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An Infuriatingly Avoidable Accessibility Issue

August 29, 2013 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Retail 61 Comments

The former headquarters of the Missouri Pacific Railroad reopened on May 12, 2011 as luxury apartments called Park Pacific. The Lawrence Group was the architect as well as owner/developer, they an impressive job.

ABOVE: Ribbon cutting was held on May 12, 2011
The ribbon cutting was held on May 12, 2011, click image to read my post about the reopening of the building

But I’ve had a few issues, such as rolling dumpsters left blocking the Pine Street sidewalk.

Looking west toward 13th
In April of this year the sidewalk was blocked, not the first time. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been blocked since.

In the 2+ years since the building reopened a number of businesses moved in. KMOX radio moved into some commercial office space, for example. At the street-level there are a number of options: frozen yogurt, fine dinning, smoothies, and most recently, Art Saint Louis + Mississippi Mud coffeehouse.

Earlier this week I had a meeting with someone, she suggested we meet at Art Saint Louis + Mississippi Mud. When Art Saint Louis announced their plans to relocate from 555 Washington Ave to the Park Pacific I was interested, the sidewalk entrance from their Washington Ave location wasn’t wheelchair accessible, but at least they also had a 2nd entrance via the lobby.

I snapped this shot in late April showing the step into the retail space. New door, new step, new sidewalk -- all from 2011.
I snapped this shot in late April showing the step into the retail space. New door, new step, new sidewalk — all from the renovation in 2009-2011.

I just assumed with the $109 million dollar building renovation the accessible entrance to their new space must be through the main lobby as well. I thought nobody would build a tenant space with a brand new non-ADA exterior-only entrance. Turns out I was wrong, The Lawrence Group designed, built, & leased a storefront with one public entrance without required wheelchair access as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The architect can’t say the owner made changes without their knowledge — the owner & architect are the same entity!

The sidewalk should’ve been raised up when poured, but it wasn’t. They had two years to fix it while the space was vacant and for lease, but they didn’t. No, it wasn’t until I arrive that it became an issue to fix. The executive director of Art Saint Louis and owner of Mississippi Mud were both apologetic, they genuinely felt bad.  Two staff from the Park Pacific got involved, guiding me through the lobby to a back service corridor, to a back door to the Art Saint Louis space.

Back hall I had to use, they had wood piled up so I barely fit. Very likely s fire code violation.
Back hall I had to use, they had wood piled up so I barely fit. Very likely a fire code violation.

But it was worth the journey, the new space is very nice. Much better than their previous space, which had become very dated.

Gallery inside Art Saint Louis
Gallery inside Art Saint Louis
Mississippi Mud coffeehouse in the front section of Art St. Louis
Mississippi Mud coffeehouse in the front section of Art Saint Louis
Since April the step got yellow paint so guests don't trip.
Since April the step got yellow paint so guests don’t trip.

One person said they could grind off the step, though it would be steeper than the ADA allows. On Tuesday post some were shocked when I said I was ok with the city using asphalt to deal with a problem where a sidewalk sank, causing a bit of a lip less than this one. It was suggested I have a double standard.

Well, yes and no.

The sidewalk situation I posted about Tuesday has several parties involved, hard to determine who’s at fault for the sidewalk sinking next to a water vault lid that didn’t sink.  Here we know clearly who’s responsible — and they received tax incentives to do the project. The mayor and other elected officials were present at the ribbon cutting.  So yes, I hold this project to a higher standard, but I wouldn’t call it a double standard.

At this point I want the entrance fixed precisely conforming with the ADA — not a fraction of an inch out of compliance. I have a digital level I’ll bring to test the solution. The Lawrence Group should know better, they cannot claim ignorance. They created the problem for themselves during the renovation, they didn’t address it for the 2 years the space was vacant.

Unfortunately the very nice people at Art Saint Louis + Mississippi Mud will be inconvenienced while this is busted out and redone in compliance with the ADA. If you plan to lease space for a business please make sure it is ADA-compliant. You can’t assume just because the owner of the building is an architecture firm that they got it right, bring along an independent 3rd party to verify before you sign the lease.

I emailed Lawrence Group partner Steve Smith that same day, saying I was “angry & disappointed.” Infuriating!!

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "61 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Agree with you 100%. I’d also like to hear the owner’s excuse / reasoning / rationale on this one , as well. If nothing else, the 2″ step presents a major trip hazard, and the doors have apparently been there, and not added to accommodate a specific tenant’s unique needs.

  2. samizdat says:

    That hallway is just one big FU! to anyone with mobility issues. It reminds one of the “Colored Entrance” segregation which once blighted this country. Lawrence Group and its architects should be ashamed of themselves.

    • That’s how it felt!

    • Fozzie says:

      What a absurd, melodramatic comment. The main entrance might be improper, but no one pointedly said, “Let’s jerk around people with scooters by bringing ’em through a cluttered service entrance.”

      Comments like these do a disservice to the real issues and add no credibility to the argument of improved accessibility.

      • moe says:

        No it’s not. While this or the asparagus brewha just a few weeks ago may have been over blown, and I’m not sure it is, there are plenty of people out there that do indeed think and have said “screw them, their loss” whether it be the color of their skin, the ability to enter, the ability to smoke (or not). As I mentioned earlier today….I asked what blame does Steve or anyone else blame on the tenant. Afterall, they could easily have asked ‘what about my handicapped clients’ (in this case)…before signing the lease. How do we know their attitude isn’t one of ‘screw them, if they can’t get in to my establishment, their loss’.

      • samizdat says:

        Tell ya’ what, chief, why don’t we chain you to a wheelchair for a month and see if you don’t change your tune? Newsflash: there are other people in the world besides your precious self. Take off your blinders.

