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Lowe’s & Schnuck’s Customer Using Mobility Scooter Forced to Use Street; Center Lacks ADA Access

I’ve been harping for nearly a year now about the lack of ADA access for customers of the city’s newest big box shopping center, Loughborough Commons.  Despite $14 million in tax incentives, not all are able to easily access the two stores that opened last year, Schnuck’s and Lowe’s.

Yesterday I spotted a person leaving Loughborough Commons by the secondary entrance along Grand.  He had made purchases as I could see shopping bags in the front and back of his mobility scooter.  The center has only two ways in —- one on Loughborough and this one off Grand.  An ADA compliant route from either public street (and to either store) has not been provided.

Above this customer is using the wide auto drive which is also used by delivery trucks.


The customer then heads northbound on the public street.  Loughborough Commons developer DESCO did not provide a public sidewalk along Grand despite a wide public right of way.  This puts people most vulnerable at risk.  Alderman Villa, when approving this project, could have likely required a public sidewalk within the public right of way.


I was expecting the customer on his mobility scooter to turn on one of the many streets that Loughborough Commons turns it back to.  Instead, he continued north on Grand toward Loughborouh.  You might ask, why didn’t he make it over to the sidewalk on the left (west) side of the street?  Well, it is not ADA compliant as not all corners have ramps.  A sidewalk along the east side of Grand would have added very little to the overall budget of the project which again received $14 million in public tax breaks.


The customer turned left onto Loughorough Ave, a very busy street!  Above you can see him just ahead of the westbound red pickup.  Due to the high volume of traffic I was unable to get across the street to get better photos as the man on the scooter approached the rear of a parked van.  It was nerve racking watching him pass this parked vehicle on such a busy road.


The man then continued on westbound Loughborough and turned right into Carondelet Park (look closely and you can see  him at the entrance).  You may look at this image and wonder why he is not on the sidewalk shown at right.  That would be a good question.  Remember, sidewalks in St. Louis are only for show — not for actual users.  This man had no way, from Grand, to get onto this sidewalk which would have put him out of harms way on a very busy street.

The man entered the park, most likely cutting through to get home. He continued on this road for a bit until he caught up with the internal path system where he continued west-northwest.  The nice sidewalk seen in the last picture does not continue into the park.

How is it that a new from scratch $40+ million project with $14 million of that in public tax subsidies can fail to accommodate real users?  Answer, lack of priority.  Ald. Villa will remind us that the center is not finished even though the two stores opened last year.  The large site has only two entrances and, given the grades of the main entrance, neither will meet the federal ADA requirements even when finished per their plans submitted to the city.

Yes, the new grocery store is cleaner than the old one and hey we are getting a Breadco (Panera to folks outside St. Louis) and a Starbucks soon.  Do these things make up for the fact we’ve failed to ensure that people such as this man can travel safely to the store?  I don’t think so.

I hope nothing happens to this man or anyone else traveling by foot, wheelchair or mobility scooter and headed to Loughborough Commons.  But, I’m putting the City of St. Louis, DESCO, Schnuck’s and Lowe’s (and soon Panera, Starbucks, etc…) on notice that Loughborough Commons fails to meet the needs of the community and to meet the requirements set forth by federal civil rights legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act.  If some unfortunate accident happens, I will help to make sure you are all held liable.


Currently there are "22 comments" on this Article:

  1. Steve,

    We now have these fine vendors in St. Louis City! This is how we will attract residents! We shouldn’t be putting demand onto developers, especially our friend Desco. They might go somewhere else with their wonderful stores! You hecklers are simply pointing out minor details. The fact is that this will be a successful project and people will move here because its so unique. Wait and see! This is the future of the City!

