Delmar Blvd., like most St. Louis streets, was once very urban in form. Buildings all were built up to the sidewalk, defining the public vs. private space. This also gave pedestrians a sense of enclosure, they weren’t exposed on all sides.
For decades now we’ve chipped away at the urban form then wondered why we also had population loss, increased pollution and disinvestment. We still would have experienced population loss based on the trend to the suburbs but trying to remake the city to be like th, e suburbs didn’t work to stop the loss and now it’s preventing the rejuvenation of many areas, such as along Delmar Blvd.
Also for decades St. Louis’ “leadership” has thought that anything new — any investment — was better than no investment at all. What they continue to fail to understand is disconnected buildings set back behind parking doesn’t create anyplace special. Furthermore with old storefronts up to the sidewalk and new buildings set back the look and feel isn’t pleasant. It’s not a contiguous wall of buildings or or consistent setback common in suburbia.
St. Louis’ first planner, Harland Bartholomew, wanted to basically raze the city and rebuild in the suburban model — see his 1947 Comprehensive Plan.
None of this will encourage investment and improvement of the area, it’ll likely accelerate disinvestment and abandonment. I hope to live long enough to see the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis building razed and replaced with 2-3 urban buildings.
- Steve Patterson