Alley Retail Can Work…In The Right Conditions

 

 Alleys are one thing that attracted me to St. Louis in 1990, we didn’t have them in the 1960s suburban subdivision where I grew up in Oklahoma City. Interestingly, my grandparents each had alleys behind their homes in the small Western Oklahoma towns of Weatherford & Clinton. I spent a lot …

Sunday Poll: Will Schnucks Be Too Dominant After Buying 19 Shop ‘n Save Locations?

 

 Our local grocery scene continues to change, from last week: Shop ‘n Save is checking out of the grocery-store business in the St. Louis region. Schnucks Markets is purchasing 19 area Shop ‘n Save groceries owned by parent company SuperValu and will rebrand them as Schnucks stores. The remaining 17 …

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 16 of 2018-2019 Session

 

 The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 16th meeting of the 2018-2019 session. Today’s agenda includes four(4) new bills: B.B.#116 – Navarro/Spencer/Green/Rice – An ordinance defining the term“honored guest” as the term is used in City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen Rules, as an individual, …

Opinion: We Must Demand Less Waste Be Produced

 

 Growing up in the 70s/80s we recycled — aluminum cans. Once the container in the garage filled with flattened cans we were off to the metal recycler to sell them. Though other items were often reused, nothing else was recycled. It all went into trash cans that I often had …

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Alley Retail Can Work…In The Right Conditions

September 24, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Retail Comments Off on Alley Retail Can Work…In The Right Conditions
 

Alleys are one thing that attracted me to St. Louis in 1990, we didn’t have them in the 1960s suburban subdivision where I grew up in Oklahoma City. Interestingly, my grandparents each had alleys behind their homes in the small Western Oklahoma towns of Weatherford & Clinton. I spent a lot of time in the alleys behind their houses. Everywhere I’ve lived in St. Louis has had an alley, though for the last decade the alley has technically been St. Charles Street.

In April 2012 I posted about the streets that are really alleys parallel to Washington Ave.; St. Charles Street to the South & Lucas Ave to the North.  A year later New Brewery Improves Alley-Like Lucas Ave.

A recent “Where am I?” photo on Facebook raised interesting issues about alleys, and led me to ban someone from commenting on the page. Let me explain.

I posted the photo to the right on Facebook (blog’s cover image) with the caption “Where am I?” There were right & wrong guesses as to the location — it’s off of Locust St. between 10th-11th. One of the comments was “A sketchy alley about to get mugged by a homeless guy with a shank.  Also next to the Urban Shark.” Yes, Urban Shark is attached to the Bike Station on the left. No, not at any risk of getting mugged, but many think that way about alleys.

One person commented we need to turn alleys into pedestrian-focused retail like other cities have done, citing San Francisco & New Orleans. I recall experiencing one in Vancouver years ago — great space. However, I replied that retailing has struggled downtown even on well-populated streets like Washington Ave. Later I asked him to name just one alley downtown that would make a good candidate for retail. He, we’ll call him GB, said I was bashing St. Louis and he’s seen it work well in other cities. I’ll post more on our interaction in the future, right now I want to stick to GB’s assertion we should enliven our alleys.

Our alleys, like in many cities, were planned as ways to keep unsightly business like trash disposal out of view from primary streets. Also, most of downtown’s alleys have been privatized. Certainly those who own to the rights to formerly public alleys could try to market an alley as a pedestrian-friendly retail & restaurant hub, though ownership is often split down the middle between property owners on each side.

Yes, this has worked well in other cities. So why not downtown St. Louis? First, this has been used in areas lacking vacant street-facing retail spaces.  When retail vacancy is near zero rents go up. By expanding into alleys building owners can make retail spaces in unused/unleased portions of buildings. The rents received isn’t what they get out front but it helps the bottom line. Retailers get spaces that are more affordable in their business model.

If we look at the immediate area around the alley I posted we can see lots of available storefront space. Lots.

