Another Book Gift Idea: Under One Flag: A Journey from 9/11 to the Heartland

On Tuesday I told you about Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities by Heywood T. Sanders and a week ago about about five St. Louis books. Today’s book, a beautifully photographed hardcover coffee table book, deserved its own post: To mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a …

Restrooms Are For Customers Only

We’ve all encountered businesses that keep their public restroom(s) under lock & key, requiring you to ask for a key at the counter. The other day I had lunch with a couple of friends but the restroom access was simple while keeping out non-customers. Each receipt has a restroom code, the …

Readers Want A Trader Joe’s in the City

On Sunday, as this poll was ongoing, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s — the store I most want to open a location within the City of St. Louis.  TJ’s was the top answer in the poll, followed by Apple Store and Costco. The results: Q: Which retail stores, if any, …

Reading: Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities by Heywood T. Sanders

Friday I listed five books about St. Louis to consider as gifts.  Today’s book, a massive volume, isn’t about St. Louis. Well, not entirely. Chapter 8, titled “St. Louis: Protection from Erosion”, is the story of our own convention center folly. From the publisher: American cities have experienced a remarkable surge …

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Another Book Gift Idea: Under One Flag: A Journey from 9/11 to the Heartland

December 19, 2014 Featured, Reading 1 Comment

underoneflagOn Tuesday I told you about Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities by Heywood T. Sanders and a week ago about about five St. Louis books. Today’s book, a beautifully photographed hardcover coffee table book, deserved its own post:

To mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a group of volunteers acknowledged the fallen by posting 2,996 American flags at a city park in St. Louis, Missouri. One of the flags honored New York City firefighter Michael Weinberg, a first responder who died Ground Zero. In a twist of fate, Michael’s flag went unnoticed at auction after the event but, as a result, would make a remarkable journey through the Midwest. Under One Flag chronicles this journey with poignant, richly illustrated stories of American heroism and the conviction of those intent on paying tribute. Key among the latter are grassroots organizer Rick Randall and also Larry Eckhardt, known as “The Flag Man” for placing flags along the routes of soldiers’ funerals. Through Larry’s efforts, Michael’s flag would fly in Preston, Iowa, to honor Marine Corporal Zach Reiff, who died serving his country in Afghanistan. Under One Flag shows how lives interweave when compassion serves as the common tie. It is the collective story of people who want nothing but give everything.

Under One Flag: A Journey from 9/11 to the Heartland is published locally by Reedy Press.

— Steve Patterson

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Restrooms Are For Customers Only

December 18, 2014 Featured, Retail 2 Comments

We’ve all encountered businesses that keep their public restroom(s) under lock & key, requiring you to ask for a key at the counter. The other day I had lunch with a couple of friends but the restroom access was simple while keeping out non-customers.

Restroom sign & lock at the Chipotle at the "Flying Saucer" on Grand.
Restroom sign & lock at the Chipotle at the “Flying Saucer” on Grand.

Each receipt has a restroom code, the deadbolt you lock on the inside shows to others if the restroom is occupied or vacant. Great solution! I’m not sure how often they change the code, still probably easier than messing with a key on a stick or letting non-customers use the restrooms.

— Steve Patterson

Readers Want A Trader Joe’s in the City

December 17, 2014 Featured, Retail 11 Comments

On Sunday, as this poll was ongoing, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s — the store I most want to open a location within the City of St. Louis.  TJ’s was the top answer in the poll, followed by Apple Store and Costco.

Interior of the recently expanded Trader Joe's in Brentwood.
Interior of the recently expanded Trader Joe’s in Brentwood.

The results:

Q: Which retail stores, if any, in our region would you like to see open a location in the City of St. Louis? (pick up to 5)

  1. Trader Joe’s 30 [16.57%]
  2. TIE
    1. Apple Store 19 [10.5%]
    2. Costco 19 [10.5%]
  3. Lucky’s Market 10 [5.52%]
  4. Dierbergs 9 [4.97%]
  5. TIE
    1. Crate & Barrell 7 [3.87%]
    2. Macy’s 7 [3.87%]
    3. Marshalls 7 [3.87%]
  6. TIE
    1. Old Navy 6 [3.31%]
    2. Walmart 6 [3.31%]
    3. Other: 6 3.31% [3.31%]
      1.  Target
      2. Rural King
      3. Microsoft Store
      4. Walgreens
      5. Target (downtown)
      6. Dollar General
  7. TIE
    1. Best Buy 5 [2.76%]
    2. Cost Plus World Market 5 [2.76%]
    3. Nordstrom 5 [2.76%]
  8. TIE
    1. Sears 4 [2.21%]
    2. T.J. Maxx 4 [2.21%]
    3. Williams-Sonoma 4 [2.21%]
  9. TIE
    1. Cabela’s 3 [1.66%]
    2. Home Goods 3 [1.66%]
    3. Pottery Barn 3 [1.66%]
    4. Pier 1 Imports 3 [1.66%]
    5. Sam’s 3 [1.66%]
    6. None 3 [1.66%]
  10. TIE
    1. Dillard’s 2 [1.1%]
    2. h.h. gregg 2 [1.1%]
    3. Kitchen Conservatory 2 [1.1%]
  11. TIE
    1. Menards 1 [0.55%]
    2. Ross 1 [0.55%]
    3. Sur La Table 1 [0.55%]
    4. Tuesday morning 1 [0.55%]
  12. American Girl 0 [0%]

