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25 April 2011

St Louis moves closer to Loop Trolley development

www.looptrolley.org
 Judith Rubin, InPark contributing editor

Some 60 citizens gathered April 22 at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis for a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Analysis for the proposed Loop Trolley. The Loop Trolley is the brainchild of local entrepreneur Joe Edwards, a well known local figure and the developer of The Loop, the metro area’s popular, six-block, retail/entertainment strip and an award winning example of successful urban revitalization. 

Joe Edwards
In 2007, the American Planning Association designated the Delmar Loop "One of the 10 Great Streets in America." Located in University City adjoining St Louis proper, The Loop originated in 1972 when Edwards opened the restaurant and music club Blueberry Hill at 6504 Delmar Boulevard. A special business district was established for The Loop in 1980. 

Signature properties on The Loop today include the restored Tivoli Theater, The Pageant concert venue, the Pinup Bowl and the Moonrise Hotel. The Loop is also home to the St Louis Walk of Fame and the headquarters of the Regional Arts Commission.

The Loop Trolley is envisioned as a fixed-track, vintage-style system to serve locals and tourists alike.  Loop Trolley Transportation Development District has been set up. The trolley’s projected 2.2 mile route will trace an “L” from University City's City Hall east on Delmar Boulevard and then south on DeBaliviere Avenue to the Missouri History Museum and back. It will connect with two MetroLink stations (Delmar Loop and Forest Park). By virtue of crossing Skinker Blvd as it traverses Delmar, the trolley would help to tie two neighborhoods together and bridge a development divide. Edwards has emphasized the importance of a fixed-track system as being the most conducive to development, because developers can put stock in its permanence.

Of the 18 people who gave oral comments at the April 22 session – including Edwards himself, who spoke about the quality-of-life benefits of walkable neighborhoods, citing a June 2010 article in The Atlantic and an April 21 article in USA Today – nearly all were pro-trolley. Concerns that were raised included safety for bicyclists, neighborhood parking, the effect construction would have on businesses in The Loop, and job creation.

The Loop Trolley is a $43M undertaking and conditions appear favorable for $25M of that to be in the form of a Federal grant. The projected timeline has the design being finalized this year, construction beginning in 2012 and the trolley open for service in 2013. Organizations on board with the Loop Trolley and represented at the meeting include East West Gateway and Great Rivers Greenway. A representative of the Federal Transit Administration was also present, as were several city Aldermen and a representative of the NAACP. The public comment period for the Loop Trolley remains open through May 5, 2011.