  2. Jim Zavist says:

    Steve, as your post illustrates, the problem is a lot bigger than just Desco. This guy shouldn’t have to use Grand behind the new center, but at least he’s relatively safe on a low-traffic street. What’s really frustrating is his having to use Loughborough west of Grand (which has nothing to do with Desco). It appears that work continues on phase 2 of the center, and I would assume that many of the accessibility concerns will be addressed as the project is completed. When are you going to put similar, constant pressure on our city leaders to fix what they do directly control, like Carondolet Park and the existing sidewalks in the adjacent residential areas? Why aren’t there curb ramps along both Grand and Loughborough? I know – money! Well, instead of pushing for a sidewalk on the east of Grand here, how about spending the same amount of money to install 30 or 40 new curb ramps on the existing sidewalks in the adjacent neighborhood, where the result would be actual progress and improved mobility? How about getting the 2½ ton truck off the sidewalk on the SW corner of Grand and Loughborough (illegal under St. Louis Zoning and illegally blocking the existing sidewalk)?! It’s easy to keep beating on this one developer, but the problem is whole lot bigger than this one development!

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Money is the issue!  St. Louis has been working to update ramps as streets are repaved and such — it is a slow process and I feel like, to a degree, they’ve done an OK job as work is done.  Where the city has failed is in looking at the issues when major work is done — both inside the development and how those outside the developmet gain access.  When the decision was made not to locate a sidewalk along the east side of Grand someone should have realized that people cannot use the west side of Grand as an alternative.  At the time the decision should have been made to either improve the existing or build new.  Remember, the private homes that were taken for the project included sidewalks and the report used to justify the subsidies cited the lack of a sidewalk along Grand as a reason to blight the area. 

    I’ve seen the military type truck you are talking about — I saw a mom pushing a baby stroller have to go out into the street to avoid it.  

    Remember, this developer is building this type of stuff all over the country, not just south St. Louis.  They need to understand the improtance of these issues as much as the officials with the city.]

  3. And they will not “understand” until a lobby pressures them to do so. It will take nothing short of political pressure, given the campaign contributions. The power of persuasion through logic seems to fail when money and a political vacuum exists. Why would they listen to faceless bloggers? Why listen to disorganized individuals? They can easily be ignored. Unless a crisis occurs and people organize they could care less. This does not happen often, and even if it does they still have a huge chance. A formal watchdog lobby organization needs to be on the ball proactively monitoring development and mobilizing opposition before ground is broken. Currently there is a reactive loose coalition of individuals with no clear hierarchy, sense of mission, job specialization, or task definition. This makes responding to million dollar organizations and their machine politicians difficult. Moreover, working with developers and officials in order to produce urban design should also be a key goal, yet a formal lobby is best equipped. Steve and others know first hand that personal testimony is often ignored or cast aside. The legitimacy of and individual is usually always less than an individual who is a member of a formal organization and is backed by many supporters.

  4. Marc says:


    Before I get to my actual point, I want to say that things should be done to improve the ADA requirements placed on the plaza. There are numerous people responsible for this. Should the builder have put in a sidewalk? Absolutely. Did the man on the scooter place himself in some harms way because there were no other path to travel? I think so.

    But what bugs me more than that is that fact that this looks staged. I find it hard to believe that you just came upon this situation randomly. Next time you need someone for a story like this call me. Only instead of some groceries, I want a white chocolate mocha.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Staged?  Well click on any image and you will be taken to my Flickr account.  Go through the folder and you’ll see a photo I took just two minutes earlier of the construction work up at Loughborough before I headed south.  I missed the guy on the scooter alongside the big blank wall of the Lowe’s.  I have many more pictures of people walking to/from LC — including a Schnuck’s employee just the other day.  Sure, I could edit meta data on the images but I don’t have time for such stuff.  Besides, I don’t need to stage anything — reality is the best.  You are still free to think it was all staged if you like, it was not. 

    What do you say you and I spend a couple of hours sitting across the street at Carondelet Park watching people come and go from Loughborough Commons?  I think you’ll change your mind once you see just how many people do arrive by modes other than by car.  I’ll even spring for a white chocolate mocha…]

  5. maurice says:

    So did you stop and interview the person in the chair?

    Did he give you his permission before you splattered his face all over your web site? He is entitled to his privacy, even though I’m sure many would like to know what one in that situation feels about it.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — I did not stop him, I wanted to see the natural situation without any intervention or medling on my part.  Initially I thought he might turn on a side street and go to his house — I probably would have stopped and chatted with him at that time if he was willing.  But once he got into the park I realized he was probably going through the park to somewhere on the other side (perhaps he is a neighbor of Matt Villa?).  I stopped and turned back south to continue to my office where I had work to do.]

