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Washington ave streetscape Phase II has started


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View of Phase II sidewalk construction and street improvements along Washington Avenue from Tucker east toward 7th Street.

Historic Washington Avenue Garment District Reborn As Saint Louis Loft District

by Betty Magrath, SLFP.com

photos by Bob Moore, SLFP.com

ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), May 7, 2004 - At the turn of the twentieth century, Washington Avenue was once a prosperous canyon of architecturally beautiful brick buildings housing shoe, clothes and fashion manufacturers.

The sidewalks were alive with people window shopping and buying in the famous garment district. The corridor of warehouses also boasted a burgeoning printing industry.

Over the years, numerous studies focused on Washington Avenue with a vision of bringing it back to life with a vital neighborhood of residential lofts, galleries, nightclubs and other attractions.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, plans were set in motion again for improvements to enhance Washington Avenue's appearance. The Washington Avenue Streetscape Project became one of the first phases of the Downtown Now! Development Action Plan to be implemented. Funded was provided by $4 million from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, and $13 million from the Missouri Dept. of Transportation enhancement program.

The design plan was created by a consultant design team led by Wallace Robert & Todd, a Philadelphia-based planning and design firm, working with five St. Louis companies including Kiku Obata & Company and David Mason and Associates Inc. In addition to the new lights, the design plan included a plaza, trees, and widened sidewalks along Washington Avenue from Tucker Blvd. to 18th Street and the connecting side streets to Lucas and St. Charles streets.

Otis Williams, deputy director of special projects for St. Louis Development Corporation, stated that Washington Avenue will remain open during Phase II construction. "Unlike Phase I, we are ensuring that at least one lane in each direction will remain open on Washington Avenue from Tucker Boulevard east to 7th Street for access to the businesses."

Williams, who was actively involved with phase one, stated that they were very pleased with the results. "There's a lot going on." The first installment in streetscape improvements along Washington Avenue, from Tucker Boulevard west to 18th Street was completed June 2003.

Tom Reeves, executive director of Downtown Now!, told Saint Louis Front Page that construction on Phase II is expected to be completed by the end of 2004. "The second phase began one month ago with the excavation of the sidewalks. Unlike the sidewalks along Washington Avenue west of Tucker, the sidewalks east of Tucker will not be widened because the street is so busy."

"We learned a lot of lessons from the first phase," stated Reeves. "Repairs will be made to vaults extending from the buildings under the street. However, we do not anticipate running into the same problems we encountered with the vaults west of Tucker. Those vaults needed extensive reinforcement."

The Washington Avenue streetscape will feature landscaping through planting of trees were possible, planters with flowers and some ornate lighting. Reeves stated that the street would be repaired but would not feature the same ornate brick and paving designs on Washington west of Tucker.

"This construction should be easier because there are not as many building owners that will be impacted with repairs to the street. Also the vaults are in better shape," stated Reeves. He noted that all utilites will be addressed including water, sewer and electrical.

Additional projects under Downtown Now! include the revitalization of the area around the Old Post Office and along Fourth Street. "Since 1999, over $2 billion in public and private money has been invested in this area of downtown. Things are being accomplished and the momentum is impressive," stated Reeves.


View of the historic Washington Avenue, former garment and fashion district, from 18th Street looking east toward America's Center at 7th Street. Washington Avenue has become a vital neighborhood with residential lofts, galleries, nightclubs and other attractions.


View of Phase II sidewalk construction and street improvements along Washington Avenue from Tucker east toward 7th Street and the Convention Center Plaza.

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