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IKEA Will Be Posting Jobs Soon

April 14, 2015 Big Box, Featured, Retail 6 Comments

It has been a little over four months since IKEA officially announced they were opening a location in the St. Louis region — specifically in the City of St. Louis. The big blue & yellow box is now fully formed.

IKEA as seen on WB I-64
IKEA as seen on WB I-64, not really visible EB
As seen from Vandeventer Ave
As seen from Vandeventer Ave

The St. Louis IKEA is supposed to open this Fall. In August we’re planning one last visit to the IKEA in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook on our drive back from a weekend in Chicago. When the store opens here we’re planning to get a new king-sized mattress & platform bed.

If you’ve never shopped at an IKEA before I recommend at least four hours to see it in full. Since I first walked into an IKEA in August 1990 I’ve wondered what it would be like to live close to a store. The visits to the seven locations I’ve been to involved either filling my vehicle or getting just a little something to fir in my carryon bag. For the first time I’ll be able to take public transit to an IKEA, maybe just for lunch and to browse their creative displays.

IKEA St. Louis is already hiring some managerial positions, they’ll be hiring for additional positions soon. If you’re interested, you can sign up to be notified.

Is it just me or have existing furniture stores increased their TV advertising?

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis’ IKEA Will Be Just Like Kansas City’s IKEA

November 17, 2014 Big Box, Featured, Retail, Travel 2 Comments

My husband and I recently visited the newly opened IKEA in the Kansas City area.

IKEA Merriam
IKEA Merriam KS

I’d researched the location prior to our trip, more on that later. As we entered the top level it hit me — it’s just like the 2nd Chicago-area IKEA (Bolingbrook, IL). I emailed IKEA spokesman Joseph Roth while we were shopping:

Steve Patterson: “It looked like it was the Bolingbrook location over parking. I’m guessing the St. Louis location now under construction will be similar?”

Joseph Roth: “Correct. Essentially, there is mostly just one version of the store; but where the size of the site is smaller, we elevate the store above parking — as we did in Merriam, KS and are doing in St. Louis.”

Thus, by visiting the IKEA in Merriam KS we got a preview of the St. Louis location that will open in the Fall of 2015. Before we look at the store let’s look at the site — similarities and differences with the St. Louis site.

The demolition of a vacant shopping center that will become the future home of the area’s first Ikea store is set for Wednesday in Merriam.

The 60,000-square-foot building, which was initially planned for a Circuit City electronics store, will be razed and replaced by an Ikea home furnishing store that will be about six times as large. (Kansas City Star)

Razing an old shopping center for a new retail project isn’t a big deal, but a new, never occupied, shopping center was leveled!

In 2004, the city approved a plan by DDR Corp. (then called Developers Diversified Realty) to erect a fancy new “urban village.” Up went the strip mall. Then down went the U.S. economy. At the time of its completion, Merriam Village had signed only one tenant: Circuit City. But the electronics retailer collapsed into bankruptcy before it could occupy its brand-new store, leaving only “CIRCUIT CI” on the mall’s otherwise blank marquee, a ghost visible to highway drivers long after the deal fell apart. (Pitch)

You can see photos of the strip shopping center here.

Aerial of Merriam Village.
Aerial of Merriam Village from Apple Maps, click to view a current aerial in Google Maps.

You can’t get much more suburban than this site! Still, the area is served by public transit. The area has good sidewalks and the Merriam Village shopping center did a good job of connecting to the public sidewalk out front. Employees are far more likely than customers to arrive via public transit.

Pedestrians on the public sidewalk have a straight shot to the front door.
Pedestrians on the public sidewalk have a straight shot to the front door.
The site is so compact they built structured parking to the south of the building
The site is so compact they built structured parking to the south of the building
The north side of IKEA as seen from the new QT down the hill.
The north side of IKEA as seen from the new QT down the hill. The retaining walls from the razed shopping center were…retained
Looking toward the south
Looking toward the south
Looking toward the north
Looking toward the north

The St. Louis location, despite being closer to downtown, isn’t as tight. We’ll have lots more surface parking, here’s the site plan for St. Louis:

Proposed site plan for the IKEA, I marked the area to the east to indicate the proposed retail development. Click image to view larger.
Proposed site plan for the IKEA, click image to view larger version.

