The Future of St. Louis: Predictions for 2114

The Future of St. Louis: Predictions for 2114
Peter Bollinger

The future of St. Louis — it's the first thing Jody Sowell sees when he enters his office at the Missouri History Museum. Granted, it's just an illustrated poster that hangs behind his desk — a gorgeous, minutely detailed vision of the city. A Forecast, it reads. Looking Up Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri, in the Year 2010. It was commissioned way back in 1910.

"We often focus on what they got wrong," says Sowell, the director of exhibitions and research with the museum. "Innovation...it never goes as fast as we actually think it will."

On the eve of St. Louis' 250th birthday, it's hard not to regard the predictions in Sowell's poster with some bemusement. In the illustration, a riverfront view opens to a broad city street with bustling pedestrians and buses dwarfed by skyscrapers. Public-transit blimps float to and fro. A futuristic citadel rises over downtown on curved legs of impossible scale. Not everyone who thinks years into the future has the luxury of being so impractical. Take Don Roe, director of the city's Planning & Urban Design Agency. In 1914, Roe's predecessors drew up the first plans to revitalize the city's decrepit riverfront. Today, it's his job to take a measured, calculated approach to planning for the city's long-term future.

Engineer Shawn Leight.
Theo Welling
Engineer Shawn Leight.
Great Rivers Greenway's executive director, Susan Trautman.
Theo Welling
Great Rivers Greenway's executive director, Susan Trautman.

"Two-hundred-fifty years ago we settled along the banks of the Mississippi, and looking a hundred years from now, this place can still be a magnate for growth," he says. "Water is going to play a major role in shaping St. Louis and the region and as a whole."

As the city embarks on its 250th year, we here at Riverfront Times decided we wanted to mark the occasion by making some predictions of our own about what St. Louis will look like in 100 years. We called up some of the best local thinkers from the world of business, sustainability, transportation, agriculture and more, and asked what the denizens of the 2114 Gateway City will be building, eating, drinking and growing a century from now. They were kind enough to indulge us.

We also admit that, like the illustrator of A Forecast, we're choosing a decidedly optimistic vision of the future — no zombie apocalypse, population collapse or nuclear holocausts for us. And if that makes us a bunch of cockeyed optimists, so be it. Birthdays are for making wishes.
Danny Wicentowski

The Future of Weather
While this winter has been particularly bitter, warmer climes really are coming to St. Louis. Adam Smith, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development at the Missouri Botanical Garden, says temperatures in St. Louis have been rising steadily over the last 30 years. In another 100, he predicts, the area's average temperature will jump 8 degrees, from a yearly average of 56 degrees to 64 degrees. A typical day in July or August will blister at 100 degrees, with the hottest days clocking in well above that.

"This worst-case scenario assumes that humans do about as much as we are doing now to reduce climate change, which is about nothing," Smith writes in an e-mail. "So it's the worst case that has been modeled, but it's also the future we're currently headed toward."

This could have all sorts of negative ramifications, though St. Louis' geography means it will avoid rising sea levels while the Mississippi and Missouri rivers will stave off dire water shortages. Smith warns, however, that even those waterways could wither from both climate change and increased water usage upstream.

"Storms will be more intense, and dry periods between storms will be longer," he writes. "So we'll have a regular flood/drought cycle like we did two years ago when barge traffic was almost stopped on the Mississippi, and then a few weeks later it was flooding."

Andrew Wyatt, vice president of horticulture at the Missouri Botanical Garden, says the new temperate conditions would give St. Louisans a chance to plant warm-weather fruit trees like nectarines and peaches during most months of the year. He also predicts we'll do it through widely scaled vertical gardening, a space-saving farm technique for growing plants, vegetables and even forests on the sides of buildings. We'll need that new farm space to account for St. Louis 2114's denser population and stretched water resources.

"People might be living in smaller houses, smaller dwellings, and instead of a yard you'll have more of a vertical garden," says Wyatt.

Practical limitations in watering, weeding and maintaining vertical gardens hold these designs back today, but Wyatt thinks that in the future we will have the technology to create a St. Louis skyline blooming with produce.

Rising temperatures will also affect the area's animal ecology. Armadillo sightings have already become normal summer occurrences in Missouri. In a century, if they can make the transition from rural to urban dwellers, armadillos could become for us what rats and pigeons are for New York City.
Danny Wicentowski

The Future of Transportation
Sorry, St. Louis — there won't be flying cars in 100 years.

"It would just take too much energy, and traffic would just be a mess," explains Shawn Leight, vice president of traffic and engineering firm Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier, and an adjunct professor at Washington University.

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39 comments
egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

From these comments can you understand how 'out of touch' your publication is with the reality of St .Louis, and how inappropriate it is for you to go to the dishonored history

museum for any assessment of the future? You know why St. Louis was 'taken down' and who took it down, and who is still taking it down.

egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

Burdened with the same over-bearing power brokers over the last 30 years, none of whose top down initiatives have even begun to recover this City, St. Louis has no future. If it can

'con' its way into the County it buys may be another 5 years, then they both go down.

