2017 Great Place in America

South Grand Boulevard: St. Louis, Missouri

Planning Excellence

South Grand Boulevard's story of success is the two-fold tale of an effective and beneficial Complete Streets initiative and the vocal, engaged St. Louis community that was instrumental in making it happen.

The concept of Complete Streets — all forms of transportation are given equal access and priority — is one that has found popularity and success in recent years across the nation and around the world. But complete streets are not easy to achieve and often face significant opposition from car-oriented communities and business interests. South Grand Boulevard is a testament to the symbiotic relationship that the business and residential communities have formed, resulting in a Complete Streets initiative that transformed the corridor for the better.

Members of the community are brought together by a multitude of events at South Grand Boulevard’s pocket park, Ritz Park. Photo courtesy Neal Page Photography.

Before the corridor's renovations in 2015, South Grand Boulevard traffic averaged speeds of 42 miles an hour. Accidents averaged 80 per year. Recognizing the threat this throughway posed to the neighborhood, residents of the South Grand Community Improvement District lobbied for the adoption of their "South Grand Boulevard: Great Streets Initiative" in 2011.

The city decided to run a 30-day trial of the program with the goal of enhancing the appearance of the street, providing greater opportunities for economic development, and increasing pedestrian safety without compromising traffic efficiency. After finding that 73 percent of the public supported the alterations after the trial period, city officials decided to make the plan permanent.

The City of St. Louis has now reduced South Grand Boulevard's traffic lanes from four to two and implemented additional traffic calming improvements to reduce speeds and promote pedestrian safety. Two alleyways were closed to cars and rededicated to people walking and biking. Traffic speeds were reduced, lanes were dedicated to buses and trollies, and crosswalk lights were lengthened. The rate of accidents has been greatly reduced while commercial activity has soared.

South Grand Boulevard is an example of the many benefits communities can realize when they level the playing field between all forms of transportation. Without community members pushing for the program and articulating their needs and hopes, the South Grand Boulevard Great Streets Initiative may have never come to fruition.

The South Grand Business District hosts an annual Fall Fest that celebrates what is unique about the community by showcasing local artists, musicians, restaurants, services, and shops. Photo courtesy Neal Page Photography.

Defining Characteristics and Features

  • The northern end of the South Grand Boulevard corridor connects to the historic Tower Grove Park.
  • South Grand was conceived as an extension of the historic landscapes of Compton Heights and Tower Grove Park, using similar building materials and styles but interpreted in contemporary forms.
  • Recent projects include the reconstruction of sidewalks and tree wells, pervious concrete at key locations, pedestrian scale white lighting, and native plants throughout the district with 14 rain gardens.
  • Newly added bus shelters serve the #70 Grand bus, the busiest route in the metropolitan area.  

By the Numbers

  • 14 different national cuisines are featured in South Grand Boulevard restaurants
  • 25 percent reduction in traffic following road diet initiatives
  • $2.7 million of federal stimulus funds helped get the project off the ground
  • 74 percent reduction in projected accident rates
  • 35 percent increase in sales since the Great Streets Initiative was adopted

Designated Area

The South Grand Boulevard commercial corridor runs one-third of a mile from the southeast corner of Tower Grove Park to Utah Street.

Known for its variety of culinary options, South Grand Boulevard features cuisine from 14 nationalities including Mangia’s Italian restaurant. Photo courtesy Studio X, Michael Kilfoy.