Sunday, August 21, 2005

Changing Cityscape

Slowly the city changes before our eyes. Houses topple, bridges fall, the old ways disappear, as if they never were.

In Rome, a modern subway stops across the street from the Colleisum, a tribute to the city's ancient past. But here fewer and fewer architecural reminders survive "economic redevelopment" and the urban planners' bulldozer mentality.

As people flee the core of the city for the outer suburbs, they have left their fading memories, too, of the forgotten places they once knew.

More often than not these changes limit rather than expand our world view, constricting our movements by implicitly proscribing old routes, pushing people into an ever-tightening grid.

For the cabbies, and the coppers and the nighthawks and all those who hold to the alternate ways in the city, these changes are sad passings.

A little-known road still snakes through the railyards east of Vandeventer and Tower Grove on the near Southside. It passes warehouses and factories, some shuttered. With the moon shining down on the silvery rails on a warm August night, the meandering path transports its solitary travelers through the industrial underbelly of the city. The route used to lead up to the intersection of Spring and Chouteau, but it is now a dead end due to the razing of the century-old Chouteau Avenue viaduct.

At the terminus of this new cul de sac, sit idle cranes and tractors amid the concrete ruins. When the new bridge is completed in a few years, I have no doubt that public access to the old way will be cut off.