Jamestown Mall Site Part 2: Laying Groundwork For New Development Over The Coming 10+ Years

 

 Last week I outlined the problems with the vacant Jamestown Mall, its massive 144.51 acre site, and the surroundings. See Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options. When you look at the problems the solution becomes obvious. Problems > solutions include: Vacant 422,533 square feet enclosed …

Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options

 

 My blog posts about Jamestown Mall are few. In 2011 a poll followed by the poll results with a few thoughts. In 2016 I posted that it had been two years sine the mall permanently closed. My 2011 visit was done while the mall was open, I arrived via MetroBus …

Times Beach Summer Resort Fascinates Me From Beginning To End

 

 To escape the heat & smell of city life  wealthy St. Louisans in the 19th century would take a train out to various resorts along the Meramec River. In the late 19th century, several popular summer resorts were founded southwest of St. Louis, Missouri on the Meramec River, including Meramec …

Smart Meter Installed, On A Time Of Use (TOU) Electric Plan

 

 In late April I posted about new electric meters, see Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers. To summarize the new meters show energy use in 15 minute increments, allowing for different rates depending upon the time of the day, summer or …

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Jamestown Mall Site Part 2: Laying Groundwork For New Development Over The Coming 10+ Years

July 22, 2021 Featured, Planning & Design, Retail, St. Louis County, Walkability Comments Off on Jamestown Mall Site Part 2: Laying Groundwork For New Development Over The Coming 10+ Years
 
Aerial view of the site and immediate surroundings. Source: Apple Maps. Click image to view aerial in Google Maps.

Last week I outlined the problems with the vacant Jamestown Mall, its massive 144.51 acre site, and the surroundings. See Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options. When you look at the problems the solution becomes obvious.

Problems > solutions include:

  • Vacant 422,533 square feet enclosed mall > tear down mall.
  • Lack of a major grocery store > include site for ALDI-sized grocery store on edge of master plan. Building should be easily connected to new sidewalk network.
  • MetroBus stops along both sides of Lindbergh Blvd adjacent to the site are just shoulder on a state highway, discouraging pedestrian use. No pedestrian infrastructure or access to site > reroute MetroBus through the redesigned site and/or add pedestrian infrastructure along this stretch of Lindbergh Blvd.
  • The Fox Manor subdivision is immediately south of the site, downhill. It only has one way in/out — onto Lindbergh Blvd for cars only > connect the two dead end subdivision streets to new public streets on the site.

Finding a single developer to build out the nearly 145 acre site is proving difficult. Of course, it’s massive. It’s way too much for one entity to take on. Yet most people think if one developer won’t build the mixed-use neighborhood that area residents want then one developer should be allowed to development an awful warehouse complex. Wrong!

The best places in the St. Louis region weren’t built at one moment, by one developer. No, land owners subdivided their land and created building lots, putting in streets & utilities to support those who would eventually buy a lot and build on it.  This is how downtown St. Louis was developed, as well as Kirkwood MO, Florissant MO, Belleville IL. Nearly every pre-WWII downtown or commercial district developed in this manner, over time. New Town at St. Charles was planned by one developer, who also built some buildings. But not all.

St. Louis County needs to master plan the entire site, put in connecting streets & utilities, rezone the site and adopt a form-based code to guide the build out over the next 10-15-20 years. Subdivide the land so a grocery store could own their parcel.  An insurance agent might build their housing unit over their office space. A multi-family housing company might build a few buildings with apartments. A home builder might build on some single family lots.

“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time” — Desmond Tutu

Ok. don’t eat an elephant…or even kill one. And don’t expect developers to bite off more than they can chew.

For comparison most of downtown’s central business district would fit in the same 145 acre site: From the Arch grounds to 8th, from Market to Washington Ave.

Ballpark Village is 10 acres and the Cardinals had to split that up into multiple phases because they learned they couldn’t do it all at once.  The Streets of St. Charles project is a 27 acre suburban mixed-use project and it is being phased in.