  6. James says:

    I don’t think you need to wait for an accident. They are liable now. I believe failure to comply with ADA is considered a civil rights violation.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — You are certainly correct. I’m talking with local disability advocates on filing a formal complaint with Dept. of Justice.  Lowe’s said they are simply a tenant and that I should talk to DESCO.  DESCO is a large developer and should do better work.  It is possible a complaint may involve multiple properties in multiple states.] 

  7. Hound says:

    Maurice said, “Did he give you his permission before you splattered his face all over your web site? He is entitled to his privacy, even though I’m sure many would like to know what one in that situation feels about it.”

    Steve is well within his rights to photograph anyone in a public place where one must assume their picture might be taken. Now if he followed him home and started taking pictures through the window, well…It might have been nice to ask, but legally no permission is necessary. It would be interesting, though, to have interviewed him about whether he feels challenged. I suspect he does.

    I live very close by and witness pedestrians (both able-bodied and disabled) trying to access this site from the public right-of-way every time I am by and it always looks perilous. I simply choose not to shop there. Even in a car the congestion from the poorly designed traffic flow is enough to keep me away. Just wait until the rest of the stores open.

  8. Dan Icolari says:

    Promise me, Steve, that you will never again, in conversation or in print, use the phrase “in harm’s way.”

  9. maurice says:

    I disagree. Even though it was an open and public space, being as he was in a wheelchair, he had no choice but to traverse the public ways. Courtesy and respect for a persons privacy should be paramount.

    Who knows, perhaps he would have given his permission anyways.

    Besides, how would any reader here feel if they were surfing the web one day and found their picture posted out there for everyone to see? What if it had been a battered woman escaping a wife-beater?

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Had I seen a guy beating his wife I probably would have switched to movie mode while dialing 911.]

  10. toby says:

    Hey, I use that back entrance to The Commons, as well. Be it on bike or in car, it’s the only safe and hassle-free way to get to Lowe’s (I still don’t use the Schnucks – ew).

  11. Darci says:

    I drive by Loughborough Commons every day, twice a day. On at least 75% those occasions, I see pedestrians (on foot or wheelchair) on Loughborough or up the drive from the shopping center, in the path of vehicular traffic. Often they are an older person with difficulty getting around, or someone with small children, or someone in a wheelchair. God help someone who is blind or deaf walk to Loughborough Commons; there is simply no way. All of these examples of people are good reasons why the ADA is MANDATED by law – it’s not the Americans in Wheelchairs Act! “Disability” comes in so many forms and degrees. How would you feel watching your 90-year old grandmother walking down Loughborough with her grocery cart, traffic screaming by 3 feet away? I’d be terrified.

    This situation is unacceptable. There is no other word to describe it. Harp on, Steve, in any way you choose; I cannot believe that no one has yet to be injured or killed because the City of St. Louis is unwilling to hold a developer to even the most basic of standards, let alone the LAW, just for the sake of another one of Desco’s design debacles.

  12. Adam says:

    i don’t think the guys privacy has been violated. you can’t even see his face unless you have magic image processing software that can infinitely resolve any image ever taken – like they do on CSI.

    “being as he was in a wheelchair, he had no choice but to traverse the public ways.”

    and what alternative ways, other than the public ones, would one traverse if he/she were not in a wheelchair?

  13. Privacy?

    As pointed out this is a civil rights violation. Our City leadership’s failure to show fortitude and demand even minimum urban design standards is ruining our potential. We shouldn’t allow our opportunity to be squandered for the short term campaign goals of mediocre City officials.

