Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Downtown Needs New Magnets to Attract People

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Downtown Needs New Magnets to Attract People

Article excerpt

ON MY DESK at the Post-Dispatch is a bumper sticker that reads: "St. Louis: Gateway to the Best."

It was sent to me by a guy from Collector's Holiday, a local company that makes bumper stickers and political buttons.

I appreciate the bumper sticker and believe what it says.

Unfortunately, not enough people believe in St. Louis, especially the city of St. Louis.

As downtowns across the country are making comebacks, St. Louis is falling back. Just last week, another downtown company - Red Lead, an arts supply store - left downtown for what it hopes will be greener pastures in Maplewood.

The gradual emptying out of downtown is an issue that officials and business leaders are just opening their eyes to. Businesses are leaving, citing a variety of reasons: lack of adequate parking, difficult city officials, lack of business.

Some things can be done, of course. How about getting rid of the meters downtown? Or a mandate from the top at City Hall that city officials cooperate with people who want to move downtown or who are already there?

The issue of a lack of business, however, is a tougher issue to deal with. It's part of a cycle that's got to be broken. As businesses leave downtown, so do people. When there are fewer potential customers, other businesses leave.

St. Louis has to figure out how to best get people to come downtown, and to stay downtown.

Regular readers know that I'm a big believer in small things, like downtown street performers and vendors. They add color to downtown and provide a reason for people to linger after going there for other reasons.

But it takes more than that to make downtown work. It takes people.

To get people to live downtown, you've got to have places for them to live. I've often said that if I had money, I'd invest in downtown housing for young people and childless couples. The loft area downtown is a good start. People want to live there, but there don't seem to be enough of them.

Downtown also needs amenities that neighborhoods have: grocery stores, laundry mats, dry cleaners, all the sorts of businesses that make neighborhoods work. If you live downtown, you don't want to have to travel for miles to take care of basic needs. …

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