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An Urban Home Depot

The following post first appeared on UrbanReview | CHICAGO

Big box retailers long had a standard formula: cheap building surrounded by acres of surface parking. More than a decade ago they began to experiment with new designs as they entered urban locations where land prices & population density meant acres of surface parking wasn’t possible. I recall seeing the Home Depot on N. Halsted under construction — I just can’t recall when. I do know it was open by March 2005:

The company has eight stores in the city, including a unique two-story, storefront-style location at 2665 N. Halsted St.

Like Target, Home Depot knows the value of a flexible footprint. That gives it more options in working its way closer to the urbanite customers it craves. The Halsted store doesn’t sell much lumber; it focuses on the tools and interior design products that North Side condo owners shop for.

A lot of city neighborhoods fit Home Depot’s demographic, which is neither wealthy nor poor. The main thing: plenty of homeowners. “Home Depot is looking for bungalow city,” says Mr. Kirsch of Baum Realty. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

Though I’d been past it numerous times since it opened, I never went inside. Last month my husband and I needed something from a hardware store. He called a couple of local places near the Streeterville condo where we stay while in Chicago but they didn’t have what we needed. Looking at transit to the various locations we decided the N. Halsted location would be the easiest.

The Home Depot on N. Halsted in Lincoln Park was built more than a decade ago.
The Home Depot on N. Halsted in Lincoln Park was built more than a decade ago.
The garage entry/exit is recessed from the sidewalk
The garage entry/exit is recessed from the sidewalk
The store has two interior levels
The store has two interior levels
Rooftop garden on 4
Rooftop garden on 4
The front of the 2-story store is mostly glass, the is on the 2nd floor
The front of the 2-story store is mostly glass, the is on the 2nd floor
The rooftop garden on 4. Parking is on 3 and the balance of 4
The rooftop garden on 4. Parking is on 3 and the balance of 4

The question is how do we get urban retail to take more urban form in areas where land isn’t so expensive? Can a city, like St. Louis, through zoning or incentives, create an atmosphere where retailers are willing to invest in more expensive buildings with structured parking?

— Steve Patterson

 

Developing Vandeventer & Forest Park: IKEA — Exception Or New Rule?

Big box stores with surface parking lots don’t fit in urban contexts — they’re sub-urban. For example, the Menard’s in O’Fallon IL I drove past on Saturday, a MetroBus stop is right out front but there’s no accessible pedestrian route to get to the entrance. See it on Google Street View here.

Decades ago the big boxes were the downtown department stores, but those days are long gone. However, a few big box retailers have taken over some of the vacant space left behind by shuttered department stores.

Taget in Chicago's former Carson Pirie Scott department store designed by Louis Sullivan. February 2014. Click image to view the Wikipedia entry on the building
Taget in Chicago’s former Carson Pirie Scott department store designed by Louis Sullivan. February 2014. Click image to view the Wikipedia entry on the building

More often, big boxes have been trying to fit into walkable urban neighborhoods; they’ve been concealed by smaller liner storefronts, stacked, etc. The Target at Hampton & Chippewa is built over parking, but it still has surface parking facing Hampton & Bancroft, with docks & garage facing Chippewa. Inevitably someone says “it’s better than what was there” or “It’s better than the location in [insert any suburban municipality.”  Sorry, but new development will be around for 20+ years, so standards should be higher than simply doing marginally better than  awful suburban development or old derelict properties. Which brings me to IKEA St. Louis, located on the SW corner of Forest Park Ave & Vandeventer Ave.

IKEA's blue & yellow big box set behind a surface parking lot at Forest Park & Vandeventer. View from the point where the two public sidewalks meet.
IKEA’s blue & yellow big box set behind a surface parking lot at Forest Park & Vandeventer. View from the point where the two public sidewalks meet.

Opening day I ran into an acquaintance at IKEA — she also arrived via MetroBus — she hadn’t yet seen my post on the pedestrian access points. Upon arriving at the corner pictured above how would a pedestrian know where to find accessible routes to the entry? By big box standards, IKEA St. Louis did an excellent job providing pedestrian access routes from each go the three adjacent streets, but the massive setback from the sidewalks

The big question now is what will happen at development sites around IKEA St. Louis? Other buildings, old & new, within a block of the intersection are all urban — built up to the public sidewalk.

Two other corners contain urban buildings a historic firehouse and a new apartment complex built around a parking garage
Two other corners contain urban buildings a historic firehouse and a new apartment complex built around a parking garage
The 3-story building on the NW corner was razed 4+ years ago. At right you can see the South end of the historic Gerhart Block that I posted about on Friday.
The 3-story building on the NW corner was razed 4+ years ago. At right you can see the South end of the historic Gerhart Block that I posted about on Friday.

