Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

 

 Five years ago the trees at the renovated Kiener Plaza looked so new, provided no shade. Now they’ve matured nicely. Saturday we spent 2+ hours sitting in the shade. It’s nice seeing Kiener Plaza be a space that can hold thousands of people and still function. Now if only we …

Rethinking 811 North 9th Street (Holiday Inn Express)

 

 I recently posted about a 1960s hotel in the Downtown West neighborhood that no longer worked (see Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn). Today is a similar look at an early 1980s hotel the no longer works: The Radisson/Ramada/Holiday Inn at 811 North 9th Street. It is across 9th …

Vacant Land Near Centene Stadium Awaits New Construction

 

 Centene Stadium (St. Louis) – Wikipedia, the soccer stadium finishing up construction now, is reshaping the Downtown West neighborhood.   This got me thinking about a vacant parcel just south of the stadium, next to the former YMCA that became a Drury Hotel in the 1980s. The official address is …

Richard Serra’s ‘Twain’ Sculpture Dedicated 40 Years Ago, Needs To Be Lighted

 

 Every five years I post about Twain. Not Mark Twain, but the COR-TEN steel sculpture by Richard Serra (1938 – ) It was inaugurated 40 years ago today — May 1, 1982. St. Louis loves to hate this sculpture, bashing it is a group bonding experience. I like it, partly …

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Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

May 19, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Plazas Comments Off on Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today
 

Five years ago the trees at the renovated Kiener Plaza looked so new, provided no shade. Now they’ve matured nicely. Saturday we spent 2+ hours sitting in the shade.

Look at the size of the trees on the right, they provide actual shade now.
This February view shows the new visitor center building. The trees are bigger but hadn’t put on level for the seaso9n yet.
Same area, at the reopening in 2017
The awful May Amphitheater sunk into the west end of the previous Kiener Plaza.

It’s nice seeing Kiener Plaza be a space that can hold thousands of people and still function. Now if only we could do something about those two parking garages across Chestnut, to the north.

— Steve Patterson

Rethinking 811 North 9th Street (Holiday Inn Express)

May 17, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Rethinking 811 North 9th Street (Holiday Inn Express)
 

I recently posted about a 1960s hotel in the Downtown West neighborhood that no longer worked (see Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn). Today is a similar look at an early 1980s hotel the no longer works: The Radisson/Ramada/Holiday Inn at 811 North 9th Street.

The primary view of the 5-story hotel is from 9th & Convention Plaza (formerly Delmar, Morgan before that). April 2016 photo

It is across 9th Street from the blank west wall of our convention center, but soon the convention center expansion will mean it is surrounded on 3 sides. Its backside will soon face the only through street passing the property.

Before I get into the problems & possible solutions a little history is important.

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 1977 our convention center opened. Delmar, historically known as Morgan, was renamed to Convention Plaza between 3rd/4th and 14th Street. This street remained open as it has always been. The convention center originality occupied four city blocks bounded by Delmar/Convention Plaza, 9th, Cole, and 7th. Two blocks of Dr. Martin Luther King (formerly Franklin) and two blocks of 8th Street were erased from the grid.

The Sheraton Hotel also opened in 1977 — on the east side of the convention center, bounded by 7th, Cole, 6th, and Dr. Martin Luther King.  Then on April 1, 1981 the Radisson St. Louis Hotel opened on the west side of the convention center on  “9th at Convention Plaza”, aka 811 North 9th Street. Radisson was a very small hotel chain at the time, this was roughly #30 for them.

Demolition of the decade-old Sheraton Hotel to make room for the new football stadium. July 1992 — looking South from Cole & 7th

Ok, back to the Radisson and how it doesn’t fit 41+ years later:

Click image to see a larger view.

