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Potential Development Sites Along Proposed Streetcar Line, Part 7: Vandeventer to Taylor & Children’s Pl

As I’ve done for the last month, this is another post on potential development sites along the proposed initial route of the St. Louis Streetcar.  The sections already reviewed are as follows:

  1. Olive 15th-16th
  2. Olive 16th-18th
  3. 14th & Olive To North Florissant & St. Louis Ave.
  4. Olive 18th to Jefferson
  5. Jefferson to Compton
  6. Compton to Vandeventer

This post continues west to the end of the first phase of the route, starting at Lindell & Vandeventer to Lindell & Taylor, south on Taylor to Children’s place at the BJC hospital complex and next to the Central West End MetoBus Transit Center & MetroLink station (map).

Longtime readers know I’ve advocated a modern streetcar line for years connecting Downtown, Midtown/Grand Center, Central West End, and the Loop. My preferred route was to go north on Vandeventer then west on Delmar. I’d still like to see a streetcar on Delmar. Other options to go north from the current proposed route are at Sarah and/or Taylor.  I’d like to see a decision made about future expansion so the track can be added onto without disrupting the Lindell route.

Anyway, here’s a look going west from Vandeventer:

This Rally's was built in 1993 on nearly a third of an acre site with streets on three sides (Lindell, Vandeventer, & McPherson. The land & building are owned by a firm in San Diego, CA.
This Rally’s was built in 1993 on nearly a third of an acre site with streets on three sides (Lindell, Vandeventer, & McPherson. The land & building are owned by a firm in San Diego, CA. Given the short life expectancy of such a structure I’d expect a more urban building on this site in the first 5 years of the streetcar line.
ABOVE: Former headquarters of American Automobile Association of Missouri
Next door the American Automobile Association of Missouri is renovating their iconic former headquarters building. CVS is building a drugstore on the west end of the site.
The apartments at 3949 Lindell are being rebuilt after the 2012 fire. This is an August 2008 photo
The apartments at 3949 Lindell are being rebuilt after a 2012 fire, this is an August 2008 photo. More development of this scale will become the norm along the route, it’ll be a 10-20 year process, not overnight.
A number of buildings occupy smaller lots on the south side of Lindell, these do a poor job of connecting with the sidewalk
A number of buildings occupy smaller lots on the south side of Lindell, these do a poor job of connecting with the sidewalk
This McDonald's was built in 2008 on a site that is nearly an acre. McDonald's owns the site so I wouldn't expect to see a change for 20-30 years unless the land value increases dramatically and drive-thru sales collapse
This McDonald’s was built in 2008 on a site that is nearly an acre. McDonald’s owns the site so I wouldn’t expect to see a change for 20-30 years unless the land value increases dramatically and drive-thru sales collapse
This building, The Continental, was built in 1965. City records indicate it has 49 apartments. Density is good but it isn't welcoming. New facade? Raze & replace?
This building, The Continental, was built in 1965. City records indicate it has 49 apartments. Density is good but it isn’t welcoming. New facade? Raze & replace?
ABOVE: Arby'd on Lindell has a pedestrian route separate from the automobile route
The Arby’s on Lindell, built in 2007, is also on nearly an acre site
This American Red Cross building has good mass & density, but a poor relationship with the sidewalk, typical for 1966.
This American Red Cross building has good mass & density, but a poor relationship with the public sidewalk, typical for 1966.
The former mansion at 4054 Lindell was built in 1896. It appears to be in decent condition so perhaps it'll get a new owner or be razed for something more urban.
The former mansion at 4054 Lindell was built in 1896. It appears to be in decent condition so perhaps it’ll get a new owner or be razed for something more urban.
The apartment building at 4066 Lindell, built in 1927, has 68 apartments. As is it provides affordable rent, renovation to go upmarket is possible
The apartment building at 4066 Lindell, built in 1927, has 68 apartments. As is it provides affordable units, but renovation to go upmarket is possible, displacing low-income tenants in the process.
The part of Lindell Marketplace on the east side of Sarah sits on 4.8 acres. The will get developed into a dense mixed-use site before the larger site to the west.
The part of Lindell Marketplace on the east side of Sarah sits on 4.8 acres. The will get razed & redeveloped into a dense mixed-use site before the larger site to the west due to fewer tenants to inconvenience.
With three outlots included, Lindell Marketplace on the west side of Sarah has 9.3 acres. It is bounded on all sides by public streets, built in 1986. Multiple ownership, anchor tenant Schnucks, and many small tenants complicate redevelopment.
With three outlots included, Lindell Marketplace on the west side of Sarah has 9.3 acres. It is bounded on all sides by public streets, built in 1986. Multiple ownership, anchor tenant Schnucks, and many small tenants complicate redevelopment.
This Jack-In-The-Box, built in 2011, occupies one of the three outlets.
This Jack-In-The-Box at 4111 Lindell, built in 2011, occupies one of the three outlets.
CVS wanted to raze the former Public Housing Authority building at 4100 Lindell but there was opposition. Hopefully it'll get a nice renovation that respects the original 1957 design
CVS wanted to raze the former Public Housing Authority building at 4100 Lindell but there was opposition. Hopefully it’ll get a nice renovation that respects the original 1957 design. I picture a ground floor restaurant with a lush patio out front, offices or apartments 0n upper floors.
The building next door from 1948 will likely get replaced.
The 1948 building next door is more likely to get replaced than renovated.
4158 Lindell
4158 Lindell is from 1948 but I see no reason why a developer shouldn’t raze it and build a mixed-use building. The Leonardo Apartments to the west is on a smaller lot and contains 34 apartments.
The Walgreens at 4200 Lindell was built in 2002 on a massive 1.8 acre site. I see this as being a perfect location for Walgreens' new upscale urban format, complete with a fresh sushi bar. Click photo for article.
The Walgreens at 4200 Lindell was built in 2002 on a massive 1.8 acre site. I see this as being a perfect location for Walgreens’ new upscale urban flagship format, complete with a fresh sushi bar, in a multi-story mixed-use building. Click photo for article about this new format.
I'd like to see the Cancer Society lease part of their ground floor to activate the NW corner of Lindell & Whittier St
I’d like to see the American Cancer Society lease part of their ground floor to activate the NW corner of Lindell & Whittier St
This one-story branch bank was built in 1995 when SLU bought & razed the branch at Lindell & Grand. The site is 0.75 acres.
This one-story branch bank was built in 1995 when SLU bought & razed the branch at Lindell & Grand. The site is 0.75 acres.
In 2009 the San Luis Hotel was razed for a parking lot. Hopefully we'll eventually see a new building on this site
In 2009 the San Luis Hotel was razed for a parking lot. Hopefully we’ll eventually see a new building on this site
ABOVE: Boatman's Bank on Lindell in 1990-91, now a Bank of America
The Boatman’s Bank on Lindell in 1990-91, now a Bank of America, is very disconnected to Lindell.
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. A high-rise was planned for this site when the economy crashed.
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
The parking lots on the east side of Kingshighway should also be considered for development
The parking lots on the east side of Kingshighway should also be considered for development
The west end of phase 1 would be next to the open air CWE MetroBus Transit Center
The west end of phase 1 would be next to the open air CWE MetroBus Transit Center
This street would be the initial west end point, nearly zero development potential unless you're willing to raze a garage built in 1994
This street would be the initial west end point, nearly zero development potential unless you’re willing to raze a garage built in 1994

