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Parking in Former CPI Corp Lot Now $5/Day or $65/Month

May 1, 2014 Downtown, Featured, Parking 10 Comments

It was a year ago that CPI Corp shuttered all of its US portrait studios, leaving most of the downtown workforce without a job.  I’ve kept an eye on the company since moving downtown, as I look up from my screen as I type this post I can see the former CPI HQ building outside my window.

In December 2008 the lot was generally full, as seen from our balcony
In December 2008 the lot was generally full, as seen from our balcony
The view from a neighbors balcony at 4:30pm in November 2009
The view from a neighbors balcony at 4:30pm in November 2009
2012 Entire block of surface parking east of CPI's building shown in the background
In 2012 their surface parking east of CPI’s building, shown in the background, was still pretty full each day
Tuesday April 14, 2013 @1:45pm is was nearly vacant
Tuesday April 14, 2013 @1:45pm is was nearly vacant

The lot was vacant for a while but over the last year more and more area residents began parking there, a nearby restaurant valet used the lot on weekends, etc. It got used, but nobody collected any revenue. CPI Corp had sold their building & lot prior to shutting down so I knew it had to be just a matter of time until the owner decided to collect from everyone using the parking lot.

A a couple of weeks ago St. Louis Parking began putting this flyer on cars, effective Monday April 28th they’d be charging $5/day.

An honor box was installed on the NW corner near 17th & Washington Ave
An honor box was installed on the NW corner near 17th & Washington Ave
A sign placed in one spot along St. Charles St., few paying customers so far
A sign placed in one spot along St. Charles St., few paying customers so far
And naturally, a sign blocking the narrow sidewalk I use along the west side of 16th St.
And naturally, a sign blocking the narrow sidewalk I use along the west side of 16th St.

It would’ve been easy to go around the sign, but not if someone parked in the adjacent space. Using my power wheelchair I pushed the sign into the adjacent space then I sent this pic to a few officials, and posted on Twitter & Facebook. Hopefully St. Louis Parking  won’t place this sign on the sidewalk again. One response brought up a very good question:

Off topic, but isn’t there now a rule requiring pay lots to supply an attendant or have a locked fence to prevent car break-ins? Does that not invalidate honor boxes? http://www.stltoday.com/…/article_a546ebc4-a261-11e0…

The link was to a June 2011 Post-Dispatch article: St. Louis to require parking lot attendants, curb downtown break-ins. Three months later the following press release was issued:

Released: 09-19-2011

To reduce car break ins, the City of St. Louis has implemented common-sense regulations for parking lots. These rules are designed to make parking lots safer and more secure.

“Our City –especially Downtown –is the hub of our region’s activity,” said Mayor Francis G. Slay. “Hundreds of thousands of people come to our City for festivals, sporting events, concerts, and other events. They should know that their car will be secure while they are having fun.”

The City of St. Louis and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD), worked together to create new public parking lot rules. The highlights are:
• Parking lots shall be attended by an employee when in operation; and
• Parking lot attendants shall be educated by the SLMPD; and
• Parking lots shall be secured when not in operation.

The City of St. Louis Building Division will grant waivers to parking lots that have demonstrated they are safe and secure. These waivers will be reviewed periodically.

“Waivers will only be given to specific lots that historically have been safe places to leave a vehicle,” said Frank Oswald, Building Commissioner. “My staff will work with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to ensure that we are giving waivers to only those lots without problems.”

The SLMPD will coach parking lot attendants on how to spot suspicious activity, and has vowed to be available to quickly respond to parking lot calls for service.

“These attendants will act as an extra pair of eyes for the SLMPD,” said Mayor Slay. “And our hope is that their watchfulness will give the SLMPD a greater chance to catch car clouters in the act, and to make our City even safer.”
The City of St. Louis has implemented new parking lot regulations to reduce break-ins per Building Commissioner’s Order #1001. The Building Division will grant waivers to parking lots that have proven to be safe and secure.

For more information or to apply for a waiver please call the Office of the Building Commissioner at (314) 622-3318.

Since this lot lacks an attendant or any fencing to restrict use to the daytime, I assume it was granted a waiver. Which is interesting because this lot, and the one at 16th & Locust, are well known spots for car break-ins and/or robberies/assaults. I’ve emailed the building commissioner asking about waivers, I haven’t heard back yet.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. John R says:

    That’s a nice trio of buildings for your view. Would be nice to have some quality infill to fill the gap. (But then again, more public parking will help solve our chronic “there’s nowhere to park downtown” problem. Happy Days Here we Come! (pressing sarcasm button))

    • Yes, I love my view! I too would like to see new construction on that block, it once contained an 8-story building that was part of Brown Shoe (http://bit.ly/1kmeS2F). Hopefully in time a building with underground parking, retail, offices and residential would be built.

