1.5 miles from a micro-brewery

I've read/heard tales of a St. Louis where kids would take emptied beer pales up to the corner tavern to refill it (probably sipping the top as not to spill on the way home) and bring it back home to mom and dad.  I recall being served at 8 or 9 years old at fish stands in Smithton and Millstadt, Illinois and carrying the metal bucket filled with cold lager back to the adult table.  I thought I was the king.  I felt trusted and pretty big time.

I feel like a kid again as there is a microbrewery less than 1.5 miles from my house where I can fill my growler for $10 with tasty seasonal selections of hand crafted beer.  Lucky me, now if I could just send my kids to get it for me....

I love living in a big city with plenty of neighborhood micro-brews.  I love supporting small business and helping unique businesses thrive in our neighborhoods.  St. Louis still needs more business to compliment the amazing housing stock.  This would really set us apart from other cities in the United States.

The Fountain Park Neighborhood

The Fountain Park Neighborhood

"Stable community" are not words that could be used to describe current day Fountain Park by most objective people.  I must admit this is my second attempt at photographing this neighborhood.  To make a long story short, I was convincingly asked to get the #$%& out the first time.  The drug trade is alive and well on some streets in Fountain Park and it's as obvious and out in the open as can be.

Daydream # 383

The housing market has seen a downturn no doubt. But people still need a roof over their heads. We still have and need a diverse set of housing stock to meet the ups and downs of a housing market that can appeal to both prospective owners and renters and lessees. Rentals, townhouses, single family homes...all coexisting to create a whole neighborhood.

There are many, many re-habbers making great progress in this city. I've seen them as far north as Riverview and as far south as the Patch. People that care and want to see properties brought back to life while making a living seems like the perfect match. Grassroots efforts are WAY more impactful for the long term health of our neighborhoods and our city as a whole than the huge entertainment projects like Ballpark "Village" (no residential?), Bottle District, etc. that get so much attention around town.

I drive down many dilapidated streets and see a property being rehabbed and I laud the efforts of these folks, but I can't help but feel like their efforts are overwhelmed by the staggering amount of negativity and neglect that surrounds their noble efforts in some parts of the city. On the other hand, I've seen some homes being renovated on streets in Tower Grove South, Shaw, Lafayette Square or Soulard that are the last shell or rehab available on the block...the icing on the cake so to speak. Both are important, and there's so much left to be done.

So why not call all re-habbing hands on deck to work together in a concerted fashion to work toward transforming and marketing streets, blocks, neighborhoods to new residents. The sweeping power of an effort of this scale would be overwhelming. Money would more easily be made if folks worked together to reclaim an entire street. Resources could be pooled.

An entire neighborhood, take Fox Park for example, which is working toward extending its historic status south of Shenandoah to cover the entire neighborhood could be a perfect case study for this type of effort. Start on Ann Street and work south to the end of the neighborhood. Market the neighborhood to renters, owners and lessees. Work toward drawing small business, the local and national press and everyone else to take notice of the concerted efforts to take a single neighborhood on the fringe and elevate it to a regional showplace.

I have always said that bringing a vacant property back to life is the single greatest thing one can do for the betterment of St. Louis. Taking a 4 family down to a 2 family townhouse or a 2 family to a single family dwelling is what we need. We have a city built for 1 million when we only have ~350,000 residents. We should prepare for a solid 500,000.

Hey I can dream can't I?

Yours truly is getting ready to toss our hat in the ring....more on those adventures in 2011.

The Skinker/Debaliviere Neighborhood

The Skinker/Debaliviere Neighborhood

This is one of the greatest neighborhoods in St. Louis.  Why?  Well, it abuts Forest Park one of America's greatest urban parks.  Then you have the mansions along Lindell Boulevard.  The Metrolink blue line stops here with an underground stop at Forest Park Parkway and Skinker.  The East Loop is on your doorstep as is the Washington University Danforth Campus.  It's really a beautiful, very urban, walkable neighborhood.  There's a lot to like here.  And with the news of a potential grocery/farmer's market right by the Delmar Metrolink stop on the red line (technically in the West End neighborhood), the sky is the limit for Skinky-D.  This is one of the St. Louis neighborhoods that make you feel like you're in a big city.  There are scooters, bikers, walkers everywhere.  It's a vibrant place.  There is a small branch of the St. Louis Public Library right along Skinker (note the bike rack).

