Dining Out For Life Today

If you’re like us, dining out is a rare treat. If so, make it count and go out for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner today: Raise your fork on Thursday, April 24th and take part in the 21st annual Dining Out For Life©! Dining Out for Life© is an international event …

Rain Gardens Are Great, Except When Blocked By Excessive Mulch

Rain gardens are an environmentally-friendly way to handle water runoff, rain water runs into an area where it gets absorbed into the soil. Well, assuming the water doesn’t get blocked. The newly rebuilt North Tucker Boulevard has numerous rain gardens, but unfortunately many are like the one shown above — …

Rethinking the North Grand Corridor for Jobs, Economic Opportunity

Grand Boulevard is one of, if not the most, important north-south streets in St. Louis. It connects north & south St. Louis to the east-west central corridor.  It carries our busiest MetroBus route, the #70. After visiting the soon-to-close Schnucks at Grand & Kossuth last week it occurred to me …

Poll: View on the Origin and Development of Human Beings

Millions have been tuning in Sunday evenings to see COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey on Fox, Mondays on National Geographic. Since the March 9th debut the show some have been upset by the presentation of evolution rather than creation. The Cosmos reboot was fairly generous as far as leaving room for religious interpretation …

Recent Articles:

Dining Out For Life Today

Click map to view in new tab
Click map to view in new tab

If you’re like us, dining out is a rare treat. If so, make it count and go out for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner today:

Raise your fork on Thursday, April 24th and take part in the 21st annual Dining Out For Life©!

Dining Out for Life© is an international event that has raised over $4.27 million nationally in 2013 to provide vital services to people living with HIV/AIDS. In 2013, the St. Louis community raised over $260,000 to help Saint Louis Effort for AIDS provide education on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and comprehensive support services for those affected by the disease.

Grab your family and friends and make plans to dine out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, cocktails and more at any of our participating Dining Out For Life© restaurants where at least 25% of your check will be donated to support the work of Saint Louis Effort for AIDS.

This incredibly important event that not only helps nourish our community…but also the soul. If you are not able to join us but would like to contribute, click to donate now! (Dining Out For Life St. Louis)

You can view the list of participating restaurants here, all are donating at least 25%. Reservations are recommend because this event is so popular, we have dinner reservations at a place donating 50%. So please make plans with friends, order appetizers & dessert so lots of money can be raised today.

– Steve Patterson

Readers Split on Kacie Starr Triplett’s Personal Use of Campaign Funds

April 23, 2014 Politics/Policy 8 Comments

In the unscientific poll last week the answer with the most votes ended up with just 26.5%, too small to say readers favored Triplett serving some jail time . Here are the results:

Q: Thoughts on former alderman Kacie Starr Triplett’s use of campaign funds for personal expenses (pick 2)

  1. Should’ve had some jail time 31 [26.5%]
  2. Public humiliation and paying $22,000 over three years is justice 24 [20.51%]
  3. Gotta watch the ones always taking about Jesus 20 [17.09%]
  4. They all do it to some degree 12 [10.26%]
  5. The $22,000 settlement should go to 6th Ward projects, not the school system 12 [10.26%]
  6. Other: 9 [7.69%]
    1. ban on political office
    2. Would be more irate if it was public funds, not campaign $.
    3. To much corruption in government it seems to draw crooks and swindlers.
    4. Should have been barred from future public office or city positions
    5. not all but too many. it makes me sad
    6. hang her high -Sarge
    7. Prison time+ 22K settlement + all prosecution costs!
    8. who cares?
    9. foolishly trying to project the image that the elected position is great
  7. She could’ve gotten away with it, but she foolishly resigned and admitted guilt 3 [2.56%]
  8. Rookie political mistake 3 [2.56%]
  9. No big deal, small potatoes 2 [1.71%]
  10. Youthful indiscretion 1 [0.85%]
  11. Unsure 0 [0%]

Not everyone picked two answers.  The number of participants was less than usual and one response (“who cares?”) sums up the apathy that allows corruption to exist.

