St. Louis Neighborhood Spotlight: South Grand

Thursday May 11, 2017

South Grand Boulevard – An International Vibe in Just Six Blocks

Visitors to the South Grand Business District can cover much of the globe within six blocks.

Located on Grand Boulevard between Arsenal and Utah streets, the internationally flavored district is alive with the noise and nourishing vibe of a world market, located just minutes from downtown St. Louis.

Authentic cuisine from 14 countries — from Brazil, Turkey and Ethiopia to Lebanon, Persia and Thailand, to name a few — along with shops and services that feature sustainable fair products from South America and Bali to Mexico and Morocco, offer affordable options for foodies and sustainable-minded shoppers looking for that offbeat item. A vintage furniture store offers refurbished, unique mid-modern century pieces. While one block features a Vietnamese restaurant and a neighborhood pharmacy, another showcases a popular dive bar, optometrist office and hip upscale restaurant. That’s in addition to gelato, a vegan brunch that’s ranked No. 1 in St. Louis, a renowned diner, a candy bar and, of course, a colorful coffee house.

Fourteen annual festivals keep visitors and residents busy and on any given day. In addition, during April through December, the pocket-sized 120-seat Ritz Park with its 25-foot high vine-covered trellised fence, offers a dizzying array of locally sponsored outdoor dance and yoga classes, lectures, comic book fairs, movies and jazz concerts. Fountain playgrounds, neighborhood walks, and Sunday brunch, take on a whole new meaning in the South Grand Business District.

All in six blocks. Plan on spending an hour, two, or the entire day. Popular area attractions located within walking distance of South Grand include Tower Grove Park, one of the world’s most beautiful Victorian parks; Magic Chef Mansion; Tower Grove Abbey, a century-old church renovated into a multi-use performance center for the arts, and home to Stray Dog Theatre; and the 180-foot Compton Hill Water tower, a designated City of St. Louis Landmark. The Missouri Botanical Garden, which for more than 150 years has served as a national and global leader in plant conservation, education and research, is less than a mile away.

Ample metered street parking is available, as is free parking in the new South Grand lot located in the middle of the district (3500 Hartford). Wide sidewalks made from eco-friendly pervious, and bicycle lanes, line the inside of the district’s six-block perimeter. Newly designed bump outs, beautifully landscaped areas that protrude into the crosswalks, provide pedestrians with safe crossings over the two-lane street.

Take a tour of the evolving streetscape, full of public art and rain gardens. That’s right. Fourteen rain gardens line the sidewalks and feature a multitude of native Missouri plants and flowers. While they may look like typical flower gardens to the casual visitor, they are really naturally sustainable eco-systems designed to drain storm water. Six walking tour signs throughout the district explain the process. Visitors to the website (www.southgrand.org) can also take an online tour.

Thirty-four buildings, many of them on the National Register of Historic Places, are featured on the South Grand Historic Walking tour. Small bronze plaques appear on each of the buildings and offer quirky facts about each. Many of these buildings house the storefronts that continue to draw visitors and foodies from all over the city. Online tours of the area are available on the website as well.

As for the annual festivals, there are a many and they are diverse in nature: the South Grand International Dine Around (May) gives foodies the chance to satisfy their global taste buds; the South Grand Fall Fest (September), an all-day event in which the side streets are closed and visitors can sample fare from area restaurants and boutique trucks, take dance classes, and listen to music; the South Grand Chalk Walk (October) offers visitors the chance to watch local artists create vibrant art on the sidewalks; the Small Business Saturday Tree Lighting Ceremony (November) features a unique tree made of lighted bars that project a holiday musical video cartoon that plays throughout the holiday season at Ritz Park; and the South Grand Grinchmas celebration (December), that showcases that special holiday character. All proceeds from Grinchmas benefit Shriner’s Hospital for Children.

South Grand Boulevard – a flavor all its own.

Written by Mary McHugh

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