Home » Downtown » Recent Articles:

Contents Of Blue Bag: Purse, Lunch, or ?

You might recall a post from last August where I showed a driver had been repeatedly placing a blank parking ticket on his vehicle, and a parking enforcement officer placing a large blue bag in the rear seat. If not, see Parking Enforcement Officer Kept Putting A Blue Bag In A Vehicle Displaying A Fake Ticket.

Parking enforcement officer carrying a big blue bag to the Ford Edge, August 2015
Parking enforcement officer carrying a big blue bag to the Ford Edge, August 2015

Many were curious about the situation and contents of the bag. Even though I was threatened by the owner of the Ford Edge, the police refused to do anything — they turned it over to the Treasurer’s office who oversees parking. The Treasurer’s office refused to tell me anything beyond it was a personnel matter, the POE was suspended without pay for two weeks. Case closed.

What I didn’t know, until recently, was Post-Dispatch transportation reporter Leah Thorsen was pursuing the matter.     She filed a formal records request, which was declined citing personnel issues. An appeal to the Attorney General was also denied.

However, very recently she was told by the Treasurer’s chief of staff, Jared Boyd, it “was a gym bag with a purse inside.” Really? Who puts a purse inside a gym bag and drops it off routinely? After I met with the reporter I suggested she ask the owner of the Ford Edge — I still see it routinely — just parked in the YMCA lot rather than on the street. A week ago she asked him:

On Monday, the SUV was parked in the Downtown YMCA lot, where patrons must pay $1.50 to park during daytime hours.

As he left the gym, I asked him what was in the bag placed in his vehicle over the summer.

“It was a lunch bag,” he said before slamming the Edge’s door. (Post-Dispatch)

I think only two people know the contents: the PEO & the owner of the Ford Edge. I knew it was a gym bag — but they can hold a myriad of things. Months ago I saw a PEO pulled into the YMCA parking lot but I couldn’t tell if a bag was dropped off. Since then I’ve not witnessed anything suspicious.  The purse (wink) or lunch (wink) drop offs ceased.

Tishaura Jones is running for reelection as Treasurer, the primary is August 2nd. Filing closes March 29th.

— Steve Patterson

 

Downtown Trolley Route Expands To Compton Starting March 14th

Tuesday’s post (Metro Makes Long-Needed Changes at 18th & Clark, Still Violates ADA) listed the many MetroBus route changes effective March 14th, one of which was the #99 Downtown Trolley. As mentioned in a July 2014 post, the Trolley will reach Union Station — and well-beyiond, as it turns out.

First, some history…

Me leaving the #99 Downtown Trolley after the first ride on July 6, 2010. This replaced the #99 Downtown Circulator that used non-wrapped buses. Photo by Jim Merkel, Suburban Journals
Me leaving the #99 Downtown Trolley after the first ride on July 6, 2010. This replaced the #99 Downtown Circulator that used non-wrapped buses. Photo by Jim Merkel, Suburban Journals
In 2014 new low-floor buses replaced the ones used since 2010
In 2014 new low-floor buses replaced the ones used since 2010
The trolley route hasn't changed except the addition of one stop on Spruce at 14th.
The trolley route hasn’t changed except the addition of one stop on Spruce at 14th.

The route — until March 14th — had a loop at each end: City Museum and Civic Center MetroBus Center. Mostly in Downtown, a little in Downtown West (West of Tucker).

Overview of new route, click image to view PDF
Overview of new route, click image to view PDF
New West extension, only daytime on weekdays
New West extension, only daytime on weekdays

As you can see, it’ll now turn around at 18th & Clark, with some turn arounds still at Civic Center. The main difference is going much farther West on Market Street into Midtown. This will connect more businesses with the Central Business District (CBD). It’ll also show how bad this area is for pedestrians trying to use public transit — see Harris-Stowe State University Campus Disconnected From Adjacent City.

I personally would like to see the trolley not do the 14th/Delmar/16th loop around City Museum — but continue on Washington Ave to 18th or 20th — to reach Market. This would better serve Downtown West, a stronger connection with the CBD.  Rather than them turning around on each end half would go clockwise, half counter-clockwise.

Looking forward to riding the new route, checking out the new stops.