The Streets of St. Charles, 2016

Below is my crude schematic showing new streets (blue) connecting to all 7 existing site access points, including 2 dead end streets in the residential subdivision to the south. The pink is commercial and/or mixed use, the orange is residential without commercial. The green around the perimeter is a green buffer around the perimeter with a walking path, water, fruit trees, etc.

Click image to see larger version.

My roads shown above in blue would be initial roads. Maybe. At a minimum three of the seven site access points should be connected: one off Lindbergh Blvd, one off Old Jamestown Rd, and one of the two dead end streets in the Fox Manor subdivision. My idea the initial streets 1) have an intersection in the commercial area and 2) connect to the residential subdivision.

Eventually there would potentially be many more streets given the size of the site, but that can happen over time as demand warrants.

A concept from a decade ago with more of the site built out than what I envision.

My main point is the St. Louis County Port Authority, as property owner, should plan it out, put in some streets and utilities and begin to sell the land lot by lot. I think most everyone would agree a well-connected mixed-use neighborhood with a grocery store is the best possible outcome. I just don’t see it happening all at once, but incrementally over time.

— Steve Patterson

Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options

July 15, 2021 Featured, Retail, St. Louis County, Suburban Sprawl Comments Off on Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options
 

My blog posts about Jamestown Mall are few. In 2011 a poll followed by the poll results with a few thoughts. In 2016 I posted that it had been two years sine the mall permanently closed. My 2011 visit was done while the mall was open, I arrived via MetroBus using my power wheelchair.   As it had been over a decade since my last visit, we recently drove up to the dead mall to reacquaint and get current photos.  Driving allowed me to take in more of the overall area.

The first site entrance going clockwise is the southern entrance off of Old Jamestown Road. Designed for vehicles pedestrians from the areas to the south have also used this entrance despite lacking an accessible route into the site.

Some things have changed in the last decade, others have not. Today I want to share with you my approach to analyzing the site, its surroundings, listing the various problems I see, and what options exist for moving forward. The 2nd part will be my conclusion, offering a solution.

Aerial view of the site and immediate surroundings. Source: Apple Maps. Click image to view aerial in Google Maps.

First, a little history courtesy of Wikipedia:

Construction began on the mall in 1972. Its anchor stores at the time were Sears and Stix Baer & Fuller, a local chain based in nearby St. Louis. The Stix store was converted to Dillard’s in 1984 after Dillard’s acquired the chain. Famous-Barr (now Macy’s) was added as a third anchor in 1994, and two years later, JCPenney relocated to the mall from an existing store in Florissant. A movie theater was also added in the 1990s.

Jacobs Group sold the mall to Carlyle Development Group in 2003. At the time, the complex was approximately 30 percent vacant. In April 2006, Dillard’s Inc. announced the closure of the Jamestown Mall store, and Sears closed two years later.

Carlyle announced redevelopment plans in 2008. Under these plans, the former Dillard’s would be converted to offices, and its wing would be closed to retail. A year later, St. Louis County hired researchers from the Urban Land Institute to analyze the mall’s viability as a retail center. The study found that the center was no longer viable as a shopping mall because it overlapped with existing retailers in the area. These plans were canceled in 2009 when the mall developers lost financial support from the county following an attempt to auction the former Dillard’s store. Further plans in 2010 called for the demolition of everything except the JCPenney and Macy’s stores, with the rest of the complex to be re-developed as a mixed-use center. In June 2011, a furniture store called Central States Liquidation opened in the former Dillard’s. The JCPenney Outlet store, which was renamed JC’s 5 Star Outlet, csed in late 2013.

In late 2012, gas service to the mall was shut off but later restored. The mall’s closure was announced in November 2013 due to the heat being shut off. The closure of the Macy’s store was announced in January 2014, leaving the mall with no anchors. Jamestown Mall finally closed it doors on July 1, 2014.