The Kansas City IKEA is the 7th IKEA location I’ve shopped at over the last 24+ years but I realize many of you may not have been in one.  My 15+ times visiting IKEA have always been while traveling, several times I’ve packed my car to the headliner. It’ll be nice having a store so close where I can just get a little something, I can easily go back to get more.

The top level is the showroom, with model rooms set up to show you ideas for using their products. After you make your way through this floor you’ll find the main restaurant. Down one level you’ll find the products.

Let’s start by parking under the store.

The garage under the store isn't special, though brighter than under the Target at Hampton & Chippewa
The garage under the store isn’t special, though brighter than under the Target at Hampton & Chippewa
Looking toward the entry
Looking toward the entry
Losding areas are outside and in the covered garage. Unlike other IKEA stores, you can wheel carts to your car.
Losding areas are outside and in the covered garage. Unlike other IKEA stores, you can wheel carts to your car.
Conveyor belt helps you get down from the checkout to the parking level
Conveyor belt helps you get down from the checkout to the parking level
Once at the main level you are directed up to the showroom level
Once at the main level you are directed up to the showroom level via the escalator or elevator
The start of the showroom level
The start of the showroom level
Besides living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, etc., they also are big in everything you need for a new kitchen.
Besides living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, etc., they also are big in everything you need for a new kitchen.
The large restaurant is cafeteria style
The large restaurant is cafeteria style
On the lower level is where you'll find the products to fill your  bag or cart.
On the lower level is where you’ll find the products to fill your bag or cart.
Bed & bath linens
Bed & bath linens
Lighting ia one of my favorite sections, many are now LED.
Lighting ia one of my favorite sections, many are now LED.
Then you'll find the warehouse area where you'll find the flat-packed furniture you saw displayed in the showroom above.
Then you’ll find the warehouse area where you’ll find the flat-packed furniture you saw displayed in the showroom above.
Seasonal merchandise is displayed near the checkout lines...and expect lines on weekends. Their bistro is just past the checkout
Seasonal merchandise is displayed near the checkout lines…and expect lines on weekends. Their bistro is just past the checkout

In the past I’ve told people to plan at least 4 hours to visit an IKEA the first time, but it’ll be different having a store so close. It’ll be easy to visit often a year from now. If you want a preview of the coming St. Louis IKEA just visit the suburban Kansas City IKEA.

— Steve Patterson

 

Three Infill Projects Accomodate Pedestrians and Motorists

I’m a huge fan of Retrofitting Suburbia, the redevelopment of formerly auto-centric suburban retail sites. In late September, while on my honeymoon, I got to see three different examples in the Denver area. Two site once had traditional enclosed malls, the third was previously an airport. We started with the oldest and finished with the newest.

Englewood, CO

In June 2000 the CityCenter Englewood project opened, replacing Cinderella City mall that had opened just 32 years earlier:

The mall was completed and officially opened for business on 7 March 1968 and once held the distinction of being the largest covered shopping center west of the Mississippi River. It featured four sections: Rose Mall, Gold Mall, Shamrock Mall and Cinder Alley. In addition, the Center Court area was known as the Blue Mall. It was demolished in 1999. (Wikipedia)

Englewood was founded in the 19th Century but largely developed in the Post-WWII era. Like many post-war suburbs, it lacked a downtown. By the 1980s newer malls had eclipsed Cinderella City. In the late 1990s they saw the replacement of the mall and the coming of light rail as an opportunity to build a downtown:

CityCenter Englewood replaced Cinderella City with a transit-oriented development (TOD).  This TOD is a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use concept that includes retail, entertainment, residential, office, civic and open space elements with a transit focal point.  The former Foley’s building was renovated into the new Englewood Civic Center, which houses the City Hall offices, the Library, Municipal Court, and the Museum of Outdoor Arts.  The Civic Center was the first feature of CityCenter Englewood to open when it made its debut in June 2000.

The Civic Center creates the cornerstone of the redevelopment of Cinderella City that includes Wal-Mart, Trammell Crow apartments with first floor retail, Office Depot, the Sports Authority, IHOP, Qdoba, and other retail and commercial businesses, second floor office with first floor retail, an RTD light rail station, and a Bally’s Fitness Center.  (City of Englewood)

You can see a current aerial here, and a 1991 aerial here. In the Southwest corner of the site an anchor store building was retained, as was part of the structured parking. The adjacent street grid was brought through the site. Apartments were added nearest the new light rail station, big box stores added to the east end of the site. All connected by a grid of streets and sidewalks.

