Great Streets of STL Wants to Know: What Makes a Street Great?

An architectural rendering of the new and complete South Grand.
An architectural rendering of the new and complete South Grand.
For a brief period, a quick glance in either direction outside front door of the RFT's offices in the Delmar Loop would confirm that we were on one of the ten greatest streets in America. The American Planning Association decreed it such, in 2007. The Loop was right up there with North Michigan Avenue in Chicago and Ocean Drive in Miami Beach.

Last year, South Grand horned in on the Loop's act by installing a row of ugly concrete planters to reduce auto traffic and encourage walking and declaring itself a "Complete Street." In June, Mayor Slay signed a bill that would encourage other streets in and around the city to make themselves more "complete."

But all this raises a new question: What makes a street great, aside from a designation by a national organization? Great Streets of STL, a Tumblr offshoot of the blog UrbanSTL, wants to know.

The blog's editors have attempted to get the ball rolling:

Great Streets are places where the pedestrian feels safe and enjoys heightened aesthetic qualities, while still allowing for adequate automobile circulation. These streets encourage walkability, social interaction and a diverse mix of activities and services.

A great street will often have cultural, historic significance to the area. Locals and visitors will typically feel a connection with these places because of the memories they develop there.

These streets are also vital to the identity of communities and are often a major catalyst for economic growth within the local economy. One of the distinct features of any great street is its character.

Most importantly, they are places where people want to be!

It's an interesting question, which may explain something about recent developments on St. Louis streets. Why, for instance, has Cherokee Street exploded into a center for the arts, while the stretch of Manchester known as the Grove continues to languish (although it's been "up-and-coming" for the past ten years or so)? Will a Cherokee-like community finally develop in Old North now that the pedestrian mall has been restored and changed into Crown Square?

What are your two cents?

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