Friday, September 19, 2003

I hate to say this - but downtown Clayton, MO is actually functional.

Since I'm now a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at Washington University, I have occasion to head to Clayton more often than in my past lives.

I just hop on the Wash U Shuttle to the "West Campus" (better known as the old Clayton Famous-Barr store) on Forsyth. At the West Campus one will find the West Campus Library and Archives, which house a plethora of obscure publications, for me the most significant being dissertations of WU Phd graduates.

Then I can walk from the West Campus complex a few blocks west to the core of Clayton, around the County Government Center.

Just today, I walked to the US Post Office on Maryland, then a block down to the Mid-County Branch of St. Louis County Library, then another block to the First Bank on Meramec.

Sure, there are districts in St. Louis City where a similar pattern - library, post office, bank within three blocks - exists. South Grand is one example, although there the bank is Commerce, which is not a favorite.

Anyway, Clayton is still somewhat walkable, although with so many SUVs scurrying across the landscape, one must be observant. While I was at the post office, two SUVs nearly backed into each other while leaving spaces on the parking lot.

But perhaps this points out that maybe the inner-ring suburbs aren't all that different from the City in the design of their commercial districts. Clayton, University City, Maplewood, even to some extent Richmond Heights near Big Bend and Clayton Rd., have pedestrian-scale business districts. Areas like Lemay, Wellston, Pine Lawn, and Jennings used to have such districts, but they have been eviscerated by years of neglect and demolition. Ferguson and Florissant both have old town districts of some interest. And of course there's Kirkwood, and Webster Groves with three shopping strips (Old Webster, Old Orchard, and the smaller Webster Crossing district on Big Bend between Elm and Gore).

In any event, this is just to say that many of the issues that concern urban business districts also concern some suburbs. And that some suburbs can be convenient for pedestrians.