The corner space on the building to the East is vacant. Same for the corner space on the building to the West.
Diagonally across 10th & Locust from the above, the corner of The Syndicate remains vacant.
Stefano’s former space at 504 N 10th has been vacant for 3+ years.

The South side of Washington Ave between 10th & 11th recent became fully occupied, but the North side has lots of vacancies.

The Dorsa building was renovated more than a decade ago but ground floor retail remains vacant.
The other storefront in the Dorsa is also vacant. Years ago the St. Louis convention people made the windows look nice at least.
Two months from now will mark 3 years since The Dubliner closed, the space remains vacant.
One bright spot is someone will soon be reopening Bella’s Frozen Yogurt at 1021 Washington Ave. Yay! Click the image to open their Facebook page in a new tab.

I’ve tried to think of an alley in Downtown or Downtown West that might be a good candidate. Laclede’s Landing — can’t think of one, North of the Arch/Ead’s Bridge, has done ok with an alley or two to gain access to buildings. The best local example I can think of is the Maryland Plaza alley in the Central West End.

The property owner(s) did a great job welcoming you to the back of the buildings.
A restaurant patio occupies the West end of the “alley” behind the buildings. This photo was taken on a hot Thursday afternoon, I’d imagine it’s hard to get a table here at certain times.
Looking East toward York Ave., we see a living wall to disguise the parking garage on the right.
Approaching York Ave.

This example was never a public service alley, but it does show how a small sliver of property behind a building can become an asset rather than a liability. Former service alleys can be given this same treatment, the results are often amazing.

Still doesn’t make it a good idea for downtown St. Louis. It might, if you can think of the right location.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Will Schnucks Be Too Dominant After Buying 19 Shop ‘n Save Locations?

September 23, 2018 Featured, Local Business, Retail, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Will Schnucks Be Too Dominant After Buying 19 Shop ‘n Save Locations?
 
Please vote below

Our local grocery scene continues to change, from last week:

Shop ‘n Save is checking out of the grocery-store business in the St. Louis region.

Schnucks Markets is purchasing 19 area Shop ‘n Save groceries owned by parent company SuperValu and will rebrand them as Schnucks stores. The remaining 17 Shop ‘n Save locations will close if SuperValu is unable to find a buyer by the end of the year.

The acquisition will boost the number of Schnucks grocery stores by 20 percent. Fifteen of the stores include pharmacies, which will also be purchased and run by Schnucks. (St. Louis Public Radio)

I was here in 1995 when Schnucks bought National Supermarkets from Canadian-based Loblaws, earlier grocery stores were before I arrived:

A previous merger in 1970 had seen Schnucks acquire the Bettendorf-Rapp chain of grocery stores—temporarily forming the Schnucks-Bettendorf’s chain (a joke was that an initially proposed name for the merged company was “Schnuckendorfs”) until the latter half of the combined name was dropped a couple of years later—just as Bettendorf’s had swallowed up the Rapp chain of stores to form Bettendorf-Rapp’s in the 1960s. Schnucks underwent a major expansion in 1995 when it purchased from Loblaws the National Supermarkets chain, also based in St. Louis.

Schnucks’ growth in the St. Louis area was bolstered by the local abandonment of two major supermarket chains: A&P in the 1970s, and Kroger in 1986. (Wikipedia)

This week’s poll is about Schnucks buying 19 Shop ‘n Save stores:

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 16 of 2018-2019 Session

September 21, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 16 of 2018-2019 Session
 
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 16th meeting of the 2018-2019 session.

