In the Wake of Ferguson, Regeneration in St. Louis
St. Louis was ranked 8 of 18 post-industrial cities studied in our Policy Focus Report Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, and the metropolitan area continued to make progress in planning and economic development. The revitalization along Washington Avenue, where turn-of-the-century garment and warehouse buildings have been renovated for adaptive re-use, was singled out by the report’s co-authors, Lavea Brachman and Alan Mallach, as one success story. The rebirth along the boulevard embodied one of the major recomendations of the report — that cities should take advantage of existing assets and strong urban fabric.
On a recent visit that happened to coincide with the immediate aftermath of the police shooting and racial tensions in Ferguson, we toured a thriving business incubator in the Lammert furniture building called T-Rex. Brian Matthews, co-founder of the St. Louis-based Cultivation Capital, was managing the finishing touches on what he called an “entrepreneurship ecosystem,” including start-ups like Tunespeak and Less Annoying CRM. There are high hopes for St. Louis to become an alternative to the Bay Area, New York and Boston as a mecca for technology innovation. The most obvious edge is lower costs, for the businesses and their employees; a number of other medium-sized cities, such as Louisville, are seeking to take advantage of this strength.
As promising as it is, however, this kind of regeneration has its limits, as Mallach points out — particularly in terms of being inclusive in building the workforce. “Many residents of legacy cities lack the education, job skills, and labor force attachment for them to benefit from economic growth, whether in the city or its surrounding region,” the authors write in the report. “While many legacy cities still contain large numbers of jobs, most of the positions are held by commuters. For example, there are 216,000 jobs inside the borders of St. Louis, yet less than 55,000 are held by city residents. Building the city’s human capital by increasing residents’ education and skills must be intimately linked with the city’s economic growth strategy to maximize the benefits city residents will gain from job growth inside the city.”
The promise of jobs and the creation of new amenities is also at the heart of another project, north of Washington Avenue — beginning at the site of the ruins of the Pruitt-Igoe public housing project, destroyed in 1972 after being deemed a failure. The city hopes to get the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency—the high-tech eyes and ears of the Defense Department—to relocate to where the towers of Pruitt-Igoe once stood. The facility, currently at the banks of the Mississippi River near the Anheuser-Busch brewery, would anchor the proposed NorthSide Regeneration project, spread out over 1,500 acres of largely vacant blocks, and including residential, commercial, and office space, plus a school and 50 acres of parks and trails.
There are thorny issues of scale inherent in this project, however. The high-security facility requires a large footprint of as much as 120 acres, leading some to fear another superblock-style development. Proponents believe that good urbanism would sprout up all around, however, an outcome that would clearly be better than existing conditions.
More detail on the story of Washington Avenue and the redevelopment of the Pruitt-Igoe site is available in this post at CityLab.
The challenges of regenerating post-industrial Legacy Cities will be the topic of a session at the Meeting of the Minds in Detroit beginning October 1, with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Rob van Gijzel, mayor of Eindhoven, the fifth-largest city in The Netherlands. The Lincoln Institute is a partner in the annual convening of some 350 thought leaders from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, focused on reinvention, technology, and “alternative urban futures.”
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
There is a definitive need for affordable housing programs for low-income households. But there is also clearly a need for housing assistance for people earning up to and beyond the city’s median income. When available funds and programs don’t align well with defined needs – and there is simply not enough money to solve the problem, the housing affordability challenge can seem insurmountable. If there is a silver lining to the current state of housing in the Bay Area, it’s that the affordability crisis has served as a much-needed call to action. Under a regional framework known as the 3Ps (production, preservation, and protections), new programs that seek to facilitate new housing construction, preserve existing affordable housing, and to enact tenant protections have been tried, tested, funded, and legislated at the local, regional, and state levels.
New mobility culture calls into question the commute and opens new options for city planning and commute patterns. Our study found almost two-thirds of Gen Z consumers would be willing to accept a longer commute in a self-driving vehicle. While the single driver commuter experience is generally perceived as bad, unhealthy, and stressful, the “we” commute of mobility culture could be a positive and healthy experience similar to today’s train commutes.
Using tools like algorithms and sensors, smart cities increase the quality of life for their residents, by making these communities cleaner, safer and healthier. When done thoughtfully smart cities efforts can also strive to make cities more inclusive and equitable. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people who live in these communities and making their interactions with city and/or county services easier and better.