For a long time one or more anchor stores had different owners than the remainder of the mall, but in 2017 the St. Louis County Port Authority acquired ownership of the mall and parking to make redevelopment easier. The exception is a small outparcel strip between the two driveways connections to Old Jamestown Rd., on the west side of the site. Appropriately, this is owned by a funeral home.

Here are some basics for analysis:

  • Municipality: None, unincorporated St. Louis County
  • School District: Hazelwood
  • Fire Protection District: Black Jack
  • Mall building: 422,533 square feet
  • Main site: 142.42 acres
  • Outlot building: 2,509 square feet
  • Outlot site: 2.09 acres
  • Total area of combined site: 144.51 acres (0.2258 square miles)
  • Site access points: seven total from public streets, five mall drives plus two dead end streets in Fox Manor subdivision. One of the five mall drives includes a signalized intersection. Photos of each below.
  • Surrounding areas include older & newer suburban housing, largely stable middle class. Part of the surroundings become rural very quickly. The area is lacking a major grocery, the nearest is 3.6 miles from the site.
  • Vehicular access is excellent, but pedestrian access is poor. The only pedestrian access is the public sidewalk on the east side of Old Jamestown Rd., this connects to the south. There are numerous MetroBus stops in both directions along Highway 67 (aka Lindbergh Blvd) but no pedestrian infrastructure exists to get to/from the stops.  Photos of some orphaned bus stops below.
  • Topography: Mostly flat where mall sits, otherwise gently sloping downhill to the south. Prior to the mall the area was rural, with ponds and nothing altering the natural flow of rainwater to Coldwater Creek on the south, just beyond the site boundaries. The topography isn’t what it was before the mall, it was changed to create a mostly level spot for the building a parking lots.

By comparison the mixed-use Streets of St. Charles project is 27 acres.  Again, the Jamestown Mall site is 144.51 acres — more than 5 times larger!

The most recent proposal was for the mall site a massive warehouse operation, which was met with local opposition.

The St. Louis County Port Authority, which owns the 145-acre site near Missouri highways 67 and 367, will issue a request for proposals next month for a contractor to abate the property, Chairman John Maupin said, calling it the first step to tearing down the former mall building.

Demolition would be a “very expensive process,” Maupin said, but it is necessary to attract potential buyers, as the building is blighted “beyond any sort of redemption. Pressed for a cost estimate, Maupin said clearing the entire site could cost up to $10 million.

The announcement comes a week after a Kansas City-based developer’s plans to turn the mall into a large warehouse site were scrapped amid opposition by Councilwoman Shalonda Webb, who represents the area. Webb said residents overwhelmingly prefer a mixed retail site or community center. (Post-Dispatch)

I’m very happy the awful warehouse proposal is dead, and glad the old mall will be razed and the site cleaned up. It’s excellent area residents didn’t give into the tired notions that “anything is better than nothing” and “anything is better than what it there now.”

So what are the options:

One option is do nothing after demolition, let nature take over the land again. Another is to reopen it up to bidders for whatever they propose.  A variation is reopen for bidders with some limitations, such as including a mixed-use component. It’s very clear the area residents prefer a mix-use project, not a single use. They also would like a grocery store, which is necessary given how far away the nearest is.

In the meantime, below are recent photo of the 7 site access points. Also below are examples of bus stops just on a highway shoulder.

The northern mall entrance off Old Jamestown Rd
Looking north toward Lindbergh Blvd
Bus stop on eastbound Lindbergh Blvd, just east of Old Jamestown Rd. This bus stop wouldn’t work for those of us who use a mobility device.
Contining east on Lindbergh Blvd another auto drive
Next entrance is a signalized intersection
Followed by another bus stop of limited use. As this is a state-controlled highway they should be the ones to install pedestrian infrastructure.
And the final mall entrance…for vehicles
Up next is the Fox Manor subdivision. The only vehicular entrance is this onto four fast lanes of Lindbergh Blvd.
Brown Fox Dr has nice mature trees, but only 9 houses before dead ending at the mall site. The original developer planned to expand this direction.
Fox Chase Dr also has nice mature trees and 10 houses.
It also dead ends at the mall site. The Fox Manor has numerous cultural-de-sac streets that back up to the mall site, but two streets were planned for expansion.
Houses on the cul-de-sac of Silver Fox Dr are the closest to the existing mall structure.

