Downtown Memphis is already where downtown St. Louis hopes to go

"You've got a culture that hearkens back to another time, centered on race and jealousy between the North Side and the South Side and trade-offs to mollify those jealousies," Judd says.

It's always risky to draw too fine a lesson plan from another city's success. And there are key differences between Memphis and St. Louis -- from the accident of geography that has Memphians looking west into glorious river sunsets backdropped by the cool green of the river's floodplain to a strong-mayor system of government that means city leaders can ramrod projects without as much ring-kissing as Slay has to do.

Ghio points out other obstacles St. Louis has to contend with, including a larger downtown core that is bisected by multiple interstates and a connection to the river that has been severed by the Arch, an industrial wasteland and those same pesky four-lanes. With Tom Lee Park, Mud Island, a trolley line that runs along the river and the restoration of the cobblestones where steamboats once unloaded bales of Delta cotton, Memphis is firmly connected to the river in a way St. Louis is not.

Which is another way of saying that Elvis is dead while Memphis is not. And downtown St. Louis still isn't feeling all that well itself.

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