In July 2011 I posted about the building on this very same corner being razed. The Southeast corner, except for the firehouse, is to be retail.

The firehouse is supposed to remain, will help "hold" the corner. But how will everything else relate to the street & sidewalk?
The firehouse is supposed to remain, will help “hold” the corner. But how will everything else relate to the street & sidewalk?
Behind the firehouse is largely an old industrial site
Behind the firehouse is largely an old industrial site
But even the old industrial office is urban in form
But even the old industrial office is urban in form
The urban form continues across Spring Ave
The urban form continues across Spring Ave
nnn
And across Forest Park Ave more urban form. Will the new retail to the South respect the urban pattern?

One of the most critical development parcels is immediately to the West of IKEA, at 4052 Forest Park Ave.

Looking West from the IKEA property line. The other three sides are bounded by Forest Park Ave, Sarah Ave, and Duncan Ave
Looking West from the IKEA property line. The other three sides are bounded by Forest Park Ave, Sarah Ave, and Duncan Ave. The former Ford plant in the background is now lofts
Looking South across Forest Park. IKEA is to the left, just out of view. The development parcel straight ahead will ideally be of similar massing as the lofts on the right, with storefronts at sidewalk level.
Looking South across Forest Park. IKEA is to the left, just out of view. The development parcel straight ahead will ideally be of similar massing as the lofts on the right, with storefronts at sidewalk level.
Looking East on Duncan Ave, from Sarah Ave. The CORTEX master plan wants Duncan to be a pedestrian-friendly spine through the district. The form of new building(s) on the parcel on the left will matter greatly.
Looking East on Duncan Ave, from Sarah Ave. The CORTEX master plan wants Duncan to be a pedestrian-friendly spine through the district. The form of new building(s) on the parcel on the left will matter greatly.

This site could be developed similar to new apartments at Forest Park & Vandeventer — a parking garage concealed on all sides by habitable buildings. The difference here is it should have storefront spaces on the ground floor. A boutique hotel, like one of these chains, should occupy part of the upper floors.

Hopefully IKEA St. Louis will be the exception, not the rule.

— Steve Patterson

 

My Visits To IKEA St. Louis

September 29, 2015 Big Box, Featured, Retail 2 Comments

The new IKEA St. Louis opens tomorrow, the 8th IKEA I’ve visited. I first stepped into an IKEA store over 25 years ago. So long, in fact, that location (Woodbridge) has been physically replaced by a new building.   I’ve filled several cars before, I’ve also bought a few small items to fit in carry-on luggage.  I’ll have to adjust to having a location just 20 minutes away by public transit. So I have some personal advice based on my experiences.

The Post-Dispatch ran a story on how to survive IKEA, it was a good list but I disagree with one:

7. Don’t go hungry expecting you will eat something right away. You will walk through an entire floor of the showroom before you encounter the cafeteria. Then, there will be lines. You don’t want to have low-blood sugar in an Ikea.

This is incorrect. At IKEA you start at the top level and work your way down, at their locations you can easily access the restaurant upon reaching the top floor. This is especially true in St. Louis.  The restaurant opens 30 minutes before the main store does so you can grab a bite to eat, review your list, and such.

Initially, expect lines.  Most of the following pics are from the press/media tour last Wednesday — a few are from the family & friends day on Saturday.