I suspected Trader Joe’s would be the top answer, especially considering the reation to my last April Fool’s Joke (see Mixed-Use Building with a Trader Joe’s Coming to Grand & Lindell Corner). Seriously, we need a Trader Joe’s in the city, going out to the suburbs is just to inconvenient.

In the other there were two suggestions for a Target, presumably both downtown. I concur, an urban Target downtown would be great — much better than a traditional department store. Not sure why someone listed Dollar General, there are two within the city.

— Steve Patterson

Reading: Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities by Heywood T. Sanders

Cover

Friday I listed five books about St. Louis to consider as gifts.  Today’s book, a massive volume, isn’t about St. Louis. Well, not entirely. Chapter 8, titled “St. Louis: Protection from Erosion”, is the story of our own convention center folly. From the publisher:

American cities have experienced a remarkable surge in convention center development over the last two decades, with exhibit hall space growing from 40 million square feet in 1990 to 70 million in 2011—an increase of almost 75 percent. Proponents of these projects promised new jobs, new private development, and new tax revenues. Yet even as cities from Boston and Orlando to Phoenix and Seattle have invested in more convention center space, the return on that investment has proven limited and elusive. Why, then, do cities keep building them?

Written by one of the nation’s foremost urban development experts, Convention Center Follies exposes the forces behind convention center development and the revolution in local government finance that has privileged convention centers over alternative public investments. Through wide-ranging examples from cities across the country as well as in-depth case studies of Chicago, Atlanta, and St. Louis, Heywood T. Sanders examines the genesis of center projects, the dealmaking, and the circular logic of convention center development. Using a robust set of archival resources—including internal minutes of business consultants and the personal papers of big city mayors—Sanders offers a systematic analysis of the consultant forecasts and promises that have sustained center development and the ways those forecasts have been manipulated and proven false. This record reveals that business leaders sought not community-wide economic benefit or growth but, rather, to reshape land values and development opportunities in the downtown core.

A probing look at a so-called economic panacea, Convention Center Follies dissects the inner workings of America’s convention center boom and provides valuable lessons in urban government, local business growth, and civic redevelopment.

Reading the background on how the Cervantes Convention Center came to be is fascinating! There were competing proposals to locate a convention center elsewhere, including near Union Station.

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.

Other chapters deal with other aspects, for example:

  • Paying for the box (Ch2)
  • Promises and Realities (Ch3)
  • They Will Come…and Spend (Ch4)

If you want a complete overview of convention centers this is the book for you.

— Steve Patterson

Federal & Missouri Fuel Taxes Should Be Raised Now, Indexed To Inflation

December 15, 2014 Economy, Featured, Missouri 5 Comments
The crumbling Kingshighway viaduct will finally get replaced in 2015
The crumbling Kingshighway viaduct will finally get replaced in 2015

In the last twenty years many things have increased in cost, including steel, concrete, asphalt, labor and other expenses of transportation infrastructure. Still, the main funding mechanism (fuel taxes) haven’t increased since 1993 (federal) and 1996 (Missouri). It’s no wonder our infrastructure is falling apart. Plus, we have more infrastructure than we did 20 years ago — more to maintain.

On the federal fuel tax:

It was last raised, in the year 1993, to 18.4 cents per gallon. That’s over 20 years ago, and gas prices at the time were close to the now unimaginable $1.00 per gallon mark. Yet the amount of the gas tax was fixed and not tied to inflation — so it has not changed since. (U.S. states also charge gasoline taxes; the national average is about 23.5 cents.) (Washington Post)

Fuel taxes have never been tied to inflation, but they need to be!  Politicians don’t like raising taxes, voters seldom approve increases. Yet we want nice roads and bridges that don’t collapse. Guess what folks, that requires money! Waiting a couple of decades between increases make raising the rate much more painful and shocking, we’re better off increasing incrementally every year or two.

Why now? Gas prices at the pump are at a 4-year low right now, but it’s likely temporary.

