Ten planning lessons from metropolitan St. Louis

While the previous planning lessons post raved about Oklahoma City, this one is not nearly as positive. Here are ten planning lessons from metropolitan St. Louis, Missouri-Illinois, most of which are not good.

Downtown St. Louis as seen from atop the Gateway Arch
  • A look from either side of viewing room atop the Gateway Arch clearly shows the vast disparities between the haves and have nots in this region. While downtown St. Louis looks refreshed and alive (see photos above), across the Mississippi River in Illinois, East St. Louis looks desolate, dejected, desperate, and essentially left for dead (see photo below).
View towards East St. Louis, Illinois from atop the Gateway Arch
  • It seems that at one time a concerted effort was made to place as many LULU’s (locally unwanted land uses) as possible on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, particularly in and around East St. Louis. Multiple landfills, railroads, and freeways literally carve up the community here leaving little behind except eyesores and broken fragments or once prosperous neighborhoods. The one notable exception, the Gateway Geyser, only operates 10 minutes a day during the summer months dependent on weather conditions and it has to compete for visibility with a grain elevator and casino.
Aerial view of East St. Louis – Source: maps.google.com
  • If one positive can be gleaned from the aerial view of East St. Louis shown above, it is the amount of green/open space that is available for creating parks, trails, and other healthy active recreational opportunities in the area. This is also evident from the Gateway Arch and on the ground. The question is whether adequate funding can be found to do so, as well as maintain such resources over the long term in a city where more than 43 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
  • It’s wholly offensive that multiple landfills were placed within clear view of one of the Native American’s greatest engineering achievements – Cahokia Mounds. Not only do they mar the visual aesthetics, but they minimize the greatness of these ancient earthworks.
Two landfills in the center right of the photo as seen from atop Monks Mound
  • Illinois should give up care and oversight of Cahokia Mounds to the National Park Service and/or UNESCO. It’s a shame that one of North America’s most important historical and archeological sites should have to be showcased in such an unremarkable manner.
  • Few, if any, modern marvels can begin to come close to the stunning architectural and engineering achievements found in the Gateway Arch.
  • As visually striking and stunning as the Gateway Arch and downtown St. Louis are, they bely the awful truth of daily life for so many people of color and the poor in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
  • Madison County, Illinois deserves numerous accolades for its vast and comprehensive non-motorized trail network financed thru and operated by the county transit authority.
Source: lbjonline.com
  • A largely unused (for its primary purpose) and empty domed stadium is a sorry testament to how money talks and leaves the losers picking up the pieces.
  • A metropolitan area cannot let its heart (core city) wither away and expect to remain truly viable. Independent city status can become a recipe for disaster, as the suburbs and surrounding county(ies) will far too often look the other way when it comes to the needs of the independent core city. This has been evident in St. Louis, Baltimore, and among several independent cities in Virginia.

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