Upon entering from the surface parking or parking love; below the store you'll see stairs, escalator, and elevator on the East end. All these lead you up to the 2nd floor.
Upon entering from the surface parking or parking love; below the store you’ll see stairs, escalator, and elevator on the East end. All these lead you up to the 2nd floor.
At the 2nd floor you'll go through the automatic glass doors and reach this point. Here you can leave the young ones in the nursery area or use the restroom. If you know you want to reach something on this floor, say lighting, you can skip the 3rd floor. However, newbies should start on the 3rd floor and follow the arrows.
At the 2nd floor you’ll go through the automatic glass doors and reach this point. Here you can leave the young ones in the nursery area or use the restroom. If you know you want to reach something on this floor, say lighting, you can skip the 3rd floor. However, newbies should start on the 3rd floor and follow the arrows.
To the right of the 2nd floor restrooms are lockers if you need to store stuff while you shop. I didn't see any keys last week, not sure exactly how these are accessed. The elevator is to the left of the restrooms.
To the right of the 2nd floor restrooms are lockers if you need to store stuff while you shop. I didn’t see any keys last week, not sure exactly how these are accessed. The elevator is to the left of the restrooms.
Of the IKEA locations I've visited this restaurant is the open and inviting. This is looking East.
Of the IKEA locations I’ve visited this restaurant is the open and inviting. This is looking East.
It is cafeteria-styke, but there is more than one line. Looks for daily specials to save money.
It is cafeteria-styke, but there is more than one line. Looks for daily specials to save money.  They have rolling carts that hold 4-5 trays so you don’t have to male your kids carry their own tray and worry they’ll spill it.
Long lines on Saturday though
Long lines on Saturday though
The 3rd floor has areas like sofas, bed, tables, office, etc.
The 3rd floor has areas like sofas, bed, tables, office, etc.
The 3rd floor also has complete rooms like living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens
The 3rd floor also has complete rooms like living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens
There are three small apartments on the 3rd floor so you can see complete living spaces.
There are three small apartments on the 3rd floor so you can see complete living spaces.
Back down on the 2nd floor is where you'll find lots of smaller products. This $4,79 storage set is one of my favorites -- we bought a 3rd set on Saturday.
Back down on the 2nd floor is where you’ll find lots of smaller products. This $4,79 food storage set is one of my favorites — we bought a 3rd set on Saturday.
The lighting section has always been a favorite, like the entire store, this is all LEDs.
The lighting section has always been a favorite, like the entire store, this is all LEDs.
The art & accessories area has pieces of various sizes that won't break the bank.
The art & accessories area has pieces of various sizes that won’t break the bank.
Then you'll find items you saw on display on the 3rd floor available in the warehouse. Display items have the aisle & section number on the price tag so you can locate them here.
Then you’ll find items you saw on display on the 3rd floor available in the warehouse. Display items have the aisle & section number on the price tag so you can locate them here.
On Saturday
On Saturday
Check out lines are ready.
Check out lines are ready.
On Saturday every line was going, cashiers getting lots of experience. Starting October 1st they'll be ready for EMV/Chip credit cards. No NFC payment though.
On Saturday every line was going, cashiers getting lots of experience. Starting October 1st they’ll be ready for EMV/Chip credit cards. No NFC payment though.
At the exit you can use the elevator, stairs, or travelator to get to the ground for. The travelator holds carts so they don't roll down. Be prepared to push the cart at the bottom.
At the exit you can use the elevator, stairs, or travelator to get to the ground for. The travelator holds carts so they don’t roll down. Be prepared to push the cart at the bottom.

I’m glad we now have an IKEA, now trips to Chicago can avoid suburbia.  Here’s a scene from an early episode of CBS’ ‘Big Bang Theory’ about assembling flat packed furniture.

I’ll be there tomorrow morning as official raise flags in front go the entrance around 8:30am. I’ll visit with a good friend who is 7th in line.

— Steve Patterson

 

Accessing The New IKEA St. Louis by Foot, Bike, Wheelchair, or Car

Last week I looked at Duncan Ave and how it ends at IKEA, from a visit on the 11th. Today we’ll look at the access points to IKEA from Duncan Ave., Forest Park Ave., and Vandeventer Ave., from a visit on the 23rd.

Ended last week's post on Duncan Ave. looking back West from the IKEA property line
Ended last week’s post on Duncan Ave. looking back West from the IKEA property line

I’d arrived at this point by coming East on Duncan. Today let’s travel the way many pedestrians will, from Sarah & Forest Park.  I got off the #10 MetroBus on Lindell at Sarah, then headed South., about a third of a mile

Looking South across Forest Park. The new crossing pedestrian refuge is just getting finished. IKEA is to the left, just out of view
Looking South across Forest Park. The new crossing pedestrian refuge is just getting finished. IKEA is to the left, just out of view
Looking back North after crossing, Hopefully the crosswalk striping will be done soon. Note that it's a straight shot from side to center to opposite side.
Looking back North after crossing, Hopefully the crosswalk striping will be done soon. Note that it’s a straight shot from side to center to opposite side.
The crosswalk at the East end of Duncan Ave wasn't painted when I visited on the 11th, but it had a basic upon return. This is within the public-right-of-way. 
The crosswalk & stop line at the East end of Duncan Ave weren’t painted when I visited on the 11th, but it had a basic upon return. This is within the public-right-of-way.
Now we start into the West entry to IKEA's site. Once the new MetroLink light rail station opens this may see a lot of foot traffic. IKEA uses the more visible 'continental' crosswalk on site. This auto drive leads out to Forest Park Ave.
Now we start into the West entry to IKEA’s site. Once the new MetroLink light rail station opens this may see a lot of foot traffic. IKEA uses the more visible ‘continental’ crosswalk on site. This auto drive leads out to Forest Park Ave.
Looking East toward the store, a construction truck is blocking the view & crosswalk, but they were trying to finish up.
Looking East toward the store, a construction truck is blocking the view & crosswalk, but they were trying to finish up.
On the 11th I was horrified to see four of these awful bike racks placed too close together. Upon inquiry I was told they were temporary, the permanent racks to be installed soon.
On the 11th I was horrified to see four of these awful bike racks placed too close together. Upon inquiry I was told they were temporary, the permanent racks to be installed soon.
Less than 2 weeks later excellent inverted-U racks had arrived & were installed. The employees using the racks need to be shown how to use them so their bikes are supported.
Less than 2 weeks later excellent inverted-U racks had arrived & were installed. The employees using the racks need to be shown how to use them so their bikes are supported.

