Wednesday, May 31, 2006

No apologies for the Century Building

Circa 8:30pm, Sunday evening -- the night before Memorial Day, a holiday weekend. My lovely ladyfriend and I are strolling back to our hotel after a visit to the Gateway Arch grounds (during which I ranted at length about the physical disconnect between the Arch and the city it symbolizes). It's getting late, and we're getting hungry.

TGIFriday's, the first place we come upon, is mobbed, seemingly with Arch tourists -- a 20-30 minute wait. The new place on the other end of the block is the same way. We're hungry, don't want to wait. We keep going.

The rest of the way, we don't see a soul on the streets. We don't pass a single bar or open restaurant. We hardly see a light anywhere. Downtown was deserted. I had a hard time explaining to my companion how this could be.

We ended up driving down to Soulard, where we promptly found a local bar that seated us immediately and served us a tasty meal.

Monday morning, 7:30am, I wandered the same downtown streets. In 20 minutes, I saw a total of 7 people. Then I came across a lone Starbuck's, open for business and doing quite well, with a dozen or so customers coming, going, and sitting.

My points?

- There's still untapped potential downtown. The businesses that were open were doing well.
- Downtown still has a long way to go to become a working urban environment, and therefore
- Downtown cannot afford wastes of urban potential, and therefore
- Tearing down the Century Building and all the office, residential, and retail space it could have held was a huge mistake, and putting up a garage in their place is an even bigger one.

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