Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities

By Heywood T. Sanders | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
St. Louis: Protection from Erosion

Writing to St. Louis Mayor A. J. Cervantes in March 1966, architect Arthur Schwarz announced, “our studies in connection with Union Station were looking ‘mighty good.’” Schwarz told Cervantes that his firm was making “a reasonably comprehensive study of convention centers, sports centers, merchandise marts and convention hotels throughout the country,” and that “I am convinced more than ever that St. Louis has to move forward in these areas in a large way if we are to take advantage of the potentials of tourism and convention business. As I see it, there is no reason why St. Louis cannot attain the number one spot in the country in this regard.”1

Schwarz headed one of the most prominent architectural firms in the city, and had been involved in a number of major development projects, including the design of Busch Stadium. His interest and focus was on a particular client and a specific site—the city’s grand Union Station. But his vision was shared more broadly within the local business community.2

Writing to Schwarz in July 1966, Gordon Hopper, executive director of Downtown St. Louis Inc., quoted Amusement Business magazine on San Diego’s new center, saying, “But San Diego has no Arch and convention spending has doubled to $40 million in that city since its Community Concourse convention center opened a year ago January”—and adding, “Powerful statement to sell the economic impact of a convention and exhibit center.”3

The proposal that Arthur Schwarz presented to the Terminal Railroad Association in June 1966 described the declining fortunes of a rail station that had accommodated some 280 daily trains in 1929, but by 1965 was serving less than 75.4 But if its future as a passenger facility appeared grim, its location and scale offered a particularly attractive development opportunity—as the site for a convention center, hotel, merchandise mart, and possible

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Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I - The Race to Build 1
  • Chapter 1 - Building Boom 3
  • Chapter 2 - Paying for the Box 42
  • Chapter 3 - Promises and Realities 85
  • Chapter 4 - They Will Come… and Spend 124
  • Chapter 5 - Missing Impact 150
  • Part II - From Economics to Politics 209
  • Chapter 6 - Chicago- Bolstering the Business District 211
  • Chapter 7 - Atlanta- Enhancing Property Values 260
  • Chapter 8 - St. Louis- Protection from Erosion 341
  • Conclusion - The Cities Business Builds 430
  • Note on Sources 453
  • Notes 457
  • Index 501
  • Acknowledgments 513
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