By. Chris Stritzel
Today, DowntownSTL Inc. Hosted their annual event at Union Station. this year, it was called Downtown Online. The meaning of the name is to Live Tweet all the important things that were said during the event today and in some cases, announced today. Besides this, there were key updates to the State of Downtown, the Convention Center plan and multiple redevelopment plans that could, in the end, change St. Louis entirely. Many of the announcements in the nearly 1 and a half hour event were centered on "where do we go from here". and "what do we need to do to truly make us the hub of the region". Today, a new standard was laid out for our Downtown. But, in this post, I would like to talk about 6 major announcements form todays Downtown online Conference held at Union Station.
1- LYDA KREWSON'S OPENING STATEMENT
The first thing to happen today after President and CEO of DowntownSTL Inc. welcomed everyone to the large conference, Mayor Lyda Krewson got up on stage and welcomed everyone as well. Throughout Lyda's speech, she hinted at the success that Missy Kelley and the whole Downtown STL organization has had over the past 15 years. She continued to talk about what a different place St. Louis was back 15 years ago when the coalition was started to change Downtown for the better. In the middle of her speech, the Mayor said, "26 Million people visit the region yearly. many of these visitors want to now what Downtown has to offer to them". Besides this, Lyda hinted at the fact that there will be even more development in the next few years. naming projects like the Railway Exchange Building and Ballpark Village Phase 2, there is a lot of stuff coming Downtown that will truly draw more visitors and people downtown. Overall, Lyda completed her speech with the promise to make downtown a Safe and Walkable neighborhood
2- BOB O'LOUGHLIN RECEIVES AWARD
Part of the tradition of these meetings is that every year, a new recipient is awarded the John H. Poelker Levee Stone Award. After a lengthy speech by the CFO from Stifel by the name of James Zemlyak, Bob O'Loughlin received his award. Following this, Bob gave a speech about who he thanks for this major accomplishment and the properties he owns in the region. To name a few he owns:
- The Cheshire in Clayton
- Worked on 360 on top of the Hilton at the Ballpark
- He has worked on Westport
- He owns the Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton and Crowne Plaza at the Airport
- As well as Union Station
To say it in short, Bob is a St. Louisan who has deep connections to the region no matter where at in the region. Following up, he started to talk about Union Station and how his plans were to not involve a Mall portion again. So, he talked about the plans for the Ferris Wheel, Aquarium and more at Union Station as well as a timeline to get it all finished and reopened for everyone to enjoy. As seen in the video below, he plans to break ground this Winter on the Aquarium. More information is in the video for those who want to know everything about what Bob said.
3- THE STATE OF DOWNTOWN
Following Bob's big speech, Missy Kelley got back on stage to give everyone the State of Downtown and how it is doing. She first hit everyone with a great quote from former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut (R). The quote reads, "You can't be a suburb of nowhere". A very fitting quote for the whole region as a whole. In order to make St. Louis the center of the region and not have suburbs of nowhere, Missy Kelley presented everyone with growth trends for the region and how they are effected by our image. A clear statement was made that every time the national news talks about the St. Louis region, they use the skyline as our image, whether that news is good or bad. Because of this, Downtown is clearly the image for the whole metropolitan region, so it has to be a good image down on the streets as well.
Missy Kelley says that T-REX and Fashion Startups are reviving Washington Avenues Garment District. This is in turn creating a vibrant downtown thoroughfare perfect for everyone,. One that includes offices, hotels, restaurants shops and more all centered around historic buildings. It is an achievement. Besides this, there was more to Kelley's speech than what is featured here.
Surprisingly enough, DowntownSTL Inc. moved to defund their tours and instead push the money to pay for officers to police downtown and make the whole area feel safer. In total, around $1 Million has been invested into getting more Police Officers on the streets to protects visitors and citizens. They are also there to not make people feel scared. Police officers can be found in Downtown walking or riding a bike or in the normal police car patrolling the region keeping everyone safe. Another key part of safety is lighting. DowntownSTL is pushing for LED lights and colorful light strips to be put ion downtown street lights to brighten up the streets and sidewalks thus making them far safer than they are. The plan for the new lights is going to move fast with many lights being replaced and made operational by the end of daylight savings time in October of this year.
5- MONEY FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER
Once again, DowntownSTL pushed for City money to go towards funding an overhaul of the America's Center on Washington Avenue. Missy Kelley says that to many cities of similar size are taking conventions that could be easily held here. So, the plan is to push for more money to go towards the convention center. This is lining up with rumors that the convention center could be rebuilt, tonight, there were no hints towards that except for the need for money. Watch the video below to hear this.
6-THE #MYSTL INITIATIVE
One of the last things to come out of the State of Downtown Address was the #mySTL Initiative. The plan is to, despite all the bad press, focus on how good St. Louis is as a whole. The plan for this is to share your memories, videos, pictures and more about downtown as well as spread ideas for videos focusing on Downtown St. Louis. In the end, the plan is to inform people who are skeptical about St. Louis and truly change the region's face for the better.
So, as you can see, these are the key things announced today at the Downtown Online Conference. DowntownSTL has clearly helped out the city's image a lot by promoting development and preservation of abandoned places in Downtown which in turn can power our economic engine. We will be there t the next conference, And remember, we are Building St. Louis.
What do you think about todays announcements? Are they good or bad for the region? Comment below!