Arts Centers, Universities and Economic Redevelopment


Michael Allen, as I recall, there was also the lure of having IM Pei design UMSL a building. I would not say anti-Kiel, so much as anti-downtown. Despite Downtown Now! and Metropolis, there was still a policy position to redevelop Downtown St. Louis in a developers dream for more Gateway Ones. There was great public support for the Keil options, but the FEAR of the city still loomed large, and the thought of communing the (then) GREAT distance on Metrolink for students at night for performances was too much. So, Touhill was built as a monument to the mirage of prestige of the then director of UMSL.
Paul Hohmann, I believe that UMKC is much closer to Downtown Kansas City than UMSL is to St. Louis. They don’t have light rail, yet. UMKC is more of an urban campus, and is one of the reasons you got in state tuition at KU. I think UMKC predates UMSL as a private college, where UMSL was developed as a urban commuter school for the boomers. So, there are different mythos for the 2 schools.
I’d like to see SLU do something positive in Grand Center. Paul Hohmann may remember that I had a thought about SLU renovating the Scottish Rite, Moolah or neighboring building auditoriums for a theatrical space for a SLU arts center. We talked about it when scouting the Park to Arch bike route, despite my, um, illness. I wish SLU would come out from behind the fence and engage the neighborhood in a positive way, but I guess that’s not Catholic.
I even think Wash U could make better use of their West Campus by developing museums or a performing arts center, giving Clayton more cache. Sure, it’s suburbia, but it could step up a bit. Wash U is land locked and has been wanting to Gothicize a replacement of Edison, A Bob Vickery quality design, since I was in school. this would rid it of modernism for the Trustees, and perhaps engage the community better. The plan was to build it in the flood plain southwest of Skinker and Milbrook, but I think the E+PS replacement complex is there now. The other option is to renovate the synagogues and Lewis Center of UC, which is also a worthy idea.
There is tremendous potential for Webster to work with the Rep and Eden to create an eastern anchor for Webster Groves, and a TOD for a Commuter rail along 44. This is sort of the miss of Touhill: it did not create a sense of community on the campus, along Natural Bridge, at the stations, or anywhere in communities much in need of redevelopment and revitalization. Living here in Phoenix, it is interesting to see how Performing Arts have and are the center piece of urban revitalization
Downtown built the Herberger in 80s with 2 theaters, symphony Hall in the 70s, The Orpheum was renovated in the 90s, and the Dodge added in the early 00s. Still, downtown is pretty dead. BUT, Scottsdale built their Center for Performing Arts in the 70s, adding an Art Museum in the 90s. Mesa completed their Art Center 6 years ago, 3 theaters, a black box, studio and a museum. Tempe then replaced its theater with a black box, public room, theater and Gallery, turning the former into a Children’s theater. Peoria also built a small performing arts center. ALL were built in their downtowns, save Tempe, which built along the lake just outside downtown. We have a thriving arts scene, despite the recession. Plans were on the boards to replace the Phoenix Theater across the street, but they are expanding on site next to the art museum.
Using the arts as a center piece for redevelopment, preservation and urbanization is a grand idea. CWE, Grand South Grand, Soulard…, each could benefit, perhaps with smaller companies. There is a GREAT Zocalo program coming up this week in LA about whether a University can save cities, to bring this back to the top. Google them and check out the discussion.
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