ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – You Paid For It takes a hard look at Downtown St. Louis.
An estimated $5.2 billion has been spent to revive downtown over the past 10 years yet some areas of downtown still look barren.
Downtown office vacancies are about 26 percent. Clayton is half that. Property values are still down about 18.6 percent over the past 5 years.
Downtown Boosters cite the 14,000 people now living downtown as evidence of progress.
According to the U.S. Census, St. Louis ranks 30th in the Nation in “Growing Downtown Populations”, just behind Bloomington, Indiana, Wnatchee, Washington, and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Professor John Hoal, head of Washington University’s Urban Design Program, and Past Director of St. Louis City’s Urban Design Department, says some of downtown’s drawback are keeping it from being the “go-to” place in the region.
Hoal, who’s also the head of planning for the Forest Park Restoration, says the city needs greater regional planning and cooperation.
Mayor Francis Slay defends what his administration has done over the past 10 years while admitting downtown isn’t yet where he wants it to be.
“Considering the tough economy, we’ve seen over $5 billion dollars in new investment in downtown St. Louis,” Slay said.
“We have seen over 130 new restaurants and retail stores open. The residential population has increased by 79 percent from 1700 to 13,500. We’ve seen new investment to business go downtown.”
Watch Mayor Francis Slay’s Full Interview
Across the state in Kansas City, there’s project called the Kansas City Power and Light District where the developer hired by the city re-developed seven entire city blocks in what’s called one of the largest projects of it’s kind in the Midwest. It came with an $860 million dollar price tag.
It cost taxpayers more than they thought it would, but still Kansas City officials are standing behind it calling it a game changer for downtown. “It was very important for us to do a project of that scale in order to sort of get the area over the hump and make it become vibrant again,” said John Langengamp, head of KC’s economic development.
As for St. Louis, Mayor Slay says he’s never satisfied. “It’s never good enough for me
It always can be better.”