector of the region’s future economy.
— St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation

 To view the full document click here.

Here's an aerial image from the report that shows just how much land clearance and demolition has occurred over the years.

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Let's hope that the infill, activity and good urban planning we are seeing in Forest Park Southeast make their way into this part of the city. We need it.

And, the idea of connecting the main campus and medical campus of SLU is exciting. The connections can and should be so much better. And the less fences and grassy moats separating the campus from the city, the better. 

So there is room for skepticism, but I'm hoping this new group can prove themselves and get to work rebuilding a part of the city that needs to be plugged back in and connected once again.

Here's to a bright future for the Midtown, Gate District and Tiffany Neighborhoods.