Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Central Corridor: Cosmopolitan, Yet Parochial

The Central Corridor: Cosmopolitan, Yet Parochial

Most people casually divide the City of St. Louis into three areas: North St. Louis, South St. Louis, and the central corridor. Of course, those boundaries are very much unofficial, and hard to determine precisely.

Some just say the central corridor extends from downtown west to Forest Park, and maybe even to Clayton. Others mark it as the territory generally along Highway 40 (I-64). Sometimes the northern boundary is Delmar; sometimes it's Page/Cass. Sometimes 40 is the southern boundary; sometimes it's Chouteau; sometimes even I-44.

Politically, we usually call Ward 6, Ward 7, Ward 17, and Ward 28 central corridor wards. After redistricting, Ward 19 also is largely within the central corridor.

The neighborhoods within the corridor for sure are Downtown and Downtown West, Midtown and Grand Center, the Central West End, and DeBaliviere Place and Skinker-DeBaliviere. Forest Park, SLU, Harris-Stowe, (part of) WashU and all of WashU Med School, Barnes-Jewish and Children's Hospitals, maybe even SLU and Cardinal Glennon Hospitals, are in the central corridor.

The conventional belief is the central corridor is more cosmopolitan, higher income, better educated, and more ethnically and racially diverse than the rest of the city.

OK, then, why does it seem like so many central corridor people are parochial? They love their own neighborhoods -- and often, don't know much about the rest of the city, it seems.

For example, a generally positive front-page article from the August 30 West End Word about the opening of the new MetroLink line to Shrewsbury via Clayton included several oddly narrow-minded comments:
The final destination is Shrewsbury, a South County suburb that at least some locals would have found hard to place prior to this project.
Really? They must never go into Webster Groves, then. You pretty much have to go through Shrewsbury to get to Webster, except from the west. Also, I think many South Countians would not count Shrewsbury residents among their number. The unofficial northern boundary of South County is Watson Road -- which happens to be the southern boundary of both Shrewsbury and Webster Groves.
Andrew St. Johnston of the Central West End said the new line was impressive and worth the inconveniences endured by neighbors during the construction, such as the three-year closure of Forest Park Parkway. But he questioned whether taking the line beyond Maplewood to Shrewsbury was a good use of public money. “There’s nothing there,” he said.

Sheesh. Don't tell that to Kurt Odenwald. Besides which, there are two very good reasons the line ends at Shrewsbury Lansdowne I-44, straddling the city-county line. #1 is the location is the best available for a major terminal park-ride lot along I-44. #2 is, obvious to the casual observer standing on Lansdowne south of the terminal station, there are future plans for extending the line even further south. While funding and routing (either on the BNSF corridor or the River des Peres corridor) are uncertain, it will happen eventually.

Anyway, I realize almost everybody in St. Louis for any length of time, can be downright parochial about their own neighborhood and/or section of the region. It's still the case that few Southsiders go to the Northside, and vice versa. Most suburbanites don't venture downtown. Many Illinois residents rarely come into St. Louis; and vice versa. And most St. Charles Countians rarely come inside the I-270 beltway. I guess that's just how some people prefer to live.

As for me, I spend a great deal of time not only in my own neighborhood and others on the Southside, but also in the central corridor and in North County. We've also ventured a fair bit into Illinois, and occasionally head out to St. Charles, South County, and further afield locations. While I am proud to live in South St. Louis, as many of my ancestors did, I recognize the value of all the different parts of the immediate St. Louis region.


Michael Allen said...

Good points, Joe. One could also mention that the Shrewsbury station is pretty darn close to Webster University and the Old Orchard business district in Webster Groves, and near thousands of communters in Shrewsbury, Webster and the city's Lindenwood Park neighborhood. The station location makes sense to this northsider.

Travis Reems said...

What we would really benefit from in the City is a north-south Metrolink route from Carondelete park to Fairgrounds park, with stops along S. Grand (at Meramec, Towergrove park, I-44, I-40, etc.). Basically replacing the Metro #70 bus route, that could hook into the Metrolink south route, if it were ever brought along River Des Peres near I-55, and into the east-west route at Grand.

Anonymous said...

Joe, it hardly seems reasonable to equate the attitudes of people living in the central corridor with two quotes from the Post.

Besides, there really isn't anything there anyways...

Travis Reems said...

How can you say there isn't anything in the central cooridor? That area is very likely the most dense area of the city not only with residential and commercial structures, but also public services and community venues.