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CORTEX TOD Study From October 2012 Now Online

Last month I wrote Cortex District Needs A Pedestrian Circulation Plan Before IKEA Is Built knowing a master plan was in the works, or had already been approved.  Still, I couldn’t find a copy online. I began emailing CORTEX directly, and then others, until January 10th when I got the response I was looking for:

Good morning, Steve:

John Hoal forwarded me your query about the Cortex Station Area Plan report. I spoke with SLDC, who confirmed that the report was not, in fact, posted on-line. The report has since been posted to SLDC’s website, and the link to the report materials is included below.

http://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/sldc/documents/CORTEX-Transit-Oriented-Development-Study.cfm

Thanks, Steve. Please let us know if you have any additional questions or require further information.

Best regards,

Timothy Breihan

H3 Studio

Turns out the report was finalized in October 2012! Fifteen months later, after my inquiries, it was made available online.  This work was funded by tax payers and should’ve been made available when finalized:

The work that provided the basis of this publication was supported by funding under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through East-West Gateway Council of Governments. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government or the East-West Gateway Council of Governments. (Page 2)

Ok, it’s online now so let’s take a look:

Cover of the TOD study for CORTEX. Click cover to view on Scribd.
Cover of the TOD study for CORTEX. Click cover to view on Scribd.

From the objective at the start:

Originally developed as a light-industrial enclave, the CORTEX district faces major challenges moving forward to make itself feel welcoming, pedestrian-friendly, and fundamentally connected to its surrounding neighborhoods and amenities. (Page 6)

[snip]

The Transit Oriented Development Study (TOD) for the CORTEX District (the Study) seeks to establish projections for net new riders on the MetroLink light rail system over a 20-year planning horizon resulting from the construction of a new MetroLink station in the CORTEX District. This Study is focused on proposed ridership projections based on planned investments in CORTEX and the surrounding areas. Metro Saint Louis Transit and the Bi-State Development Agency (Metro), owners and operators of the MetroLink and MetroBus transit systems, have established target thresholds as goals for proposed stations.

This station will be an invaluable asset in the future development potential of both the CORTEX district and the region-wide MetroLink system. The proposed station has the potential to function both as a transit option for current and future area residents and employees, as well as a major amenity and connective element for the surrounding neighborhoods and residents. In order to capitalize on years of public and private investment and attract and retain the best and the brightest, it is imperative that development in the CORTEX district unlocks the latent potential present in the district’s enviable location in the heart of Saint Louis. The City of Saint Louis, Metro, and CORTEX possess a significant opportunity to recreate the district as a key link between surrounding neighborhoods, with the ability to tie these neighborhoods together with public spaces, great pedestrian streets, mixed-use development, and multi-modal transit access. (Page 6-7)

The first “consensus issue” surrounding CORTEX is listed as:

1. Forest Park Avenue is perceived as unfriendly to bikes and pedestrians for east-west travel and crossing. (Page 11)

Really? The planning process gets into trouble when too much weight is given to public input. Forest Park Avenue has what they want to create one block south on Duncan Ave.; on-street parking which separates traffic from pedestrians, tree lawns with mature trees, etc. But a few neighbors that probably don’t walk indicated they don’t like Forest Park Ave., possibly because they were steered that way, so it’s dismissed as an east-west pedestrian route.  The crossings do need to be improved to get people into the CORTEX District and to/from the proposed MetroLink station.

Under “scenerio 1” to increase transit ridership they list:

Focus TOD residential and mixed-use development between Sarah Avenue and Vandeventer Avenue and extend planned Duncan Avenue streetscape improvements east to Vandeventer. (Page 14)

But the proposed IKEA will prevent the new pedestrian-friendly Duncan Ave from reaching Vandeventer Ave, occupying most of the residential/mixed-use development area. Will this plan be amended to deal with that new reality? This is why major streets (Forest Park Ave.) shouldn’t be ignored in favor of expendable streets (Duncan Ave). Are ridership projections still valid with a large mixed-use area on the east side of the proposed station?

Let’s continue:

4. ENSURE PEDESTRIAN AND BIKE CONNECTIVITY, SAFETY, AND COMFORT

The photo on Page 119 labeled as "ADA-Accesible Crosswalk" shows a non-ADA compliant ramp.
The photo on Page 119 labeled as “ADA-Accesible Crosswalk” shows a non-ADA compliant ramp. No diagrams are included on how to make ramps & crosswalks ADA-compliant.