— Steve Patterson

b

b

b

b

b

b

b

 

Metro Makes Long-Needed Changes at 18th & Clark, Still Violates ADA

In a couple of weeks Metro’s new North County Transit Center will open, so many MetroBus routes will see major changes:

Metro’s quarterly service change on March 14 will impact the operations of 48 MetroBus routes in the St. Louis metropolitan region, including the introduction of nine new MetroBus routes and discontinuation of service on eight routes. This service change will also introduce a new and completely redesigned MetroBus service plan for North St. Louis County, made possible with the opening of the new North County Transit Center in Ferguson, Missouri on March 14. (Metro)

On that same day, changes will take place in downtown (technically Downtown West):

The Civic Center Transit Center is scheduled to be closed down for construction activity shortly, at a date to be decided. In advance of the closure, Metro has prepared bus stops at 18th Street & Clark Street, adjacent to the Union Station MetroLink, to provide the same system connectivity. 

The routing and schedules of the routes serving the Civic Center Transit Center have been modified to serve 18th Street & Clark Street to ensure the same connections with the other MetroBus routes and MetroLink at Union Station instead.

Please note that till the closure of the Civic Center Transit Center, these routes will continue to serve the Civic Center Transit Center. Public Announcement of the closure of the Civic Center Transit Center will be made in advance of the event. (Metro)

The following MetroBus routes will change to include 18th & Clark.

  • 10 Chippewa
  • 32 ML King-Chouteau
  • 41 Lee
  • 73 Carondelet
  • 80 Park-Shaw
  • 94 Page
  • 97 Delmar
  • 99 Downtown Trolley
  • 40X I-55 Express
  • 58X Twin Oaks Express
  • 410X Eureka Express

When I need to catch the #10 Westbound I do so at 16th & Olive, but starting March 14th it’ll use 18th rather than 14th Street. Same goes for the #97  — I usually catch it at 16th & Washington but it’ll turn on 18th.  Those who ride the #94 & #97 to Washington & 14th, then catch the #99 Downtown Trolley to take them the rest of the way into the Central Business District (CBD), will need to figure out an alternates. Perhaps catching the Trolley bus at Civic Center/18th & Clark? That’ll require more time though — years ago more bus routes entered the CBD.

For a few months now I’ve been watching the changes at 18th & Clark. I posted about the upcoming Civic Center changes in 2014, see Civic Center Transit Center Sans Trees, Awaiting Redo.

Before I get into the recent changes along Clark I want to show you the before conditions, in October 2011 & August 2012.

Looking west toward the Union Station MetroLink Station from 16th & Clark, October 2011.
Looking west toward the Union Station MetroLink Station from 16th & Clark, October 2011.
At 18th pedestrians had worn a more direct path since MetroLink opened in 1993, October 2011
At 18th pedestrians had worn a more direct path since MetroLink opened in 1993, October 2011
The crosswalk to Union Station led directly to a curb, those of us in wheelchairs had to go outside the crosswalk and use the auto exit, at right -- a clear ADA violation for years, August 2012
The crosswalk to Union Station led directly to a curb, those of us in wheelchairs had to go outside the crosswalk and use the auto exit, at right — a clear ADA violation for years, August 2012

Ok, so now you’ve seen the before. In December last year I began seeing work going on so I braved the cold one day to get some pics:

The asphalt in the parking lane was removed, sidewalk & curb ramp at 16th also removed, December 2015
The asphalt in the parking lane was removed, sidewalk & curb ramp at 16th also removed, December 2015
The old bricks were visible, street trees gone, December 2015
The old bricks were visible, street trees gone, December 2015
The corner was completely opened up, forms were placed for new concrete, December 2015
The corner was completely opened up, forms were placed for new concrete, December 2015
Looking West across 18th you can see the curb & sidewalk have been removed, December 2015
Looking West across 18th you can see the curb & sidewalk have been removed, December 2015
From the West side of 18th looking back, December 2015
From the West side of 18th looking back, December 2015

I was encouraged seeing the West end of the crosswalk completely removed — a fresh start so it’ll be done correctly! I returned a month later, in late January:

Now we can see the sidewalk has been widened, replacing half the parking lane, January 2016
Now we can see the sidewalk has been widened, replacing half the parking lane, January 2016
About halfway between 16th -18th the extra sidewalk narrows to the original width, January 2016
About halfway between 16th -18th the extra sidewalk narrows to the original width, January 2016
Looking across 18th we see at the end of the crosswalk --- A NEW CURB! WTF!?!
Looking across 18th we see at the end of the crosswalk — A NEW CURB! WTF!?! January 2016
Pedestrians taking the direct route from MetroLkink East across 18th, with the ramp on the left, January 2016
Pedestrians taking the direct route from MetroLkink East across 18th, with the ramp on the left, January 2016

I returned again, a month later, on February 26th:

The widest park, near 16th
The widest park, near 16th, February 2016
Temporary bus shelters added in the narrow section makes it tight, February 2016
Temporary bus shelters added in the narrow section makes it tight, February 2016
There are new benches in places , February 2016
There are new benches in places , February 2016
Crosswalk not yet changed to include the new curb ramp, February 2016
Crosswalk not yet changed to include the new curb ramp, February 2016

The ramp location behind the crosswalk is a head scratcher, for sure. I resisted the urge to post it to social media — opting to wait until the project is closer to completion.  I even went back yesterday to see if the crosswalk had been changed. It hasn’t. I also discovered another problem: pedestrian signal location.

I arrived on the West side just as people pushing a stroller used the ramp to cross 18th
I arrived on the West side just as people pushing a stroller used the ramp to cross 18th
That's when I noticed the pedestrian signs, far right, wasn't visible. The ramps also aren't aligned, but we already knew they wouldn't.
That’s when I noticed the pedestrian signs, far right, wasn’t visible. The ramps also aren’t aligned, but we already knew they wouldn’t.
The pedestrian signal is visible only when way South pf the ramp & crosswalk
The pedestrian signal is visible only when way South pf the ramp & crosswalk
From the same spot you can see the ramp. My chair is very fast so I was able to wait for the walk signal then move to the ramp & cross -- but not everyone can move so quickly
From the same spot you can see the ramp. My chair is very fast so I was able to wait for the walk signal then move to the ramp & cross — but not everyone can move so quickly
From the East side you can see the back of the pedestrian signal and how it doesn't relate to the other side
From the East side you can see the back of the pedestrian signal and how it doesn’t relate to the other side

The best words that come to mind are gross incompetence. Both sides were completely opened up — all new concrete. That was the time to move pedestrian signals so they align with the crosswalk, to build the new ramps so they also align. I’m not sure if St. Louis’ new bike-pedestrian coordinator reviewed this, but other civil engineers did see it on paper. This is yet another thing making me realize I need to live in another city.

— Steve Patterson

 

Long-Vacant Jefferson Arms May Finally Be Occupied Again

News broke Wednesday of a developer having the Jefferson Arms, originally known as The Hotel Jefferson, under contract:

Mike Sarimsakci, founder and president of real estate developer Alterra International, has the building under contract for an undisclosed price.

His plans for the Jefferson Arms were unclear but could be similar to Alterra’s hotel-and-apartment redevelopment of an old Butler Brothers warehouse in Dallas, officials said.

Real estate investor David Jump, who owns the building, was unavailable for comment. (Jefferson Arms renovation possible — Post-Dispatch)

While this is exciting news, it isn’t the first time in the last decade the building was to be renovated.

East facade facing Tucker (12th), June 2013
East facade facing Tucker (12th), June 2013

Pyramid Construction, before going under in 2008, had bought the building  — in 2007 Pyramid kicked out the existing residents (seniors) to prepare for renovation. This quote picks up the story:

After it was foreclosed on in 2009, the Jefferson Arms has been at the center of a four-year-long legal dispute involving [Barry] Cohen and the Federal National Mortgage Association.

In March 2011, a partnership led by Cohen filed a federal lawsuit in St. Louis against EF&A Funding, alleging an agent at EF&A gave Cohen misleading information when he refinanced a loan on the Jefferson Arms.

Cohen’s partnership, Affordable Communities of Missouri, also sued Federal National Mortgage Association, better known as mortgage giant Fannie Mae, seeking to recoup a $500,000 loan penalty paid after Cohen sold the Jefferson Arms building to Steffen’s company. EF&A later settled with the partnership, but Fannie Mae remained as a defendant. February 2015: Jefferson Arms shows complexities of downtown dealmaking — Post-Dispatch

In 2012/13 it looked again like something might happen:

Not so fast on writing off the plan by McGowan Brothers Development to rehab the empty Jefferson Arms in downtown St. Louis.

