Zoo-Museum District

A catch-all forum for urban discussion. If it doesn't fit elsewhere, post here.
First unread post174 posts
I think the Zoo's fine, but yes, the Science Center has become rather shabby and uninspiring.
Alex Ihnen wrote:
What I'm saying is that city/county taxpayers bear the burden of taxation for the institutions. What if revenue for the institutions stayed basically the same - they all seem to be doing quite well - but was spread across the region? The ZMD tax in the city/county could be reduced, lessening the burden. You can quip about the word "suffering" all you want, but it's an unjust burden to pay for freeloaders. If a region wants to vote to support free institutions, that's great, but when the ZMD was voted on the city/county were 60%+ of the MSA. They are now just 46%.

I hear you. I honestly do, but do you think calling potential voters who could vote "yay or nay" for ZMD expansion "freeloaders" helps the cause? Do you think charging non St. Louis City and County residents admission helps with regionalism? Couldn't such an approach build regional resentment instead of fostering regional cooperation? Why not assess an across-the-board admission fee for everyone?

However, I could read the headlines now, "St. Louis Art Museum no longer free due to population loss". The Post-Dispatch would especially love such a headline.

Based on the last census numbers, the population skid in St. Louis City is slowing and St. Louis County saw a population increase. Housing development - single and multi-family - is up in both counties.

Correct me if the numbers are a little off, but I believe when the ZMD actually started in early 70's collectively both counties had about 1.65-million people. Now that number is close to 1.35-million. Although St. Louis City and County have lost population to mostly St. Charles and Jefferson counties - since 1970 other metro counties have grown organically which would also help to cause a percentage shrinkage by St. Louis City and County.

So actually, the 46% is not all due to population loss in the core counties, but also natural growth in the outlying counties.

Ultimately, St. Louis City and County need to reinvent themselves (whatever that looks like) in order to become bigger magnets to retain and attract residents - and not just from within the region.

By the way, the entire Centralia, Illinois micropolitan area could be added to the St. Louis MSA in 2020. The census is not proposing the Quincy-Hannibal area to be added in 2020.
urban_dilettante wrote:
so i want to hear people's opinions on a couple of my observations and some hear-say:

1) last year i was in town and visited the Science Center on a random weekday afternoon. the place seemed dirty and poorly kept, the second-floor area where the optical illusion exhibits usually live was completely empty. multiple exhibits were either broken or poorly implemented (for example, there was a projection globe thing on the lower level that was situated in a cubby hole near the dinosaurs with a spotlight shining directly on it so that you couldn't even see the projection, and the rattling coming from a vent next to the Fourier transform exhibit was so loud it was impossible to use the exhibit as intended.) overall it felt dirty, sparse, underfunded and embarrassing.

2) i'm in town again and went to the zoo yesterday to see Sea Lion cove, which was okay but less impressive than i expected. anyway, the pool in front of the penguin exhibit was absolutely filthy and stunk of rotten fish, and i heard several other visitors comment on it as well. inside the penguin exhibit the water tanks looked like they hadn't been cleaned in a while either. then in the insectarium there were several boxes where the live insects had been replaced by taxidermic ones and a couple of boxes with very large insects dead on their backs on the floor. in the Missouri swamp exhibit (the flight cage) there was trash floating in the water and some of the interactive/informational signs were broken. again, overall, the zoo felt understaffed, underfunded, and poorly kept (there was even more litter on the ground than i remember).

3) i was talking to a friend today who knows people who work at the zoo who told him that they are, indeed, understaffed.

i'm getting worried. if the ZMD is so well-funded, why does it seem like some of the component institutions are not being maintained? has anybody else noticed this? am i making it up? perhaps they should focus less on expanding and more on maintenance?

Broken equipment, dirty facilities etc. to me sounds like a management issue. Even if a facility is under-funded it doesn't have to be dirty and ratchet. Further, a dirty science center, I think, means either overuse, mismanagement or both. And no offense, or it could be indicative of someone having high standards i.e. pulling out the white gloves when they visit.

Also, no one said anything about the ZMD being "well funded". I suggested that the ZMD can’t be suffering too badly if ZMD institutions are expanding with exhibits, endowments are up and purchases of property are up etc. But I do agree with the assertion that presentation means a lot. Why expand if you can’t maintain what you have? BUT do we know what are the real issues here?