The College Hill Neighborhood

The College Hill Neighborhood

Overall, College Hill has huge potential, as it has a nice mix of all styles of architecture that old St. Louis has to offer.  It has of course seen better days and much of the neighborhood is crumbling; but it's not a hopeless place at all.  There is still enough of the backbone to make this a contiguous neighborhood with a lot of future potential.

College Hill is clearly another neighborhood lying in wait for those with the ideas, resources and desire to make change and bring this place back to it's original glory.  College Hill with some TLC could easily add to St. Louis' resume as one of the, if not THE brick city of the universe.

Old North St. Louis: Old North Grocery Co-op

My recent visit to Crown Square led me to another fascinating personal first...a stop into the

Old North Grocery Co-op

.  The amount of positivity that has sprung up around Crown Candy Kitchen is simply amazing.  The

ONSL Restoration Group

is doing a great job at organically building the neighborhood back up to it's original glory.

Now, there are some things that simply make sense to me on every level.  Buying fresh, locally produced food and products is one of those things.  I like to spend every dollar I can within the limits of the City of St. Louis.  And when I can't find it there, extend my reach to the state level and then made in the U.S.  It's a challenge for me, and I think it's my duty as a good citizen to support local business owners.  When it comes to food, it's getting easier and easier to get local (within 100 miles of the city) produce and meat products.  With farmer's markets and co-ops and neighborhood gardens popping up all over the city, I'm very impressed with the locavore activities in St. Louis.

The Old North Grocery Co-op is just one positive example of this. 

Upon my visit, I bought some bacon, pork chops and an ~8 pound chicken (butchered within 48 hours of purchase) from a local farmer in Truxton, MO.  Lee Farms is approximately 70 miles from DT St. Louis; a mere 1.5 hour drive.  The processor (Davis Meats) is also in the great state of Missouri in a town called Jonesburg only ~66 miles from DT St. Louis.

It gets better.  As I was shopping for some delicious food, there was a couple in the back having a conversation.  As I approached the cashier to check out, one of the people at the back table approached me with an extended handshake and introduced himself as the farmer that raised the animals that I was purchasing.   He gave me a heartfelt thanks and I returned the thanks for doing one of the most important jobs in the world, providing food for the masses.  It was a good experience.

I am very proud of the work that farmers do to feed the world, especially farmers that are interested in serving their communities and regions with fresh, healthy food.  I am also very proud of folks like the Old North Grocery Co-op that are working toward fresh, local solutions toward healthy nutrition and living well.

Old North never looked so good.  You've got to check this place out.

Old North St. Louis: the 14th Street Mall or Crown Square

I've been reading a lot about the opening of the 14th street pedestrian mall or as it's referred to now: 

Crown Square in the Old North St. Louis neighborhoodBuilt St. Louis has some great "before" pictures from this section of the neighborhood.

It's clear, the space had seen better days.  But today a major transformation has occurred.  Not only has 14th street been opened up to vehicular traffic, this is straight up one of the most handsome business corridors in the entire city.  The views of DT and the Arch are unmatched.  The buildings look fantastic, and I was beaming with pride as I walked around.  This is one of the greatest transformations in my time living in St. Louis.  Cheers to all involved on a top notch effort.  Take a look:

views from in front of Crown Candy Kitchen

new street signs, lights, bike racks, parking meters and planters/benches

landscaped path to parking lots

PARKING IN THE REAR!!! So the storefronts can shine!

WOW!!!!  Can I get an Amen St. Louis? 

The regional/tourist draw of Crown Candy Kitchen should not be underestimated.  People from all over the suburbs and metropolitan region come here, especially at lunchtime and weekends.  Tourists flock here as well.  Hopefully more tenants in Crown Square will bring more tourist/visitor dollars to the neighborhood. 

On the day of my visit, people were walking around peeking in windows and admiring the workmanship and feel of the area.  It's great to see.

Now keep in mind this is St. Louis...the naysayers are already out in full force....they say, I'll call this a success when and only when there are businesses occupying all the storefronts.  I see what they are saying and there is still many a negative element in the surrounding areas.  They will try to make their mark (some genius started a fire in one of the brand new trash receptacles):

But the guts and drive it takes to make a successful renovation on this scale is simply astounding.  If you let the naysayers have their way, it would never have gotten off the ground, nor would it have come to completion. 