        Obviously, you did not comprehend what I said when I wrote that this was a big ‘up yours’ to mobility impaired citizens. I did not claim that Lawrence Group explicitly thought FU. The implication was that their ignorance–in addition to the contractors’ ignorance–was, in essence, a de facto snub to anyone who has difficulty getting around in a country which still has a problem treating ALL of its citizens as human beings.

        As to my comments being a ‘disservice’, well, pissing people off is sometimes the only way to open their eyes to their own ignorance and shortsightedness. Change doesn’t come with silence. If I hurt some feewings, that’s just too bloody bad. How long has it been since ADA was made into the law of the land? Lawrence Group and its contractors should know the ADA inside and out. There is absolutely no excuse for this. As for the City’s role in this, they too should not be excused simply because their computer systems date to the 90’s, and their Building Division’s protocols seem to reference practices one might see in a black and white film from the 30’s.

        So ends yet another pedantic rant from samizdat. Carry on.

        • moe says:

          Well this made my morning coffee..why thank you Samizdat! You’re absolutely right of course. I’ve said before on some other sight, imagine if all the effort being put into barring gays, regulating woman’s bodies, dumping billions into ‘no child left beind’, putting up barriers to voting, fighting obamacare, fighting ADA requirements, etc….if all that effort went into improving our lives instead instead we would be so, so much better off both as an individual and a society.

        • Fozzie says:

          Where did I excuse the building’s access issue? Thanks for affirming your earlier out of context statement.

  3. Mark says:

    Asphalt is not the answer as it eventually become a trip hazard when it starts to crumble, not to mention the mess it will make. A ramp would work, but than we get another annoying ramp out in the sidewalk right of way which creates a trip hazard and inconvenience for everyone walking by. The better solution is to have a bell at the door for the occasional visitor who may need additional accommodation like you. It may not be pretty, but you were able to get in and we don’t create additional physical hazards and inconveniences for everyone else.

    • No, a bell to press would be a royal pain for everyone. Instead of a special ramp, the sidewalk could just be raised to meet the door. Nothing in the way, disabled could come & go independently.

    • JZ71 says:

      No, the better solution is to tear out 30′-40′ of the new sidewalk, repour it so it aligns with both the doors and the curb, and blend smoothly with the public sidewalk on both sides!

      • Just don’t let the cross slope exceed maximums.

        • Eric Kohring says:

          Absolutely the correct way to deal with this is to create a level landing at the door with a maximum slope in any direction not to exceed 1% (forget the 2% max allowed). They should do this from the door to the street and then pour new sidewalk to ensure the level landing is blended into the sidewalk or public right-of-way. Their is absolutely no reason why this should have passed by the eyes of so many people without being caught… from the designer to the guy pouring the concrete.

        • Tom says:

          In cases similar to this one where an existing interior SOG elevation relates unfavorably to top of curb elevation, the developer/owner/contractor/design professional can seek a variance with Streets and raise the top of curb not to exceed 8-9″ (in limited areas) above vehicle pavement elevation. Not an ideal solution,but one that is reasonable to ask for in renovation work where existing interior SOG elevations are fixed. This will often help to address cross slope issues. Another alternative depending on the sidewalk width, short of total sidewalk removal, might be a short ramp running parallel with the building face. Wouldn’t take much to pick up 2″ or so. And an experienced finisher might be able to “warp” the concrete a bit where the low side of the ramp meets the existing sidewalk and pick up another 1/2″ or so. There’s a solution short of tearing out all the sidewalk and starting over. At $3.50-$4.00 per SF, complete removal/replacement is extreme if there is another solution–and there always is for the creative engineer and/or finisher.

          • JZ71 says:

            Enlighten me . . . this section of the public right of way appears to contain 8′-10′ in width of unobstructed walking surface, next to the building, and 6′-8′ in width dedicated to tree grates and other street furniture, next to the curb. I understand why it’s critical to maintain the proper cross slope on the main walking surface, but is it also necessary / critical to maintain a “safe” cross slope on the accessory concrete area? We seem to be OK with allowing excessive cross slope at curb cuts, why wouldn’t it be equally OK to allow transitions that exceed “acceptable” in areas where people would typically not be walking, or would be walking from the main sidewalk area out to the curb (as in getting to a parked vehicle)?

          • Tom says:

            I’ve worked in our structural division for 8 years and therefore haven’t seen much civil work recently, but for three years prior, I did nothing but civil work. I can recall situations similar to those you describe, and our firm decided that if there is a possibility that someone may have occasion/legitimate reason to walk on a surface that had been designed/constructed under our contract/jurisdiction with the owner, it would be necessary for our engineers to design the cross slopes in those areas (i.e on the accessory concrete area in this case) to meet applicable codes. The last photo above appears to show the “accessory area” in this case to be out of compliance already, but it’s hard to be certain just looking at the photo. There are ways to design-around this condition by introducing fixed planters and or retaining walls, but owners/motorists/pedestrians usually complain when they are used. My firm may be over-cautious, in that 99% of our work is structural, and we perform civil only on our own contracts.

            Curb height tolerances (3″ min, 9″ max) offer generous opportunities to the civil engineer to work the sidewalk elevations and cross slopes to accommodate the interior SOG elevation in remodel situations. But in this case, if the street curb is ALREADY 7″ high, and if the accessory area concrete is ALREADY non-compliant, the engineer would have no choice other than to recommend an accessible ramp running parallel to/adjacent to the building face. Possibly the street elevation could be raised by adding asphalt and further raising the curb height–but doing so might cause water ponding somewhere down the street, which creates another potential hazard.