Owner David Jump has the building up for sale, but developer Tim McGowan said Friday that his company was still seeking federal New Markets Tax Credits to help finance the apartment redevelopment of the huge building at 415 North Tucker Boulevard.

McGowan said he hoped to find out in the first week of April if the Jefferson Arms project gets the federal tax credit this year. The project got shut out in last year’s allocation. (February 2013: McGowan Brothers still pursuing Jefferson Arms project — Post-Dispatch)

Hopefully this time the building will be renovated and reoccupied — I’m cautiously optimistic.

Like other large downtown buildings, such as the Arcade/Wright, the Jefferson Arms was built in phases — adding to the complexity of renovating for use in the 21st century. To understand the building one of the best sources is the 2003 nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The following are selected quotes:

Page 29:

The Hotel Jefferson, located at 415 North Tucker Boulevard in downtown St. Louis, is a thirteen-story steel frame hotel building and six-story reinforced concrete parking garage, all clad in Revival style veneers of brick and terra cotta. The east half of the hotel was built in 1904 and fronts 220 feet along the west side of Tucker Boulevard (once Twelfth Street) and 100 feet along St. Charles Street to the north, and Locust Street to the south. In 1928, the building expanded to the west another 100 feet. Also erected in 1928, the Jefferson Plaza Garage (measuring 145 feet by 110 feet) at the southeast corner of St. Charles and North Thirteenth Streets, joins the west elevation of the 1928 addition. The storefront level of both the original hotel building and the addition was altered circa 1953 when portions of the terra cotta veneer were replaced with grey and black granite. Metal panels were also installed to wrap around the columns and border the new entrance, which was moved back to its 1904 location at the center of the east (primary) elevation. The south elevation entrance was re-faced with black granite. Overall, the exterior facades of the hotel and garage buildings retain a strong sense of their historic identity as excellent examples of a large, early 20* century hotel in an urban environment. This is conveyed through the integrity ofmaterials and design, and the hotel’s setting and relationship to Tucker Boulevard, St. Louis’ widest street. Typical of numerous buildings in the central business district, exterior alterations to the hotel are confined to the lower two stories and the attic story in relationship to cornice modifications. Easily offsetting these modifications, the bulk of the Hotel Jefferson’s massive and imposing facades remain virtually unaltered and intact. Although the original layout ofthe guest rooms on the upper floors was changed when the rooms were remodeled into apartment units in 1976-77, the plan ofthe characteristic public spaces on the lower floors continues to reflect historic hotel functions. On the ground floor, these include the lobby, dining room, coffee shop, and storefronts. On the mezzanine level, two large banquet rooms retain significant Revival style detailing as well as plan.

In this view of the South facade along Locust St we can see the 1925 Shell Building (left), the annex (center), and original Hotel Jefferson (right)
In this view of the South facade along Locust St we can see the 1925 Shell Building (left), the annex (center), and original Hotel Jefferson (right)
From the Feb 1909 Sanborn map we see the 1904 original on the right, the remaining brick structures on the block (pink) would all be razed within a decade. Click image to view source map.
From the Feb 1909 Sanborn map we see the 1904 original on the right, the remaining brick structures on the block (pink) would all be razed within a decade. Click image to view source map.

Page 35

Ground was broken in mid-March, 1903, by Westlake Construction Co. and by May two shifts of crews working sixteen hours a day had pushed construction forward sufficiently to create a “steel forest” on Twelfth Street. The city’s broadest street, spanning a width of 150 feet, Twelfth (Tucker) had long been envisioned as a grand boulevard of monumental buildings likened to “what Unden der Linden is to Berlin, the show street of the city, because of its amplitude.”However, there was little evidence of the street’s potential before the tum-of-the-century. The completion of the new thirteen-story hotel commanding a full blockface on Twelfth thus promised at last to make the thoroughfare, “an ideal urban picture, the centerpiece of St.Louis as a metropolis…especially at night with electric lights reflected from damp pavements.”

