Everything You Want to Know about Living in Downtown St. Louis

Updated

by Jacob P

Situated along the majestic Mississippi River, Downtown St. Louis boasts landmarks like the Gateway Arch National Park and Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals. It also has a mix of restaurants, shops, and parks within walking distance. 

Downtown St Louis Gateway Arch

Let’s explore everything you need to know about living in Downtown St. Louis and all of the exciting activities waiting for you in the heart of the city. 

Neighborhood Boundaries

  • North Boundary: Cole St. to Carr St.
  • East Boundary: Mississippi River
  • South Boundary: Chouteau Ave.
  • West Boundary: Tucker Blvd.
Neighborhood Boundaries

Downtown vs. Downtown West

Even among locals, you’ll notice that people often use “Downtown” and “Downtown West” interchangeably. We will focus on the area east of Tucker Blvd, officially recognized as Downtown. Downtown West extends west beyond Tucker Blvd to Jefferson St. 

Downtown vs Downtown West

Revitalizing Downtown West

  • Downtown West has a lot of redevelopment in the works with an effort to revitalize the area through new construction. 
  • A new project on Washington Avenue is set to introduce a mixed-use apartment complex, primarily featuring single-unit apartments tailored to meet the needs of the young professionals who are drawn to the area.
  • There are also plans in Downtown West for some historic rehabilitation projects and office and retail spaces. 
  • Recently two major projects were completed: St. Louis City Park and the renovation of the old Butlers Brothers building, The Victor.
  • The neighborhood’s proximity to Midtown also makes it close to other trendy attractions like The Armory, City Foundry, and Topgolf.
The Victor, St Louis, MO

Common Ground

Both neighborhoods have tourist attractions, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks within walking distance. 

Both have a lot of young professionals as residents, many of whom are new to St. Louis. 

Both neighborhoods have mostly renters as residents. Downtown has 81% renting and 19% owning, and Downtown West has 80% renting and 20% owning.

So What’s the Difference?

People who live Downtown say that overall, Downtown West has less “craziness,” referring to the inherent traffic and noise that happens during game nights and other events at BallPark Village (the Cardinals are HUGE here). 

What Do The Residents Say?

In summary, people living in Downtown or Downtown West will tell you that if you’re a fan of: 

  • Urban culture 
  • Being near the metro 
  • Living car-free
  • Walkability
  • Vibrant city atmosphere  

Then Downtown St. Louis offers all the quintessential aspects of downtown living. 

While there may be slightly more crime, noise, and traffic, as is common in any downtown area, it’s all part of any city lifestyle.

Downtown St Louis

The History of Downtown St. Louis

Downtown St. Louis is rich in history, seen in its stunning architecture, iconic monuments, and street names that pay homage to its French heritage. 

Situated strategically along the Mississippi River, St. Louis began its journey as a trading post established by French settlers.

The Founding of Saint Louis, Pierre Laclede

St. Louis was founded in 1764 as a fur trading post. The explorer Pierre Laclede carefully selected it for its strategic location along the Mississippi River. 

The trading post was built on what is now the easternmost point of Walnut Street.

the Founding of Saint Louis, Pierre Laclede

From Village to Boom Town!

St. Louis became part of the United States of America following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. 

In the years following, steamboats lined the bustling riverfront, solidifying St. Louis as an outfitting point for trappers and explorers venturing into the western frontier. St. Louis was making its mark!

From Village to Town

The City of St. Louis, Missouri

On December 9, 1822, St. Louis became a city with a mayor and nine Aldermen (An Alderman is the same thing as a Legislator, St. Louis currently has 14 Alderpersons). 

The population was approximately 4,600. The Downtown area continued to grow.

The City of St Louis, Missouri

Prosperity and Growth, The Gateway to the West

From 1830 to 1840, the population of St. Louis grew from 6,694 to 16,649. 

The emergence of new buildings evolved the landscape into what would become the central business district. 

Third and Fourth Streets began attracting more retail businesses as the city continued to grow up and down the riverfront and westward.

From 1840 to 1850, the population of St. Louis grew from 16,649 to 77,860! This was largely due to the influx of German and Irish immigrants. 

The Fire of 1849 

In 1849, St. Louis endured a devastating setback; a massive fire ravaged 15 city blocks along the riverfront and destroyed 23 steamboats. 

