TOP 50 STL Economic Development Idea of the Week: China Town STL

The city of Saint Louis used to have a China Town. It was also known as Hop Alley and was located near 7th, 10th, Walnut and Chestnut Streets. If that location sounds familiar, it’s right about where the Cardinals play baseball. The area was condemned and torn down back in the sixties to make way for “Old Busch” and the population of that area dispersed around town. There are some areas in the city, like along South Grand where they have some pockets of Asian restaurants, but definitely not a deep enough concentration of Chinese-Americans to be called a China Town.

I’ve always thought it would be neat to have a China Town in Saint Louis. Interestingly enough, we have several areas that are somewhat segregated by heritage but I think it adds some uniqueness to those neighborhoods. Of course, we have The Hill, which is heavily influenced by Italians, there are some areas that are predominantly Jewish and we have the largest concentration of Bosnians in the world outside of Bosnia. There used to be an area made up of mostly Irish called Kerry Patch and there is also a strong German heritage in Saint Louis, which is where my ancestors hail from.

I love looking at the heritage of Saint Louis and seeing a richness that isn’t shared by many cities around the country. There’s a restaurant in town called Three Flags Tavern that illustrates how Saint Louis has flown under three flags as a city; Spain, France and of course, the United States of America. There is a great blend of people and cultures in our city and I would like to encourage more.

The North Side of Saint Louis is getting ready for a long overdue redevelopment. Unfortunately, the area has not always been a priority for the city and the citizens and has slowly fallen into disrepair. But, I love that there is a current focus on the area through the massive project for the NGA and the ambitions of Paul McKee’s North Side Project to usher in a renaissance of sorts for the North.

Now, I know there are plenty of political concerns in taking on a development in an area that is predominantly black. I’m hopeful that the effort will benefit not only new people that would like to relocate to Saint Louis, but also the citizens that currently live in the area. It will certainly provide a great deal of construction jobs and opportunities for new businesses and I’m hopeful that the activity will attract an influx of population into Saint Louis.

My suggestion is to create a China Town within the North Side. We’ve had a long trend of population decline in the city and whether we like it or not, we’ll have to look outside our region for new people to come in. I’ve spoken with former Governor Bob Holden who is working with the Chinese to create partnerships between Midwestern States and China. I think a positive step towards that initiative would be to invite them to come live alongside us in a China Town.

Many of the great cities in the world have a China Town. I have personally visited the China Towns in San Francisco, New York City and London. I loved visiting each of them and thought they did nothing but add to the culture and heritage of those cities, which are world-class. I’ve said often that I want Saint Louis to be a world-class city and I think establishing a China Town would be another positive step towards making that happen.

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