ST. LOUIS — For decades, downtowns in many major cities have been dealing with major issues like crime, traffic, parking, homelessness, litter, and more. The pandemic dealt an especially hard blow to many of them because of the rise of remote work. It emptied out major office buildings. The rise of online shopping is continuing to clear out storefronts.

Downtown St. Louis recovery from 2020-2023

New research from the University of Toronto shows that Downtown St. Louis is having an especially hard time recovering from the events of 2020 to the present day. The city is second last, with San Francisco at the bottom of the list.

Many tech workers in San Francisco started working remotely and never returned to the office. Nordstrom is also closing both of its downtown San Francisco stores. Crime stats for the city are very low, but there is a perception that the city is the wild west.

Ranking from the University of Toronto

The situation is compounded in St. Louis. The city has one of the highest violent crime rates, and key Downtown employers have moved to other parts of the area or out of state.

How did the University of Toronto come up with these rankings? They used cell phone data as a stand-in for people. They compared the activity from 2019 with points in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Some cities have bounced back remarkably, well. Many of them do not rely on commuters to bring people downtown for work or entertainment.