            The sidewalk width in this case appears to offer sufficient space for the use of a ramp, without inconveniencing/impacting any pedestrians. If not, more sidewalk may have to be removed, planters/retaining walls added, in order to provide a 5′-6′ min. designated sidewalk width that meets cross slope tolerances. When city street elevations rise and fall 12″ to 24″ in a given block, it becomes a challenge to meet all ADA requirements in ways that we might always prefer. So if we’re going to save these old buildings, we have to be prepared to understand that certain facets of the design wouldn’t always be our first choice. We can bitch and scream all we want. It ain’t gonna make any difference.

            St Louis is a city blessed with very competent union concrete finishers (some of the very finest in the country from my experience) who have seen it all, dealt creatively with other similar issues over the years, and know how to gain or lose elevation just by skillfully maneuvering the trowel incrementally over a given area. I’ve seen as much as 2 or 3″ gains/losses realized by “warping” the surface accordingly.

            I don’t know what Lawrence Group was thinking when they left this toe-stubber. But I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if in a matter of a few days, you don’t see a guy with a concrete saw cutting out the sidewalk so that a level “stoop” can be poured outside the door, with a ramp leading up to it on the side opposite the adjacent business.

          • I’m told the Lawrence Group told the plan reviewer they’d make this entrance compliant. I’ll keep checking back every few days to see when something starts happening. Would’ve been essier & cheaper had they done it right from the start!

          • Tom says:

            Yes, it would have been. But it may have been one of those details that just got past everyone. Even engineers sometimes make mistakes! Gotta give Lawrence Group credit though! They took hold of this hulking prodigy located in the middle of the city that for years everyone passed by (without looking) every day of the week, the passersby totally unaware that the building was rapidly deteriorating stone by stone –this gargantuan elephantine structure that no one else had the stones or vision to salvage…and Steve and his professional staff successfully repurposed the building to serve St Louis (well) over the next century…….and in the process, they made one mistake at this single doorway…obviously not intentional, nothing directed at anyone who may be disabled or thinking about becoming disabled, or to anyone prone to stubbing his toes, or to any one particular race, religious persuasion, or sexual orientation….. but just the same, maybe we should consider punishing them severely by not allowing them to ever get involved in repurposing another abandoned STL structure ever again! Ever!

          • My goal was to point out the mistake to show architects and engineers do make mistakes and have it be embarrassing enough they make very sure it doesn’t happen again. I also wanted to show the city their approval system needs to be revised — this shouldn’t have been allowed. I think in a few hundred words I accomplished my goals.

          • Tom says:

            Design errors are costly. No one is more aware of this fact than an architectural/engineering firm. But ‘pointing out the mistakes so that they are embarrassing enough to prevent them in the future’ is an unrealistic level of expectation. Mistakes are inevitable, and they’re going to happen whether or not you were “embarrassed” by your last mistake! And it is not the job of the city permit review department to critique a design professional’s drawings. I repeat: it is not their job. St. Louis’ permit review group goes out of their way to be helpful, unlike what you sometimes find in LA, Chicago, Dallas or Seattle. But the integrity of the design is the responsibility of the design firm. That’s what we’re being paid to do! Obvious, blatant oversights and errors and obvious areas of non-compliance (a too-narrow sidewalk, a missing disabled curb cut, a dead-end corridor, etc) might be caught during the permit review, but no permit plan reviewer can sit in his desk and be expected to digest/ assimilate all the dimensions, load calculations, etc etc etc that impact a design professional’s design decisions. There are those at STL city who do pick up on certain errors….but it is not their job to do so. This doorway issue would have been an issue that even a less than astute city jobsite inspector would maybe have tripped over during a routine building inspection (or maybe sooner depending on how much debris had been piled up in the area, concealing the problem during the construction phase), and at a minimum the problem should have been addressed when the sidewalk was laid-out prior to the concrete pour, or certainly during the final occupancy walk through. But tenant areas are typically not addressed until a tenant applies for a permit, and in the meantime, the sidewalk has been poured, and now everyone just has to figure out how best and reasonably to fix the problem. We can’t take ourselves to seriously. Life is too short.

          • If a design error is fixed in a half-ass way it isn’t as costly. I’m going to make sure this mistake costs the most to fix so it hurts far more, sticking in their memory longer.

            The city process is supposed to catch code mistakes, which it failed to do in this case.

          • Tom says:

            You are wrong about the city’s role in code review…..and for whatever reason, you appear to be more vindictive each time some minor issue like this toe-stubber comes up on your blog. In the scheme of things, this is a non-issue. And the fact of the matter is simply that you and everyone else will be forced to accept whatever method that Lawrence Group proposes to legally fix this compliance issue…..and from what I’ve gleaned over the years, you don’t seem to have a reasonable handle on anything construction-related in the real world, so I doubt that you’ll have much voice in the final decision.

            When I was in school in Urbana, Illinois working on an undergraduate degree , I once met in STL with Dr. Dee who was in charge of all constructed-related issues related to the disabled. Sure, she made mistakes. But the one quality she had, and which made a lasting impression on me at the time, which made her more successful than otherwise, was her open-mindedness and willingness to work through a problem…..and not take it personally! Never would she have made a statement as foolish and “catholic” as yours–that you’re going to make sure this mistakes costs the most to fix so it hurts far more…….” How foolish! Who the hell are you? If I were working for Lawrence and if it were my responsibility to fix this issue, your ass wouldn’t be allowed in the building!

            If, as you state, the “city is or supposed to catch code mistakes”, who then is responsible to design and pay for the correction when a mistake isn’t caught by the city in code review. With the responsibility comes the exposure! Surely you wouldn’t hold the city responsible for paying for the correction of all the non-compliance issues that come up every year in the St Louis City area! Your foolishness is sometimes annoying. Get real, lighten up!

          • Not bring able to enter a public place is a non-issue? You’re why congress passed the ADA — to protect my civil rights.

