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A Look at St. Louis’ MLK Drive, Part 3 of 5

This post is part three of a five part series. Part three looks at MLK Drive from Jefferson Ave to Grand Ave.

“Melvin’s Permanent Village” isn’t so permanent afterall. Debris from the roof collapse is pushing at the front gates that used to cover the store windows. This is just west of Jefferson.

This stretch of MLK from Jefferson to Grand has few buildings left. Many that remain are in poor condition but a few are quite outstanding. The main thing you notice in this section of MLK is the new sidewalks, curb bulb outs and street lighting as shown above. Last year I said it was good to have the improvements, adding:

I think it is important to send a message of hope to current residents & business owners as well as those that are prospective residents and/or business owners. My fear is that sidewalks and street lamps is a little too late.

I then went on to advocate a streetcar line as the needed push on MLK. I still believe it will take a major force such as that to fully revitalize this street but we will save that discussion for another day. In the last year I have spent more time on MLK than I have in my prior 15 years living in St. Louis. I’ve also spent a lot of the last year learning about and reporting on poorly planned pedestrian access.

Sadly, in this one mile stretch of MLK where we’ve spend a good sum of money (I don’t have exact figures so I am not going to speculate), only at one point are the sidewalks and ramps designed for actually crossing MLK. This is worth repeating — in an entire mile only one place exists where it is suggested via the sidewalks that you can cross MLK.

This is it, the one spot where the sidewalks and accessible ramps are actually pointed across MLK and aligned with each other. Of course, an able bodied person can easily cross the street anywhere along this mile stretch but we don’t spend this kind of money only for those that are able bodied. Others using wheelchairs and mobility scooters need to be able to get around as well. Maybe they are trying to get to church?

Above is looking from Glasgow Ave across MLK at a popular church (it got much busier on my return trip past this location about an hour later). As you can see, coming from the North the sidewalk continues along MLK both east (and west). However, someone wanting to cross MLK to reach this church is not afforded the basics of a sidewalk. Again, someone who is able bodied can easily walk across but someone using the assistance of a wheelchair must get through the standing water and then attempt to locate a break in the curb on the opposite side or have someone assist them in getting over the curb and through the grass.

Such lack of consideration for how people might actually get from place to place on a sidewalk shows the lack of common sense with respect to planning as as well as oversight and review prior to construction. Former Ald. Mike McMillan, now the city’s license collector, has touted this streetscape among his accomplishments. I presume he has never actually walked it himself.

A little further west, at N. Garrison we see a similar situation. Here we are looking east along MLK (the street to the right) with Gamble St off to the left (although not through at this point). The sidewalk for MLK heads over toward Gamble but the actual ramp is pointing out to the still too wide crossing. Again, despite this being a significant crossing point, no walks are provided across MLK.

The senior housing that was being built last year near Compton & MLK is now complete and open. It does a nice job of respecting the street pattern in the area as well as giving a nice massing to a largely vacant area. The building has good sidewalk connections to the entrances.

Across MLK from the senior housing, rubble is all that remains of the former Blumeyer housing projects at the intersection of MLK and Page. Ironically, the new housing that is being built in the area is quite pedestrian friendly but as we’ve seen, the sidewalks to the east are not so friendly. The development happening to the west is not pedestrian friendly either.

In the triangle formed by MLK, Page and Grand are these fine old warehouses and a gas station (behind these buildings). It would be nice to see these renovated into retail & housing but I’m afraid a lack of vision and leadership in this area will lead to their demolition for something suburban.

And finally we arrive at North Grand where work is underway for a brand new suburban Walgreen’s store. A very urban (and stunning) building facing Grand was razed for what will be a generic and short term building that only drains money from the neighborhood. See my prior post on this subject.

My Flickr photoset on this section of MLK contains a total of 41 images, click here to see them all.  Click here to continue to part four of this series.


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