In this view the green box on the left is the parking lot to the south that will soon become an outdoor convention space. The blue in the upper left will be a parking garage with ground floor retail/restaurant. The grey box on the right will be new convention center space. 10th Street (left to right on top) will become 2-way traffic, unfortunately only for the short distance between Washington Ave and Cole Street. The hotel main entrance is the red star, bottom center. The red hexagon at 10th & Dr. Martin Luther King is the hotel dock/service entrance.

As always, I look first to see options where as much of the existing is retained. Maybe move the entrance/lobby from the east (9th) to west (10th) side?

This December 2012 view shows a problem with relocating the entrance to 10th Street — the 1st floor level is below the street/sidewalk. Plus the main elevators are on the east side.
Guests approaching from southbound 10th Street will be greeted by the docks and often employee cars.

Because the height of the ground floor relative to 10th Street, elevator locations, dock, etc relocating the entrance said lobby to the opposite side doesn’t look feasible — at least not to me. Again, the building has had many updates over the decades, but I don’t see anyway to avoid totally razing it. Maybe the interior has some redeaming quality to make it worth saving?

Nope!

Looking up from the 1st floor corner of the lobby. December 2012
On the 2nd floor you can see how the pool is at the center, spreading humidity and chlorine smell throughout. December 2012.

Maybe those planning the convention center expansion thought of this, but I’d have liked to have seen a land swap. Get the hotel to build a modern structure on the surface lot one block south, green in my diagram above. When the new hotel is finished tear down the old one and use that for the outdoor convention space — would be conveniently between the new wing of the convention center on the north and the new hotel on the south. Instead of 3 extra 1-block sections of streets surrounding the old hotel that land could be put to better use. The hotel could get a great new property closer to Washington Ave with zero downtime.

Again, this might have been proposed and ruled out Just not sure since the design was final when presented to the public.

So let up suppose the hotel owner, a Washington DC – based LLC, is willing to raze and rebuild on the existing site. What should they do?

Public streets all the way around is excessive paving, city maintenance. I’m at a loss how to design an attractive/functional hotel on this site, but I think creative architects could come up with some great concepts.

Short of a new building, I’d like to see the perimeter updated. Landscaping and maybe some shallow/liner retail spaces to fill in the gaps between the blank first floor walls and the public sidewalk(s).

Looking east from 10th along the south side (Convention Plaza/Delmar).

The south side has the most extra land. This isn’t inviting at all — a totally blank wall and boring turf grass. Maybe add some texture to the wall, giving it some gentle lighting at night? Or you widen the public sidewalk and build little storefronts to fill in the remaining lawn? Put a green roof on these so the hotel guests have something nice to look at from above.

In 2012 the Holiday Inn was a Ramada.

Regardless of the brand, I’d like to see the check in driveway located somewhere not between the sidewalk and the front door. It’s not impossible.

An Embassy Suites hotel in Chicago has no valet or other vehicle provision out front. Click image to see in Google Maps.
Parallel to the main street is a driveway for valet, etc. There’s an other entrance for guests to self-park.

To close I think if the 41+ year old hotel at 811 North 9th Streets remains as is, surrounded by wide streets, it’s going to be awkward for convention guests. It’s not going to look/feel good to anyone. Not sure of the best solution but I know it should be figured out before we spend millions locking it into this location.

— Steve Patterson

Vacant Land Near Centene Stadium Awaits New Construction

May 12, 2022 Downtown, Featured, MLS Stadium, Planning & Design, Real Estate Comments Off on Vacant Land Near Centene Stadium Awaits New Construction
 

Centene Stadium (St. Louis) – Wikipedia, the soccer stadium finishing up construction now, is reshaping the Downtown West neighborhood.   This got me thinking about a vacant parcel just south of the stadium, next to the former YMCA that became a Drury Hotel in the 1980s. The official address is 222 South 21st Street.

Looking west across 20th from the St. Louis Wheel. March 2021

This site is 9.16 acres, is one parcel, and owned by Bi-State Development (aka Metro) since July 2019. According to city records Bi-State paid $1.65 million.

