“Joe Edwards’ creative vision, risk-taking, and consensus-building skills have helped transform the Delmar Loop into one of the most vibrant restaurant, shopping, arts, and entertainment districts in the United States,” wrote his nominator, Cheryl Adelstein of the Department of Government and Community Relations. It all started when Joe opened the now renowned Blueberry Hill in 1972, a time when the area was in decline. He hoped that by programming the jukebox with an ever-changing selection of great tunes and displaying his collections of pop-culture memorabilia, visitors would feel comfortable and enjoy the atmosphere as much as the food and drink. Realizing that the fate of Blueberry Hill was tied to that of the Loop itself, Joe co-founded The Loop Special Business District to raise funds for projects such as improved lighting, trash receptacles, and holiday decorations.
Joe’s subsequent ventures on the Loop include the beautiful Tivoli, The Pageant, Pin-Up Bowl, and the sensational Moonrise Hotel; many of which were catalytic in bringing The Loop’s vibrancy east of Skinker and into the city of St. Louis. He has encouraged one-of-a-kind specialty shops, restaurants, and cultural institutions to make The Loop their home, and he has renovated numerous historic buildings. Joe works tirelessly to realize an environment where everyone is welcome and everyone belongs. Through his tremendous leadership, he has proved pivotal in nurturing a thriving neighborhood encompassing a great diversity of race, religion, socioeconomic status, and age. It was through Joe’s vision and perseverance that the Delmar Loop was named “One of the 10 Great Streets in America” by the American Planning Association.
Joe’s commitment to urban revitalization is not contained to the Loop alone. In 1988, he founded the nonprofit St. Louis Walk of Fame, through which over 130 stars and informative plaques are now embedded in the region’s sidewalks, providing an illuminating and engaging pedestrian self-tour. More recently, Joe served as spokesperson for the successful 2010 campaign to ensure sales tax funding to support public transportation in St. Louis. For the past 10 years, he has spearheaded the effort to bring a fixed-track, vintage trolley system back to St. Louis. Thanks to Joe’s dedication and a $25 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Loop Trolley will launch in 2014. It seems that when a project inspires his determination, no undertaking is too big for Joe Edwards.