An architect’s rendering of proposed changes to Manchester Road, which runs through Ballwin, Ellisville, and Wildwood, MO. Photo via MODOT.
Ellisville, MO has a chance to turn a busy and dangerous roadway into a community asset for economic investment, and Council Member Cindy Pool, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is helping the city do just that.
Located 18 miles directly west of St. Louis, Ellisville is a suburban community of about 9,100 residents. “The people are what makes this town so special,” says Council Member Pool. “Our residents are educated, involved, and have developed a real sense of community because we are so small.”
Manchester Road is one of Ellisville’s largest thoroughfares, with up to 50,000 cars driving along it each day. Despite this, the road is home to a number of vacant and underutilized buildings. Many community leaders and residents believe the road’s design, which discourages pedestrian and bicycle travel and generally lacks community character, is partially responsible for businesses choosing to locate elsewhere.
To remedy the problem, Ellisville hopes to transform its city center, located at the intersection of Manchester Road and Clarkson Road, into a traditional small town square. The centrally located square would serve as a commercial, recreational, and municipal hub that would create a greater sense of community character.
“This project may be a game changer,” Council Member Pool says. She envisions a communal outdoor space at the town square for all residents to enjoy. The region is known for its vibrant music scene, which includes jazz, country and blues, and Pool believes an outdoor music space would incorporate that sense of local identity and draw residents to the town center. “Our music scene appeals to every generation and we could have that music bring the city together through a renewed sense of place,” she says. “We already have a successful amphitheater, but bringing it to a town square setting would make these events more accessible.”
Pool hopes the project will also attract the right type private development needed to transform Ellisville into a truly unique destination. “Just getting the revenue isn’t enough,” she says. “We have to have the right development coming in if we want this to work and be sustainable.”
To achieve these goals, Ellisville partnered with neighbor cities Ballwin and Wildwood as well as the West St. Louis County Chamber of Commerce to rethink Manchester Road. The group’s Manchester Road Great Streets Project aims to “trigger economic and social benefits by centering communities around interesting, lively and attractive streets that serve all modes of transportation.” The project eventually won funding from the Missouri Department of Transportation, which will add medians, improve sidewalks, create left turn lanes, create better signage along the road, and extend a multi-use trail on Manchester Road.
Ellisville’s plans are on a smaller scale than those in some large cities, but Pool points out that being a part of a smaller community carries advantages for bringing about transformative change. “If everyone is on board, you can get things done extremely quickly,” Pool says. “And that’s what is really wonderful about the small suburbs.”
The Manchester Road Project is a collaboration of many municipalities and interest groups, proving that many smaller communities can come together to enact larger change. Council Member Pool is hopeful that the Great Streets Project will help to spur sustainable development in Ellisville.
Council Member Pool is one of many local elected officials making their communities more vibrant through smart growth initiatives. Read more stories like this in our Local Leaders Council archives.