I commend all those involved!  You make this city guy proud!!!!

Want to read more?  Here's some great content: yahoo, St. Louis business journal, St. Louis beacon, Urban Review STL

Walnut Park West Neighborhood

Walnut Park West Neighborhood

So I've been at the this neighborhood profile project for over a year.  Walnut Park East was one of my first North City posts.  I walked away from Walnut Park East feeling pretty hopeless for this part of the city.  But, an individual working for positive change in the Walnut Park area contacted me and invited me to discuss some of these positive activities that are occurring in the area and I decided to do a part 2 post for Walnut Park East after meeting with her and understanding some details around the charity/social work in the community.

So I'm not changing my approach in Walnut Park West today; but I will try to get more pictures to document what I see.  When I did the WPE post, I was hesitant to show the many, many negatives that I saw.  WPW is pretty similar to WPE.  Demographically and racially speaking, it's got absolutely no diversity.  Take a look at the census numbers above, they don't lie; and, I don't expect to see any increase in diversity in the 2010 numbers based on my observations.

The Gravois Park Neighborhood

The Gravois Park Neighborhood

This is a south city neighborhood brimming with potential.  It's a diamond in the rough.  There are south city neighborhoods that never went down in quality in terms of property maintenance and residential/neighborhood pride.  Holly HillsBoulevard HeightsSouthamptonNorth HamptonLindenwood ParkSt. Louis HillsPrinceton Heights are all examples of neighborhoods that have largely remained clean, tidy, safe and well maintained.  Gravois Park has slipped from it's original graces and is rough around the edges.  BUT...it's lying in wait for continued positivity that is spreading through the neighborhood, with Cherokee Street as the impetus.

Gravois Park, not unlike Fox ParkMcKinley HeightsBenton Park WestMarine Villa and Dutchtown are absolutely beautiful neighborhoods waiting for more people who care to bring them back to life.  Gravois Park is no doubt on it's way up.  

Veteran's Day

I know I'm a day late, but I wanted to share a comment that a gentlemen left on my Franz Park post:
I lived at 6711 Mitchell Ave across from Franz park from age5 until about 14. I attended Roe School starting in 1927. Just looked on Google at our old home and neighborhood and was stunned to see how nice the entire area remains after about 75 years. I am now 88. I worked at Scullin Steel from 1941 until 1943 when finally got an exemption to join the Navy. I had a critical industry job exemption as crane and Charger machine operator making parts for Tanks . I had to fight the draft board to get to enlist.All young men wanted to fight in WWII.Finally said let me quit and serve or I will quit and be drafted so the finally after 3 appeals. I attended Normandy High and then Washington Univ. later

Don S. Thompson
It's people like Mr. Thompson that inspire me, and truly make me thankful that there are those who feel so strongly about their country, that they would put their life on the line for a cause greater than themselves.  Thanks Mr. Thompson and all other vets out there.

If you are ever looking for a weekend trip, take the Amtrak or Greyhound or drive to Kansas City to visit the WWI museum.  It's one of the best museums I've ever been to and that war is a brutal reminder of the sacrifices soldiers are forced to make.

The Lindenwood Park Neighborhood

The Lindenwood Park Neighborhood

This is another one of St. Louis' clean and tidy neighborhoods.  Manicured yards, uniform tree lined streets and a strong sense of neighborhood pride help showcase Lindenwood Park.  The extremely high occupancy rate proves it's a popular and desirable place.  The current residents are acting as great stewards of the homes along narrow, hilly city streets mostly built in the 1930's.  The streets on the west side of the neighborhood are wider than usual, with some of the largest front yards in the city.  Homes built in the 1940's and 1950's set back rather far from the street sit on the west side near I-44 and Wabash.

St. Louis Mayors 1949 to Present

St. Louis seems to have a weak mayoral political structure. The Board of Aldermen seem to call most of the shots and aldermanic courtesy is alive and well (i.e. you stay outta my business, I'll stay outta yours). I'm sure this has some positives, but I'd prefer the thought of a strong mayor with some chutzpah and a 2 party system with Republicans running against Democrats, at a minimum; or better yet, independents or 3rd party candidates running for office.  I don't like the idea of completely getting rid of party affiliation, as I think a 2 party system at least gives the voters 2 chances to unseat the incumbent (first in a primary, and then in the general election). 

