Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Four R's

These days it's all about the 3 R's: reducing, reusing, and recycling. Back when I was just a wee kid though it was all about the 3 B's: bigger, better, and brand-new. Everyone had the new suburban home complete with the latest gas guzzler, and fresh off-the-press newspaper at their doorstop. How things change. Now these suburban homes are having trouble selling for less than their purchase price, the lower the mileage the more luxurious the car, and very few out there can remember the aromatic blend of carbon, ink, and coffee in the morning. The trend now is to head for the bright lights and big cities. That's the statement I had planned on making after graduation along with most of my friends anyway. Of course that was until one of the worst job markets in our nation's history emerged, and forced us to take whatever we could get, even if it was at home.
The most interesting thing I have found about being back home in St. Louis is that it's actually not so different from where I wanted to be in the big bustling city of Chicago. Not if you look past appearance and statistics that is. St. Louis has some of the nation's best architecture, a ranging taste palate of restaurants, always emerging style, and most importantly culture, a characteristic that cannot ever be clearly defined. Still though, with a heap of vacant buildings sitting where neon lights could shine, people leave in search of cities where these fixtures have already been placed.

Like I said before, when I was younger things were different. Including Downtown St. Louis, where I used to visit my Dad every now and then at work at a very dilapidated factory building in a high crime and impoverished area. A few years later someone got the crazy idea to turn that same building into the city's first residential lofts (The Alexander Lofts). That development had a domino effect all the way down Locust St., around the bend to Washington Ave., up and down Lucas, as well as some neighboring blocks this way and that. It is now the city's most trendy and attractive area, and is a wonderful reflection of modern urbanism. The point is, big cities such as Chicago and New York hold within them a wealth of possibilities and that oh-so popular "culture." Cities like St. Louis also hold, albeit a different kind, a wealth of possibilities. You just need to keep in mind the 4 R's: reduce, reuse, recylce, recreate.

*Photos: Top right: Alexander Lofts; middle: St. Louis MetroLink; bottom left: Old Post Office Plaza; bottom right: Grand Center

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