Thursday, September 24, 2009

Liveable St. Louis: Next American City Event at Left Bank Books Recap

Last night, at Left Bank Books, Next American City hosted an UrbanNexus. What does any of this mean? Read on to find out.

Left Bank Books, an independent book store located at 10th and Locust downtown, played host last night to an UrbanNexus, in which great minds meet great cities.

The event was described as such:

As St. Louis transforms into a more vibrant city, how can it maintain a creative population with talents and energy to contribute to the larger community? Chris King, editorial director of the St. Louis American, will moderate the discussion. Panelists include Washington University adjunct professor, Jasmin Aber; Trailnet program coordinator, Jennifer Allen; Alderman, Antonio French; non-profit community developer, Galen Gondolfi; and Vice President of Metropolis St. Louis, Leslie Proud.

I arrived a bit late, and found the book store to be packed with people. Each speaker was introduced and spoke for a few minutes about what is necessary to retain the creative class in order to make St. Louis a more vibrant city.

Highlights included North City Alderman Antonio French who said, amongst other things, that a more regional approach is needed. That is to say that, instead of focusing on undercutting another municipality by offering lower tax rates in order to get businesses to move a few miles, we need a systematic and regional approach in order to attract individuals from outside of the greater St. Louis metropolitan areas.

Up for debate was whether or not it could be expected that individuals and families living in the deep suburbs like Chesterfield could be convinced to move in to city itself, but what was agreed upon was that St. Louis needs to find a way to attract and retain creative people, either through government tax incentives, programs, or individual organizing.

There are already signs, though, of a movement to connect creative people with opportunities for innovation. Take the Urban Studio Cafe, for example, whose mission is to use, "the creative process to develop individuals' skills, build community assets, promote self-confidence, and strengthen sense of community."

This new art cafe/coffee shop just opened up in North St. Louis (2815 N 14th Street) as part of increasing efforts to revitalize that community.

I couldn't help but think about the possibilities of Next Dor along this same front. Next Dor will have dedicated artist studio space and its walls will double as gallery space for Jewish artists in St. Louis.

As great as I thought the idea behind the UrbanNexus was, I felt like I left with out a clear plan of what next steps would be. How do you take the energy present in the room and make a fundamental shift in the culture and direction of St. Louis?

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