Next let’s assume that after crossing Forest Park Ave I’d headed East to enter IKEA.  These photos are all from my visit on the 11th.

At the edge of the property is the only auto entrance on Forest Park
At the edge of the property is the only auto entrance on Forest Park
We continue East, after crossing this major in/out vehicular drive
We continue East, after crossing this major in/out vehicular drive
After crossing the drive we can clearly see IKEA beyond the storm water runoff collector
After crossing the drive we can clearly see IKEA beyond the storm water runoff collector
The first of two pedestrian routes from the Forest Park public sidewalk to the IKEA. Let's continue East toward Vandeventer Ave and enter on the other accessible route
The first of two pedestrian routes from the Forest Park public sidewalk to the IKEA. Let’s continue East toward Vandeventer Ave and enter on the other accessible route
Looking back we see the walkway crosses over the drainage area.
Looking back we see the walkway crosses over the drainage area.
At the other pedestrian entry we can look bak West toward Sarah. The parking lane along Forest Park remains, it would be nice if the city striped it with a solid white line to separate it from the outside drive lane.
At the other pedestrian entry we can look bak West toward Sarah. The parking lane along Forest Park remains, it would be nice if the city striped it with a solid white line to separate it from the outside drive lane.
Looking South at the IKEA entry
Looking South at the IKEA entry
From the walkway looking back North toward Forest Park Ave
From the walkway looking back North toward Forest Park Ave
Almost to the entrance
Almost to the entrance, disabled parking is on both sides of this walkway and under the building
In front of the entry looking North. Pedestrians have two ADA-compliant options for getting through the front parking lot. Every big box store needs to do this!
In front of the entry looking North. Pedestrians have two ADA-compliant options for getting through the front parking lot. Every big box store needs to do this!
From the 3rd floor restaurant looking North we can see the path we just used to get inside from the public sidewalk.
From the 3rd floor restaurant looking North we can see the path we just used to get inside from the public sidewalk.

Now let’s go out to the intersection of Forest Park Ave & Vandeventer Ave, the city has been busy trying to make it better for pedestrians.

Like we saw at Sarah, crosswalks aren't yet marked.
Like we saw at Sarah, crosswalks aren’t yet marked, so vehicles stop where they block the crossing point.
Looking North after crossing Vandeventer. Unlike at Sarah, the route here isn't a straight shot
Looking North after crossing Vandeventer. Unlike at Sarah, the route here isn’t a straight shot. 
From the pedestrian refuge in the median I see the curb ramp on the other side aren't finished. At this point I notice the pedestrian signals speaking for the visually impaired say "Forest Park Parkway" instead of "forest Park Avenue" The visual signs on the street lights are correct though
From the pedestrian refuge in the median I see the curb ramp on the other side aren’t finished. At this point I notice the pedestrian signals speaking for the visually impaired say “Forest Park Parkway” instead of “forest Park Avenue” The visual signs on the street lights are correct though
Got a break so I can cross
Got a break so I can cross..hopefully
Looking back South we see this side has a zig zag pattern too. This will become more apparent once the crosswalk stripes are done.
Looking back South we see this side has a zig zag pattern too. This will become more apparent once the crosswalk stripes are done.

And last let’s look at access points from Vandeventer Ave. With Saint Louis University nearby and a retail development coming across the street pedestrian volume in this area will rise sharply. These photos were taken on the 11th, 23rd, and 26th.

