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Loughborough Commons will be Common indeed!

January 25, 2005 Loughborough Commons, Planning & Design 18 Comments

Desco’s proposed Loughborough Commons is a case study in thinking only about the box and certainly not outside the box. Tonight’s public meeting had some pretense of a public input forum but in reality it was a ‘here is the generic strip center we are giving you let us know what color flowers you want planted under the monument sign’ type of meeting.

Prior to the meeting I had a chance to speak with Alderman Matt Villa as well as an representative from the engineering firm and Desco. First let me say that I like Matt. We are close in age and I’m personal friends with his wife’s sister and her husband. But, any association with someone on a personal level can’t an excuse for keeping silent on a bad proposal. To Villa and the engineer I raised concerns about connecting the public sidewalks to the development. The woman, I believe her name was Denise Coleman (she didn’t offer a card), said at this scale they couldn’t show sidewalks but they be there. Hmmm… [Note 8/31/06: Her name is Dennice Kowelman]

loughborough_01.jpg

At right is the overall site plan for the proposed project. Loughborough is on the far right and is the Northern boundary of the project. To the bottom (East) is the railroad line and I-55. The top of the picture is Grand. For those of you that know the Grand Blvd which goes all the way from North St. Louis to Carondelet Park this Grand is much different – it is residential street. The part of the site on the left is the old Nordyne site.

Apparently in the last year Nordyne just closed up shop and moved out of the area – not bothering to tell the city they were leaving. Nice. Villa says it was a call from Desco that alerted him to the fact Nordyne was selling the property.

The upper right corner of the site plan – marked Outparcel A is where 18 single family homes now sit. With room enough for three out parcels, 50,000sf of additional retail and more parking than is required by the city I just don’t get why they need to take the existing homes. Two answers are most apparent. One is the home owners, if left, would hate backing up to such a boring big box development and second developer wants maximum exposure. Houses along Loughborough will block the view of the side of the Schnuck’s store. With the houses gone and some sort of typical fast food establishment on the corner people passing by will quickly realize this isn’t a pleasant residential neighborhood but a boring strip center.




loughborough_02.jpg

But lets get back to the issues of pedestrian access to the site. The engineer said they can’t show sidewalks at this scale of site plan. Yet when you look closer you can actually see two lines representing the curb thickness. They can show a 6-inch curb but not a 5′ wide sidewalk? In yellow you can see the parking lot stripes and in the main drive in and out of the development you can make out the lanes and arrows. At the bottom of the picture on the right in gray you can see the sidewalk in front of that retail building. In the overall site plan shown above you can make out the gray sidewalk areas in front of the big boxes.

I suspect the real answer is, like most strip malls, they assume everyone will arrive by car. Why bother with sidewalks? Their drawing doesn’t show any sidewalks along Loughborough or Grand. This is how things happen. The monument sign is clearly marked but sidewalks and pedestrian crossings are an afterthought. If the alderperson is not schooled in design they may not know to demand such considerations. Such was the case with Gravois Plaza.

One commenter at the public meeting mentioned improving pedestrian access to those living on the East side of I-55. With the current Schnuck’s, as well as the proposed, pedestrians must walk all the way to the entrance drive to get to the site. For those of you that don’t know the area, Loughborough is quite a bit higher than the site. Providing a pedestrian access immediately past the train tracks is a valid request in my view. The engineer’s response was quite telling, “It never occurred to me.”

If you scroll back up and look at the first image you can see four streets to the West: Robert, Roswell, Blow & French. This is the immediate neighborhood this development supposedly will help. Yet, the development is turning its back on the neighborhood – instead facing the highway. Presumably those south county residents driving by on the highway to jobs downtown will stop off at Schnuck’s or Lowe’s. I guess some will. Or they’ll come up on the weekend. I’d think they’d still come by even if the buildings were oriented differently on the site.

