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A Look At South Broadway Through The Marine Villa Neighborhood

August 27, 2012 Featured, Planning & Design, South City 19 Comments

Every city probably has a Broadway; I grew up on Broadway Ave in Oklahoma City, I’ve been to Broadway in NYC and I’ve seen traveled all of Broadway in St. Louis. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Broadway is the only road in the City of St. Louis that crosses the city limits in opposite ends, north and south.

Broadway in St. Louis varies in feel as it curves along following bends in the Mississippi River. To my eye one the mile stretch through the Marine Villa neighborhood is the most interesting. I’d driven, scootered and bicycled this mile stretch of Broadway from Keokuk St. on the south to Cherokee St on the north numerous times in my 22 years in St. Louis but recently I “walked” both sides using my power wheelchair.

Naturally my mind started thinking of ways to revitalize this corridor so this post is a look at the good, the bad, and some of what’s needed. I’ll share some of the 250+ pictures I took on Sunday August 19, 2012.

ABOVE: Broadway heads off to the right just past Keokuk. The intersection of Broadway, Jefferson & Chippewa has been a commercial center since the 19th century.
ABOVE: Map of the mile stretch of Broadway through the Marine Villa neighborhood. Click image to view in Google Maps.
ABOVE: Detail of 3812 S. Broadway, built in 1896!
ABOVE: In the wedge where Broadway meets Jefferson at Chippewa is a fountain surrounded by overgrown shrubs. Really? Is this supposed to be positive public space? It looks like it was designed to repel, not attract, people.
ABOVE: City records show this “park” was built in 1998, after Ald. Craig Schmid had the city buy and raze the existing building.
ABOVE: On weekends many cyclists use S. Broadway
ABOVE: Also in the space between Broadway & Jefferson is a former Hollywood Video store. The suburban parking lot, just behind Schmid Park, was never appropriate at this location.
ABOVE: Monroe Elementary School has a prominent position on Broadway at Missouri Ave
ABOVE: The next stretch of Broadway is mostly residential
ABOVE: But not all are occupied
ABOVE: Residential quickly changes to commercial/industrial, entrance to Anchor Moving & Storage,
ABOVE: Parking lot for the school creates a long dead zone, needs buildings again.
ABOVE: Widman Motorcycles has been a fixture on South Broadway for decades
ABOVE: The gentle curve of Broadway creates interesting views
ABOVE: The way the orthogonal street grid intersects with the meandering Broadway creates interesting but awkward intersections.
ABOVE: Former fire engine house #3 bounded by Broadway, Miami St & Salina Salena St., owned by the city but leased out to an individual for storage.
ABOVE: View across Salina Salena St from the old firehouse. City records say this first building was built in 1941 but it must be from the 19th century
ABOVE: 3640 S. Broadway has seen better days but the barely visible old cast iron storefront is an obvious clue it was built long before 1941.
ABOVE: City records are likely right on the building next door, says it was built in 1955
We’re in the other mostly commercial section of S. Broadway in Marine Villa
This 6,000+ sq ft doctor’s office & residence was built in 1941. I had the pleasure to tour the building a number of years ago. One of my favorite buildings in St. Louis!
Across Broadway is this 12-unit apartment building built in 1964
Just 5-6 years ago an interesting grouping of a few 4-family buildings existed here, I was talked casually with an investor about buying and rehabbing them. This is where Lemp Ave intersects with Broadway.
ABOVE: The bar/grill in the ground floor of this 1887 building at President St has closed. We have a President St?
ABOVE: The bar may be closed but the residential is occupied. Across the street is the massive former Lemp Brewery complex
ABOVE: A long stretch of the Lemp Brewery property along Broadway is vacant and fenced, perfect for new construction
ABOVE: The Lemp Brewery complex was built over a period of years and thus includes numerous buildings. Click the image for the Lemp Brewery Wikipedia entry
ABOVE: The design of the buildings presents many challenges, including accessibility for the disabled. It’s being marketed as the Lemp Brewery Business Park, click image for website.
ABOVE: Heading south on Broadway the Lemp Brewery complex is the first thing you see as you go under I-55 at Cherokee St.