Last, I've been to Sea Lion Sound and it was awesome. I have been to a number of zoos and St. Louis' still impresses me. By the way, I went to the Primate House, and the monkeys stunk and so did the elephants. Animals stink. They sh*t in water and sh*t in cages. That's what they do. Zoos stink. Seaworld stinks.

Conversely, however, St. Louis (Missouri, too) is notorious for not taking care $hit - especially infrastructure. How long did it take for them to spruce up Lambert after years of decay? Although the feds should help to pay for upgrades, look at the riverfront in its present condition. Remember the worn-down look with tumbleweeds rolling down Washington Avenue? Look at how MetroLink passengers must sometimes ride through a dirty graffiti-ridden, trash-strewn industrial valley on their way to the Grand/SLU station and on to WUMC. Look at how some of the MetroLink platforms are dirty and need upgrades. Metro's bus stop signs are low-budget and embarrassing. Why are some subway tunnels so austere, dirty and trashy? I know we are talking about the ZMD, but I could go on and on about dirty and underwhelming facilities in St. Louis.

Perhaps it does come back to money, but to me, it's more of a menacing apathetic mentality and culture that exists in St. Louis. You can see it in historic photos as well.
My sense of the Science Center is that it's overdue for an update. A dated technology museum is problematic.

In contrast, I feel like our zoo is a top-notch facility at the top of its food chain globally.

As for the region as a whole, I guess I spend most of my time in the central corridor and haven't felt like it was uncared for. Visitors from out of town constantly comment on how clean, green and alive the city feels.
arch city wrote:
urban_dilettante wrote:
so i want to hear people's opinions on a couple of my observations and some hear-say:

1) last year i was in town and visited the Science Center on a random weekday afternoon. the place seemed dirty and poorly kept, the second-floor area where the optical illusion exhibits usually live was completely empty. multiple exhibits were either broken or poorly implemented (for example, there was a projection globe thing on the lower level that was situated in a cubby hole near the dinosaurs with a spotlight shining directly on it so that you couldn't even see the projection, and the rattling coming from a vent next to the Fourier transform exhibit was so loud it was impossible to use the exhibit as intended.) overall it felt dirty, sparse, underfunded and embarrassing.

2) i'm in town again and went to the zoo yesterday to see Sea Lion cove, which was okay but less impressive than i expected. anyway, the pool in front of the penguin exhibit was absolutely filthy and stunk of rotten fish, and i heard several other visitors comment on it as well. inside the penguin exhibit the water tanks looked like they hadn't been cleaned in a while either. then in the insectarium there were several boxes where the live insects had been replaced by taxidermic ones and a couple of boxes with very large insects dead on their backs on the floor. in the Missouri swamp exhibit (the flight cage) there was trash floating in the water and some of the interactive/informational signs were broken. again, overall, the zoo felt understaffed, underfunded, and poorly kept (there was even more litter on the ground than i remember).

3) i was talking to a friend today who knows people who work at the zoo who told him that they are, indeed, understaffed.

i'm getting worried. if the ZMD is so well-funded, why does it seem like some of the component institutions are not being maintained? has anybody else noticed this? am i making it up? perhaps they should focus less on expanding and more on maintenance?

Broken equipment, dirty facilities etc. to me sounds like a management issue. Even if a facility is under-funded it doesn't have to be dirty and ratchet. Further, a dirty science center, I think, means either overuse, mismanagement or both. And no offense, or it could be indicative of someone having high standards i.e. pulling out the white gloves when they visit.

Also, no one said anything about the ZMD being "well funded". I suggested that the ZMD can’t be suffering too badly if ZMD institutions are expanding with exhibits, endowments are up and purchases of property are up etc. But I do agree with the assertion that presentation means a lot. Why expand if you can’t maintain what you have? BUT do we know what are the real issues here?

Last, I've been to Sea Lion Sound and it was awesome. I have been to a number of zoos and St. Louis' still impresses me. By the way, I went to the Primate House, and the monkeys stunk and so did the elephants. Animals stink. They sh*t in water and sh*t in cages. That's what they do. Zoos stink. Seaworld stinks.

