Saturday, February 17, 2007

C.A.V.E.: Citizens Against Vulgar Environments!

Clever acronym adaptation courtesy of Steve Patterson.

Evolution of the 'cave' man

All the St. Louis blog world is atwitter over this St. Louis Business Journal article, but I gotta throw my two cents in regardless.

Where to start? I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or scream. It's such an incredibly one-sided article that the developers might as well have written it themselves.

The intention is to portray urban critics as being opposed to all developments, to the very idea of develoment -- which is absurd, of course. We live in cities. Development is requisite to the very environments we have chosen to make home.

But, again, we live in cities -- not the country, not small towns, not suburbs. Those are all different environments with different needs. When a proposed development fails to meet the needs of the city, citizens are obliged to stand up and protest.

I refuse to be silent when someone confuses this environment...

Youree Drive, Shreveport

...with this one:

S. Grand Avenue, St. Louis

One is the city. The other is not -- it's a suburb. There's a world of difference.

The needs of the suburb have been well-met over the last fifty years -- slavishly so. There is so much suburban development that a lot of people don't know any other way of living, can't concieve that there's something wrong with it, and are boggled when someone suggest that building a strip mall on the edge of Soulard might not be such a great idea, and why are you so anti-development??? People point to all the suburbia, its prevalence, as if it's somehow proof that everyone wants everything to be that way, as if the availability of different options somehow threatens to nullify all those strip malls and subdivisions.

This argument makes my head explode. You've got your goddamn suburbs already. You've got suburbs running out your ears and paving every last damn thing for a hundred miles. You've got more suburbs than we can possibly afford to maintain. Now let us have our city!!!

The needs of the city have been too frequently overlooked. THAT is why we're protesting. THAT is why some developers meet opposition.

Show us the urbanism, and we'll show you the love. From the Continental Building renovation, to the new houses at Blewett High School, the infill houses at Bohemian Hill, the renovation of City Hospital, the rejuvenation of half a dozen skyscrapers downtown, the CONECT project in Old North, there are many excellent examples of how to work with urban environments right there in St. Louis.

The city is a place, with character, with unique stuff that can't be found anywhere else. It draws some people. Those qualities MUST be preserved and nurtured.

In a geographic location that looks like this...
Mansfield Road, Shreveport can hardly expect a builder to put terribly much thought into what a building will look like, let alone how it relates to what's around it. Nothing there is worth caring about, so who would care about anything new that comes along? Small wonder developers are taken aback when people raise objections to their projects in the city.

But it need not be so -- we are not protesting the existance of a project; indeed we welcome it! It is the form we are criticizing, for in the city, the form truly matters. People here care. And forms can be adapted, changed, altered, improved, without compromising the nature of a project.

Hmph! 'Cave people' indeed. It is unfortunate that positive citizen action, open discussion of the built environment, and widespread awareness is viewed by developers as obstruction and misinformation.

Look at the Bohemian Hill project. You want to know what's on the site now? You want to know what was there? You want to see a site plan? You gotta go to some guy from Milwaukee!! The local media ain't tellin' ya, and the developers sure as hell aren't either! Shouldn't all this information be readily forthcoming?

I find it ironic and amusing that St. Louis bloggers as a group are being acused of spreading "misinformation" by people who commonly fail to spread any information at all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. It's nice to see people in other cities putting up the same fight.

I've been to St. Louis once to visit my wife's family and the only time I saw anything remotely interesting is when I drove though downtown on the highway and when I left on the same highway. They live out in the 'burbs and I couldn't convince them to show me around the city at all. What a disappointment to drive all that way to see a suburb...