I personally felt at least some of the money should go to projects in the 6th ward because it was these voters that Triplett deceived. I was a 6th ward voter in 2011, but I voted for her opponent in the primary (ok, against her). I was turned off by her constant “praise Jesus” demeanor.

– Steve Patterson

Rain Gardens Are Great, Except When Blocked By Excessive Mulch

Rain gardens are an environmentally-friendly way to handle water runoff, rain water runs into an area where it gets absorbed into the soil. Well, assuming the water doesn’t get blocked.

Visual evidence of standing water at opening to this rain garden on Tucker
Visual evidence of standing water at opening to this rain garden on Tucker

The newly rebuilt North Tucker Boulevard has numerous rain gardens, but unfortunately many are like the one shown above — not able to function as designed because too much mulch blocks the water.

– Steve Patterson

Rethinking the North Grand Corridor for Jobs, Economic Opportunity

Grand Boulevard is one of, if not the most, important north-south streets in St. Louis. It connects north & south St. Louis to the east-west central corridor.  It carries our busiest MetroBus route, the #70.

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North Grand at 20th, click for map

After visiting the soon-to-close Schnucks at Grand & Kossuth last week it occurred to me the North Grand corridor could benefit from some comprehensive planning to bring needed jobs, housing, retail, etc to north St. Louis. This post isn’t a comprehensive solution it’s an introduction to the idea of concentrating efforts in a linear fashion along Grand north of Delmar.

POSITIVES:

  1. Despite massive population loss in the city, especially north city, the areas near Grand remain populated, in-part because of the #70 MetroBus route.
  2. The #70 MetroBus route will get five (5) higher-capacity articulated vehicles starting in June, by the end of summer all 12 will be articulated.
  3. Vacant land ready to build on.

NEGATIVES

  1. Few major institutions to help build support
  2. Numerous problems: crime, poverty, unemployment, aging infrastructure & building stock
  3. Lack of hope

We could list more negatives, as well as positives. In fact, taking stock of the area is a good first step.

Looking north from Grand & Delmar, click for map

Bringing real jobs to this area won’t be easy. I don’t think we should just sit back and watch as jobs and people continue to leave the area. This is a chance to do some grassroots planning.  Done right North Grand can have a more prosperous future.

 – Steve Patterson

Poll: View on the Origin and Development of Human Beings

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Millions have been tuning in Sunday evenings to see COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey on Fox, Mondays on National Geographic. Since the March 9th debut the show some have been upset by the presentation of evolution rather than creation.

The Cosmos reboot was fairly generous as far as leaving room for religious interpretation goes. But apparently, one Fox affiliate station in Oklahoma City decided there was still just a little too much science talk for their liking, so they cut out the 15-second mention of evolution. (Gizmodo)  

That Fox station says the 15-second cut of evolution from the first episode was an “accident.” Right. The poll this week is from a 2012 Gallop poll, here’s a look at the question and answers:

Which of the following comes closest to your view on the origin and development of human beings?

  • Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process
  • Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process
  • God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time in the last 10,000 years or so

The poll is in the right sidebar, the answers will be presented in a random order to each viewer.

– Steve Patterson

No Longer Car-Free

Two years ago I sold the 2004 Toyota Corolla I bought after my stroke, switching to transit for all my trips. I’ve saved tons of money, reduced my carbon footprint, learned how to get around the city by public transit, and had fun doing it.

In February last year my then boyfriend, now fiancé, moved in with me. We became a one-car couple, sort of. We never added me to his insurance policy, so I haven’t driven his car. Though I still take public transit, mostly MetroBus, there are many times he’d drive us places (store, dinner, etc). This week we bought a newer car together; we’re both on the loan, the registration, and insurance. He’ll be the primary driver since he works 5-7 days per week, but I’ll likely drive when we go places together.

Our 2007 Honda Civic EX will get much better fuel economy than the V-6 sedan he'd been driving
Our 2007 Honda Civic EX will get much better fuel economy than the V-6 sedan he’d been driving

Finding a car we liked that was eligible for a loan through our credit union wasn’t easy, they required it to be 2007 or newer or the interest rate would be substantially higher. They also wouldn’t lend on a car with more than 100,000 miles. We wanted a Honda or Toyota, but didn’t want to spend more than $9,000. With 90,000 miles, our Honda Civic EX met everyone’s criteria.

