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Hundreds turn out to hear 'Good' ideas for St. Louis

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 9, 2012 - St. Louis creatives showed their work Thursday night in an event designed to overcome challenges facing the city.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles’ “Good” magazine selected seven local teams out of 32 applicants for its “Good Ideas for Cities” contest. The teams, advised by city leaders, presented the results of their month-long brainstorming to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 800 at the Contemporary Art Museum.

Presenting teams, challenges and solutions included:

St. Louis Alley Lovers: Increase awareness of MetroLink by creating locally flavored cafes, bars and events in every other car (taking out 19 seats), and providing bus routes and other information about how to get to those neighborhoods.

Arch City Revival: Erect informational pavilions in neighborhoods that include bulletin boards and historic photos, which also serve as gathering spaces; hold street events and drop-in workshops.

Brain Drain: Keep young creatives in St. Louis by dotting the city with 24-foot-tall interactive light beacons that glow brighter as more people surround them (rendering at right); create a website that shows where the crowds are as well as real-time information from Twitter, Facebook, foursquare, yelp and other social media.

STL Provocateur: Transform the city’s more than 7,000 vacant lots into gardens with seeds, soil, mulch and compost provided by a central hub that also serves as a distribution point for neighbors, restaurants and grocers.

ACTivate the City: Increase city high schools’ graduation rates by having students rehab vacant buildings into local centers known as The Sight. Students come to The Sight for mentoring, computer time and day care, and also visit potential career sites matching their interests.

Live in the Lou: Get fragmented local governments working together by building on existing cooperative models such as Trailnet and the St. Louis Art Museum. Create a campaign for collaboration known as Better Together.

HOK FIT: Preserve our 400 regional parks with better signage, promotion and events, and encourage residents to think of our park system as a whole rather than as separate parks. Work toward having “What park did you grow up by?” replace “Where’d you go to high school?”

Discussions following each presentation were led by “Good” contributor — and 1995 Parkway West grad — Alissa Walker who was a force behind choosing St. Louis as a “Good Ideas for Cities” location.

But “Good Ideas” is far from all talk and no action. An online tool kit connects people in different cities to work together on their projects. And the ultimate goal is to implement one or more of the solutions, a feat that’s already been accomplished in other cities including New York and Los Angeles.

Participants will designate one solution presented Thursday night as the most feasible and will present a more detailed version during St. Louis Design Week in September.

According to the “Brain Drain” team, the number of 25- to 34-year-old college graduates in St. Louis has skyrocketed by 89 percent in one decade — the largest increase in any American city. Positioning light beacons around the city of St. Louis would not only create interactive public art but would also provide landmarks and safety features. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay praised the idea, saying it would help keep young people in St. Louis and also draw tourists.

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.