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Loughborough Commons is Not Finished Yet

When I started writing about the failures of Loughborough Commons a few months ago I was reminded by Ald. Matt Villa (D-11th) that it is not finished yet. He is correct, work is still progressing even though the two main stores, Schnucks & Lowes, are open.

In addition to a number of possible out buildings and the need to finish an ADA accessible route to a public street it seems Desco is working to correct some of the poor planning on areas that were already finished. Yes, the not finished yet $40 million project is already getting fixes.


Above you can see a new black metal fence installed recently which blocks now former accessible parking spaces near the entrance. A similar parking arrangement on the other side of the entry remains.


From this angle you can see how the angle of the main entrance would make it a challenge to see oncoming cars if you were backing out of one of these spaces. Accessible spaces, such as these near an entrance, are ideal for many so they do not need to cross a main drive. Still, these must be designed and placed in such a manner that someone using them is able to easily navigate in and out of them. This is also an example of where the minimum sidewalk width required by law is just that, mimimum.


Before the change you can see how tight the space was. When extra shopping carts were stored in the area it completely blocked the sole planned walking route from Loughborough. Civil engineers are a critical part of any design team, they are necessary for a number of areas including water runoff concerns, accessing soil conditions, engineering curbs and other details on a given site. They are not, however, natural specialists in creating walkable & ADA accessible environments. Projects of this scale, especially those with over $14 million in public tax incentives, should have a consultant on board to ensure more than simple textbook minimum compliance. At this point I still question if they will be able to establish minimum compliance with respect to an accessible route.


Above is an earlier image between the Schnucks and the Lowe’s, but as of 1/1/07 nothing has changed here. Pedestrians, including those using walkers, mobility scooters or wheelchairs are directed into the pharmacy drive-thru exit! At this point these pedestrians have only a couple of choices, those who can will simply walk through the plantings/grass and those who cannot must either turn left and exit the drive-thru lane with the cars out into the main drive for the development or turn right and go head-on with the cars in the pharmacy lane for about 5ft (just outside of view in this image) until they get to what appears to be a drainage area which provides a break in the planter. In this direction someone will have to hope the cars leaving the pharmacy drive-thru lane see them. This second route would allow pedestrians to go down that direction but the slope is too steep for a return back to the Schnucks and out to Loughborough. And forget wheelchairs for a minute, what about young families pushing a stroller! We do want young families with kids in the area, right?

What is more amazing than having such major projects built without a planning/access specialist on the design team is the idea that we leave it up to our elected aldermen to ensure the public’s interests are being considered. With our 28 mini-cities with a city mentality we get varying results from ward to ward. Some aldermen seem to know their limitations and consult the city’s Planning & Urban Design Agency. Others, like Lyda Krewson, have ideal developers like Joe Edwards so these issues are rare. But folks like Ald. Matt Villa, who assured me before construction started that pedestrians would be considered, are clearly incapable of distinquishing between token gestures toward access and good community design. Yes, he is certainly a “nice guy” but that only goes so far — not even remotely close in the case of Loughborough Commons. And just think, Loughborough Commons is not even finished.


Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Apparently it takes a whole team of douchebags to design a suburban shopping center while one guy sets them straight.

    Now I may still be a bit hungover from all of the Moet but I really must know how fencing off parking makes any goddamn sense! What the hell is going on in our City? Why would someone move to the City when Chesterfield clearly does suburban shopping much better. At least out there a disabled person can park their Buick and walk or wheel from store to store. Again, the City clearly cannot do suburban as well as suburbia. Even more interesting is the fact that New Urbanism has been replacing suburban planning for years. Maybe our region is behind the times? Yes.

  2. Jimmy James says:

    It still amazes me that this got approvals. I mean, even in most boring suburban planning boards, these type of basic pedestrian access and site design issues are addressed in the design review phase. The developers submitt something, it gets ripped apart, the developers come back with something better, and off they go to construction. Either this project missed a step, a step was ignored, or this project was worse before the design review (though how I am not sure). What a huge waste of public time and money. The alderman should be embarrased.

  3. ATorch says:

    The alderman should be voted out next election. This whole project is a joke. Doesn’t somebody have to review or survey the completed project to make sure it is ADA compliant before the stores open?

    [UrbanReviewSTL — The Americans With Disabilities Act is federal civil rights legislation.  As such, local governments are not in the business of enforcing compliance.  However, good zoning would require good connections from public street to building(s) so that compliance was easy.   Matt Villa is up for re-election in 2009 unless he runs for the Missouri House when his uncle Tom Villa is term limited out.  Also, someone would actually have to run against him to vote him out.]