The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.

Not bad for an early example of such a project. We saw people walking as we drove through, others can be seen in Google Street View.

Lakewood, CO

The Villa Italia mall opened two years before Cinderella City, in 1966. By the 1990s Lakewood officials saw both malls dying off, they didn’t want a vacant mall in their city.

A referendum was held in 1997, which authorized “urban renewal” to redevelop Villa Italia into a more conventional downtown district, something that the post-war suburb had never had.

In 1998, Lakewood entered into a joint venture with Denver-based Continuum Development. Continuum purchased the land beneath the mall from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation in September 1999 and acquired the buildings and ground leases from Equitable in early 2001. The site was rezoned (from that of an enclosed shopping center to a mixed-use development) and the redevelopment plan put in motion.

Villa Italia closed in July 2001, demolition began the following January. Belmar opened in 2004. Like CityCenter Englewood, streets were cut through the site. Not private driveways, public streets with public sidewalks. The pedestrian grid was as equally important as the vehicular grid, not an afterthought.

You can view an old aerial here and a current one here.

A new street at Belmar
A new street at Belmar
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.

A former anchor department store building was kept, it’s now a Dick’s Sporting Goods store. New housing is on the perimeter of the site, surrounding the retail core.

Stapleton

When Denver decided to build a new airport east of the developed region the question became what to do with the old airport.

b

A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
An internal street in the venter of the retail area
An internal street in the center of the main retail area called The Shops at Northfield Stapleton
Another view
Another view
Another street in the core of the retail area
Another street in the core of the retail area, note the on-street parking
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target's parking lot.
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target’s parking lot.
The street where we parked terminated in
The street where we parked terminated in a Bass Pro Shops store, also connected to the sidewalk system

The overall site is massive, as you might expect from a former airport. It has many residential neighborhoods, distinct retail areas, and a business park.

Final thoughts

All three are variations on the New Urbanist/Retrofitting Suburbia theme. While I wouldn’t want to live at any of the three I know someone like me, who uses a wheelchair often, can get to businesses at each development on a sidewalk network. All three remain very car friendly, I drove to all three. Providing the option to walk doesn’t make them less appealing to motorists. Some pedestrians probably arrived by car but decide to explore on foot rather than drive from store to store.

— Steve Patterson

 

Better Big Box Development

Recently I was critical of a proposed big box development along Forest Park Ave, adjacent to the main Saint Louis University campus. My issue isn’t with big box retail stores themselves, my issue is with how big box developments are typically laid out: massive surface parking lots, large blank walls facing public sidewalks, too few pedestrian connections to the outside & internally.

From page 12 of a 2010 Brookings report:

Considering the economic benefits, walkability should be a critical part of all strategic growth plans. The implications of this study cut across the federal and state, metropolitan, and place levels.

Public policy should become more favorable toward walkable placemaking. Currently, many federal and state subsidies substantially favor low-density development and tip the scales against walkable development. Further, many local zoning codes make walkable development illegal, necessitating costly and time-consuming zoning changes with no guarantee of success. Federal, state, and local policy makers should conduct a systematic review of existing public policies that are biased against walkable development, and adopt new measures aimed at facilitating (or at least removing roadblocks to) this type of development.

For their part, local and regional planning agencies should incorporate assessments of walkability into their strategic economic development plans. Planning entities should identify where regional- serving and local-serving walkable urban places exist within a metropolitan area, seek out those places that are positioned to become more walkable, and determine potential locations of future walkable places. This type of assessment will help determine where infrastructure and other built environment improvements are needed. Since high-density walkable urban places seem to account for a small amount of a metropolitan area’s existing land mass, it is probable that the infrastructure cost per dwelling unit or commercial square foot will be a fraction of that of existing low-density drivable suburban infrastructure costs.