You’ll still see me riding MetroBus, but not as often.

– Steve Patterson

Some Possible Reasons Why the North Grand Schnucks Didn’t Make a Profit

Local grocery store chain Schnucks made a big announcement on Monday regarding a store they acquired in their 1995 purchase of the National chain:

Next month, the region’s leading grocer will have only one store in the city north of Delmar Boulevard.

The Maryland Heights-based company announced Monday it is closing its grocery at North Grand Boulevard and Kossuth Avenue, effective 6 p.m. May 10. (stltoday)

Here is the press release:

ST. LOUIS – Leaders of Schnuck Markets, Inc. today announced they will not renew the lease on the Grand and Kossuth Store (4127 N. Grand, 63107) in north St. Louis. The store will close permanently at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 10. No jobs will be lost; all 65 teammates will be transferred to nearby Schnucks stores.

According to Schnucks President and CEO Todd Schnuck, the 28,000-square-foot store has consistently operated in the red since it was purchased as part of the 1995 National acquisition. “Closing any store is a difficult decision particularly when we have invested so substantially in the 45-year-old facility including a $200,000 Pharmacy remodel just one year ago. Nothing we’ve done has helped improve the store’s performance.”

“Store Manager Roger Hines and Co-Manager Sharon Evans lead an experienced and dedicated team. Yet despite their best efforts and strong rapport with customers, the store continues to lose money,” Schnuck said. “While customers appreciate the offering we bring to the neighborhood, sales at this store will not offset needed repairs, escalating labor, utility and insurance costs.”

Currently, operating a total of nine stores within the city limits (including Grand and Kossuth), Schnucks continues to demonstrate its commitment to city residents. “In this particular location, we are challenged by lack of population growth and the opportunity to attract new customers,” said Schnuck. “We thank our customers and community partners for their support over the years and we will continue to look for more ways in which to deliver needed services to our customers in St. Louis City.”

Schnuck says that should the landlord entice another grocer to the site, Schnucks would leave the majority of the store’s fixtures in place. In the meantime, the company will start a sell down of goods prior to the May 10 close.

Pharmacy customers may continue to have their prescriptions filled through May 10. Additional information will be provided prior to the close.

Founded in St. Louis in 1939, Schnuck Markets, Inc. operates 101 stores (including Grand and Kossuth) and 95 in-store pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.

# # #

I’d been by this store numerous times, when it was a National I lived not far away in Old North St. Louis, but I’d never been inside. So the day after the announcement I boarded the #41 MetroBus, which stops on Kossuth right next to the store property.   Between downtown (14th & Washington) and the Schnucks a couple of passengers boarded the bus that got off at the Kossuth & Grand stop to do their grocery shopping.   Let’s take a critical look at this store to see why they couldn’t attract new customers.

View from the Kossuth bus stop
View from the Kossuth bus stop, a beauty supply &  laundromat are next door
Looking toward Grand from the front of a building on the same property
Looking toward Grand from the front of a building on the same property, a #70 MetroBus is in the background
The laundromat attached to the Schnucks
The laundromat attached to the Schnucks
Once at the Schnucks access to the south entranced is blocked by the carts
Once at the Schnucks access to the south entranced is blocked by the carts
The view from Grand
The view from Grand
The separation between the Grand sidewalk and the parking lot is almost nonexistent
The separation between the Grand sidewalk and the parking lot is almost nonexistent
The north entrance is close to Lee Ave but a dish-drainer type bike rack blocks direct access
The north entrance is close to Lee Ave but a dish-drainer type bike rack blocks direct access
The entry is just as impressive as the rest of the exterior
The entry is just as impressive as the rest of the exterior
Immediately you get the idea this Schnucks wants to be an ALDI or Save-A-Lot.
Immediately you get the idea this Schnucks wants to be an ALDI or Save-A-Lot.
The fresh produce dept, including greens,  was very nice though
The fresh produce dept, including greens, was very nice though
The pharmacy that was recently added or updated.
The pharmacy that was recently added or updated.
Throughout the store ceiling times were missing or water stained.
Throughout the store ceiling times were missing or water stained.