  4. realist says:

    Most residents of the 11th ward will congratulate the alderman and neighborhood for attracting this new development.

    When the new _______ (fill in the blank with your favorite chain restaurant or retail store) breaks ground, it will be met with much fanfare and congratulations all around.

    Architecture and design wonks will be barely missed.

  5. Tino says:

    My guess is that the parking spaces were fenced off after they discovered just what a disaster they were. At busy times, traffic would back up to Loughborough because entering cars would have to wait both for people backing out of those handicapped spaces and for traffic entering and exiting the first row of parking in the main part of the lot.

    The site plan shows a way to bail out into the parking lot to the left before driving past the Schnuck’s; they apparently didn’t make provisions for how to handle the situation while tearing down the old Schnucks and grading that part of the site. Amazing, isn’t it, that they would have let this slip while obviously giving *so* *much* thought to everything else.

    Even after the whole thing is finished, though, it’ll still be a problem — because the majority of the parking is *to the left* as you’re coming in from Loughborough. Cars will have to either turn left (and thus wait for a gap in exiting traffic) or will have to drive past the Schnuck’s entrance (and thus dodge people pushing shopping carts). It’ll always be a pain in the ass to get into that parking lot from Loughborough.

  6. Josh says:

    I still find it difficult to comprehend this supreme inferiority complex the leaders in our city have, to view the introduction of mediocrity as some sort of validation of our existence.

  7. “Most residents of the 11th ward will congratulate the alderman and neighborhood for attracting this new development”

    Well, except for the ones who were forced out of their homes to make way for this abortion of a development I guess.

  8. MH says:

    This “bland” world we live in now is ruled by people such as ‘realist’ above…..those who don’t care at all what the built environment around us looks like. People (including most architects and planners who work on this crap) don’t realize how much the built environment affects us psychologically. Crime, suicide, depression, etc. can all be linked to our “bland” environment that has swept across the country, making every city and suburb look EXACTLY the same. It isn’t that us “design wonks” think cars and chain retail should be completely eliminated. It is obvious that can’t happen. But good design incorporating these things CAN happen if demanded. Contrary to what most people (said planners and developers) will tell you, it can also be done with marginal additional expense. It just takes some actual thought, which these people refuse to do and our city refuses to demand. And of course, when an argument such as this is put forth, it is met with the same lame argument that “the people” love it, so it must be good planning and design. The people don’t realize that they can get better quality because the developers and their elected officials convince them that they can’t get better quality. It really is that simple.

  9. awb says:

    Perhaps Alderman Villa should have been more specific when he said pedestrians would be considered. Maybe he should have said they would be considered unwelcome.

  10. DB says:

    “Most residents of the 11th ward will congratulate the alderman and neighborhood for attracting this new development”
    “Well, except for the ones who were forced out of their homes to make way for this abortion of a development I guess.”
    They have a pile of cash to help them get over it.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Well, not exactly. Most people when they are forced from their homes end up buying another home so the “pile” gets spent.  Also, one of the tricks in this business is to say they’ll pay something like 20% above value.  But who hires the appraiser?  Yes, the developer does!  Or they use what the tax assessor says the home is worth — look up your house and I doubt you’d be willing to take that amount plus 20%.]

  11. Maurice says:

    Why is it the developer is always at fault? Why isn’t someone taking Schnuck’s to task for parking their baskets on the sidewalk in the first place?

    Extra carts go elsewhere, not on sidewalks. I fail to see how this is the aldermans fault or the developers. It rests solely on store management not being aware (or made aware) that they are blocking pedestrian access.

    And another thought…years ago, do you think city officials and the public were demanding ornate decorations, terra cotta cornices, etc on their buildings? I doubt it. Could they have? Yeah, probably. But my point is that it wasn’t necessary because designers wanted their buildings to stand out, to be different. But nowadays developers accept the plans put before them by their architects. Why aren’t these people being taught the finer art of decoration in schools? Why aren’t they designing their plans to the gills and then having to go back and bland it down. Nowadays developers have so many projects going on at once that they have little time or consideration to go back for those urban details.

  12. Steve-O says:

    ^That has to be one of the most misguided and naive comments I have ever read on this site. Btw, Schnuck’s IS the developer (Desco = Schnuck).

  13. 15thWardSTL says:

    Maurice, this post isn’t about the detailing of the building or the architectural style of the building – it’s about basic planning and site design. It’s about how the development doesn’t follow basic minimum accessibility guidelines (ADA = law), let alone exceed them. It’s about how the people with the power to force developers to exceed the minimums don’t know or don’t care enough to do so.

