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Halliday St. Illegal Parking Pad Fiasco Continues

IMG_4740.JPG Third time is a charm, so goes the old saying. Well, for the third time now the unapproved parking 4-car parking lot at a condo project in Tower Grove East is back on the agenda for the Board of Adjustment. Eventually the neighbors will capitulate on the issue and the developer and alderman will have their way. But as I’ve said before, this really is a bigger issue than simply this single block of Halliday.

Ald. Conway, the son of a former one-term Mayor (wiki), is trying to convince the public this is a rare situation and should be allowed to remain. After all, he had to help shut down the drugs and prostitution that once existed in the building. Yes folks, whatever you do, make sure that drugs and prostitution do not come into your neighborhood for the obvious reasons but also because they will forever be used to justify bad design decisions in the future. The choices otherwise, so I am told, are either a big ass parking pad for condo dwellers’ cars or section 8 housing. In St. Louis politics, a middle ground does not seem to exist.

But could this situation occur again? Well yes, and very nearby also in the 8th ward.

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This wonderful 1925 apartment building located at Magnolia & Thurman contains, per city records, 38 apartments. To the back is the Bi-State bus loop property. This building has only the land it sits on.

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The front interior court is a wonderful space.

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Above: Stepping back a bit we see the interior court and the small front lawn between the building and sidewalk.

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Looking west we see how the line of buildings is maintained down the Magnolia with Tower Grove Park on the left.

All I know about this project is that it is to be condos. I don’t have a clue who the developer is, how many units they plan or how parking will be accommodated. I do know it is also in the 8th ward where Ald. Conway might rationalize that paving this front yard might be a good solution. Again, I don’t know the specific plans for this project — I am simply using it to illustrate that we have numerous buildings that do not have extra land for off-street car storage.

We must decide, as a city and not block by block, if we are going to renovate dense urban buildings such as these despite lack of parking. To me this location is an ideal place to live — the park is stunning, bus routes are convenient, Shaw is a great neighborhood, the Botanical Gardens are close, shopping on Grand and Morganford is an easy bike ride away. On-street parking is adequate.

Getting back to Halliday. The immediate neighbors have made it clear — the front yard parking lot needs to go. The Tower Grove East neighborhood has made it clear — the front yard parking lot needs to go. Other city residents, such as myself and many of you have made it clear — the front yard parking lot needs to go. The solution, worked out over a month ago, would provide angled on-street parking — a good solution for a quiet tree-lined residential street.

Of course, the Alderman is trying to make that complicated. Rather than set up a permit-only parking area for the new condo residents he has actually proposed deeding a portion of the public street to the condo owners for their parking! Uh, hello, the public street is just that — public! I don’t give a sh*t if the condo owners will sue the developer for promising parking — he should not have made promises he could not keep. We simply can’t have developers running around promising parking they don’t have or tax abatement that was never approved and then change the rules after the fact to keep them from having made false statements (the tax abatement is just an example from other projects, that is not an issue in this case).

While I feel for the owners of the newly developed condos, I hope you have good documentation on the parking promise as well as a good lawyer. To potential buyers out there — this is a good example of why you need a REALTOR® when purchasing property — we help look out for issues such as this and ask for proof of future promises (such as evidence that tax abatement has been applied for and is in process). OK, the real estate sales pitch is over.

One of the big obstacles in development projects is getting financing without dedicated off-street parking. I’ve had numerous developers tell me it is an absolute must. The developers often are open to having less than one space per unit, knowing they’ll have sales/leases to people that take transit, walk, bike or simply don’t mind leaving their car on the street but it is the banking industry in St. Louis that requires a high level of parking. And here we enter the vicious circle: we are not going to have a public that uses the car less and other modes more until we live in more dense areas where it is forced by circumstances (lack of parking) or cost. On the other hand, we are not going to get this more dense development until we have a public that increasingly uses other modes besides the car. Bankers need to see more people with fewer cars to give them the confidence to lend on a project with few to zero parking spaces and people need to have good housing choices near convenient and frequent transit to comfortably live without a car. The solution is we’ve got to meet in the middle — people need to accept they may have to park their car on the street and bankers will need to be open to looking at walk-ability and access to transit when evaluating proposed projects. We simply cannot let a lack of off-street parking halt all the good renovation work happening throughout the city.