Conversely, however, St. Louis (Missouri, too) is notorious for not taking care $hit - especially infrastructure. How long did it take for them to spruce up Lambert after years of decay? Although the feds should help to pay for upgrades, look at the riverfront in its present condition. Remember the worn-down look with tumbleweeds rolling down Washington Avenue? Look at how MetroLink passengers must sometimes ride through a dirty graffiti-ridden, trash-strewn industrial valley on their way to the Grand/SLU station and on to WUMC. Look at how some of the MetroLink platforms are dirty and need upgrades. Metro's bus stop signs are low-budget and embarrassing. Why are some subway tunnels so austere, dirty and trashy? I know we are talking about the ZMD, but I could go on and on about dirty and underwhelming facilities in St. Louis.

Perhaps it does come back to money, but to me, it's more of a menacing apathetic mentality and culture that exists in St. Louis. You can see it in historic photos as well.


I dont disagree with you on the St. Louis area doing a lackluster job maintaining infrastructure and I've recently posted that St. Louis has a serious presentation problem to first time visitors, whether riding a train to the urban core or driving downtown many of our interstates.

One thing I would argue is that this is not a "St. Louis" problem. St. Louis is going to be a little rougher by nature being an industrial city, but the ride coming into the city on Metro is nothing compared to riding the 1 train through the Bronx. In fact, New York City, our country's most wealthy and prestigious city, has some of the most shameful interstates and subways in the country. I think America has just abandoned its public commons in general and the rural agenda is overrepresented on the national and state level.
The funny thing is that many Americans look down on "3rd world countries", but I've met many foreigners that were simply underwhelmed to shocked at the condition of America in general. Many of the biggest infrastructure needs like built out transit systems, modernized railroad infrastructure, new river ports, airport upgrades, maintaining highway infrastructure, pedestrian upgrades, park overhauls, museum modernization, etc. will have to come from increase federal investment. A lot of these things are just TOO big for the local community to burden by itself, I think the local community is just tapped out and if I had control of EW Gateway I would mandate that every interstate get the New I-64 treatment and Metro is fully built out before we build any new freeways out into the exurban hinterlands.
goat314 wrote:
One thing I would argue is that this is not a "St. Louis" problem. St. Louis is going to be a little rougher by nature being an industrial city, but the ride coming into the city on Metro is nothing compared to riding the 1 train through the Bronx. In fact, New York City, our country's most wealthy and prestigious city, has some of the most shameful interstates and subways in the country. I think America has just abandoned its public commons in general and the rural agenda is over-represented on the national and state level.

The funny thing is that many Americans look down on "3rd world countries", but I've met many foreigners that were simply underwhelmed to shocked at the condition of America in general. Many of the biggest infrastructure needs like built out transit systems, modernized railroad infrastructure, new river ports, airport upgrades, maintaining highway infrastructure, pedestrian upgrades, park overhauls, museum modernization, etc. will have to come from increase federal investment. A lot of these things are just TOO big for the local community to burden by itself, I think the local community is just tapped out and if I had control of EW Gateway I would mandate that every interstate get the New I-64 treatment and Metro is fully built out before we build any new freeways out into the exurban hinterlands.

I agree with much of what you have said. I still think, however, if the feds can't or won't do it - and in St. Louis' case - the State of Missouri can't and won't help at times - you must or you lose. Taxes are an evil necessity and if you want to compete - even on a low level - it requires investment.

What I love about Prop P's passage is that St. Louis City and County said, "We are not going to wait for the feds to take care of our needs" as it relates to local greenways, parks, the riverfront, Arch Grounds and Old Courthouse. The same was done with Metro's passage a few years back and the ZMD 40+ years ago.

Create creative funding mechanisms to get stuff done or you lose while waiting on others to give it to you.
Presbyterian wrote:
My sense of the Science Center is that it's overdue for an update. A dated technology museum is problematic.

In contrast, I feel like our zoo is a top-notch facility at the top of its food chain globally.


Agree on both accounts.
My family is prime "Zoo / Science Center" age and we have memberships at both institutions. In the last year we've been to several Zoos & Science Centers in other cities.

IME, our Zoo is the best of the ones I've been to, and every other Zoo had hefty admission charges.

