North Central Saint Louis Reurbanization

Medium-density Urban Infill Housing

Saint Louis, Missouri | Washington University 2002

Figure ground area plans.
Left: Figure-ground area plan--existing, with proposed site.
Right: Figure ground area plan--proposed.

The North Central Saint Louis neighborhood, located between the reviving Grand Center arts district and the trendy Central West End along the Central Corridor in Saint Louis, Missouri, is a neighborhood still reeling from outward migration—the “white flight” to the suburbs—the lingering effects of racism and redlining and a poor local economy. This neighborhood, like others throughout Saint Louis, is only now beginning to recover from the effects of over 500,000 people fleeing the city since its population zenith of over 800,000 prior to World War II. Vacancy rates are high and abandoned lots abound, but the north central neighborhood’s location along the Central Corridor (the main transportation corridor between the city and the suburbs) gives it the potential to reclaim an urban identity. Still, this mostly African-American neighborhood currently is home to many families, although they are predominately lower-class. Compared to other neighborhoods to its north and south, the North Central neighborhood is quite well-off.


Proposed is a new five-acre medium-density residential infill development to help reinvigorate life into the city’s core. There should be a mixture of one to four-bedroom units, with two and three-bedroom units predominating. The units themselves are quite small compared to the housing currently in the area and much smaller than housing found in the suburbs—between 600 to 1800 square feet. The density of the housing units is to be around 15 per acre. Redevelopment will occur on land with a “medium level” vacancy—i.e. land that is either completely empty or with abandoned buildings.

Development site location possibilities.
Development site location possibilities overlayed upon evaluations of existing properties.

While any number of sites is possible within this district, including entire blocks, it seems that to simply drop a new housing archetype into this neighborhood would be too overbearing. Instead, the new housing will wind across several blocks in a narrow ribbon, a brief interruption in the normal urban fabric, along a generally north-south path (as opposed to the east-west streets on which the old houses face). New pedestrian-priority passageways will cut through these blocks and allow combined pedestrian and automobile access to the houses. This strategy also helps to shortcut the very long blocks in this neighborhood and helps to reorient them to a more human scale. The housing will be detached, terraced townhouses with an emphasis on orienting the housing so as to create a vital street life along the new passageways.

Site Plan
Site plan.
Block Plan
Block plan.
Site Sections
Site sections.
2-bedroom Unit Plans
Two-bedroom unit floor plans. From left to right: Basement, first floor, second floor.

A ribbon of new housing will wind through the middle of several of the 1500-foot long blocks in the middle of the neighborhood. A total of 99 new housing units will be added to the neighborhood along this ribbon. Each urban block will host two or three small clusters of this new housing along the ribbon. The passageways between the housing units will be composed of a permeable paver system which will help to slow automobile traffic and allow for mitigation of storm water.

The housing units are essentially connected at their foundations; however, each unit has its own outdoor terrace space in front along the passageway (semi-public space) and the side of each unit over the garage (semi-private space). In addition, roof decks and large balconies (private space) contribute more outdoor space to each unit. The main living areas are raised up five feet from street level in order to squeeze in space for a one-car garage and to help buffer the private space of the house from the public space of the street. These two spaces are not completely isolated, though, as they are connected by a large “Saint Louis-style” front porch (semi-private space) which traditionally contributes greatly to Saint Louis street life and helps to generate a greater sense of community.

Inside the housing units, the public living functions are all on the first floor, with the kitchen serving as the heart of the house. Circulation within each of these small units revolves around the kitchen. Bedrooms are located above on the second and third floors.