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Five Guys Adds ADA Accessible Route To Reach Former Blockbuster

Back in March I photographed the lack of an ADA accessible route from the public sidewalk to the Lindell Marketplace building that once contained a Blockbuster video rental store. For years pedestrians have had to walk in the auto driveway, risking getting hit.

ABOVE: In March 2012 the only access to the building was through the automobile driveway.
ABOVE: The metal fence prevented pedestrians from accessing the building at other points that would be safer than the auto driveway.

I was pleasantly surprised months later when Five Guys Burgers and Fries opened in the west end of the former Blockbuster — they’d added an ADA accessible route before opening!

ABOVE: New ADA accessible route to Five Guys Burgers and Fries in part of the former Blockbuster space
ABOVE: Opposite view looking out toward Lindell.

They had to modify the fence, pour concrete in two places and stripe the route. It was the right thing to do, it’s just refreshing to see it done without having to ask.

And yes, I stopped and had lunch there recently.

— Steve Patterson


Code Compliance Isn’t The Same As Best Practices

Last week on Tuesday July 17th the 197-unit apartment building at 3949 Lindell was destroyed by fire.

The Lindell Apartments at 3949 Lindell caught fire around 7 p.m. and quickly went to five-alarms.

Around 100 people were inside the building at the time. Everyone was evacuated safely. The 197 unit building housed around 250 people who are now homeless. (KSDK)

Less than an hour after firefighters arrived on the scene of a blaze at a Central West End apartment building Tuesday night, they were forced to evacuate as the top floor of the four-story structure began to collapse.

The flames spread so fast through the attic that firefighters thought something must be wrong with the building. (stltoday.com — see photo gallery)

The building was previously destroyed by arson in June 2007 during construction, but this time it was occupied.

ABOVE: The 3949 Lindell Apartments earlier this year.

Had a fire started in a kitchen, for example, the sprinkler system would have likely put it out.  But the fire is said to have started in an attic space though, above the units and the sprinkler system.  Apparently the building code allows the use of a drywall wall to be used as a firestop within the attic to slow the spread of the fire. But a wood framed wall with drywall can’t hold a fire for long. Between apartments it’s good enough to contain a fire until the sprinklers come on. But in an open attic space with so much wood a big fire can get going and pretty much blast through a drywall firestop.

ABOVE: The massive roof has no masonry walls to divide it. Image from Google Maps, click to view.

So while the building may well have been code-compliant, it wasn’t built with best practices. Such a large building, especially one of wood frame construction, should have had masonry walls to completely section off the building into parts.  A fire may have destroyed or heavily damaged a section of the building but the rest would have been unharmed. Such a wall exists between the parking garage and the building, likely required to keep a car fire from spreading from the garage to the building.

I’ve been photographing this building for years, but I never once visited inside. Here are images from 2007 & 2008:

ABOVE: The building was well underway on June 3, 2007
ABOVE: All wood framing was destroyed by arson on June 13, 2007
ABOVE: The front facade is taking shape again on August 1, 2008
ABOVE: The west end of the front facade not yet covered in brick on August 1, 2008. The old McDonald’s was being razed.

It’s important to note the property owner was not the original developer, from January 6, 2012:

Education Realty Trust, a Memphis-based developer, owner and manager of college housing, has purchased an apartment complex near Saint Louis University for nearly $28.5 million.

The four-story complex at 3949 Lindell Blvd. was bought with cash on hand, the company said. Education Realty Trust recently began doing business as EdR as part of a rebranding effort.

City of St. Louis records show the apartment building’s former owner as GB St. Louis 1 Temp LLC, a Dallas-based affiliate of Frank Howard’s Gulfstream Capital Partners. (St. Louis Business Journal)

The following images are from Thursday July 19, 2012:

ABOVE: Scene on July 19, 2012 passing by on the #10 MetroBus
ABOVE: West side as seen from the Arby’s parking lot
ABOVE: The American Red Cross on the adjacent shopping center parking lot
ABOVE: Residents being allowed back inside a north entrance off McPherson
ABOVE: Looking east along McPherson Ave, this side has no visible damage
ABOVE: Evidence of floor collapses can be seen on the east side near the garage
ABOVE: A sidewalk tribute for pets that died. The listing on forrent.com indicates pets weren’t allowed. Click image for listing.
ABOVE: The building is just west of the endangered AAA building
ABOVE: Lindell facade gives the impression just the roof was burned, but structural damage is clear in numerous areas.
ABOVE: Wall buckling above 2nd floor windows toward the west end of the Lindell facade

The existing frame construction will be razed with only the parking garage remaining. When apartments are built here again it needs to have several masonry firestops from the ground to above the roof. Ideally AAA and CVS will get together with EdR to include the west half of the AAA site into the new construction as well as a CVS pharmacy and renovation of the AAA for a restaurant space.

