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Hey U.S. Bank, your parking garage is an eyesore!

The St. Louis Centre skybridge across Washington Ave.,   more than a block from the entrance to the convention center, will be gone in a few weeks.  For so long officials have focused on the bridge as a eyesore:

Kitty Ratcliffe, president of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, has long advocated for the removal of the skybridge, which is located a block away from the entrance to the city’s convention facility, America’s Center.

“The bridge over Washington Avenue makes people think our city is dirty, that it is unsafe and that we don’t really care about our city,” she said. “This is going to change that dramatically. It’s going to make a very different impression.”

Read more: Downtown St. Louis’ biggest eyesore to come down -  St. Louis Business Journal

Yet visible from the convention center is an atrocity that is never mentioned — the 1975 parking garage for U.S. Bank:

ABOVE: 1975 parking garage at 8th & Washington Ave

Hmm, what does this garage say about our city?  When built  it was then then Mercantile Bank and the convention center was two years from opening and when it did it stopped a block to the north.  In the mid-1990s  the Cervantes Center was renamed and expanded a block to the south and given a prominent entrance aligned with 8th Street.

When visitors leave the convention center they see two buildings across the street — the ugly U.S. Bank garage and the Renaissance Grand hotel.

The hotel is obviously fine but the garage is so out of place.  It needs to go away and be replaced with a structure of similar massing but with say doors and windows.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "13 comments" on this Article:

  1. Brian S. says:

    At the very least, the garage's western wall (facing the entrance to the Renaissance) could accommodate a large mural or some other type of artwork.

  2. Double J says:

    What you wouldn't classify the garage as new brutalism? I kid, I am not sure a parking garage can look all that great and this one is purely utilitarian.

  3. Suzi says:

    Some hanging vines would soften the look of this structure until it can be replaced.

  4. JZ71 says:

    What, you can't show some appreciation for brutalism? In 40 years, it'll be back in style, again. But seriously, the real problem is in its first 20'. Without (occupied!) ground-floor retail, it doesn't matter if the material is concrete, brick, steel or limestone, it's just a blank, dead wall. Fix that, and it won't matter what's up above. But then, the same also goes for the 80% of the convention center that's not shown in the picture . . .

  5. Andrew says:

    Brutalist it is, but attractive it most certainly is not. That said, STL is a city that desperately needs to fill in it its MANY “blank spots” with new structures. Even an ugly garage is better than nothing at all. True, I'd be happy if they'd clad it in a red brick facade – even a pre-fab one – but we know thad's not going to happen. Let's focus on eliminating heinous surface parking first, heinous parking garages second.

  6. Michael says:

    I think we should get the Regional Arts Commission to retrofit many of DT's parking structures.


  7. Sal says:

    wasn't there talk of making that a green space?

  8. Sal says:

    for a city known for its brick manufacturing at the turn of the century, why are new structures such as parking garages allowed to be built without some facade of brick instead of just concrete?

  9. tpekren says:

    I think Michael is right on. Parking garages are new structures so why not make the best of it and incorporate a different approach. I think cheesy brick facades will not compliment the historic structures that are much more riched in detail and craftsmanship. You can't accomplish that without a significant cost that no developer can justify on the basis of a parking fee. Plus, I'm to the conclusion that more green space is worse then a parking garage.

  10. Dan says:

    You seem to be suggesting that the solution is to build a better parking garage. Downtown St. Louis is practically one big parking garage. Try building something that would bring life to the area.

    • tpekren says:

      My suggestion is if your going to build parking garage find a cost effective means to make it more appealing as a structure. As far as other comments, I like the fact that incorportating street level should be a priority or zoned for any new parking garages.

      As far as builing something that would bring life to the area you need a market/demand in order to sell or rent the space. Hoping for that day comes sooner then later.

      However, build it and they will come has been tried before in commercial real estate. Typically the results are defaults on bonds (at times backed by the taxpayers), bad loans, lower rents for existing/competing space and/or more empty space. None of these helps downtown in the long term.

  11. JZ71 says:

    A few more thoughts . . . Part of the challenge here, and with other large office buildings that cover all or most of a city block, is that the alley has been removed. When that happens, the inevitable back (delivery and service) side ends up having to face a street, instead of an alley.

    Two, the detailing on this structure is actually better than the newest one downtown, across from city hall. I find that one to be disconcerting, since the exterior panels are designed to be installed “out of square”. That may be trendy now, but I expect that it will age less gracefully than this one has.

    And three, tpekren is right, the biggest challenge downtown faces is filling the space we have now. The reason we end up focusing on the impact parking structures have is that, outside of Washington, there seems to be less and less street-level activity. With more and more blank walls, of all kinds, the more desolate downtown seems, and the closer we come to that proverbial tipping point. And that won't change until we have more people working downtown. As Dennis DeSantis noted earlier this year, with our current 16% vacancy rate (across the region), we need 10,000 jobs to fill our present inventory (http://www.siorstlouis.com/pdfs2010/SIOR%202010…). Downtown seems emptier these days because it IS emptier. Get more people in the offices and you'll have more successful street-level businesses and while the parking garages will still have their blank walls, they'll fade from prominence.

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