By holding production steady amidst very low global oil prices, Saudi Arabia and its OPEC allies have indicated that they will not take the U.S. assault on their market share lying down. Despite all the advantages of advanced U.S. hydraulic fracturing technology, Middle Eastern oil still has a definitive advantage: production cost. While OPEC countries could tolerate oil prices as low as $60 per barrel, analysts predict the U.S. will see a decline in new drilling if the price falls below $70 per barrel.

In the wake of OPEC’s announcement, the U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil benchmark price fell below $66 per barrel—right into the sweet spot between $60 and $70 per barrel that OPEC hopes will curb U.S. oil production. (Scientific American)

U.S. production, through “fracking”, has been impressive. Still, we’re a net importer of oil. Fracking is an expensive way to extract oil from the earth, if prices are too low it doesn’t pay to continue. Something will change that causes the supply to be reduced, causing gas prices to go back up. We need to get fuel taxes increased and set to go up automatically with inflation so we can maintain our existing infrastructure.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Which Retail Stores In Our Region Would You Like To See Open A Location In The City Of St. Louis?

December 14, 2014 Featured, Sunday Poll 1 Comment
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Decades ago downtown St. Louis was the place to go shopping, that’s where stores were concentrated. But years of population loss also meant retail stores have decentralized. The St. Louis region has many retail outlets (local & chain) but many don’t have a location within the city limits. Which brings me to the poll question for today: Which retail stores, if any, in our region would you like to see open a location in the City of St. Louis? (pick up to 5)

I’ve included a long list in the poll and you can add one more of your own. Remember, this only applies to stores already in the region. Vote at right, discuss below.

— Steve Patterson

Gift Idea: Books About St. Louis

December 12, 2014 Featured, Reading No Comments

MakingTracksWho doesn’t like books? Below are five books from 2014 to consider:

Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side, 2nd Edition by Jim Merkel

On the South Side, there lived a tactless TV guy who had a way of getting tossed out of everything on camera, from the old VP Fair to Bill Clinton’s 1996 local re-election victory party. On the South Side, there dwelt a collector of ancient vacuum cleaners, none of which worked when he demonstrated them before millions of guffawing viewers watching on national television. And on the South Side, a beer baron tried to fight off Prohibition with a high-class, three-sided beer hall. It’s all in the second edition of Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side. The first edition captured the essence of South St. Louis, with its tales of women scrubbing steps every Saturday, the yummy brain sandwich, and a nationally known gospel performer who ran a furniture store in the Cherokee neighborhood. These stories, along with the new ones that fill the second edition, convey what gives a truly unique place its rough but charming personality. The result-Holy Hoosiers!-is an edition that’s even better than the first!

Making Tracks: The Untold Story of Horse Racing in St. Louis, 1767-1905 by Nancy E. Carver

At one time, horse racing was a more popular sport than baseball. Nowhere was this reality more apparent than in St. Louis. From 1767 to 1905, throngs of excited St. Louisans rooted for their horses in almost twenty different racing venues around the area. Making Tracks takes readers on a tour of local tracks and racing history, where surprising facts emerge. St. Louis had the first night racing in the country; the St. Louis Browns, a professional baseball team, shared their baseball field with a race track; the St. Louis World’s Fair Handicap in 1904 dazzled the racing world with a $50,000 purse; famous people, including celebrated jockeys and horsemen, came to St. Louis to race; and the Delmar Loop track made history as the city’s last track and the scene of a notorious raid orchestrated by the Missouri governor. The track histories capture the thrill of the sport and the flavor of the times, including the political, social, economic, and religious realities involved. Making Tracks is a must read for horse racing fans, local history buffs, and people who love a good story. Saddle up and take a ride on bygone tracks once filled with passionate and engaged fans.

Happy Birthday, St. Louis! by Carolyn Mueller, illustrated by Ed Koehler

St. Louis has an amazing history that includes the landing of Chouteau in 1764, a famous World’s Fair, Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight the building of the Gateway Arch, and many other great moments. Happy Birthday, St. Louis! captures the city’s highlights along with a tradition that features steamboats, trains, baseball, and music. St. Louis is truly a place to be celebrated. Join the party celebrating 250 years and many, many more! For ages 3-8.