No doubt that wired smoke alarms helped in alerting all the residents so no human life was loft. But understand that building codes are the very minimum that must be met to obtain an occupancy permit.

— Steve Patterson


Duncan Ave Sidewalk A Challenge Because Of Solae’s 2008 Construction

When Solae built their new headquarters at 4300 Duncan Ave at S. Boyle Ave. (map) in 2008 they created a pedestrian problem.

ABOVE: Solae’s contractor left a wide gap between old and new sidewalk on Duncan

The contractor dug out the old sidewalk at the west edge of their properly to create an auto driveway. The driveway works great for autos but they left a gap in the sidewalk that’s hard to navigate in a wheelchair.  Solae and/or their contractor need to fix the situation. I’ve had to pass through here on numerous visits to Solae.

I’m emailing a link to this post to Solae’s facilities manager, hopefully they’ll see fit to fill in this gap. It won’t be perfect until the adjacent sidewalk is replaced but it can be made significantly better.

— Steve Patterson


So Long Ruth Porter Mall

Tearing down a mall? What stores did it have? No, not that kind of mall. A pedestrian mall.

Ruth Porter Park (officially named Ruth Porter Mall), is a linear park spanning nine blocks north from Delmar Blvd. to Etzel Ave., and one block west from Debaliviere to Goodfellow Ave. (source)

Most pedestrian malls were created by closing off a roadway but Ruth Porter Mall was created by razing buildings along a linear path. A 1971 aerial on historicaerials.com shows the clearing of buildings present in a 1958 aerial. By the time I first walked it in the 1990s it was looking very tired. View in Google Maps here.

ABOVE: Porter Park was also known as Ruth Porter Mall, June 2010
ABOVE: Looking west with Delmar on the left and the park on the right, June 2010

Who was Ruth Porter anyway? She was an African-American born in 1915 who died just 52 years later in 1967:

Ruth Porter was a founder and first executive secretary of the Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence, a group organized in 1961 to break down housing restrictions and integrate housing in St. Louis. In 1958, she won an award from the National Conference for Christians and Jews for promoting racial understanding. She was named outstanding woman of the year in 1965 by the NAACP. Her tireless efforts to secure fair housing eventually led to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Jones vs. Mayer case, which was won by residents she helped to support.

At one time Porter was also director of the Kinloch YMCA and a leader in the West End Community Conference. The Ruth Porter Mall at Delmar Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue is named in her honor. (Source

The Supreme Court decision came a year after her passing.

ABOVE: A derelict play area, May 2011
ABOVE: Walking expert Dan Burden leads a group through Ruth Porter Mall with standing water on the path, May 2011. Burden will be in town later this week for six free events. Click image for info & registration.

So what will become of the space? It’ll be incorporated into a larger trail network:

St. Vincent Greenway will extend for more than seven miles from NorthPark, near I-70 and Hanley Road, to Forest Park. The greenway route includes the completed sections through University of Missouri-St. Louis campus and the adjoining St. Vincent (County) Park.

The primary trail will continue to the Rock Road MetroLink station area, the MET Center in Wellston, and the West End and Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhoods. The greenway will follow Engelholm Creek as much as possible.

The remainder of the primary greenway trail from the North Hanley MetroLink station to Forest Park is being designed.

The next segment slated for construction lies within the City of St. Louis. Construction through Porter Park (Ruth Porter Mall), and along Etzel Avenue from the park west to Skinker, will begin in October. Finishing touches will be applied in the spring.

At Forest Park, St. Vincent Greenway eventually will connect to other greenways, such as Centennial, Chouteau, and River des Peres. In the NorthPark business development, the greenway will meet the Maline Creek Greenway now being planned. (Great Rivers Greenway)

That’s a nice connection.

ABOVE: Old park structures cleared away in March 2012
ABOVE: Workers building the new improvements, June 2012

More from Great Rivers Greenway’s website:

This extension of the St. Vincent Greenway will change the usage of public right-of-way along Etzel Avenue from Skinker Boulevard eastward to Porter Park, allowing a physical separation of the greenway route from vehicles. The existing sidewalk in Porter Park will be re-surfaced as a trail. Both segments will contain many delightful upgrades and surprises.

When the Loop Trolley is constructed, the greenway will continue within the eastern half of the right-of-way of DeBaliviere Avenue south to Forest Park. (source)


The Ruth Porter Mall wasn’t accesible at all. It was built pre-ADA and it was never retrofitted with wheelchair ramps. I’m glad to see it change and become part of something bigger but I hope Ruth Porter is somehow remembered.

— Steve Patterson


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