The “Field of Dreams” approach of “Build it and they will come” has been particularly relevant to the City of St Louis. When I graduated from High School in the late 80’s, most of my classmates were anxious to get out of town. There was nothing “cool” about living in St Louis. The interesting architecture that is often associated with the city was mostly known for being underutilized and abandoned. Washington Avenue was best known as a place to get a hooker, and the young professionals that did reside in the region were mostly attracted to suburban apartment and condo complexes with little personality or character. The notion of rebuilding the city was out there, but it seemed to be a task that was insurmountable.
The past decade or so has seen some valuable changes. It started with pioneers that came into the city and saw the value in individual homes in places like Lafayette Square, and some larger developers like Craig Heller and Kevin McGowan taking on larger projects downtown. This group of pioneers were the foundations of the changes we’ve seen to date. It was the beginning of the urban renaissance in St Louis. They made it possible for urban living to be “en vogue” and mainstream. Now when someone makes the decision to live urban, they aren’t alone.
The Urban Affairs Committee of the St Louis Association of Realtors met last month and some of the attendees there commented about being at the very first Urban Affairs committee meeting about 20 years ago. That committee now has a regular attendance of at least 20 people with an additional 20-30 members in abstentia. It started with 4 or 5 people. 5 years ago, I gained clients that would tell me stories of trying to work with Realtors but were pushed into not to living in the city (in Missouri, this activity, called “steering” is illegal). Now, I’m encouraged by agents of all types of experience that call for help in understanding the urban market.
The Census itself is a valuable information tool. Estimates of population are often disputed and inconclusive. While it may not be for everyone, City Living is making a comeback. At this point, we’ve gotten farther into the “build it” phase than anyone would have expected. Seeing projects completed each year as well as some of the new ones in the pipeline (Archgrounds, Ballpark Village), we’re witnessing a conversion of an urban area that has been remarkable, and we’re also just beginning to see the “and they will come” phase. Regardless of the census data recieved today, we’re confident that we’re only seeing the beginning of what will be a giant shift in population and and a paradigm shift in how people choose their residence.