There’s much more development potential here than I originally thought, but with mixed-use projects like 3949 Lindell and the planned City Walk (with a Whole Foods) it could be argued the streetcar is needed in other areas to get development rolling.

Future installments in this series will look at:

  1. Development potential in the downtown central business district
  2. Some challenge/changes the streetcar will create
  3. And a poll(s) on routes for future expansion

Still, I’m excited by the transit the streetcar could provide as well as the level of development it could spur.

— Steve Patterson

 

Duncan Sidewalk Fixed, Crosswalk at Newstead Still A Problem

Today when I visit Solae it won’t be a challenge like it has been, last month I discovered a problem that existed since the building opened in 2008 has finally been fixed. Last July I posted about the problem and contacted Solae, Cortex and Washington University.

Here’s what it used to look like, the gap was nearly impossible to navigate:

ABOVE: Solae's contractor left a wide gap between old and new sidewalk on Duncan
Photo from July 2012 post: Solae’s contractor left a wide gap between old and new sidewalk on Duncan

It was suggested in the comments on my post last year that the adjacent building (shown above) owner was responsible. I rejected that idea because it was the construction work at Solae that created the gap that caused the problem. The architect and/or contractor didn’t consider patching the area where they had to over dig.

Now the sidewalk is passable.
Now the sidewalk is passable.

Unfortunately, my trip from the Central West End MetroBus Transfer Center/MetroLink Station still has a major access problem. At Duncan & S. Newstead (map) I can’t use the crosswalk to cross Newstead.

