The Return of the Trolley
University City's favorite son, Joe Edwards, shares his vision for a modern-day Delmar Streetcar Company with residents at the University City Public Library.
Colorful trolleys used to dominate the scene up and down Delmar Blvd throughout the first half of the twentieth century, but since the final run of the Delmar Streetcar Company, the clanging of trolleys has been absent from streets throughout St. Louis.
If Joe Edwards gets his way, that will all soon change.
The creative proprietor behind such Loop mainstays as Blueberry Hill,The Pageant, the renovated Tivoli Movie Theatre, the St. Louis Walk of Fame and the Moonrise Hotel, plans to break ground soon on a state-of-the-art trolley system connecting Delmar to Forest Park.
The 2.2 mile long route would start outside the University City City Hall, head east down Delmar, turn south on DeBaliviere Ave. and turn around outside the Missouri History Museum. Edwards hopes to have five or six trolleys making nine stops along the route, book ended by the two MetroLink stations at Delmar and Forest Park.
The idea has been in the back of Edwards’ head since 1997, and Tuesday night at the University City Public Library he shared his vision with visitors and members of the Historical Society of University City.
“A vintage trolley system is important to me,” Edwards told the assembled crowd. “I believe this to be a perfect project to revitalize the next couple blocks down Delmar and improve the Loop.”
Edwards presentation began with a history of the Loop’s own resurrection thanks to the efforts of himself and other area entrepreneurs who wanted to return the area to prominence.
“During the 1960s, University City saw a steady population drop as families moved out to the suburbs,” Edwards opened his presentation with. “University City, because of its strong and proactive leadership, worked to make sure the area didn’t decline. Apartment standards and zoning laws were put in place to ensure landlords wouldn’t neglect their empty properties.”
The city came alive by allowing only restaurants, galleries and retail shops to open in the Loop, and slowly the city began to undergo a change into the cultural hub it is today. With all the success the city has seen though, the area east of the Delmar MetroLink Station has shared in little to none of this prosperity. Edwards wants to change that with the reintroduction of a modern-day streetcar system.
He believes that a trolley system would be instrumental in stabilizing University City neighborhoods for good.
“It’s so important to stabilize the areas to the east and north of University City and the Loop to lower crime in our backyards as well,” Edwards said. “We’ve already seen a drop in crime and increased investment in those areas just from planning the trolley.”
Through the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District, Edwards has gathered the resources necessary to get this project accomplished. He said the maximum estimate for the project stands around $34 million, most of which will be covered by a $25 million grant awarded through the federal Urban Circulator Program in July 2010, which is itself a part of President Obama’s “Livability Initiative.”
“We’ve been talking to private companies, city philanthropists and the like for the remaining couple million. We intend on having it all collected by the end of the year,” Edwards said.
Edwards said several companies are ready to submit proposals on construction as soon as the green light is given. He remains confident that the project will break ground soon, and St. Louisans will once again hear the clang, clang, clang of the trolley by 2012.