Transit-oriented developments and districts rely on safe, comfortable, walk-able and bike-able streets and public spaces to provide access to transit. In the CORTEX district, streets are currently designed to give preference to vehicular traffic; most streets have only a 36-foot curb-to-curb width, which accommodates only two travel lanes and two parallel parking lanes. In addition, sidewalks are only 4- to 5-feet wide, pedestrian right-of-ways are often obstructed by utility poles and other infrastructure, and there are few street trees or other pedestrian amenities. Given limited right-of-way width and vehicular traffic restrictions, enhancing bike and pedestrian connectivity, safety, and comfort will need to occur on some streets while vehicular service requirements are accommodated on others. Actions to achieve this strategy include:

  • Create “pedestrian first” streets and vehicular-centric streets through the district.
  • Repair all sidewalks and maximize sidewalk width in all locations.
  • Provide planting strips and/or tree lawns on all streets.
  • Relocate utility poles and other infrastructure out of pedestrian right-of-ways.
  • Provide lane-width, shared lane markings (“Super Sharrows”) on all streets.
  • Provide parallel parking on all streets.
  • Provide street trees on all streets with a maximum spacing of 40-feet on-center.
  • Provide pedestrian-scaled street lights with a maximum spacing of 80-feet on center.
  • Provide trash receptacles, benches, bike racks, safety call boxes, and other street furniture.
  • Provide ADA-accessible curb cuts, oriented perpendicular to the street, at all intersections and crosswalks.
  • Provide pavement changes at all crosswalks. (Page 22)

Well “pedestrian first” is mentioned earlier (p13) and later on pages 69 & 119, yet nowhere does the report define “pedestrian first”.  To be fair, “vehicular-centric streets” isn’t defined either,  but I think St. Louis has that one down.

The big pedestrian push is Duncan Ave., which will terminate unceremoniously into the side of the IKEA:

A potential major east-west corridor within the CORTEX District is Duncan Avenue, which runs from Sarah Street and Vandeventer Avenue to the east and the Central West End MetroLink Station and Barnes Jewish/Washington University Medical Campuses to the west. Where Duncan Avenue intersects with Boyle Avenue is the heart of the CORTEX District with the CORTEX building to the north and the Solae building to the south. (Page 78)

It does include a list of existing conditions.

ASSESSMENT OF EXISTING SIDEWALK AND STREET PAVEMENT CONDITIONS

BOYLE AVENUE CORRIDOR

  • Overall, the street pavement is in poor to fair condition with alligator cracking, sections where base pavement is exposed, and numerous patches of pavement.
  • Curb material varies with either granite or concrete curb. Concrete curb is usually in sections where sidewalk has been replaced.
  • The standard curb height of six inches occurs mainly in sections where sidewalk has been replaced. Remaining sections of curb are less than six inches due to overlaying of street pavement.
  • The sidewalks are mainly in poor to fair condition with broken and uneven pavement. Numerous patches occur in the sidewalk pavement due to underground utility improvements. In areas where new construction or street improvements have occurred at street intersections, the sidewalks are in good condition.

TOWER GROVE AVENUE CORRIDOR

  • Some sections of Tower Grove Avenue have been newly overlaid with asphalt leaving them in good condition. Most other areas of the street pavement have alligator cracking, sections where base pavement is exposed and numerous patches of pavement and should be considered in fair to poor condition.
  • Overall the sidewalks are in poor to fair condition with prevalent pavement cracking and uneven areas. Some sections of sidewalk have been replaced at intersections with road improvements. Where new building has occurred, new sidewalk has been installed.
  • Curbing in this section of Tower Grove Avenue is mainly granite curb with concrete curb occurring at street intersections. Overlaying of the street pavement has reduced the height of the curb to less than six inches.

NEWSTEAD AVENUE CORRIDOR: FOREST PARK PARKWAY TO CLAYTON AVENUE

  • The street pavement is in fair to poor condition with numerous patches, large amounts of alligator cracking, and sections of exposed base pavement.
  • The sidewalks are in fair to good condition. Decorative medallions have been added to the sidewalk. A short section north of the MetroLink tracks has uneven and cracked pavement, and the east sidewalk from Forest Park Parkway to Duncan Avenue has some remnants of a sidewalk in places.
  • Curbing material overall is composed of granite, but some areas closer to Forest Park Parkway are concrete.

DUNCAN AVENUE CORRIDOR: NEWSTEAD AVENUE TO SARAH STREET

  • The street pavement is in poor condition with numerous patches, large amounts of alligator cracking, and sections of exposed base pavement from raveling top mat of asphalt and potholes.
  • The sidewalks are in fair to poor condition. There are several sections of sidewalk which have been replaced, and those are located on the north and south sides of Duncan Avenue at the CORTEX and Solae Buildings and parking lots as well as the West End Lofts parking lot near the intersection of Sarah Street and Duncan Avenue.
  • Curbing material mainly is composed of granite except in the sections of the CORTEX and Solae buildings. (Page 82-83)

No mention of the problem at Duncan & Newstead.