Now you’ve seen the store, inside and out. Think anyone goes out of their way to shop here? Nope! Anyone pass other grocery stores on the way home from work shop here? Nope! Those who live near this Schnucks likely shop elsewhere if they have a car or access to another bus route.

An ALDI is located  just the other side of Fairgrounds Park, it was built in 1999, the Schnucks was built in 1968. Those who use the #70 route can just as easily go to the much nicer ALDI. Those who drive likely pass other grocery stores on the drive home from work, so they have nicer options. I worked at Union near I-70 when the Schnucks at Union & Natural Bridge opened in 1998, I’d go by sometimes at lunch to get a salad.

The Kossuth Schnucks lacks profitable departments like salad/olive bars, deli, prepared foods, floral, etc. The store is only 28,000 sq ft, about half of most newer Schnucks, but larger than the 21,000 sq ft Culinaria store downtown that has all those departments. A ALDIs doesn’t have prepared foods, floral, etc and manage with 17,000 sq ft stores, but their model is very different from Schnucks.

And hours is another big difference. The Schnucks at Union & Natural Bridge is open, like many Schnucks, from 6am-midnight every day. This allows customers to shop before or after work. The Kossuth store hours have been ”Mon-Sat 7am-9pm, Sun 8am-8pm” which means many can’t shop there even if they wanted to.

Is Schnucks the bad guy here? For the most part, no. Schnucks doesn’t own the property, they’re a tenant.

The North Grand building is owned by Marvin Holdings LLC, which lists Mishaal Taqui as its organizer. It acquired the building in the fourth quarter of 2013 and offered to do about $100,000 in roof repairs, said Taqui’s spokesman, Glenn Jamboretz.

Taqui wanted a multiyear lease from the retailer and a small rent increase to offset the cost of the repairs. It had been renting the building year-to-year for about $6,100 a month, Jamboretz said. A sales incentive clause sometimes bumped that monthly payment up to around $6,500.

Schnucks said no thanks to the multiyear lease, and soon after, announced it would close. (stltoday)

The closure of this store will leave a void on the market, the Schnucks carries products the nearby ALDI simply doesn’t stock. Those who get their prescriptions here will need to find another pharmacy, perhaps the Schnucks at Union & Natural Bridge. I can imagine some who are transit-dependant moving closer to another grocery store or a different bus line. The landlord will need to do lots of work to attract a quality store, even then it doesn’t seem likely.

The site is ideal for a 3-5 story urban building with 100,000 sq ft of ground floor retail, much of which could be a grocery store. I’d like to see local upstart Fields Foods consider such a store.

– Steve Patterson

Readers Want Walkability and Long-Term Jobs at NorthSide Regeneration

northside regeneration map
Map of project area

Last week readers at least 135 readers took the poll, indicating what they’d like to see as priorities at Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project. Here are the results in the order the software listed, two answers tied for the the top spot.

Q: Paul McKee’s “Northside Regeneration” project is slowly moving foreword, pick your top 5 priorities from the following:

  1. Good walkability 76 [11.33% - TIE]
  2. Jobs for locals: long-term work at various pay levels 76 [11.33% - TIE]
  3. Rail transit connected to downtown 64 [9.54%]
  4. Urban form with adequate parking behind buildings 60 [8.94%]
  5. Safety 59 [8.79%]
  6. Mixed uses, incomes 52 [7.75%]
  7. Good street grid with short blocks 48 [7.15%]
  8. Architecture that IS historic looking 43 [6.41%]
  9. Hoodlum-free zone 39 [5.81%]
  10. Renovation of the Clemens Mansion 35 [5.22%]
  11. Many builders/developers, not just a few 33 [4.92%]
  12. Good bikeability 24 [3.58%]
  13. Something…anything ASAP 21 [3.13%]
  14. Jobs for locals: short-term construction work 17 [2.53%]
  15. Architecture that is NOT historic looking 11 [1.64%]
  16. Easy access to highways 8 [1.19%]
  17. Plenty of free parking 3 [0.45%]
  18. Suburban planning, big blocks and cul-de-sacs 2 [0.3%]

I agree with most of the items in the top 10, very glad to see “Good Walkability” tie with “Jobs for locals: long-term work at various pay levels” at the top, followed closely by rail transit to downtown and urban form. I do take exception with one item: architecture.