Just before Bi-State closed on the property the 1960s commercial laundry building was razed. It had a fire in 2005, that was repaired. A new occupancy permit was issued in 2018 for warehouse/storage.

Looking east from the former highway ramps. March 2010

So a 1960s commercial laundry occupied the western half of the site for decades. What about more than a century ago?

This site is outlined in red, pink means brick, yellow wood on this 1909 Sanborn Map..  Click image to view sheet from the Sanborn map.

The brown box is the new Railroad YMCA , the city block was divided by a small portion east of Tom Street, and the bigger portion west of it. When Union Station added more tracks Tom Street became 20th Street, giving the station more land up to Market Street. Many buildings between Eugenia and Market were razed so that 20th could shift west. The site now knowm as 222 South 21st Street was 13 parcels with houses and stables on the east, at Tom.

As you can tell from the 2010 photo above of the now-razed laundry, I’ve had an interest in the site for a very long time. At the time it didn’t make any sense to propose new construction — a business occupied the existing building and the site was on a tiny short block of Clark Ave, between 20th & 21st.

Now Clark Ave will soon connect to 22nd Street, I-64, and Jefferson Ave.  I thought of this site again earlier this year when I saw an article about a 7-unit apartment building in Philadelphia built on leftover land measuring only 11′ x 93′. View in Google Street View.

This site is considerably larger. What I’d do is build an apartment building on the east end that has zero off-street parking. With the Union Station MetroLink light rail station nearby this is ideal for some apartments without parking, since structured parking is so costly.

The west end of the site has great views of the new soccer practice fields, build tall enough and you can see over the Drury Hotel parking garage.  A rooftop patio would be outstanding.

A garage entrance off the low end of the alley would keep the perimeter public sidewalks unbroken. Creative architects could probably come up with many options to maximize the site without any surface parking or curb cuts.

I think 2-3 buildings ranging from low-income to high end would do this site justice, and provide a nice range of options. It would require thinking differently, but so did getting 7 units on a parcel only 11’x93’.

— Steve Patterson

Richard Serra’s ‘Twain’ Sculpture Dedicated 40 Years Ago, Needs To Be Lighted

May 1, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Popular Culture Comments Off on Richard Serra’s ‘Twain’ Sculpture Dedicated 40 Years Ago, Needs To Be Lighted
 

Every five years I post about Twain. Not Mark Twain, but the COR-TEN steel sculpture by Richard Serra (1938 – ) It was inaugurated 40 years ago today — May 1, 1982. St. Louis loves to hate this sculpture, bashing it is a group bonding experience. I like it, partly because so many don’t.  I also like how it feels to be inside, or looking into or through the openings.

Looking west inside ‘Twain’

Ever since Citygarden opened across 10th Street in 2009 I’ve felt we need to connect the two — extend the wide “hallway” as envisioned by the Gateway Mall master plan.  Install new wider sidewalks on the three other sides.

The wide hallway connecting the two blocks of Citygarden at 9th & Market. One reason they closed 9th is they didn’t figure out how to let pedestrians using the “hallway” to know when it was safe to cross 9th. A problem that would need to get solved at 10th.

Definitely install new lighting like Twain had in 1982. Well, not big fixtures on the ground that make it hard to mow the grass — new compact LEDs flush with the ground.

At the 1982 opening the lighting was extensive, the outsides were washed in light, inside there was a light on each side of each opening. Still image from video on opening day — click to view 4:09 minute video on YouTube.

Five-10 years ago a light manufacturer was willing to temporarily mock up what new modern lighting could look like. Art patrons in St. Louis weren’t willing to cover the cost for security for the week so the installation never happened.

So Friday night my husband and I went to Twain and used an iPhone flashlight on bright to simulate what just one light would look like.

The spot on one section was created with one iPhone X, just imagine what proper LED landscape lighting would look like all the way around the perimeter.
A closer view of the light.

