Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 3.25.20

Your average St. Louisan may know the Cortex tech district only by Ikea. But in these parts, most everything high-tech except rocket surgery happens. It’s a pretty big deal, and getting bigger. By late 2023, more than 900 neuroscientists and staff will have relocated to a $616 million, 609,000-square-foot, 11-story neuroscience complex that WashU is erecting at Duncan and South Newstead avenues. Chancellor Andrew Martin says the project will add to the university’s contributions to global understanding of everything from disorders such as Alzheimer’s and cerebral palsy to brain development and neuron-to-neuron communication.

The building, which will command nearly an entire city block, will extend WashU’s medical campus eastward, to the western edge of the Cortex Innovation Community, a major biotech R&D hub for technology and biological science. The project includes an 1,800-space parking garage, event space and a food service area. But why so expensive? Laboratories will need sophisticated, precise and dependable air-handling equipment.

u. city
My mother called me a ‘lazy feeder.’ That really bugged me as an adult. Yes, I’d stave off hunger with a couple of bowls of cereal and/or pieces of toast after school. (Never anything like a Snickers or Hershey’s; nothing from the Hostess bakery ever. OK. I hear the teeny-tiny violin.) These days, my wife Cate and I can be lazy feeders when it comes to lunch or dinner. A few guilty pleasures? Dewey’s Pizza, The Pasta House and Lulu’s, where take out has always been just fine. Let me point out that we’re regular grocery shoppers and have had no trouble so far stocking up at Schnucks—save TP and cleaning supplies. So we cook, make sandwiches, and eat cereal and toast. But just as often, we’ve relied on beloved U. City eateries. Monday of last week, all ‘our’ restaurants were open as normal, as was Salt + Smoke in the Delmar Loop. We were surprised and delighted. But like so much we’ve taken for granted, that changed overnight. Even getting takeout may become too risky. For now, our most prudent choices will be in the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets. You know, never in my life could I have imagined paying for home delivery of groceries or pharmaceuticals. But it may be time to start thinking about that.

the metro
I’ve never felt so lucky to own two rolls of paper towels—but, OMG! We’re almost out of Campbell’s soup! OK, enough about the luxury problems of our household. Yes, every half hour brings more impossible news to digest about COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. Still, we must continue to be grateful for what we do have: each other. ‘Sheltering in place’ need not mean isolation. We need more than ever to reach out—by phone, or virtually (maybe millennials have the right idea), via ‘anti’-social media: no hugs or handshakes for the foreseeable future. Against this backdrop, of course, there are true heroes. First responders go beyond our police, firefighters and EMTs to include any health care professional, from ER doctors, nurses and respiratory specialists to telephone operators, food service workers and maintenance staff. But there are untold other heroes, some with deep pockets, others with scarcely two nickels to rub together. For instance:
» The Redbirds joined all other 29 MLB teams to each pledge $1 million toward a fund for game-day employees who will be idled due to a suspended season; it isn’t clear whether vendors may be included, but minor-leaguers will receive their per diem.
» To funnel resources to those most in need, the St. Louis Community Foundation has launched a Regional Response Fund. Regardless of how well off you are, an untold number of your neighbors need a little or a lot of your financial help right now:
» Clayton-based Varsity Tutors has launched free online classes for grades K-12. Visit
» With a $100,000 donation from a season ticket holder, St. Louis Blues players have started a fund to support employees who would have worked at Enterprise Center on game nights.
» Schnucks stores have reserved the opening hour, 6 to 7 a.m., for customers 60 and older who may be most susceptible to infection. Seniors have the same opportunity at Dierbergs, 8 to 9 a.m.
» Ameren and Spire, our electric and gas providers, have suspended all business and residential disconnections and late fees for non-payment.
» In the StL, parking tickets and evictions have been suspended.

For the duration of this crisis, we all must live life in installments even shorter than one day at a time. It is surreal but heartening to see attempts to grab this bull by the horns, not the least of which are the coronavirus sample-collection sites popping up throughout the metro. It’s important to point out that these are not testing locations, but spots where people who have been screened by phone can have a swab sample taken, whereupon it is sent to a state or private lab for testing. At the time of writing, BJC HealthCare had opened its first collection center in the Cortex corridor and planned to have two more operating last week. SSM Health was slated to have had five sites open by now, the first in St. Charles and two others later last week, plus two more this week. A drive-through sample-collection site at Mercy’s Virtual Care Center in Chesterfield has been up and running since the weekend before last.

Health care officials say results may be available within five days or fewer. At this writing, only a few dozen people had been processed outside the Mercy ‘telehealth’ center, which does not typically deal with patients in person. Anyone who thinks they need Mercy’s service must first be screened via telephone: 314.251.0500, 24/7. Criteria include a temp of at least 100.4 F, a dry cough or shortness of breath, and recent travel to a high-risk area or contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Participants then are expected to self-quarantine until test results are known. At press time, Mercy was scheduled to open a test collection site in South St. Louis County today (March 25), and SSM had not released its locations. Help with pre-screening may be available at Your primary care physician also may refer you.

SSM and Mercy services are free of charge, irrespective of insurance, and BJC is treating COVID-19 like any other medical condition but has resources for financial assistance. For any questions, call the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services at 877.435.8411.

notable neighbors: downtown
Around the turn of the 21st century, Mike LaMartina was wearing red as a member of the Kirkwood Pioneers baseball team. And although his playing days are over, his career has just begun. Red is still his color, though, as in the Redbirds. And for most kids born and raised in St. Louis, what LaMartina does for a living may turn them green with envy. No, he doesn’t suit up in a Cardinals uniform every spring for batting or pitching practice. But even without a ball, bat or glove, he has a big role as chief revenue officer of Ballpark Village.

“There’s a lot of excitement in what I do, being home where my roots are,” he admits. Like everyone else, LaMartina, 38, laments the “unprecedented, uncertain times” we all face. As a permanent citizen of Cardinals Nation himself, he feels just as keenly our collective loss of America’s pastime—temporarily, to be sure; for how long, no one knows. The great unknown? That’s a large part of what makes the sport so thrilling … and so damn frustrating. Lifelong fans have lived or died on one play: In the 1985 World Series, it was a horrible call at first base; in the 2011 Series, it was a sixth-game homer. Might you see the next few cracks at history from right across the street, in your PJs? ‘Life in Full Swing’ is an apt marketing slogan for a new, jaw-dropping component of the Village slated for completion June 23: One Cardinal Way, a 27-story, 298-unit residential tower with enviable, birds-eye views of the verdant diamond at Busch. It was 50% leased when we visited one of the units with LaMartina; many units are the pied-a-terre for baseball fanatics from the metro and greater region. Visions of legendary games and after parties yet to come started dancing in our heads.

Imagine swimming while watching the game from your extreme ‘upper deck,’ then coming inside to towel off and watch on your flat screen. Or, watch live through the master bedroom window! Yes, Abner Doubleday’s divine creation is the main attraction, and even diehard Wrigley Field bleacher bums might wish they’d settled here instead. Tough on them, because here goes the neighborhood. Say you’d never be caught wearing a Cards jersey or drinking a Busch Light from a plastic cup? No worries. A wealth of entertainment and dining options awaits, from Davio’s (gourmet northern Italian) to Salt + Smoke (arguably nature’s most perfect food). Bowling. Foosball. Concerts. You’ve never had it so good on the corner of Clark and Broadway … 24/7/365. “It’s evolving from an entertainment district into this thriving neighborhood,” LaMartina says. Visit