St. Louis MO: “If tax subsidies are so necessary to spur development in the Central Corridor, then why did growth happen anyway in the Cherokee Corridor?”

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A succinct overview of neighborhood success without subsidies, with three factors cited, including my favorite: Individual initiative, without help or even in defiance of the political leadership in the neighborhood.

The story is very similar in downtown New Albany. Indie operators succeed in spite of City Hall, not because of it — although to be sure, a few low level subsidies are available, and lamentably, instances of “picking winners” all too often occur.

(edited — click through for the whole essay)

Why This Street’s Success Threatens the Status Quo, by Chris Naffziger (Strong Towns)

The following essay was originally published in St. Louis Magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

Cherokee Street is dangerous.

No, not in the cliché definition we see plastered all over the nightly news. It is dangerous to the status quo in St. Louis politics. Despite very little attention from City Hall, the street has rebounded from absentee landlordship to become a thriving, multicultural community. Scanning through national coverage of St. Louis, places such as the Saint Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Art Museum, the Cardinals, and the Arch get much of the attention, and logically so, as they are large institutions with commensurate budgets. But it’s Cherokee Street that should be getting into the headlines despite having a fraction of the finances of those other St. Louis icons.

In addition to being ignored by City Hall, Cherokee Street has rarely been the recipient of tax abatements of the quantity lavished on the Central Corridor. Nonetheless, the street thrives. I began to contemplate why this is; if tax subsidies are so necessary to spur development in the Central Corridor, then why did growth happen anyway in the Cherokee Corridor? Here are my observations, having watched the street mature over the past decade.

Individual initiative, without help or even in defiance of the political leadership in the neighborhood. Mexican Americans moved to Cherokee Street and began to open stores and restaurants, bringing life to a commercial corridor that was largely abandoned. Yet again, as has been shown over the past 250 years, this city has always been nourished with the blood of immigrants, and their contribution has been ignored for just about that length of time as well …

Hard work, which tax incentives cannot replace. Look at the work required to renovate the Cherokee Brewery. Despite receiving no tax abatements, the Earthbound Beer team transformed a historic brewery building into a modern microbrewery …

A sense of purpose beyond profit. I’m not arguing that businesses should not worry about being fiscally solvent. Far from it. But I’ve discovered over the years that most people can smell a person who’s only in business for the money …

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