A new signalized intersection on Vandeventer Ave for IKEA Way, which is located about where the non-signalized Duncan Ave was. A new crosswalk was added to the South side of the intersection. Eventually the site to the East will be a retail development.
A new signalized intersection on Vandeventer Ave for IKEA Way, which is located about where the non-signalized Duncan Ave was. A new crosswalk was added to the South side of the intersection. Eventually the site to the East will be a retail development.  Sept 23rd
Looking North we can see the primary vehicular entry from Vandeventer, IKEA Way. Sept 11th
Looking North we can see the primary vehicular entry from Vandeventer, IKEA Way. Sept 11th
Turning again we see a pedestrian entrance up the hill. This is an ADA ramp, due to the grade it has periodic flat rest points, the side handrails weren't yet installed on the 11th
Turning again we see a pedestrian entrance up the hill. This is an ADA ramp, due to the grade it has periodic flat rest points, the side handrails weren’t yet installed on the 11th
At the top we see a clear path the entry, only having to cross traffic at one point. Ahead is the exit from the parking level below the building.
At the top we see a clear path the entry, only having to cross traffic at one point. Ahead is the exit from the parking level below the building.
This East view from the 3rd floor restaurant gives you an overview. Sept 23rd
This East view from the 3rd floor restaurant gives you an overview. Sept 23rd. The parking at the bottom is the “family parking” area

There’s a second entrance off Vandeventer for vehicles, and some pedestrians.

For those coming from the South, such as The Grove, this is the view along Vandeventer before reaching the pedestrian entry & IKEA Way
For those coming from the South, such as The Grove, this is the view along Vandeventer before reaching the pedestrian entry & IKEA Way
But navigating this would be a challenge
But navigating this would be a challenge
But they've got a sidewalk for pedestrians and a drive for motorists.
But they’ve got a sidewalk for pedestrians and a drive for motorists.
From the top we turn to the North and we can see the pedestrian route is clearly marked. Onward...
From the top we turn to the North and we can see the pedestrian route is clearly marked. Onward…
But we soon run into a major problem. If you can't see it that's part of the problem.
But we soon run into a major problem. If you can’t see it that’s part of the problem.
Here's a side view so help you see the uncovered drainage channel breaking up what appears to be a pedestrian route.
Here’s a side view so help you see the uncovered drainage channel breaking up what appears to be a pedestrian route.
The opposite view. which I encountered on the 11th when I almost didn't see it ahead
The opposite view. which I encountered on the 11th when I almost didn’t see it ahead
Another side view, this taken on the 11th
Another side view, this taken on the 11th
And looking out toward Vandeventer
And looking out toward Vandeventer

Obviously someone screwed up! This is a pity, they were doing so well too. Yes, they have other entries which are ADA-compliant, but this is just stupid — compliance would’ve been so easy had they provided a way to set in a steel plate/grate to cross over the drainage.  Someone is going to get hurt here.  Despite this mistake, IKEA did more than what is required by the ADA and St. Louis. Pedestrian access turned out better than I’d expected.

Other retailers & developers — please take note they have provided pedestrian access from all three public streets adjacent to their property!

As previously mentioned, the 2-story IKES is elevated over a level of parking
As previously mentioned, the 2-story IKES is elevated over a level of parking

Tomorrow I’ll take you inside the IKEA store, with photos I took last week following the media lunch & during Saturday afternoon’s family & friend’s day.

— Steve Patterson

 

Majority of Readers Excited About IKEA St. Louis Opening Soon

In the recent Sunday Poll a solid majority (68.63%) indicated — no surprise — positive feelings about IKEA opening soon. Those who were neutral outweighed the negative, 19.61% vs 11.76%.

I don't like that it's set back from Forest Park Blvd, but glad they'll have two wide walkways from the public sidewalk through the parking lot to reach the entry.
I don’t like that it’s set back from Forest Park Blvd, but glad they’ll have two wide walkways from the public sidewalk through the parking lot to reach the entry.

I’ve shopped at 7 different IKEA stores over the last 25 years, always while traveling. This will be a new experience being able to go anytime I want. As rumors of the store were circling a few years ago I said, as a big box, it belonged in suburbia. I still feel that way. It lowers the bar for the redevelopment of the area. I can only hope that so many others want to locate in close proximity that everything about the IKEA is more urban than the IKEA itself.

Here are the results:

Q: How do you feel about IKEA St. Louis opening in 45 days:

  1. Excited 18 [35.29%]
  2. TIE 10 19.61%
    1. Somewhat excited
    2. Meh (Neutral)
  3. Very excited 7 [13.73%]
  4. TIE 3 [5.88%]
    1. Disinterested
    2. Very disinterested
  5. TIE 0 [0%]
    1. Somewhat disinterested
    2. Unsure/No Answer

Follow the various pre-Grand Opening events here.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

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