    In my experience, developers are keenly aware of how building design and layout can affect the purchase habits of their customers. They consider lighting, entry, display (merchandising), signage/branding, and often have highly rigorous design standards for their buildings’ overall look and feel. The developers and corporate executives I have worked with fight tooth and nail for the design items they view as critical to their corporate strategy – I have seen the DEVELOPER delay zoning approvals for months in order to negotiate with a City on such sticking points.

    When a City is willing to fight back and demand better site planning, accessibility, and yes, design, (in relation to an established plan and modern zoning ordinance), the result is a more cohesive and better environment. Not just a collection of marginally acceptable buildings.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — I’m glad you had such a good response to Maurice, I was unable to come up with a response yesterday that wouldn’t be considered outright mean.  To think we are talking about ornamentation is just silly.  My only comments about the actual building itself have been favorable.  We have a long way to go in educating the public on the basics of good design with respect to site planning.] 

  14. Mark says:

    The development of the Commons in general is extremely bad but not worse than many of the suburban developments. Try getting into and out of the recently built and now expanding mall at the Bluffs in Fenton. I think most would agree that it is as bad and possibly worse and more unfriendly to people than even the commons.

    I never stopped to think that it was the Alderman’s responsibility to be the chief advocate for such basic design elements. I have become more informed about these issues after reading this blog an others and now must admit that I am now much more critical as I look at developments both locally and in my travels. I also now think there should be a “Position Description” for our elected officials that clearly lists all the responsibilities and what they should be held accountable for. I will bet that Matt Villa never thought that his role was one of oversight in the design elements for a project brought into his ward. That should not excuse him but perhaps if the voters know more clearly just what the Alderman is supposed to do and what knowledge they are supposed to possess and demonstrate (other than political fifedom maintenance) we can make better choices. Assuming that such skill sets are available in the people running for public office.

  15. ATorch says:

    I disagree with ‘realist’ above…..I DON’T know alot of folks that are thrilled with this development, and mostly for different reasons; my grandmother and her crowd of 75+ year-olds say 1) – the Schnucks is too large, these are the same residents that used to shop at the OLD Schnucks at Iron and Grand (small but everything you needed accept fresh salad bar and sushi) 2) – Hard to use a walker or wheelchair when shopping carts are blocking your path. Others do not care for it as they were affected by the buy-out and were NOT happy being forced to move for the price they received. For me, as I don’t live that close to it anymore to shop there, it is just another example of poor design/planning, trying to drop a suburbanesque behemoth into an old neighborhood; a lack of forethought and concern as to ADA guidelines (with the ever special exit for folks right into the pharmacy drive-through traffic lane) AND just another Desco-fiasco. On somewhat of a tangent, it reminds me of the strong-arm tactics Schnucks/Desco used on Affton when they bought out National stores and held all the grocery store properties in Affton vacant(hostage) so there would be no choice of stores.

  16. Jim Zavist says:

    It becomes the alderman’s “responsibility” when he or she refuses to defer to the professional expertise that already exists in the city’s Planning Department. As for the architect being responsible for bad design – we are only to the extent that we don’t try to persuade our clients. It gets back to the golden rule – he who has the gold, rules. If we want to be paid and get more work, our first priority is to keep our clients happy, which, more times than we like to admit, means compromising over what we know would be a better design solution.

  17. CarondeletNinja says:

    This Schnuck’s is a total pain in the arse to get in and out of. I could have come up with a better parking schematic 3/4 of the way into a fifth of Jim Beam. Additionally, while I like the addition of areas like the butcher and the salad bar, the lines at the checkout are now twice as long, but they seem to have half the amount of checkers working. Heaven forbid you should try and stop on your way home from work to pick up a couple of items. It turns into a half hour long affair. I think I’ll go back to shopping at places like Foodland and the market on South Broadway. Ok, so they don’t have the Olive bar or Angus chili by the cup, but something tells me that I won’t much care.

  18. Maurice says:

    As I read Jim’s comments I think to myself…exactly what the planning department is suppose to do, but yet they check to see that minimums are met and then stamp them approved. After all they don’t have to spend their money to build it or most likely to live in it or shop in it. Just another plan, and another stamp regardless of the long term impact they have on a community.

    Misguided, mean, silly, oh and lets not forget douchebag…And you expect this site to be taken seriously?

    [UrbanReviewSTL — I think you are confusing the Building Division with the City’s Planning Dept.  In the BD they approve or reject plans, they are not designers at all.  In the Planning & Urban Design department guess what —- they are trained planners and urban designers!!!!  They are presumably skilled at considering all facets of design and considering modes other than the car.  That is what planners do.]


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