In part 2 I’ll explore my preferred option.

— Steve Patterson

Times Beach Summer Resort Fascinates Me From Beginning To End

July 8, 2021 Environment, Featured, History/Preservation, St. Louis County Comments Off on Times Beach Summer Resort Fascinates Me From Beginning To End
 

To escape the heat & smell of city life  wealthy St. Louisans in the 19th century would take a train out to various resorts along the Meramec River.

In the late 19th century, several popular summer resorts were founded southwest of St. Louis, Missouri on the Meramec River, including Meramec Highlands, Valley Park, Fenton, and Castle Park. As the Frisco Railroad trains started running on a regular basis to the Meramec Highlands and Valley Park train stations, Meramec River attractions became popular for wealthy St Louis families. Unfortunately, for the masses of St. Louisans, the cost of the train ride prohibited frequent visits for the common folk of St Louis.

The Meramec Highlands “Frisco” Railroad Station was constructed in 1891 by the Meramec Highlands Company, the developers of a summer getaway for wealthy Midwesterners. Located on the bluffs overlooking the Meramec River, two miles west of present-day Kirkwood, the station was built in the Romanesque Revival architecture. Once completed, it was deeded to St Louis and San Francisco Railroad for $1 in exchange for regularly scheduled service. (Source)

By 1896 streetcars had reached the area, allowing the masses to afford the trip to cool off in the water for the day.  The area was no longer exclusive, so the wealthy went elsewhere.

This had to be in mind when the owners of the St. Louis Times newspaper decided to sell off lots on property they owned along the Meramec, but further west.

1920s advertisement for lots in a new resort located too far west for streetcars. The Ford Model T had been on sale since 1908, but many households didn’t own cars. The wealthy did have cars.
Much later aerial photo shows the streets followed the curve of the river.

Decades earlier the wealthy could stay in impressive 2-story cottages in the Meramec Highlands area, but now simpler wood structures were built on the tiny lots. By the mid/late 1020s the wealthy were building impressive homes further from downtown, a bunch of frame shacks doesn’t sound very exclusive.  I think the Times target audience wasn’t wealthy folks, but those much better off than they had been. They’ve got a car and want to drive it somewhere to get away from the heat. Newly middle class.

Along Route 66 at the eastern edge of the Meramec a roadhouse opened in 1935 that catered to elegant dining, appropriately named the Bridgehead Inn.  This was after the start of the Great Depression, so perhaps the truly wealthy were among the first to have summer places here.

Lobby of the Route 66 State Park visitor’s center inside the former roadhouse. Click image for state park website.
By 1946 the Bridgehead Inn was closed, the property sold. The wealthy either lost everything in the depression and had to move out to their summer shack or they moved elsewhere.
Until very recently this old Route 66 bridge over the Meramec was still open to traffic, Times Beach was on the right on the west bank of the river.

For decades Times Beach was home to poor whites, in a flood zone. Municipal tax revenue was limited. Roads went unpaved, which created a lot of dust. The solution to the dust is why no structure from Times Beach survives today. A man was hired to spray used oil on the ground to control dust, but that oil had been mixed with toxic dioxin. In 1983 the EPA shut the town down, becoming a large superfund cleanup site. In 1997 it reopened as Missouri’s Route 66 State Park.

The bridge landing on the Times Beach side
This mound is where some material is buried.
This treeless field is there the large incinerator stood for years.
Much of the 419 acre park is covered with trees.
It’s actually quite picturesque.

