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PD's Sylvester Brown Jr. on Joe Edwards

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  • PD's Sylvester Brown Jr. on Joe Edwards

    IMO, Joe Edwards deserves St. Louis' man of the last quarter decade.

    I had a chance to chat with him at Blueberry Hill back in the late 80's. He told me about how bad the U-City loop had become before he took a chance on locating his establishment on Delmar. He then told me about his vision for Demar east of Skinker. To be honest with you, when he said that, I though he'd been keeping company with his liquor stock. Anyway, if more of the "power brokers" in the local area shared this man's vision for this area, St. Louis would be a top rated area for all people.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Story of Delmar is a bit like my brother Sonnyboy's
    By Sylvester Brown Jr.
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    08/30/2005


    THERE'S A MYSTERY in my family that I doubt will ever be resolved.

    I inherited my name from my father, Sylvester Brown Sr., but my younger brother, Reginald, 45, was given his nickname. Everyone called my dad "Sonny." When Reginald was born, my mother and father simply called him "Sonnyboy."

    What's unusual is that Sonnyboy turned out to be the spitting image of my father - same wiry frame, same height, same nose, same smile.

    How did my mother know Reginald would look so much like his dad?


    Before she passed away in 2003, Mama gave me a strange answer to this mystery.

    She "had a feeling" and just followed her instincts, she said

    I thought about Sonnyboy as I drove down Delmar Boulevard, east of Skinker Boulevard, Monday. For a brief time, my family lived in the Cabanne Courts Apartments near Delmar. The area was notorious for crime and drug activity. A lot of that chaos poured onto Delmar. As teenagers, Sonnyboy and I spent a lot of time dodging the chaos that had dominated the area for almost 30 years.

    But driving around Monday, I barely recognized the Delmar of my youth. New office space, galleries and eclectic retail shops line the street. The neighborhood is buzzing with the news of new condominiums, a boutique hotel, restaurants and a commercial district on Delmar stretching from Skinker to DeBaliviere Avenue.

    I felt optimistic four years ago after University City entrepreneur Joe Edwards opened the Pageant concert hall, a half block east of Skinker on Delmar. But it was hard to imagine people venturing too far past that venue, where dilapidated buildings littered the rest of Delmar.

    Who knew? Who saw beyond the decline and imagined the rebirth on Delmar East?

    The obvious answer is Edwards - the man who kicked off the Loop's renaissance in 1972 after he and his wife, Kathy, borrowed $10,500 and opened Blueberry Hill, their nostalgic restaurant in the Loop.

    Can Edwards be the lone visionary behind the progression snaking eastward on Delmar?

    I spotted Gloria Montano, the former owner of Happy Taco, a long-shuttered business at 5917 Delmar. She was walking her dog, a skinny, brown and white whippet terrier, near the Pageant. I called out to her.

    Montano still owns and leases the building. In 30 days, it will be the home of The Lifestyle Cafe, she told me.

    What's behind the redevelopment on east Delmar? I asked Montano.

    "It's the people's vision, but it took Joe to push it further," she answered.

    Several people along Delmar offered similar praise. John Jaouni, the owner of Pete's Shur Sav, at Hodiamont Avenue and Delmar, gives Edwards credit for bringing residents and developers together.

    "You now see people working together like this," Jaouni said linking two fingers together.

    Edwards appreciates the compliments but humbly shares credit with others - the mayors of University City and St. Louis, aldermen, developers, universities in the neighborhood, business owners and, of course, residents.

    Edwards doesn't play down his role as a visionary, however. He took risks - lots of risks. Bankers turned him down nine times before approving a loan for the Pageant, he told me. But slow development hasn't been a bad thing, Edwards said. It's given the area a chance to develop in its own unique and eclectic way.

    "Diversity" is a key factor behind Edwards' vision. After 25 years, he still loves to watch people - old, young, Asian, Hispanic, black, white, rich and not-so-rich mingling, working, talking, eating and singing along both sides of Skinker on Delmar.

    "It's marvelous watching the parade of mixed America."

    I had to chuckle after Edwards described how he knew Delmar East would someday look like Delmar West. His reply reminded me of something a woman who named her baby "Sonnyboy" told me years ago.

    "I just followed my instincts," he said.
    Make America Great For Once.

  • #2
    Thanks for posting this, Kev. I got to hang with him for a while after the Spinks fight (the post party was at the pageant) and he is a really nice guy. Talked about how it was key to get the motorcycle gangs out, stuff like that.

    The loop is a great, great place...I think Grand Center needs to hire Joe as a consultant.
    Are you on the list?

    Comment


    • #3
      Don't get down there much anymore but back in the early 90s I was doing some work for Wash U and used to hang out down in the Loop all the time.

      Good to see folks like Edwards getting recognition.

      I like to tease SLUEY about trolleys and flood plain developments near my home but I would love to see downtown make the same type of comeback.
      Go Cards ...12 in 13.


      Comment


      • #4
        Joe should be asked for input in many areas on St. Louis city.
        Make America Great For Once.

        Comment


        • #5
          Wow,

          Sly Brown actually wrote something positive about St. Louis for once.

          Comment


          • #6
            Wow,

            Sly Brown actually wrote something positive about St. Louis for once.
            To boot:

            Joe is white.

            Unprecedented stuff.

            In a previous life, Brown would have had a tough time saying anything nice about Abe Lincoln.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by The Skeptic@Aug 31 2005, 09:30 PM
              Wow,

              Sly Brown actually wrote something positive about St. Louis for once.
              To boot:

              Joe is white.

              Unprecedented stuff.

              In a previous life, Brown would have had a tough time saying anything nice about Abe Lincoln.

              That's why I was shocked. Just about everything he writes has some racist spin to it.

              Comment


              • #8
                That's why I was shocked. Just about everything he writes has some racist spin to it.
                Stay tuned. :P

                Comment


                • #9
                  Guys,

                  I'd rathetr focus on the subject of the article, not the author.
                  Make America Great For Once.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It's great to see things like this, whether it's The Loop or the improving downtown.

                    I've been here all my life and all I used to hear was talk. Now we're finally seeing some action.
                    RIP Chris Jones 1971-2009
                    You'll never be forgotten.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'd rathetr focus on the subject of the article, not the author.
                      Fair enough.

                      But it's hard to see his byline and not put up a defensive position, after so much racist tripe.

                      It's expected.

                      At least as I see it.

                      This article was a welcome departure.

                      Actually, if you want to call me on some of his more recent articles, maybe he's turned a corner.

                      I hope so.

                      It got so bad at one point, that I only would read the first paragraph of his columns.

                      Everything afterward was SS...DD.

                      Comment

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