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Trolley ‘coming very soon’ as Delmar Loop welcomes first executive director, looks to future

The Delmar Loop in 2017

Rachelle L’Ecuyer grew up right near the Delmar Loop, so becoming its first-ever executive director earlier this month felt a lot like coming home. Still, she’s been looking at the area with fresh eyes.

“I was walking down Delmar yesterday, and I was taking a picture of the Tivoli sign, and two young men walked up to me and I said, ‘I love it!’” she said on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “And they looked at me and I said [again], ‘I love it.’ And I pointed from bottom to top, and they said, ‘Oh, I love it: The Tivoli spelled backwards is ‘I love it.’ And we ended up having a pretty long conversation about the Loop.”

In her newly announced role, L’Ecuyer hopes to lend that sort of perspective to an area that has long been one of the St. Louis region’s most popular destinations – but has also experienced some recent challenges.

In conversation with host Don Marsh and developer Joe Edwards, L’Ecuyer discussed the state of the Loop as it awaits an operating trolley and continues to evolve as a dining, shopping and entertainment hub.

Edwards, who is chairman of the East Loop Community Improvement District, praised her track record in places like Maplewood and said he expects her to be able to take the lead on “all sorts of things – special events, get the businesses to work together well, find new tenants for certain places.”

“It’s going to add that much more stability and [a] great focus person where people can know where to call – Rachelle L’Ecuyer, and not Joe Edwards all the time,” Edwards said with a laugh, then adding that he isn’t planning to go anywhere.

Rachelle L’Ecuyer (at left) is the newly named executive director for the Delmar Loop. Developer Joe Edwards is chairman of the special business district and the East Loop Community Improvement District.
Credit Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
Rachelle L’Ecuyer (at left) is the newly named executive director for the Delmar Loop. Developer Joe Edwards is chairman of the special business district and the East Loop Community Improvement District.

The Loop Trolley, on the other hand, is about to really go places, the developer said. Asked about the many delays the project has encountered in recent years, Edwards offered a household-type analogy by way of explanation.

“Things just take a lot longer sometimes than you think,” he said. “If you’ve ever remodeled a kitchen … you think, ‘Oh, it’s going to be done in August for this amount of money.’ And then you kind of find out as you go along it takes a little bit longer than that.”

He was hesitant to predict the specific date that passengers will be able to start boarding the trolleys, but said it is “coming very soon.”

“Within a couple of months would be my prediction,” Edwards said. “I hate to predict that, but it’s getting that close.”

L’Ecuyer said she is looking forward to the “official start” and believes the Loop Trolley will present new opportunities for events and ways for different generations to come together.

“I know there’s a lot of negative press about the trolley, but when you talk to people, they are so excited about it,” she said. “And you talk to people who actually rode the trolley [many years ago] – I know people that went to Washington University in the ’50s, and they have all these stories of coming over the Loop and taking the trolley to Gaslight Square.

“Now they have grandchildren and younger people they want to share those experiences with, and I think this is a great opportunity for people to come back to the Delmar Loop and just have a fun experience. And also I think it’s going to be a great tourist attraction as well.”

L’Ecuyer touched on other impending developments in the area as well, including an initiative on the first Friday of every month.

“We’re gonna call it ‘Get Looped,’ and starting September 7 a lot of the shops are going to be open late,” she said. “Right now we already have over 20 businesses signed up – it’s going to be a self-guided tour … and you can just come and spend an evening in the Loop. There are art galleries, there are boutiques, there are great restaurants. I’ve been eating my way through the Loop and just enjoying it so much.”

Edwards’ affection for and connections to the Loop still have him envisioning new development – including one across from the Moonrise Hotel, he said.

“I’d like to build places that are fun – that people can put their troubles behind them for a couple hours and enjoy life,” he said. “So it’s going to be called Magic Mini Golf, and there will be 18 holes indoors of miniature golf, a Ferris wheel that came from the Muny opera from last summer’s show … a couple of shuffleboard lanes … and a lot of other surprise, fun things that I’m going to put in there too.”

L’Ecuyer closed her remarks with a call for St. Louisans to “take a moment and rethink the Delmar Loop.”

“I hope that people will come and revisit the Delmar Loop,” she said. “And for those people who are true believers, thank you, and please don’t give up. Just keep coming, because I think it’s going to get better and better. It’s already the greatest place in St. Louis.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Caitlin Lally give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
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