At the same time, the apparent supply-demand mismatch for walkable places may be contributing significantly to the price premium these places demand. To the extent that this is the case, the short- and medium-term shortage of walkable places makes them inaccessible (unaffordable) to many people who desire to live in such places. As such, it is important to have an affordable housing strategy in place while those improvements are being implemented. (Walk this Way: The Economic Promise of Walkable Places in Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Christopher B. Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo)

The proposed “Midtown Station” project would turn its back on both Vandeventer & Forest Park Avenues, which is only marginally acceptable pattern out in suburbia, but unacceptable in an urban context — especially adjacent to a major university.

In searching for alternatives I remembered a project I visited about a decade ago and blogged about in 2005. This development has multiple big box stores including a 2-level Target, a Best Buy, a Sport’s Authority, and a Ross. Smaller size spaces front the sidewalk.

Urban big box development on Northgate in Seattle
Urban big box development on Northgate in Seattle
A Quiznos faces Northgate Way
A Quizno’s fronts onto the Northgate Way sidewalk

This project isn’t located in downtown Seattle either, it’s nearly 8 miles up I-5 (map). The main mode in this part of Seattle is private automobile, but thankfully newer development isn’t geared solely to motorists.

The best local example of rethinking big box development the Market at McKnight in Rock Hill, with a 36,000sf Stein Mart that opened in October 2007.  Ok, not exactly a big box, but a big portion of the 130,000sf development.

The Market at McKnight project in Rock Hill is the best local example of providing a more pleasant front along the roadway with big box behind
The Market at McKnight project in Rock Hill is the best local example of providing a more pleasant front along the roadway with big box behind
One story buildings along Manchester Rd give a more urban feel, windows give something for pedestrians to look into as they walk by
One story buildings along Manchester Rd give a more urban feel, windows give something for pedestrians to look into as they walk by
No business has a door onto the Manchester sidewalk, but it is pleasant as a pedestrian and motorists can see businesses as they drive by.
No business has a door onto the Manchester sidewalk, but it is pleasant as a pedestrian and motorists can see businesses as they drive by.
The businesses front the surface parking lot
The businesses actually front the surface parking lot
Pedestrians have a clear path to reach the Stein Mart on the far side of the development.
Pedestrians have a clear path to reach the Stein Mart on the far side of the development.
My window view from The Original Mongolian Grill
My window view from The Original Mongolian Grill

The view isn’t great, but the point is there’s a relationship with the sidewalk & street. From inside I could see others going by and they could see me. Instead of creating something active along Forest Park Ave. Midtown Station wants to create something like this:

Back side of the Hampton & Chippewa Target location.
Back (Clifton Ave) side of the Hampton & Chippewa Target location.

Dreadful anywhere, but especially so close to a college campus and near public transit. Developers have shown there are alternatives to the standard big box project of the last 15-20 years.

— Steve Patterson

 

Competing Visions for Forest Park Avenue Corridor

Forest Park Ave from Kingshighway to Grand (map) is 1.6 miles long with the potential to be a dense urban corridor. Developers, however, would like to make it a typical low-density big box chain retail corridor. I’d like to show you why I believe two big box retail developments at Forest Park Avenue & Vandeventer are out of character, why these will undo the work others have done recently.

I had enough photos of various buildings along Forest Park Ave to write this post, but Saturday I spent about 90 minutes taking around 150 photos as I traveled the entire length in my wheelchair. Why go to such trouble? I believe cities can’t be properly understood driving through in a car, or worse, relying on Google street view. You’ve got to hit the pavement to really get what an area is about.

I got off the bus on Forest Park Ave at the first stop east of Kingshighway and returned downtown from the Grand MetroLink station, about 2 miles of travel.  Don’t worry, I’m only going to show you a small percentage of the images I took.

