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Poll: Should the AAA Building on Lindell Be Saved, Razed or ??

Tomorrow evening, Monday June 25th, the Preservation Board will consider giving preliminary approval for a new CVS pharmacy on Lindell just west of Vandeventer Ave. This would involve the demolition of the two existing structures on the site, the very unique round AAA building from 1976 and a nondescript garage. The city’s Cultural Resources staff recommends:

That the Board not grant preliminary approval of the proposed demolition of the AAA building but grant preliminary approval for the demolition of the diagnostic garage building.

It’s not uncommon for the Preservation Board to vote against the staff recommendation.

ABOVE: Former headquarters of American Automobile Association of Missouri
ABOVE: Proposed site plan shows a suburban-style CVS set back from the street with a small AAA office on the west end of the site. The existing Rally's to the east is unchanged.

Architect Paul Hohmann recently blogged about the proposed site plan:

The site plan completely disregards the planned Central West End-Midtown Sustainable Form Based Zoning overlay district that has been in development for two years and is scheduled to be adopted as an ordinance this fall. Board Bill #79, which is enabling legislation that will allow the adoption of form based zoning overlay districts throughout the City of St. Louis was introduced by 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy on June 1st. (Vanishing St. Louis)

Hohmann points to the recent structure next door built in keeping with the form-based code which isn’t yet law.

ABOVE: The 3949 Lindell Apartments is adjacent to the AAA site, click image to view official website

There are many ways to view this situation.

  • No mid-1970s building is a cultural asset worthy of protection.
  • Can the area support another pharmacy? A Walgreen’s is just a short distance to the west.
  • While the building may be unique its uses are limited.
  • If we raze AAA the site should get considerably denser like the 3949 Lindell Apartments next door.

The latter is where I’m at. I like the AAA building but for a dense development I think it could be sacrificed. It’s not like CVS is opposed to locating in new dense mixed-use buildings:

ABOVE: Recent CVS in Uptown Normal IL

I’d be fine with a CVS on the site as part of a building like the one in Normal IL.  Acquire the Rally’s and fill out the site to Lindell, Vandeventer and McPherson. But not a one story pharmacy surrounded by surface parking. Being so close to Saint Louis University this site can support higher density.

This is the subject for the poll this week, vote in the right sidebar. For a great look at the AAA building read The Auto Club of Missouri’s Proud New Building.

The Preservation Board meets at 4pm in a new location: 1520 Market Street Suite 2000.

UPDATE 6/25/2012 6:45pm: The Preservation Board voted unanimously to reject the demolition of both structures on the site. This was just a preliminary review.


– Steve Patterson


Excellent Urban Infill: North Sarah Apartments By McCormack Baron Salazar

It was by chance that I discovered the North Sarah Apartments under construction on May 11, 2012.   Photographing the Hodiamont ROW for a post last month (link) I saw new construction a block north and had to check it out.

ABOVE: Storefronts face Sarah at the new North Sarah Apartments development, click image for aerial in Google Maps

Developer McCormack Baron Salazar describes the project:

North Sarah, a multi-family, mixed-use development, consists of 120 mixed-income rental units in garden apartments, townhouses, three mixed-use buildings (approx. 7,000 SF of commercial/retail space) and a fourth mixed-use building that includes management/community space (approx. 4,900 SF). This development represents a critical component of the North Central Redevelopment Plan that was developed over several years and completed in 2000 by the City of St. Louis, community stakeholders and residents.

Located in the North Central area of North St. Louis City, North Sarah is anchored by key St. Louis neighborhood assets on its edges, including Grand Center to the east, the Central West End to the west, and nearby Saint Louis University to the south and east. In the community’s core, a number of new civic, educational, commercial and residential developments have created nodes of reinvestment. However, despite this progress and potential, a number of blocks in the North Central district, including those targeted for the North Sarah development, remain heavily disinvested, preventing the neighborhood fabric from being “knit” back together as desired under the North Central Plan. The North Sarah development is a key connector in bridging current gaps in revitalization and catalyzing further reinvestment in the area.

The architecture of North Sarah celebrates the historic character of the community while featuring modern amenities and sustainable (“green” technology) to improve both the marketability and energy efficiency of the units. Specifically, the development is designed in accordance with Enterprise Green Communities criteria.

