On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the idea of “smart growth” in the St. Louis region with organizers of an upcoming conference called the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference.
The conference was started in 1995 by the Environmental Protection Agency but has grown to include many other partners. This year, it will take place in St. Louis from Feb. 2-4.
The conference will focus on “practical tools and strategies for creating great communities.” What does that mean?
Joining the program were Eric Friedman, the president of Friedman Group Realtors and Friedman Development Group located in St. Louis, as well as Kate Meis, the executive director of the Local Government Commission, which organizes the conference.
“Smart growth is using resources efficiently and creating choices and opportunities for all residents,” said Meis. “What does that look like in practice? Providing places for all residents to live in a safe and healthy neighborhood, with access to jobs and educational opportunities, providing options to walk, bike or take transit to their daily destinations, and creating vibrant places for people to connect and innovate.”
St. Louis, Friedman said, is moving forward “slowly but surely” with such growth. He named the MetroLink, the Washington corridor downtown, the Delmar Loop, and walkable/bikeable inner ring suburbs as signs of such growth. Expanding transit options is something that still needs some work.
The conference attracts people from all over the country who live in urban areas undergoing redevelopment. It will include tours of areas in St. Louis to see how they have grown and have also been held back from redevelopment.
There’s a definitive theme in the conference of moving people back into cities and redeveloping industrial spaces for the needs of a new generation.
“The way we have worked has changed really dramatically and that has impacted the growth of communities,” Meis said. “Historical development that was based on high polluting, industrial factory-type work, where we needed to, for health reasons, keep people living far away from those polluting uses, is no longer the dominant work now. We have an opportunity to live closer to where we work and to take those large buildings and turn them into areas like what we need now — whether residential or smaller commercial uses.”
St. Louis, Friedman said, is lucky because it has the Missouri Historic Tax Credit, which enables residential redevelopment in historic buildings downtown.
Listen as Meis and Freidman discuss how St. Louis stacks up to redevelopment of urban areas nationwide:
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