A somewhat valid point is that part of the site is in a flood plain. Desco is planning to raise part of the site by as much as 6 feet to take care of some of the flood issues. Still, if you live to the West it is clear you are getting the back of big boxes. The engineer was quick to point out they are changing the grades so the drive servicing the trucks along the back will be lower than Grand. They will also have a landscaped berm. Nothing says welcome like a berm.

I know creative urban designers could fit both the Schnuck’s box and Lowe’s box on the site, connect the site to the neighborhood, leave the existing homes and possibly add some affordable rental apartments over new smaller retail spaces. This site could be a win-win opportunity. Unfortunately I don’t have much faith that it will be anything but common



loughborough_03.jpg

It was funny how the engineer mentioned that Lowe’s had very specific requirements for their stores – including loading dock requirements. More attention was paid to truck turning radii than neighborhood connection and pedestrian access. I didn’t even get to bring up bicycle parking but with the city’s first bike lanes just on the other side of Carondelet Park it makes sense to think about encouraging people to bike to the center rather than drive.

The Lowe’s to the right is real inspiring huh? I want to see cross sections through the site showing the changes of elevations. I’m afraid the folks on the West side of Grand will have a great view of the roofs of Schnuck’s & Lowe’s. I’d also like to see more interesting materials – perhaps brick? If Chesterfield can make big box developers pay more attention to details & materials in their flood plain why can’t we? This is an excellent site – great access to the highway and neighbors with money to spend. If Lowe’s doesn’t want to give us what we want then we don’t need to give TIF financing. Another retailer will come along that would be willing to work more closely with the city and integrate the site with the neighborhood.



When granting a $14+ million TIF we can make a few demands. If we continue to act like the underdog we will only get scraps.

– Steve

 

Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Nate says:

    I grew up not far down grand from this site and spent quite a bit of time in the immediate area. The current Schnucks sucks for any pedestrian traffic being down so far from Loughborough…but at least it still had a neighborhood feel. It was somewhat quiet, you felt that it served the immediate community and neighbors…but now? This development is going to disrupt what is a REAL neighborhood. I cannot stand the thought of a fast food joint there, glaring at me with it’s neon eyes. Why don’t they just re-route two lanes of the highway right into the plaza like they did at West County Mall?

     
  2. Dustin says:

    Steve,

    PLEASE, please please send your comments directly to Matt Villa, Desco, and the engineer. Funny, they speak of engineers, but not of architects or urban planners – its very telling.

     
  3. Joe says:

    It looks completely lifeless and depressing like Southtown at Kingshighway and Chippewa.

    [Joe, very good point. St. Louis Marketplace is another comparison. With both of those projects at least people’s homes were not taken away from them. Nor was a fast food joint proposed across the street from one of our most spectacular urban parks. – Steve]

     
  4. Brian says:

    Steve, you need to learn about aldermanic courtesy before running for office. This issue is in the 11th ward, not 25th. In our city of fiefdoms, you dare not challenge other ward issues. Unless of course, you are actually campaigning to change City Hall culture as we know it.

    [LOL – Steve]

     
  5. jason says:

    Leave it to the city of St. Louis to roll over and play dead for any developer wanting to build some retail in its city. Big box can be done well believe it or not. Check out the new Cross keys site up north in Florissant. Somehow they snuck in some details on the buildings under the developer nose. Dont get me wrong, its still a sea of parking in front, but they have more islands for trees which breaks up the visual scale a bit.

    After the hard fought battle at the old Famous site, I am sorely disappointed in the outcome, but at the same time didnt expect any more either. How do you fight something that you have no input on. Regime Change!!! Steve for Mayor!

