Demolition Economic Development

OPINION: St. Louis CITY SC Disappoints with Downtown Parking Garage despite plans for “District”

The anticipation for the new MLS stadium and team has been profound for St. Louisans across the metro area. A huge construction effort is currently underway in Downtown West, poised to bring significant activity to a neighborhood that has lacked significant investment, retail, or residential additions for decades. The new stadium and team are well positioned to help revitalize the area while also providing residents an incredible new entertainment option.

Still, the immense positives associated with the stadium and team do not immunize the project from criticism when promises and hype falter. The St. Louis CITY SC branding quite obviously leverages city imagery and loyalty for its brand. Their website for the stadium has an entire page dedicated to the “District” they hope to create alongside the stadium. A key note on this page is to “bring vitality and drive inspiration through inspiring architecture and public spaces, and through creative uses of infrastructure and technology”.

Rendering of the MLS Stadium in Downtown West when completed (Does Not Include Parking Garage)
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An ambitious plan is certainly good to have, and creating a true district “home to a diverse selection of restaurants, bars, living spaces and family experiences” has the potential to do wonders for Downtown West. Having a hub of entertainment, retail, and living options near the stadium contributes to a neighborhood that people stay in rather than simply attend for a game and then leave right away. For the City, that means dense, fun neighborhoods that contribute heavily to the tax base. For the stadium and team, it builds a true connection with the community that is longer lasting with higher revenue potential. While the Ballpark Village developments aren’t perfect, they are succeeding at creating a real neighborhood. With a hotel, office, high-rise apartment building, stadium, Starbucks, retail, and bars, the area supports a 24/7 atmosphere that is both convenient and enjoyable for tourists and locals.

A Rendering of the St. Louis City SC Garage

Unfortunately, just-released renderings from St. Louis City SC depict a large parking structure on Olive with no activation whatsoever, save for a gaudy balcony and staircase. In order to build this parking garage, the soccer club demolished nearly an entire block of mixed-use buildings that could have housed bars, residents, and various other uses. If this rendering resembles the final product, then the built environment surrounding the stadium will be less of a district and more of a brief shop for a game and nothing else. The latter would be a loss for an area so central to the city and near many incredible amenities.

While pedestrians and the neighborhood more broadly lose out with this parking garage, the proposal also demonstrates a continued reliance on a mode of transportation that contributes heavily to our climate crisis. That is despite excellent transit proximity and St. Louis City’s ambitious climate goals, especially relating to new construction.

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When developers promise the world and demolish the urban fabric of a city, ultimately underdelivering on their commitments and publicly stated mission, the city and its residents are harmed. This kind of practice is frequently applied, from Drury Hotels with their demolition-by-neglect strategy in Forest Park Southeast to Restoration St. Louis and its bait-and-switch just by The Grove. Until this strategy is reigned in, we are likely to see more developers preach wide ranging benefits and deliver little more than lipstick on a pig, like this very parking garage.

3 comments

  1. Another instance where the SC says one thing (to gain support) and does another (because of economics). The first example being committing to keeping the STLFC USL team then folding it after last season. I’d imagine this garage will be entirely for luxury suites/premium seating/sponsors. You’d imagine most of these people will drive in for the match, want convenient parking, then leave shortly after. There’s a lot of hype and hope for this project (and the team) but hopefully the club starts to check some of these to avoid disappointment across multiple facets.

    *My guess is ticket prices will be the next “disappointment”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is too bad, the sweeping demolition of significant smaller places for new small business in attempt to make local money. But, one big problem is Drury Corp. owns so much property from Cape Girardeau and up the eastern Missouri corridor up through the downtown area.! They own so much and instead of making compromising deals with smaller properties, they over-indulge, and make a gawdy sports bar/ garage…great for drunk driving potential…or future planning for Drury Hotels as we see in SE Forest Park area…which they own, but leave the blightes areas as they make new hotels and places , pushing out homeowners. As they will in West downtown.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes it seems the original open real estate for local development is catering now to in and out car hopping fans. Not only is the parking lot ill-conceived, it is a bad foreshadowing of traffic, alcohol, and fanatic win or lose driving. Parking for the players , team leadership, and media surely must be already in the plans near the stadium, underground near the all new infill of the highway exit, and large practice area.?! Across Market, from the stadium. The underground parking should easily have been extended. More for some fans…and the rest of transport being MetroLink, buses, Uber, and many more options today we have.
    The old Pear Tree hotel likely is being bargained out for newer larger accommodations. Without the pop-up modern car park, which I bet will not be as nuevo modern, for 100’s of smoky gas guzzlers. Any charging stations planned.?

    Liked by 1 person

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