Creative Business Clusters in St. Louis
Creative clusters are areas of the city that are especially dense with professional talent and expertise due to large employer networks and facilities to support them. They differ from innovation districts insofar as they have not been completely formalized by the city: you could think of creative clusters as ‘informal’ innovation districts or “emerging neighborhoods.”
Where innovation districts are built upon anchor coalitions between nonprofits, educational institutions and corporate partners, who have successfully persuaded the City government to recognize the zone, creative clusters have all the same components but are still in early discussions with the city.
In St. Louis, there are many creative clusters that represent non-”tech” industries. As these communities are still in their early formation stages, creative clusters provide even more local leadership opportunities for intrepid entrepreneurs to make an impact and recruit support from huge allied organizations.
As with all creativity, the value of creative clusters is always worth more than the sum of its parts, so expect to gain more support than you can dream of just by offering your own helping hand. Below is an adventurer’s guide to these emerging new districts of innovation in St. Louis and some brief introductions to the organizations you should connect with.
Taking great strides to revitalize the historic Garment District, once known as “Shoe Street USA” and second only to New York City in clothing sales, Downtown STL, St. Louis Development Corporation and the Saint Louis Fashion Fund, are renovating five buildings to create four storefronts and a business incubator space for talented fashion designers to launch new clothing brands.
As we all know, the internet is a series of tubes. It’s not a big truck. Somehow the immortal words of United States Senator Ted Stevens somewhat accurately describe downtown St. Louis.
That’s because Tucker Boulevard, which has conveyed many big trucks to and fro across the Mississippi, also happens to have… wait for it… a lot of internet tubes running under it. No joke. Stretching from the Cardinal’s Stadium at Ball Park Village all the way down to The Globe Building are enormous fiber-optic cables that snake under the city to deliver nothing short of “crazy-fast” internet speeds.
How? When the USA was wired up for fiber, it followed the rail lines. Formerly serving as the Midwest Terminal Building for the Illinois Railroad, what was built as a distribution center for physical commodities such as hay and lumber in 1933 —the staples of a past era’s economy— is now a destination for the growing data-center industry. Datotel and Hostirian are two of the data centers currently located at the Globe Building, all anchor tenants of St. Louis’ emerging innovation district: the Gigabit Corridor.
In the halcyon days of Budweiser and Anheuser Busch, St. Louis was an “old PR” town and the roots of that history still show themselves today. For example, when the Impossible Burger was first launched in McDonald’s the first city to get it in the whole of the United States was St. Louis. We don’t know why exactly, but there’s an “old PR” theory that if it works here, you can make it work anywhere.
It’s also a little known fact that the second Disney theme park was planned in St. Louis. However, it is said that Walt himself fell out with the Busch family over not serving beer and took Disney World to Florida. The story may be apocryphal but he’s not alone in envisioning a transformational and creative destination on the banks of the big muddy.
Delmar Maker District
A maker district is a network of maker spaces concentrated in one area. In these wildly creative climates you can expect to find a festival of artists, breweries, bakeries and farmer’s markets. Anchored by Third Degree Glass Factory, MADE STL, The Magic House @ MADE, and Craft Alliance, Delmar Maker District aims to centralize a community of Makers, Artists, Designers, and Entrepreneurs.
Starved of investment due to institutional and political inertia North City has been blighted by decades of neglect. However, following the announcement that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is relocating its headquarters to St. Louis, momentum is gathering to invest in the area. Although the Equity Ecosystem in St. Louis operates across the entire city, these organizations are leading the charge in having North City recognized as a new innovation district.