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Economy & Business

Trailnet contends path network could make St. Louis more attractive to young professionals

Trailnet officials suggest quick action is needed on the proposed network. They say St. Louis could lose economic opportunities and potential new residents to cities that already have such a trail system.

An eight-mile urban trail in Indianapolis is serving as a model for a similar proposal in St. Louis. Trailnet has announced plans to put together a 12-mile network of walking and cycling trails to connect the city’s cultural and entertainment districts. Organization officials say it could be key in convincing more millennials to put down roots here.

Executive Director Ralph Pfremmer says the project can be an economic development tool, much like the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

“There's been a one-billion-dollar property tax assessment increase within 500 feet of that trail in seven years - in an eight mile trail,” Pfremmer told St. Louis Public Radio.

“And so we're looking at that as one of the models we are looking at. But there are other cities that are doing this as well."

The St. Louis project has an estimated cost of $88.5 million and the plan is to fund it through donations from the corporate and philanthropic communities along with some federal transportation grants.

“We don’t look as taxes as a solution,” Pfremmer said, while stressing the importance of tapping into philanthropic sources.

“Which means we have to get to that community and show them that investing in our project connects to the ones that they are already invested in.”

Trailnet has spent two years in planning to get to this point. The organization has been approached by some developers who would like to see at least parts of the network in use within a couple of years.

“Trailnet’s in the ambitious business. We’ve been in the bold vision business for years,” Pfremmer said.

The organization has played key roles in several area projects including Grant’s Trail, and the Riverfront Trail.

Trailnet claims a 12-mile walking and biking trail network could boost property values and business districts, while making the city more attractive to younger generations.

There are plenty of details that still need to be worked out to hit that two-year goal. They include planning sessions to get public input and dealing with issues including street infrastructure, parking and zoning.

“We’ve been building a lot of political will and we have to build a lot of public will,” he said.

“By doing so, we will then emerge the plan. We have a basic outline of where we are going right now.”

The project would use existing street right of ways. That means property does not have to be acquired to complete the trail network.

Follow Wayne Pratt on Twitter: @WayneRadio

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