But let's face it, there aren't many Republicans running for city offices in St. Louis, it's a one horse race in many wards.  To the best of my knowledge, there's only one Republican on the entire BOA (Fred Heitert in the 12th ward). 

We haven't had a Republican mayor since 1949.  The downfall of the city's population started right around that time and was owned by the Democrats ever since then.  Now, I'm not so naive as to believe the political affiliation of the mayor is why we lost over 1/2 our population in 50 years; but maybe we're due for a change of party/uni-party structure.  I'd like to vote for a mayor in the coming years with some vision.  Someone that can appeal to my fiscal conservative leanings (don't give money away to projects and people that don't give back, or build toward a stable future); yet, intimately in tune with what city living means to those that have chosen to live here in the darkest times, and would consider St. Louis as their home or business location in the near future.  A candidate who can lead/influence changes to zoning, crime, racism on the north side, south and city hall, nepotism, historic tax credits, long range planning, cleaning up the crappiest neighborhoods in the city.  I wish we had a candidate who would call out the public schools that give STL a bad reputation and why and know which schools are actually performing well, and why and speak to the fact that the system isn't completely broken, but some bad apples need to be tossed out and replaced.

There are a couple things I've seen in my days that have transformed St. Louis as a region.  The Great Rivers Greenway River Ring and historic tax credits immediately come to mind.  These are two voter/politician initiatives that make complete sense to me on all levels.  How can you argue against these? 

I wish we had a mayor that was a prominent voice for change in the same vein as the above mentions.  A strong personality with a powerful agenda to get this city headed in the right direction. In my days in St. Louis, we've had Freeman Bosley Jr., Clarence Harmon and Francis Slay....all 3 St. Louis bred politicians.  Our history of mayors indicates a strong tendency toward insiders and locals. 

I'd like to see some fresh blood, an outsider's perspective, and outside looking in take.  Someone with the energy and blind optimism of the promise of the city could go a long way in changing hearts and minds on the region.  I think our history of negativity since the post-1950's really drags us down.  I feel a sense of "can't-do" in a lot of the old timers and long time residents' speak.  I don't feel this as much in the fresh blood.

In our long history, we've had 45 mayors:  21 Democrats, 13 Republicans, 6 Whigs, 3 Independents and 2 Know-Nothings (huh?):

The Know-Nothing movement was a nativistAmerican political movement of the 1840s and 1850s. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholicimmigrants, who were often regarded as hostile to Anglo-Saxon values and controlled by the Pope in Rome. Mainly active from 1854 to 1856, it strove to curb immigration and naturalization, though its efforts met with little success. Membership was limited to Protestant males of British lineage over the age of twenty-one. There were few prominent leaders, and the largely middle-class and entirely Protestant membership fragmented over the issue of slavery. Most ended up joining the Republican Party by the time of the 1860 presidential election.[1][2]
The movement originated in New York in 1843 as the American Republican Party. It spread to other states as the Native American Party and became a national party in 1845. In 1855 it renamed itself the American Party.[3] The origin of the "Know Nothing" term was in the semi-secret organization of the party. When a member was asked about its activities, he was supposed to reply, "I know nothing."  SOURCE

The French settled this town, Germans and Irish Catholics built this city, what the hell did the British do for St. Louis?  I don't get the paranoia; yet, I assume it stems from the Catholic vs. Protestant thing more than the lineage thing.

Anyhow, I wish we had a mayor with some drive and vision. The 3 that I've witnessed in my time as a resident haven't provided me with the confidence that the ship has been turned in the right direction.

I think we need bold action so we can all enjoy a better St. Louis in our lifetimes.

I always kind of admired Rudy Giuliani for his ability to clean up Manhattan. Although, many New Yorkers dissed him for this very same reason. He's got his flaws, no doubt, but you have to admit, Manhattan is a pretty safe and nice place to be.  Anyone who has spent some time in large swaths of north city and pockets of south city would have to admit that there are parts of St. Louis that could use a firm hand and cooperation from the Feds to get rid of negative elements in some of our worst neighborhoods. Bad guys are doing business in broad daylight in some very obvious parts of town.  There are thugs, unlicensed drivers, brick thieves, copper pirates, dealers and just plain assholes being assholes in many parts of town.  These people drag the entire city down in reputation and perception, etc.  The cops know this, the city knows this, yet we allow it to happen.  We've allowed the bad guys to win or have their way for years, and it displaces honest and decent residents while further draining these areas of hope and positivity.  Don't just take my word for it, read the writing on the wall in the Ville on what some of the locals think of their stomping grounds:

Notice the "We shut shit down" comment.  Name me any rational, decent human being that wants these guys doing business in their neighborhood.  A little Giuliani/Elliott Ness-like firmness might be nice in this town and go a long way toward making St. Louis a better place to live.