So what’s my take away? Lots of potential, lots of obstacles. Here are my recommendations, in no particular order:

  1. Undertake a corridor study to take an in-depth look to inform future policy decisions (aka zoning, infill, etc).
  2. Issue an RFP to replace the Schmid fountain and vacant Blockbuster Hollywood Video with a 2-3 story mixed-use structure with urban form, unless #1 above says a park at the intersection of three major streets is a good idea. I can’t imagine that being the case.
  3. In the meantime remove overgrown plantings around the fountain and islands in the area. Replant with low maintenance plants that don’t get so massive.
  4. Create a marketing campaign (brand identity)  for the commercial area where Broadway, Jefferson & Chippewa meet.   Get the name for this area circulated so it becomes recognizable.
  5. Look at curb bulb outs or other treatments to visually narrow the roadway. Alternatively, this might be a good area to place the bike lane between the on-street parking and curb. Perhaps literally narrowing the road is a good idea, it was likely widened in the early 20th century.
  6. Develop a form-based code to guide infill in vacant areas, in particular Lemp & Broadway. A free-standing McDonald’s with double drive-thru wouldn’t be desirable at that corner. But a CVS in a new multi-strory mixed-use urban building would be a nice addition in my view.
  7. Look at the sidewalks, fix areas where broken or missing. Clean off other areas where grass has grown over the sidewalk in other areas. Organize monthly walks up and down the street.
  8. Find a more positive use for the firehouse. Work with the Brewers & Maltster’s Union hall to the south on developing their vacant land between their hall and the firehouse.

I’m sure I’ll have many more thoughts the more I think about it. What are your thoughts? Generally negative (“location, location, location”) don’t offer any value to the dialog, constructive ways to improve the location do.

— Steve Patterson



Currently there are "19 comments" on this Article:

  1. Rick says:

    I will toss out one very general, obvious suggestion: get more people on the street. Look at the pictures. There are no people, except for the cyclists who are just passing through. For a city neighborhood, it appears the area is completely abandoned. Getting more people on the street makes everything on your list more feasible.

    • The need for people is obvious, the big question is what to do so they come outside and walk.

      • RyleyinSTL says:

        A start would be for the property owners to take pride in ownership. In many of your pictures the condition of the sidewalk, with pieces missing and grass and weeds knee high, is deplorable. Not an issue limited to this neighborhood. I have found reporting these sections of sidewalk to the city will eventually lead to repair, which I assume means a 50/50 cost share with the property owner? Additional sprucing up can be accomplished under the new pealing paint ordinance.

        • Agreed, sidewalk condition says a lot about an area. Improve the sidewalks and you’ll see more pride in the area from those that live there and interest from outsiders.

          • A message for the City — criminals take their cues from the City. Dilapidated buildings and broken sidewalks only encourages criminal action. I’d be behind the City implementing a massive sidewalk repair project. And let property owners know that it’s there duty too to do their part too — be that with a paint job, weed-pulling or full rehab.

  2. JZ71 says:

    Like you, I like the urban feel and the architectural details of the area. I also agree with most of your recommendations and I don’t see any inherent problems with “location, location, location” other than the fact that it’s located “in the city” (with all the baggage that entails). The remaining challenge comes from the immortal words of Jerry Maguire – “Show me the money!” Why are there so many vacant and underused commercial locations? Why is there so little new reinvestment? What’s keeping people away? Why isn’t this like the Loop, Manchester in the Grove or even South Hampton? Like Wrigleyville in Chicago? What’s happening in the residential blocks behind the commercial ones? What are the economic demographics? I’m not a coffee drinker, but one of the coolest new businesses in the area is Sump Coffee, but I can’t think of another one that would draw me to the area – the next best would be Perennial Brewing, much further south.

  3. Rick says:

    Leverage assets. Off Broadway. Lemp Brewery. Cherokee Street. Marine Villa Neighborhood Association. Between these, certainly there are ways to get more people outdoors. Iron Barley closes Virginia for street festivals. Why not invite Off Broadway to do the same?

    • “Leverage assets” is a cliché just like “think outside the box” is. Events take work and capital, this needs 24/7/365 activity.

      • Rick says:

        “Leverage assets” is real. Think outside the box is cliche. Unless you leverage assets, you get nowhere. Do these things take work/funding? Absolutely. Sort of like plans without action. Great plans are “cliche” too. I suppose the first place to start is with neighborhood residents. Ask them. Why are they not outdoors?

