There is no doubt that Grand Boulevard has been on the upswing in recent years. To the north, Grand Center continues to be a focal point of activity for the arts and education. To the south, Grand South Grand has increasingly become a South City alternative to the Delmar Loop. Tower Grove Park and SLU have really added to the mix as well. However, one of the greatest failures along the street has been the area between Gravois and Chippewa.
To be more precise, the area south of Utah and north of Osage. Discounting North St. Louis (that is a whole other story), this section of the street is the farthest behind in tapping it’s potential. Populated by a variety of suburban-styled fast food establishments, the most rundown Schnuck’s in South City, a former grocery store turned office, cookie-cutter stripmalls, a recent yet uninspired retired-housing project, and a plethora of vacant and underused properties; it doesn’t take a urban renewal specialist to realize the area isn’t all it can be.
I began considering this issue when sitting at a stoplight on Grand at Chippewa. Following the buyout of long-time flower-shop destination Nettie’s at 3801 S Grand, by Walter Knoll florists last year, the companies former home at Their former home, which is at the intersection of S Grand and Chippewa had been vacant for about a year. I’m not sure when they moved in, but I struck by the new use of this former mainstay: a cellphone selling, convenience store. A step in the wrong direction if I have ever seen one.
A few years ago, things were looking up in the area when the Lawrence Group was working on the South Side Tower and had put forth a development plan for the Melba and Farmers & Merchants buildings at Grand and Gravois. But with the recession, the project came to a halt with no signs of revival. And while Grand South Grand (Grand from Arsenal to Utah) gets street-art and an upcoming streetscape project, this section of the street moves in the opposite direction.
There is no doubt that it is going to take time, money and a lot of effort from a lot of people to make a big change along this stretch, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look towards the future. A good start would be to include this section of Grand in the 3-lane reconfiguration of the streetscape that is being put in place north of Utah. As it stands, Grand will be three lanes from Arsenal to Utah, five lanes from Utah to Chippewa, the back to 3 lanes for the rest of the route southward. This back and forth hurts the flow of traffic and prevents this struggling section of South Grands from receiving the benefits of a more pedestrian-friendly layout like the neighboring sections. Lets start there so when the next development boom hits, companies like the Lawrence Group will be able to offer a better product.