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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

 

City Planning Student Critique of Proposed St. Louis Streetcar

Regular readers know I’m a supporter of public transit, and an advocate for modern streetcars, in particular. When I received an email from a planning student asking about publishing her paper on her evaluation, I was curious. Here’s how Jill Mead described herself to me in that email:

I’m a Masters in Public Health and Masters of City Planning student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I also work for the Pedestrian & Bike Info Center at UNC’s Highway Safety Research Center. If that weren’t enough, I’m very much a St. Louisan. I grew up in Forest Park Southeast (in the 80s!) and am a K-12 graduate of the SLPS. I went to UMSL for one year and Wash U for the rest of my college degree. 

Though I don’t agree with her analysis and conclusions in the paper, I thought it would spur some good discussion. Here is a brief summary of her paper:

Artist rendering of proposed streetcar in downtown St. Louis
Artist rendering of proposed streetcar in downtown St. Louis.

Spurred by the availability of federal funds and inspired by the success of streetcar projects in other cities, the non-profit Partnership for Downtown St. Louis released a feasibility study for a downtown St. Louis streetcar project in March 2013. The feasibility study recommended the project based on its likelihood of achieving its two main objectives: (1) enhancing the region’s transit system and (2) catalyzing economic growth throughout the streetcar corridor. While the St. Louis Streetcar Feasibility Study is optimistic about the achievement of these two objectives, reviewing the study calls some of their claims into question. Ridership estimates seem inflated given the slow travel speeds of the streetcar and methodology used. The choice of alignment fails to prioritize the city’s densest areas and is out of sync with plans being made at the regional level. In terms of the streetcar’s ability to catalyze economic development in St. Louis, the study inadequately addresses the wide variety of contextual factors, such as land use policy and the existence of strong public-private partnerships and market demand that were characteristic of other cities’ success in attracting development to streetcar corridors. The paper concludes that strategies to improve economic growth and public transportation are necessary in St. Louis, but it is not clear that the proposed St. Louis Streetcar project is the best use of public resources to achieve these goals.

Here’s a link to Mead’s full paper: Evaluation of the St. Louis Streetcar Proposal (19 page PDF).

Mead must have missed the reason for looking at a modern streetcar now, mentioned on page 2 of the Final St. Louis Streetcar Feasibility Study:

When St. Louis University announced plans to move their law school from midtown St. Louis to downtown, the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis once again began the discussion of a streetcar for downtown. This move presented an opportunity to link the two campuses with a streetcar and fulfill the goals of the Downtown Next Plan.

The idea of SLU running shuttle buses every day between midtown and downtown meant only a small segment of the population would be served, pollution would increase, roads would be see additional traffic from the continuous loop of shuttles. Us regular transit riders along Olive/Lindell would still have 30-40 minute headways on the existing #10 MetroBus.  Why not improve the public transit system for all?

Connecting to south St. Louis wouldn’t help SLU with transporting students, faculty, and staff between the main campus in midtown and the new law school building downtown. By including a north-south segment on 14th the proposal recognizes future expansion into south & north city.

The existing MetroBus isn’t slow, it doesn’t take me long to get to the Central West End from my downtown loft, but the streetcar will come every 10-15 minutes instead of every 30-40 minutes — that’s far more important than whether it takes 8 minutes versus say 12-15 minutes to reach my stop! The streetcar will be faster than the bus, the center dedicated right-of-way, off-board fare payment, etc. will  make the trip no longer than bus, very likely shorter. Buses are sometimes late; they get stuck in traffic, wheelchair lifts malfunction, rerouted around events, etc. When the bus takes 10 minutes to get to my stop but arrives 10 minutes late that puts me way behind. If I take the 30 minute earlier bus I arrive way too early and it uses more of my day.

Also from page 2 of the final study:

The purpose of the study was to: 

  • support the goals established in The Downtown Next 2020 Vision to improve Downtown’s accessibility; 
  • create a catalyst for continued economic development; 
  • provide additional opportunities for alternative transportation; 
  • support the region’s and City’s sustainability initiatives;
  • and  promote an environment that will retain and attract new jobs and residents to the City.

I’ve invited Mead to come downtown and ride the #10 MetroBus with me, to midtown and back, to better understand the existing conditions, then I think she’ll see how the streetcar will be a potentially massive improvement. She’s in town visiting family, we’re talking about doing this later in the week.

Mead is correct when she said, “the study inadequately addresses the wide variety of contextual factors, such as land use policy.” The word  “zoning” appears just four times in the final study report. “Proper zoning” is mentioned, but not defined. My fear is we won’t set up the necessary land-use controls to guide new development over the 10-20 years following the completion of the streetcar. If the prevailing Laissez faire attitude in St. Louis is allowed to squash good form-based zoning then the streetcar investment will be at least partially wasted.

But if we can get the formula right, it will be a boon and expansions can follow every few years, as we’ve seen in other cities. But I’ve been here long enough to know the old guard isn’t going to change so easily. Will this time be different?

Please share your thoughts on Mead’s paper, or my response, below.

— Steve Patterson

 

Lindell Update: 3949 Apartments, CVS, AAA

A year ago the 3949 Lindell Apartments were a burt out mess, but now they’re nearly rebuilt.

Just over a year later the rebuild is nearly complete.
Just over a year later the rebuild is nearly complete.
Scene on July 19, 2012 passing by on the #10 MetroBus
As seen on July 19, 2012 passing by on the #10 MetroBus

Looks like the same basic design, with some details being different. Notably, the large windows are now have black frames rather than white.

Immediately to the east a new CVS is under construction.
Immediately to the east a new CVS is under construction.

CVS tried to raze the former offices of the St. Louis Housing Authority a half a block to the west and later they wanted to raze the round AAA building, they were rebuffed at both sites. They wanted a store in this area so they were forced to adapt. AAA has also announced they will renovate their building since they were denied a demolition permit.

With the CVS being built on the AAA parking lot the former lawn is now parking.
With the CVS being built on the AAA parking lot the former lawn is now parking.
ABOVE: Former headquarters of American Automobile Association of Missouri
Pedestrians had a path from the sidewalk to the front door, but now the lawn is now auto parking. Hopefully they plan a new pedestrian route when construction is complete.

Once all three are finished I’ll visit to see how they connect to the sidewalks on Lindell and McPherson, as well as to each other.

 

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