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Time For St. Louis To Decide What The Area Around A Future MLS Stadium Should Look Like, How It Should Function

August 16, 2019 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability No Comments

On Wednesday a long expected, though still unconfirmed, report indicated St. Louis will be the next city to get a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team.

Major League Soccer will award an expansion franchise to St. Louis, a source close to the prospective ownership group has confirmed to ESPN. The deal is expected to be announced as soon as next Tuesday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was first to report that St. Louis will be MLS’s 28th team.

The ownership group, MLS4TheLou, declined to directly comment on the reports, issuing the following statement: “Major League Soccer is responsible for the timing of any announcements around League expansion, but we remain confident St. Louis has made a strong case for a team.”

MLS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.” (ESPN)

Now that it looks likely the team and new stadium will happen we can delve more seriously into the design of the stadium and, more importantly, the surrounding blocks.

My map of the area from 2016

Nearly four months ago we got our first look at the proposed stadium, here’s how I ended my post then:

Here’s what I think about the site, both north & south of Market Street:

  • The stadium & new buildings should take advantage of the existing hole for basement or underground parking.
  • Market Street between 20th & 21st is a deteriorating bridge, it should be removed. Under it can be filled in with foam so a new road/sidewalks can be built at grade.
  • Market Street should be redesigned to be friendly to pedestrians. This means narrowing the road (fewer, narrower lanes) and more crossing points. Right now there’s a crosswalk at 20th and at Jefferson –this is nearly a half a mile without a crossing.
  • Hopefully the changes at Union Station, including the upcoming Farris Wheel along 20th Street, will mean easier access under the train shed between the Union Station MetroLink platform on the East side of 18th to the new MLS stadium.
  • Metro will need to rethink downtown circulation with a revised Union Station, a MLS stadium, and hopefully active surroundings.
  • Pine & Chestnut have been a one-way couplet for decades. Once the on/off ramps to/from I-64 are gone both streets should be returned to two-way traffic. The revised Soldiers Memorial, however, has only one eastbound lane on Chestnut between 13th-14th.  Chestnut has our only protected bike lane.

I’ll probably think of more issues, hopefully the site planning being done now will address at least some of these.

My views haven’t changed, but I do have some additional thoughts now that we’re getting close. Most are questions, in no particular order:

  • We still need to see a proposed site plan. What is the current ownership of the current land?  How much city & state property will exist beyond the stadium boundaries? Is the stadium site too small? Too large?
  • Because not everything will get built by the date of the first match, we need to think long-term. What might this large vacant hole look like in 10-15-20 years? What do we as a community want it to look like?
  • I think minority businesses should get work from infrastructure improvements, stadium, and new construction adjacent to the stadium. Big investments are being made, every part of the community should benefit.
  • We need to plan an area larger than the stadium — I-64 on the South (since it’s a hard boundary), the West side of Jefferson (since the city is looking at Jefferson changes to accommodate the coming NGA West headquarters further North, to the North I’d say at least include Locust. To the East Union  Station is a hard boundary but there are development opportunities surrounding the historic train station (16th, perhaps 14th).
  • Housing should be included within the larger area described above. This should be at all price points from low-income to high-end. It should include purchase & rental.
  • Hopefully we can agree that new low-density uses like gas stations & stand-alone fast food restaurants would be inappropriate.
  • Pedestrian circulation needs to be considered as much, or more, than vehicular circulation. We’re going to have lots of visitors coming into town for future MLS matches, they need to be able to fly into St. Louis, take MetroLink to Union Station, easily walk to their hotel, walk from their hotel to the stadium, patronizing local businesses along the way. Will pedestrians be able to freely walk from 18th to 20th through the Union Station train shed, or will they be forced to go up to Market Street?
  • New infrastructure (water, sewer, electric, etc) needs to be planned for future development. Initial surface parking lots should be development sites in the future. For example, we shouldn’t need to move a water line just five years later.
  • Unlike Ballpark Village, the surroundings shouldn’t all be owned by the team ownership. It shouldn’t even be just one entity. A different company might work each direction from the stadium. The community plan, hopefully with form-based zoning, will ensure they all work to create what we want this area to become over time.
  • How can we make the area active on days without a match? One option might be having one street where restaurants are concentrated on both sides. Or maybe just at all corners?
  • How do we create a good West terminus to The Gateway Mall? Currently there’s a little bit of the linear park west of 20th Street.  Do we end at 20th? End at a new 21st?  At a new 22nd?
  • Will there be a place for match-day events? A side street that gets closed? A plaza adjacent to the stadium? The west end of The Gateway Mall?
  • Though this area is part of the Downtown West neighborhood, the stadium area needs a good name. This will help identify this district.

My fear is the rush to get a new stadium built mistakes with long-term consequences will be made. We’ve got one chance to do this right.

— Steve Patterson

 

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