The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch by Jim Merkel

The Gateway Arch is one of America’s most distinctive and beloved national monuments. Much has been written about the Arch, but no book has captured the legend, lore, and spirit behind its conception and construction, until now. The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch compiles well-known, and rare, stories about the visionaries, finaglers, protesters, and fearless-but-skilled hands involved in an incredible undertaking that courted as much controversy as it did enthusiasm. The dreamers included the architect Eero Saarinen, who spent fourteen years tweaking his design for a Gateway Arch but never lived to see it built. Topping the list of schemers was Democratic Mayor Bernard Dickmann, who threatened to throw Missouri to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Republican opponent if the president wouldn’t provide money for Smith’s memorial. That was left to intrepid workers who walked without lanyards hundreds of feet above the ground. Today, 2.5 million visit the Gateway Arch every year, and more than 100,000 motorists view the 63-story monument daily from miles away and up close. Many already comprehend its symbolic meaning and physical beauty. The Making of An Icon helps us appreciate the relentless pursuit, innovation, and toil that made the Arch happen.

The Gateway Arch: A Biography by Tracy Campbell

Winner of the 2014 Missouri History Book Award given by The State Historical Society of Missouri.

Rising to a triumphant height of 630 feet, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is a revered monument to America’s western expansion. Envisioned in 1947 but not completed until the mid-1960s, the arch today attracts millions of tourists annually and is one of the world’s most widely recognized structures. By weaving together social, political, and cultural history, historian Tracy Campbell uncovers the complicated and troubling history of the beloved structure. This compelling book explores how a medley of players with widely divergent motivations (civic pride, ambition, greed, among others) brought the Gateway Arch to fruition, but at a price the city continues to pay.

Campbell dispels long-held myths and casts a provocative new light on the true origins and meaning of the Gateway Arch. He shows that the monument was the scheme of shrewd city leaders who sought to renew downtown St. Louis and were willing to steal an election, destroy historic buildings, and drive out local people and businesses to achieve their goal. Campbell also tells the human story of the architect Eero Saarinen, whose prize-winning design brought him acclaim but also charges of plagiarism, and who never lived to see the completion of his vision. As a national symbol, the Gateway Arch has a singular place in American culture, Campbell concludes, yet it also stands as an instructive example of failed urban planning.

Be sure to look for these and other books at local bookstores.

— Steve Patterson

Retail Parking Garages Great In Winter

December 11, 2014 Featured, Parking No Comments

As Winter approaches I’m thankful for the businesses that have covered parking. You see, since my 2008 stroke walking on dry pavement is a challenge, snow & ice nearly impossible. So businesses with covered parking, like the Hampton Village Target, allows me to drive from my garage and park under the store without walking on slick pavement.

Parking level under the Target at Hampton & Chippewa
Parking level under the Target at Hampton & Chippewa

Being able to work forces you to leave your homes regardless of the weather, but as a person on disability, it gets old when I haven’t left the house for days. As I’ve complained before, the downtown sidewalks can remain blocked with snow a week or more after the roads are fully cleared, leaving me no choice but to get in the car to keep from going stir crazy.

The Winter of 2012 was the worst, I’d sold my car the previous Spring. Last Winter my then-fiance could drive me places in his car. This Winter, however, I’ll be able to drive the car we bought together in the Spring. I still prefer going out in the wheelchair if the sidewalks are clear enough, it’s my equivalent to going for a walk.

This time next year I’ll also be able to drive to, and park at, Whole Foods & IKEA!

— Steve Patterson

Readers Like New York Thin, St. Louis, & Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Styles

In the Sunday Poll readers picked their favorite pizza styles:

Q: Pick two (2) favorite styles of pizza from the following:

  1. New York Thin Crust 14 [25%]
  2. St. Louis Style 13 [23.21%]
  3. Chicago Deep Dish (and stuffed) 12 [21.43%]
  4. The Original: Neapolitan 9 [16.07%]
  5. Detroit Style 4 [7.14%]
  6. California Style 2 [3.57%]
  7. TIE
    1. New England Greek 1 [1.79%]
    2. Unsure/no answer 1 [1.79%]
  8. Chicago Thin Crust 0 [0%]
  9. Tomato Pie 0 [0%]

See descriptions of each here. I like most styles of pizza — except St. Louis. I’ve been here over 24 years but the St. Louis style trio (crust, sauce & cheese) just doesn’t work for me.

— Steve Patterson

Central Library Reopened Two Years Ago

December 9, 2014 Downtown, Education, Featured 6 Comments

St. Louis’ Central Library reopened two years ago today, after being closed for a major renovation. Earlier this year a cafe opened off the atrium.

The exterior lighting is outstanding, October 2014
The exterior lighting is outstanding, October 2014
ABOVE: The atrium in the former stacks area is a very modern and welcoming area.
The atrium in the former stacks area is a very modern and welcoming area.

If you haven’t yet visited I suggest you take the time to check it out. I haven’t spent as much time inside as I thought I would, be living two blocks West I do get to enjoy the exterior often.

Check out this video on the library to learn more about it:

— Steve Patterson

 

SUNDAY POLL (8AM-8PM SUNDAYS)


Check back Sunday at 8am for a new poll.

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