Downtown St. Louis (the Neighborhood)

Downtown St. Louis (the Neighborhood)

Downtown truly is the door step of the city.  It's our face to the world.  Ask someone about St. Louis and they'll probably say St. Louie...yeah, the Arch.  For better or worse, DT defines the St. Louis metropolitan region as a whole.  The DT experience is the St. Louis experience for many, if not most suburbanites, regional visitors, tourists and even some citizens of St. Louis.  It's a fact that many in the region refer to the entire City of St. Louis as "Downtown"...so the stakes are high.  A vibrant DT means a vibrant STL to most.  A 3X gain of residents in Kings Oak will not have nearly the same impact as a similar gain in DT would...and for that, I'm optimistic for St. Louis' future for first impressions, etc.  The historic tax credits have largely made this boost in residents happen, that and the growing trend of people wanting to live in cities.  In spite of the cities free wheelin' issuance of demolition permits and lust for parking lots, many vacant warehouse, office and factory buildings have been transformed to lofts, apartments, condos, new office/retail space, etc.  It's been an amazing transformation to witness.  DT was dead in the 1980's.  When I moved here in 1994, it was gritty and vacant and starkly surreal, like a mothballed outdoor museum for cool buildings.  Now it's everything from gritty to swanky...yet still cool.  It's been a damn good 20 years for DT St. Louis. Despite all the job and tax base poaching that Clayton, Missouri and other cities in the suburbs have done to St. Louis over the last 50 years, DT is still the Central Business District and must continue to lure business, jobs and residents if it's to stay on it upward trend.

The Central West End Neighborhood

The Central West End Neighborhood

CWE is arguably St. Louis' greatest, most vibrant neighborhood.  It's got so much to offer that almost any right-minded city lover would desire to call the CWE home.  Geez where do I start? 

How about the location?  CWE has direct proximity to Forest Park, easy access to I-64, the previously mentioned Metrolink/MetroBus access, a world-class hospital complex, multiple independent and chain restaurants, independent shopping/galleries, bars, mixed architecture, civilized movie theatre, public library branch, walkable streets, mid-century mod buildings, history, economic/racial/ethnic diversity, you name it....CWE has it all.  It's the perfect neighborhood for a date night, a must-stop on visitor tours of St. Louis and a great spot for lunch/dinner or a snack before heading to Downtown, Forest Park or many of the other nearby draws of Grand Center, Midtown Alley, etc.  The presence of Barnes/Jewish, Children's Hospital and Washington University Medical School also make this a powerhouse employment area.  

The Baden Neighborhood

The Baden Neighborhood

Check out the roundabout at the convergence of Goodfellow, Halls Ferry, Riverview, and Lewis and Clark Blvd; it reminds me of the Tempest screen. There just aren't that many roundabouts in St. Louis, but this one is very cool. The St. Louis County cities of Bellefontaine Neighbors and Jennings abut Baden to the north and west.

Baden became part of St. Louis in 1876, but was never incorporated as a city prior to that date.  It has the distinction of being a north side residential neighborhood that had a GAIN in population at 3% in the 2000 Census count.  However, that momentum was not sustained from 2000-2010 when Baden lost 14% of its residents.  The 2010 Census data showed the racial demographics of 92% black and 6% white.  St. Louis continues to take a beating in loss of residents.  People are voting with their feet and Baden, like nearly all neighborhoods, felt that sentiment.

The Greater Ville Neighborhood

The Greater Ville Neighborhood

 I can only imagine what the Greater Ville must have been like when this was a bustling, successful neighborhood.

This seems to be another neighborhood with an identity crisis, it could simply be called the Ville, no?  In fact, the neighborhood link on the city website does link to the Ville's site for information.

This has got to be one of the most neglected and struggling parts of town.  I love it here and hate it here all at the same time.  I can't sum it up in writing how I feel when I read about the great history of places like the Ville and then go visit them and see the overwhelming decay and negativity. 

