Balling Half the Night

Downtown life gets a new soundtrack

"There's a difference between street noise and that," says Toft, whose organization vehemently opposed the demolition of the Century Building. "The best situation clearly was to save the Century Building."

Toft considers wrecking-ball demolitions to be relics of the past, the practice having largely given way to nanosecond-fast implosions. But because the Century Building was conjoined to the historic Syndicate Trust Building -- and because it sits so close to other nationally registered landmark structures -- the brick-by-brick tedium is a necessity. And one that downtown's 9,519 residents (3,424 of whom live east of Tucker between Chouteau and Cass Avenues, according to a September 2004 quarterly Partnership report) had better become accustomed to, even if it means purchasing a solid pair of earplugs and letting political battle scars heal without undue fuss, says Todd Swanstrom, a Saint Louis University professor who specializes in urban policy and demographics.

"People have a standard here that is pretty high in terms of quietness," says Swanstrom. "We may be less used to this [than residents of other cities]. The thing about successful cities is they have all sorts of hassles attached to them. Parking is expensive, traffic is congested -- but all of this is actually a sign of success.

"This one is a bit tinged, with the destruction of a historic aspect," Swanstrom adds, alluding to the failed grassroots effort to preserve the Century Building. "But there's always room for more negotiation and compromise down there. A lot of this has to do as much with perception of fairness as with reality itself."

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