There are many, many other things that the mayor could be stronger on besides crime, leadership and vision.

The mayor is a figurehead for the signs of the times as well as the big decisions that are made and the big events that happen under his administration's term(s).

But, the focus of this post is to look at who was driving the bus during the INSANE exodus of people out of ole St. Lou. Let's not think about the good times when America was a powerhouse and our cities were strong and growing. Let's start with the 1950's when the personal automobile, rise of middle class wages, desegregation and the suburb booms came into play. 

Let's start with some population facts:

We should never forget the fact that we lost 508,607 St. Louisians from our peak to the last census count of 2000.  That is a major failure.  The worst decade in St. Louis history was 1970-1980 when we had a 27% loss of residents.  The 70's in St. Louis must have sucked.  Think about it, nearly a third of the population bolted in that 10 year span. Who had the keys to the bus at the onset of the 1970's?  It was none other than Alfonso Cervantes who steered the ship from 1965 - 1973, he served 2 terms!!!  People said "thumbs up!,  great job!" as the mass exodus was underway.  So what was going on during the Cervantes admin?  Here's what I could find:

Three of Cervantes' greatest contributions were in the fields of race relation, crime-fighting, and city finance.
While other cities suffered through race riots, the peace was kept in St. Louis. Mayor Cervantes met with and talked at length with African-American leaders. African-Americans were added to City government positions and 95 were appointed to City commissions.
Cervantes took the lead to get the City Aldermen to pass crime-fighting legislation. A Commission on Crime and Law Enforcement was created. Pawnshop owners were required to photograph customers and record the identity of sellers. Voters were convinced to pass a one per cent sales tax to put policemen on horseback in the parks. Car thefts were reduced by his 'lock it and pocket the key' program.
In finance Mayor Cervantes was successful in getting a $2,000,000 bond issue passed for completion of the Arch and grounds. This was necessary to get $6,000,000 in Federal aid. A $15,000,000 bond issue for street lighting and a juvenile center was passed in 1972 after he found ways to pay off the bonds without increasing the property tax. Business taxes and convention revenue were the answer.
Other successes during his two terms included establishment of Night Housing Court, organization of a Business Development Commission to help keep businesses in the City and bring in new ones along with setting up the Area Office of Aging, Beautification Commission, and Citizens Service Bureau to handle complaints. A Land Re utilization Authority was created to take over vacant properties and group them for re-use.
Mayor Cervantes failed in his attempt to get a new airport started in an area south of East St. Louis. He thought this would be a great benefit to the City and downtown St. Louis, but the proposal stirred up so much controversy in St. Louis County and Jefferson City that it helped lead to his defeat for a third term in 1973. Source

But maybe the writing was on the wall in 1973 when John Poelker took over and served from 1973-1977.

In the 1973 primary election, John H. Poelker defeated James F. Conway and Mayor Alfonso Cervantes, who was seeking a third term for the Democratic Party nomination. He defeated Republican Joseph L. Badaracco, former President of the Board of Aldermen, by more than 18,000 voles on April 3, 1973.
On becoming Mayor, Mr. Poelker worked with the Board of Aldermen to create the Community Development Agency (1974). It replaced the former City Plan Commission, Municipal Business Development Commission, and the Beautification Commission. Additional neighborhood development was undertaken by the Community Development Agency. Construction of the new Convention Center on the near North Side was begun after changes in financing were made as a result of a bond issue election. A new Port Development Commission was also established during the Poelker.
The city's re-entry into the county was discussed frequently in Mayor Poelker's term. In August 1976 the Mayor said, 'There is a limit to the number of things that you can do. It is not anticipated that re-entry would solve the city or the county's problems.'
The city had a $6,500,000 budget surplus as he left office. The surplus was mainly the result of unspent federal revenue-sharing funds that the city received. 

Something tells me not much happened under the Poelker admin...maybe he was the Harmon of his time.