    [Slow down there a bit, let me get elected to the Board of Alderman before I go running for mayor. But word has it nobody has announced for the 2017 race yet…
    – Steve]

     
  6. Paul Hohmann says:

    Here’s the rediculous thing to me about the site plan… I just glanced at an aerial photo of what’s there now, and it looks like the huge existing Nordine building is about the size of… oh thats right… A LOEWS!. The parking is already there and drives from South Grand too. What would make sense to me is enlarge the Schnucks (existing building) and re-orient to the west, reuse Nordine as Loews, also facing west, put some smaller retail building up by Grand to fit in with the neighborhood (one can dream) (not fast food joints) that would share the parking pool in the middle, and leave the houses on Grand & Loughborough. This way the shoping center would be oriented towards the neighborhood (yes this would include providing sidewalks – what a concept!). 55 would get even better visibility by putting signage on the ass end of the buildings which would be much closer to the highway than current plan with sea of cars.

    [Thanks Paul! Your idea makes perfect sense, doesn’t involve much regrading, no eminent domain, connects the development to the neighborhood and reuses an existing structure. In other words, the developer will never do something so logical. – Steve]

     
  7. Brian says:

    Moving Schnuck’s to where houses are now on Grand allows phased construction, such that the grocery store need not close for any significant amount of time.

    [Well, the new Schnuck’s is not going where the current houses are – that would be outparcel #1]

    Plus, highway visibility is better from I-55 with stores pushed back to Grand as much as possible. If configuring the stores with the backs along the railroad and highway, they would be less visible due to lower lighting levels, smaller signs, and lower elevation.

    [I think people would still know they are there. Besides, since when is visibility of big boxes more important than creating neighborhoods?]

    And thus, in the reverse, the backs to Grand helps screen the development from adjoining residential. For if I were in a home to the west of Grand, I would rather look at the backs of the stores, than their huge, brightly lit fronts and parking lots. Just imagine if the homes behind Hampton Target were to look at the huge parking lot instead of the backside along Clifton. In fact, drive there now and you can see how odd it looks to have dense housing overlook large, empty spaces. Though now a construction lot, just imagine if it were a huge parking lot- yikes!

    [If we didn’t have these huge parking lots to begin with… My point was new multi-use buildings should be built along Grand to create a nice face to the neighbors.]

    Still, pedestian access and facade treatments are the main issues for this site plan. Fortunately, the City will require sidewalks along Loughborough (indeed paying for them out of TIF), but it would be crucial to have sidewalks along Grand as well and interior walkways linking Grand and Loughborough to the fronts of the stores.

    [No walkways were indicated on the site plan connecting Loughborough or Grand to the interior of the development.]

    Pedestrian access from the west could travel to the sides of the big boxes to the front, whereas ped access from the east would follow streetside sidewalks along Loughborough to a safe internal walkway running between the main vehicle ingress/egress point and the front of the stores.

    [Pedestrians from four city streets must go to the “front” to reach their local grocery store? That is insane. We should be building for local pedestrians not people speeding along the highway. – Steve]

     
  8. Brian says:

    No doubt that pedestrian access should be considered, especially given the urban context of this site. But sadly, most arriving here will do so by car.

    To give you an idea of car-dependence even in this somewhat urban locale, I looked at journey to work data in 2000 for individuals living or working within a quarter-mile of the site.

    By those living within a quarter-mile of the site, in 2000, 1,115 drove to work alone, 199 carpooled, 45 took transit, 4 biked, and 60 walked to work.

    By those working within a quarter-mile of the site (including the existing businesses), in 2000, 1,575 drove there alone, 392 carpooled, 204 took transit, 10 biked and 50 walked there to work.

    Granted, these mode shares are higher for bike, walk and transit than a suburban location, but the car clearly still rules even in this part of town.

