“Because we are much older, we have these pockets that are located in the city and county that are rich in history,” says Brian Hall, the executive director of the St. Louis Civic Pride Foundation. “So you don’t have to be in Downtown if you want that kind of rich, historic experience.”
Because St. Louis has historically been scattered, its more attractive neighborhoods haven’t sprung up from urban renewal. Rather, they were already there. Creative and energetic young people didn't have to move into dilapidated areas for cheap rent. Rather, they’ve taken the neighborhoods they already had pride in and made them better. Because St. Louis is affordable pretty much throughout, entrepreneurs didn't have to go far to open bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and art galleries.
Urban vibes outside the urban core
Take the Delmar Loop. The six-block stretch of Delmar Blvd once used as a turnaround point for streetcars is now lauded as one of the best-designed urban streets in America. It’s lined with a perfect combination of history (the old Tivoli Theatre is here, as well as Blueberry Hill, a club where Chuck Berry used to play weekly shows in the basement) and modern amenities: personal trainers, sushi, upscale lounges, worldly restaurants. It’s the kind of neighborhood one would expect to find adjacent to a city center, in the mold of Miami’s Coconut Grove or Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Instead, it’s 25 minutes away by freeway.
“The vibe in the loop is cosmopolitan, but it’s 10 miles outside the city,” Hall says. “There’s also Midtown, there’s the Central West End. Clayton, Soulard. You’ve got 150-year-old painted ladies in Lafayette Square, and that’s basically on the border of the city.
“But people who want an urban experience, who want to be a part of history, can do it in so many places here. And it makes St. Louis very unique.”