That's the message Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had for the City of Seattle, and Chicago is taking steps to make its city more attractive to young workers. It's a smart plan for sustainable development. Is St. Louis making the same choices? In its efforts for sustainability planning the answer is yes. However, what about the current plans for the South County Connector? That's the question Trailnet raised last night at a community meeting about the South County Connector, a proposed $110,000,000 county highway project.
Young workers, the kind of people we want to attract and retain in the St. Louis region, want to live in closer, denser, more walkable communities. These trends are happening around the country and they are happening in St. Louis. People are driving less. Young people are moving inward towards the heart of the region rather outward to far flung suburbs. Young people are looking for diverse, walkable, amenity rich environments. And they are voting with their feet. If St. Louis doesn't offer these choices, these mobile young people will find what they are searching for in other regions.
We have success stories in St. Louis. Maplewood, an inner ring community right on the edge of St. Louis City, saw the highest percentage increase in property values in our region. How did it happen? Over the past ten years, Maplewood has focused on the revitalization of its historic downtown, making the community more walkable, and capitalizing on its central location and two Metrolink Stations. With regard to property values, the nearby communties of Shrewsbury and Webster Groves also saw property value increases exceeding the average in the St. Louis region.
Which brings us to the proposed South County Connector. How does the South County Connector support a sustainable future? Does it make the surrounding areas more walkable and bikeable? Does it help to build a more diverse, amenity rich environment, attractive to young knowledge based workers? Or is it ironically an inner ring infrastructure project designed to encourage sprawl development - the opposite of the kind of sustainable community investments we should make to help attract young workers to St. Louis?
Study Area for the South County Connector:
Building a road that is designed to make it more convenient for drivers headed for outlying suburbs at the cost of walkable, inner ring, communities would seem to be the opposite direction we should be investing in for the future of our region. On Thursday, May 30, the public will have the opportunity to make comments at a public hearing on the project. More information is available here: South County Connector official website