HIERARCHY OF STREET USAGE BY PEDESTRIANS AND BIKES

From Stakeholder meetings with neighborhood committees and residents, City agencies and other concerned parties a hierarchy of primary pedestrian and bike routes were determined to help aid in the development of a Street-Level Connectivity Plan.

East-West Pedestrian Corridor: Laclede Avenue and Chouteau Avenue (Most Preferred) Forest Park Parkway (Least Preferred)

North-South Pedestrian Corridor: Newstead Avenue and Euclid Avenue (Most Preferred) Boyle Avenue and Taylor Avenue (Least Preferred)

East-West Bike Corridor: Chouteau Avenue (Most Preferred) Duncan Avenue (Least Preferred)

North-South Bike Routes: Newstead Avenue (Most Preferred) Vandeventer Avenue (Least Preferred (Page 85))

Hopefully you’ll be able to find detail I missed.  To me this is a plan filled with buzz words that’s already being ignored a year later, business as usual. I’ll repeat: CORTEX needs a pedestrian plan because this isn’t close.

— Steve Patterson

 

Lindell & Euclid: Worth the Wait

In April 2006 it looked like Opus Development would be moving forward on a high-rise condo tower at the NE corner of Lindell & Euclid. They’d revised the base and been granted a variance to permit the height. However, the project was abandoned even before the economy crashed.

Now Opus is back with a new proposal for the corner, Ald. Lyda Krewson tweeted on December 6th “Lindell Residences proposed for Lindell/Euclid – 217 first class apts.” with this pic attached:

Artist rendering of proposed building at Lindell & Euclid.
Artist rendering of proposed 12-story building at Lindell & Euclid. A later tweet in response to questions Ald. Krewson says they propose 240 parking spaces on three levels –two below grade, one above.
NextSTL then tweeted this image of the retail base.
NextSTL then tweeted this image of the retail base.
Revised proposal in April 2006
April 2006: Opus’ proposal for 26-story building, with a revised base from the Feb/March 2006 proposal.

Back in 2006 the historic code required heights to be relative to other buildings. The language, like many of our historic codes, was poorly written. Today the Central West End’s form-based code isn’t wishy-washy: maximum of 12 stories at this location.

The new form-based code and the mixed-use project one block south with apartments over a Whole Foods likely renewed interest in this conner. Ok, it is apartments instead of $300k condos. No big deal, when I rented an efficiency in The President 2 doors to the east in 1990 an A.G. Edwards VP rented the large apartment next door! Rental apartments aren’t a bad thing at all.

The NE corner of Lindell & Euclid was built in 1968. A high-rise was planned for this site when the economy crashed.
The NE corner of Lindell & Euclid was built in 1968.
The SW corner of Lindell & Euclid has been a parking lot for 20+ years
The SW corner of Lindell & Euclid has been a parking lot for 20+ years, will hopefully draw interest from developers for retail & residential.

While a tall tower makes the skyline more interesting, the latest proposal will have a bigger positive impact. The decision to go underground with most of the parking makes the base more appropriate.

I’m glad the 26-story building proposed in 2006 didn’t happen, the new proposal was worth the wait.

— Steve Patterson

 

Roberts Market Place at Kingshighway & Delmar Hostile to Pedestrians

The Roberts Market Place has opened at Kingshighway & Delmar, the site of a former Schnucks. Discount grocer ALDI, the only business so far, is the anchor. Unfortunately, it is designed to be driven to, not walked to.

Roberts Market Place on the NE corner of Kingshighway & Delmar
Roberts Market Place on the NE corner of Kingshighway & Delmar, click image for map link
The same corner back in April
The same corner back in April
Looking east along Delmar
Looking east along Delmar
Looking north along Kingshighway, a stop for the #95 MetroBus is circled in red
Looking north along Kingshighway, a stop for the #95 MetroBus is circled in red. Concrete barriers block the auto driveway.
The fencing blocks pedestrian access, except at the auto driveways
The fencing blocks pedestrian access, except at the auto driveways. Not welcoming at all
Looking east along Enright we see a family leaving ALDI
Looking east along Enright Ave we see a family leaving ALDI
An opening in the fence at the auto driveway.
An opening in the fence at the auto driveway.
At least a walkway was provided at one point
At least a walkway was provided at one point
Not a straight shot or wide enough if you meet someone, but as a bare minimum it works...except...
Not a straight shot or wide enough if you meet someone, but as a bare minimum it works…except…
Who fits between the carts & bollard? Certainly nobody using a cane, walker, scooter, or wheelchair! #adafail
Who fits between the carts & bollard? Certainly nobody using a cane, walker, scooter, or wheelchair! #adafail
Looking back at the problem from the opposite side
Looking back at the problem from the opposite side
Looking west toward Kingshighway
Looking west toward Kingshighway
Looking south toward Delmar
Looking south toward Delmar
Getting closer toward Delmar we can see the fence forces pedestrians to enter/exit via the auto driveway
Getting closer toward Delmar we can see the fence forces pedestrians to enter/exit via the auto driveway

Seriously? The one minimal pedestrian route from a secondary road is blocked by a bollard!?! As I mentioned in April, the site has been divided into three parcels.