          • Tom says:

            Absolutely not! Not being able to enter a public space is not an non-issue, but in terms of the complexity of this renovation, and the money spent, this little toe stubber is a non-issue. And it would have been put into its proper perspective had one finisher and one carpenter been astute during the layout phase. All sidewalk construction work would have stopped, Todd W. in Streets would have been on-site in a few hours or sooner, street/curb adjustments would probably have been authorized, if applicable, and the work would have proceeded the next morning. But it didn’t happen that way.

          • Please pay close attention. The ribbon cutting for the massive building renovation was in May 2011. Two years later in May 2013 an application was made to finish off this tenant space. The city shows it was completed in late July. Three days later the city issued am occupancy permit for the tenant. I’ll repeat, the city had opportunities to catch this issue prior to me meeting someone there.

          • Tom says:

            This response is being written from a real-world perspective: If the entire sidewalk (even in front of the tenant space) was poured-out at the time of ribbon cutting, you are correct in assuming that the city had “time” to catch this issue. But did they have “opportunity” ? Between May 2011 and May 2013, did the city have a reason to be on site? I’m not referring to just a drive by, or a walk-by. If there was no other construction in those two years or other issues or discussions for the city reps to be involved in, or any other compelling reason why a city inspector would have found himself at that doorway, other than to walk past it as a pedestrian, why would the city reps been on site just looking? The blame in this case should be attributed to the following, in this order: 1)….. to the civil engineer, provided his elevations (shown on his original civil drawing) were incorrect (non-as-built) But if they were correct and just not followed by the contractor, then the civil engineer is off the hook. The civil drawings are never “silent” on issues like this. 2)….. to the contractor responsible for the sidewalk layout. This is one of those issues that becomes very clear when the contractor is establishing elevations and getting things fine graded prior to a sidewalk pour. These two guys must have been asleep or on dope–or both! 3) (After the sidewalk concrete pour): 1)…… to the architect, engineer, contractor’s project manager, all of whom were in charge of field inspection and quality control. That’s specifically what a PM/CM is paid for. (But my motto is that if you aren’t smart enough to build a building, you might be smart enough to convince someone to pay you to watch someone else build one!) Each of them should have recognized this as a problem even before the city was called for a final permit inspection, and a competent project manager would have advised all parties of a sit down meeting that very afternoon, at which time this problem would have been addressed. 4)….to the city inspector, and obviously, he/she/it should have cited this problem, and an occupancy permit should not have been issued.

            But I suspect there may have been some pressure from “above” to get this space ready and open for business. Too many people and too many years of construction experience walked over that toe-stubber during the tenant build out phase. I personally wouldn’t know where to point any fingers, and I would never want to know. I don’t operate this way, for anyone.

            So if you want to line up the responsible parties and throw egg on their faces, get a-hold of the civil engineer, the carpenter, the finisher, the architect, contractor project manager, and the lowly city inspector and ask them to line up. (But check the original site plan first, because you may want to ask the civil engineer to step out of the lineup depending on the results of your drawing review, just because it would be the right thing to do.)

          • JZ71 says:

            If the city has no responsibility to catch mistakes, then why even require permits?! All design professionals should be doing their best to comply with all regulations, and yes, mistakes, errors and omissions will continue to happen. The point here is that this may not have been obvious on any plan submissions, but it should have been obvious both during the time the sidewalk was being poured and during any subsequent walk-thru’s, inspections and issuance of any CO’s. Besides not complying with the ADA, it presents a trip hazard that any ambulance-chasing attorney would have a field day with! Seeing it remain is the point – it should have been rectified months ago, with something more than some yellow paint!

          • Tom says:

            I agree that the yellow paint adds insult to injury. And we agree, I think, that the mistake should have been caught when the carpenter and finishers layed out the sidewalk before it was poured. But it wasn’t. It’s obvious that it doesn’t comply with ADA, no issue on that point either. Why the problem hasn’t been addressed to date is another issue, and the accusing finger points to inept city inspectors. And the architect’s and contractor’s field personnel were obviously asleep on the job. But none of this points to the City–in any way–being responsible other than for the negligence of their field inspector.

            Permit reviewers don’t backcheck calculations and dimensions.I have spent weeks backchecking another engineer’s calculations and dimensions! I would never anticipate that a permit reviewer would question my use of a 25″ girder vs a 30″ girder. In that sense, plan reviewers tend to look at egress issues, dead end corridors, use of sprinklers in certain building types, stairway widths, tread heights, landing dimensions, fresh-air mixes in occupied spaces, etc. But they don’t check the sprinkler locations, so if in the end the fire marshall determines that the sprinklers are not code-compliant, (EVEN THOUGH HE HAS ALREADY REVIEWED THE DRAWINGS) do you think for a second that the fire marshall is going to belly up? Or If I show a 25″ girder that later collapses, do you think the City is going to be held responsible? Hell no. And they shouldn’t be. I’m the design professional, not them! ! They wouldn’t, for example study at the hardware list, during the permit review, to verify that a pair of doors is equipped with closers, panic devices, etc. But in the final walk-through, an observant inspector will cite the contractor if the door doesn’t comply. The issue of the sidewalk elevations could have been uncovered at permit review time if the reviewer had studied all the elevations on the site plan and established a matrix to check and interface areas of drainage, cross slopes, existing SOG elevations, the existing elevations of the adjacent areas of sidewalk, etc……and that just ain’t gonna happen….and it shouldn’t!

            To answer your question, the permit costs cover a cursory plan review, required coordination within the building division so that all jurisdictions are kept in the loop throughout the building process, field inspections, etc. To review the drawings to the extent necessary to be held responsible for “catching the designer’s errors” would boost the permit cost 5 fold.