The results were worth the effort. Proper lighting could potentially change perceptions about this sculpture.

Another problem is the grass is very uneven, and the openings get very worn.

After raining the openings are a mud pit.

I have some ideas about a solution, but I’m very curious what the artist would say. He didn’t want any formal paths because he wanted people to be able to approach the sculpture from any point. I’d also be interested in what landscape architects would come up with, perhaps through a competition.

Again, I really like this sculpture. So much so that a year ago when Lindy Drew from Humans of St. Louis was taking my picture for post I selected Twain & Citygarden as the locations.

Steve & David, May 2021.

A non-profit arts organization is needed to submit an application to the Gateway Foundation to fund lighting, other work. Someone please make this happen.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sportsman’s Park (later known as Busch Stadium) Reopened 120 Years Ago Today

April 23, 2022 Featured, North City, Popular Culture Comments Off on Sportsman’s Park (later known as Busch Stadium) Reopened 120 Years Ago Today
 

The baseball diamond bounded by Dodier, Grand, Sullivan, and Spring is commonly called Sportsman’s Park, but it has had many names during the century prior to the Herbert Hoover Boys Club taking over the site. When I decided to write a post about this I naïvely thought it would be fairly simple to do. Instead it got more complicated (and interesting) than I anticipated.

PART OF CROWD OF 26,248 AT BASEBALL GAME AT SPORTSMANS PARK, 1 JUNE 1943. VIEW FROM RIGHT FIELD WING OF GRANDSTAND. Source: Missouri Historical Society.

This post will be about this location, plus some others where baseball has been played in St. Louis — not about the sport or some great play in a game. This post is presented as a  chronological timeline, but there are many gaps & details not researched. At the end I’ll discuss the urban planning issues around these sites, such as building codes, land use, zoning, public transit, parking, etc.

The following is from various sources, not all independently verified.