Today’s agenda includes four(4) new bills:

  • B.B.#116 – Navarro/Spencer/Green/Rice – An ordinance defining the term“honored guest” as the term is used in City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen Rules, as an individual, or their representative, who is being honored by the Board of Aldermen through a Resolutionon that day’s meeting agenda, and such honoree’s immediatefamily members and friends, and immediate family members of the members of Board of Aldermen.
  • B.B.#117 – Arnowitz – An Ordinance authorizing and directing the Director of the Department of Human Services, by and through the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging and, to accept funding from the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging (in the amount of $120,000 over the next Five fiscal years. The amount for the current fiscal year is $30,000.) and to expend those funds for the 2018 Anthem Commercial Care Transition Project as set forth in the PCHP, LLC, Statement of Work to the Grant Award Agreement; and containing an Emergency Clause.
  • B.B.#118 – Spencer – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 3520-3522 Arkansas.
  • Res.#119 – Kennedy – An ordinance authorizing and directing the Director of Public Safety, on behalf of the Mayor and the City, to enter into and execute an Intergovernmental Agreement with the United States Marshal Service for housing and related services for United States Marshal detainees housed within the Division of Corrections, providing for appropriation of these funds paid by the United States Marshals Service in accordance with the Intergovernmental Agreement, authorizing the expenditure of such appropriated funds by entering into contracts or otherwise upon approval of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and containing an emergency clause.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

Opinion: We Must Demand Less Waste Be Produced

September 19, 2018 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Opinion: We Must Demand Less Waste Be Produced
 
We use yard/leaf bags for recycling, pinned on the wall is guidelines from our recycling company.

Growing up in the 70s/80s we recycled — aluminum cans. Once the container in the garage filled with flattened cans we were off to the metal recycler to sell them. Though other items were often reused, nothing else was recycled. It all went into trash cans that I often had to drag out to the curb. In the 30 years since I’ve lived on my own I’ve tried to recycle more and more.

Sorting used to be the thing, then single stream. Now a common word is contamination.

Today, the average contamination rate among communities and businesses sits at around 25%. That means that roughly 1 in 4 items placed in a recycling container is actually not recyclable through curbside programs, and this creates enormous problems for the recycling economy.

Problem one: contamination significantly increases the cost to process recyclables. Add this to the fact that commodity prices for recyclables has fallen significantly and the financial sustainability of recycling is at risk. To put another way, not only are plastics lighter, and packaging more complex, recyclables derived from those items are being sold for less and at a higher cost to process. Those are some big economic hurdles.

Problem two: Recycling contamination has a direct impact in the quality of recyclables entering the commodity markets. For example, when foods or liquids are placed in a recycling container they will ultimately saturate tons and tons of otherwise good paper and cardboard that they come into contact with. When paper and cardboard loses its quality, it also loses its ability to be recycled. It becomes trash.

Now, imagine that all taking place at an enormous scale, and not just with food and liquids but with all contaminants. Trash entering the recycling stream impacts the quality of recyclables entering the commodity markets. The higher the recycling contamination, the less we can recycle – that is the challenge we are all facing, and it is a global problem.

In response to these quality issues, China – a major importer of recyclables – recently issued new rules on the types of materials it will accept, including a 0.5% max on recycling contamination. That means that the 25% contamination rate we see today at the curb must reach virtually zero for those items to be recycled. Anything above that 0.5% contamination will be trash. (Waste Management)

China’s decision to no longer purchase & process our contaminated materials means recycling must change. We must adapt to this change.  In May the St. Charles County Council rejected a proposed trash transfer center.  Besides, landfills are filling up quickly.

One of the first things you can do is attempt to reduce recycling/waste by buying products in minimal packaging. Buying larger sizes of something will reduce the total packaging needed. Buy large refill bottles. Buy spices in refill packages rather than a new plastic/glass bottle.

Those rare times we have a pizza box, my husband has the pleasure of cutting out the greasy cardboard so the non-greasy parts (lid, sides) can be recycled. Sure it’s extra work, but by doing so more than half will be recyclable.  We have stainless steel straws for when we go out for shakes, not using straws otherwise.

Still plastics remains a major problem. A costly experimental effort is underway to begin to reduce the size of one of the five floating garbage patches in the world’s oceans.

