SLU's Long, Slow Mistake
This is Locust Street, looking east in Midtown. It's lined with buildings. They're built out to the sidewalk. They stand tightly packed together, and they're multi-story. When buildings like these are put to proper use, these design aspects provide a number of benefits including density, the resultant diversity of businesses, functions and persons within the neighborhood, and the pleasing aesthetic of being in a gently enclosing room.
The street has a number of other notable elements, as well. A line of street trees helps soften the feeling of the place. The buildings are mostly old; some have been renovated, while others stand empty -- but none of these are inherently necessary to such a streetscape. It could also be achieved with newer buildings, in places where gaps in the street wall have appeared.
Speaking of which....
Turn a mere 90 degrees to the left, and you'll see the absolute opposite of the previous photo: a streetscape that has been utterly decimated by demolition and parking lots. It's a visual and functional wasteland, a forbidding and uninviting place to be, acres of land that serve only one narrow and extremely limited purpose.
The rubble at left is the remnants of the old livery building -- the latest victim of Saint Louis University's ongoing efforts to flatten anything that doesn't directly serve them. SLU's ambitions don't end here; they extend across the street to include two of the buildings that comprise the integrated and intact streetscape along Locust:
The desire to flatten these buildings, the urge to transform the city from the first photograph into the second, is utterly incomprehensible to me. Do they really think that the second photo is what's going to attract students? How many prospective students have been turned off from attending SLU by the de-urbanized wasteland that it has created around it?
SLU needs to wake up and realize that they are a city campus in an urban environment, and that -- far from being an evil to be fought against -- this is in fact one of their greatest potential strengths. Midtown and St. Louis at large will continue to suffer so long as Saint Louis University continues to act as though tearing down enough buildings will put them in the countryside. It never will -- it will only create more of the desolation seen above.