New St. Louis Police Headquarters

For the most part a police headquarters isn’t much different than any other office, so reusing a 1990 office building makes perfect sense. During the open house last Saturday I saw every floor of the new St. Louis Police headquarters, it seems like the space worked well for their needs. It’ll …

Ameren Updating Outdated Infrastructure Downtown, Replacing A 1948 Substation

The electric power downtown never goes out because the lines are underground and not subject to storm damage like overhead wires, or so I thought. But Wednesday night many downtown did lose power, we didn’t thankfully. Old infrastructure was to blame. Though not the cause of Wednesday’s outage, the  substation …

Housing For Homeless Veterans Nearing Completion At 4011 Delmar

I February 2010 I posted I would live at 4005 Delmar, then a vacant & boarded building, I was dreaming of it being renovated. The building at 4005-4011 Delmar has since attracted the attention of a developer, who also dreams: We believe being a dreamer is every bit as important as being …

Banks Closing Drive-Thru Lanes

Shortly after the weekly poll started last week I realized a flaw in how I constructed the answers, lumping walk-up ATMs and drive-up ATMs together as one: Q: You’ve got a check to deposit into your checking or savings account, pick your two preferred methods from the following list: ATM 45 …

Recent Articles:

New St. Louis Police Headquarters

For the most part a police headquarters isn’t much different than any other office, so reusing a 1990 office building makes perfect sense. During the open house last Saturday I saw every floor of the new St. Louis Police headquarters, it seems like the space worked well for their needs.

2011 Photo
Vacant 1915 Olive in December 2010
Saturday morning before the ribbon cutting
Saturday morning before the ribbon cutting
The open house began while the festivities were still going on outside. We started at the top, 7th floor, and worked our way down floor by floor.
The open house began while the festivities were still going on outside. We started at the top, 7th floor, and worked our way down floor by floor.
The new office of Chief Sam Dotson
The new office of Chief Sam Dotson
View looking north on 19th Street from the 5th floor
View looking north on 19th Street from the 5th floor
The only clue this isn't most offices is the bank of holding cells and nearby interview rooms.
The only clue this isn’t most offices is the bank of holding cells and nearby interview rooms.

It’ll take a few weeks for police and civilian staff to get relocated into the new building. Hopefully having the long-vacant building occupied again will lead to nearby storefronts getting new businesses. The police are leaving their old headquarters built in 1927 because renovating it for their continued use would’ve cost considerably more. Besides, they couldn’t have stayed during renovations.

What will become of the old building?

– Steve Patterson

Ameren Updating Outdated Infrastructure Downtown, Replacing A 1948 Substation

July 25, 2014 Downtown, Featured 4 Comments

The electric power downtown never goes out because the lines are underground and not subject to storm damage like overhead wires, or so I thought. But Wednesday night many downtown did lose power, we didn’t thankfully. Old infrastructure was to blame. Though not the cause of Wednesday’s outage, the  substation at 13th & Cole, built in 1948, is ready to be replaced.

A 1951 photo of the newly completed substation at 13th & Cole. Source: Ameren Missouri
A 1951 photo of the 1948 substation at 13th & Cole. To the left you can see the 1947 building that housed KWK Radio & KWK-TV (precursor to KMOV).  In the background is the Shrine of St. Joseph. The high rise Cochran Gardens public housing project began a year later. Source: Ameren

Ameren has been planning to replace this substation for years, in January I unknowingly posted two pics related to their effort.

Utility work on Washington Ave 15th-17th
On January 3rd I posted about ongoing utility work downtown, this at Washington Ave around 16th. Click image to view post.
December 2013 photo
Then on January 20th, as part of my annual post on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive I posted this image from December 2013, the site at 1901 MLK was purchased more than a decade ago. Click image to view post.

In late May my friend Kent Martin from Ameren’s communications department emailed me a pitch about their work to replace an old downtown substation and update the underground power grid.  Seeing the 1951 image shown above I was interested, but busy prepping for my June 8th wedding. I wanted to see the old substation in person so we emailed back and forth but we couldn’t find a time to meet. Finally we agreed on Wednesday morning, but then postponed to Thursday morning so he could get one of Ameren’s Chevy Volt electric cars to pick me up, plus the weather would be nicer.

I’d gone by the old substation in my wheelchair Tuesday morning, and hours before the outage, I drove my husband by the old and new substations on our way home from dinner. Sitting on our balcony later we noticed the street lights on Locust go out. We still had power but soon a message was posted online about a power outage downtown. I thought I knew the problem, but it turns out a combination of problems at other locations led to the outage.

Still it drives home the point the infrastructure is old.  How old? Over a century in some places!

This photo of 8th & Olive shows the mass of overhead wires on Olive. The photo is marked as 1889, but the Union Trust wasn't built until 1893. The 1896 Chemical building isn't built yet so that narrows the age of the photo. Source: Ameren
This photo of 8th & Olive shows the mass of overhead wires on Olive (look closely). The photo is marked as 1889, but the tall Union Trust wasn’t built until 1893. The 1896 Chemical building isn’t built yet so that narrows the age of the photo. Source: Ameren
Starting around 1904 the mess of wires downtown began getting buried. The exact date & location of this photo is unknown.  Source: Ameren
As early as 1904 the mess of wires downtown were being buried beneath the streets & alleys. The exact date & location of this photo is unknown. Source: Ameren

I had no idea overhead wires were moved underground so early! So much of the trenching in downtown’s streets over the last 6-12 months has been replace old conduit and wire. The new substation being built on Dr. Martin Luther King between 19th & 20th will start going into use in late September and by April 2015 the old substation on Cole will be out of service.

I got to see the new and old substations yesterday.

The east end of the new substation, along 19th, is a MSD-required bioswale to handle water runoff.
The east end of the new substation, along 19th, is a MSD-required bioswale to handle water runoff. The brick piers and fencing is much nicer than the chain link at the Cole substation. I’m told the entire site will be landscaped once construction is complete. I’m going to suggest street trees between the curbs and new sidewalks.
Much of the new site is open with weatherproof transistors
Much of the new site is open with weatherproof transistors
Four prefab buildings made in Fulton MO hold more sensitive electronics
Four prefab buildings made in Fulton MO hold more sensitive electronics
Workers inside one of the four
Workers inside one of the four
Over at 13th & Cole you notice the heavy door and detailed masonry.
Over at 13th & Cole you notice the heavy door and detailed masonry.
The plaque on the brick wall proclaiming "Union Electric of Missouri"
The plaque on the brick wall proclaiming “Union Electric of Missouri”
You also notice the trailer outside handling a lot of the switching duties after some equipment inside failed.
You also notice the trailer outside handling a lot of the switching duties after some equipment inside failed.
Thanks to project manager Matt Haffer (left) and director of Ameren's underground division John Luth for showing me both facilities.
Thanks to project manager Matt Haffer (left) and director of Ameren’s underground division John Luth for showing me both facilities.

The Cole substation will be razed next year, some remediation will be performed on the site. Ameren will retain & landscape the site.

– Steve Patterson

Housing For Homeless Veterans Nearing Completion At 4011 Delmar

I February 2010 I posted I would live at 4005 Delmar, then a vacant & boarded building, I was dreaming of it being renovated.

Boarded storefronts at sidewalk level
Boarded storefronts at sidewalk level, February 2010

The building at 4005-4011 Delmar has since attracted the attention of a developer, who also dreams:

We believe being a dreamer is every bit as important as being a do’er. In our personal and our professional lives, the members of The Vecino Group are dedicated to imagining a better world and then working to make it happen. 

I too agree it is important to dream, I’ve shared mine here for over 9 years.

Last year:

A housing developer from Springfield, Mo., has embarked on a $12.7 million project to renovate the building as 68 affordable apartments for homeless vets. The five-story building, at 4011 Delmar Boulevard, is in the city’s Vandeventer neighborhood, about three blocks from the John Cochran VA Medical Center.

Plans call for the building, named Freedom Place by the developer, to be redone as 20 studio apartments, 24 one-bedroom units, 16 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units. Monthly rents are scheduled to range from $369 to $640. (stltoday)

According to city records, the building had 100 one-bedroom apartments and three “other” units. Hopefully the new mix of units will work well.

I pass by this project on the #97 MetroBus, but recently I was in the area photographing for my post on the North Sarah Apartments so I got a closer look at the progress.

New windows greatly improve the appearance
New windows greatly improve the appearance

I’m curious to see how the ground-level will be used. Will a neighborhood coffeehouse be able to open?  A small local market perhaps? The area desperately needs economic activity to create jobs for the veterans that will live here, as well as others.

Directly across the street a 1945 commercial building is vacant. With its side parking lot this could be a good market.
Directly across the street a 1945 commercial building is vacant. With its side parking lot this could be a good market for the area.
At 4035 the later commercial store front in from of a 19th century house has collapsed.
At 4035 a commercial storefront  addition in from of a 19th century house has collapsed.

Housing for these vets is huge, but we must also finds ways to rebuild the local economic base to create jobs. One local effort is Bridge Bread:

Bridge Bread is a social entrepreneurship initiative designed to provide job opportunities for guests of The Bridge. The goal of the initiative is to help disadvantaged guests engage in a financially rewarding effort that enhances self-worth, promotes dignity and enables the guests to help themselves.

It takes much more than a shelter cot to rebuild the lives of the homeless. Kudos to the people behind The Vecino Group!

– Steve Patterson

Banks Closing Drive-Thru Lanes

Shortly after the weekly poll started last week I realized a flaw in how I constructed the answers, lumping walk-up ATMs and drive-up ATMs together as one:

Q: You’ve got a check to deposit into your checking or savings account, pick your two preferred methods from the following list:

ATM 45 [28.85%]
Lobby teller 39 [25%]
Drive-thru teller 34 [21.79%]
Smartphone app 32 [20.51%]
Mailing check to my financial institution 5 [3.21%]
N/A — I don’t have a checking/savings account 1 [0.64%]

Had I broken the ATM answer down into the two types as I did with tellers the results would’ve been different. Still, the results are interesting. In a few years I think we’ll see smartphone apps increasingly used for depositing increasingly rare checks.

Looking back west across Tucker. Infilling the bank site with a building about the height of the Jefferson Arms would be ideal.
US Bank on Tucker between Olive & Locust has so much space devoted to the drive through and drive-up ATM.

For decades banks  razed buildings to build drive through lanes. Decades ago these lanes were full of cars but now fewer and fewer use them. Last year Bank of America began closing drive-up teller service at some locations.

In the latest move to scale back its branches, Bank of America is ending drive-up teller service at some locations, including in the Charlotte region.

The reason? Too few people are using the drive-thru lanes, the bank says.

The move comes as the Charlotte-based lender is in cost-cutting mode, closing branches nationwide and shrinking its number of automated teller machines. (Bank of America to close drive-through teller lanes)

The Bank of America branch at 800 Market still has drive-thru lanes, but their website indicates the branch hours will change on August 4th. Will they close then? Don’t be fooled, the banking industry is changing big time:

Drive-through teller stations, once promoted as a convenience for the after-work crowd wanting to keep Bob Dylan songs playing while depositing their paychecks, are losing some of that traffic to mobile apps. As consumers increasingly use self-service channels from wherever they wish, financial institutions are reimagining their physical footprints, including drive-ups, to adjust. (American Banker)

The lobby branch of Bank of America at 100 North Broadway will close in November, according to their website. They surveyed their customers:

Almost two-thirds of consumers (62%) have at least tried to use mobile banking. The most common activities performed using mobile banking are account balance monitoring and statement viewing. Bank of America now has over 15 million active mobile banking users who access their accounts on a mobile device over 165 million times per month, according to SVP and mobile solutions executive Marc Warshawsky. This number is growing by more than 200,000 customers per month.

However, visits to bank branches are still the preferred method for managing accounts. Around 84% of respondents have visited a bank branch over the last six months. And 23% of the respondents said that they complete the majority of their banking transactions at a branch. About half (47%) of the respondents said that they use the bank’s mobile app or website as a preferred method for certain tasks. (Forbes)

When I deposit a check via ATM I don’t like having to use an envelope, the newer ATMs that read/scan the check as you deposit it are much more 21st century. I’ll revisit this in five years.

– Steve Patterson

Forget TOD, Apparently Parking Critical To Financing Redevelopment of Arcade-Wright Building

July 31st marks 21 years since the 8th & Pine MetroLink light rail station opened downtown, the Arcade-Wright building on that corner remains undeveloped.  For nearly 20 minutes at the June Parking Commission meeting Otis Williams (SLDC: St. Louis Development Corporation) & Steve Stogel talked about a variety of downtown development issues, including why a lease for parking spaces in the 7th Street garage was critical.

The Arcade portion of the Arcade-Wright, 8th & Olive
The Arcade portion of the Arcade-Wright, 8th & Olive
The Wright portion of the Arcade-Wright, 8th & Pine
The Wright portion of the Arcade-Wright, 8th & Pine, entry/exit to station (WB) next to building
The Arcade-Wright across 8th Street from the 8th & Pine MetroLink light rail station
The Arcade-Wright across 8th Street from the 8th & Pine MetroLink light rail station (EB)
The city-owned 7th Street parking garage
The city-owned 7th Street parking garage

During the 18 minute discussion many details about the proposed redevelopment are revealed.

The Arcade-Wright building:

  • is owned by the LCRA (Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority), for about 5 years
  • is one of the last buildings awaiting redevelopment downtown.
  • has roughly 500,000 square feet
  • Webster University will lease the 1st floor, mezzanine & 2nd floor, 55,000 sq ft. Their campus will be about 90,000 sq ft total
  • Upper floors will be a combination of (202) affordable and (80) market rate apartments
  • $118 million dollar project
  • LCRA bought the Arcade-Wright building for $4,500,000 after John Steffen’s Pyramid Constriction firm collapsed with 7-9 downtown buildings
  • Mortage was held by Bank of America. Total for this mortgage and several other buildings was $32 million
  • Interest had accrued and property taxes hadn’t been paid on the properties
  • Development will let the LCRA get reimbursed for all expenses
  • Not enough parking in the building, “the 200 affordable units have to park somewhere”, seeking long-term lease in the 7th street garage so the residents in the affordable units have parking

Other:

  • Redevelopment of the Chemical building at 8th & Olive will move forward once the Arcade-Wright is underway
  • The owner of the Laclede Gas Building is planning a renovation once Laclede Gas moves out
  • Jefferson Arms is the other building that was held by Steffen in 2008 that hasn’t been renovated yet
  • April 23, 2008 John Steffen asked Steve Stogel to help him liquidate. (Note: Pyramid shut down on April 18, 2008)
  • The Chemical building is 160,000-180,000 sq ft

This was on June 12th, I’ve not seen any announcements since. I recorded (audio) of the nearly two hour meeting, you can listen to the last 18 minutes about the Arcade & development here.

Further reading:

So all 202 affordable (subsidized) apartments at a MetroLink stop need a parking space in the garage a block away to finance the redevelopment. It’s unclear if parking at Dominium’s Leather Trades & Metropolitan is included in the base rent or an additional charge. I’m not sure anyone involved realizes the building is adjacent to an underground light rail station — one people would need to walk past to reach the parking garage! Enterprise CarShare also operates downtown, for times when residents need wheels.

– Steve Patterson

New Phases of North Sarah Apartments, Buildings on Vandeventer

In June 2012 I posted about Excellent Urban Infill: North Sarah Apartments By McCormack Baron Salazar. Since then the project has expanded, across Sarah to the west, and at Vandeventer, to the east. The ribbon cutting on the new phase was Friday afternoon, but I visited Wednesday.

New construction on the west side of Sarah (right) gives an urban feel missing in the original only on the east side of Sarah.
New construction on the west side of Sarah (right) gives an urban feel missing in the original only on the east side of Sarah. The #42 (Sarah) MetroBus line is popular.
Some of the original live/work units have businesses in them. Not a busy retail street, but a start. The new building on the west side of Sarah also features live/work units.
Some of the original live/work units have businesses in them. Not a busy retail street, but a start. The new building on the west side of Sarah also features live/work units. In time I hope we’ll see more than closed blinds…
When I was here in 2012 the landscaping wasn't complete. These rain gardens will be problematic with grass instead of perennials
When I was here in 2012 the landscaping wasn’t complete. These rain gardens will be problematic with grass instead of perennials.

In 2012 I noted the rough surface of the impervious concrete sidewalks. They’ve not held up well, they’re even rougher, broken, etc. Pervious concrete works well for parking areas, but not for public sidewalks. I mentioned this to city officials after I experienced it in 2012, it wasn’t used again for recent sidewalks at this project. I returned to the area because I’d been seeing construction on North Vandeventer as I crossed on the #97 Delmar bus. I waited until I thought the work was complete.

Heading north on Vandeventer from Delmar, the new buildings are visible in the background,
Heading north on Vandeventer from Delmar, the new buildings are visible in the background, an Urban League building on the left looks out of place now.
Here 3-story buildings were used at Vandeventer & CD Banks Ave
Here 3-story buildings were used at Vandeventer & CD Banks Ave, click image for map

Two blocks of urban buildings on one side of Vandeventer is a start, but the corridor needs more of this. Unfortunately, due to a lack of coordinated planning, it seems unlikely even in the next 15-20 years. The church across the street was built in 2000, the car wash in 1981, the Urban League in 1990. In the block to the north is a single-story building set back behind parking built in 2009.

The Urban League at 965 N. Vandeventer was built in 1990
The Urban League at 965 N. Vandeventer was built in 1990
The car wash at 1036 N. Vandeventer was built in 1981
The car wash at 1036 N. Vandeventer was built in 1981

Without a corridor plan to guide development, North Vandeventer will remain a hodgepodge. In time more phases will fill in the area between Vandeventer and Sarah. They’ll likely remain a nice island unless groups come together to plan how Sarah & Vandeventer should look & feel in the coming decades.

– Steve Patterson

Poll: How Do You Plan To Vote On Missouri’s Five Proposed Constitutional Amendments?

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

The poll this week has five questions, one for each of the five proposed constitutional amendments on Missouri’s August 5th ballot. The poll questions in the right sidebar are brief because of software, but here is the official ballot language for each:

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 1  Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (First Regular Session) CCS No. 2 SS HCS HJR Nos. 11 & 7

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed? The potential costs or savings to governmental entities are unknown, but likely limited unless the resolution leads to increased litigation costs and/or the loss of federal funding.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 5 Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (Second Regular Session) SCS SJR No. 36

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is an unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right? State and local governmental entities should have no direct costs or savings from this proposal. However, the proposal’s passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs. The total potential costs are unknown, but could be significant.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 7 Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (Second Regular Session) SS HJR No. 68

Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges? This change is expected to produce $480 million annually to the state’s Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund and $54 million for local governments. Increases in the gas tax will be prohibited. This revenue shall only be used for transportation purposes and cannot be diverted for other uses.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 8 Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (Second Regular Session) HJR No. 48

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to create a “Veterans Lottery Ticket” and to use the revenue from the sale of these tickets for projects and services related to veterans? The annual costs or savings to state and local governmental entities is unknown, but likely minimal. If sales of a veterans lottery ticket game decrease existing lottery ticket sales, the profits of which fund education, there could be a small annual shift in funding from education to veterans’ programs.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 9 Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (Second Regular Session) SCS SJR No. 27

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects? State and local governmental entities expect no significant costs or savings.

Please vote in the poll, I have answers to cover if you’re undecided, don’t plan to vote, or if you’re not a Missouri voter. Also, please don’t pick out just the one or two you might be passionate about, please select an answer for all five. Thank you.

– Steve Patterson

Looking East on Washington Ave

July 18, 2014 Downtown, Featured No Comments

I’m ready for the weekend so today I’m sharing a simple image I took last week while visiting friends.

View from the GEW Lofts looking east on Washington Ave
View from the GEW Lofts looking east on Washington Ave., Saturday July 12, 2014 @ 9pm

I enjoyed seeing directly down Washington Ave from Jefferson Ave. It was busier than I expected, but the road with is too excessive. Any unexpectedly nice views you like?

– Steve Patterson

Unfinished Business

There’s a building on West Florissant Ave, across from the entrance to Calvary Cemetary, that has intrigued me for years. A former gas station with a large unfinished 2-story addition, city records show the original was built in 1971 but no indication when the addition was started.

5250 W. Florissant back in late April
5250 W. Florissant back in late April 2014, click image for map link
A few days ago
A few days ago

It’s always looked vacant to me, but the other day I noticed someone entering or exiting the building as I passed by on the #74 MetroBus. The building is owned by a husband & wife, both lawyers, they’re also part of the ownership of the package liquor store inside. The property was previously part of the 1st ward, but became part of the 3rd ward after the last redistricting. I looked at aerial images on HistoricAerials.com, the addition existed in 1998 — 16 years ago. I don’t recall a time before the addition, I moved to St. Louis in 1990. I can’t believe how long this has been like this, how much could it cost to put some vinyl siding over the plywood sheathing? — Steve Patterson

Fifty-Five Percent of Readers Live in the City of Saint Louis

July 16, 2014 Site Info 4 Comments

Over 85% of the readers that participated in the non-scientific poll last week indicated they live in greater St. Louis (St. Louis City, Missouri counties of St. Louis, Jefferson, & St. Charles; Illinois counties of Madison & St. Clair). Here are the results:

Q: Where do you live?

  1. St. Louis (South) 80 [32.13%]
  2. St. Louis (Central Corridor) 50 [20.08%]
  3. St. Louis County (Central/West) 39 [15.66%]
  4. St. Louis County (South) 14 [5.62%]
  5. US Northeast 9 [3.61%]
  6. St. Louis County (North) 7 [2.81%]
  7. TIE
    1. St. Louis (North) 6 [2.41%]
    2. Missouri (not St. Louis city; St. Louis, St. Charles, or Jefferson counties) 6 [2.41%]
  8. TIE
    1. Madison County, IL 5 [2.01%]
    2. Illinois (not St. Clair or Madison counties) 5 [2.01%]
    3. US Southwest 5 [2.01%]
  9. TIE
    1. St. Clair County, IL 4 [1.61%]
    2. St. Charles County, MO 4 [1.61%]
    3. Jefferson County, MO 4 [1.61%]
    4. US West/Northwest 4 [1.61%]
    5. Elsewhere in the world 4 [1.61%]
  10. US Southeast 2 [0.8%]
  11. US Midwest, except Missouri & Illinois 1 [0.4%]
  12. North America, NOT the United States 0 [0%]

And a few calculations based on the above:

  • Greater St. Louis: 213 [85.54%]
  • City of St. Louis: 136 [54.62%]
  • St. Louis County: 60 [24.10%]

I appreciate everyone’s participation.

– Steve Patterson

WEEKLY POLL (new poll 8am Sundays)

THE POLL THIS WEEK HAS FIVE QUESTIONS, ONE FOR EACH PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ON MISSOURI'S AUGUST 5TH BALLOT. PLEASE VOTE ON ALL FIVE BALLOT QUESTIONS, SEE POST ON SUNDAY 7/20 FOR THE FULL TEXT OF EACH

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