Downtown Garment District Coming Back To Life

Visions of leveraging the distinct history of the area of Washington Ave.

May 22, 2018 | 4 min reading time

This article is 6 years old. It was published on May 22, 2018.

Downtown Garment District

St. Louis, MO- St. Louis Development Corporation, Downtown STL, Inc. and other regional leaders kicked off the next major redevelopment initiative in The Garment District area at 15th & Washington Avenue.

The St. Louis Fashion Fund has already taken the initiative to put St. Louis back on the map as a hub in the fashion industry, already having launched a business incubator, education center, manufacturing hub and growing center of international fashion design. Today’s announcement of plans to revitalize the former Garment District is another step in the overall economic development of the downtown area.

“The Saint Louis Fashion Fund has shown the bold vision to create a hub for fashion and design entrepreneurs on Washington Avenue in the heart of the once-vibrant garment district” stated Missy Kelley, President & CEO of Downtown STL. Kelley added, “our goal is to fill this once vibrant part of the city with new businesses, restaurants, and to activate this space with programming that expresses that creativity, that industry and having bustling sidewalks with residence, businesses, workers and shoppers.”Speaker Downtown Garment District





The team of Martinez+Johnson Architecture and BJH Advisors, which redesigned New York’s garment district, was chosen after an exhaustive national search and will partner with St. Louis-based architecture firm TAO + LEE Associates to lead planning efforts focused on revitalizing St. Louis’ own Garment District on Washington Ave. This effort envisions leveraging the distinct history of the district as a national hub for fashion and apparel, as well as to develop a modern epicenter of the creative economy for the entire St. Louis region.

In the past two decades, more than $6 billion has been invested in the revitalization of downtown, including the Washington Avenue streetscape and the conversion of many
historic structures into residential lofts and business establishments. Once dubbed “Shoe Street, USA,” Washington Avenue once claimed more shoe manufacturers than any other street in the world. However, during the second half of the 20th century, as seen in many cities across the U.S., the garment industry declined in the district and many buildings emptied out.

“A region is only as strong as its core,” said Otis Williams, director of the city of St. Louis’ Development Corporation. “Among other signature initiatives and investments, we see the rejuvenation of the historic Garment District to be a key towards the continued strengthening of downtown.

“At the heart of the matter is finding ways to get more people, more of the time, doing more things in the Garment District,” said Steven Stainbrook, Associate Principal, Martinez+Johnson Architecture. “If we get that right in parallel with smart policy initiatives that build on the recent successes of the Fashion Incubator and support development of a broader ecosystem of creative industries, we will have all laid the groundwork for transforming the neighborhood. The pieces are in place for success – amazing architecture, committed city/civic leadership, design-oriented entrepreneurs, and competitive market forces that rival other cities.”

The Garment District is roughly bounded by Delmar Blvd., Tucker Blvd., St. Charles Street, N.15th Street, Olive Street, N. 18th Street, Washington Ave., and Lucas Ave. Elements of the placemaking plan for the District will include an overall branding strategy and marketing framework for identity and promotion of the district and a framework for developing the built environment within the district that is appealing and visually consistent with its historic elements.

“With so much construction activity and development in and around downtown, and with the near completion of the network of new and improved public parks, it is very exciting to envision what the role of this district can be to enhance the area,” said Peter Tao, principal of Tao + Lee Associates, Inc. “This placemaking planning study is very timely.”

Washington Avenue has been recently recognized by the American Planning Association as one of the ‘Top 10 Great Streets’ in America. The city of St. Louis has a bold vision to build upon this momentum and maximize its potential for fashion and design entrepreneurs. Upcoming enhancements include revitalizing infrastructure and establishing brand identity to support an integrated ecosystem of design and related businesses.

“Our goal is to turn young fashion designers into successful entrepreneurs,” said Susan Sherman, co-founder and chairman of the Saint Louis Fashion Fund. “By creating successful brands and serving as a resource for other St. Louis based designers, the Fund will continue to build a vibrant fashion ecosystem for our city and make St. Louis a center of fashion once again.”

About the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC)

St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) is an umbrella, not-for-profit corporation organized under Chapter 355 of the Missouri State Statutes with the mission of fostering economic development and growth in the City of St. Louis by stimulating the market for private investment in City real estate and business development and improve the quality of life for everyone who lives in, works in, and visits the City.  The mission of the SLDC is to stimulate the market for private investment in City real estate and business development and improve the quality of life for everyone who lives in, works in, and visits the City of St. Louis. If there are questions, please contact John Parker, Director of Corporate Communications and Media at 314-363-1102 or email him at

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