by Michael R. Allen
The developers’ shills are now accusing critics of being “anti everything.” Once again, when given an opportunity to learn from people with ideas we see the apparatchiks dust off the old “obstructionist” and “zealot” hatchets. Yawn!
Obviously, they are counting on a city whose culture is stunted and whose citizens are eager to be commanded how to think. Unfortunately, the old St. Louis they wish to lord over forever has passed them by.
Nowadays, citizens are better-informed about development projects than ever. If that is inconvenient to developers, so be it. These are the lives affected by the developers’ projects — the flip side of the debate.
Complacency, submission and acceptance of whitewash campaigns are outdated. Try openness, dialogue and civic debate about issues. More innovative minds have already realized that the most effective development projects are those in which the most vocal critics eventually become stakeholders. Check the dreaded blogs and one will find praise for developers like Restoration St. Louis, Loftworks and others despite minor disagreements. These developers are those who don’t try to suppress discussion and dissent, but assume that is part of a healthy civic culture.
Honestly, finding someone who opposes redevelopment of Bohemian Hill or the near north side is downright impossible. To call smart suggestions for better development “obstruction” is to ignore the fact that there are more discussions of the built environment in St. Louis than in any other city. That actually helps development because it creates an intellectual culture interested in change and growth. (How many Milwaukee or Philadelphia built environment blogs are there? They would love to have some of ours!) After all, the odds in this state and this country are so tilted against a city like St. Louis, it’s a wonder there are so many motivated people working on all sides of development. With a scarcity of quality old media outlets, and an abundance of vacant land and buildings, there seems plenty of room for consensus in St. Louis.