            When’s the last time a D/B electrical contractor backcharged the City because the electrical contractor’s lighting layout was incorrect, failing to provide adequate foot candles in an area governed by code? NEVER. The electrical contractor grabs a few more fixtures and installs them, that’s all!

          • I don’t think I said the city should’ve caught it during plan review. An inspector visited the site to close out the original building permit and issue an occupancy permit. Again this year an occupancy permit was likely issued for this space.

          • Tom says:

            Have you ever really been on a construction site as large as this one? During the building/rebuilding process, no one is paying any attention to “tenant areas”. I’ve said it before….I’ll say it again. Tenant areas area pain in the ass for a developer and contractor. Construction debris area and material storage/laydown areas are at a premium during the heavy construction phase on a downtown project, so I would be willing to bet that this ADA issue was covered up with trash and whatever until the last minute. Then, at the last minute, when the sidewalk had to be poured out so an occupancy permit could be issued so that the construction schedule could be met, the concrete trucks started lining up on 12th Street!. You are right! The layout personnel should have caught this problem before the ready mix trucks showed up..But they either didn’t…….. or they did and chose for expediency to ignore the problem, to be dealt with at a later date. And because the oversight affected only one tenant space, the city building division issued a “building occupancy” –perhaps “provisional”, but I have no way of knowing. It’s absolutely a mystery to me how an occupancy permit was issued for this particular tenant space, given the presence of the toe-stubber at the entrance. I’m a dumb structural engineer, and even I know that 2″ steps at a primary entrance won’t fly! One thing I’ve learned in the 11 years I’ve worked as an engineer and 6 years as a construction laborer is that, on a construction site, you sometimes just gotta scratch your head and wonder aloud how things actually get accomplished. And in the end, things turn out fairly well, despite the apparent lack of attention to some details. Give the architect, engineer, contractor and the under-paid building inspector a little space here! Let them fix the problem so that it meets current codes, and then thank God (or whoever) that there are firms in STL with the vision that the Lawrence group possesses and balls the size that they must be in order to tackle some of these potential nightmares that they have so much success with!

          • moe says:

            Love your description of the building! Hulking prodigy, elephantine structure 🙂

  4. moe says:

    Willing to be that that access tunnel isn’t there for handicapped use. Most likely it’s for delivery of parcels and other service needs. It just HAPPENS to be able to used as a handicapped ramp. You’re lucky it didn’t open at the other side in a kitchen.
    But I am curious: do you fault the tenets any? I think they are also in a small way to blame. I mean, they obviously weren’t too concerned for their handicapped clientele or they would have said something like: ‘nice space, but how are our disabled patrons going to get in with ease? Thanks, but we’re going to look elsewhere.’ Imagine if more and more tenants asked this question BEFORE signing on the dotted line.
    If I’m picturing the sidewalk ramp correctly, the slope would not be noticeable because that 2 inches would be spread out over 12 feet or so.
    I’m curious though which direction this entrance faces. With out an overhand, somehow I’m thinking the excuse of rain flowing inside will be used.
    As for the dumpsters…that’s just laziness on the hauler’s half.

    • Tom says:

      How could you hold the tenant responsible? He’s busy frying eggs, chopping potatoes and squeezing oranges for tomorrow’s opening day. It’s like if you buy a new Chevy with a defective catalytic converter, and the fumes from your car kill you neighbor who’s sleeping next door in his lawn chair as you’re parked in the driveway, motor running, waiting for your wife to get into the car. Should you be charged with manslaughter? Should your wife?

      • moe says:

        He (or she) wasn’t busy frying eggs, chopping potatoes and squeezing oranges when they shopped for space. Many restaurants open and yet seem to have no issue making sure they have provided for all their customers BEFORE they open the door once, much less even have a tomorrow. Do you think they don’t look around for spots with ample parking, patronage seating, ability for deliveries among other things? What do you think, that this is a priceline commercial and they just snapped their fingers and Bam….restaurant?

        • Tom says:

          I agree with your logic, but I don’t agree necessarily with the details of your argument. I think a typical restaurant operator, or retail operator, would look specifically at parking availability, delivery accommodations, general layout, street exposure, etc., as you mentioned. But I could understand why they might just “not notice” a 2″ toe stubber at the front door….not that they’re negligent, but rather that they don’t necessarily focus on building issues of that type (of that type!). (I think they’d be more likely to notice a 2″ step at the loading ramp than at the front door!) Similarly, if the loading ramp had been erroneously designed with reverse-slope, resulting in even minor flooding during sustained rainfall–and if the new tenant didn’t recognize this as a problem until after the lease was signed, I can’t imagine that the tenant would be held responsible for the repair. Seems like a good basis for litigation! Consequently, I see no guilt on the part of the tenant.

          • moe says:

            EXACTLY Tom! The lease holder ‘might just not notice”. That’s my whole point. This goes to most of Steve’s postings on the topic of handicap access. It’s not a purposeful omission, they aren’t out to “get” the disabled. It’s that the designers, the builders, and yes, the lease holders “just don’t notice”. Most likely because they aren’t affected by a disability. It doesn’t affect them directly…but a loading ramp to get their supplies will and so they take notice and make sure they have one. If Paraquad had leased that space, wanna bet they would have noticed that first up? Because they have handicapped staff AND handicapped customers. If designers had handicapped staff or if street repairers had handicapped staff or if they had family members that were handicapped…..or on-going training on being mindful of handicaps….they would be a hell of a lot more sure to get it right the first time.
            I’m not saying the tenant should pay for the repairs, but they have a responsibility to make sure their customers can gain entrance. Do you think the tenant would be happy with ALL their customers going through the back door? Of course not. But if they and other tenants “noticed” no handicapped facilities and started say “No, I’ll keep looking because this doesn’t meet all my needs”….how long do you think it would take before the lease agent starts saying “I’m not going to waste my time showing your property because it doesn’t meet all my needs”….and how long do you think that will take before the developer starts actually making conscious decisions ‘to meet all the needs so I can make money, so we can all make money” Walk a mile in my shoes they say…

          • Tom says:

            …..so I take it that you agree that the tenant is not a responsible party in that you admit that the tenant should not pay for the repair. If “responsibility for payment” isn’t in the mix, where does the real-life responsibility lie/what is the real life consequence of being irresponsibile, other than in some world of utopia? i.e, what does “responsibility” really mean in this case? What burden is placed on anyone who is being held “responsible”? And is “responsible” even the word to describe that person if he isn’t being forced to pay for the repairs? Maybe the tenant is “guilty by complicity or naivete”–but that doesn’t seem to be fair either.