So much went wrong with Times Beach, from the initial planning to the later tragic poisoning of the entire town. It was already closed by the first time I drove to St. Louis along I-44 in August 1990. I’d love to go back in time to see it in the first 5-10 years.

Further Reading:

I’m glad we made the trip out there recently to see the visitors center, route 66 bridge (remains), and park.

— Steve Patterson

Smart Meter Installed, On A Time Of Use (TOU) Electric Plan

June 30, 2021 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Smart Meter Installed, On A Time Of Use (TOU) Electric Plan
 

In late April I posted about new electric meters, see Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers. To summarize the new meters show energy use in 15 minute increments, allowing for different rates depending upon the time of the day, summer or winter.

Our new smart electric meter

At the start of this month, while I was traveling, our electric meter was changed.  I login to our Ameren account upon return and can see detailed reports on our use — hour by hour, and one every 15 minutes. I’m a data geek so I was loving it.

Our hour by hour report for Monday June 28, 2021. Looks like I forgot to adjust the a/c and turn off our dehumidifier before starting the dryer in the morning. Click image to see larger version.

I also saw I could change my rate plan, but only one other plan was available — so I picked it. The Evening/Morning Savers plan is only a slight variation from the Anytime plan, but half the day (9am-9pm) is considered peak. This plan began at the start of our current billing cycle, June 23rd.

I’ve been making sure I get our laundry into the dryer in time so it’ll be finished before 9am. I also reduced from 4 loads per week to 3, as the old 2 loads on Friday wasn’t going to happen before 9am.

We run our dishwasher without the heat dry feature because that’s a huge user of energy, we run it after 9pm. Also after 9pm we turn on our dehumidifier to run overnight.

Five days into our new rate plan I see we’re now eligible to sign up for any of the three “advanced” plans, including the one I wanted all along — Ultimate Savers. On July 26th we move to this plan.

The trick with this plan is the demand charge, the highest amount of energy used 6am-10pm daily is multiplied by a number. The demand charge is higher during the four summer months. So the peak period is only 3pm-7pm M-F (summer) but I can’t do two things at once or the demand charge will be higher.

If the demand charge gets too high our bill could be higher than if we had no savings plan at all. But I like a challenge.

Before the new plan begins late next month I’m going to take notes on when we use 1 and 2 burners on the stove, our countertop oven, dishwasher, etc. I want to see now much those consume versus air conditioning, clothes dryer, etc.  I think when I’m cooking or drying clothes I can have Siri set our smart thermostat to “away” mode so the air won’t come on. Regardless, I think I’ll end up with a number between 3-4 each month, just based on reports I’ve seen during our Saturday breakfasts (2 burners + countertop oven). I’d love a more energy efficient induction range, but that’s not going to happen.

Ameren is right, the advanced plans require more effort…at least more planning, scheduling. We may not save any money, but we’re certainly thinking about reducing our energy consumption during high-demand times.

— Steve Patterson

New Nature Playscape In Forest Park Is Great For Unstructured Play, Nature Lovers

June 24, 2021 Environment, Featured, Parks Comments Off on New Nature Playscape In Forest Park Is Great For Unstructured Play, Nature Lovers
 

One hundred forty-five years ago (6/24/1876) Forest Park opened to the public, a very large natural area at the time. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition (aka World’s Fair) opened a little less than 28 years later on April 30, 1904.

As a result, Forest Park was no longer natural, with a few exceptions like Kennedy Forest. Still when it was announced a few years ago that a “nature playscape” was to be built in a park I kinda laughed. Uh, a park outdoors is in nature. Like I said, the park no longer resembled nature.

This free new attraction opened June 2, 2021

This isn’t a playground as we know them, with swings, slides, etc. Instead it is a natural landscape designed for unstructured play.

Unstructured play is a category of play (as opposed to a type of play) in which children engage in open-ended play that has no specific learning objective. Unlike structured play, unstructured play is not instructor-led, so parents, teachers, and other adults do not give directions. It also does not have a particular strategy behind it.

