Having moved back to South St. Louis a year ago, after a long hiatus in the suburbs, I have really enjoyed being back. While I recognize that “city life” isn’t for everybody, I think that St. Louis has made some real strides in terms of winning back people lost during the mass exodus era of the 80’s and 90’s. Both commercial and residential sectors that had long been neglected, are seeing new life. Even North City is starting to see a significant turnaround in areas such as Old North St. Louis.
As well as things are going in the relative sense, and while I love being just blocks away from countless restaurants and nightlife destinations, I must admit that I miss some of the perks of suburban life. For whatever reason, some businesses seem to be shying away from opening up shop. To me, the two things that seem to be the most glaringly absent in the area are gyms and movie theaters. I’ve managed to adequately take care of my needs on both fronts, but not as conveniently as I would like.
Consider that the only movie theaters in the City of St. Louis are the Moolah Theatre, the Chase Park Plaza and the soon to be reopened Hi-Pointe. All but Chase Park Plaza have only a single screen and that only has three. As much as I like those places, with all the movies constantly coming out, I often find that the movie I want to see is not playing at one of these theaters.
The nearest megaplex is the Esquire in Richmond Heights and its definitely in need of a little work. Its also far from mega, coming in at only seven screens. To find your way to one of the true megaplexes, you’ve really got to go out of your way. If you live in West County or St. Charles, however, you are always just minutes away from a 12+ screen theater. I’m sure theater chains have concerns over security and vandalism, but I have to think a large theater closer to, if not in the city limits, could do quite well. Rather than cannibalize their existing customer bases by continuing to construct theaters closer and closer together, why don’t they give the urban core of the area a look? Think of all the customers they could pull from Downtown, Soulard, Maplewood, etc..
I look at gyms the same way. I work out at the Fitness Factory Downtown, but if I didn’t want to go there, I don’t have many other choices other than the YMCA. All the other gyms in the city are small and don’t have a lot of the equipment I like. There are things about the Fitness Factory I don’t like too, but since nobody else has opened shop in the city limits, I don’t have a .lot of options. How can the large gym chains like 24 Hour Fitness or Gold’s Gym (I know there used to be one Downtown) not give the area a try?
I don’t know if its simply that these companies don’t see the City as a viable investment option or if something else is to blame. Have our local leaders been doing all they can to court these types of companies? We need to do everything we can to eliminate all the possible objections people might have when considering buying or renting in the City. These might seem like frivolous complaints, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed. Hopefully the powers that be notice as well.
So what do you think about this situation? Any other insight why these establishments are so glaringly absent? Any other type of business that you think is missing in the City?