      • Chris Fitzgerald says:

        I’m in the King Bee right across the way, the top left of your view. Always wondered what the building looked like that once stood there. Never have been able to find photos of it, outside of the ones of it mostly burnt down from the fire we had in the 70’s I belive. Also, this space was one of the scenes from Escape from New York, they filmed all around where the building used to be in the rubble. Always thought that was interesting!

      • JZ71 says:

        For my own edification (as in, if you don’t own it, you don’t control it), how would you feel if someone built one or several buildings that significantly blocked your current view and access to sunlight? These surface lots DO tear up the urban fabric, but they also make urban living more tolerable by reducing the urban canyon effect. Are you willing to sacrifice the view that you love for greater density?

        • I don’t subscribe to the libertarian view of “If you don’t own it, you don’t control it.” The power of government to control/regulate private land & development is well established.

          My neighbors with windows facing north might not like a new building, our windows face west to the other building in our condominium — so my primary view straight out our windows won’t change.

          I’d not like a full-block parking garage on the block, though a few floors of parking above grade wouldn’t be objectionable if the rest was occupied.

          On my list is an ‘form-based overlay’ for Downtown West to address these issues before the need comes up.

          • JZ71 says:

            I don’t disagree with the government’s ability to control. My point was that the existing zoning allows*, as a use by right, the ability to build some pretty big / tall / substantial structures on these existing surface parking lots, and my experience is that many home buyers (In both lofts and suburban subdivisions) are “surprised” when something, anything begins to get built that blocks their views and daylight. You’re a consistent advocate for higher-density development (which I, too, support), so I just wanted to see how much NIMBY crept into a more personal perspective on higher density development. And I also agree that a “form-based overlay” needs to be in place before any significant development happens, otherwise the whole “takings” issue comes into play when existing property owners start to perceive that their development “rights” are in any way being diminished.

            *26.52.040 Height regulations: Buildings may be erected to such height that the cubic contents of said building above the established grade shall not exceed the volume of a prism having a base equal to the projected horizontal area of the building and a height of two hundred (200) feet. In the case of buildings occupying a lot having frontage on intersecting streets and which buildings are so designed as to provide a setback or open space at one (1) corner or corners where such street intersections occur, or when such setback begins below the two hundred (200) foot height above the established grade, the volume determined by the above rule may be exceeded by an amount equal to the volume so taken out of the reference prism of two hundred (200) foot height; provided, however, that the total volume of the actual building shall not exceed by more than twenty-five percent (25%) the volume of said reference prism of two hundred (200) foot height. (Ord. 59979 § 14 (part), 1986.)

            26.52.050 Area regulations: There shall be a lot area of not less than two hundred and fifty (250) square feet for each dwelling unit up to and including eight (8) stories or one hundred (100) feet in height; thereafter there shall be provided a lot area of not less than one hundred (100) square feet for each additional dwelling unit above eight (8) stories or one hundred (100) feet in height. Sleeping rooms without cooking facilities shall have a lot area of not less than one hundred (100) square feet each. (Ord. 59979 § 14 (part), 1986.)

        • Too often, individual owners/residents are placated to the detriment of the bigger picture (see: all our damn Schoemehl pots and after-the-fact cul-de-sacs). One sentence that I always hear aldermen in Chicago recite at public zoning/variance meetings is that “we cannot/do not make development decisions based on existing views.”

          In a growing City, you should never be guaranteed the same view in perpetuity out your window. Easement rights exist to at least preserve some level of light/air assurances for adjacent properties, but never (well, almost never) across the street or down the road.

          The job of officials is to determine whether the benefit of a new development overcomes any potential negatives for the businesses/residents around it. More times than not, filling in the vacant spaces actually improves the environment for those who raise the initial complaints. Sure, they might not have that back balcony view into the public park across the way anymore, but the new development brings new businesses and new vibrancy (and safety) that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

  2. Mark says:

    I wonder why the City is not requiring the new parking lot owner and/or operator to abide by the City of St, Louis’ written/published parking-lot development standards: perimeter fencing, lighting, landscaping, permeable paving, perimeter curbs, water drainage tied to a storm sewer protected by a grease interceptor? Is it because favorite-sons, the owners of St. Louis Parking, are involved?


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