Great place to live in St Louis?
April 18, 2007 10:58 AM   Subscribe

I’ve accepted a new job in St Louis and am moving up with the family from the Florida panhandle this summer. Are there any recommendations for good neighborhoods?

Our stats: both 40 with a 12yo boy; I’ll be working in the SE part of town (on South 2nd street). I found a post about a year ago on the subject talking about “McHouses in the suburbs”. While we don’t want a cookie-cutter development, we are both used to living in smaller towns and don’t want to live directly in the city. Definitely want a house with some kind of yard for kid(s)/pets. Since property went through the roof in Florida (and elsewhere), we have a decent amount to work with - $200k to $270k range. As I’ll be working near the river, is living in Illinois an option - any tax advantages there? I’ve already heard about not living near I-40. We were looking in the St Charles area until my new boss said it will take over an hour to get to work from there. I have yet to visit St Louis and am trying to get as much info as possible before a house-hunting trip. Do a house search for our criteria in our town – get about 50 hits. Do a search in the St Louis area – get over 1,000 hits! It’s a little over-whelming. Thanks in advance!
posted by JimBobNoPants to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You may be interested in this article from yesterday's New York Times.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:30 AM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you'll be commuting into the city every day, South County may be the area that will give you the least headaches on your drive in. Highways 40 and 70 into downtown are nightmares, but 44 and 55 aren't quite as bad. Check out the Sunset Hills, Crestwood, and unincorporated South County areas.

If your office is close enough that you can take the light rail (metrolink) into work everyday, you might consider looking along that line, but houses tend to be pretty pricey in the Clayton area. The Shrewsbury area might be an option too, with the new line opening up.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:34 AM on April 18, 2007

I would call a real estate agent. St. Louis is huge and spread out, with some very good neighborhoods and some really scary ones (along with gentrifying and declining areas) and it is going to be hard to figure out which is which online.
posted by LarryC at 11:53 AM on April 18, 2007

Disclaimer: I live in South St. Louis City and think that parts of it would fit your description, especially St. Louis Hills, but I'll get on to answering the question at hand.

St Charles, Chesterfield, Ballwin, Ellisville, Creve Coeur, O'Fallon, Des Peres, and Manchester are nothing but soulless, whitebread, strip mall big box and chain restaurant McMansionvilles. For the worst of it, Google 'Winghaven O'Fallon' or 'New Town St. Charles'. Winghaven probably deserves its own FPP over how bizarro Stepford it is.

Your best bet if you don't want to live in the city proper but have a decent, mostly hassle free commute downtown (and south 2nd is downtown, not the south part of town) would be South County. It's easily accessible, hasn't gone the way of West County pretension or prices, your neighbors are normal, and it still has neighborhoods and locally owned shops and restaurants. Shrewsbury, Affton, Crestwood and Sappington are the burbs I would personally recommend. The roads you can start looking at to orient yourself a bit are Gravois, Tesson Ferry, Watson, Weber, Heege, McKenzie, Rock Hill, Sappington, Lindbergh, and Reavis Barracks. 44 and 55 are very easy commutes to downtown. 40 is a massively cocked up mess and it's going to be going under years long construction starting like yesterday. Avoid if you can.

Illinois is at best, ok. It's more expensive to live over there. Property tax, rent, gas, beer, cigarettes are all more expensive in Illinois. Also, you would have to cross the Poplar St. Bridge everyday. Blah.

Here is a most awesome local forum that is split by geographic area. This could probably give you a ton of insight about living here.
posted by pieoverdone at 12:02 PM on April 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

WEbster Groves is a nice area not too far from the city with access to 44. I never lived outside the city proper when I lived in the Lou, but I always thought Webster had some class (and a small college with a nationally known rep theater).

In general, a whole lot of people are moving as physically far away from the city core as they can (most dangerous city in America and all that), so don't get sucked into moving farther out than you really need to.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:23 PM on April 18, 2007

Congratulations on your new job. I grew up in St. Louis and went to graduate school there; it's a very livable city.

Your question gives some hints at what you are looking for, but without more information it may be difficult to offer concrete suggestions. St. Louis has a reputation of being both segregated and divided into good and bad areas, though there are a number of neighborhoods where diversity is a respected and valued part of their character. Unfortunately, those neighborhoods often border areas that are higher in crime or are generally less safe than the suburbs. Definitely spend time in the neighborhood you are looking at before you buy, and drive around the surrounding areas, too. In some areas, there may be 2 streets that are beautiful and prosperous surrounded by 4 that are sketchy.

In graduate school, my wife and I lived in University City, which is very near the city but is a very pretty and generally calm area. We loved it. It is diverse and vibrant, with a number of old, pretty houses. Like I mention above, there are pockets in and around U. City that are not good. The schools in U. City are not great (though not terrible, either), so if public school is your plan that may not be the best option.