    [If you put up earth berms and retaining walls between the shopping and the residents and then don’t put sidewalks between the public sidewalk and the front door of the shopping I can guarantee you most people will continue to drive. If we build this the right way we’ve got a better chance people will walk. – Steve]

     
  9. THE BKACK SHEEP says:

    ALL I HEAR IS HU PLA HOW COULD PEOPLE IN THE BUY OUT AREA BITCH THEY ARE GETTING A HELL OF A DEAL. 175,000 ON AVERAGE. I DONT CARE THAT S A LOT OF MONEY FOR THESE DUMPS PLUS THEY HAVE A CHANCE TO GET OUT OF THE CITY .IT SUCKS ALL YOU HAVE IS BUILDING INSPECTORS CLIMBING UP YOUR ASS ALL YEAR SAYING YOU CANT HAVE IS IN YOUR YARD AND YOU CANT HAVE THAT .IF YOU OWN YOUR OWN HOME LIKE ME ITS LIKE HAVING A LAND LORD, IF THEY DONT LIKE THE WAY YOUR PLACE LOOKS THEY RIGHT YOU UP ITS ALL BAD.ITS JUST ANOTHER WAY TO GET YOUR MONEY. THEY SUCK, THE CITY SUCKS AND IF THEY COME SOUTH MY WAY IM GONE WITH NO REGRETS AND I ADVISE ANYONE WHO HAS AN OFFER TO MAKE A DEAL JUMP ON IT BECAUSE IF YOU TRY TO WAIT THEM OUT YOU LL BE OUT WITH FAIR MARKET VALUE BY WAY OF IMINANT DOMAIN SO TAKE YOUR EXTRA 110,000 YOU GET FOR YOU HOUSE AND BUY A HORSE OR SOME PEARLS FOR YOUR WIFE BUT DO IT LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK. ITS EASY FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT IN THE BUY OUT AREA TO BITCH MOSTLY BECUASE THEY RE GREEN WITH INVEY FROM WHERE I COME FROM THEYER CALLED HATERS. DON T LET SOME WHOSE NOT BEING BOUGHT OUT FUCK YOUR DEAL UP FOR YOU .PEACE BLACK SHEEP.

     
  10. Terry Meyer says:

    Progress is a wonderful thing!

    I am a former resident of this South St. Louis community and can not express enough praise for those who have struck a bolt of progress into the area. I moved from the Carondelet Park area due to frustration from the lack of development, retail, and restaurants in the area.

    It is time for the residents of St. Louis to quit living in the past and get on with the future.

    Some points of consideration should be: 1) The development will bring additional jobs to the area. 2)Currently the closest restaurant is, you will need to look at least a mile if not two. 3)Lowes & Desco are taking a huge gamble in building in the City of St. Louis. 4)Sales Tax Revenues will be generated which will help boost the overall revenues of St. Louis City and maybe postpone a property tax hike. 5)The site will be transformed from a Industrial Site to a useful retail area for the surrounding community. 6)The home owners who are being displaced are being well compenstated for their old homes, take the money and move to nicer accomidations. 7) A Full Service Hardware store is desperately needed in the area.

    My suggestion to those who appose this development is to take your heads out of the sand and appreciate what your city leaders & developers are trying to do for you.

    My other suggestion would be if you don’t like it move down to the South Broadway area where life is really standing still with all of the old lifeless factories & warehouses.

    Live for the future!

    [REPLY: Progress is wonderful. I hope some day that St. Louis will progress beyond the typical suburban strip mall hell being proposed at Loughborough & I-55. We deserve better. Unfortunately people have their heads up their ass by thinking that just because a property owner is well compensated for their house that all is well. I’m all for keeping things going forward but turning south city into Manchester road via Ballwin is not progress. Other cities have learned this is not how you add new retail in an urban environment but the old school folks in St. Louis haven’t figured it out. – Steve]

     
  11. Melissa says:

    I grew up a few blocks from the existing Schnucks, near Blow and Leona. I am a practicing urban planner, and can say that I am appalled by the proposed development. If I were the planner working on this, I would go directly to my supervisor and beg to request something a bit more progressive. South City is a great place to be–my parents still live in the same house, and I do not live far away (on Cherokee), but man, don’t design it like that! St. Louis is such an amazing urban place with such great potential…let’s move forward and not remain satisfied with the satus quo. A landscape berm?? Cannot show sidewalks at that scale? I just moved back into town recently, and didn’t know about the public meeting in January, but if I had known, I would have gone and tried to discuss this project, focusing on good design and walkability. Not every development has to be bad. I am all about “economic development”, but not at the expense of urban character, design and walkability! Hey, Decso, Schnucks, anyone who is listening, I will offer my ideas free of charge… I am in the book!