The Halliday St. parking lot is back on the Board of Adjustment agenda for Wednesday August 29, 2007 at 1pm. Room 208 of City Hall. For those keeping count at home, this is the third time on their agenda.

Prior posts:

 

Currently there are "13 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jim Zavist says:

    The one thing the “other” building has is a basement. I’ve seen multiple examples in other cities where the basement gets converted to covered parking, losing any basement residential units, laundry facilities, storage units, boiler room, etc. Is it “easy” to do? Not necessarily. Is it an attractive amenity? Sure. Does it preserve the courtyard? Absolutely. What you do lose is a little architecturalo authenticity and a couple of curb cuts, but I think it would be worth it in the long run. As for the Halliday issue – duh – angled parking works, pay off the condo buyers for your false promies and move on!

     
  2. Jan says:

    Steve –

    I wondered about the Magnolia site also – Where would they put the parking? That location is under the Cultural Resource Office’s review – I don’t know about the Halliday building. Maybe CRO and the Preservation Board will not block using the courtyard for parking. As a long time city resident, I hate what they did on Halliday. Sidewalks are for walking.

    Besides part of the fun with living in the city is parallel parking and fighting for a parking spaces.

     
  3. jeff says:

    I want to know more about that “other” building and the plans for it…

     
  4. M says:

    Nearly every large loft project in the city and downtown uses the basement for parking, so one would hope this building is large enough to do it here as well.

    [SLP — A door off Thurman is possible but the dimensions of the building are not conducive to basement parking — at least not fully.  I’d had to see the entire east wall facing Thurman turn into garage doors.  Of course, the cost to cut that many openings in a full masonry wall would likely be cost prohibitive.]

     
  5. Dustin Bopp says:

    Ironically, the anti-spam word for this comment was “parking.”

    Speaking as someone who has crammed more parking into the basements of downtown loft buildings than many would think imaginable, I can say with a level of certainty that by virtue of its geometry this building is unsuitable for basement parking. Even if you could get a single loaded drive aisle in, you would eat up a ton of space simply ramping down from grade and then have zero maneuvering clearance once you got down. I am making assumptions about dimensions based on the photos but being familiar with the building I know I am close. The only way it might physically work is to excavate the courtyard and have parking under it — unlikely a financially feasible thing to do. You could only spread that cost over what I could see as less than 40 units.

    Luckily, beside the fact this is in the Shaw Historic District AND within the environs of a park listed on the National Register, surface parking in the courtyard would not appear feasible either. There just is not enough space to get more than a few spaces in.

    I am curious to see what they are proposing. While I don’t think condos need a 1:1 unit to parking ratio, most banks (and many buyers) disagree.

     
  6. LisaS says:

    Basement parking is one of the things I like best about the way Pyramid has done its work downtown … very nicely integrated. Unfortunately, in old “letter-shaped” buildings like the one on Magnolia (a classic U), the foundations usually follow the line of the masonry wall above, and are often too narrow to permit parking. Buildings like that in the West End have cannibalized their neighbors for surface lots …. which I heard (from some of Conway’s constituents in Shaw) the developer of that building plans to do with the Thurman Loop property.

    So far as the bank issue, the lenders who are competitive on condo mortgages will write one without having parking attached to the unit. It just knocks ~$35k off the comps, which is probably why the developer doesn’t want to go there.

     
  7. JP says:

    Conway worked a deal with bi-state to buy the bus turnaround. He has been holding it as ransom to “sell” to the developer of 4100 Magnolia for parking, provided they preferably go condo or at least lower density apartments. The latest developer in the mix is Rick Yackey who did the Welsh Baby Carriage Factory and Warehouse of Fixtures.

     
  8. Bridgett says:

    As neighbors, we are still planning to be there on the 29th. Especially since we have agreements from the developer (verbal and written) that he is taking out the parking pad. I cannot believe we have been arguing about this for an entire summer, but we have. It has taken a lot of mental energy and pushed me to the brink of debating a relocation. But of course no place is perfect and this block, sans parking pad, is.

    The other day, my daughter ran behind a row of parked cars at Soulard School and one started to pull out right in front of her (clearly marked parking area, it was my fault, not the driver’s or the school’s). I thought again how not ludicrous it is to think of that happening down there.

