In April I posted about the Wellston MetroLink Station and again yesterday. After attending three days of events with Dan Burden of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute I’m convinced we can make improvements at low cost that deliver a big impact. I’d like to see the following happen between the MetroLink line and the MET Center some 300 feet to the east:
- Allow on-street parking on at least the north side of Plymouth Ave
- Replace the existing sidewalk with a much wider walkway, perhaps to the current fence line.
- Plant street trees to provide shade
- Remove fence to vacant industrial park
- Remove earth berm on north side of fence
- Construct liner buildings 15-22 feet deep where the fence and berm were located. The length to fill is roughly 240 feet to the industrial drive and another 100+ feet on the other side. These would be one story in height, although higher would be fine. The storefronts would provide retail/restaurant/office incubator space.
- Build new sidewalks to actually connect the sidewalk to the entry to the MET Center so transit riders aren’t subjected to walking through grass and driveways and parking.
Liner Building Description: A building specifically designed to mask and enliven the edge of a parking lot, parking garage, public assembly or large retail facility (big box) along a public frontage.
Placement and Massing: Minimum frontage build-out is 60%. Minimum liner building depth is 16 feet. The façade along the ground floor on a Public Frontage must change visibly at an average of at least forty feet (40’) in height, setback, materials, or colors along the street frontage and with no module exceeding 75 feet in length. An entryway must be provided on the ground floor every 40 feet at a minimum. Courtyards or forecourts shall not exceed 10% of the street frontage. (City of Albuquerque North Fourth Street Rank III Corridor Plan)
There are many examples of liner buildings online but the basic idea is to construct inexpensive buildings (temporary or permanent) to either conceal something and/or to create a pleasing streetscape. Let’s take a quick look at the area.
The vacant industrial park is owned by St. Louis County. My idea would create roughly 7,000-7,500 of new retail space immediately adjacent to the Wellston MetroLink Station. Rather than be one small box this could be 7-10 incubator spaces. The wide sidewalk would be more inviting to pedestrians and could provide space for cafe seating in front of a small restaurant.
Locals that live and work in the area know the needs best. Based on what I heard last week a small grocer would be good. This might be a co-op model like the Old North Grocery Co-Op. A small cafe, possibly part of the grocery co-op would also be nice. Passengers on MetroLink passing by the Wellston Station would do a double-take to see a tree-lined retail street with sidewalk tables and bright umbrellas.
I’d love to see local food production in the industrial park but past contamination means growing food in the soil is unlikely. An industrial building with an indoor hydroponic farm is a possibility though.
Other businesses might include a small bike shop modeled after St. Louis BicycleWorks, a newsstand, coffee shop, etc . I’m sure there are local residents that have a concept for a business, they just need help getting started and a place to operate.
I’m going to conclude with the same words I used yesterday: “I’m sure many of you can list numerous reasons why my list can’t/shouldn’t happen. I’m not interested. I’m interested in thoughts on how the type of connection that should have been built 19 years ago can finally get done.”
– Steve Patterson