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Will Transformed St. Louis Centre Building Succeed Where Old Mall Failed?

Categories: Architecture

NaffzigerSixthandWashington.JPG
All photos by Chris Naffziger unless otherwise noted
The Mercantile Exchange at Sixth and Washington, site of the former St. Louis Centre.
When it opened in 1985, St. Louis Centre was to be downtown's remedy to decades of retail business lost to the suburbs. Instead the massive shopping center -- said to be the largest urban mall when it opened in 1985 -- was a tremendous flop. Within a decade of its debut, St. Louis Centre was struggling to keep retailers, and by 2006 the nearly vacant mall shuttered for good.

NaffzigerStLouisCentre.jpg
The old St. Louis Centre, months away from demolition in 2010, showing its tired, grimy exterior.
Yet as a new exhibit at Center for Architecture and Design + CEL suggests, it would be premature to write off St. Louis Centre as a total failure -- especially now that the building's recent metamorphosis seems much more likely to attract the sustained foot traffic that eluded the original project. Through a series of displays, including photographs and conceptual drawings, one can see how the developer Amos Harris and architect Robert Neely of Forum Studio worked out the problems of the old mall by acknowledging the building's urban environment.

ForumStudioRailwayExchange.jpg
Courtesy of Forum Studio
The Railway Exchange Building, shortly after the demolition of the bridge that connected it to the old St. Louis Centre.

Continue to the next page for more on St. Louis Centre's rebirth.


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60 comments
Lynn Croxton
Lynn Croxton

The one thing I know is I won't go there unless they have security guards patrol the mall itself and the surrounding area constantly. The last time I tried to shop there, it was awful. You can't expect people to linger or buy anything worth enough to get stolen in an environment like that.

'Dewayne Clacks
'Dewayne Clacks

I've taken walks in neighborhoods all over the city. From Walnut Park to Ironton. I've never been robbed, jumped or shot. Your theory on danger is because you're afraid of me and my "blackness". No, being a proud white man isn't a crime. Being a racist with a low I.Q. isn't even a crime; but in your case it should be. I noticed that you didn't care to take me up on my offer to volunteer your services helping people. What, are you afraid to go into my neighborhood? You'd be surprised what a little hard work helping people will do for your bitter, mundane existence. Let's see, which neighborhood will one get out of? I think I will get out of either, because I have the social ability to get along with people that are not like me and make friends. Second, it's "liar", of which I am not (more bad grammar because you're asleep). The most heroin usage in the state occurs in none other than West County. It's the suburban kids killing themselves daily on drugs. I can name 5 children, under the age of 25 that have passed in the last 6 weeks from drug usage. In fact, it's most rampant in the Parkway, Ritneour and Pattonville school districts. How do I know these people? Because unlike you and your internet rants... I am out in the communities trying to help PEOPLE. I worked as a retail manager for YEARS. In NWP. NWP didn't have anywhere near the violence that I saw in ONE SUMMER at St. Clair. It was all the military brats meeting there for gang fights and drug deals. There is no need for me to lie - however, you want to slice it. I can be a "wannabe thug". I've been called a lot worse in my life. However... one question for you. Why is it that when a white teen overdoses it's a shame and when a black teen does drugs it's because they are despicable? Then as for being butt hurt... grow up and communicate like a human being. IF you can muster enough of your "manhood" to do as much.

Deb Woods
Deb Woods

OMG - crack me up! "The shit houses are shit now because of white man shoddy workmanship" Really?? So was white man supposed to continue the upkeep on those now black-owned houses to keep them from going to shit??? Puhlease. White man lived in those houses for 100+ years then it's in ruins less than 20 years after white flight began. But you're right - blame white man's shoddy workmanship & not the fact that blacks refuse to put one dime into property upkeep. That's just absurd.

Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

Bob Sinclair has never been to a trailer park apparently. Plenty of shitty looking stuff surrounded by white methheads. I just wish he would stop lumping entire races together...that's literally what racism is, Bob Sinclair, judging an entire group of people and generalizing them. Buy a fucking spellcheck app you piece of filth.

Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

I just wish they'd proofread the comment part of these posts. "Bloggers says" wtf, you're better than that.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

I give it five years as I do with IKEA. both will be gone five years after they open. Time will tell.