We need to gather the political will to do better:

Legislators could make laws that incentivize and facilitate recycling, like the national bottle deposit and bag tax bills that were proposed in 2009. These bills would have created a nationwide five-cent deposit on plastic bottles and other containers, and a nonrefundable five-cent charge on plastic bags at checkout. The U.K. launched a similar charge on all single-use grocery bags in 2015 and announced a nationwide bottle deposit requirement in March of this year. Within six months of the plastic bag charge being in place, usage dropped over 80 percent. Similarly, in Germany, where a nationwide bottle bill was put in place in 2003, recycling rates have exceeded 98 percent. In the U.S. these actions would go a long way toward recovering the estimated $8 billion yearly economic opportunity cost of plastic waste. (Scientific American)

Those who profit from plastics, however, don’t want anything to change.  You might be thinking “What could replace plastics?” Mushrooms!

From 2010:

Companies are now beginning to use regional agricultural byproducts to reduce the use of plastics in their packaging & products:

Mushroom-based packaging went mainstream when the furniture giant, IKEA, announced that it will replace Styrofoam packaging with EcoCradle for all its products. Ecocradle decomposes within weeks as against Styrofoam packaging that can take centuries to decompose. Moreover, it’s cost-effective to produce and almost as durable as plastic. Ecocradle has also proved to be as insulating and flame-resistant as polystyrene. IKEA’s ingenious initiative is bound to be a motivating factor for other commercial outfits that aim to give back to the society and environment where they exist. IKEA’s Head of Sustainability, Joanna Yarrow, said this was the retailer’s small yet significant step towards reducing waste and conserving ecological balance. Dell, Coca Cola, P&G, and many other brands have switched to eco-friendly alternative packaging. (Medium)

I love the idea of tossing packaging into a compost pile to decompose instead of into the trash/recycling.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Recycling is too much trouble to bother with.

  • Strongly agree: 3 [10.34%]
  • Agree: 2 [6.9%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [3.45%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [10.34%]
  • Disagree: 5 [17.24%]
  • Strongly disagree: 15 [51.72%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

As cities in the St. Louis region scramble to maintain recycling we need to do our part by demanding stricter laws on the production of plastics, let manufactures know they need to reduce/eliminate plastics.  If we don’t adapt quickly the recycling will begin piling up — before being dumped into dwindling landfills.

— Steve Patterson

 

From Municipal Auditorium to Enterprise Center

September 17, 2018 Downtown, Featured Comments Off on From Municipal Auditorium to Enterprise Center
 

Buildings used to be named after a person, usually a man, that had the building built or perhaps as a memorial to a prominent figure.

Opened in 1934 as the Municipal Opera House/Municipal Auditorium, the building was bounded by Market on the North, Clark on the South, 14th on the East and 15th on the West. This 1934 photo was by Charles Trefts, click image for source.

The first nine years it remained Municipal Auditorium, but in 1942 2-term (1913-25) former mayor, a Republican, Henry Kiel died at age 71. The building was quickly renamed after him.

The arena, completed in 1934, at a cost of $6 million, seated 9,300 and was built by Fruin-Colnon Construction. It was originally named the Municipal Auditorium, but was renamed in honor of former St. Louis Mayor Henry Kiel in 1943. A unique feature of the auditorium was that it was split into two; the front of the building was the Kiel Opera House. It was possible to use both sides at once as the stages were back to back. President Harry Truman gave a speech there in which both sides were opened to see his speech. (Wikipedia)

Both sides of the Kiel closed in 1991 as the auditorium portion on the South was demolished to make way for a new sports arena.

In 1992/3 the convention hall at the back was razed to construct a new sports arena

Construction on the new Kiel Center moved quickly.

The arena opened in 1994 to replace Kiel Auditorium, where the Saint Louis University college basketball team had played, which was torn down in December 1992. The Blues had played in the St. Louis Arena prior to moving into Kiel Center in 1994; however, they would not play in the arena until January 1995 due to the lockout that delayed the start of the 1994-95 season. The first professional sports match was played by the St. Louis Ambush, an indoor soccer team. (Wikipedia)

The city, via the Treasurer’s office, built a parking garage to the West.

