Built St. Louis > > Central Corridor > > Midtown > > SLU

SLU has been a major force in keeping the neighborhood from slipping into complete decline, and has committed considerable monies to its rejuvenation. But the university has also bulldozed a great deal of Midtown's cityscape, removing small buildings and the sort of fine-grained matrix that define an urban environment.

Xavier is a prime example. In the 1990s, a small commercial building (seen here in a 1942 photograph) was removed to clear a vista for Xavier Church. Today, the church faces a fountain plaza - scenic, but not a generator of commerce or street life. The view from the east is indeed impressive... but the cost is a fragment of the city's urban fabric.

Image from the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Continental Building, late 1990s. The commercial building in the foreground no longer stands.

I cannot claim to know what goes on in the mind of the Archdiocese; however, the recurring pattern of demolishing buildings for cars and grass points toward an anti-urban mindset - the kind that arises from fear of the city, a desire to create a non-urban campus with ample postcard-worthy "green space" (we can't build anything as awe-inspiring as the campus's 19th Century buildings, but we can put a lot of grass around them!), unfamiliarity with thriving urban environments, and the mistaken notion that the form of the city naturally gives rise to that most vicerally terrifying problem of the city, crime. In that last regard, it is, unfortunately, 100% counterproductive.

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