This took out most of the east of 3rd Street between Walnut and Locust Streets. The structures that emerged after were fireproofed and about four to five stories high brick with stone or iron facades.

The Fire of 1849

The Riverfront

The riverfront has always been an important feature of St. Louis, especially Downtown St. Louis. In the 1850s, river traffic increased so much that it became the second-largest port in the country. 

The Civil War brought significant challenges to St. Louis, disrupting river traffic and impacting local businesses, consequently hindering the city’s growth. 

Despite this, what is now called The Old Courthouse at Market and Fourth St was completed in 1862.

The Golden Age of St Louis

The Golden Age of St. Louis 

After the war, around 1865, St. Louis saw a major boom in its Downtown area. Office buildings sprouted up around the Old Courthouse, which was the heart of the business district back then. 

Along Fourth Street, you’d find a flurry of activity with retail shops, hotels, banks, and restaurants, all contributing to the city’s westward expansion. 

By the 1890s, Downtown St. Louis saw the emergence of its first skyscrapers, including the Wainwright Building located at 701 Chestnut Street.

Downtown St Louis 1900

At the turn of the century (1900), St. Louis’s population reached 575,238. Electric Trolley cars were the main method of transportation, and the World’s Fair was planned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase in 1904.

The World's Fair

The World’s Fair brought 20 million visitors to the City which caused the creation of more hotels, office buildings, and homes. This progress continued until World War I.

The World's Fair 2

Fun Fact

Chicago didn’t surpass St. Louis’ population until 1880. From 1870 to 1920, St. Louis was the fourth-largest city in the US.

Early Twentieth Century

In the 1920s, the center of activity moved west, away from the Old Courthouse Downtown. 

Prominent hotels like The Southern and Planters House closed, and the entertainment district around Walnut St. became a warehouse district. 

During the War and Great Depression St. Louis was still growing, but not as fast as other cities, and in 1920 was the sixth largest city in the US. 

The City continued to evolve with transit, roadways, lighting, and hospitals.

Early Twentieth Century

The Great Depression

In the 1930s, St. Louis suffered a similar fate to other cities during the Depression, with high unemployment and many building projects coming to a standstill. 

The westward trend of the city continued, and the city saw a need to revitalize Downtown.

World War II ended much of the unemployment in St. Louis, but much of the progress was still being pushed Westward, out of the Downtown Neighborhood. 

The Great Depression

Revitalizing the Riverfront – 1960s

In the 60s, there was a push to redevelop the eastern part of the Central Business District and revitalize the riverfront in Downtown. 

Revitalizing the Riverfront - 1960s

The Gateway Arch National Park was accelerated in 1962, and Busch Memorial Stadium was completed in 1966, bringing tourist activity to the Downtown area. 

With this came Mansion House Apartments, which were also completed in 1966 (which still operates today), Gateway Tower, and other apartment and office buildings.

The Riverfront

Downtown’s decline was compounded by the preference for suburban living and the construction of highways.

The 1970s to 2000s

In the 1970s, developers tore down dozens of historic buildings and built parking lots, and “Downtown” moved further south. 

In the 1980s, St. Louis witnessed a significant drive for preservation, and by the 1990s, the city invested heavily in urban renewal endeavors. 

This included launching new construction projects, initiatives by the preservation board to safeguard historical buildings, and enhancements to the metro system.

The 1970s- 2000

Downtown Now!

St. Louis leadership put forth a twenty-year plan in 2000 called “Downtown Now!” to “reignite Downtown’s vibrancy and residential population.” It was considered successful.

  • Significant residential population increase
  • Redevelopment of the Central Library, the Old Post Office, and Washington Avenue as a retail/entertainment hub, 
  • The addition of a new park connecting Downtown to the Gateway Arch. 
  • Replacing parking lots with mixed-use spaces for business and living
Downtown Now!

Nothing Like the Present

St. Louis, Missouri continues its revitalization efforts today through new construction, activating parks and downtown streets with events and art, and endeavors to address the unhoused community.

 “Design Downtown” was adopted by St. Louis residents as the next chapter of renewal efforts by community leaders and the city which is meant to drive the movement from 2020-2030. 

Nothing Like the Present

Downtown STL Living

In Downtown St. Louis, residences predominantly consist of condos and apartments, offering a variety of options, including new constructions, renovated spaces, and converted lofts. 