          • JZ71 says:

            Under the ADA, the “owner” is the one that is ultimately “responsible”. Whether the courts (or the DOJ) decide if it’s the building owner’s responsibility or the tenant’s responsibility likely boils down to how the lease is written / structured. If the tenant is making significant improvements, at their expense, it will likely be the tenant’s responsibility. If the landlord is providing a turn-key space or making the improvements to meet a tenant’s specific requirements, it’s likely the landlord’s / building owner’s responsibility. But from a user’s perspective, who’s responsible doesn’t really matter – if they believe that their civil rights have been violated, by being denied equal access, they can file a complaint with the Department of Justice or sue all parties in court. One recent example involves Hollister stores: http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2013/08/hollister_lawsuit_colorado.php . . . Ignorance, complicity or naivete are not excuses. And if the “owner” retained professional design assistance, guess what? The professional design consultants will be sucked in and likely be responsible for a significant portion of any damages a court may award. Much like structural design, where one errs on the side of safety, it always makes sense to err on the side of accessibility when it comes to compliance with the ADA.

          • Tom says:

            In my limited exposure to tenant work, I have always understood that it is the building owner’s responsibility to provide the building shell which begins at the exterior wall centerline and runs to the outside face , including all civil and architectural improvements outside the building….and it is the tenant’s responsibility to provide everything from the exterior wall centerline and inside the building. And it would be the building owner’s responsibility to provide any white box improvements being offered, if any and if applicable. And I would think any good lease would include a paragraph or two to protect the tenant from any litigation that may result from owner-controlled exterior deficiencies, including ADA parking and building access issues, heaving sidewalks, accidents resulting from reverse or inadequate parking lot/sidewalk drainage, cleanup, etc. It’s surprising to me that any tenant would allow himself to become even remotely involved in a building lease agreement that may leave him entangled in a possible exterior ADA brouhaha between user and owner.

          • Let me help you expand your limited knowledge, when a person feels trey’ve been discriminated against in Missouri they can file a complaint with the Missouri Human Rights Commission: http://labor.mo.gov/mohumanrights/ Most likely, in this example, the complaint would be against both the business owner & the landlord. Both would need to respond to state investigators. This is why commercial tenants need to be sure those who designed & built they space they’re leasing took the ADA seriously.

          • Tom says:

            Thank you for the explanation. I would venture a guess, though, that while both parties would perhaps have to answer to the complaint, the only party who might be fined/charged/injured is the one that was actually “responsible” for the error. Sorry, but I can’t imagine a tenant’s defense attorney not fighting vigorously in this regard. Otherwise, why are owners required to hire professionals to design and certify their buildings?

          • You missed the point…again. A business person trying to sell widgets will now have to hire an attorney. They may end up at odds with their landlord if it drags its feet and/or doesn’t assume responsibility. It’ll be a major pain, distracting them from their business. Ultimately I too suspect it’ll be the landlord that foots the bill to correct the situation, or the design professional(s) responsible for the error. The tenant will still be out thousands in legal fees the landlord may not cover.

          • Tom says:

            Can’t imagine that any good lease wouldn’t address responsibility for the cost of litigation arising out of defending against non-compliant construction design. And if it doesn’t, then the tenant needs to find a new real estate attorney. And until I see proof that a tenant has been held liable for the actions of his licensed design professional, I’ll remain the “doubting Thomas”. Hell, in this country, sometimes you can’t even take action against the obviously guilty party!

          • Tom says:

            Can’t imagine that any good lease wouldn’t address responsibility for the cost of litigation arising out of defending against non-compliant construction design. And if it doesn’t, then the tenant needs to find a new real estate attorney. And until I see proof that a tenant has been held liable for the actions of his licensed design professional, I’ll remain the “doubting Thomas”. Hell, in this country, sometimes you can’t even take action against the obviously guilty party!

          • Here’s a landlord-tenant case from 2011. http://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/real-estate/b/real-estate-law-blog/archive/2012/10/18/landlords-ada-obligations-cannot-be-leased-away.aspx The point is the small business owner may have a major distraction on their hands if the leased space isn’t ADA-compliant when they open. They may eventually recoup legal expenses from the landlord but that would strain their relationship.

          • Tom says:

            In business, a strained relationship wouldn’t be taken personally, so what would the downside be? There would be a downside, though, if legal expenses were not recoup-able!

          • A tenant might find the landlord isn’t responsive to them after they demand the landlord pay all the legal expenses. A tenant might find out the landlord leases the space to someone else rather then renew their lease. For a small business owner a strained landlord relationship could be very problematic and costly.

