DOWNTOWN – Mayor Lyda Krewson celebrated the halfway point of her four-year term in office by bragging about all the positive national press and economic development the city has been getting.
In a news conference on April 17, she talked about the $8 billion in projects that have been recently completed or are underway at places like the Gateway Arch, the Ballpark Village or the Aquarium and Ferris Wheel at Union Station and in smaller efforts around the city.
The mayor said there was more than $1.22 billion in building permits in 2018, that brought about more than 4,000 new jobs and represented 6,000 residential units, 2.2 million square feet in new commercial space.
And Krewson quoted the New York Times as calling the city “once-quiet, now-vibrant,” Forbes as listing St. Louis as second in the “Top Ten Rising Cities for Startup” and Inc. Magazine as saying “Forget Silicon Valley. The most exciting innovations happening in agtech are in this Midwestern city.”
In her news conference, the mayor handed out “Momentum. . . Year 2,” a booklet paid for by her campaign committee, that detailed what she sees as the momentum of the past year.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in the last two years, and I’m really honored to be the mayor at a time of such incredible momentum for St. Louis,” the mayor said. “There are cranes in the skies. There are construction dumpsters on the curbs all over the place.”
But the momentum wasn’t everywhere.
Recently released census estimates for 2018 show that all is not well. They show a 5.1 percent population drop in the city, from 319,275 to 302,838. And not every part of the city is doing well, says a local political science professor.
“Parts of the city are doing very well. Parts of the population are doing very poorly,” said Todd Swanstrom, a professor of Community Collaboration and Public Policy Administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “There’s a lot of vibrancy in the Central Corridor. It really is a tale of two cities.”
North of the Delmar Divide, it’s as bad as ever, he said.
The negatives include the city’s continuing national leadership in the murder rate, the fact that the city is on pace for another 2,000 shootings, the frequency of cops being indicted and the continued loss of population in North St. Louis.
Meanwhile, the booklet the mayor distributed mentioned events from the past year, such as turning over 97 acres to the federal government for the new National Geospatial Intelligence Agency facilities and the opening of the new Gateway Arch grounds and museum after a $380 million renovation. It also mentioned the opening of the renovated Soldiers Memorial and the Cortex Expansion and MetroLink Station.
The report noted that there has been a 13 percent increase in the number of 25-to-34-year-olds moving into the city.
Also, it mentions a 15 percent decrease in violent crime and a six percent decrease in overall crime in 2018. It speaks of success in Police Chief John Hayden’s initiative to bring down crime in his Hayden Rectangle, the extremely high crime area from Goodfellow Boulevard to Vandeventer Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive to West Florissant Avenue.
As a result, there has been an 18 percent decrease in overall crime in that area, along with a 24 percent decrease in homicides, a 23 percent drop in robberies and a 15 percent decrease in aggravated assaults with a firearm.
The mayor also noted the daily jail population has gone from 1,400 in 2016 to 1,100 now. Efforts are underway to develop alternatives to cash bond. The city also is working on reducing the number of vacant lots and buildings.