Condos like Bogen and Ventana lofts embrace historic loft living with high ceilings, exposed brick walls, and modern amenities. This mixed-use building dates back to 1901.

Bogen and Ventana Lofts

The Printers Lofts also boasts a conversion from Historical buildings to condominiums, with this loft development of 82 homes ranging from $168,900 to $289,000.

Printers Lofts

The Syndicate building, constructed in 1907, experienced a decline during the 1950s and 1960s. 

Following the closure of the Scruggs Vandervoort & Department store in 1967, the building stood vacant. 

It was then reconstructed between 2006 and 2008 as a mixed-use project. It has 94 condominiums, 84 apartments, retail, and parking. 

This is a prime example of St. Louis’ dedication to preserving its history while making efforts to revitalize the Downtown area.

The Meridian

The Meridian is another example of Downtown Condo living. This mixed-use building sits on Washington Ave, where many of Downtown’s revitalization efforts have been largely successful. Shops, restaurants, and entertainment are all at your doorstep.

Condominiums in Downtown

Many of the Condominiums in Downtown are characterized by concrete floors, high ceilings, lots of natural light, and open floor plans with a modern feel. 

This Downtown building (below) was built in 1929 as a warehouse for J.C. Penney. After changing ownership multiple times, the building underwent extensive renovation in 2001 and was reopened to offer condominiums and a Hotel.

Downtown Renovations

The latest news was that this eye-catching building was set for a $46 million renovation and rebranding, which is expected to reopen as a Sheraton. It plans to keep the three floors of condominiums and the amazing mural. It would also have event space and apartments targeted at business travelers. 

What’s New Downtown? 

The city has come together with other leaders, and put together Design Downtown STL a plan to further the efforts of Downtown Now! that will span from 2020- 2030. 

This plan is meant to make the Downtown neighborhood more walkable and to improve public spaces. They have a lot planned, and some of it is already in the works. 

  • Making the region more vibrant by regularly closing off streets to make way for food trucks and events
  • Creating a housing fund to assist in redevelopment projects
  • Planting more trees, putting in a new garden, and creating bike connections near the riverfront
Design Downtown STL

What Else Is In The Works?

A lot! A dedicated effort is underway to revitalize and renew Downtown St. Louis, with investments totaling billions.

Chouteau’s Landing 

  • Currently, this area exudes an industrial vibe and is in disrepair. There are several historical buildings and overgrown lots. 
  • There are plans to redevelop the area with high-rise residential towers and an entertainment district. 
  • The historical buildings would stay and owners would be given tax credits to renovate.
Chouteau’s Landing

Brickline Greenway

This planned trail system is already underway and would link St. Louis neighborhoods!

Laclede’s Landing

Nestled along the riverfront amidst historical landmarks and cobblestone roads, this area, already home to residential buildings and businesses, is primed for renewal and revitalization.

Planners and developers are focusing on modernizing the area while keeping its historic charm

Laclede’s Landing

AT&T Tower

This office tower will be transformed into a mixed-use space that will include retail, residential units, office spaces, and a hotel.

11th and Spruce Stadium Apartments

This completed project is a seven-story apartment complex featuring 148 units alongside retail spaces.

ST Louis University

City Living at its Finest

From upscale restaurants and coffee shops to three professional sports teams, the Four Seasons Hotel, and the Sifle Theater, this area offers a diverse range of attractions, all conveniently within walking distance. 

There’s also Saint Louis University, Washington University, and Webster University. The St. Louis public and private schools are for younger children (Confluence Preparatory Academy).

Busch Stadium

America’s Center: This convention center has regularly scheduled events and four distinct facilities: Cervantes Convention Center, The Dome at America’s Center, the St. Louis Executive Conference Center, and the Ferrara Theatre. It also has a ballroom and 95 meeting rooms.

BallPark Village: Located at S Broadway and Clark Ave, this sports-themed district has multiple restaurants with great food, bars, and live entertainment. It also boasts a gathering place that features a huge LED screen to enjoy games while enjoying the amenities of the area.

Busch Stadium: The home of the Cardinals, this retro outdoor stadium perfectly mirrors St. Louis’ love of all things vintage. Boasting 44,383 seats, including 3,706 club seats and 61 luxury seats, what truly strikes people is its openness. Even if you’re not inside the stadium, you can still see and experience the game simply by walking down the sidewalk beside it.