The Plastic(k) Pavilion in Botanical Heights

Public art is one of the things that makes our city great.  Without a doubt, it's great to see new sculpture popping up all over the city.   The most recent installment I discovered is the Plastic(k) Pavilion at Blaine and Thurman in

the Botanical Heights neighborhood

 This amazing work of art is billed as a "shade structure":

“This shade structure is a good representation of our neighborhood because it’s half finished” announced Nancy Symeonoglou, president of the Botanical Heights Neighborhood Association at last night’s grand opening of the nearly completed Plastic(k) Pavilion, a shade structure which will complement the incoming playground at Thurman and Blaine in Botanical Heights.
Symeonoglou’s statement refers to the opportunity and momentum for future development activity in the area. Botanical Heights has seen recent activity in development as well as infrastructure improvements, decreased crime, and large community involvement in projects such as the Plastic(k) Pavilion and the Botanical HeightsCommunity Garden and Orchard across the street. However, there is also room for future development on vacant lots and boarded up homes. TheGarden District Commission as well as UIC + CDO have been working to stimulate more development projects in the area, starting with the Botanical Grove development, until the entire neighborhood is occupied.
The design of the Plastic(k) Pavilion was developed by a Washington University graduate architecture class led by Professor Ken Tracey along with community input, addressing safety concerns and preferences on appearance. Students are constructing the structure as well and should be complete in the next few weeks. Residents are currently organizing to find funding and designers for the playground that will be constructed adjacent to the Plastic(k) Pavilion. (source)

Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  And here are some shots of the community garden across the street at Folsom and Thurman.  It's complete with a fruit tree orchard, native prairie planting and several raised beds. 

Congrats to the fine folks of Botanical Heights, Washington University and Gateway Greening for the wonderful progress.  Keep it up!

The Temtor 8125 Michigan Avenue

A recent development in

the Patch neighborhood

includes the fantastic $27M rebirth of the former Coca-Cola syrup plant re-branded as "the Temtor" at 8125 Michigan Avenue which will have several loft-style dwellings and will be home to

Perennial Artisan Ales

, another microbrewery tasting room/bar and beer garden which will add to St. Louis' reputation as a premier U.S. beer city.

Seventy-seven apartments will be built in the former Coke plant and 32 apartments will be built in nearby buildings. The project also includes 27,000 square feet of office or retail space in the former Coke plant and 8,000 square feet of space of commercial space on South Broadway.
In addition to the former Coke plant, nine nearby buildings will be converted to apartments and retail space as part of the redevelopment. (source)

 A little history on the Temtor:

On the National Register of Historic Places, the Temtor building was designed in the early 1900s by noted architect Harry G. Clymer. Early press reports about the structure spoke of “integrity through workmanship, design, location and material.”
Named for its first tenant, the Temtor Fruits and Product Company, and years later purchased by Coca-Cola to manufacture the secret syrup supplied to bottlers in a five-state area. (source)

The new windows look dynamite against the red brick of the former factory.

I simply cannot wait to sip a local brew in the beer garden of one of St. Louis' finest and most soulful neighborhoods. Cheers to all those involved in bringing this place back to life. It's folks like you that make me hold on to hope that this rust belt city can evolve into a cool place that will attract people from all over.

Food Network Stars - Casting Call in St. Louis

I was contacted by a casting assistant for the Food Network who is reaching out to any chef, home cook, caterer or culinary enthusiast who might be interested in becoming the host of his or her own cooking show on Food Network.

So I'll pass her information along:

My name is Amy Weiser and I am a casting assistant for Food Network Star, Food Network's hugely successful culinary reality series. We are currently casting for season 8 and would like to inform you and your readers that we are holding an open casting call in St. Louis on Saturday, July 30th, 2011. For your convenience, I have attached a copy of our flyer that further details what we are looking for. Please feel free to post our information on to your website, send it out to any list serve you may have or forward it on to anyone you think might be right for the show. Any help spreading the word about our search is greatly appreciated!
We are looking for people who are full of life, passionate about cooking, and knowledgeable about food to meet us in person at our open casting call. Please help us reach out to any chef, home cook, caterer or culinary enthusiast who might be interested in becoming the host of his or her own cooking show on Food Network!
The details of our event are as follows:
Saturday, July 30th, 2011
10am-2pm
Sheraton St. Louis City Center
400 S. 14th Street, St. Louis, MO 63103
If you have any questions or require further information, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your time and assistance.
Sincerely,
Amy Weiser
Casting Assistant
212.359.9479
amy@jenscasting.com

Food Network Star

So how about it St. Louis?

The Carondelet Neighborhood

The Carondelet Neighborhood

As you can see I-55 butchered Carondelet and divided it in two.  It's a rough cut that makes access nearly impossible by foot/bike.  It's a sad part of Carondelet's long history.

Carondelet used to be an independent city founded in 1767 by Clement DeLore de Treget, until St. Louis absorbed it in 1870.  The Patch neighborhood was also originally part of Carondelet, but is now a distinct neighborhood.  Most St. Louisans think of the Patch as Carondelet anyhow, and it's branded as such, so why not just merge them?  The charming area around the Ivory Theatre which includes several cafes and bars has a big "City of Carondelet" painting in the middle of the road. 