He only served 1 term and was replaced by James Conway from 1977-1981.

Mayor Conway obtained a $15,000,000 Federal grant opening the way for a $150,000 May Department Stores Shopping Mall. Legislation enabling construction of new downtown office buildings was guided through the Board of Alderman.
Col. Leonard Griggs, Air Force Retired, was brought in to head the Airport.
Comptroller Percich and the Mayor differed on interpretations of the City Charter. As a result, lawsuits and threats of lawsuits were brought by the Mayor. He did gain control over spending $35,000,000 in Federal Community Development block grants, in a bout with the Board of Aldermen.
Mayor Conway succeeded in getting the $25,000 city salary limit removed from the charter. In the primary election of August 5, 1980, the voters approved this amendent to the City charter. Duplication of services at City and Homer Phillips Hospitals concerned Mayor Conway. His movement toward changing the role of Phillips Hospital occupied much of his time. Consolidating most hospital services at City Hospital led him into conflict with residents from the City's north side. The transfer of patients and equipment from Phillips to City Hospital came in 1979.
Conway had more problems with north side residents when he recommended the construction of the long considered North-South Distributor Highway  brought controversy with North Side residents. These conflicts were largely responsible for the delayed budget ordinance for the year 1979/80. This budget was passed by the Alderman eight months after the start of the fiscal year.
Mayor Conway sought control over the Police Department budget, as had former Mayors. Since 1861 the City police have been under State control but with the city paying the bill. Mayor Conway did not succeed in having this changed by the 1980 legislature.

Sounds like Conway had a rough go with the north siders.  I guess the north/south, us/them thing was alive and well during Conway's term, and he upset the applecart a bit.

Things were pretty bad in the 1980's too.  We lost 12% in both the 80s and 90s.  Vincent Shoemehl ran the show for 3 consecutive terms.

When he took office in 1981, Vincent Schoemehl was one of the City's youngest mayors. He was interested in historic preservation and urban design. Schoemehl worked to save the Cupples Warehouses from demolition. Mayor Schoemehl was interested in good urban design and rehabilitation of St. Louis. His administration promoted 'public-private partnerships' that led to more than 600 successful rehabilitation projects.
Schoemehl also formulated the idea of Operation Brightside, a beautification program reflected in cities around the county. Schoemehl led the effort to plant millions of daffodils in the City, as well as a variety of urban clean-up and planting programs.
Schoemehl worked to transform the office of mayor from a 'weak mayor' system into a political powerhouse. In 1992, Schoemehl was defeated by then Lt. Gov. Mel Carnahan in his bid to become Missouri's Governor.

That actually doesn't sound too bad.

Then came Freeman Bosley Jr:

After winning the April 6, 1993 election by 66.5% of the vote, Freeman R. Bosley Jr. became the first African-American Mayor of St. Louis. Early in Bosley's administration, he oversaw the battle against the Flood of 1993. He helped to orchestrate the $70 million bailout of Trans World Airlines. He also help moved the Rams football team to St. Louis from California. Two property tax increases were passed during the Bosley Administration. 

Clarence Harmon:

Mayor Harmon portrayed himself as a non-politician in City Hall, restoring honesty and dignity to City Hall. Mayor Harmon worked to stabilize neighborhoods which increased property values. He reorganized the city ambulance services and health services for the poor. He encouraged housing developments and a convention center hotel.

and our current mayor Francis Slay:

During the first year of his administration Slay worked to win aldermanic support for a new Cardinals baseball stadium and a revitalization plan for the Old Post Office district.  He also worked on city redistricting, Washington Avenue improvements project, and health care for the uninsured.

Every decade has been pretty bad since the 1950's. So maybe the worst mayoral administration should be recognized as the Joseph Darst era when the bleeding began....but he only served 1 term due to his death in 1953.  However, the "urban renewal" policies and the institution of the earnings tax during the Darst administration were very damaging to the city:

Darst was elected mayor of St. Louis in April 1949. Darst was a proponent of urban renewal through slum clearance and the construction of large scale affordable public housing. This approach to urban renewal has been criticized by later generations of urban planners and theorists such as Jane Jacobs. During Darst's time as Mayor, approximately 700 public housing units were completed. When he left office, an additional 17,000 units were under construction and 4,000 were in the planning stages. Although he was initially opposed to a City earnings tax, Mayor Darst came to believe it was necessary for the City's finances to remain stable. He successfully lobbied the Missouri Legislature to pass legislation enabling the earnings tax.  Source

The next mayor, Raymond Tucker, served 3 consecutive terms from 1953-1965.