Bob Stclair
Bob Stclair

An why would we go back to a place where thugs ran the place . An tor it up ? Do you think we all get together an say ? Ok white folks . The negro's are goin . It's safe now ? Hell no ! You lost are business for ever ! An just like detroit . You can have downtown . Black folks just destroy what they have an bitch about having nothing ! When's the last time you went to a all black neighborhood an said all the houses are so nice an the yards are so well kept ? Never ! But you sure got some fancy rims on that 600 dollar car ! An paint job . An sound system . When folks could've just bought a really nice new car . But that's racist I guess ? Because you'll use the color of my skin as your racist tool !

Bob Stclair
Bob Stclair

P.s. there their they're . You got my point on the first post . Thanks for the grammar help . Jack wagon's

Bob Stclair
Bob Stclair

Ok white an black folks ! Let take a late night walk in a neighborhood . 1 being all black 2 being all white . Wich one do you think you'll get out of with out a fight /robbed/shot or stabed ! Yes I was half way awake this morning . Sorry about the bad grammar . But just a waste of more money ! An far as the mall seen ? Really ??? You Fffffking lire !!! I had store's in most every mall in st.louis an st.clair square ! An talked with all mall security an cop's for my job !!!! Facts don't lie ! P.s. my gal of 8 year's ( you ready for this ) is a hot black chick !! It's you wanta be thugs that cry when a real man steps up an treats you the way you do other's ! An far as bigot ? Yea I'm a proud WHITE MAN ! But I guess that's racist ? But it's ok to have black pride ? Facts are facts ! Why piss more money away ? I'll stand up to all ! Because I don't lie so I have nothing to remember ! Butt hurt lire's .

mrbigq
mrbigq

I really have to stop reading the comment section on this board. I've lived downtown for years. It's affordable, it's flush with great restaurants and bars of all flavors and it has done nothing but expand since I bought my loft in 2009. The biggest disservice to downtown STL isn't crime, slowing development (cause it's not slowing) or urban blight. It's the suburban weenies who go to Laclede's Landing for a night and think they done seen it all, then get online to talk some shit. Do us all a favor, say in Chesterfield.

Paula Williams
Paula Williams

We went ONCE and it was full of gangs. No security.

Jason M Parker
Jason M Parker

'Dewayne Clacks. That's probably the most eloquently written and accurate reply to a race argument I've read. Kudos to.you sir.

'Dewayne Clacks
'Dewayne Clacks

then they need to ask themselves, why is it that IF a black person is on welfare... they are less; but if it's a white person they are getting a hand up and needed it? RACISM. That's why. Now Scott, let's take this "white man is better" mentality to task. Since you're so concerned with race relations... how about you accept this challenge. I have access to a help organization. How about you come volunteer to work in my neighborhoods for a week and I'll volunteer to work in yours for a week.

'Dewayne Clacks
'Dewayne Clacks

facts don't lie - whites need to go out and get a job and stop soaking up my tax money.

Adam C Gabor
Adam C Gabor

Does that long sentence come with a free white hood?

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Place will die as the rest have. Downtown has been dead since the early 70s. The demographics have changed.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Facts are facts. He is spot on the numbers don't lie. Do a little research you liberal fact haters.

Jamie Molyneux James
Jamie Molyneux James

Mr. StClair, you succeeded in showing your racist colors and lack of education. Instead of whining, take action and do something.

Bob Stclair
Bob Stclair

Look at the criminal element ? Why did north west close ? Face it ! I'm not trying to be racist but truthful !!! The black community just doesn't like nice thing's ! The river front was nice ? So was that mall . Shit just look at the mill's . Fought to get by state there an now it's dead ! We're sick an tired of the thefts /car jacking's /drug dealing / PEOPLE DROPPING THERE KID'S OFF AS IF IT WAS A DAY CARE WITH ONLY 5 BUCKS ON THEM WHILE THEY GO TO WORK ! The kid's are board an broke ...so yea they get in trouble ! But I'm sure somehow this is the white man's fault ? Not like there would be a black president ever or something ? Here's a idea ? How do you think a guy from mexico or India have more or make more ? We want American's to have it all !!! Not sit there an play the blam game ! That's why even most black folks don't go shopping there at them places . Because the shit is outta hand ! Good luck with pissing more money away ! For the love of god please please please !!!!! Take a video the day or a month after opening day !!!! Then just one year later ! Ask the businesses about profit an crime to see if I lie !!! This is just like a outta control child ! Wants the nice stuff destroy' s it an then bitchs about never having anything nice ! It's a fact !!! Just look at the nice houses in north co. BEFORE THE HOUSING BUBBLE POPPED ! An you wonder why the great white flight happen to st.charles happen ? But I guess you'll use the color of my skin as your racist tool ! Everything is the white man's fault ? Even freedom (for the people that bring up slaves) Never take one ounce of responsibly . Just blame someone else ! Fffffkin joke

Chris Lee
Chris Lee

"Worst downtown areas in the country???" Exaggerate much? SMFH

Brandon Gardner
Brandon Gardner

There needs to be more shopping downtown. Then it would be fine.

