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What Should Replace the 1960s 7th Street Parking Garage?

November 15, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Planning & Design Comments Off on What Should Replace the 1960s 7th Street Parking Garage?

In 1961 the former Stix, Baer & Fuller department store began building a 900-car parking garage, attached to its downtown location via a skywalk over 7th Street. Six plus decades later the old Stix store contains apartments, hotel, a museum, and restaurants. The garage is now surrounded on 3 sides by the convention center. The skyway connecting the two has been sealed for years. See 701 North 7th Street on Google Maps.

The dome can be seen un the background in this August 2010 image
Pedestrian entrance on North 7th Street
Damage to underside of floors, 2016

I’ve previously posted about this garage, see Privately-Owned Convention Center Parking Garage in Questionable Condition from May 2016. At the time I shared that post with convention & building inspection officials hoping to get them to take action, not just leave it to the private sector.

Recently the city was able to purchase it. There’s no funds in the current convention center expansion project, AC Next Gen, to replace the garage. It was inspected, condemned for use, and now being razed.

With ongoing demolition the circular ramp was visible from the street, November 11, 2022

It had a lot of open/unused area in the center, with a circular ramp popular at the time. The 2nd floor of the 1993 convention center expansion connected to a level in the back. A new garage would certainly be designed very different. Prior to the early 90s the garage occupied an entire city block (#166), surrounded by 7th, Convention Plaza (aka Delmar, Morgan), 8th. The soon to be vacant site has 196 feet of frontage along 7th Street, it is 270 feet deep.

3D view of the garage from Apple Maps
Aerial view, the skywalk was visible in the lower right. Apple Maps

Before the city rushes to fund & build a conventional new garage to fill the site I think it makes sense to explore alternative options. We are talking about a full city block, though closed on 3 sides.

Doing nothing, holding for the future, is always an option. Another is a modern conventional parking garage. Beyond that it’s possible some of the back of the site might be useful to the convention center. At the street it would be nice to see some active uses, perhaps a restaurant(s) on the upper. A rooftop patio, balconies, etc are all worth considering to enliven the street. Residential and/or office space probably wouldn’t work, though I’m always looking for places for more low-income accessible units.

I’d love to see any parking be automated. These take half as much land as a conventional garage with ramps & drive aisles consuming a lot of space. They do cost more per space, but depending on the design of using half the block for active uses other than parking static vehicles for hours at a time could make it worth the investment. Various designs and costs/benefits need to be reviewed — before a commitment is made!

Big benefits include no need for mechanical ventilation or 24/7 lighting interior, but fire suppression is still necessary. Vehicles would be secured against theft or break in, the roof could hold solar panels. My only reservation is how automated parking would do with large events, such as an XFL game at the dome. Not sure if EV charging is possible.

My point is this city blocked-sized parcel needs to be examined from today’s perspective looking forward 50 years (2023-2073).

— Steve Patterson

 

Celebrating the Life of Steve Patterson, Part 1: “I Ain’t Dead Yet”

August 29, 2022 Downtown, Events/Meetings, Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Celebrating the Life of Steve Patterson, Part 1: “I Ain’t Dead Yet”

Blogger Steve Patterson on the Gateway Mall hallway, Citygarden. May 2021. Photo credit: Humans of St. Louis

When I was first diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer in the fall of 2019 I wasn’t sure what to expect from treatment, life expectancy, etc. While getting my affairs in order I remained as optimistic as possible.

I’m not a fan of solemn funerals so I thought about having a big party to celebrate my life in style. But what good is that after I’m dead?  So then a pre-death party followed by another at some point after I’m gone. Perfect.

Then came the pandemic. Scratch anything indoors. I thought about Citygarden, but Kaldi’s closed temporarily so no snacks or restroom access.

Now, even with vaccines, people are still getting Covid-19.  I’ve seen the blood test results on my immune health, that’s why my oncologist says  I’m immunocompromised. Anything indoors would require someone to check vaccination status. Outdoors it is, but not in brutal heat, cold, rain, etc.

As the months and years have passed I’m less interested in a single big event. Instead I like the idea of a series of small informal outdoor gatherings. I’d like to see each of you in person, whether we know each other or not.

The first such event was going to be this morning, but last week I saw  forecast called for rain. It’s always something…

Once I see an opening in the weather I’ll announce the date & time on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) at least 24 hours  prior.

Right now Wednesday morning (8/31/2022)is looking good, so this is a tentative date, 8am-10am. Unless it rains I’ll be on the terrace outside the recently reopened Kaldi’s in Citygarden, 808 Chestnut, enjoying a smoothie that I ordered online via ToastTab app. Please stop by to say hello, tell me I’m often wrong, or whatever. I’ll be sitting in a regular chair, but my orange wheelchair will be nearby.