Mayor Tucker ran for re-election successfully in 1957. He backed the proposed City Charter that was defeated August 6, 1957. The increase in the Earnings Tax from one-half percent to one percent became effective August 1, 1959. He opposed the Metropolitan District Plan of 1959 and the Borough Plan of 1962; each would have restructured the relationship between St. Louis City and St. Louis County. He became president of the American Municipal Association (now the National League of Cities) in 1959 and headed the United States Conference of Mayors from December 1963 to April 20, 1965. The City Charter was amended in August 1960 to raise the City salary limit from $10,000 to $25,000. In 1956, the Mayor had appointed a committee of building industry people to draw up a new Building Code, which he signed into law on March 31, 1961.
In April 1961, Tucker was elected to a third term as Mayor. Significant civil rights legislation was passed in the City during this time, including the Public Accommodations Ordinance in 1961 and Fair Employment legislation in 1963.
In March 1965, during his bid for an unprecedented fourth term as mayor, Tucker lost to Alfonso J. Cervantes in the Democratic primary.  Source

Man, it's easy to be re-elected in this town.  Lose ~20% of the residential base?  No problem....he's a good guy.  Maybe his opposition to the Borough Plan was the beginning of the end for St. Louis vs. St. Louis County.  Who knows.

Looking back at St. Louis' massive population loss, one could conclude that Francis Slay is the best mayor we've had in the last 51 years. He's still weak, but he's the best in my short time living here (Bosley??? Harmon???).  As I mentioned before, the massive population decrease from St. Louis really started post WWII. I realize the automobile, school deseg/cross-town busing which got rid of the "neighborhood school" philosophy which valued residential property near schools, racial upheaval and social pressures contributed as well; but govt. policies had to play into it as well.  Does the mayor have anything to do with all this?  I think so, at least on the surface.  To me the mayor won't make me stay or leave St. Louis...I'm one of the committed. I'll be here no matter what.  But, I think the mayor's actions/policies can be a regional measure of STL confidence or pride.  If there is constant corruption and scandal, it makes the city look even worse.  If he is inept or idling on the sidelines, he appears weak.  I think a strong mayor with vision and good collaboration skills between white/black, city/county and city/metro east would go a long way toward drawing more people to the city.

Anyhow, if you use population trends as an indicator of success/failure, Slay could use a numeric increase as a big political move.  I hope to see an increase in St. Louis' population when the 2010 U.S. Census data is published.  Will Mayor Slay and his admin take credit for this?  Would you if you were in his shoes?  I'd at least try to parlay it into a positive spin for my work and direction the city is headed.  It seems reasonable, and I wouldn't blame him for it.

Either way, it's quite possible that 348,000 people was rock bottom for a city the size of St. Louis.  Maybe Slay just got elected at the right time.

However it all plays out, I hope to see St. Louis elect a mayor or at least field some candidates that have vision to take us to the next step.  We hit rock bottom....we (may) have a slight increase in residents....now it's time to take control and make St. Louis a place that is a national draw as opposed to a just a regional draw.

St. Louis Place Neighborhood

St. Louis Place Neighborhood

This neighborhood has seen better days, no doubt.  There are the problems that plague many city neighborhoods and especially north side neighborhoods.  Unused urban prairies, crumbling housing stock, abominations/failed attempts from the 1970's-1980's and contemporary construction both decent and not so much.  I'll show examples of both.  There is no walkable business/retail within the neighborhood that serves the area to provide the essentials of decent food (fast food joints appear to be the only option), clothing, or anything the normal household would need to exist.

St. Louis: A City of Neighborhoods

St. Louis:  A City of Neighborhoods

Some neighborhoods are branded well and recognized throughout the region.  The Hill, would be a perfect example.  Almost everyone in the city and the metropolitan region knows the Hill.  Soulard is another example of a clear regional identity that is well branded and defined.  Maybe we should sell this "city of neighborhoods" thing a little more.  Maybe this should be our city slogan.  Mound City, Gateway to the West....The City of Neighborhoods.  Who knows.