The crosswalk exists but only if you can walk through grass and down a curb.
The crosswalk exists but only if you can walk through grass and down a curb, then jump a curb on the west side of Newstead.
Stepping back we can see the nearest ramp which id designed to cross Duncan, not Newstead
Stepping back we can see the nearest ramp which id designed to cross Duncan, not Newstead
The blue line shows the route I take to cross Newstead
The blue line shows the route I take to cross Newstead
The opposite view shows the brick insert Washington University added to improve the pedestrian experience. Feb 2012 photo.
The opposite view shows one of the many decorative stamped concrete inserts Washington University added throughout their medical campus district to enhance the pedestrian experience. Feb 2012 photo.

Washington University spent considerable time and money on these decorative inserts, seemingly without thought to the functionality of the pedestrian network. This infuriates me beyond words. The money spent could’ve been used to make the area accessible and the sidewalks wide enough so when you meet someone they don’t have to step off the sidewalk into the grass. These decorative inserts are the type of pedestrian improvements are designed to look good on paper and driving by.

Can you imagine if roads were designed for aesthetics rather than function?

We’ll see how long it takes before I can use the crosswalk.

— Steve Patterson

 

Coming Soon to Kingshighway & Delmar: More Low-Density Sprawl

The site of the former National/Schnucks at Kingshighway & Delmar, long vacant, has now been cleared for new development. I’ve viewed the site as an opportunity to build a dense urban project, ideally connected with a Delmar extension of the future Loop Trolley. But current plans may delay dense development of the 4+ acre site for at least the next 20-30 years.

Former grocery store building has now been razed.
Former grocery store building sat back at the east end of the site
The long-vacant building was recently razed.
The long-vacant building was recently razed.
Discount grocer Aldi has announced a new location here.
Discount grocer ALDI has announced a new location here.

But ALDI doesn’t need over 4 acres! Looking at city records online I see The Roberts Brothers has divided the site into three parcels, with ALDI buying one of the three.

Outline of the parcel Aldi purchased.
Outline of the parcel ALDI purchased with Kingshighway on the left, Delmar on the bottom.

The boundaries of the three parcels is intriguing, my guess is so all three can have automobile  entrances facing Kingshighway, or at least a Kingshighway address.  This new store will be part of three recently announced locations also including Creve Coeur & Des Peres (source).

My assumption is this Kingshighway & Delmar location will replace the ALDI less than a mile to the north at Kingshighway & Page (1315 Aubert).

The Aldi at 1315 Aubert (Page & Kingshighway) was built in 1991.
The Aldi at 1315 Aubert (Page & Kingshighway) was built in 1991.

Below is a look at a few ALDI locations in the area, showing size of parcel, year built, and the building size:

Comparison of a few select Aldi locations
Comparison of a few select ALDI locations

The most recently completed ALDI on the list above is the 7701 Olive location. I visited that ALDI in May 2006, shortly after it opened.

View from the Olive auto entrance
View from the Olive auto entrance
A route is provided from Olive but it is not ADA-compliant.
A route is provided from Olive but it is not ADA-compliant.
An ADA-compliant route is provided off North and South
An ADA-compliant route is provided off North and South

This is how ALDI builds US locations from coast to coast. For example, in late 2010 a blogger noted the design for a dense Washington DC neighborhood (see Terrible Aldi design shows need for new parking zoning). As with so many retailers, they’ll do the cheapest design they can, barely meeting minimum standards. If we want/expect better we must demand better — raising the minimum. Retailers will meet the improved standard as long as they can get sales & profit growth.     ALDI does have a few urban locations, but only in super-dense places like Queens, NY.

And before anyone says ALDI and Trader Joe’s are part of the same company let me clarify their relationship.

The [ALDI] chain is made up of two separate groups, Aldi Nord (North – operating as Aldi Markt), with its headquarters in Essen, and Aldi Süd (South – operating as Aldi Süd), with its headquarters in Mülheim an der Ruhr, which operate independently from each other within specific areas.

[snip]

Both Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd also operate in the United States; Aldi Nord is owner of the Trader Joe’s chain while Aldi Süd operates as Aldi. (Wikipedia)

Thus the ALDI we see in the US is NOT related to our Trader Joe’s stores. Another difference between our ALDI stores and our Trader Joe’s is the latter is willing to go compact in dense, walkable areas. For example, the Trader Joe’s I visited in 2009 located at 1700 E Madison St, Seattle, WA.  The store is located on the ground floor with sidewalk entrance, a level of structured parking over the store and four levels of housing over that.

Garage of the Trader Joe's in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle
Garage of the Trader Joe’s in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle

Madison St. in Seattle still has low-density development, like the gas station across from the Trader Joe’s, but one property at a time it is getting more urban. As it gets more urban it attracts more people, increasing the need to be more urban.

