Covenant Blu Grand Center Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
Covenant Blu/Grand Center’s boundaries are defined as Dr. Martin L. King Drive to the North, North Compton Avenue to the East, Olive Street to the South, and North Vandeventer Avenue to the West.
Between 1880 and 1900, the city’s population began to expand to the west. Saint Louis University established its main campus on Grand Boulevard in 1888. Many of the city’s affluent families built large, beautiful mansions near Grand Boulevard, many of which are still standing today. The addition of hospitals, medical office buildings, pharmacies, and churches helped to create the neighborhoods that surround Grand Center.
Between 1900 and 1920, Grand Center began to evolve into the city’s main center for the arts and entertainment. Development of the area consisted of the addition of several theaters, which included the Odeon, Princess, Victoria, Grand Central, and Empress Theaters.
Throughout the 1930s, the area thrived, despite the economic woes of the Great Depression. The same was true for the 1940s. Grand Center also became a major hub for public transportation, first via streetcar and later via bus. It was during this era that the famous playhouses were built, which include the Missouri Theater, Fox Theater, and St. Louis Theater (today's Powell Symphony Hall).
Grand Center began to experience a decline in the area following the Second World War. Suburban expansion increased dramatically and the City consequently experienced an extensive decrease in population. As the population left the City, businesses, healthcare facilities and other community assets closed their doors. This exodus further facilitated the decline of the area. Sequentially, audience numbers began to dwindle at the local theaters and most were forced to close. Covenant Blu/Grand Center remained economically depressed for the next several decades.
The last decade, however, has shown extensive economic development as the City, its residents and private investors strive to revitalize Grand Center and restore its previous luster and fame. The St. Louis Theatre was purchased by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1965, and the building was renamed Powell Symphony Hall. Most of these revitalization efforts did not materialize until the 1980s. Grand Center was designated a National Historic District, which helped to secure federal grant money and increase investment. The Fox Theatre was reopened in 1982, after having closed in the late 1970s. The Sheldon Concert Hall also reopened its doors in 1986. Several arts and education organizations-over 25-located in the area. This movement had a significant impact on the appearance of the area, as many of the boarded-up, vacant buildings were either demolished or restored. Grand Center, Inc., also established itself in the area. Grand Center, Inc. is a not-for-profit urban redevelopment corporation that plays a major role in redeveloping the area. Several other improvements have been made in the 1990s, some of which include the relocation of KETC/Channel 9 and the planned construction of the Pulitzer art facility. Covenant Blu has not experienced, however, the same attention and recent success that Grand Center has managed to achieve.