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Friday, September 16, 2005

The Joys of Granite City

Today, Claire and I walked around the charming and amazingly intact downtown area of Granite City, Illinois, an industrial city east of St. Louis. We were struck by the walkability and density of the downtown core, which would make a great, vital business district. In fact, it already was the vital heart of the city until Route 3 was expanded. The new bridge over the Mississippi River will likely create more sprawl on Route 3 and drive the final nails into the coffin here, leaving behind a core much like that of East St. Louis. The writing is already on the wall, quite literally: vacant storefronts abound, sporting for-sale or for-rent signs. One block had three for-sale signs in a row.

The blocks are laid out well, with many one-, two- and three-story commercial buildings on the sidewalk line sitting amid opulent workers' flats, reminiscent of north St. Louis, and striking steel mill buildings. It's a great place to walk around, and would be even better with more activity. Too bad that may never return -- the close proximity to downtown St. Louis could be enhanced with MetroLink service and a renaissance could get underway.

There are, however, a few places to find instances of urban magic. We found a small resell shop at Niedringhaus and State. If we had not already eaten lunch, the Petri Cafe or one of the other remaining workers' lunch counters would have been a choice place to nosh. Other secrets seem to beckon for future visits, although I don't think we'll visit Henry Burns Furniture (why, Henry, why?).

3 comments:

Rick Bonasch said...

There are a lot of neat little urban settings in metro east.

Collinsville, Alton, Columbia, Belleville are some good ones.

Michael Allen said...

Columbia's core is really nice. I grew up there and enjoyed it. I also like downtown Waterloo, probably somewhat more than Columbia.

But Alton and Belleville are my favorites on the east side.

claire nowak-boyd said...

I know! If I wasn't so tied to St. Louis, if I didn't have so many vivid childhood memories of seeing a beautiful, burnt-out old brick building on the North Side and thinking I wanted to help.... I might be tempted to drift over to Downtown Granite City (old storefronts with ghost signs abound!) or somewhere off Main Street in Belleville. Both have public transit....

But unless I can clone myself and live on both sides of the river, this is where I'll stay.