Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Recentering St. Louis

For the past 50 years, St. Louis has been one of the most sprawling regions anywhere in the country. Statistics show that we have consumed land for development at a pace 7X the rate of our population growth.

The result of all of this sprawl has led to the shift of our geographic center to a point closer to 40 and 270 than downtown St. Louis. With the skyrocketing increase in the cost of fuel, among other cost of living increases, perhaps we are on the brink of a demographic pullback toward the heart of the region?

The Platform at STL Today features a family from DeSoto Missouri who was spending $800 per month on gasoline commuting back and forth from their home in DeSoto to their jobs in the city of St. Louis. They bought a home in the city to lower their expenses. The house payment on their city home is hundreds less than what they were paying in gasoline cost.

Riding Metrolink, we have another opportunity to conserve and reuse older sites within the urban core. Some plans are already in the works, some are completed, and others are possibilities waiting to be explored.

At Emerson Park in East St. Louis, hundreds of new affordable homes have been developed next to the Emerson Park Metrolink Station.

In Maplewood, between the Manchester and Sunnen Metrolink stations, plans are in the works to redevelop the 50+ acre Sunnen products site into a mixed use development.

In Clayton, someone help me out here, but it looks like the County's old jail sits right next to the Metrolink tracks, fronting on Brentwood Boulevard, near Shaw Park, and only a block or so from the Clayton Metrolink stop. The building definitely looks like an old jail, constructed with tall skinny windows and an exercise yard surrounded by 20 foot high, concrete walls. Are there plans for this site?

And maybe the best of all transit oriented development sites sits right in the heart of downtown St. Louis - next to the new Busch Stadium. The site waiting for a project, aka Ballpark Village, is right on top of a Metrolink station with convenient access to points throughout the region.

With people seeking alternatives to reduce dependency on the automobile, a return to the city and inner ring suburbs may be an unanticipated postive outcome toward strengthening the core of the St. Louis region. Affordable housing available in our urban core helps build momentum in that direction.

I'm curious about that old County jail site if that's indeed what it is. Any word on the future of that location?

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