Back in St. Louis, we do the opposite. We continue to build low-density sprawl, then scratch our heads wondering why more people don’t walk, use transit, or why our population declines. I’m not suggesting development patterns are the reason for our population decline in the past, but it is a factor today.

A single story ALDI surrounded by surface parking on this corner is totally inappropriate given the context to the east and south.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

 

Readers Split On Proposed Streetcar Route

Readers in the poll last week didn’t select any one option by a majority. The three routes presented as options, two being considered and another I’ve been advocating for years, each received a similar number of votes.

Q: My preferred route for a streetcar line is…

  1. Option 2: Olive/Lindell>Euclid>Forest Park Blvd>Taylor>Lindell 35 [29.66%]
  2. Option 1: Olive/Lindell>Taylor>Children’s Place/CWE MetroLink 31 [26.27%]
  3. New option: Olive/Lindell to Vandeventer to Delmar to Loop Trolley 29 [24.58%]
  4. None, don’t built a streetcar line 12 [10.17%]
  5. Other: 10 [8.47%
  6. Unsure/No Opinion 1 [0.85%]

The ten other answers were:

  1. Use the old Hodiamont Streetcar right of way
  2. grand blvd
  3. Olive/Lindell>Euclid>Forest Park Blvd>Vanderventerr>Lindell/Olive
  4. Street cars are a joke. They are a waste. Busses offer far more flexibility.
  5. Use the old Hodiamont street car right of way.
  6. Continue on Lindell to Debaliviere/Loop Trolley connection.
  7. Middle-upper income routes to replace cars.
  8. Link “downtown” only by s.cars: riverfrt. to Jeff Ave,, Delmar to Soulard.
  9. free, downtown loop, between Tucker & Broadway
  10. Option 1 but utilize Market and Forest park instead of Olive/Lindell

When streetcars were first installed it was a private effort by real estate developers to make it easier for buyers to reach new development:

The Gravois-Jefferson Streetcar Suburb Historic District is located within the boundaries of the City of St. Louis, Missouri. The -715-acre District is a triangular area generally bounded by the intersection of Gravois and South Jefferson Avenues at the north, South Jefferson Avenue and South Broadway Street (south of Chippewa Street) on the east, Meramec Street on the south, South Grand Boulevard on the west, and Gravois Avenue on the northwest.’ Gravois Avenue is a major arterial street and historically served as a wagon, streetcar, and vehicular transit corridor. South Jefferson Avenue also was and is a major transportation corridor. Meramec Street is a major collector street. Mixed commercial, institutional, and residential use along these major city thoroughfares visually and historically defines the survey area. (National Register nomination PDF)

Today funding streetcars in developed urban areas takes more than available right-of-way, it takes enough demand to justify the investment in infrastructure. Often this means connecting some big dots, the in between will fill in over time with proper land use controls. The problem in St. Louis is our big dots are generally east-west between downtown and Clayton.  What big dots exist north & south to guarantee ridership on a daily basis?

Grand has a few dots:

  • VA Hospital
  • Grand Center/SLU
  • Grand MetroLink
  • SLU Hospital

Okay, suppose you connect these via streetcar — that’s a mile and a half length. Not bad, but you’d still have to run the #70 (Grand) MetroBus to reach areas north and south — an additional 7.5 miles. Even my longtime preferred route of Olive/Lindell to Vandeventer to Delmar doesn’t have enough dots to get funding.

But between the Option 1 & 2 being considered I have a strong preference for #1 —  the double track on Taylor Ave option rather than the Euclid/Forest Park/Taylor loop.Establishing a double track on Taylor Ave sets up a perfect scenario for north-south expansion. Below is one concept:

Teal = Loop Trolley Blue = Proposed Streetcar Red = Possible Future Lines
Purple = Loop Trolley, Teal = #70 Grand BRT, Blue = Proposed Streetcar, Red = Possible Future Lines.  Click image to view map in Google Maps

The dots aren’t there for an initial north-south line but extending a couple of miles here and there every few years would eventually build a system. The current proposal calls for a north-south piece at 14th Street, going up to St. Louis Avenue. The double track on Taylor of Option 1 provides an ideal spot for a second north-south line further west. Expansion could happen to reach new development projects.

Yes, what I’ve shown above would take decades to construct. That’s how long-term planning works. For further reading on streetcars please see a 65-page literature review of Relationships Between Streetcars and the Built Environment.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: What is Your Preferred Route For Streetcar Line West Out of Downtown St. Louis?

