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Downtown living - St. Louis versus Nashville

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This seems to be a slow news day in Nashville, so I thought that I would report back on my Memorial Day Weekend trip to St. Louis. 


Downtown St. Louis has made quite a bit of progress since the last time that I was there 4-5 years ago.  Not so much in terms of new construction, although there is that, but definitely in terms of the revitalization of the city's expansive downtown. 


The whole northwest quadrant of the downtown area is dominated by turn-of-the-century warehouse buildings that are being converted to lofts with street-level restaurants, retail and offices.  Washington Ave and Locust Streets are like having a Werthan and a Marathon Motor Works building on every block for for a stretch about a mile and a half long and a half mile deep.  It seems like most of those classic buildings are in some stage of residential loft conversion.  This is similar to what happened in Chicago's West Loop Gate and Randolph Market warehouse district areas circa 1994.  


Locust Street in particular boasts quite a few structures that housed automobile factories and showrooms circa about 1914.  Lots of honorary placards provide the history of the automobile companies that built those structures.  It is like Chicago's Motor Mile on far South Michigan Ave.  Someday that area will be hopping when all of those lofts fill up.  Similarly, Washington Avenue is sort of an emerging entertainment district and features the City Museum, an aquarium, and another museum in one block alone.  The part closer to the main business district boasts a Renaissance Grand hotel complex, a movie theater, the convention center, and several large entertainment venues tucked in amongst the office buildings.


In terms of new construction, the Four Seasons hotel boasts a stylish "fin" that lights up facing the river and is very eye catching.  The casino, the larger entertainment arenas, and the convention center are all located in that northeast quadrant near the Laclede's Landing nightlife area.


It also appears that an effort is being made to put a land bridge over the interstate that separates downtown from the arch.  It would be good to connect their downtown with the riverfront.  That interstate system was a real barrier, and unfortunately many of the hotels and buildings closest to the river were built with blank street frontage that kind of resembles our Deadrick Street.  It is uncertain how much of that effect can be undone, but it is interesting to see that St. Louis is making efforts in that area.


The new Busch Stadium baseball village is something of a tourist trap, but at least it addresses the street pretty nicely.  Probably better than Nashville's ballpark will do, I am afraid.


All in all, St. Louis will have a much more vibrant downtown than it does today once all of those loft conversions are filled.  Nashville will never be able to catch up with that particular aspect because we simply don't have the existing inventory downtown to convert to lofts/hotels.  We would need about three dozen Worthans in a row along Rosa Parks or something to catch up.  So Nashville will have to build our downtown housing entirely from scratch.  Which we seem to be doing very, very slowly.


Fortunately, Nashville is pretty far ahead of St. Louis in terms of having people come to the heart of our downtown for nightlife.  But they having more and more restaurants open in their downtown area.  Lots of "independently owned, locally sourced, farm-to-fork" stuff is coming on line in downtown St. Louis.  We had to wait in line just about everywhere we went.  I was glad to see yet another city where downtown living is becoming more and more desirable.

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Pics or it didn't happen.


J/K, thanks for the rundown. I think at its peak, St. Louis approached one million residents (or 900,000), lofty heights that Nashville never got close to. In that regard, St. Louis has a lot more capacity to reinvent and reuse existing structures, while Nashville has to build from the ground up, like you said. Hopefully, Nashville will see an uptick in quality of design and construction once it reaches a critical mass and stable in town population. 

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I was last in St Louis about a year ago.  I love the "bones" that St Louis has, but I love the vibrancy that Nashville has.  St Louis is a city built for a million residents that has only 300,000 there now and being in St Louis now it feels empty in some parts. I remember driving along a road just north of downtown with great row houses on either side of the road that were completely abandoned. There weren't any cars on the road, and there wasn't a single person walking in sight. That doesn't happen anywhere in Nashville at this point, and that's a real benefit for Nashville IMO.  


I do love the affordability of the urban neighborhoods in St Louis as well. South of Downtown there are some great urban neighborhoods like Soulard. Very walkable with amazing turn of the century row houses everywhere, and you can easily find a 3 BR unit for a $150,000. If we could magically transport that same neighborhood to Nashville with similar proximity to downtown I bet those same units would be $500,000.  


Unfortunately, I don't know how many of those neighborhoods will fill up in St. Louis. It's metro area has very anemic growth and the city is still losing population. 

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