by Michael R. Allen
“Viable real estate development in the Midwest depends in large part on the availability of parking. This is convincingly demonstrated in the Frisco Building, which has been beautifully rehabilitated but has enjoyed less than 50% occupancy since its completion — parking is the missing ingredient for success.”
So wrote Barbara Geisman, St. Louis Deputy Mayor for Development, in an August 29, 2002 letter to Carol Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, opposing the National Register listing of the Century Building.
This statement came to mind as I thought again about the problems faced by the 900 block of Locust, which contains one of downtown’s largest parking garages and is just west of the one of the largest surface parking lot areas in the downtown core. If parking was the ingredient for success, the block would be thriving. The new Renaissance Grand Parking Garage opened in 2003 and the last building standing in the middle of the surface lots on the 800 block of Locust fell in 2002, creating more spaces. Yet the block is regaining health only with new residents and a new business that will have no reserved parking spaces.
I think the abundance of parking areas actually hurt the block by eliminating businesses that were located in storefronts cleared to make so much parking. The Ninth Street Garage that is replacing the Century Building on this block is a setback. Parking does nothing to create life on a block.