Plans were presented to the public last week to built a 7-mile modern streetcar line in St. Louis that would:

  • Circulate in the downtown central business district.
  • Head west on Olive/Lindell past Midtown to the Central West End.
  • A north-south segment would connect at 14th Street & Olive, initially going north Florissant Rd to St. Louis Ave. and south to the Civic Center MetroBus Center/MetroLink light rail.
  • Open in 2016/17.
ABOVE: Artist rendering of streetcar in downtown St. Louis
Artist rendering of streetcar in downtown St. Louis

Metro is part of the planning process and this would become part of our transit system. But I know some of you still question the effectiveness of the streetcar over the bus. To be fair, here is a skeptical view that I happen to agree with.

Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility improvement. If you replace a bus with a streetcar on the same route, and make no other improvements, nobody will be able to get anywhere any faster than they could before. This makes streetcars quite different from most of the other transit investments being discussed today.

Where a streetcar is faster or more reliable than the bus route it replaced, this is because other improvements were made at the same time — improvements that could just as well have been made for the bus route. These improvements may have been politically packaged as part of the streetcar project, but they were logically independent, so their benefits are not really benefits of the streetcar as compared to the bus. (source – highly recommended)

He’s right that streetscape improvements are just as important as the mode of transit, but funding realities mean a complete makeover of 7 miles for a bus isn’t very likely. Even if it was, a streetcar is a better choice for other reasons:

Streetcar vs. Bus

Buses are excellent local and regional public transportation options, but they will do little to spur redevelopment and economic investment in Downtown LA. This is due to the inherent flexibility of bus service, as routes change regularly to accommodate varying needs; in addition, buses contribute to nerve-racking pedestrian experiences due to heavy street-level emissions and noise pollution that discourages active use of sidewalks. Streetcars do the exact opposite. They provide developers and business owners certainty that the routes will not change, and are considered preferable to buses by residents, visitors, and employees as they offer more amenities, highly reliable routes and timetables, and enhanced urban experiences.

Buses and streetcars do, however, work together to connect access points within regional transportation networks. For example, sidewalks can be designed to specifically accommodate both vehicle configurations; in return, a transit stop effectively doubles its value within a regional transportation network. (LA Streetcar)

And…

While it’s true that streetcars require a much larger initial capital investment than buses, that capital cost is offset by significant operational savings year to year. In the long term, streetcars are more affordable as long as they are used on high ridership routes.

Streetcars have higher passenger capacity than buses (even bendy ones), which means that if there are lots of riders on your route, you can move them with fewer vehicles. Fewer vehicles means more efficient use of fuel and fewer (unionized, pensioned) drivers to pay.

Streetcar vehicles themselves are much more sturdy than buses, and last many decades longer. While buses must generally be retired and replacements purchased about every 10 years, streetcars typically last 40 years or more. For example, Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit system is still using streetcar vehicles built in 1947. (Washington Post — recommended)

Even in Portland the value of streetcars have been debated, critics questioning claims of Mayor Hales:

So that brings us to the ruling. Hales said “streetcars carry more people than buses … you attract more riders who don’t ride transit now, and actually the operating costs are not any greater than the bus.” Whether these arguments make a persuasive case for the necessity and usefulness of a streetcar system is, of course, up for debate. The statement itself remains factual. While, there’s some missing context, it’s nothing significant. We rate this claim True. (PolitiFact Oregon)

For a detailed look at operating costs of streetcars vs bus click here. Labor tends to be a big factor why streetcars are cheaper to operate.

For the poll this week I want you to vote on your preferred route. I’ve included “don’t build” as an option as well as my idea of Olive to Vandeventer to Delmar: described here.

ABOVE: Blue was my original route idea, red is my variation, green is continuing on Lindell, purple is a north-south line on Vandeventer
ABOVE: Blue was my original route idea, red is my variation, green is continuing on Lindell, purple is a north-south line on Vandeventer. Click image to view post. Note: This image added to this post at 10:30am on 3/10/2013.

The poll also has the two options from the study (p17):

Option 1 includes double track on Taylor south to the CWE MetroLink
Option 1 includes double track on Taylor south to Children’s Place/CWE MetroLink
Option 2 continues to Euclid, to Forest Park Blvd to Taylor back to Lindell
Option 2 continues to Euclid, to Forest Park Blvd to Taylor back to Lindell

My views on a St. Louis streetcar are evolving, more on Wednesday March 20. The poll is in the right sidebar (mobile users need to switch to the desktop layout)

— Steve Patterson

 

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