Page 36

The hotel proper opened for guests on April 29 [1904], the eve of opening day of the fair. Registered dignitaries included the official delegation ofmembers ofthe U. S. Senate which, along with delegates from the House, represented the federal government at the opening ceremonies in the absence of President Theodore Roosevelt who telegraphically signaled the opening from his office in the White House. Suites ofrooms were also reserved for large state delegations from Ohio and Pennsylvania, and for numerous foreign noblemen. During fair year, the hotel served as headquarters for the Democratic National Convention as well as various other conventions, associations, and clubs.9

In 1916, the Hotel Jefferson again hosted the Democratic National Convention, this time leading to the second term of President Woodrow Wilson. The hotel’s sumptuous lobby,dining and cafe rooms also became favorite nightspots for local citizens. The opening in 1910 of the neighboring Shubert Theatre (later called the Jefferson Shubert) located across Locust Street in the Union Electric Building (demolished) attracted the after-theater crowd. A visiting traveler’s description in 1916 evokes something of the character of the hotel then: “we went over to the Jefferson to see society there … at midnight things begin to wake up at the Jefferson. Dozensoflimousinesunloadgladragsfullofhumanitywhowanttoeatand drink after the theaters. They used to employ artists to sing and dance for the guests but now, a space in the dining room is reserved and a part of the lobby is railed off so the guests themselves can dance between courses…They seem to have a lovely time and I wished I could be in ‘that element’.”

Page 38

The Jefferson Plaza Garage (Photos # 5, 6; Figs.16, 17, 18), erected in 1928 at the same time as the hotel annex, featured a facade of unusual architectural interest for garages of the period. Most garage facades of the 1920s (and later) in St. Louis displayed either structural concrete or standard red brick facing with little attempt at art. The materials ofthe primary (west) facade (along with the brick side elevations) ofthe Jefferson Plaza Garage matched the hotel annex’s buffbrick and cream terra cotta materials while respectfully addressing significant neighboring buildings on North Thirteenth Street such as the Shell Building (1925), Leopold Eidlitz’s Christ Church Cathedral (1859-67, NHL), and Cass Gilbert’s St. Louis Public Library (1910). The architects of record for the garage, Gill & Jackson (St. Louis), were assisted by W.J.Knight&Co.(St.Louis), consulting engineers specializing in reinforced concrete construction.

The garage’s utilitarian interior of exposed reinforced concrete construction exhibits a plan based on Fernand d’Humy’s 1919 patent for short,easy-graderampsandstaggered,split-levelfloors(Fig.16).The d’Humy patent, transferred to the Ramp Buildings Corporation (New York) which licensed use ofthe ramp system, became the standard design feature ofthe modern multi-level car park; the new building type offered quick and easy car access, an improvement over elevator garages ofthe 1920s. The six-story Jefferson Plaza Garage, originally accommodating 600 cars, was financed and built by St. Louisan William King who purchased the building lot from Hotel Jefferson interests in 1927 with the intent of collaborating with the hotel plans for expansion and upgraded service. While construction was in progress it was announced that the hotel and garage would be connected at the second story “so that tourists can drive directly to the garage and have no inconvenience from their luggage.” In 1924, William King, the former general manager of the Automobile Club of Missouri, had begun construction of the first of a series of four downtown commercial garages (all razed except the Jefferson Plaza) “in the hope ofrelieving parking and traffic congestion.” 

The garage faces 13th Street, across the street is Lucas Park. Barely visible is the Shell Building (right)
The garage faces 13th Street, across the street is Lucas Park. Barely visible is the Shell Building (right)

The nomination is great reading and it has great photos. You can see see recent images of the abandoned ballroom here.

I like that Alterra International is actually international — based in Turkey — with projects worldwide. The founding partner seems well-educated:

Mr. Sarimsakci holds a Masters’ degree from Stanford University’s Structural Engineering Department, and received his bachelor of science degree in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University. He is fluent in English, Russian, and Turkish.

They’re finishing up converting the Butler Brothers warehouse in Dallas into a hotel & apartments — maybe we can interest them in taking on our Butler Brothers warehouse?