Today it’s still called Kiel Center Parking.

Meanwhile, a new company was formed in the St. Louis region.

Savvis was founded in November 1995 under the name DiamondNet by CTO/COO Timothy Munro Roberts and CEO Andrew Gladney. The two had met in the St. Louis area in 1994 where both lived, with Roberts working for a computer store and Gladney a customer. Gladney put up the initial capital ($600,000 or $1 million, according to different sources) for a 75% stake in the startup, with Roberts’ stake the remaining 25%.

Gary Zimmerman, recruited by Roberts from SBC Communications Inc. to become Vice President of Engineering at Savvis in November 1995, built out Robert’s first national network design. The original network design was unique within the industry at the time it became fully operational, and there was significant coverage and discussion in the trade press regarding both the network and its architect, Roberts. In 2001, the last year in which Robert’s original design was in use, Savvis was ranked the #1 fastest Backbone Network by Keynote Systems, an independent network ratings service. (Wikipedia)

After being acquired by another company in 1999 it was spun out on its own in 2000. That year Savvis inked a 20 year deal for the naming rights — making the Kiel Center the Savvis Center.  However, in 2006 they changed their minds:

The agreement had been set to expire in 2020. But Savvis paid $5.5 million to back out of the deal.

Savvis says the Kiel Center Partners still have the option to keep Savvis’s name on the arena.

The company says it is not having cash flow problems.

Savvis had originally agreed to pay $62 million in annual installments for the naming rights. (St. Louis Public Radio)

That same year, 2006, the RFT named former Savvis CEO Robert McCormick as Best Local Boy Gone Bad:

Hometown network provider Savvis Inc.’s stock price may have been in free-fall, but that didn’t stop Robert McCormick from rolling high. During a 2003 outing to a Manhattan strip club, the lusty CEO and father of three allegedly racked up a $241,000 tab on his corporate AmEx card and then, when the bill came due, welshed. McCormick, who’d ultimately tender his resignation over the matter, didn’t deny visiting the New York pleasure dome on the night in question but insisted he couldn’t have spent more than $20,000. And ever- attentive to the line between business and pleasure, the CEO never asked Savvis to reimburse him for the trip. (RFT)

Savvis’ stock value was also related to the end of the naming rights deal, apparently they paid for the rights in stock. Savvis is still local, now a subsidiary of a Louisiana-based company.

Looking north toward the Scottrade Center at 14th & Clark

In September 2006 local brokerage firm Scottrade stepped in to rename the facility Scottrade Center. After a decade Scottrade announced it was being acquired by Omaha-based TD Ameritrade. By September 2017 TD Ameritrade completed the acquisition of Clayton-based Scottrade. No surprise, a company from Omaha Nebraska isn’t going to keep paying to sponsor a facility in another city.

St. Louis-based Enterprise had been looking to sponsor a local sports facility:

Enterprise’s National Car Rental brand was slated to be the sponsor of the proposed St. Louis riverfront football stadium in 2015 as National Car Rental Field. The St. Louis Rams football team ultimately moved to Los Angeles and the football stadium was never built. The 20-year naming rights agreement would have been worth $158 million. (Post-Dispatch)

After the Blue’s and Enterprise announced the deal in May 2018 the Scottrade name was quickly removed.

September 1st very little had changed, an Enterprise banner had been added on the SW corner but smaller sponsors remained, though one was covered.
On September 6th the names of smaller sponsors were being removed.
And Enterprise Center was installed.

The current deal is for 15 years — until 2033. Will Enterprise still be a St. Louis company? Hopefully private ownership and long family roots will keep the company here. I’d say the odds are good this 15-year deal will last until the end.

— Steve Patterson

 

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