I was disappointed “Architecture that IS historic looking” got 43 votes, but “Architecture that is NOT historic looking” only got 11 votes. Buildings in 2014 trying to look like they’re from 1914 end up looking cheesy.  Other cities do a great job building new urban buildings that relate to the sidewalk and neighboring buildings without being faux historic. We need to drop the expectation that every new building be given a bit of red brick on the front and a fake mansard roof on top.

– Steve Patterson

9th & 10th One-Way Couplet Should Be Returned To Two-Way Traffic

Decades ago traffic engineers converted many downtown St. Louis streets from two-way traffic to one-way traffic, 9th & 10th going north & south, respectively. The 9th/10th couplet extended north to I-70, basically serving as very long on/off ramps, cutting through the Columbus Square neighborhood. Today the former Cochran Gardens high-rise public housing project is gone, replaced with mixed income apartments. The 1980s Columbus Square condos and townhouses are still nice, the neighborhood is generally pleasant and safe. Despite the fact that 9th & 10th are no longer connected to I-70, they remain very wide one-way streets, undermining the positive investment in the area.

Looking south at 9th from Cass
Looking south at 9th from Cass
The St. Louis Housing Authority owns this retail building on 9th at Cass, one-way streets as a freeway on ramp aren't good for neighborhood retail businesses.
The St. Louis Housing Authority owns this retail building on 9th at Cass, one-way streets as a freeway on ramp aren’t good for neighborhood retail businesses.
Most streets perpendicular to 9th/10th have a nice neighborhood scale. This is  New Haven Ct.
Most streets perpendicular to 9th/10th have a nice neighborhood scale. This is New Haven Ct.
Looking north on 9th from O'Fallon St, lanes aren't marked but wide enough for at least 3
Looking north on 9th from O’Fallon St, lanes aren’t marked but wide enough for at least 3
Looking north on 10th St from O'Fallon St, just as wide and useless as 9th
Looking north on 10th St from O’Fallon St, just as wide and useless as 9th
Looking north on 9th from Cole
Looking north on 9th from Cole

 

Looking south at 9th from Cole St.
Looking south at 9th from Cole St., the dividing line between downtown and the Columbus Square neighborhood
Looking north at Cole St & 10th St
Looking north at Cole St & 10th St

I’d like to see 9th & 10th be two-way all the way through downtown, but that’s more complicated with garage entrances/exits. signals, etc. But from Cole St. to Cass Ave it would be very simple, just some changes to the signals at Cole & Cass, the rest is signs and paint.

We ran these long on/off ramps through this neighborhood for decades, now we need to do the right thing and make 9th & 10th neighborhood streets again!

– Steve Patterson

Utilized For Turning Movements

In 2009 I was part of a Partnership for Downtown St. Louis committee looking at parking downtown, including areas where on-street would be beneficial for helping retail businesses and their customers.   On November 12, 2009 @ 6:34am I emailed the following to Director of Streets Todd Waelterman, copied to 7th ward alderman Phyllis Young:

Todd,
I was delighted to see the addition of on-street parking on 10th & Olive recently. I emailed Patrice but I haven’t heard back from her yet.

Another area where there is an immediate need for on-street parking is the North side of Washington Ave between 11th and Tucker. The curb lane is hardly used for traffic. In this block there are now more businesses than ever. Copia is expected to reopen so when they resume valet that will take away spaces used by the general public.

The East side of Tucker between St. Charles and Wash Ave is very wide. There is room for on street parking here as well.

