Downtown matters. It has to. It is the city's largest tax revenue producer. It is home to our
region's two biggest icons, the Arch and the St. Louis Cardinals. It is what
most people across the country know about the region.
Downtown has come a long way in the last decade. Since I
became mayor, nearly $5 billion has been invested downtown. Hundreds of long
vacant buildings have found new life, new uses, and new residents. A grocery store and a movie theater serve a
loft population of young people and empty nesters. The Peabody Opera House, Citygarden,
the Old Post Office, and the Central Branch sparkle. Cranes and scaffolding surround the beautiful Arcade Building.
The public-private City/Arch/River
project is already changing visitors' relationship to Downtown, the national monument,
and the waterway on which our early prosperity was based. Baseball season approaches, promising to draw
millions more people to Downtown's streets.
But, as the buildings that are not yet finished or full and
the hours that the sidewalks are not crowded prove, we have more work to do
before we can declare that Downtown is "complete" and is the job producer that
we need it to be.
I was approached recently by a group of Downtown business
leaders who worried that the downtown Central Business District was no longer the
region's priority - and that there seemed to be fewer projects to start when the
25 or so developments currently under way are completed.
Well, Downtown may or may not be the region's priority, but it is
the City's. And mine.
We agreed that Downtown STL, Inc., will organize and oversee
two working groups: one on safety and
one on development. I have assigned senior staffers to both groups. I will see the results of their work in the
coming months. I expect the two reports to make a
convincing case to Downtown's agnostics that greater regional investment in
Downtown will benefit everyone.