North Sarah also benefits from a creatively structured and capitalized Human Capital Planning and Implementation Program lead by Urban Strategies in collaboration with key community stake holders. The development will staff a community liaison that will assist with the coordination of supportive services and implementation of resident activities. (McCormack Baron Salazar)

Here are some of the pictures I took that day:

ABOVE: Streets have been narrowed at intersections, ramps are directly in the path of travel
ABOVE: Storefront spaces facing North Sarah, hopefully entrepreneurs can open shops and serve the needs of local residents
ABOVE: The buildings along North Sarah vary, you don’t see block after block of the same thing
ABOVE: The side streets (W. Belle Ave, C D Banks Ave, Finney Ave) have a nice feel to them
ABOVE: The buildings, facades and materials help give the appearance of private buildings rather than being part of the same apartment development
ABOVE: The spacing between buildings is good relative to the width of the buildings

The development isn’t perfect, someone thought it’d be a good idea to use the impervious concrete on some of the sidewalks on North Sarah even though it’s a rough surface. Time will tell how the project does but from a design perspective this is one of the best infill projects I’ve seen in the city. The inclusion of storefronts along North Sarah sets this apart from so many others that force residents to leave their neighborhood for goods & services.

Kudos to McCormack Baron Salazar and everyone involved for making this a reality!

– Steve Patterson


Continued Suburbanization of Delmar Blvd Won’t Revitalize Delmar Blvd

Delmar Blvd., like most St. Louis streets, was once very urban in form. Buildings all were built up to the sidewalk, defining the public vs. private space. This also gave pedestrians a sense of enclosure, they weren’t exposed on all sides.

For decades now we’ve chipped away at the urban form then wondered why we also had population loss, increased pollution and disinvestment. We still would have experienced population loss based on the trend to the suburbs but trying to remake the city to be like th, e suburbs didn’t work to stop the loss and now it’s preventing the rejuvenation of many areas, such as along Delmar Blvd.

Also for decades St. Louis’ “leadership” has thought that anything new — any investment — was better than no investment at all. What they continue to fail to understand is disconnected buildings set back behind parking doesn’t create anyplace special. Furthermore with old storefronts up to the sidewalk and new buildings set back the look and feel isn’t pleasant. It’s not a contiguous wall of buildings or or consistent setback common in suburbia.

St. Louis’ first planner, Harland Bartholomew, wanted to basically raze the city and rebuild in the suburban model — see his 1947 Comprehensive Plan.

So when I saw this building being built in 2006 I was appalled that it was set back from Delmar. This is the offices of 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis located at 4631 Delmar.

ABOVE: Under construction in May 2006
ABOVE: 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis on Delmar, April 2012
ABOVE: On the Delmar sidewalk facing the entrance after exiting the bus pedestrians are less important than the cars.
ABOVE: The required ADA access route does exist but you have to go to the side street to reach it
ABOVE: The building to the east is having it's front removed to make it less urban than it's been for decades.

None of this will encourage investment and improvement of the area, it’ll likely accelerate disinvestment and abandonment. I hope to live long enough to see the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis building razed and replaced with 2-3 urban buildings.

– Steve Patterson


Update: Tuck-Under Garages On Delmar

In December 2010 I posted about standing water at an unfinished house at 4343 Delmar, the post included the following image.

ABOVE: green standing water halfway up the door reduces the curb appeal. Please excuse the picture quality

Nearly a year later the problem remained.

ABOVE: By November 2011 the garage door was open but the water remained

And earlier this month I drove by on the 18th…the same.

ABOVE: March 18, 2012 nothing had changed

So I was surprised a few days later when I drove by and saw city workers pumping out the water.

ABOVE: St. Louis City Water Dept employees and equipment were pumping the water out on March 21, 2012

The house was started in 2008 but the city condemned the building on March 16th. City records list the owner as Brainchild Holdings LLC, a venture of Third Eye Investment and Development, Corp. and One Vision Homes, Inc. Three other matching buildings were finished, sold and are occupied.

– Steve Patterson


Updated Street Lighting on Taylor

AVOVE: New lighting on Taylor Ave

In July new lighting was turned on along a short stretch of Taylor, a description from June:

The Taylor Pedestrian Lighting project is nearly complete. When finished, Taylor Ave between Forest Park Parkway and Lindell Ave will be illuminated by pedestrian lights rather than cobra-head lights. The pedestrian lights will make that stretch of Taylor Ave more attractive and safer for pedestrians at night, and will better connect Taylor south of Lindell to Taylor north of Lindell, which already has pedestrian lighting installed. Pedestrian lighting is another initiative to make the Central West End and the 17th Ward a more walkable, pedestrian-friendly, and vibrant community.

The $330,000 project was funded by various sources, including $60,000 from Washington University Medical Center, $30,000 from Central West End South Business District, and $100,000 from block grant. The remaining funding came from the 17th Ward Infrastructure Funds allocated by Alderman Joseph Roddy. (Source)

It seemed bright at first but the night I was out taking pictures I noticed it was about the same as some areas north of Lindell. These lights aren’t as tall as the cobra head lights that are common throughout the city. These lights equally light the street and sidewalk.

ABOVE: A cobrahead light on Taylor just north of Lindell

The cobrahead fixtures are taller, spaced further apart and directed toward the road rather than the sidewalk. I’m glad to see this change, but I’m disturbed these types of changes happen only within a single ward. Corridors involving more than one ward are probably out of luck.

– Steve Patterson