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Zoning Should Not Be Used To Force Washington Ave To Become A Retail Street

There are some who envision one mile of our Washington Ave (from 4th to 18th) as being a retail street like the Delmar Loop or Chicago’s Magnificent Mile along Michigan Ave. One person even wants to use a proposed form-based code overlay to mandate a retail use on the ground floor. Yes, the idea of using a form-based code to regulate uses is illogical. The whole point of moving from use-based zoning to form-based zoning is to get the form correct.

Recognizing uses change more often than the physical form of buildings.

It was a December announcement that prompted this push for a retail street:

LockerDome, which currently has 45 employees, moved to a 6,800-square-foot storefront on Washington Avenue in 2012 but has outgrown that space, said its chief executive and co-founder Gabe Lozano.

After a 120-day build-out set to begin in the second half of 2016, LockerDome’s employees will move to occupy an 18,000-square-foot building a block away at 1314 Washington. (Post-Dispatch)

LockerDome is a St. Louis-based tech company.

LockerDome has been at 1221 Washington Ave since 2012, the space was previously occupied by an architectural firm. Their windows are never covered,
LockerDome has been at 1221 Washington Ave since 2012, the space was previously occupied by an architectural firm. Their windows are never covered,
In January I saw a woman, presumably an employee, working and eating lunch in one of the windows.
In January I saw a woman, presumably an employee, working and eating lunch in one of the windows.
Lockerdome will be moving to 1314 Washington Ave, currently occupied by the gym Fitness Factory. Their windows are never covered.
Lockerdome will be moving to 1314 Washington Ave, currently occupied by the gym Fitness Factory. Their windows are never covered.

Both have the form right, both have windows we can see into day & night. Some think a gym is an acceptable use on a retail street — but a high-tech firm is not. I personally don’t care what’s going on behind the facade. I can see into the windows when I pass by.

But one person would prevent LockreDome from occupying the ground floor of this building — he doesn’t want offices on ground floors. Yet, firms want to be located on Washington Ave. because it is the most vibrant part of Downtown/Downtown West. With the upper floors converted into residential there are too few options for large offices. For that matter, there are too few spaces for a larger retailer like a CVS/Walgreen’s.

What makes a credit union/bank lobby ok, but not a creative office?

It’s the non-creative offices that are the buzz kill…

The blinds at Rise Community Development have been closed since they moved intro 1627 Washington Ave, (right). The same space has been used for a clothing reseller and a restaurant,
The blinds at Rise Community Development have been closed since they moved intro 1627 Washington Ave, (right). The same space has been used for a clothing reseller and a restaurant,
Between Broadway (5th) and 6th the Stifel financial headquarters keeps their ground floor blinds shut.
Between Broadway (5th) and 6th the Stifel financial headquarters keeps their ground floor blinds shut.

Regulating uses is arbitrary — which is why I want the city of St. Louis to abandon old-fashioned Euclidean use-based zoning and adopt form-based zoning. Form-based zoning, however, can be used to regulate the form – largely windows & doors at the ground level where pedestrian activity it to be encouraged.

Many ground floor offices downtown keep their blinds closed 24/7 — that’s something a form-based code could/should address. We need uncovered windows where we can see activity going on inside. But could Washington Ave become a retail street like the Delmar Loop or Magnificent Mile?

No — both of those were built for retail purposes.

This mile of Washington Ave has had many uses over the decades — the middle part included sweatshops where immigrants manufactured clothing, shoes, hats, etc. Items sold in stores all over the country, possibly in the Sears catalog. It wasn’t a retail street then.

Today Washington Ave is largely a restaurant street, with the occasional niche retail merchant. Besides bars/restaurants the other common “retail” use is hair salons.

Both storefronts at 1619 Washington Ave are salons.
Both storefronts at 1619 Washington Ave are salons.

Another problem are the many gaps in continuity.

Our convention center occupies two blocks of Washington Ave -- from 7th to 9th
Our convention center occupies two blocks of Washington Ave — from 7th to 9th
Former CPI parking lot between 16th-17th
Former CPI parking lot between 16th-17th

Get the form right — including being able to look into ground floor spaces. Don’t fret about the users.

— Steve Patterson

 

Advertisement



FACEBOOK POSTS

This message is only visible to admins.

Problem displaying Facebook posts.
Click to show error

Error: Server configuration issue

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe