Shoddy Curb Ramp/Crosswalk At 16th Street & Market St

Lately I’ve been focusing on my pedestrian experience in the city, some recent posts include: 8th & Market: Vehicle Stop Line Where Pedestrians Should Cross 8th Street, No Marked Crosswalk Deutsch Family Has Profited From Public Right-Of-Way For Nearly Two Decades Downtown>Hampton>IKEA>Downtown St. Louis Fails At Crosswalks Olive & Tucker …

Sunday Poll: Do You Think Driverless Cars Are Safe?

Self-driving autonomous driverless cars are quickly becoming a reality. New Tesla’s have autopilot and Uber is testing in Pittsburgh: The first Uber car that doesn’t need a driver has hit the streets. The ride-hailing behemoth announced in a blog post Thursday that it has begun testing a self-driving car in Pittsburgh, home …

St. Louis’ Riverfront Reopening Next Week

We’re all invited to a riverfront picnic next week, Thursday June 2nd.  No blanket needed — a 2,016 foot-long table will be set up, chairs provided. From the official press release: Great Rivers Greenway, the City of St. Louis, CityArchRiver Foundation and other partners invite residents from across the region …

Third Lucky’s Market In Region May Open In Downtown West In 2017

The grocery market in St. Louis is constantly changing —  yesterday the long-awaited Whole Foods at Euclid & Pine opened in a new mixed-use building, the Orion apartments are upstairs. The grocery market in the St. Louis region is one of my areas of interest — the combination of retailing …

Recent Articles:

Shoddy Curb Ramp/Crosswalk At 16th Street & Market St

Lately I’ve been focusing on my pedestrian experience in the city, some recent posts include:

Today post is another example of poor quality work.  This isn’t about being a cash-strapped city — this is incompetence at all levels.

Looking West across 16th St at Market, note the location of the crosswalk relative to the detectable warning mat, click image for map to intersection
Looking West across 16th St at Market, note the location of the crosswalk relative to the detectable warning mat, click image for map to intersection
From the crosswalk looking toward the "ramp"
From the crosswalk looking toward the “ramp”
Here's a closer view of the ramp.
Here’s a closer view of the ramp.

Looking at Google Street View I know this was done by the city sometime between September 2009 and August 2015.  It was during this time the city took possession of the building from the federal government. I remember the old ramp, there are still some like it. It was done during a period when detectable warnings weren’t required, plus the location had no relationship with their crosswalk. But it was flush with the street.

The maximum vertical hight change allowable per ADA guidelines is 1/4″  — but this curb ramp is substantially higher than that. Sadly, it is very common to have greater than 1/4″ at ramps. Many are so bad I email the Streets Dept’s asphalt guy directly so they can do a non-compliant patch. Many things can be non-compliant, but still useful. This, and others, are hard to use and they damage the drive wheel on my chair. This would be very challenging for someone using a manual chair, and a trip hazard for a person walking with a cane or walker. In fact — this is a trip hazard for anyone walking here.

I have no idea if this was built by city employees or by a hired contractor. Either way, we’s never tolerate such shoddy work on our homes or cars — it shouldn’t be allowed in the public right-of-way.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Do You Think Driverless Cars Are Safe?

Please vote below
Please vote below

Self-driving autonomous driverless cars are quickly becoming a reality. New Tesla’s have autopilot and Uber is testing in Pittsburgh:

The first Uber car that doesn’t need a driver has hit the streets.

The ride-hailing behemoth announced in a blog post Thursday that it has begun testing a self-driving car in Pittsburgh, home of the company’s nascent Advanced Technologies Center.

The car, a Ford Fusion Hybrid with a roof-full of radar, lasers and cameras, will be collecting road-mapping data as well as testing its real-world traffic reactions. Uber’s interest in autonomous car technology dates to a year ago, when the $60 billion start-up began hiring Carnegie Mellon University robotics experts to staff its new center not far from the Pittsburgh-based school.

As with all self-driving cars that are approved for testing on public roads, Uber’s vehicle will have a safety driver who can take over the controls should the situation demand it. (USA Today)

I’m curious to experience the technology, but I’d be nervous. So this is the subject of today’s poll:

This is based on today’s technology — not five years in the future. The poll closes as 8pm tonight. No new post tomorrow, have a happy Memorial Day!

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis’ Riverfront Reopening Next Week

We’re all invited to a riverfront picnic next week, Thursday June 2nd.  No blanket needed — a 2,016 foot-long table will be set up, chairs provided.

From the official press release:

Great Rivers Greenway, the City of St. Louis, CityArchRiver Foundation and other partners invite residents from across the region to join them in celebrating the transformation of the St. Louis riverfront on Thursday, June 2. The organizations will be hosting a “Picnic on the Riverfront” event from 5:00 to 8:45 p.m., which will feature St. Louis’ largest-ever community picnic – complete with a 2,016-foot-long table with chairs – to commemorate the opening of the new riverfront beneath the Gateway Arch.

The official ribbon cutting on June 2 will begin at 5 p.m. on the overlook stage along Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, with remarks from dignitaries and partners. Afterward, attendees can explore the nearby Mississippi Greenway, enjoy local music and educational activities for kids and purchase dinner from food trucks and other vendors. People are also welcome to bring their own picnic meal. An interfaith blessing will kick off dinner at 6:15 p.m., followed by an aerial photo of all the picnickers. The event will end with a brief fireworks display at 8:30 p.m.

“This new front door for our region celebrates the energy, adventure and awe of the mighty Mississippi and our iconic Gateway Arch,” said Susan Trautman, Executive Director of Great Rivers Greenway, the regional parks and trails district and lead agency on the project. “We invite people to bring their friends, family and neighbors from all parts of the region to celebrate.”

The renovation of the 1.5-mile stretch of riverfront includes the recently rebuilt Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard and extension of the Mississippi Greenway from the Biddle Street Trailhead south to Chouteau Avenue, with protected walking and biking paths. The entire riverfront was elevated an average of almost two feet to limit flooding, returning more days of the year back to the community for walking, riding bikes, sightseeing and special events. While the historic elements were preserved, such as the cobblestones lining the levee; new amenities such as benches, bike racks, lights, power outlets and a street-level stage will make the space more inviting for events and programs. The lineup for this summer and fall includes bike rides, walk/run events, the St. Louis Brewers Guild Heritage Festival, a free concert series with The Sheldon, swap meets and more.

Earlier this month, on May 8th, my husband and I decided to check on the progress from the Eads Bridge. First though, a photo from September 2015:

Work continues on the North end of Lenore K. Sullivan -- raising it was delayed by flooding. Click image to see September 2015 post with more images
Work continues on the North end of Lenore K. Sullivan — raising it was delayed by flooding. Click image to see September 2015 post with more images
Looking more complete on May 8, 2016
Looking more complete on May 8, 2016
Looking West from further out
Looking West from further out
Looking down river
Looking down river
Moving closer to downtown
Moving closer to downtown
Further West
Further West
Down on Lenore K Sullivan looking where Washington Ave used to be
Down on Lenore K Sullivan looking where Washington Ave used to be
Lenore K Sullivan Blvd is now higher
Lenore K Sullivan Blvd is now higher
Looking North from Eads Bridge, Laclede's Landing area on the left beyond the elevated tracks
Looking North from Eads Bridge, Laclede’s Landing area on the left beyond the elevated tracks
Further North, ML King Bridge in background
Further North, ML King Bridge in background
Looking back south toward the Eads Bridge
Looking back south toward the Eads Bridge
Now at the center, some steps will be hidden by the new elevation of Lenore K Sullivan Blvd
Now at the center, some steps will be hidden by the new elevation of Lenore K Sullivan Blvd
Still under constructions are four ramps from the top down to bottom
Still under constructions are four ramps from the top down to bottom
These ramp will be great for those of us in wheelchairs, pushing strollers, etc
These ramps will be great for those of us in wheelchairs, pushing strollers, etc
There will also be ramps down to the cobblestones
There will also be ramps down to the cobblestones
It appears a smooth concrete sidewalk will run along the base pf the wall next to the rough cobblestones
It appears a smooth concrete sidewalk will run along the base pf the wall next to the rough cobblestones
Looking South from the bike/job path
Looking South from the bike/job path
One of the smartest ideas is concrete bases for light fixtures, these can go under flood waters without messing up wiring
One of the smartest ideas is concrete bases for light fixtures, these can go under flood waters without messing up wiring

So bring food, buy from food trucks, or just show up on June 2nd. I’m looking forward to exploring from end to end. Access is best from Chouteau or Laclede’s Landing Blvd (under the King Bridge).

For more event information see:

I’ll do a complete review after completion.

— Steve Patterson

Third Lucky’s Market In Region May Open In Downtown West In 2017

The grocery market in St. Louis is constantly changing —  yesterday the long-awaited Whole Foods at Euclid & Pine opened in a new mixed-use building, the Orion apartments are upstairs.

The grocery market in the St. Louis region is one of my areas of interest — the combination of retailing & food is irresistible to me. Here are some of my past posts on the subject:

Now it looks like a new grocery store might open in the building behind mine.

Lucky’s Market, a specialty grocer based in Boulder, Colo., is considering a store on the first floor of the Ely Walker building in downtown St. Louis, sources say.

Saggar Holdings LLC recently acquired the space at 1520 Washington Avenue from SA Group Properties Inc.

Sources say Lucky’s would occupy about 20,000 square feet of space formerly occupied by the London Tea Room and the English Living furniture store. (Post-Dispatch)

I say might because a lease hasn’t yet been signed. As soon as I saw this article last week I looked up Saggar Holdings LLC and my instinct was correct — Downtown Urgent Care’s Dr. Sonny Saggar puts his money where his mouth is — buying space and helping bring a new retailer to the city.

That day I began chatting with Dr. Saggar via Facebook — we’d been online friends for some time — before my 2015 fall resulting in a broken finger & visit to his urgent care facility on Olive. We chatted online but earlier this week it was his business manager Laura Malley that let me in so I could photograph the space in the  Ely Walker Lofts building.

You might not be familiar with the Ely Walker building:

Built in 1907 by Eames & Young as a dry-goods warehouse, the building once housed manufacturers of shoes, Catholic school uniforms, gun holsters and party supplies. The Ely Walker Lofts retain the building’s original name, commemorating David Walker, President George W. Bush’s great-grandfather. Renovations began in January 2006 and were completed in May 2007—just in time for the building’s centennial. (St. Louis Magazine)

Here’s background on David Davis Walker:

In 1857, Walker went to St. Louis for business training with the merchandiser Crow, McCreery & Co., then the largest wholesale dry goods house in the city. He worked his way up from office boy, and became a partner after just eight years with the firm. He became ill as a result of his workaholic habits, quitting in 1878, and spent the next two years recovering.

In 1880, he went back to work, forming Ely, Walker & Co. with Frank Ely and others. The business was a huge success, and in 1883 it was incorporated as the Ely & Walker Dry Goods Company. He remained President of the company until 1892, and thereafter retained the largest interest in the firm. His sons David Davis, Jr., Joseph Sidney and George Herbert all had involvement with the Ely & Walker firm, which continued as a major clothing manufacturer until it was acquired by Burlington Industries after World War II, but George went into banking. (Wikipedia)

You might not have shopped at a Lucky’s, it’s still a small chain. But that’s going to change quickly:

The Kroger Co. has forged a “strategic partnership” with Boulder, Colo.-based specialty grocer Lucky’s Market. The hybrid deal, terms of which were not disclosed, is expected to significantly accelerate the growth of the 17-store Lucky’s banner in new and existing markets.

Kroger officials said the partnership, which closed on April 1, is designed to further enhance the best products, practices and techniques of Lucky’s Market, combining them with the Cincinnati-based retailer’s scale and experience to generate more benefits for customers. The alliance further demonstrates the Cincinnati-based grocery giant’s “deep ongoing commitment to providing customers with affordable fresh organic and natural foods as a part of its Customer 1st strategy,” according to Kroger, which indicated that the deal will gel well with its first-ever small format Main & Vine concept store in Gig Harbor, Wash., which mixes local, specialty and everyday products. (Progressive Grocer) 

The two existing Lucky’s aren’t the only presence Kroger has in the St. Louis region, from April 2015:

After a years-long hiatus, Kroger Co. has returned to the St. Louis market with its Ruler Foods store brand, Cincinnati-based Kroger’s small-footprint, low-price format.

The company plans to open about 10 stores in the area over the next year or two. (Business Journal)

Kroger has an alternative to Aldi and now it has an alternative to Whole Foods. Let’s take a look at the building and the space:

Lucky's would occupy the Western half of the ground floor. the rest is occupied.
Lucky’s would occupy the Western half of the ground floor. the rest is occupied.
The space includes a loading dock at 16th & St. Charles St
The space includes a loading dock at 16th & St. Charles St
The London Tea Room used to occupy a tiny amount of the space
The London Tea Room used to occupy a tiny amount of the space
Most was English Living Furniture, the space has been vacant since the owners retired a few years ago
Most was English Living Furniture, the space has been vacant since the owners retired a few years ago
The main entrance would be onto Washington Ave, not the resident lobby. Lucky's will reconfigure the interior to include ramps for carts and wheelchairs.
The main entrance would be onto Washington Ave, not the resident lobby. Lucky’s will reconfigure the interior to include ramps for carts and wheelchairs.

This Lucky’s would be smaller than their Ellisville & Rock Hill locations, but about the same as Schnucks’ Culinaria. The parties are woking toward signing a lease in July with the store opening in Spring or Summer 2017. I’m grateful Dr, Saggar chooses to invest in downtown.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

We Must Ask Different Questions Before Expanding Our Convention Center

St. Louis is again considering keeping up with the Joneses:

The city’s convention center complex should expand to more than 900,000 square feet, half again its current size, according to a report given Thursday to the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.

Such improvements would bring a “minimum” 37 percent increase in additional business and would position the downtown neighborhood “to re-energize and redevelop,” the report concluded. (Post-Dispatch)

So many red flags in this quote. I’m always suspicious about reports promising increased business — especially that conventions will energize downtown. That’s what they said of the Old Post Office parking garage that replaced the historic Century Building over a decade ago! We should have the promised 24/7 downtown by now.

Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D'Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.
Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

In the mid-1960s Mayor Cervantes (1965-1973) had backed an existing plan to build a convention center West of Union Station, serving less than 75 trains per day by then. Other business leaders wanted to raze the Old Post Office and they wanted a barrier to the North to hide the 1952 Cochran Gardens public housing — which was built to clear “slums”. They pushed their own plan — in conflict with the new mayor. They didn’t get to raze the Old Post Office, but they did get to create a physical barrier between public housing and the central business district. However, a 1968 study showed the near north location would perform poorly compared to the Union Station site and another location being considered:

The bulky study that ERA delivered to the city in May 1968 concluded, “the addition of a modern convention center is both appropriate and eco- nomical,” attracting annual attendance of 518,000 (including 386,000 at conventions and tradeshows) and generating 192,000 new hotel room nights in the city every year.

Yet where the ERA assessment was quite positive about the promise of a new convention center, it also argued that the site of the proposed facility would be critical to its achieving its potential. The ERA analysis was quite direct (and prescient) in arguing that, while “a convention center can play an important role in stimulating nearby commercial development . . . construc- tion of a single building regardless of its ancillary economic benefits, seldom stimulates downtown revitalization to any great extent.”

The study examined three possible sites. A civic center location, with proximity to hotels, ample parking, and an excellent environment would yield a net annual income of $71,000. A Union Station location, at a greater distance from the center of the core, would generate a net income of $20,000. The third site, the north side, was far and away the most problematic. While the location was convenient to existing hotels, the ERA conclusion was that a center built there “would operate at a serious disadvantage.” The problem was that the location was a “marginal environment,” filled with “one-, two-, and three-story retail stores in a generally deteriorated condition.” With greater likelihood of traffic congestion, the “North Side location would seriously curtail convention center use by local residents and by conventions.” A center there would attract half the annual convention and local events of an alterna- tive site, generating far less attendance and an annual loss. (Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities by Heywood T. Sanders)

The success of a convention center didn’t matter — they wanted it to form a physical barrier:

For Sverdrup and for Civic Progress, the new Busch Stadium and the proposed convention center served purposes far beyond baseball games or association meetings. Both major public projects were viewed as changing the physical environment of the core area’s fringe, and as spurs to new private investment.

As a wall, the bulk of a massive convention center could literally shut off the business district and the big department stores from the public housing projects and “cancerous” slums to the immediate north. The entrance to the new center would face south, focused on the downtown core, bringing convention attendees from nearby hotels and restaurants. To the north would be blank walls and loading docks facing the land cleared with federal urban renewal funds. (same)

They worked/fudged the numbers and finally got the public to pay for it:

The formal assessment by Disney’s “numbers man,” Buzz Price, that one downtown official termed “very optimistic,” amply sustained the notion that millions of visitors and attendees would flock to downtown. Price’s imprimatur on the Riverfront Square project thus neatly validated the judgment of Sverdrup and the Civic Progress leadership—St. Louis was on the verge of becoming a major visitor destination. When Mayor Cervantes’s Spanish Pavilion plan was hatched, it neatly followed both the model of Riverfront Square and its location. And the premise of the 1966 ERA study of the pavil- ion was that “Millions of local residents and tourists will be attracted” to the Arch, and that the new stadium would draw “Hundreds of thousands of persons . . . many of them from 100 to 200 miles away.”

Buzz Price’s positive assessment of the Spanish Pavilion was reinforced by the Disney connection. In turn, the forecast numbers from Price and Economics Research Associates for the Pavilion’s attendance and revenues bulwarked the sense among the Civic Progress members that the downtown would see a flood of new people and economic activity. When the possibility of de- veloping a major new convention facility surfaced in 1966, the experience of Chicago, Boston, and San Diego appeared to validate the potential of a center. And once again, the assessment by ERA provided a seemingly expert and reliable forecast of the likely performance and attendance of a new convention center.

ERA’s estimates of the performance of a new center were indeed viewed as so reliable by the St. Louis business leadership that Sverdrup and his firm’s staff simply appropriated them—verbatim—for their own analyses and for the formal presentation of the Convention Plaza redevelopment plan. It was the seeming credibility of ERA, Buzz Price, and project manager Fred Cochrane, as well as the firm’s connections and reputation within the theme park industry, that sustained Mayor Cervantes’s extended commitment to the Union Station site.

St. Louis’s downtown revitalization plans were thus based on the expert judgments of the “best and the brightest” in the planning and economic analysis world. Yet the city’s business leaders were not entirely devoted to following the consultants’ recommendations. When Fred Cochrane of ERA repeatedly warned against building a convention center on a north side site, the interests and goals of a unified business leadership simply overrode his conclusion. For the members of Civic Progress and their colleagues, the interests and concerns of “Cubby” Baer, Donald Lasater, Leif Sverdrup, and the Edison brothers fully trumped outside expert advice. The new convention center was far more about “protection from erosion” than potential as a meeting venue. (same)

The Spanish Pavilion was a huge flop — less than a quarter of projected traffic. It closed within a year. Basically, we built a convention center at the location we were told would perform poorly because influential business leaders selfishly wanted it there to protect their nearby interests.

The new Cervantes Convention Center occupied four city blocks — closing 8th St & Dr. King Dr. Ninth & 7th streets were open but faced with harsh blank concrete walls for two blocks. The back of the convention center faced North sending the a message “You’re not welcome downtown.” In the early 90s the center was expanded South to Washington Ave and the dome was added to the East — closing 6th & 7th.

We need to be focusing on reconnecting neighborhoods to downtown — not continuing more than a half century of separation.

The Broadway (5th) & Cole entry to the dome
The Broadway (5th) & Cole entry to the dome
Heading West along Cole
Heading West along Cole
6th St terminates into the North (Cole) facade of the dome
6th St terminates into the North (Cole) facade of the dome
Rotating West we can see where the dome was attacked to the existing center at 7th St
Rotating West we can see where the dome was attacked to the existing center at 7th St
Similar view looking South at what was 7th St
Similar view looking South at what was 7th St
Approaching
Approaching
Looking South, view little connects the two on the North
Looking South, view little connects the two on the North
Looking back North at the area deliberately cut off decades ago
Looking back North at the area deliberately cut off decades ago
Looking North
Looking North at 7th St
Here we see the North facade of the original 1977 Cervantes Center
Here we see the North facade of the original 1977 Cervantes Center
Looking West we get the feeling people aren't expected...or welcomed
Looking West we get the feeling people aren’t expected…or welcomed
Other convention centers have hidden underground docks, but not here
Other convention centers have hidden underground docks, but not here
Ok, past the semi we're almost to the corner
Ok, past the semi we’re almost to the corner
One last obstacle
One last obstacle
Now heading South on 9th next to the now 3 block long blank West wall
Now heading South on 9th next to the now 3 block long blank West wall

A 2014 review of Heywood Sanders’ book gives a good overview of the convention center fallacy:

The idea behind convention centers is to bolster the local economy by attracting visitors who would otherwise spend their money elsewhere. The best measure of success is the number of hotel room-nights they generate.

Sanders’ numbers tell the real story. Washington, D.C.’s new convention center was supposed to deliver nearly 730,000 room-nights by 2010; the actual number for that year was less than 275,000. Austin, Texas’ expanded center was supposed to bring 314,000 room-nights by 2005 but produced just 149,000. The 2003 expansion of Portland, Ore.’s convention center was expected to yield between 280,000 and 290,000 room-nights, but the actual number was 127,000 — far less than before the center’s expansion. Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle are among other cities that have had similar experiences. The challenge is to find an exception to the rule.

That’s not all. When projects fail and debt service mounts, consultants routinely conclude that the center needs a “headquarters hotel,” which at the very least requires a large public subsidy. Sometimes the lack of developer interest results in the hotel being publicly owned. It’s a classic example of finding yourself in a hole and continuing to dig. (Governing)

The topic of expansion/updates was the subject of the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Our region’s convention center, aka America’s Center, should be expanded to accommodate larger conventions

  • Strongly agree 13 [32.5%]
  • Agree 3 [7.5%]
  • Somewhat agree 4 [10%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [5%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [2.5%]
  • Disagree 6 [15%]
  • Strongly disagree 9 [22.5%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [5%]

Half agree on expansion, but the other half are split. As you’ve likely guessed, if you’re still reading, I’m very skeptical about promises made by convention center consultants.  I don’t have an answer for what we should do, only advice to begin asking the right questions.

— Steve Patterson

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If you're a 5th ward Democratic voter please vote for Rasheen Aldridge for 5th Ward Democratic Committeeman in August. And Megan Betts for 5th Ward Democratic Committeewoman. ... See MoreSee Less

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