Closing Locust

by Michael R. Allen

A thread on the Urban St. Louis discussion forum shows that the Federal Reserve Bank is closing Locust Street between 4th and Broadway to build a “security plaza.” This plan leaves me with mixed feelings. I never like to see any streets closed in downtown St. Louis, because inevitably they close to assemble dead super blocks. On the other hand, I am a staunch opponent of automobile traffic in downtown areas, because such traffic is unnecessary in a small, walkable downtown like the one in St. Louis. Traffic also perpetuates the myth of the need for parking, which leads to many bad planning decisions, like the one that created the ugly parking garage at Broadway and Locust that the Federal Reserve Bank acquired for their “plaza” project.

This plaza may be a great place to sit and avoid traffic for the handful of downtowners who like to enjoy just being in a dense and busy environment while they read or otherwise relax. Or it could be a dead space in which the Bank’s security will usher away any loungers or geeky photographers in the name of protecting the bank from terrorism.

Two undoubtedly good things come out of this project, though: the plaza’s replacement of the street makes the visual blunder of the aforementioned parking garage, which was built over the sidewalk, a tad less offensive; and the plaza project coincides with the restoration of the grand Romanesque Security Building (now fully caught up in irony), completed in 1891 and designed by the Boston firm of Peabody, Stearns and Furber–their only St. Louis project.

As to the other results, we’ll see what happens. I tend to think that it will be another dead space in this age of paranoia.