Clayton is near U. City, with good schools and a very nice downtown area with restaurants and shopping, but for your money you won't get a whole lot there. Homes range from old to brand new there; a recent trend has been for rich folks to buy an old house on a decent-sized lot, tear it down, and put a mini-mansion in its place.

I grew up in South County (south of 255, east of 55; 63128 and 63129 zip codes) and that area is very suburban, quiet, and safe. It's also a bit homogenous, for whatever that's worth. Most developments around there were built in the late 1970s or later, with a decent variety of prices/house sizes. It was a nice enough place to grow up, and my parents thought nothing of letting us roam around the neighborhood/walk to school by ourselves. I'd think that still holds true. On my last visit back, it was interesting to see that a new wave of young parents was moving in to my old neighborhood, replacing the baby boomers who filled our street with kids in the late 1970s.

One thing you will probably find upon your move is how small St. Louis really is. People love to bemoan the decrease in population of St. Louis - see HotPatatta's link above - but that is for the city of St. Louis, which is comparatively small, and which has seen large parts of the north side of the city wrecked by crime and mass exodus. Part of that decrease is affordable, safe, close housing options in the suburbs. From U. City or Clayton, a trip downtown shouldn't take longer than 25 minutes or so. From the 63129 zip code, it's a quick jaunt up interstate 55, probably 20 minutes.

I'm sure you will get many responses to your question - St. Louisans love to talk about their city - but if you have more specific questions my e-mail is in my profile.
posted by AgentRocket at 12:28 PM on April 18, 2007

(most dangerous city in America and all that),

Which is actually a load of crap. This is basically how it breaks down.

The North Side = Detroit Jr. If we could carpet bomb the North Side, we'd never be anywhere near the most dangerous city in America.

The South Side = Where the nice normal people live.

Downtown = The DMZ

The North/South dividing line is this 2 block area between Washington and Delmar which starts at 4th and goes all the way to Kingshighway.
posted by pieoverdone at 12:31 PM on April 18, 2007

I grew up in Lebanon, IL. It's about a half-hour commute from Downtown, and it is a nice place to raise a family. While there are lots of cookie cutter subdivisions popping up all over the Metro East, there are still plenty of older homes with lots of "charm" and history in quite a few of the smaller towns in that area.

I now live in South City and am liking it, although I am starting to miss having a big yard and seeing the stars.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:45 PM on April 18, 2007

As a student, I lived in both Webster Groves and Kirkwood. Both neighborhoods made me feel very safe. There are lots of tree's and quirky restaurants and shops in both. They also are very close to the highway. Good luck! St. Louis is much colder than Florida! (Trust me- I moved their from Georgia.)
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:43 PM on April 18, 2007

I live in Crestwood and I love the area. I am going to miss it because we recently put our house up for sale to move out of state.

Crestwood has very low taxes and a wonderful aquatic center and lots of community events - plant swaps, Easter egg hunts, community theater, fishing at the old quarry, etc. It's also next to Grant's Trail which is an awesome rails-to-trails conversion --It goes past Grant's Farm where the Budweiser clydesdales live.

Crestwood is very convenient to Highway 44 - your commute would be about 15 minutes. It's also in the Lindbergh School district, which is one of the top 5 school districts in the region.

Crestwood is also convenient to the wonderful Laumeier Sculpture Park and the Powder Valley Nature Center. Lone Elk Park as well as the World Bird Sanctuary are located about 15 minutes west on 44 and they are great, free places to go.

I could keep rambling on, but you get the idea. Hope this helps! Welcome to St. Louis!
posted by Ostara at 2:15 PM on April 18, 2007

Another nod for Kirkwood and Webster. The schools are good and it offers the relative safety and affordability of suburbia/utopia but with ample character and charm.
posted by drinkspiller at 2:49 PM on April 18, 2007

nthing webster groves, clayton, and university city. one caveat about u. city: i would avoid the area between delmar and washington university. it's almost entirely populated by undergrads. east of skinker and west of big bend, it gets better.
posted by thinkingwoman at 2:58 PM on April 18, 2007

Which is actually a load of crap. This is basically how it breaks down.

The North Side = Detroit Jr. If we could carpet bomb the North Side, we'd never be anywhere near the most dangerous city in America.

The North Side is a part of the city, however, just as East St. Louis is a part of the area.

What the OP will find is that for your average non-black person living in St. Louis, nothing North of Delmar exists (with a few blocks of U City excepted). But since you can't carpet-bomb the North Side, you should be aware of its existance.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:02 PM on April 18, 2007

Webster, Kirkwood, Sunset Hills, and Crestwood if you want to live outside the city. These are all great areas that I'd move to in a heartbeat.

St. Louis Hills (South St. Louis) if you don't mind the city. Personally, when I move back there (2012) I'm going right back to good ole' South St. Louis (63109). Beer/cardinals/south side rednecks/Ted Drewes is my lifeblood and I miss the hell out of it.

I lived in South St. Louis for 25 years and I've been to North St. Louis about 3 times total. If we could go ahead and schedule that carpet-bombing, I'm all for it.