    [SLP — If the developer is going to remove the parking pad then he doesn’t need a variance from the building division.  Got it?  The Board of Adjustment doesn’t have the right to alter parking in the public right of way —- that is not a building division issue.  For that you likely need the Board of Public Service and the Streets Dept.  If the pad is truly to go, then the developer should withdraw the application for a building permit to construct the pad.]

     
  9. publius says:

    “We simply cannot let a lack of off-street parking halt all the good renovation work happening throughout the city.”

    Right, because who gives a damn about what buyers want. It’s what the benighted “Urban Reviewers” want that matters. And you buyers should just shut yer little pie holes and get used to greater urban density, because your betters have spoken!

    [SLP — For decades now zoning has forced parking on everyone — whether they needed it or not. Developers should have more flexibility and serve more markets. Believe it or not, not all buyers out there have multiple cars and not all demand off-street parking. I know this may be shocking news but it is true. It is time to balance interests and serve the highly varied housing markets all without eroding public space.]

     
  10. publius says:

    Oh, and GET RID OF YOUR CARS YOU SELFISH LOUTS!

     
  11. Adam says:

    apparently “publius” has never left his house (with 4-car garage?) or “publius” would realize that half of saint louis city is already covered in asphalt. clearly the alternative-to-car advocates always get their way.

     
  12. publius says:

    “For decades now zoning has forced parking on everyone — whether they needed it or not.”

    Hmm, moving the goalposts? Your post argues that it is the banks that resist funding development without off-street parking. But wait! It’s the ZONING. What’s your real argument here?

    Anyway, I’m not going to argue against more libertarian zoning. Bring it on.

    That having been said, I’ve owned two houses in the city and parking was a joke at best. Streets crowded with parked cars encourage gridlock and exacerbate the already abysmal job the city does clearing ice from the streets. But such arguments should be out of the public sphere. Give me the results of organic, non-local action over illiberal bureaucracies that squeeze entire populations into one-size-fits-all solutions.

    While the evil ‘burbs are hardly bastions of libertarianism, they certainly provide a greater diversity of options than the uniform fecklessness of what passes for governance in the city proper; a governance that by merit of its corruption and invasiveness, empowers wave after wave of nannies that know better than we poor consumers.

    [SLP — Zoning controls pre-date the auto-centrism we now suffer from.  When the auto came to the masses the zoning codes were changed to basically mandate full accommodate of the car.  Every new building had to have its own parking area.  Over the decades of this the banking industry has fully absorbed such concepts.  So while the city may offer relief from the antique zoning through a variance the banking industry is places like St. Louis are not quick to accept the idea that we can actually live without off-street parking.  These are not market driven decisions — these are outdated mandates from prior generations. 

    Remember that I am a consumer just like yourself.  But “the market” doesn’t always want whats best for safety.  For example, in housing the market likes wood floors, big master shower, granite countertops and say stainless steel appliances.  I’ve yet to have a client (design or real estate) ask me about Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters for bedroom wiring.  When I had wiring done on my place, I had these included in the bedrooms even though at the time the city had not adopted the code requiring them.  As an educated consumer I went above and beyond what was minimally required.  I believe these are now required on new wiring in bedroom spaces.  But would a consumer pick a special type of potentially life saving circuit in their electric panel over say an upgraded sink faucet?  

    But let’s talk about that “diversity of options” in the suburbs.  Seems to me that in many places the diversity is pretty much squashed through guess what — zoning!  Yes, zoning or subdivision indentures control all sorts of things from a minimum house size, to requiring large set backs from the front property line to the number of garage spaces.  The subdivision one of my brothers lives in requires that every home have a 3-car garage and any company vehicle with a visible name on it cannot be left outside overnight.  The exception is for police officers.  Where is the diversity?  These places don’t permit me to construct an apartment over a detached garage.  Hell, just putting in a second kitchen in basements for entertaining purposes often requires all sorts of hoops to assure the municipalities that the owner is not creating a separate apartment.  But say you wanted to create a mother in law suit so she could live semi independently — not permitted in most suburbs.  And just try to build a commercial building with residential units above (aka mixed-use).  Good luck!  It will require a very good lawyer and a special Planned Unit Development (PUD).   The whole idea of choice and diversity in the burbs is complete BS.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m with you on the BS & corruption in the city but don’t attempt to feed me the idea that the burbs are lacking such issues.]

     

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