The Hi-Pointe Neighborhood

The Hi-Pointe Neighborhood

Hi-Pointe is also home to one of THE coolest movie theaters I've ever seen.  This place not only shows great films, but the experience is like no other in town.  It is legit and soulful in every way.  It is not pretentious and it's a true relic of its time.  Even the bathrooms (at least the men's room) is cool and unique.  And it's much more affordable than other city and county options.  If you haven't been to the Hi-Pointe Theater, you're missing out on a St. Louis landmark.  It was built in 1922 on the highest point in the city of St. Louis.

Dream Job In The City

I recently attended a City Affair event at Urban Eats on Meramec.  The topic was urban blogging.  The panelists were Alex Ihnen (Urban STL), Matt Mourning (Dotage) and Steve Patterson (UrbanReviewSTL).

I couldn't have picked a better panel myself and the conversation was great.  The moderator did a great job of allowing each panelist enough time to answer and complete their thoughts.  These 3 guys had some great perspectives and thoughts.  They are good examples of positivity in this town.

As I was listening, I couldn't help but think that these articulate, intelligent people should be working for the city in some capacity.  Hell, they should have the keys to the city.

Then I got to thinking, how best could these minds be used to influence sweeping positive change in the city?  I mean these guys all have day jobs right?  Blogging only gets you so far.  I think we can all agree that actions speak louder than words, right?

I wish the city would value these folks and their perspectives by getting them on the payroll.

I don't think the Board of Alderman would be the place for these folks, although I'd certainly cast a vote in their direction if they did choose to run.

It got me thinking about roles and jobs within the city.  What could these guys bring to the city if they were on the inside of the machine?  What could I bring to the city if I lived in my dream world?

Not unlike the guys mentioned above, I'm a huge city fan, and want nothing more than St. Louis to be a more active and vibrant place.  If I could have my dream job in the city, I know exactly what it would be. 

I have an education in Biology, and have a distinct love for trees and perennial plants in urban settings.  I also like gardening and urban farming. 

So if I had my druthers, the mayor or BOA would hire an urban arborist and gardening director.  The position would be responsible for:
  • a city wide inventory of street trees using GPS mapping and imagery to do a count of healthy and unhealthy street trees in the City of St. Louis
  • choosing exclusive list of native species to be considered for use within the city
  • planning and executing street tree plantings contiguously along residential and commercial corridors by working with aldermen and neighborhood associations to choose the right trees on the right streets 
  • redistributing funding of dept of forestry's mowing/trimming budget by utilizing resources for controlled burns and introduction and management of Missouri native perennials and prairie grasses to bring "NO-MOW" areas to the city (think the "banks" of the River Des Peres and the large medians of mowed weeds/grass between River Des Peres Blvd, etc back to a more native, sustainable, low maintenance landscape)
  • community outreach throughout the city to work with non-profits (Gateway Greening, MoBot.Gardens, Forest Releaf, etc) and city resources to convert unused city owned parcels to urban farms and gardens that would be used to stock local farmer's markets, food banks, etc.
Oh yeah baby, that would get me excited.  I can get behind that...

Imagine same aged, same species, properly planted/placed streetscapes in all our neighborhoods.  Red maples and black locusts lining the streets.  Oaks and sycamores make Holly Hills, St. Louis Hills and other beautiful neighborhoods what they are!  Imagine if every neighborhood had this level of care.

I think this position is entirely realistic and not too far fetched.  Why doesn't the city have this goal?  Why don't they write this position up and post it?  I would vote to have my taxes raised to fund such position/dept.  It probably could be so lean and green a dept, that the funds could come from other dark corners of the city coffers.

Could this happen?

Now it's your turn kind reader...what would be your dream job to make St. Louis an even better place?

The Franz Park Neighborhood

The Franz Park Neighborhood

So what does Franz Park look like?  The three neighborhoods of Dogtown are surprisingly hilly.  The streets are packed with cars on both sides, evidence of the high residential occupancy rate.  Overall, this neighborhood really doesn't remind me of any other St. Louis neighborhood I've seen so far...maybe a well cared for Walnut Park East would be the best comparison.  It's a real mixed bag; and as per the entry above "...the erratic way in which the houses in the neighborhood were built, a variety of architectural styles exist within the area..." That description couldn't be more accurate.  If there is a prevailing type or style of home, I'd say it was the small frame homes from post WWII...