Looking east toward Euclid Ave we see numerous multi-story buildings, including medical, hotel, & apartments
Looking east toward Euclid Ave we see numerous multi-story buildings, including medical, hotel, & apartments, all recent structures
One low-rise strip center exists on the NE corner at Taylor Ave. If the St. Louis Streetcar gets built expect this 1985 building to be replaced with something more dense
One low-rise strip center exists on the NE corner at Taylor Ave. If the St. Louis Streetcar gets built expect this 1985 building to be replaced with something more dense
The Parkview Apts next door contain 192 units on a lot just 65% bigger than the strip center.
The 1972 Parkview Apts next door contain 192 units on a lot just 65% bigger than the strip center.
This 3-story apt building was built in 1930, it contains 24 units
This 3-story apt building was built in 1930, it contains 24 units. The building next door was built in 1908
Across Forest Park is the Rehab Institute, I had some outpatient physical therapy here.
Across Forest Park is the Rehab Institute, I had some outpatient physical therapy here.
Back on the north side of Forest Park we have a 242 unit building built in 1977
Back on the north side of Forest Park we have a 242 unit building built in 1977
This block contains older buildings as well
This block contains older buildings as well, all 2-3 stories
Same is true on the south side of Forest Park Ave
Same is true on the south side of Forest Park Ave
This is a very pleasant place  to be a pedestrian even with many cars passing by
This is a very pleasant place to be a pedestrian even with many cars passing by
The 3-story Cortex building from 2006 faces Forest Park Ave
The 3-story Cortex building from 2006 faces Forest Park Ave
Unfortunately this 2-story structure at S. Boyle, built in 1919, will be razed for a wide pedestrian mall leading to a new MetroLink station to be built 2 blocks south
Unfortunately this 2-story structure at S. Boyle, built in 1919, will be razed for a wide pedestrian mall leading to a new MetroLink station to be built 2 blocks south
Across the street a similar building was successfully renovated for an independence center and upscale resale store
Across the street a similar building was successfully renovated for an independence center and upscale resale store. This was built in 1931.
One of the few 1-story buildings, this one dates to 1912 and has many windows on the street-facing   facade. Currently a dialysis center.
One of the few 1-story buildings, this one dates to 1912 and has many windows on the street-facing facade. Currently used as a dialysis center.
The general rule, however, is 2-levels up to 6 or more at times. All front Forest Park Ave
The general rule, however, is 2-levels up to 6 or more at times. All front Forest Park Ave
Former Ford plant is now apartments with street-level retail
Former Ford plant is now apartments with street-level retail
Two of the four storefronts are still available.
Two of the four storefronts are still available.
The 3-story warehouse from 1901 is now part of the Center for Emerging Technologies
The 3-story warehouse from 1901 is now part of the Center for Emerging Technologies
A long-time Salvation Army facility, 3-stories facing Forest Park Ave
A long-time Salvation Army facility, 3-stories facing Forest Park Ave
A 2-story Laclede Gas building
A 2-story Laclede Gas building
A 2-story firehouse at Vandeventer
The 2-story firehouse at Vandeventer was built in 1965
A former warehouse facing Forest Park and another facing Laclede are apartments geared toward SLU students. The parking garage was set back enough to permit a shallow liner building.
A former warehouse facing Forest Park, and another facing Laclede, are apartments geared toward SLU students. The parking garage was set back enough to permit a shallow liner building.
At Spring Ave millions have been invested in existing urban buildings
At Spring Ave millions have been invested in existing urban buildings
Microbrewer Six Row is in the urban building on the SE corner at Spring Ave
Microbrewer Six Row is in the urban building on the SE corner at Spring Ave
Finally at Grand we have one of SLU's residence halls
Finally at Grand we have one of SLU’s residence halls, though not oriented to Forest Park Ave

As you can see each block for the last 1.5 miles from Kingshighway has buildings fronting Forest Park Ave, nearly all 2 or more floors. Seems like every decade since the early 20th century new buildings have followed this pattern. But now Pace wants to change the pattern drastically, a new vision.

Pace Properties wants to build a retail center, called Midtown Station, on Forest Park Ave. between Vandeventer and Spring.

Pace says the site is ideal because of its proximity to St. Louis University and Washington University, as well as major employers like Ameren Missouri, BJC and Wells Fargo. (KSDK)

From the development flyer:

Pace wants to have the backs of big boxes facing Forest Park Ave & Vandeventer Ave
Pace wants to have the backs of big boxes facing Forest Park Ave & Vandeventer Ave
This big box development (yellow) coupled with another to the west purple will completely undo the hard work and investment of  others along the Forest Park Ave corridor
This big box development (yellow) coupled with another to the west (purple) will completely undo the hard work and investment of others along the Forest Park Ave corridor

Next to Saint Louis University should be walkable retail shops, not the blank walls of the back of big boxes. I’m not opposed to retail, I’m opposed to the form these developments will likely take. I’m gathering examples of how this could be done much better, look for another post next month.

I don’t want this new suburban big box vision to reverse the urban corridor.

— Steve Patterson

 

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