The Downtown St. Louis Community Improvement District (CID) has reestablished one of its street-based programming initiatives, the Downtown Ambassador Program. The CID restored this program based on the recommendation from the Downtown neighborhood plan, Design Downtown STL, which was adopted by the City of St. Louis. Ambassadors, previously known as Guides, travel throughout the District on foot or bright yellow bicycles to provide direction and information to pedestrians, address numerous urban items, and add a welcoming presence to Downtown.
For long-time Ambassador Melissa Brown, now Senior Ambassador, returning to work for the CID’s program is an exciting opportunity. Melissa has been working as an Ambassador in other areas within St. Louis since 2014, enjoying the different interactions she has on a daily basis.
Brown notes that Downtown is her favorite area of St. Louis “because of the high level of entertainment and the interactions we get with people on a daily basis […] I’ve gotten numerous people who’ve lived Downtown for over 20 years, thanking us for being here.”
Brown’s colleague and Senior Ambassador Leonard Ritz shares the same sentiment about his position and the flexibility of their services.
“What’s kind of neat is you’ve got somebody there while you’re waiting for a tow-truck or people are over heated, people are so grateful to have someone there […] these exchanges are positive,” Ritz notes.
Each Ambassador has a particular route to follow, surveying the pedestrian thoroughfares and high entertainment areas. Additionally, the Ambassadors will shift to areas with large events to provide assistance, such as with the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials held at The Dome at America’s Center.
“We concentrate our area on where the flow of foot traffic is,” says Ritz. He says they also focus on areas with “high entertainment and where people park.”
The Ambassadors also add an additional layer of safety to the District. They offer another set of eyes and ears while providing a more accessible presence on the ground compared to vehicle patrols. Brown thinks that they prevent more incidents from occurring than they know, just by being present.
“Being highly visible is the main goal,” says Brown.
“We are a visual deterrent […] I think people like us because we’re not intimidating, they can approach us and ask questions – more of a friendly security,” she adds.
Along with being available for questions, Ambassadors report maintenance issues, graffiti, trash dumping, and various safety hazards.
“It’s little stuff that people don’t think about and nobody has time to do – we fill-in where there’s a gap” says Ritz.
The Ambassadors can be seen Downtown 7 days a week, from 11 am to 7 pm. The CID will continue to appropriately scale the program in the coming year.