The Dutchtown Neighborhood

The Dutchtown Neighborhood

Dutchtown was the first neighborhood I moved to when coming to St. Louis in 1994.  I think my rent was around $225/month.  Not bad for a recent college grad with no money.  I fell in love with the City with Dutchtown as my home base.  At that time I rode my bike everywhere and Dutchtown was VERY walkable and easy to get around with many intra-neighborhood businesses, etc.  It was a nice place to call home then and now.

Dutchtown takes its name from from Deutsch, i.e., "German", as it was the southern center of German settlement in St. Louis in the early 19th Century.  The neighborhood was designed with pride and craftsmanship; it was built to last.

The Riverview Neighborhood

The Riverview Neighborhood

Riverview was one of the few neighborhoods to gain residents in the 2010 Census count.  There are now 304 people calling Riverview home!  69% black, 29% white and 2% Hispanic/Latino.

This is a unique place in St. Louis:  it's shape, its topography, etc. It's really just a narrow sliver of land wedged between the St. Louis County cities of Glasgow Village, Riverview (the Village) and Bellefontaine Neighbors and of course the mighty Mississippi River.  There's a lot going on in this little neighborhood of St. Louis.

The Bevo Mill Neighborhood

The Bevo Mill Neighborhood

If St. Louis is to ever succeed and turn the tides of massive, staggering population losses decade after freaking decade, it will need an influx of immigrants that will save us from declining population numbers.  I have a lot of first hand experience with Bevo, as I lived around here for nearly 10 years.  Bosnians are saviors of the storefronts along Gravois.  There are countless restaurants, coffee bars and watering holes along here.  I learned of Eastern European food here and I am forever thankful for the Bosnian influence in St. Louis.  These are great, hard working, honest people.  Were it not for Bosnians, it would be nearly impossible to get fresh, artisan bread (kruh) and Eastern European delicacies in St. Louis.

The Jeff Vander Lou Neighborhood

The Jeff Vander Lou Neighborhood

Anyhow, the obvious guess is that Jeff Vander Lou takes it's name from Jefferson and Vandeventer which serve as east/west boundaries, but where does the "Lou" come from?  Sure St. Louis Avenue runs through the neighborhood, but Natural Bridge is the northern boundary and Delmar the southernmost boundary.  Maybe we should change the name to a more contemporary and accurate moniker such as Natty Del Vandy Jeff...just kidding...I think Jeff Vander Lou is cool sounding and next to the Patch, is my favorite St. Louis neighborhood name.

An acquaintance alerted me to keep my eye out for some of the coolest street names in the entire city right in JVL.  It's true there are some gems, and I feel I've gotta give a tribute to some of my favorites...

The Tower Grove South Neighborhood (Updated March, 2017)

The Tower Grove South Neighborhood (Updated March, 2017)

GS is a major urban success story of the last 15 years.  It's got the makings of the perfect St. Louis neighborhood:  a stunning park within walking distance, 2 major commercial districts, fabulous architecture and a strong neighborhood association.  The bad news is, it experienced a 10% loss of residents from 2000-2010, even our nicest neighborhoods continue to post losses as TGS is down to 13,333 people.  Anyhow, this is still a highly desirable neighborhood and I'd put it up there as a clear top 10 for St. Louis places to live, work and play. The neighborhood has a progressive feel.

Fox Park's Newest Music Venue: The Warehouse

If you haven't heard, Fox Park is home to a live music venue called The Warehouse.  It's located at 2501 S. Jefferson at Victor.

Among others, St. Louis' own Tight Pants Syndrome will be playing here on July 8th.

More on the Warehouse:
Jefferson Warehouse opened its doors in November of 2010, and since then, has had extremely positive feedback from the area. With new talent coming in weekly, and existing talent returning to host additional events, there is always something new and exciting going on here.

This city needs as many live music venues as we can get.  Check it out.

The Southwest Garden Neighborhood

The Southwest Garden Neighborhood

Southwest Garden is really a tale of two neighborhoods.  First is the area east of Kingshighway which seems older and more similar to the Shaw neighborhood.  The thing that really sets the eastern half apart and makes it special is the multitude of well maintained, tidy, beautiful multi-family dwellings and apartments.  The curving streets and courts in the northeastern portion of the neighborhood east of Kingshighway are among the coolest, most charming parts of the city.