Kiener Plaza: A city park featuring a playground, fountains, and a concert area that is used for events.

Gateway Arch National Park: This National Park is home to the iconic St. Louis Arch which dominates the St. Louis skyline, offering visitors the opportunity to ascend the arch for breathtaking views of the city and the river. Additionally, the park features a fantastic museum that showcases over 200 years of St. Louis’ history. 

National Blues Museum: Music lovers will enjoy the National Blues Museum dedicated to exploring the musical history of St. Louis.

Washington Avenue is a hub filled with plenty of places to eat, nightclubs, museums, and shops. This inviting area is vibrant and bustling. Be sure to check out Flamingo Bowl if you’re into bowling. 

Downtown West

Also Nearby in Downtown West

City Museum: The City Museum draws visitors from around the world, making it a must-see destination in St. Louis. 

This unique and eclectic attraction offers a blend of quirkiness, weirdness, and fun for all ages. It serves as an architectural playground, boasting an awesome 10-story spiral slide, climbable sculptures, and an Egypt room. 

It is also home to Circus Harmony who performs daily.

City Museum

The St. Louis Blues: If you’re a sports fan, don’t miss the opportunity to catch a game played by St. Louis’ hockey team, The Blues, at the Enterprise Center.

St. Louis City SC (Soccer): The team plays in an outdoor Stadium called Citypark which holds 22,500 seats. Its modern appearance and lively design make it a welcoming addition to the Downtown area. 

Union Station: Union Station stands as an entertainment hub, boasting attractions such as the St. Louis Aquarium, a towering 200-ft high Ferris wheel, restaurants, mini-golf, and more! It’s a fantastic destination, especially for families with children, offering fun activities for everyone to enjoy.

Union Station

Downtown St. Louis offers an abundance of museums, historical sites, restaurants, bars, nightlife, and attractions, ensuring there’s something for everyone. 

Throughout the year the city hosts multiple festivals, like Winterfest and Taste St. Louis, adding to the vibrant atmosphere. 

For those seeking unique experiences, be sure to visit Idol Wolf, where cocktails and art come together in an eclectic setting. 

Additionally, restaurants like Blood and Sand have garnered international attention, offering unforgettable dining experiences. There really is something for everyone!

Downtown St. Louis 2

How Safe is Downtown St. Louis?

This is a common question, and the answers can vary dramatically depending on who you talk to. 

When analyzing statistics, the percentages are based on the number of crimes compared to the population of the area. Percentages can get skewed because St. Louis City is a different County than St. Louis County.

  • In 2022 St. Louis City was 286,578 while the city with the metro area was 2.8 million people. 
  • Also, consider the number of visitors Downtown gets, with three professional sports teams and multiple tourist attractions. 

Okay… So What Does it All Mean

If we take that into account, combine St. Louis City and S.t Louis County, and then compare the crime rate to other cities, St. Louis is comparable to other major cities—not perfect, mind you—but comparable. 

Combined 2022 and 2023 statistics show that St. Louis’ homicide rate is 22.63 compared to Indianapolis at 23.92, Philadelphia at 32.73, and Dallas at 16.60. 

Downtown rates are higher compared to the rest of the city, with property crime being the most prevalent type.

City of St Louis

Addressing The Issue 

Most people agree that although crime statistics for St. Louis may appear skewed, a real issue needs to be addressed. 

Addressing these safety concerns is a top priority in Design Downtown STL, a plan adopted by the city to revitalize the region over the next decade. 

It’s recognized that people won’t come downtown if they don’t feel safe, underscoring the importance of addressing these issues for the city’s revitalization efforts. Some of these efforts can already be seen.

  • In 2023, St Louis saw a 20% drop in homicides compared to 2022, a positive trend attributed to the city’s revitalization efforts aimed at improving the Downtown area.
  •  There was an overall drop in crime from 2022 to 2023 

What Do The People Who Live Downtown Say?

In general, most Downtown residents acknowledge there is crime, particularly property crime, as well as the presence of an unhoused population and challenges with parking. 

Locals also note that while some streets in Downtown are lively and bustling with more people, others can appear vacant. Additionally, they advise avoiding the northern boundary of Downtown, as it tends to be empty and not well-lit. 

However, they also highlight the area’s access to amenities and the ease of getting to neighboring neighborhoods, emphasizing that if you want an urban living experience, Downtown St. Louis has it all.