Unstructured play is often informally referred to as simply “letting kids be kids” or “just play.” At times, you may also hear it called “free play” or self-play.”

As a kid I spent hours playing outdoors with my friends, but that was the 1970s when parents didn’t hover. Today’s kids are kept on a very short leash.

This new space, one of only a few nationally, is worth a visit.

The Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape is a 17-acre experiential play space with natural landscapes that include native and diverse species. Featuring nine distinct activity distinct activity areas, the free destination includes sand play areas, willow tunnels, stump steppers, boulders and rocks, hand water pumps and much more. The goal: Encourage visitors — especially kids — to connect with nature as they engage their senses as they explore, discover and learn. (Forest Park Forever)

Before I begin to explain why it’s worth a visit, let’s talk about where it is and now to get there. This new space is just southeast of the World’s Fair Pavilion, see PDF map. Photo of the site with the activity areas labeled here.

Ideally you’d take the #90 (Hampton) MetroBus like I did. There are bus stops for both northbound and southbound #90 buses very close on Concourse Drive (the street on the east side of the Zoo). Biking, walking, jogging, etc are also excellent ways to enter the park.
If you drive there is a variety of parking around the three entrances. Some is parallel on the road, others are diagonal on pervious surfaces. There is accessible parking at each entrance.

It’s 17 acres so it’s huge, but don’t expect to see big fancy entrance gates. There are no fences or gates, it’s just a free part of the park open for everyone during park hours.

The biggest of the 3 entrances is near the traffic circle near the Zoo & World’s Fair Pavilion. All 3 entrances have the wood post with a map of the layout.
Another entrance is close to the east side of the World’s Fair Pavilion.
The 3rd entrance is down the hillside on Carr Lane Drive.

All entrances have nearby car parking, bike racks, a map on the post, etc. Don’t look for any printed maps because they didn’t want the waste/trash. Year-round restrooms are in the World’s Fair Comfort Station, just south of the World’s Fair Pavilion — close to the first two entrances. Seasonal restrooms are also inside the 17 acre space, near the 3rd entrance. There is potable water for refilling water bottles as well as non-drinkable water near some activity zones to help clean the kids up, to wash off all the nature.

Ok, let’s go inside.

The main path, more than a mile long, is crushed stone. It was a good solid surface for my power wheelchair. Side paths are wood bark, which my chair also handled fine.
All the plants are native perennials, those new to the paths from containers (40k). Further away areas were seeded. The little sign asks that you not step onto the tender plants. Plants aren’t identified, this isn’t a botanical garden. However, my guide showed me a free app that will identify plants, animals, insects, fungi, etc. — click image for app info.
For the most part the topography of the 17-acre site wasn’t changed, so your view changes with every turn of the path.
At the top of a hill is a spring. OK, it’s not natural — a mechanical pump keeps the water flowing.
The water, naturally, flows downhill.
The wetlands area is apparently very popular.
The spring/wetlands becomes a dry stream at the bottom of the hill.
Play spaces vary in size. Seating on stones or logs for parents is around the perimeter. One pic I have with two kids playing had the dad right in there with them. I know it’s hard, but parents need to let their kids figure stuff out on their own. Just sit back and watch.

As a huge fan of native perennials I love the space, so much more rewarding than a formal space. Reminded me of hiking at Shaw Nature Reserve years ago, except accessible by public transit and wheelchair friendly. Seating is frequent and varied, with space for strollers and/or wheelchairs out of the path.

I want to return with my husband, and meet friends and their kids here. On my one recent visit those using the space didn’t appear to represent the wide ethnic diversity 0f the region, hopefully that’ll change.

I saw couples without kids using this for their walk/exercise, so don’t think you need kids to show up. If you’ve got young kids, nieces/nephews, cousins, etc please bring them here for a visit. Happy 145th birthday to Forest Park!

— Steve Patterson

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