Outline of the parcel Aldi purchased.
Outline of the ALDI parcel, the other two are just parking right now.
A hearing will be held on the 20th for a drive-thru fast-food restaurant at the Kingshighway & Enright parcel
A hearing will be held on the 20th for a drive-thru fast-food restaurant at the Kingshighway & Enright parcel

It would’ve been relatively easy to plan a north-south sidewalk through the site connecting Enright to Delmar, with a perpendicular walk connecting to the bus stop on Kingshighway. This would’ve provided a pedestrian route to all three adjacent streets and to all three parcels. Instead we’ve got another development that ignores pedestrians almost entirely.

The #97 (Delmar) bus and #95 (Kingshighway) bus generate lots of pedestrian traffic at this location. Many customers & employees of ALDI, a new drive-thru, and a third place will arrive on foot. Development in our neighborhoods should be designed to welcome motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. This must be mandated, developers aren’t going to do it on their own — especially not in low-income areas where they do as little as possible.

— 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

 

Accessing Metro’s Transit Access Center Not Straightforward

Seniors (65+) and the disabled can ride Metro for half price, but a reduced fare permit is required. Seniors have several options on obtaining such a permit, the MetroRide store downtown, for example. The disabled, like myself, must visit Metro’s Transit Access Center at 317 DeBaliviere. Let’s pretend we’re newly disabled and need to get a reduced-fare permit, for the first time. We arrive on the #90 (Hampton) MetroBus or via MetroLink at the Forest Park station.  Remember this station opened twenty years ago, and was altered significantly in 2006 when the extension to Shrewsbury was built.

We get off the bus or come up from the platform on the east side of DeBaliviere and head north to find our destination.

Based on the map online the Transit Access Center must be located in the strip mall over there.
Based on the map online the Transit Access Center must be located in the strip mall over there.
The curb ramp has nothing to do with the crosswalk, no curb ramp exists on the other end of the crosswalk. When the light turns green I'll have to head over to the auto drive where cars will be leaving.
This curb ramp has nothing to do with the crosswalk, no curb ramp exists on the other end of the crosswalk. When the light turns green we’ll have to head over to the auto drive where cars will be leaving.
Made it across safely, there's our destination
Made it across safely, there’s our destination
Drat, no ramps on either side of the driveway! We could enter the auto driveway and hope we find a ramp before a vehicle backs over us,  but none are visible from this point. Let’s continue along the public sidewalk to see if we can find another way in or our destination.
There's a ramp, but we can't reach it from here, We could go back and risk getting backed over or continue.
There’s a ramp to the right of that car, we can’t reach it from here due to planter/curb/parking, We could go back and risk getting backed over or continue until we see our destination. I say we keep looking for a safe route.
Oh, there's the Transit Access Center, there must be a pedestrian route down further.
Oh, there’s the Transit Access Center, there must be a pedestrian route down further.
See, I knew we'd find a direct way! Oh wait...
See, I knew we’d find a direct way! Oh wait…
Naturally a curb is in our way
Naturally a curb is in our way
All the way on the far end is a route to reach the storefronts from the public sidewalk.
All the way on the far end is a route to reach the storefronts from the public sidewalk.
We get to the door and we're glad it has an automatic opener, but it doesn't work when pressed. "It's never worked", says the person inside when we mention it.
We get to the door and we’re glad it has an automatic opener, but it doesn’t work when pressed. “It’s never worked”, says the person inside when we mention it.
Leaving we see the problems from the other side
Leaving we see the problems from the other side
Still too risky to go behind parked cars
Still too risky to go behind parked cars, why must it be such a challenge?
caption
The fix here in this privstely-owned development is pretty simple actually, just replace a couple of curbs with ramps.

I’m not sure how long the Transit Access Center has been a tenant in this building, at least 4 years. The building was built in 1988, two years before the ADA and five years before the MetroLink opened. But for the last twenty years this development adjacent to a light rail station hasn’t been very accessible.

Again, this is the location every disabled person that seeks a reduced-fare permit must go. Granted, access from disabled parking is easy enough but many who need the permits can’t drive. For the disabled, independence is very important.

 — Steve Patterson

 

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