St. Louis — Downtown Summer Nights begins this Thursday, with events scheduled to take place every Thursday night in Kiener Plaza through August. Organizers say it’s all part of a plan to make downtown “safe, vibrant, and beautiful.” City leaders are on a mission to strengthen the work already underway to elevate the Gateway Mall as St. Louis Metro’s Central Social District.

According to a new report from the Urban Land Institute, the Gateway Mall is a continuous stretch of green space and serves as the spine of downtown’s cultural economy. Greater St. Louis, Inc. has partnered with the St. Louis Development Corporation to fund the new report.

Kurt Weigle, Chief Downtown Officer for Greater St. Louis Inc, said, “We called in some national experts, local experts, and stakeholder groups and asked, ‘How can we make Gateway Mall better?’ We got a good report: Activate the space in the short term, and we’ll be looking toward long-term activation that will be built into real surroundings. It’s a strategy that will play out over a number of years. It starts with what we are doing tonight. We had a great city social a few weeks ago with 2,000 people on Washington Avenue having a good time. ‘Downtown Summer Nights’ is an extension of that.”

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At the request of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, SLDC will focus their efforts on revitalizing key corridors and vacant properties that have been hurdles to downtown St. Louis reaching its true potential.

This includes developing a plan for bold action to address the Railway Exchange Building and the Millennium Hotel by mid-September.

It also includes beginning work to revitalize 7th Street between Ballpark Village and the America’s Center, a project that will connect two anchor institutions downtown with new sidewalks, trees, lighting, bike lanes, and opportunities for new retail.

To add vibrancy to downtown, the city and GSL also partnered on City Social, the downtown neighborhood block party on Washington Avenue that brought nearly 2,000 people out for a celebration earlier this month to help kick off the summer.

This evening, GSL kicks off Downtown Summer Nights, a weekly party that will take place in Kiener Plaza from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Thursday this summer.

ULI Recommendations for Downtown and the Gateway Mall

Key recommendations from ULI’s report regarding the future of Gateway Mall include:

Positioning culture, creativity, and diversity as key drivers of economic competitiveness.

Fostering community by investing in civic life and social infrastructure.

Cultivating a diverse mix of uses for Gateway Mall that include art, music, fashion, and other forms of creative expression.

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Additional recommendations include:

Curating a cultural economy in downtown by growing capacity for entrepreneurs and culture-makers already downtown and positioning downtown as a place where diverse communities thrive.

Prioritizing placemaking, placekeeping, and activation by leveraging space within the Gateway Mall and nearby buildings as a testing ground for creative ideas and cultural expressions; implementing temporary but consistent activations to revitalize weak market locations—this work is already underway through activations like Downtown Summer Nights; and working with the community to consider a new name for the Gateway Mall that better matches its current and future identity.

Choreographing the urban experience through a strong district manager who can help establish a strong steward for the district with the resources and responsibility for influencing both the public realm and the private-sector tenant mix, and exploring a range of funding sources to support operations, infrastructure, and development.