Kelle Deyne
Kelle Deyne

IMO- one of the worst downtown areas in the country. All there is to do is sporting events or drinking. Not to mention the statistics of crime....

Jim House
Jim House

The downtown has a lot of potential if they didn't gouge you for parking every chance they get. Go to South County, West County, Chesterfield Mall, Galleria, any mall not in the city and parking is free. They need to learn that lesson.

Matt Cox
Matt Cox

No more bars or mall! Think outside the box and something different for once. Something that would bring people here to st.louis. Then build a new dome and build a rams village. Don't make it all bars.

voigtlanderr2
voigtlanderr2

You aren't ever going to convince molly whitebread to drive downtown and park in a dark parking garage or on the street blocks from this place and shop there. A> that's her loss, and B. stop poring money down a sewer


egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

Next year is the 30th anniversary of the opening. I remember the balloons. About that time, the powers decided Downtown would be sports and casinos, they let Kiel opera house and convention hall go down, locked the Market Street door of City Hall, didn't care what happened to Union Station. Looked away at deterioration of Soldiers Memorial.Not their areas of interest. Is it all connected-what happened nexta and since? Or is it  unrelated and accidental?

Scott Weber
Scott Weber

Devon L Johnson It's primarily an office bldg. with those few street side businesses, that are already doing well

Stuart Shadwell
Stuart Shadwell

Oh wait that post was intended for another post, but that someone liked it is awesome.

Jeremy Genin
Jeremy Genin

The downtown has a lot of potential. There is growing life down there. I am impressed with how much more "community" I've seen in the downtown than in other smaller areas.

Devon L Johnson
Devon L Johnson

Nope because roving bands of thuggish innercity teens will drive all the business away

Couch Pig
Couch Pig

No there are nice malls with lots of free parking in chesterfield...Face it you cant give away stuff in downtown St louis..It sucks

Bradley Pipkin
Bradley Pipkin

Bring fun. Not business business business numbers.

mikec65
mikec65

Nope. Having lived near Boston and New York, and with relatives in Chicago, I can say with no exaggeration at all that St. Louis's downtown is a joke. If you think it's not, you've obviously never been any place else.

mrbigq
mrbigq

If that's all you think there is to do, you need to look harder. 

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

During the six years I worked at One Shitty Centre office bldg. (as we referred to it) for A-B (they leased seven floors there), it was a rare afternoon that we wouldn't see the cops outside the Mall arresting some perp for whatever the latest offense was.  Then there was the afternoon clouds of marijuana smoke at the 6th & Locust bus stop, the sidewalk crap games and the overly aggressive panhandlers that would demand money and start cursing you if you didn't whip out your wallet.  Our female employees were so frightened they arrived and departed work together, parked next to each other in the garage across 6th and exited their cars together in the A.M. and walked out together in the P.M. to leave work.  It all ended when a vendor calling on one of our employees was held up at gunpoint in the attached Mall restroom.  Seldom, if ever, did you see a visible cop despite repeated emails to the Mayor's office about the daily MJ use at the bus stop. They would respond post-incident but never "patrol".  Yeah, people trying to survive in this economy really want to expose themselves to this stuff.....NOT !

mrbigq
mrbigq

@mikec65  translation, I lived in some suburbs and one time I saw Chicago and now I'm going to run my mouth. Shut your hole.

mrbigq
mrbigq

@billj598  Tell me more about the 80s. It's so interesting. 

mikec65
mikec65

@mrbigq   Oooooooooooh, I'm so hurt by your well thought out rely of "shut your hole."  Wow, that really covers the benefits of St. Louis's pathetic "downtown". I read your other post about how great downtown St. Louis's restaurants are and it gave me the best laugh I've had in a long time. Why don't you leave town, obviously for the first time in your miserable life, and book a ticket to Boston, so you can see what a REAL city looks like?  Moron.

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