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Group Wants To Improve Downtown St. Louis By Turning Discussion Into Action

Courtesy CityArchRiver Foundation

Downtown St. Louis residents, along with business leaders and other stakeholders, are launching an effort to solve problems plaguing the city’s core.

Citizens for a Greater Downtown St. Louis aims to tackle long-standing issues such as infrastructure, property upkeep and crime, and some members have already met with Mayor Lyda Krewson.

As a result, the city shut down Eads Bridge to prevent drag racing, but the group says more action is needed. Arnold Stricker, of Citizens for a Greater Downtown St. Louis and a Downtown West resident, recently spoke with St. Louis Public Radio’s Wayne Pratt.

Wayne Pratt: This is an organization concerned about the future of downtown St. Louis and that wants to make it safe. What’s the strategy to go about doing that?

Arnold Stricker: There are some key practices that we would like to see; management, some leadership structure that facilitates those individuals out in the community who have some ideas. And then the governance of how that’s going to come about.

Pratt: I think when most people think downtown, the first thing that may come to mind is safety, especially at night. Is that priority one for this organization or am I off base?

Stricker: That is a critical thing. When people come down at night for ballgames, which we really haven’t had. But when they come downtown or they go anywhere, they want to know that they’re safe. And the atmosphere prior to COVID was a little testy, and things were not being tightened up like we felt that they could be or should be. And they’ve been exacerbated, really, by COVID.

Pratt: How safe do you feel downtown?

Stricker: I feel safe. I don’t go out late at night when a lot of the craziness is happening. I know there’s other individuals who have different schedules, and they do different things.

We’re going to have a Zoom Town Hall meeting on September the 15th from 7 o’clock to 8:30. And at that time discuss some of the solutions that we have been talking about within our group and then really solicit some input from the individuals who are in the downtown area. They’re the ones who live, play, invest in and work in downtown. And we want to hear from those people what they think should be done.

We would like to see a total area-wide organized effort, all hands on deck, to solve these issues. We’re talking about problem properties, synchronization of traffic lights and paving of streets. So everybody really needs to step up and be involved in these solutions.

Pratt: Are the barricades at Eads Bridge a start?

Stricker: It is a temporary solution, and so we’re looking for some long-term strategies. That may be one portion of that. How long is that going to last? How long can that last? That detracts a lot of people from coming over from Illinois, but at the same time, it prevents people from St. Louis going over to Illinois. And it’s not the best solution for the long term.

Pratt: Have there been conversations with other urban centers that may have revitalized their downtown?

Stricker: That’s a great question. One of the things we would like to focus on and we have been focusing on in our group, the best practices that are going on.

How have things worked in other cities? I don’t think you can necessarily transplant what happens in one city to another verbatim and identically and expect some of the same results. I think you have to adapt some of these situations to your particular area. That’s one thing that we are actively looking at.

Pratt: Is there a timeline when you would like to see results?

Stricker: We’d like to see results today. But that’s not going to happen. It’s something where people have to be engaged, who live, work and play and invest in downtown.

The entire city government needs to invest in this particular solution of how can we make downtown a safer place. How can it be more secure? How can we take care of our infrastructure? How can we plan things out in our public spaces that are better? Can we get some better economic development going on with all of that? Everybody needs to participate, and it’s a very long-term process.

This didn’t happen overnight, and it’s not gonna be solved overnight.

Follow Wayne on Twitter: @WayneRadio

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Wayne Pratt is a veteran journalist who has made stops at radio stations, wire services and websites throughout North America. He comes to St. Louis Public Radio from Indianapolis, where he was assistant managing editor at Inside Indiana Business. Wayne also launched a local news operation at NPR member station WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana, and spent time as a correspondent for a network of more than 800 stations. His career has included positions in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Toronto, Ontario and Phoenix, Arizona. Wayne grew up near Ottawa, Ontario and moved to the United States in the mid-90s on a dare. Soon after, he met his wife and has been in the U.S. ever since.