The contrast between what other cities and regions did to recover beginning in the late 80s and what St. Louis refused to do is too divergent to ever come together.

tdwilliams99999
tdwilliams99999

Uh in 100 years we'll all be lucky to have food let alone mile-high skyscrapers.   I predict a more difficult life and extremely unpredictable weather extremes.  Glad neither I nor my kids will be around.  I feel for my grand and great grand children.

aaronmccoy242
aaronmccoy242 topcommenter

according to the above picture we will build a dome over East St Louis.  North city also?

Christopher P. Singler
Christopher P. Singler

Who's going to be riding all these bikes when it's supposed to be over 100 degrees all summer?

Mike Igleheart
Mike Igleheart

This futuristic view of downtown St. Louis is an artists rendering of the view from Spacely's Sprockets.

egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

City/County re-connect is a fact. Done without a vote over 30 years. Kind of 'got by' the people as they didnt notice County taxpayers (personal property and real estate) visitors (who pay hotel/motel tax) and all who shop retail pay 80% of every dollar needed to 

keep the City going, to programs and initiatives in the City-some good, some bad. The City's population is dipping dangerously close to an all-time low of 300,000, too much crime-so the front burner goal is statistical-to lessen the sting by speading the figures -countywide. Looks and sounds better. More important question-how long can the County last?

Ken Hood
Ken Hood

It's a city going no where. Time is an will pass this city by. Gateway to the west. You Have to think of Gate way to The world. No chance. Not This city or other....

Jesda Ulati
Jesda Ulati

It will look damn near the same, but smaller.

Genia Ackworth
Genia Ackworth

Between St. Louis and the Metro East, I don't know of one politician who is forward thinking. Can't even plan 5 yrs ahead then they want to tear up the roads and bridges when traffic studies should've already been done 5 yrs before.

Lin Staum
Lin Staum

At the rate we are going it will be a wasteland with trash and dead bodies all over. I am ready to move.

Kelly Roellig
Kelly Roellig

Well I'm pretty sure they some provision that no building be taller than the gateway arch in stl so I'm pretty sure it won't be stunted by giant skyscrapers and highways. Nope. Fantasy St. Louis. You'd have to get rid of all the trash down there anyway.

Ann Blazier
Ann Blazier

I predict mutant whore houses and snake charmers on every corner.

Doug Page
Doug Page

By the way east St Louis is in Illinois.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

pawn shops and bail bonds. we're too afraid to hurt the feelings of the scum ruining this city.

Casey Saunders
Casey Saunders

wait a sec... a sex therapist named Linda Weiner? you guys just made that up for the good of the article, didn't you?

Jodi Fox
Jodi Fox

Oh please, picture it, Detroit, 2014. They can't even fix that cancer they call East St. Louis.

tfucoloro
tfucoloro

I sure hope St Louis doesn't build elevated highways through downtown like the (totally awesome) cover image shows! And the fashion taste of those futuristic people on the roof, I hope I'm dead before that style fad drops...


And some of those trees are pretty tall. Doesn't that mean we need to plant those, like, today? :-)

TyroneJefferson
TyroneJefferson

2114 -----   St. Louis is the capital city of the Planet Of The Apes. 

Global warming has given the City the climate of Uganda.

Public Transportation is simply carjacking someone elses vehicle and dropping it off at designated Jack-Me-Jack-U parking spots .

The words ECO, SUSTAINABLE, and DIVERSITY are plastered everywhere in glowing lights and blared from loudspeakers round the clock. The government council has seized all private farms in the river valleys and forced the former owners to grow what the communal collective orders them to.

Bicycle riding will be the forced requirement for the Fedora Class people. Heavy rains and storms will be no excuse not to pedal harder through the jungle vines and decayed urban rubble that litters old Olive Street. Only light body armor will be required on bicyclist (under tight tatty spandex) and a legally mandated helmet (that looks like a swirly ice cream cone) must identify the rider or punishment will ensue with shock probes.

1/3 of the pale skinned population will be forced to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week to support  the other 66% of the Entitlement Class peoples .

The average STL City  IQ will be 89. 

The favorite sports will be revenge shootings, and throwing poop at each other.

sunofgod21
sunofgod21

yeah me too. This picture gives me a bad feeing..

TyroneJefferson
TyroneJefferson

@RiverfrontTimes @publiceyestl  

The essential item missing in this "futurist vision" is exactly who (or what) is going to PAY for this marvelous future. You know money , $$$$$.

Since STL was once home to many Irish , perhaps the lost pots-of-gold left behind by their Leprechauns will be found, and thus offer an abundant financial future for upcoming St.Louisans ?

Or, perhaps future STL residents can take the rusty Serra Sculptures and cash them in at Kingdom of Dubai pawnshops? 

As we are a City named after a religious Saint, I think the $wealth$ will flow shortly after the Rapture comes ,and nearby East St. Louis will be heavenly instilled as the New Garden Of Eden. Our proximity to the earthly delights offered by East St. Lous could be a source of such income......

PS --- Robot maids will need "rights" too. Must not oppress the "Metal Class"!

 
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