  14. Jim Zavist says:

    The other part of the equation here is personal responsibility and choices. I agree the shoping center needs to be fixed, as do many city sidewalks – that’s a given. Choosing to motor down Loughborough in an electric wheel chair (or to ride a bicycle along Lindbergh) is a personal choice. There are parallel roads with a lot less traffic (French or Blow, in this case). Yes, they’re less direct and have more stop signs, but they’re going to have far fewer conflcts with motor vehicles, either in the street or on the parallel sidewalks. It boils down to weighing risk against reward. I drive a Miata with its top down. I used to drive a VW van with my feet on the front bumper. I ride my bicycle in urban traffic. I could be “safer”, but I find all these risks to be acceptable given the trade-offs and alternatives, including my own pleasure. My guess is that the gentleman displayed here made the same risk assessment – there were “safer” choices, but, in balance, this one met his needs . . .

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Personal choice?  Give me a break!  You and I may have choices but not everyone does.  I suspect the man using the mobility scooter was ultimately heading north of the park so taking French or Blow westbound would not have helped.  Most likely he has tried various routes and determine what works best so he can get home before he food thaws and his battery runs out.]

  15. john says:

    MONEY is an overused excuse. Of course it is necessary but it’s spending priorities which defines this outcome. StL leadership (politicians and corporate) have made it clear for the world and all of its citizens to see and understand: WE FAVOR CARS OVER PEOPLE… GET USE TO IT!

    This policy has been in place for over FOUR decades. Until an organized revolt is effective, it will always be this way. Is there any question why StL region has a DEPOPULATION problem?

  16. Jim Zavist says:

    His choices include(d) Metro Call-a-Ride, a taxi, a friend and/or driving his own vehicle, as well as deciding whether he’s a vehicle (rolling with traffic as he did on Loughborough) or whether he’s a pedestrian (rolling against traffic, through the park). His choices included a) using a vehicle with limited range, b) patronizing a business that has poor access, and c) selectively choosing which rules to obey and which to ignore (like we all do every day). The one choice he apparently doesn’t have is walking (and maybe biking).

    The purported reasons we don’t have better access around here is a lack of money, “it’s a new law” and “we don’t understand it or want it”. The real reason is simply a lack of will. There is no organizied, vocal, visible consituency pushing the issue. Bussinesses see few, if any, negative impacts (fines, lost sales) from not complying. Our local politicians don’t or can’t find the funding to fix all our curb ramps within x years simply because it’s a low priority with most of their constituents. And the reality remains that most seniors or disabled folks wouldn’t consider making a trip like this gentleman made – for every one of him, there are 20 or 100 that will drive or be driven to the shopping center!

    Yes, I know it’s a chicken-or-egg situation – make things more accessible and safer and more people may walk or scoot or bike instead of driving. One it takes a consensus within our community to make it a priority. Two, and more importantly, it also means placing businesses like these closer to more pedestrians and residences – we need to move past NIMBY. As we know from transit-oriented development, the magic number for most pedestrians is a maximum ¼ mile walk, while a ½ mile is the threshold for most dedicated peds. For walking, this site sucks, with or without ADA-compliant sidewalks. It’s bordered on the north by the park, on the east and south by the freeway and on the west by a serious grade change. More than three quarters of your potential customers (when you draw ¼ and ½ mile circles) simply aren’t there – driving is the only viable option for most of them!

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Neither of us know this guy so we don’t really know  what his choices are.  A taxi?  Do you know what that would cost to get a taxi that woudl haul around your scooter and then wait for you while  you shop?  Big bucks!  Maybe he has a car and maybe he doesn’t?  Call-a-Ride is valid but maybe he’s been down that route before — how long in advance do you have to schedule a ride? 

    You are right on the lack of will.  It is also a lack of understanding.  Ald. Villa has indicated the Building Division, not himself, is responsible for reviewing plans.  Of course we know that pedestrian concerns must be taken into account at the very early stages of conceptual design.  And that grade on the west wasn’t so bad before, they created the grade issues through their own design.] 

  17. maurice says:

    Jim, you raise some very good points. And there are programs out there thru various agencies that do pay for cabs as well. The ADA law, like most goverment regulations is VERY confusing. Reasonable accomidation and all that.

    But many of the questions raised here could have been answered had someone stopped and asked the gentleman (and asked if he wanted his picture used).