  • October 16 1834: Augustus Solari born in Switzerland. He’s an important figure in St. Louis baseball stadiums…keep reading.
  • 1860: Solari marries Louisa Sartore. She was also born in Switzerland (1837). Wedding location unknown.
  • 1866: Augustus Solari acquires land in St. Louis that will eventually become Sportsman’s Park. He’s a recent immigrant, 31 or 32 years old at the time and a father of 3 at this point.
  • 1867: Augustus Solari begins staging baseball games at the Grand Avenue Ball Grounds (also known as Grand Avenue Park).
  • 1870: St. Louis population 310,864.
  • June 1874: A judge will hear the case of John Dee against saloon proprietor Augustus Solari. Dee alleged Solari assaulted him with a stick, was unprovoked. Apparently this saloon was at the ball park.
  • 1875: St. Louis Brown Stockings formed in St. Louis, began playing at the Grand Avenue Ball Park. St. Louis has one major all-white baseball team. Founders/ownership is unclear but it doesn’t appear Solari was involved.
  • 1877: “After the conclusion of the 1877 season, a game-fixing scandal involving two players the Brown Stockings had acquired led the team to resign its membership in the NL. The club then declared bankruptcy and folded.”
  • April 14, 1878: St. Louis Brown Stockings defeat the Athletics, 2,600 “witnesses”.
  • May 1879: the National League and the team fold.
  • June 1879: Solari helps reorganize the St. Louis Brown Stockings.
  • 1880: St. Louis population 350,518.
  • July 25, 1881: The circuit court issued issued an injunction preventing a planned pigeon shoot near the fields. Augustus Solari and others are mentioned in the page 8 story titled “Pity for Pigeons.”
  • 1881: First grandstand constructed of wood, located at southeast corner closest to Grand & Dodier. As you’d expect the home plate is in this corner.
  • 1881: Grocery store and saloon owner Christian Friedrich von der Ahe (1851-1913) bought the St. Louis Brown Stockings when he was in his early 30s. Changes team name to the St. Louis Browns.
  • 1882: St. Louis Browns become part of the American Association league.October 2, 1883: Supreme Court (state? federal?) overturns lower courts, giving possession of the Grand Avenue Base Ball Park back to the descendants of George C. Miller and tenant Augustus Solari.
  • 1890: 451,770 population.
  • 1892: When the American Association folded St. Louis Browns was among teams included in a new National League.  The team began looking for a new place to play.
  • “For 1893, owner Chris von der Ahe moved his team a few blocks to the northwest and opened a “New” Sportsman’s Park, on the southeast corner of Natural Bridge and Vandeventer. The move to this particular site was part of a “deal”, as the property had been owned by a trolley company, who then ran a trolley line out near the ballpark. The diamond was in the northwest corner of the block. Prairie Avenue was the east (left field) border. Right field, the shorter of the outfields, was bordered by Lexington Avenue.The ballpark was generations ahead of its time in some ways. Along with the basic stands, Von der Ahe had built an adjoining amusement park, a beer garden, a race track in the outfield, a “shoot-the-shoots” water flume ride, and an artificial lake (used for ice skating in winter). The side show notwithstanding, the club performed poorly on the field for most of the 1890s, consistently finishing at or near last place in the 12-team league as Von der Ahe sold off his best players in order to keep the club solvent.”
  • April 27, 1893: After nearly two decades at Sportsman’s Park (Grand & Dodier) the St. Louis Browns play at their new ballpark for the very first time. The original Sportsman’s Park becomes the Old Sportsman’s Park, later Athletic Field.
October 1909 Sanborn Fire map of the wooden New Sportsman’s Park — aka League Park, Robison Park.
  • April 16, 1898 a dropped cigar catches the wooden grandstand at the New Sportsman’s Park on fire.
  • May 11, 1898: Augustus Solari dies at age 63. Two of his eight children preceded him in death, one just four months earlier.
  • 1899: Cardinals owner Chris von der Ahe files for bankruptcy, forced to sell team. Brothers Frank & Stanley Robison purchase the team and New Sportsman’s Park.  They rename the ballpark (Vandeventer & Natural Bridge) as League Park.
  • March 28, 1899: August Anheuser Busch Jr. born.
  • 1900: The 1900 census showed the St. Louis population at 575,238 — a 28.9% increase since the 1890 census of 451,770.
  • May 4, 1901: Another fire at League Park, formerly New Sportsman’s Park. The Cardinals played the next day at the Old Sportsman’s Park (aka Athletic Field) and then on the road while their ballpark was being rebuilt.
  • 1902: The Milwaukee Brewers move to St. Louis and become the St. Louis Browns. This was okay because the Browns many in St. Louis knew were now the Cardinals, with the color red instead of brown.
  • April 23, 1902: the ballpark reopens with a new grandstand and home plate on the northwest corner, Spring & Sullivan.
