Introduction

January 14, 1947

Hon. Aloys P. Kaufmann, Mayor
Saint Louis, Missouri

Dear Mayor Kaufmann:

In accordance with your request of April 19, 1946, the Commission has prepared a Comprehensive Plan and accompanying Report. They are submitted for your consideration and such action as you deem to the best interests of the City.

When the Plan becomes official, it will greatly aid in the City's development for the next twenty-five years. It is hoped that the Plan and Report meet with your unqualified approval.

Respectfully submitted,
CITY PLAN COMMISSION
E. J. Russell, Chairman

Introduction

Purpose of the city plan

St. Louis is a generally satisfactory city, with much solid civic achievement gained in non-spectacular fashion, in keeping with its tradition of conservatism. It has municipal problems, but so does every other city; many of them are not unique, some are.

By and large St. Louis is remarkably well prepared basically as the functioning heart of a metropolitan center containing more than one one-hundredth of the nation's population, as the middle of the twentieth century approaches in a troubled world.

To maintain this position, sound, thorough planning of the community's physical future is essential. The City Plan Commission proposes herein to point the way. It offers a comprehensive, modern chart for continued progress.

St. Louis, with a colorful, historic past and a busy, variegated present, is still a city with a future. The Plan Commission confidently predicts that by 1970 barely a generation hence-the city proper can have 900,000 population. This would be an increase of only slightly more than 10 per cent since the 1940 census, but such a growth of 84,000 calls for making proper room for the new roofs, adequate traffic ways for the added automobiles, economical plans for all the additional public and semi-public facilities to be required. Furthermore, there must be a catching-up with all the improvements perforce neglected during the long war period.

Unlike many American cities, St. Louis has within its bound-aries little undeveloped area although general density of population, fortunately, is relatively light. The need here is to keep a rather intensively built-up urban territory up-to-date for the demands of the years ahead. Those demands will arise not only from within the city limits but from the entire metropolitan area. The Plan Commission estimates the aggregate population of the two-state official metropolitan district will be 1,650,000 by 1970, an increase of slightly more than 20 per cent from 1940.

This report offers a carefully prepared set of plans, covering the most important physical needs of the modem city. It is neither a dream of theorists nor a series of pretty but visionary and impractical pictures; rather it is based on sound planning and engineering principles. It is presented by an official commission of interested citizens and appropriate public officials, which enjoys the cooperation and support of the city's administration.

This report includes an earnest recommendation for giving full legal support to the City Plan. Although the city has had a series of plans for 30 years, including a major street plan, a mass transportation plan and others, recognition of these plans has been on a voluntary basis, with naturally varying results. This is in sharp contrast to the practice, now widely adopted elsewhere, of giving formal, official status to the plan. The proposed ordinance would correct this condition, with the result of more economical and efficient urban development, and without depriving the people's elected officials of the ultimate control.

City planning now is a recognized, vital function of American government. It is expressed through general principles in most instances, rather than any attempt at exact blueprinting. The plans herein are somewhat surprisingly simple in nature, but they are true to the familiar precept against making "little plans"; they are meant to be broad and inspiring-and humanly workable.

Some of the outstanding phases of this report may be summarized as follows:

  • A critically needed complete revision of the badly outmoded zoning ordinance.
  • A new pattern for utilization of the land within the city to the best advantage of all the people and of the community.
  • Housing-not only to provide the thousands of new family dwelling units in critical demand, but to wipe out the obsolescent blighted areas and the costly decayed slums.
  • A concrete proposal for a minimum housing standards ordinance, to put authority in the hands of the city to require decent habitations. There is good precedent for this elsewhere. It is the only means of preventing future slums.
  • Major street system development. Far-reaching traffic relief is counted on from the prospective widening and doubledecking of Third Street and its extensions to the southwest and northwest and from the proposed express highway to the west via Pine Street and Forest Park Boulevard.
  • Air fields for the air age-a series of 35 fields in five graduated categories, of which three fields would be within the city limits, 20 in the Missouri suburban belt and 10 in nearby Illinois. This is a metropolitan problem, not merely a local city responsibility.
  • Preservation and improvement of the central downtown business district, the indispensable nucleus of the whole metropolitan structure. It would be given far better access, less congestion, and extensive off-street parking facilities to replace the inadequate curb parking that must gradually be abandoned in favor of moving traffic.
  • Revision of public transportation facilities in the interest of the best disposition of service.
  • Provision of a city-wide system of neighborhood parks, playfields and playgrounds, as a chief demand in improved recreational facilities.
  • A comprehensive system of homogeneous neighborhoods, to foster the welfare of every residential and industrial area.

In the field of housing, this report seeks to point the way for urban rehabilitation, which goes hand in hand with any large scale construction of dwellings for all income groups of citizens. Private enterprise can and must be encouraged to rebuild some of the older central areas. It calls renewed attention to the urgent need for tax relief, in order to make possible mass erection of low rent housing with essential federal aid, and to the fine opportunity offered for all forms of housing in the wide-spread blighted areas under Missouri's revised Urban Redevelopment Corporation Act. Attention also. is directed to the important but not generally recognized new slum clearance and rehabilitation powers granted the city under the 1945 state constitution.

Zoning is of paramount importance in the city plan. St. Louis has numerous neighborhoods of homes which are either new and attractive or of middle age but retaining pleasant characteristics, and some that are quite old yet capable of interesting revival. But the good sections cannot be assured of future protection, nor can the poor ones hope for recrudescence, without modern zoning. St. Louis was a pioneer in zoning but we have failed to keep at the head of the parade. The existing zoning code does not even provide for zones limited to one-family units. Manifestly, in a city with a reputation for home-owning, this condition cries out for correction.

The hopes or ambitions of an earlier day, reflected in the relative provisions for different types of land utilization, have not been fully realized. St. Louis now has enough area zoned, for commercial use to accommodate the stores and filling stations needed for a population of 1,600,000, while the area zoned for residential use would suffice for only about 500,000.

Excessive provision in present zoning has been made, not only for commerce, but for apartment house districts and, to a certain extent, for industry and for railroads and other "unrestricted" usage.

We cannot have a city without people. Many people prefer single-family detached dwellings even in the large modern city. Without careful planning and zoning for large single-family dwelling areas as well as for good parks, streets, transportation and other improvements for all types of dwelling areas, we will repel rather than attract people who may wish to live here. We can have these things, we can build a good city with many people, and we can have also large opportunity for commercial and industrial expansion, but this goal can be achieved only by a well balanced plan. The city is not an area for unrestrained speculation by any single group, for in this direction lies only chaos-and disintegration.

In the Comprehensive City Plan here presented, this Commission offers an excellent new starting point for a more efficient and attractive city for today and for tomorrow.

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