          • Tom says:

            Again, your view of business is too personal. The terms and conditions of the lease are detailed within the four corners of the lease agreement. Anything short of those terms can be argued in court. Lease renewal is not an area governed by personal relationships. It’s determined by many other factors–supply/demand being a primary one. The landlord makes no $ if a lease is not renewed and if the area sits empty. If demand is “high”, the landlord gains the upper hand. But if demand is “high”, the landlord would have gained the upper hand anyway and the lease renewal rate would have been increased anyway–with or without this “breach” of relationship (hard feelings/strained relationship) resulting from a previous legitimate lawsuit. If demand is “low”, the landlord would likely do anything reasonable in order to retain his tenants, and it would be a very poor business decision on his part to throw out a responsible tenant because the tenant was the successful litigant in a legitimate lawsuit. And any suggestion that all this litigation and these “complex” lease negotiations take away from a mom and pop’s ability to operate a successful business in a hostile business environment is naive. The business of business is business. Charity can be found in the soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

          • Ah, your view is limited to that of an employee who’s never had to worry about paying rent, attracting customers, making payroll, etc. The small business owners out there know what I challenge it can be. You clearly have no clue because you’ve lived in a comfort zone as an employee of others.

          • Tom says:

            And I’m supposed to apologize for that?

          • No, it just explains why you don’t appear to understand the implications

          • Here’s a landlord-tenant case from 2011. http://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/real-estate/b/real-estate-law-blog/archive/2012/10/18/landlords-ada-obligations-cannot-be-leased-away.aspx The point is the small business owner may have a major distraction on their hands if the leased space isn’t ADA-compliant when they open. They may eventually recoup legal expenses from the landlord but that would strain their relationship.

          • JZ71 says:

            As someone who has spent the bulk of their career doing tenant-finish work, I can say that while there is plenty of blame to go around, the responsibility ultimately lies with those who last touched the space. No one seems to be able to say with certainty that the doors were here first, in this case, and that the sidewalk was poured 2″ below an existing threshold. I/we don’t know if this space was carved out of a larger one and these doors added to provide direct exterior access. What we apparently do know is that this space was vacant for a period of time and that it was subsequently occupied by a local gallery and a local coffee shop.

            Based on my experience with clients of this type, most have only a rudimentary understanding, if that, of ADAAG requirements, and they rely on the expertise of the tenant-finish architect/designer to comply with the architectural requirements of the ADA. And when it comes to meeting those requirements, there are three basic requirements: One, get people in the front door. Two, provide safe egress from any secondary exits. Three, make any toilet facilities accessible. It really doesn’t matter why the door-sidewalk interface ended up wrong, it was wrong when the tenant(s) leased the space and it should have been fixed before they moved in, period!

            Unfortunately, there are only two, not-easy, solutions if the door needs to stay in this location – raise the sidewalk OR lower the threshold and deal with an interior transition/reconstruction of the existing floor assembly. Most owners (and most tenants, because they are ultimately going to have to pay for it) want to see the cheapest solution used, so, in most cases, it’s going to be easier and cheaper to “fix” the sidewalk. What we don’t know, here, is if anyone – owner, tenant, architect, designer, city inspector – actually said “we have a problem”, or if “everyone” missed it / assumed that it was OK (which I find to be highly unlikely).

            The much more likely scenario is that someone did raise it as an issue, but that the decision was made to “wait and see” if it actually became an issue, since it was going to cost pretty much the same to do it during construction or to to do it when someone actually raised a stink about it, sometime in the future. It’s going to be an “unseen” cost, one that doesn’t get fancier light fixtures, nicer wall finishes or cover the plumbing costs the coffee shop requires, so if you can “get by” with the current condition, it ends up being “money in your pocket”. And since the ADA remains independent from the building permitting process, this type of thinking continues simply because enforcement is so sporadic and random that the odds ARE that you “won’t get caught”. Combine that with the reality that most enforcement actions end up being settled for a commitment to just “fix it right” (with no punitive payments), and there is little incentive for reluctant or ignorant owners or tenants to do much of anything proactively, as long as they can get their city permits approved!

          • To be clear:
            1) the door to the space was installed prior to the sidewalk was poured. Both in place by May 2011.
            2) the space wasn’t carved out of a larger space.
            3) based on the building design, the threshold/interior can’t easily be changed. The change must happen outside.
            4) the cheapest solution would’ve been pouring the sidewalk at the right level in 2011.
            5) anywhere I might visit dramatically increases the odds of getting caught

          • moe says:

            Besides agreeing with JZ’s response below, I’m not going to dither into other areas of social “responsibility’ and so keeping it on point. In this particular case….is the tenant “legally” responsible…..in a lawsuit, sadly yes. Because as JZ points out, the lawyer will sue everyone up the chain. Is that fair? yes and no. Again….if they were to be aware of their disabled patrons as much as they are aware of the need for a proper loading dock, they would have found space elsewhere and thereby taking a stand, supporting, or whatever term one wishes to use…to say, in some small way…like Steve posted….I believe in civil rights, they are worth protecting…embarrassing them or costing/hurting them…so that it doesn’t get repeated. (and by the way…if a disabled person can’t gain entrance or use a cross walk, how does a parent with a stroller? Those are a lot of customers being alienated.
            It is that complacency and ‘if it doesn’t directly affect me, it’s not an issue” that has really caused problems in many areas of our society. And yes, sadly, if that tenant gets dragged into a lawsuit…..he/she will think twice before relocating or opening another or a dozen other stores. And the point is…he/she shouldn’t have to think twice. That’s what is so stupid. Decades later, it still is a battle instead of common sense.

          • Tom says:

            I’ve worked 17 years in the construction industry, 11 as an engineer, 6 as a construction laborer financing my education. Never in those 17 years have I encountered the complacent attitude “if it doesn’t directly affect me, it’s not an issue” that is being suggested here. And I deal with contractors, architects, other engineers, clients, iron workers, finishers, carpenters and bricklayers every day of the week, not just in Missouri but all over the US. There’s a lot more good, than bad, going on in the construction industry.