The O'Fallon Neighborhood

The O'Fallon Neighborhood

It will be interesting to see if the membership rates are the same at both locations, or if they stick it to the south siders.  It will also be interesting to see if they have the YMCA run the facility.  I hope they do, because they run a tight ship.  The proximity of this new recreation complex along with the fact that the neighborhood has a bright, dedicated young alderman, Antonio French, who I am confident can lead the area in the right direction.  And to add to the positive trajectory of the area, all the buildings in the O'Fallon neighborhood will be in a historic district as of 2012.  It will be nominated as a National Register of Historic Places.  See the full story at the Preservation Research Office.

This is great news, as there are some AMAZING homes just south of O'Fallon Park.  They are among the best looking mansions in the city rivaling Holly Hills Boulevard, Lindell, DeBaliviere and other great areas, but O'Fallon has not fared as well as far as retaining people with the means and dedication to maintain the architectural heritage.

Spielin' on the linguisticalities of the verbiage...St. Louis style that is

I love words.  Bending them, using them, or even better:  misusing them....it's all so much fun.  It's why I like hip hop and poetry and songwriting.  I'm not an English major or writer but I love the language, all languages.  You don't have to be an academic to enjoy language and English, in fact it might be quite the opposite.  My favorite musicians, song writers and many authors don't have formal education.  They have soul and experience though, in spades. I also love dialects and accents, I like the ones I hear around St. Louis.  Folks from all over speak differently.  The Bosnian cashier at the Walgreens on Holly Hills/Gravois is sexier, but less fun/hilarious than the Croat checker at Bates/Grand.  Read Winter's Bone and connect with that style, it's easy to do around here.  Academics and intellectuals and elitists sometimes don't get this.

If anything pisses me off, it's people who look down on others based on the way they speak.  What an ass, you don't get it do you?  Our differences make us stronger.  Listen to Nelly and then listen to Q-Tip and then listen to Common.  Drastically different...all great.  This is what makes cover songs fun.  This is what makes the messenger interesting.  Listen to a white dude read a Maya Angelou poem (most likely on NPR), or a black dude read a passage from Willa Cather (has this ever been recorded, please Alan Lomax help us).  Great spins on great words.  Totally new and exciting or overly intellectual and boring, you make the call.  The Rolling Stones made a career on imitating and adding to the playing of black dudes.

Whatever you call it, I like folk music, folk writing, folks in general.  If the internet age and technology has brought us anything, it's folk art.  Any chump can write or sing or perform or whatever and the world can access it and critique it, laud it, ignore it or ban it immediately.  It's a new audience if nothing else.  We see what people are doing all over the world and we're all having fun and are unique.  Tosh.O, this blog, you name it.

So let's celebrate the times and talk some shit about words and the modern society and culture and urban context of words in St. Louis.

One of my upcoming series after the neighborhood thing I'm doing will be spieling on words with an urban context that have completely taken on new meanings in modern times (read ghetto or gangster) or words that are inflammatory or confusing or just flat out misunderstood (read gentrification, hipster, urban or hoosier).  I can't wait to get started on this and I'm going to try to enlist the help of some better read/versed friends to help me with this.  I hope to interview some folks and neighbors and anyone else interested.  If you have a word or an accent or a dialect that you think is unique, confusing or different in St. Louis than anywhere else, drop me a line and I'll try to work on it.

In the on-deck circle:  GHETTO!!!!!!  Stay tuned kind reader.

The Downtown West Neighborhood

The Downtown West Neighborhood

Most people in the region, and even city residents consider DTW to be Downtown.  In fact, DTW doesn't even have it's own link on the city website, it simply points to the DT website.  This is yet another data point toward my hypothesis that St. Louis could consolidate many of its neighborhoods down from 79 to ~50.  But make no mistake, this is an important part of the city, and one of our greatest, most high-profile parts of town.  It is a distinct neighborhood gaining population and is an extremely important connection between Downtown and the burgeoning Midtown area giving us a more and more impressive central corridor.

The Wells/Goodfellow Neighborhood

The Wells/Goodfellow Neighborhood

As with any neighborhoods in a state of severe residential decline, there are signs of when the area was thriving and quite dense; but sadly, those days are over.  There were the once bustling commercial corridors of MLK, Natural Bridge, Goodfellow, Union and St. Louis Avenue, as well as signs of many intra-neighborhood corner stores...

The Vandeventer Neighborhood

The Vandeventer Neighborhood

Another quote from wikipedia on the "obliterated" Vandeventer Place:

Vandeventer Place, opened in 1870 and included a house design by H.H. Richardson. Vandeventer Place has been completely obliterated, with the exception of the east gate, which was removed to Forest Park.

These gates are visible today right by the Jewel Box in Forest Park.  They were moved there in 1950.  There's a nice write up of the gates at the St. Louis Patina blog...