I had the opportunity to attend the Downtown Next open house put on by the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis yesterday. The open house presented feedback from over 1,100 stakeholders surveyed on the things they'd like to see downtown in the future, outlined the progress downtown has made in recent years, and represented the evolution of the Downtown Now plan conducted in the late 90s.
It was encouraging to see so many people take an interest in helping plan the future of downtown, and the results provide a great framework for the direction in which downtown is heading. Attendees were given the opportunity to rate the priorities that are most important to them, and the long list of excellent options showed that the Partnership has a firm grasp on what needs to be done in order for downtown to reach its potential.
I liked the fact that many of the presentation materials stressed connectivity - making downtown more pedestrian friendly, and doing a better job of linking downtown to surrounding areas such as Old North St. Louis and Soulard.
The priorities that I ranked highest involved business development - making downtown THE center for small businesses and entrepreneurs, enlisting downtown firms to encourage other businesses to move downtown, utilizing local universities to help launch businesses downtown, and constructing Class A office space. I also listed the redevelopment of vacant buildings such as St. Louis Centre and the Arcade Building as a priority, along with streetscape improvements and ongoing retail and residential development.
In my opinion, the more we can strengthen downtown as a business center, the more attractive it will be to residents and retailers. A boom in the number of office tenants could help fuel another boom in residential construction.
There's a lot of work to be done, but I think things are headed in the right direction.