Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ted Drewes Plaza & RallySTL

I submitted my RallySTL idea today. I'd like for the city to re-capture some land for humans, instead of giving it over to cars. 

You can see St. Louis' favorite frozen dessert - Ted Drewes, along with a couple blue boxes.

Blue box 1, on the left, could simply be more sidewalk, with a bit of diet given to the road. Now, people queue up almost into the street as cars whiz past at full speed. Not cool. Let's take away the parking lane, increase the sidewalk width by 3-4 feet, and install some good looking sculpture to keep people from wandering into traffic. Something like this (photo from St. Louis Brick

Sculpture on MorganFord in front of car wash

The second blue box, to the east, should become a true plaza, instead of a grotty sidewalk. Let's put in some benches, maybe some attractive landscaping, and make it someplace people actually want to sit and eat their ice cream custard

I'd love to see Ted Drewes step forward and take the lead on this, but I'm hoping RallySTL can help push it along. The bank across the street has generously added benches, but that required dashing across the ridiculously busy Chippewa. Let's turn the Ted Drewes side into someplace people want to stay, rather than dash back to their cars to eat - and make a St. Louis icon into something even cooler.

Public vs. Private Amenities, or, the City vs. the Suburb

I've been thinking a lot lately about the differences between the city and the suburbs. Not the built environment, but the overall differences in philosophy of the two. I've come to the conclusion that a large part is this:

Private amenities vs. public amenities

The suburbs thrive on private amenities. Big houses, nice large yards, plenty of parking, available space for everything you'd ever want, right inside your home. Big, fat, wide roads where I can drive at high speed and get to where I'm going with no stops and no worries. Man, it's wonderful. I watch HGTV and am jealous of the large spaces, loads of fancy stuff, and plenty of room for everything available to the suburbs.

The city, on the other hand, is all about the public amenities. Cultural institutions, local restaurants, sports teams, and more all abound in the city. Due to the density of having lots of people nearby, and the accident of history - cities abound with public amenities.

That's not to say suburbs don't have some, of course they do. They simply don't have the same level that cities do, and never will, since most of these things are expensive to start and don't move well. Relocate that museum? Nah.

The implication for cities

The implication, then, is that cities need to promote their strengths - those cultural institutions and local flavor. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone - realize that a segment of the market doesn't mind a smaller house, a smaller yard, and no garage - but wants those public amenities in spades. 

Cities should invest in these institutions, walkable commercial districts, and local businesses. Instead of offering a TIF to CVS, Walgreens, or the next big company - use those funds to promote small business development, offer low cost loans, or more. Invest in those strengths that your market segment is looking for.