          • moe says:

            Well then Steve must have the worse luck of all to constantly keep running into ADA issues.

          • Tom says:

            I can’t speak to your statement because I have no first-hand knowledge of it, and I’m not entirely sure that the person you referenced always follows established business protocol or employs respected human-interaction techniques. In the last several years, I’ve found that the construction workforce is more intelligent and more committed to ethical performance in their professions than ever before. I am currently dealing with a civil-engineer-educated ironworker superintendent (a really sharp 26 year old!) in Washington state who has saved my ass on at least two occasions by questioning connections and engagement issuers, not because he had to but because it was the right thing to do….and doing so placed him behind the 8-ball with schedule. And this is becoming more the norm than not. Alberici has a superintendent working for them who has a BS in Architecture. Not for a minute would he don the attitude that is being suggested in this blog. He’s nothing short of being a professional. When I go to watch my son play t-ball in the evenings, I want to enjoy the game and not worry about my last parking garage collapsing because I border-lined the # of steel and concrete used in a particular girder. And so my attitude is that I’ll compromise for no one, for any reason. And this is exactly what I see going on elsewhere in the industry.

          • moe says:

            The only person I’ve referenced is Steve. So if you feel that he does not employ ‘respected human-interaction techniques’…come out and say it. With so many people working so professionally, then why is it that decades later issues like a 2 inch gap still arise? That sidewalk cutouts are still lacking? That wheelchairs have to use back doors? A BS in Architecture is meaningless if, when looking at plans, glaring issues aren’t caught probably because it’s just not important to them, it’s not relevant because they aren’t affected by a disability. An inspector can have all the degrees in the world and still over look things. But that inspector will more likely catch an oversight if they have been impacted somehow by a disability because it makes them more aware, it gives them that common sense. Same with a tenant as well.
            Here is a tiny example: a few years ago I had an ice machine and the health inspector came in and found that the drain pipe went directly into the drain floor. A major boo boo. He sighted me for it and ordered me to correct it. Mind you that pipe was installed by a licensed plumber and inspected numerous times and passed in the years prior…both while I was the manager and under other managers. But this time, it just caught his attention so it caught my attention. Should I have been responsible for fixing it? I didn’t install it, it passed numerous times, etc. But as I was ‘committed to ethical performance’ in my profession, I paid to have it replumbed. We could have argued up the chain of command and wasted hours and dollars, but decided to just get it done. And you know what…to this day, I check ice machines when I go into establishments because now it’s automatic. And you would be surprised at how many are not plumbed correctly.
            So you don’t comprise for no one…that’s swell. There are indeed plenty of mom and pop contractors that will and do. You seem to be taking the big picture approach that these mega-million contractors are doing everything perfect and hey, maybe they are. But in the real world, where the concrete is poured, not everything is being done perfectly. As Steve has pointed out again and again and again.
            So while you are at your son’s play t-ball and sitting on those bleachers, perhaps you’ll pull up one of the over 307,000 Google references to bleacher collapses or the 5,280,000 references to bleacher collapses in the United States and think about all the designers, production people, installers, and inspectors that followed ‘established business protocol’, employed ‘respected human-interaction techniques’, and were ‘professional’….yet some still collapsed because somewhere someone dropped the ball. And as I posted earlier…..decades later we, as a society, are still dropping the ball when it comes to equal access.

          • Tom says:

            My job-related references in this blog are based on my personal experiences in the construction industry. I obviously have no knowledge about what may or may not go on outside my domain. I do share your concern, though, about bleacher collapse. That specific problem was covered extensively in a recent workshop/seminar that I attended….and surprisingly most bleachers are erected by well-intentioned fathers club members and other “friends of the ballpark.” I don’t sit on bleachers, nor do my wife and children when I am with them! Period! (And I suggest you stay off them too!) And while we’re on the subject, elevated house decks are also a concern…most of which are designed and constructed by well-intentioned husbands and their buddies, and a case of beer, on a Saturday afternoon. Not a good idea and especially not a good combination: structural deck /husband/buddies/beer. It’s best to stay off them too. So if you really think that not everything done in the industry is perfect, you are absolutely right-on! But apathy among the legitimate workforce is not the problem.The construction industry, comprised of human beings subject to the known frailties of humanity, has done a 180 over the past 10 years. In the St. Louis area, for example, where you’ll find some of the finest union workmanship in the country, no longer is the superintendent some rough-cut carpenter wearing bibbed overalls and mud-covered buckle galoshes, with cigarette hanging from both sides of his mouth. He’s an intelligent, articulate, experienced carpenter or laborer with business savy and generally with enough experience under his belt that he knows where he needs to keep his attention focused, and he recognizes good workmanship and takes decisive action when he doesn’t see it happening. And in the process, he doesn’t alienate his workforce, and in that sense he practices respected human-interaction techniques–that is, if he is successful! No, my friend, you’ll never convince me that a professional, proven design, executed by a competent group of competent construction personnel doesn’t equal success. And that would apply to successfully built sidewalks and stoops, curbs and bleachers, structural decks and door sills, ice machine drains, sewers and soda dispensers.

          • JZ71 says:

            Agree, but on the tenant finish side, especially where you have a small / inexperienced / local tenant (as compared to a national chain) and/or an owner trying to fill space in a stagnant market, the bottom line becomes very, very important, and many tenants would rather spend their limited tenant-finish dollars on things that are pretty than on things that, while functional, are perceived to be expensive or to add “little, if anything” to the space. And in the case of raw space, the cost of putting in the basics (lights, power, HVAC distribution) usually eats up all of any owner-provided tenant finish allowance. These are usually people scraping together a start-up budget, not established companies experienced in the true costs of construction, and any “upgrades” are going to come out of their limited budget. Not excusing it, either, just explaining the realities of that end of the business.


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