Sunday, February 11, 2007

St. Louis's online community is amazing.

As I skim back over my just-posted take on the Bohemian Hill development proposal, I'm struck by how many links I ended up putting in it. It's amazing how many people are already discussing this proposal, just days after its announcement.

Lest you take that for granted, I challenge you to find any comparable discussion among the residents of Milwaukee. Apart from my little blog, and one or two other bloggers who occasionally touch on issues of urbanism, architecture and development, there's nothing. Silence. A void. There simply is no online community discussing the physical form of Milwaukee or its future.

Granted, Milwaukee can afford to rest on its laurels a bit -- our last Mayor went on to become president of the Congress for the New Urbanism. When he first came to town, he saw a new Walgreens on Brady Street (Milwaukee's equivalent of Delmar) with a parking lot in front of it. "Why'd you build it like that??" he asked the developer. "'Cause that's what the code says we had to do!" was the answer. Mayor Norquist promptly set about changing the code. Then he tore down a freeway; we're just starting to fill in the 16 acres of downtown land that it opened up. It's Milwaukee's poor fortune that he was unable to tear down a second freeway that would have connected downtown to the neighborhoods to the south.

Now we see the results of all that, as urban buildings are popping up like weeds all over Milwaukee's downtown and East Side.

St. Louis, alas, cannot take such consideration for granted. Every bit of urbanism must be fought for, tooth and claw. Ultimately, the city's long-outdated zoning laws need to be replaced; otherwise, it's a case-by-case battle, never-ending and often lost.

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