For decades the NW corner of 11th & Locust was known not for the parking lot that we see today, but Miss Hullings Cafeteria on the ground floor of the building. Miss Hullings closed in late 1993 and the building was razed.
But lately neighbors have questioned the line between the public sidewalk and surface parking lot:
Buildings were built up to the property line to maximize the land. Thus the public right-of-way was well defined by the fronts of the buildings.
Based on the photos you’d think the ROW made a jog at the alley line, but it doesn’t. From the city’s Geo St. Louis site we see the right-of-way is aligned with the adjacent blocks:
The boundaries of city blocks and the widths of public rights of way have been documented for years. So what happened here? Our public space has been stolen, that’s what. The same condition applies along Locust.
In the 1909 Sanborn map we can clearly see the consistent 60 foot right-of-way for both Locust & 11th. This map predates the Miss Hullings building on the NW corner as well as the Louderman building on the SW corner. The structures have changed but the line between public and private has not. Well, in practice it has.
This parking lot owner, an LLC based in Arizona, can park more cars by using part of the public right of way. It is bad enough we have these vast surface lots in our downtown. The lack of any sort of landscaping, wall or fence makes it worse. But to have the sidewalk area stolen from the public is just wrong.
The city now has better rules regarding the separation & screening. But we can’t go back and apply those rules retroactively. But couldn’t the city construct a wall or fence on the edge of the ROW? This surface parking lot is not the only one downtown lacking screening but as far as I know it is the only one that has stolen park of the public space. We need our sidewalk back and we need to keep cars off the public space intended for pedestrians.
I do not know if the current owner created this situation or not.Â Maybe when it was done it was a ploy to take the public land through adverse possession? Although I don’t think private parties can get public land this way?
Several in the area have been working behind the scenes to adress the theft of this sidewalk for a while now. I found it an interesting situation worthy of being shared. I know we have bigger thibgs (economy, swine flu, etc) but someone has to look out for the little things. To me the theft of a public sidewalk is not so little.
Update 4/29/09 @ 12:30pm — Michael Allen of The Ecology of Absense just finished a post on the Miss Hullings building. Check it out here.