     
  12. Joe Frank says:

    Steve, the “Outparcel A” location was the site of the Carondelet Sunday Morning Athletic Club (CSMAC), and seven houses facing Loughborough between Grand and the existing Schnucks entry drive.

    The eight houses on South Grand Avenue between Loughborough and Blow were roughly behind where the new Schnucks is proposed.

    I wish, really wish, they’d consider having an access point into the shopping center via Blow, as the existing Schnucks store had. I guess that’s not going to happen.

    Providing only one in/out route is disastrous, and will be just like any other suburban strip center with a single congested front entrance point.

    Even in Brentwood, for pete’s sake, they’ve figured out that major shopping centers need multiple entry points!

     
  13. kevin d. says:

    I was just wondering when the new LOWES store will be opening on Loughborough.It looks almost completed.

     
  14. Richard W. says:

    What a bunch of whiners! It seems to me that no matter what the city does, someone is always complaining. I live on Loughborough Ave not far from the construction site – this is the best thing going for the area. Would you rather look an old mfg site (Nordyne)which was an eyesore facing the highway?? Here is new construction with new businesses and from the plans, very appealing to look at. I applaud the City of St Louis for looking ahead in this area and they should be commended for what they did.

     
  15. Adam says:

    you know what? YES! i WOULD rather continue to look at an old mfg site rather than a new might-as-well-be-a-mfg site that is going to look just as crappy as Nordyne in a few years when all the stores are vacant and the buildings are covered in graffiti and there are tumbleweeds blowing across the sea of empty parking spots. and please don’t say it won’t happen because the city is RIFE with ’em. at least before this loughborough commons CRAP there was hope for a DECENT development — one that would encourage people to SETTLE in the area rather than park their SUVs there for a while on their way out to the county. GIVE ME A BREAK! NOT ALL DEVELOPMENT IS GOOD DEVELOPMENT!!! and frankly i’d rather give my money to local independent business people rather than big boxes who have no ties to the community other than to milk it for $$$.

     
  16. Your Virtual Alderman says:

    Adam-

    You sound like a very passionate person. We need more people like you living in the city and supporting our many fine shopping areas.

    There are trendy independent shopping districts which you might find appealing. Check out South Grand, Manchester in “the Grove” and the emerging Morganford strip south of Arsenal (note to self: that Morganford Strip needs a catchy name…).

    And we offer modern, auto-friendly developments like the new Loughborough Commons development at I-55 and Loughborough which many of our seniors and young families with children enjoy.

    The good thing about the city of St. Louis is that we are able to offer many diverse opportunities to suit many alternative lifestyles.

     
  17. Adam says:

    YVA,

    i’ve lived in saint louis for 27 years and i’m familiar with the “trendy, independent shopping districts” you mentioned, which are completely beside the point. i’m talking about developments that are socially and ecologically responsible, which loughborough commons is not. given the current state of fuel-related problems these days, and the deterioration of our city due largely to sprawl, i fail to see how building larger and larger parking lots and encouraging more sprawl is going to fix anything in the long run. loughborough commons could have been built at its current site with a community-friendly design, but the developers care more about short-term profits than long-term community impact. by the way, patronage does not necessarily imply enjoyment, especially when your options are limited. i’m not sure how parking on a barren concrete lot in the blazing sun and walking a mile to the box entrance, or sipping coffee on the “patio” at a new suburban starbucks overlooking the barren concrete lot, is more enjoyable than doing those things in a lively, tree-lined, art-infused, pedestrian-friendly urban environment.

     
  18. Jennifer says:

    The Loughborough Lowes Grand Opening is October 21st. Just thought I would let everyone know.
    -Jennifer
    Install Sales Manager

     

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