I grew up in University City, Mo., a municipality due west of St. Louis. Its roots date to the turn of the 20th century. Today about 35,000 people call it home. It has undergone a lot of changes over the years, but during that time the Loop area has remained the community’s heart and soul. One can find former synagogues converted to cultural facilities, beautiful stone churches, my now-abandonned elementary school, eateries, shops, the world-famous Blueberry Hill club and restaurant, and the St. Louis Walk of Fame–stars with the names of famous St. Louis area residents cast into the cement.
University City also is home to a good chunk of one of the nation’s wealthiest private universities, Washington University in St. Louis, with assets valued at more than $9 billion. As a 501(c)(3) corporation or non-profit, the school pays no property taxes to University City, and is engaged in a development strategy to acquire and develop property in University City and the surrounding area. Washington University recently completed a beautiful student housing facility and store in the heart of the Loop that provides a strong anchor of stability. This also has created friction in the past. The school remains the bedrock that provides the wealth to the area, and which draws many people who want to live and settle in the community. It is the penultimate golden goose that makes the place a beacon to the world.
Finally, University City is home to many houses of worship, including Bethel Lutheran Church, where I attended with my family until I was 18 years old. This church is famous because of its role in a divisive controversy that split faculty at the nearby Concordia Seminary, pitting conservatives against progressives and leading to the departure of faculty that were in the Bethel circle. Today it is an ELCA Lutheran church, and I always have great affection for the beautiful building and the good people who I got to know there.
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