St. Louis Comes Back

<p>Despite predictions that the city was dying, St. Louis has just won an "All-America City" award. Neal Peirce looks at how the city turned itself around.</p>
June 24, 2008, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"In a 1997 series for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, my Citistates Group co-author Curt Johnson and I arbitrarily picked 2010 as the year foreigners might come poking through the ruins of Washington Avenue. They'd be witnessing, we suggested, the tragic endpoint of the heedless flight of Americans from their once-proud cities."

"The good news is how wrong we were. Reel forward (or back!) to this June 6. The yearly competition for one of the National Civic League's coveted All-America City awards is taking place in Tampa, Fla. There's huge suspense -- which cities (out of 100 original entries) will a jury select to receive the awards?"

"St. Louis makes the cut, receiving its first All-America City award since 1956. And what's the top talking point St. Louis used to win? It's the downtown, focus of our dire warning of 1997."

"But St. Louis, for decades bedeviled by deep population losses and widely scattered suburban sprawl, also won its award by pointing to a stunning regional advance. It's the new River Ring project, which eventually will be a 600-mile web of 45 biking trails and greenways designed to encircle and connect the entire region -- a big 'green' advance and also a way to help metro St. Louis compete with other areas in environmentally friendly outdoor life."

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Published on Sunday, June 22, 2008 in The Washington Post Writers Group
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