For those that haven’t seen me in a long time, I now weigh about half of what I did when I had my stroke in 2008! I have to eat all the time now just to try to maintain my current weight.

I’ll announce additional dates/times/locations  for future gatherings on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) a few days prior. I’m open to suggestions for other outdoor locations, the only requirements are accessible via transit, shade, and nearby restroom. I’d also like to do some evening and weekend gatherings. I’ve also thought about using Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Live. Suggestions welcome.

Again, I’d love to talk with everyone at some point. Monday is the first of many. I do ask that if you have any Covid-19 symptoms (or positive test) please wait for a future date.

I definitely want to do something on the 18th anniversary of this blog, on Monday October 31, 2022. Maybe I could dress up as the late Jane Jacobs?

My next scans are in two weeks, I anticipate they’ll also show my “numerous tumors” as still stable.  After my 4-night hospitalization last month my kidneys are returning to normal.

Ok, hope to at least see a few of you Monday morning!

— Steve

 

Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

June 25, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

I never met Robert J. Baer, but I see the plaza named for him all the time. Baer Plaza, across Broadway from The Dome (map), was named in his honor a little more than 20 years before his death in 2017.

Every year annuals are placed around the marker, at the base of the flag poles. This spot, visible when driving by on Broadway, always looks nice.

The large lawn area is always very attractive.

The 25th anniversary of the dedication is just 7 weeks from today, on Saturday August 13, 2022. I think it calls for recognition…and a little effort beforehand to improve the condition.

Improve condition? It looks nice, right?

First, read more about the man the plaza is named to honor.

 Mr. Baer retired in 2002 as president and chief operating officer of UniGroup, and its operating subsidiaries, which include household goods transportation companies United Van Lines, LLC and Mayflower Transit, LLC. He was a past chairman of the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District and a past president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, in addition to serving twice in area mass transit leadership positions. In the 1990s, he chaired the agency responsible for coordinating the expansion to America’s Center which included the domed stadium. Mr. Baer was born and raised in south St. Louis. He attended St. Francis de Sales High School, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Beginning his career working for the City of St. Louis Division of Recreation in 1957, he served as deputy director of the Metropolitan St. Louis Human Development Corporation from 1964 to 1970. He was then employed for four years as chief of staff for Lawrence K. Roos, the County Executive of St. Louis County. In 1974, he was named executive director of Bi-State Development (which now operates the Metro public transportation system), a position he held for three years.

        In 1977, Mr. Baer joined United Van Lines as vice president and general manager. He was named United’s president in 1982 and, in 1988, was appointed president and chief operating officer of UniGroup, a newly formed holding company with United its largest operating entity. During Mr. Baer’s 25 years with United and UniGroup, the enterprise grew into one of the largest transportation corporations in the United States with consolidated annual revenues of $2 billion. In 1995, UniGroup acquired a second household goods mover, Mayflower Transit of Carmel, Ind. Mr. Baer served as chief operating officer of United, Mayflower, and sister UniGroup companies Vanliner (Insurance) Group, Inc., Total Transportation Services, and UniGroup Worldwide, Inc.

        Following his retirement from UniGroup, Mr. Baer continued to serve UniGroup for several years as a member of the Vanliner board of directors. He also was on the boards of Stifel Financial Corp., U.S. Bank, and Drury Hotels.

        In addition to his UniGroup corporate responsibilities, Mr. Baer contributed his time and leadership abilities to a variety of community service organizations and agencies over a period of more than 20 years. From 1985 to 1989, he was president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, overseeing the activities of the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department which included the construction of the first new police stations in decades. In 1990, he accepted the chairmanship of the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, which was responsible for a $300 million expansion of the city’s convention center and construction of the domed stadium. A park on Broadway east of the dome was designated “Baer Plaza” in recognition of Mr. Baer’s role in the project.

        Mr. Baer was chairman of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District from March 2003 until March 2005, and he remained on that board until April 2006. His previous experience leading Bi-State Development was instrumental in his appointment, in December 2007, as acting head of Metro Transit. The “temporary” job grew into a three-year assignment, concluding in 2010 after voter approval of a ballot proposition to ensure the ongoing financial sustainability of public transit in St. Louis.

      Among his other civic activities, Mr. Baer was founder of the Thomas Dunn Memorial Adult Education Program in the mid-1950s. He was an emeritus member of Civic Progress. He was the recipient of numerous awards for many achievements throughout his career. (Kutis Funeral Home)

Again, I never met him. I can’t speak to how he was personally, as a boss, as a civic leader.  I imagine getting the city, county, and state to work together to build a stadium in the hope of getting an expansion team takes a lot of skill.

Plaque denoting the dedication on August 13, 1997 — 7 weeks from today.

Even if an event doesn’t acknowledge the 25th anniversary, or Baer’s contributions, the plaza should be cleaned up.

