Urban Planners Give Award to St. Louis, Part 2
A few days ago, the American Planning Association (APA) named Wydown Boulevard, which runs through Clayton and the city of St. Louis, as one of the great streets in America.
This post I wrote three years ago is part one of the series on urban planning that I’m continuing today. The theme of this post is different from the first, because although planners had almost nothing to do with the success of the Delmar Loop, they certainly did with Wydown Boulevard. But the planning that shaped Wydown was the work of private industry and individuals, not the government. I want to make that clear.
“Planning” today is intimately linked in most people’s minds with government oversight and regulation. At the APA’s website, both the “What is planning?” and “What do planners do?” questions immediately begin with a reference to government.
Many of the subdivisions that were built along the St. Louis central corridor (Wydown is in the heart of that corridor) were built in a unique, intensely private style found throughout St. Louis. That includes private roads, sewers, and other infrastructure paid for by internal assessments and fees from property owners, not by general taxes for government provision of those services. I don’t think Wydown was ever a private road, but many of the neighborhood streets along it were (some still are), and I believe the streetcar that served Wydown was likely a private company, too, although I have been unable to find conclusive information about that particular streetcar that reveals whether or not it was actually private.
- Subdivisions along trolley line originally developed as “private places,” characterized by large 1- to 3-acre lots with traditionally designed single-family estates, mature trees, and native plants
Yes, some of the more recent cited reasons for issuing this award involve government planning — the bike lanes, for example. But the neighborhoods of St. Louis’ central corridor have historically been some of the most privately operated urban subdivisions in the country. Wydown is a beautiful street that I have enjoyed traveling many times. It deserves an award for planning. But it’s important to remember that it was private planning, not government planning, that made Wydown what it is.