What the OP will find is that for your average non-black person living in St. Louis, nothing North of Delmar exists

Absolutely true.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 3:47 PM on April 18, 2007

Don't live Downtown.
Don't live in the North.
Don't live in the South.

DO NOT live anywhere that requires you to cross a river, such as Illinois or St. Charles.

Central West End: Beautiful houses (maybe out of your price range) nice yards, good resturaunts and shops. Centrally located, easy to get downtown without using a highway. Plan on private school.

University City: Affordable, some nice areas, some nasty areas. Near the loop is going to be crazy on the weekends, but the best coffee shop in the state, Meshuggah, is right there. School district is a war zone; plan on private school.

Richmond Heights: A well-kept secret. Nice area, great houses, good yards, centrally located, etc. Terrible but relatively violence-free school district. Plan on private school.

Maplewood: AKA Maplehood. You can get a good deal on houses, but don't plan on the cops responding quickly. Same schools as Richmond Heights.

Clayton/Ladue: Rich fuckers. Beautiful expensive houses. Expensive grocery stores. Excellent schools.

Webster Groves/Kirkwood: North of 44 is decent. I wouldn't live south of it.

Normandy/Charlack/Jennings: Don't stop your car.

Florissant: Poor white people. Checkerboard. You could live there. Dunno about the schools.

Creve Coeur/Chesterfield: This is where all the Jews who used to live in U-City moved to when they had kids. Decent enough schools. All newer houses, smaller yards. No soul at all. There are some resturaunts if you know where to look.

Bridgeton/Maryland Heights: Checkerboard between lower/middle/and upper middle class. The cops are assholes. Dunno about the schools. Not a lot going on. There are two waffle houses though. And a rollerskating rink.

I wouldn't live north of 70 or south of 44. Don't listen to people whining about traffic. Traffic in St. Louis moves at 30 mph. Well, some days it's worse. There's some construction on 40/64 going into the city that makes it shitty, but, despite what the people who live there will tell you, there are lots of useful surface streets. Don't fear 40.

You want to see traffic? Move to Seattle.
posted by jeffamaphone at 4:49 PM on April 18, 2007

Note: When I said Meshuggah was the best coffee house in the state, I forgot about Osama's in Columbia, Mo. I'm gonna say it's a tie.
posted by jeffamaphone at 4:50 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't live south of 44

I can't imagine why you'd say that - have you ever even been there?

It universally agreed that much of the north side of STL is not a pleasant place, but the south side is actually a pretty good place to live. It's not hip and trendy like U-City, but the same goes for most of St. Louis.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:46 PM on April 18, 2007

another vote for webster groves area. never lived in st louis, but i have a lot of family there that lived all over, and i spent a lot of time there.
posted by lester at 7:07 PM on April 18, 2007

I'll second Webster Groves (college town / suburb - decent mix) or kirkwood if you don't want to live in the city. In the city, St. Louis Hills, clifton heights, The Hill, lafayette or CWE are nicer and more interesting than anywhere in the county - but with a 12 year old, you'll have to send them to private school. Anywhere along 44 from Webster to the Fenton is great. Traffic is not a problem from the east side of fenton on in. $200-270k can buy you plenty of house in St. Louis. That's the only reason I moved here.
South County has nice parts too - but it's a little more hoosier. So depends on your cultural preferences.
posted by muddylemon at 9:51 PM on April 18, 2007

As someone who grew up in the Chesterfield/Clarkson Valley area, I highly recommend against it. The yards weren't so small, and having highly wooded areas behind my house was fun for a bit. But, as a kid, I hated not being able to go anywhere without a car of some kind. When you live in St. Louis, you drive everywhere, and for a kid, that sucks. My parents grew up in Webster Groves and Kirkwood, and I wish I could have walked around like they did, to the comic store, to Mel Bay's, to get ice cream, whatever. Basically, for your kid's sake, stay out of West County.

Also, taking 40 (I-64) into the city everyday in the summer to get to work was horrid. Part of me loves the area, and part of me resents it powerfully.

nthing all the things said about North St. Louis. I've had big, tough, fearless men say they're scared of North St. Louis.

Living in St. Charles will make your commute longer, but that's all I can comment about there.

Webster, Kirkwood, and U-city seem like great places for you. But, again, stay out of West County. Good luck with your job!
posted by gc at 6:22 AM on April 19, 2007

Also, for the next three years Highway 40 will be a living hell as they're beginning construction tonight (Tamm avenue bridge should've gone boom about two hours ago.)
posted by muddylemon at 10:02 PM on April 19, 2007

whoops, wrong day - tomorrow night at 10:30 it's imploding.
posted by muddylemon at 10:03 PM on April 19, 2007

I've been south of 44. Not my cup of tea. If I moved back I'd be in the CWE or Richmond Heights. Or the U-City-side of Clayton, if I could afford it.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:47 PM on April 22, 2007

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