  • 1909: A new concrete & steel grandstand is built, it and the home plate are in the southwest corner. This was the 3rd major stadium with a modern concrete and steel grandstand. The home plate remained in the southwest corner until May 1966 when it was flown to Busch Stadium II.
October 1909 Sanborn map of Sportsman’s Park. Blue is concrete & steel, yellow is wood, pink is brick masonry.
  • 1909: Bicycle shop owner William Carter started Carter Carburetor. Business location unknown — but it was NOT in the block south of Sportsman’s Park.
  • 1910: population: 687,029
  • 1911: Frank Robison’s daughter inherited the Cardinals from her uncle Stanley, following his death. Presumably Frank Robison died before his brother.
  • 1913-1915: Former player Branch Rickey becomes general manager of the St. Louis Browns — the team that moved to St. Louis in 1902.
  • 1917-1919: World War I.
  • 1919: After a brief return to the St. Louis Browns as general manager, Branch Rickey becomes the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • 1920: population: 772, 897
  • June 6, 1920: The St. Louis Cardinals last game at their mostly wood Robison Field.  The land was sold, Beaumont High School was built on the site in 1924.
  • 1920: Negro team the St. Louis Giants played a best of seven series against the Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park. The Cardinals won 4 games, the Stars 1. The Giants and later Stars home field was at Compton & Laclede — now a diamond for Harris Stowe University.
  • 1922: St. Charles -based American Car and Foundry Company purchases Carter Carburetor. At some point in the 1920s they built offices & factories on Spring at St. Louis Ave. — a block south of Dodier from Sportsman’s Park.
  • 1928:  Carter Carburator Co, a subsidiary of ACF, builds headquarters at 711 N. Grand — a little over a mile south of their factory.
  • 1930: population of 821, 960
  • 1936: “Browns owner Phil Ball died. His family sold the Browns to businessman Donald Lee Barnes, but the Ball estate maintained ownership of Sportsman’s Park.”
  • 1940: slight decline in population to 816,048.
  • July 4, 1941: A double header of negro teams played at Sportsman’s Park. First was the Scullin Mules playing the St. Louis Giants for the city’s negro championship. The feature was the Kansas City Monarchs versus the Chicago American Giants. The Monarchs’ star Satchel Paige was among their players — prompting a story the previous day in the Post-Dispatch. On this day only African-American spectators could sit anywhere in the stadium, not confined to the colored section.
  • 1942/43: The Brooklyn Dodgers hire Branch Rickey as their new general manager.
  • October 4-9, 1944: For the 3rd time in World Series history, both teams shared the same home field. The Cardinals won in the 6th game.
  • 1945: A young Jackie Robinson joined the KC Monarchs.
  • 1946: The Browns buy Sportsman’s Park.
  • April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the long-standing color line in baseball.
  • Late 1947: Sam Breadon sells the St. Louis Cardinals to Fred Saigh and Bill Hannegan.
  • May 3, 1948: The U.S. Supreme Court decided racial restrictive covenants can’t be enforced by governments. The case of Shelley v. Kraemer was a St. Louis case involving a residence less than 2 miles to the west of the ballpark.
  • 1950: peak population of 856,796.
  • 1951: Cleveland Indians owner, Bill Veeck, purchases the St. Louis Browns and Sportsman’s Park. Veeck thinks St. Louis isn’t big enough for two major teams, removes memorabilia of tenant team the St. Louis Cardinals. Veeck wanted the Cardinals to relocate to another city, hopes for an out of town buyer.
  • 1953: Instead local brewer Anheuser-Busch buys the St. Louis Cardinals from Fred Saigh.
  • November 1953: a group in Baltimore buys the St. Louis Browns from Veeck, becoming the Baltimore Orioles. Anheuser-Busch buys Sportsman’s Park, ending their tenant relationship with the ballpark. Chairman August A. “Gussie” Busch wanted to rename the ballpark Budweiser Stadium but the league pressured him not to do that, so it became Busch Stadium. Not long after they began selling Busch Bavarian beer.
  • January 3, 1960. The last day the Grand streetcar operated, replaced by buses.
  • 1960: population drop of 12.5% to 750,026
  • May 8, 1966. Last Cardinals game at Busch Stadium, home plate dug up and flown via helicopter to the new Busch Stadium II “by the riverfront.”

Again, this was by no means a complete timeline. I finally had to stop digging because I ran out of time.

It’s clear to me the early decades weren’t a stable period for teams. The first ballpark wasn’t in the middle of the city, it was out on the edge — the city grew up around it. Heavy industrial uses replaced largely residential blocks as once plentiful land in the city became increasingly scarce.

It’s fascinating to me how a row of houses backed right up to the new concrete and steel grandstand in 1909. These appear to have still been in place in the late 1950s.

Selected sources, further reading:

— Steve Patterson

FYI the following are some interesting YouTube videos, in no particular order

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