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Welcome - my name is Kevin Klinkenberg, and this site "The Messy City" is my blog and company website. I started blogging on urban planning and design issues in 2007, and began working in the field in 1993. Please feel free to connect with me on any of the social media sites listed here. Thanks for reading.

St Louis 500,000

This sort of proposition excites me (I know, I know, insert joke here):

Architect Dan Jay has been checking in with a widening circle of thinkers around town inviting them to participate in and contribute to a thought experiment:

What would the City of St. Louis look like with a population of 500,000?

More specifically:

Which city districts or neighborhoods most likely would become centers for new residents? In which order and by what increment would they add population? Over what period of time? Through what mix of amenities, service improvements, and housing types? By what logic?

More concretely:

If St. Louis’ Central Business District — the square mile bounded by Chouteau, Cole, the Riverfront and Tucker — grew in population from 872 residents, in the 2000 Census, to 3,721 residents, in the 2010 Census, what might its housing and residential profile look like if, over time, the city’s overall population grew from the 2012 estimate of 318,294 to 500,000? What portion of so significant a population expansion might Downtown and its environs reasonably be expected to bear — compared, say, to areas with high vacancy, or to neighborhoods with stable housing stock, or to those that are in transition?

More minutely:

How might YOUR block, or neighborhood, or neighborhoods adjacent to you (even extending out to inner-ring suburbs) change and look if they accommodated some logical part of a steady citywide population growth of up to 200,000 additional residents?

Most broadly:

How might various population growth scenarios look on a time-lapse aerial map?

Since my brother lives in the city, I've had more than my share of trips to St. Louis. The city absolutely fascinates me. On the one hand, it has some of the best urban neighborhoods and amenities in the country. On the other, it has incredible abandonment and devastation, on par with Detroit. It's gone from a high of 900,000 people to 1/3 of that, in a relatively short period.

On a recent trip I asked my brother, "do you think the city is getting any better?" I asked because frankly it can be hard to tell. Certain neighborhoods no doubt have more businesses and seem more stable. But you don't see or feel the same kind of energy that you do in other rising urban areas. It's quite easy to walk through large parts of the heart of the city and still not see any other humans. Granted, the geography is big and some significant dividers (railroads, interstates) don't help achieving critical mass. 

But wow, the potential that city has - I wish every 20-something looking to make their mark would pick cities like St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City, etc. and adopt them.

St. Louis getting back to 500K would be a huge signal of true urban rebirth in this country; much more telling than cities like New York or Chicago increasing in population. I love the provocative goal and that there's a specific number set to it. Here's hoping the city gets there.

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Love Letters to Kansas City, April 4, 2014

Really stupid legislation of the week award