Urban developer’s campaign pokes fun at Chesterfield
By: Carol Enright
An urban developer trying to woo homebuyers to the city with a marketing campaign that takes a shot at Chesterfield is hoping the flagship suburb can take a joke. UIC (Urban Improvement Company), a developer in St. Louis’ Botanical Heights neighborhood, recently began distributing bumper stickers and bar coasters emblazoned with the slogan, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Live in Chesterfield.”
“We figured they had a better sense of humor than their surrounding suburbs,” said Brent Crittenden, UIC’s managing principal.
Crittenden called the campaign “tongue-in-cheek” and said it was primarily designed to attract buyers in the city.
“We weren’t gearing it to attract people from Chesterfield to move here,” said Crittenden.
That would be a tough sell, according to Pat Sullivan, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of St. Louis & Eastern Missouri.
“The urban builder running this campaign knows that he has a harder sell than does Chesterfield,” said Sullivan. “He needs to make some noise, call some attention, in whatever ways he can, to what he is selling. And what he is selling will have a strong appeal to a segment of the buying public.”
But Sullivan called people looking to buy in the city and those looking in Chesterfield “two different markets.”
“Very few buyers are choosing between Chesterfield and the city of St. Louis,” he said.
UIC’s Chris Hulse, who grew up in Wildwood near Chesterfield, had a lot of praise for his former stomping ground. Ironically, it was an offhand comment by Hulse that led to the “Friends Don’t Let Friends…” campaign.
“We figured Chesterfield was the nicest suburb in St. Louis – and they could take it,” said Hulse.
It seems that UIC figured right.
“Frankly, it’s given me a chance to talk about all the things that are going on in Chesterfield,” said Chesterfield Mayor Bruce Geiger.
Geiger praised UIC for a successful marketing campaign and said he didn’t believe many residents would take offense.
“The people love it out here, and they’re more than happy to take little jabs like that,” said Geiger.
Crittenden and Hulse said the campaign wasn’t aimed at Chesterfield, but designed to promote the growth of sustainable, walkable, vibrant, urban neighborhoods. But Sullivan said the argument that city living is more walkable and sustainable has weakened.
“Look at the new Wildwood downtown area, or New Town in the city of St. Charles. These communities are very walkable and sustainable, and they have much more green space near them than do older, inner-urban, walkable communities,” said Sullivan.
Geiger said that Chesterfield has become much more walkable through the growth in its trail system – including the Monarch-Chesterfield Levee trail and the Riparian Trail – which includes eventual plans to connect to the Katy Trail. He also referred to the city’s plans for developing a downtown Chesterfield north of the Chesterfield Amphitheater between Burkhardt Place and Wild Horse Creek Road. Geiger said development of this “urban core” – which has been zoned for a million square feet of residential, retail, commercial and dining – has been stalled due to the poor economy.
Recently, West Newsmagazine (“West County remains ‘in demand’,” 7/18/12) cited Census data showing growth in the nation’s major cities for the first time in more than nine decades. However, as the article pointed out, this national trend has done nothing to slow the growth in western suburbs such as Chesterfield, Wildwood and Eureka, which all experienced significant population growth in the last decade.
Crittenden said he believes a strong urban core is good for the entire region and sees easier travel as a way to “break down the barriers” between the city and the suburbs.
“I would like to see a better effort to strengthen regional mobility, especially through Metrolink,” said Crittenden.
Hulse said the developer supports the concept of a “unified, regional government.”
“We should all be rowing in the same direction,” he said.
What would he say to those Chesterfield residents who take offense at UIC’s dig at Chesterfield?
“Lighten up,” said Hulse.