  4. Cowgirl says:

    Steve Thanks for taking a look at my neighborhood. I wish Sigma Aldrich would stop buying and tearing down 19th century homes….

  5. GMichaud says:

    This is route a streetcar would do well in revitalization. Either that or maybe double deck buses to create brand identity along the street. I think the wide roadway should be looked at for enhanced transit first before narrowing the roadway.
    The surrounding neighborhoods are generally intact along this length. (with some exceptions)
    Although the street has the usual problem of too many holes along its length. One thing that would help is to prevent further demolition of the old city unless what is proposed respects the urban fabric. The problem is similar to everywhere else in St. Louis, you have a walking environment for a block or so, then parking lot after parking lot
    I agree something should be done about the old Blockbuster site. There is nothing to attract people to the fountain. I vaguely remember the building that was tore down so Blockbuster could build their building. I do remember it did a better job of relating to the corner environment. (It was a storefront, needless to say).

  6. JRegenbogen says:

    I’ll note that S. Broadway is part of the route of the Mounds Heritage Trail, which was established to link Cahokia Mounds to Sugar Loaf Mound (located just off S. Broadway further south in the city) via the Eads Bridge. While funding is being sought to provide interpretive kiosks, trailheads, etc. and the route may change to follow a future S. Riverfront Trail, the trail exists today!


    I LOVE wedge buildings, and the St. Louis grid has so few opportunities to have them, it’s a shame to see any razed. Chicago, for instance has several diagonals crossing the grid — lots of wedge opps. there.

    • samizdat says:

      If I’m not mistaken, there was a trashy strip joint located there–in the “wedge” building–called the Bus Stop. Seeing as how St. Louisans are often a bunch of whinging moralists, and Craig is one of them (or, at least, he goes along with them), it doesn’t surprise me that he was involved in removing that structure. You know, I guess, so other trashy strip joints don’t come along to tempt our youth into a life of crime…or something.

      Nice dead “garden area”, tho, amiright?

  8. My S. Broadway interest is centered mainly around the Carondelet/Patch area at the far south. The buildings there (on the street’s western edge anyway) are pleasantly intact and the bluffs offer amazing views and visual opportunities for new businesses. As you said, Broadway is a strong — possibly the strongest — N-S street and with proper action and activity it could be a “great street” from River Des Peres to the McKinley Bridge.

    It’s not at streetcar level yet (though it could easily handle it), but I’d like to see increased bus service to increase the developmental viability of its properties — especially those to the South.

  9. SarahJane says:

    Thanks for adding the Deco Fortress to the pics… I actually love living on South Broadway… or as I call it “The Twilight Zone” of Broadway – where Broadway runs East/West. I have been down here 13 years and the neighborhood has changed greatly… even though you don’t see folks out on the street, doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing… sometimes it is just a transitional time – the quiet after the storm.When I first moved down here there were LOTS of people out.. hookers, druggies, dealers, roving gangs of kids busting things up, etc …. now they are not here… YAY!! Fighting crime was a full time job, I am GRATEFUL for the rest. The area is ripe for a new era for sure!! The Lemp Complex, while not a detriment, could, with the right plan be a huge attraction/ benefit to the neighborhood – It is the bridge between Broadway and Cherokee . I would like to see the Lemp/Broadway vacant field turned into a park.. we don’t have a park in MV , but it would take a WHOLE LOT of convincing since Sigma owns all but the 2 standing structures on the block.

    • aaronlevi says:

      i always thought that the empty lot between the firestation and gambrinus hall would make a great park. you could take out that block of miami avenue to incorporate the firehouse in the park. i think gambrinus owns the lot, so i don’t know what it would take to convince them to convert it into a public space.

  10. aaronlevi says:

    i live on Salena (note the spelling) on the northside of broadway. Thank you for highlighting our neighborhood. i’ve always felt like this stretch of broadway (and continuing south) has a lot of untapped potential, but i don’t know what it will take to move things forward. For now, a lot of these buildings are owned by the “old guard” that are not too interested in the improvement (or as they see, gentrification) of things and are content on receiving their low rents on property they have long had paid off (this is all a lot of speculation on my part, but partly based on my interactions with some of said property owners over the 8 years i’ve lived here).


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