OTOH, StL's Science Center is, IMHO, definitely underwhelming right now. The last time we were there - a month or so ago - many of the exhibits were closed or broken, those that were open were shabby and dirty, the place just has a neglected, past-its-prime feel and that's just sad. We're huge STEM-geeks in our family and have been SLSC members for years, but now the only reason I renew is because of the reciprocal privileges in other cities.
^ I agree on the Science Center, but haven't had a similar experience at the zoo.
My 2 cents:
When I have friends visit STL we always go to the zoo, science center, art museum etc. As 20 something’s with no kids, to a person their fav. of the 3 was the art museum, as it seems to be geared toward adults. However their least favorite was the science center, as it was seemingly 100% geared toward kids (shame because we are all engineer/scientists... could have been interested had they had more mature exhibits) and very dated. For what it’s worth they also loved MoBOT/tower grove.

The zoo came in with favorable, but not rave, reviews. Two groups of friends in particular are from San Diego and Omaha (both those cities take as much if not more pride in their zoos than STL) said their zoo is overall better but they were defiantly impressed considering it is free. Several also noted the ample free street parking (good or bad) and how 'park like' it was. So while I might not like qualifiers... it certainly left a good impression.
tbspqr wrote:
However their least favorite was the science center, as it was seemingly 100% geared toward kids (shame because we are all engineer/scientists... could have been interested had they had more mature exhibits) and very dated. For what it’s worth they also loved MoBOT/tower grove.


IME, even kids find the Science Center kind of boring and dated.
If you want to see a WOW!-kind of Science Center in a similarly-sized city (i.e., not Chicago :wink: ), visit the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. It has a great location (Riverfront) as well as tons of exhibits and activities for kids and adults.
http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/
Met a girl on the plane from Olympia to St. Louis a few months ago and she was from Omaha. I asked her about it and she told me how they have the #1 zoo in the U.S. I said, "Oh, that's funny, so does St. Louis." She seemed shocked that multiple zoos have been labeled "#1."
^ Growing up near Ft. Wayne, they always bragged about having the #1 Children's Zoo in the US. It was just a zoo, but labeling it a Children's Zoo gave them bragging rights.
All I want to know is what Morgan Quitno says :lol:
^ Most dangerous zoo in the US?!?!
^ Our monkeys are pick pockets and our lions are thugs! And when you get back to your car, you'll find it plundered!
PD article on current affairs of Science Center. Thought it answered some of questions out there, gave two sides of the story and left me thinking that the Science center is going where it should have been all along - a museum first and foremost focused on its exhibits instead of paying a lot of vice presidents who couldn't deliver on some interesting ideas/thoughts.

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metr ... 9bd2b.html

I think should give pause to some thought on how best the zoo can go forward with its mission now that it has a sizeable chunk of property across the highway.
Science Center will be moving forward with a permanent Ag Exhibit where the old inflatable area was

http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/a ... d45df.html

Hopefully it will be successful.
Always thought it would be neat if some street grid could be put back in and around the Science Center, add some structured parking to open up all new area instead of that huge surface parking lot- maybe a cool renewable energy with working solar arrays, a working wind turbine and or the science of weather in urban setting from heat island displays to rain water run off to re-use for a urban garden/farm inconjunction with the new ag exhibit.
Always thought it would be neat if some street grid could be put back in and around the Science Center, add some structured parking to open up all new area instead of that huge surface parking lot- maybe a cool renewable energy with working solar arrays, a working wind turbine and or the science of weather in urban setting from heat island displays to rain water run off to re-use for a urban garden/farm inconjunction with the new ag exhibit.


Why not? Have you approached leadership at the Science Center about it? Ameren? SLUH? Alderman Roddy? It sounds like a great idea.

Another reason to be thankful for St. Louis: Ideas like this can happen. Anyone can push things to the front. We are not so huge and self-satisfied that even us little people can make a difference.
Some dirt being moved around at least.

Image

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MOBOT has a couple projects well underway...

The Nursery project in Tower Grove South

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The Museum project

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Hmmm...what's the "Museum Project"? I can't find anything on their website.
Mobot has new photos of their Hardy Plant Nursery on their twitter page:

https://twitter.com/mobotgarden/status/ ... 4703455232