Published April 12, 2024, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Over 100,000 people filled the streets of Downtown this past weekend, cheering on the Cardinals, Battlehawks, and CITY SC; having a great, safe time; and bringing economic investment to our bars, restaurants, shops, and hotels. 

Days like this remind us what Downtown can and should be: the safe, vibrant, dynamic, walkable neighborhood at the heart of the St. Louis metro. And we are seeing more days like this, with hotel bookings, foot traffic, and visitors to Downtown attractions like the Gateway Arch all going up and violent crime Downtown, and across the City of St. Louis, going down. 

This momentum is real, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have our work cut out for us to truly revitalize Downtown. In fact, the Wall Street Journal this week published a story highlighting some of the critical challenges Downtown St. Louis faces, particularly with some of the vacant large properties in the Central Business District. 

While the article adopted an overly dramatic, pessimistic tone, focusing on one major problem property -- the Railway Exchange Building -- and using that to paint all of Downtown St. Louis in a negative light, it did bring to the fore the reasons why the STL 2030 Jobs Plan identified Restoring the Core of St. Louis as a top strategic priority.  

The Wall Street Journal article also did its readers and the St. Louis metro a great disservice by relying on a flawed study from Canada to claim that St. Louis is lagging other cities in terms of our recovery of visitors, workers, and residents to Downtown. The study didn’t include major drivers of foot traffic and economic activity Downtown, including the Gateway Arch, CITYPARK Stadium, Enterprise Center, major employers Ameren and Purina, and Union Station. Regardless of where in the St. Louis metro you live, you most certainly consider all these places to be Downtown. 

We point this out to set the record straight, but we also want to be very clear: the St. Louis metro will not grow without a strong Downtown, and Downtown St. Louis is not yet where it needs to be. The complex challenges we confront in Downtown did not appear overnight, and they will not be fixed overnight. It requires hard, intentional, and focused collaboration. 

That’s why the St. Louis region’s business, civic, and government leaders are working together to address these challenges head on. While there is much work to do, we are optimistic about the future of St. Louis and the revitalization of Downtown. 

The City of St. Louis, Greater St. Louis, Inc., and the St. Louis Development Corporation are partnering to address challenges like the development of the Railway Exchange with an eye toward a not-too-distant future in which Downtown serves as an economic and cultural beacon for our entire region. 

GSL and SLDC recently partnered on a package of new incentives to attract retail businesses to Downtown St. Louis. The incentive package includes four separate components, all targeted to attracting new retail activity and increasing density and vibrancy at street level Downtown. This suite of retail attraction incentives that is informed by national best practices has generated more than two dozen serious inquiries from retailers within the first week of its announcement. 

We are also partnering on much-needed infrastructure investment Downtown to help enhance safety and walkability. This includes traffic-calming measures along 4th Street, Broadway, and Washington Avenue and infrastructure upgrades along 7th Street between Ballpark Village and America’s Center. While more infrastructure investment is needed, these are necessary steps that will better serve Downtown residents, workers, and visitors. 

Furthermore, we are seeing positive economic news across our metro in leading indicators like job and GDP growth, which show that we are on a path for growth. The day before the Wall Street Journal published its story on Downtown, it named St. Louis as one of its “Hottest Job Markets” in the country, coming in ahead of metros like Atlanta, Denver, San Antonio, and San Francisco. 

These national media stories show us the promise and the challenge we face and remind us of the work on which we must remain focused. As we work to return St. Louis to growth, Downtown has to be a priority for the entire region. We need to think creatively about what it can be and work diligently to get there.  

We are making and seeing progress and will continue our collaborative work, day in and day out, to make Downtown the world-class neighborhood at the heart of our world-class metro. That is our charge. 


Tishaura O. Jones is Mayor of the City of St. Louis 

Jason Hall is CEO of Greater St. Louis, Inc.