On 11th at Wash Ave there are two polls from what used to be metered spaces. For some reason they are no parking now. I see no logistical reason for these not to have parking.

These three spots could add 12-15 more spots in this area. The parking would help all the businesses in the area and have no real impact on traffic flow.

Please ask your staff to look into allowing meters to be added to these areas.

Thanks,
Steve

To my surprise he replied less than an hour later @ 7:18am:

Thanks for your ideas.  These areas will be utilized for turn movements when tucker is complete.

Todd Waelterman
City of St Louis
Director of Streets
314-647-3111

Young never replied. I dropped the subject, waiting for the rebuild of Tucker to be completed and the new I-70 bridge to open.   Since the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge opened to traffic on February 9th, 2014 I think it’s time to revisit these areas as candidates for on-street parking. Let’s take a look at these three separate areas, all located within a block of each other:

The three areas where on-street parking would help businesses and improve walkability by creating a fixed barrier between traffic and pedestrians.
The three areas where on-street parking would help businesses and improve walkability by creating a fixed barrier between traffic and pedestrians. Original aerial from Apple Maps.

A) North Side of Washington Ave from 11th to Tucker (12th)

This block of westbound traffic is very odd. Both of the blocks before and after have one westbound travel lane and one parking lane. Yes, city staff seem to think the entire right lane for the full length of the block needs to be a right turn only lane.

This view is from Saturday, but the weekday rush hour is similar, the through lane has 5-6 vehicles each cycle but the right turn lane  has few if any cars.
This view is from Saturday, but the weekday rush hour is similar, the through lane has 5-6 vehicles each cycle but the right turn lane has few if any cars.
Occasionally a car or two will park illegally in the block-long turn lane.
Occasionally a car or two will park illegally in the block-long turn lane. This isn’t really a problem because not many going west on Washington Ave want to turn right to go north on Tucker

Sure, leave room before the crosswalk for a couple of cars to get into the right lane to turn northbound on Tucker, but park cars from the Flamingo Bowl to Empire Deli.

B) East Side of Tucker from St. Charles to Washington Ave

The short distance from St. Charles (a named alley) to Washington Ave is far more complicated, not easily resolved.

b

Looking south from the crosswalk crossing Tucker at Washington Ave we see space crossed out between the left turn land and two through lanes
Looking south from the crosswalk crossing Tucker at Washington Ave we see space crossed out between the left turn land and two through lanes. The Meridian bldg (left) has a vacant storefront space facing Tucker, all facing Washington Ave are leased.
Looking north from St. Charles we see the vast amount of asphalt
Looking north from St. Charles we see the vast amount of asphalt, the bus stop should remain
Briefly in May 2013 this was to be a valet stand instead of on Washington Ave. The experiment lasted a week or two but the signs are still up nearly a year later.
Briefly in May 2013 this was to be a valet stand instead of on Washington Ave. The experiment lasted a week or two but the signs are still up nearly a year later.

What’s complicated about this block is northbound Tucker traffic goes from three through lanes down to just two on the new section north of Washington Ave. As I’ve said last August, the new Tucker Blvd streetscape needs to be continued from Washington Avenue to Spruce Street.  In the meantime Tucker could get a restripe road diet. But a left turn lane is needed onto Washington Ave., the current concrete median is getting in the way of aligning lanes better. The easy short-term solution is to remove the median from Locust to Washington Ave.

C) 11th Street at Washington Ave

This is the easiest of all three, just put meters back on the two poles where they once were.

Throughout downtown 11th is an annoying one-way street, parking is allowed on both sides much of the way, including between St. Charles and Washington Ave.
Throughout downtown 11th Street is an annoying one-way street, at least parking is allowed on both sides much of the way, including between St. Charles and Washington Ave.
But for some reason two meters were removed long ago, the polls remain.
But for some reason two meters were removed long ago, the polls remain.

As you can see the left lane is a left-turn lane. I can’t think of any reason why these two spots should not be returned to use as on-street parking.

I’ll be emailing this post to various official in the hope of getting some quick action on two out of three of these (A & C).

– Steve Patterson

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