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Downtown St. Louis

Downtown guide Michelle M. Cheli provides information to a tourist on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011. Guides provide a range of services to workers and visitors in the downtown area, from giving directions and information to escorting pedestrians to parking lots and residences. Photo by Johnny Andrews | jandrews@post-dispatch.com

Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis is among this year's 10 Great Streets as determined by the American Planning Association.

The designation, made public today, comes four years after the Washington, D.C.-based planning group named the Loop's Delmar Boulevard as one of the Great Streets of 2007.

Great Streets is part of the APA's Great Places in America program.

The group cited Washington Avenue for its industrial architecture, mix of land uses and lively atmosphere. As the APA announcement puts it, "Its warehouses left abandoned as garment-industry jobs moved elsewhere, Washington Avenue has reemerged as one of St. Louis' favorite spots for walking the dog, meeting for lunch, or enjoying a night out with friends."

In addtion, the group refers to Washington Avenue as "a virtual museum of late-19th and early-20th century warehouse architecture, clad in brick, stone and terra cotta."

"The view west, from the foot of the Eads Bridge, is of an urban canyon lined with showcase buildings," the APA says.

Efforts to redo empty Washington Avenue warehouses as lofts didn't get far until Missouri began granting historic preservation tax credits that made such projects financially feasible. The APA said that, as a result, more than $100 million in Washington Avenue investment soon began.

True, Washington Avenue has come a long way. Viewing the work done over the last decade heightens the awareness that several notable buildings were demolished before the area became a residential, office and restaurant district.

The nine other APA 2011 Great Streets are Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, Calif.; U Street N.W. in Washington, DC; Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii; Main Street in Galena, Ill.; Main Street in Nantucket, Mass.; Market Street and Market Square in Portsmouth, N.H.; Downtown Woodstock Streetscape in Woodstock, Vt.; King Street in Alexandria, Va., and Davis Street, Culpeper, Va.

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Tim Bryant is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.