The paved portion of the plaza is where most of the cleaning needs to happen. You can kinda see how the center is darker than the perimeter.

The paved center has several drains — but all have been clogged for years.

Another clogged drain, with plenty of caked dirt around each.

With the drains clogged a good rain turns the plaza into a shallow pond. June 2021. This means groups can’t plan to use this space for events in case it rains just prior.

At the base of the trees there’s a collection of twigs & small branches.

There’s also a few areas with more compostable material.

The biggest project is getting the drains cleared. This means hiring a company to provide this service. Once the drains are cleaned out, the entire circular plaza needs to be power washed. It’s all filthy and looks it. The concrete and bricks are in good condition, they just need a good cleaning. Again, this is a project to hire out, maybe the downtown Clean Team?

The sports commission that operates the Dome and this plaza recently came into a bit of money, I think unclogging drains and cleaning the hard materials would be a good investment. Especially since the XFL will be returning in 2023.

All the hard surfaces along Broadway north toward Cole Street also need cleaning. Additionally toward the north end a few tree wells need a little sprucing up.

This is the worst tree well. It needs more dirt to fill in the low areas (left) — there’s dirt in the ADA ramp on Cole @ 6th that might do the trick.

Some of these northern tree wells could benefit from more liriope & lillies, like the others.

That’s it: unclog a few drains, power wash all pervious materials, a little dirt and a few plants.  If not done before the anniversary, perhaps the anniversary date is the day for a big project with volunteers.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Residential Building Will Replace Short 1968 Bank Building at 620 Market in Downtown St. Louis

June 20, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Real Estate Comments Off on New Residential Building Will Replace Short 1968 Bank Building at 620 Market in Downtown St. Louis

The 2-story building at 620 Market Street, at 7th, was built in 1968. Most recently it was Mike Shannon’s restaurant, originally it was a bank with drive-through tellers. My first time in this building was in the early 1990s when the offices for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments — the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The building faces 3 streets: Market, 7th, and Walnut.

620 Market is located on the SE corner of Market & 7th. March 2022.

Alley between 620 Market (left) and the back of the Hilton parking garage (right). This alley may be privately owned by the hotel, not sure. March 2022.

Original bank night deposit box facing the alley on the east side.

The bank’s drive through tellers were accessed from Market Street. The access to the new building’s garage parking will be on this side. March 2022

Soon the building will be razed so a new building can be constructed on the site. Good riddance. Seriously, it’s awful for a central business district, but it’s exactly what to expect from the 1960s. Here’s more photos from years past.

Seventh Street faced of 620 Market, at Walnut. May 2012

The Walnut side, facing south toward Busch Stadium II when new. This was taken in April 2013 during phase 1 construction for Ballpark Village.

This May 2015 view from the Railway Exchange shows the context before phase 2 of Ballpark Village was built. Click image to see larger version.

620 Market top center in March 2016, during the removal of the old Kiener Plaza. Looking at 7th & Market.

The Market Street entrance to 620 Market, February 2016.

 

The new building won’t be an office building, but rental units over parking — exactly what you’d expect in today’s current development climate.

The construction will be a 3-story garage with 5 stories of wood-frame units above. There will be both street and paid garage parking. Public dog park areas abound and a 3rd floor courtyard facing the east will provide residents with an outdoor pool and yoga. A roof top viewing deck of the Arch and the Stadium and the skyline will be a great amenity. An on-site leasing office, cyber cafe and a community/fitness area will be placed on the ground floor along with 4955 square feet of retail/restaurant space. (Garrison Companies)

The developer’s website mentions the Ballpark MetroLink station only a couple of blocks away, and the new residential building over a new Target under construction at the Grand MetroLink station. Though they think Grand is “only a light rail stop away.” These light rail references combined with the “paid garage parking” tells me a parking spot won’t be included in the rent — such unbundled parking is ideal. Hopefully I’m reading this correctly.

While all the downtown condos I’m aware of all have an assigned space, many rental buildings don’t include a parking spot. Less “free” parking means fewer cars, greater use of public transit.

620 Market is on the left side. some units in the new building will have great views of Kiemer Plaza and parades on Market Street. May 2017 photo.

 

 

Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

May 19, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Plazas Comments Off on Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago the trees at the renovated Kiener Plaza looked so new, provided no shade. Now they’ve matured nicely. Saturday we spent 2+ hours sitting in the shade.

Look at the size of the trees on the right, they provide actual shade now.

This February view shows the new visitor center building. The trees are bigger but hadn’t put on level for the seaso9n yet.

Same area, at the reopening in 2017

The awful May Amphitheater sunk into the west end of the previous Kiener Plaza.

It’s nice seeing Kiener Plaza be a space that can hold thousands of people and still function. Now if only we could do something about those two parking garages across Chestnut, to the north.

— Steve Patterson

 

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