A few weeks ago I had the day off and needed to take my car to the shop, so for the first time in a while I was able to do some St. Louis Exploring. For lack of a better idea, I simply took the bus downtown and starting walking toward Soulard, knowing that I didn’t really have a good grasp of what lay in between. The dead zones between our “destination neighborhoods” are one of the biggest problems St. Louis has to tackle.
Crossing under Highway 40 on Broadway I entered LaSalle Park, a hidden gem nestled between Soulard, Layfayette Square and Downtown. The neighborhood is cut off from the rest of the city by highways, and the damaged street grid leaves its few surviving blocks particularly isolated. A Pedestrian Mall replaces Tenth Street from Hickory to Park Avenue, effectively separating the renovated historic homes to the east, from the mess of urban renewal to the west.
Dead-end streets north of Park on Ninth Street have been turned into cul-de-sacs, but they are shady, quiet, relatively dense, and feel great to walk down. Large bushes visually separate the cul-de-sacs from the pedestrian mall, but the sidewalks merge into it. The mall itself is both devoid of life and overgrown.
In many ways, the Tenth Street Mall reflects St. Louis urban planning in general. It has preservation on one side and auto-centric modern development on the other. It has glaring successes and failures. It is cool and attractive but also lacks maintenance and use. For many, however, it seems that LaSalle Park has the best of both worlds. It is in the middle the city, but feels suburban in many ways. It’s both old and new. It has a totally random pedestrian mall running through part of it; and apparently that’s what people like because LaSalle Park is one of a small handful of St. Louis City neighborhoods to have gained population in 2010. If you haven’t been, go check it out – the experience is quite pleasant.
More photos of LaSalle Park can be found here.