    Many handicapped people, even if out in public are very shy about their disability, and without their permission or knowledge, I find this unintentionally very cruel.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Most people I know with some sort of physical disability do not like to be treated differently. I wanted to observe this man acting normal — had I involved myself I would not have been able to understand where he was going — I might have influenced his actions. You had to be there.

    Yes, this guy probably could have called someone to help him do things for him — a ride via bus or cab. But again, he probably just wants to be able to function in society without having any special treatment. Making a physical world where people are forced into chosing between personal freedom and safety is the cruel behavior.

    The ADA is not more complicated than building codes.  But not all professionals are created equal — some are more qualified than others.  Not all developers care about pedestrians or pesky things like federal civil rights legislation.  If the engineer on LC was incapable of understanding the ADA she should have brought in an ADA consultant just as they would someone to examine soils, look at water runoff or engineering tall retaining walls.  No single person is capable of designing such a project — it takes a team approach.  Local engineers & architects must understand that ADA requires more than simply counting the number of accessible spaces in the parking lot and properly locating the grab bars in the bathroom! 

    The ADA is actually quite simple to understand with respect to access.  You connect the dots with gentle slopes and no stairs.  Every so often you provide a flat spot on the slope so a wheelchair user can rest.  How complicated is that?]

  18. Jim,

    I think you are blaming the victim here. He can’t walk. There is not sidewalk access. It’s pretty clear who is at fault. Not the person who can’t walk.

  19. Jim Zavist says:

    Doug – I’m not blaming the victim – he deserves a lot of support for his efforts. What I’m “blaming” is a larger attitude that accessibility isn’t that big of a problem / we’re an old city / we don’t have the money. This gentleman’s challenges were much greater once he left the shopping center (he seemed just fine with using the southern access road, and he was both visible and relatively safe from large volumes of traffic). Part of this comes from the existing city infrastructure and part of it comes from location – he apparently lives on the other side of the park. IF there were equivalent (or better) neighborhood retail on the north and west side, he wouldn’t have to traverse the park to shop in the first place! I’m not giving Desco a pass on their non-compliance – it needs to be fixed. But focusing on one new project while ignoring the rest of the neighborhood / city is ludicrous! As Steve continues to point out, having to travel outside one’s neighborhood for basic services makes life tougher and less attractive for all city residents. Keeping Shnick’s and bringing Lowe’s to the city is a good thing for both the neighborhood and the city. Yes, detail improvements need to be made to the site, but a lot more needs to be done off the site for everybody!

  20. Jim Zavist says:

    And Steve, as for convincing clients that complying with the ADA is “easy”, you obviously haven’t worked with any that don’t embrace the concept of accessibility. Most of us in the design profession know the rules of both the ADA and the various building codes, and where to look for the stuff we don’t use every day. We can advise and strongly recommend that our clients do the right things, but we can’t force them to. That ultimately boils down to the government. Design is full of compromises. St. Louis isn’t flat. Developers are willing to risk non-compliance to save money or to make more money. If they’re not pushed/forced to comply by local officials, what you see is what you get . . .

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Yes, my clients come to me because of my concerns about urbanity and various modes.  The ones that don’t care about such things wouldn’t hire me.  My point to Maurice was that ADA is really all that complicated — much of it is common sense.  The concept of an access route is a no brainer.  I never once said getting a client to understand the need was easy.  This is why the city should have made the public access to that, which they agreed to $14 million in public financing, a top priority.  Thus, I concur with your view of local officials should have forced this.  Hence, I’ve been critical of the leader of the pack, Ald. Matt Villa.

    No, St. Louis isn’t flat.  DESCO spent tons of money, however, significantly altering the grades at Loughborough Commons.  The grade continued to angle down toward the highway and they moved mountains of dirt and constructed big retaining walls to make this section of St. Louis flat (or pretty close).]

  21. Adam says:

    This policy has been in place for over FOUR decades. Until an organized revolt is effective, it will always be this way. Is there any question why StL region has a DEPOPULATION problem?”
    how would there be an organized revolt without any prior DISCUSSION?

  22. Adam says:

    because your post seems to be saying “it’s pointless to talk about this.”


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