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Kiener Parking Garages Need A Major Facelift

Work has started on the $19 million revamp of Kiener Plaza”, which will help guide visitors to the upcoming city-facing entrance to the museum under the Arch. With the 1980s Arch parking garage razed visitors will be directed to existing parking garages in the central business district (CBD) — largely the two Kiener garages — across Chestnut Street from Kiener Plaza.

The East & West Kiener garages are highly visible
The East & West Kiener garages are highly visible
From Market & Broadway
From Market & Broadway

After investing a billion in changes to improve the Arch experience and connectivity to downtown, the first & last thing many will see are the Kiener garages. Today I want to discuss the problems and how we might solve them.

The Problems

  • They’re privately owned
  • Owner has little financial incentive to make them more attractive
  • They’re in too good of condition to buy & replace
All four sides of two city blocks are covered in the most awful concrete panels
All four sides of two city blocks are covered in the most awful concrete panels
6th Street is awful with a garage on each side
6th Street is awful with a garage on each side
The layout is dated
The layout is dated
They were built in 1964 (East) and 1966 (West). The garage in the background was used for Famous-Barr for decades -- built in 1962. Photo is approximately 1963-64, from my personal collection
They were built in 1964 (East) and 1966 (West). The garage in the background was used for Famous-Barr for decades — built in 1962. Photo is approximately 1963-64, from my personal collection
The pedestrian entry/exit points require walking into deep walkways, the materials, lighting, elevator, etc don't add up to a positive impression
The pedestrian entry/exit points require walking into deep walkways, the materials, lighting, elevator, etc don’t add up to a positive impression
The East garage pedestrian entry
The East garage pedestrian entry

 

There is some good news…

Built with ground floor retail on all four sides of each -- very rare in the mid-60s.
Built with ground floor retail on all four sides of each — very rare in the mid-60s.
The structures have been maintained. This is structural repairs being made in 2010
The structures have been maintained. This is structural repairs being made in 2010
The concrete exterior panels are attached to the structure, not part of it.
The concrete exterior panels are attached to the structure, not part of it.

The Solutions

With the ugly concrete panels being attacked to the structure one solution is to remove them and reskin it. Easier said than done, but worthy of discussion. Before I go any further let me say I don’t know how this would be paid for. The city has offered facade grants to building owners before, but otherwise using public money on a private building has issues. Perhaps tax abatement if the owner does it? I think this can be figured out — let’s discuss the design.

The old anchors into the structure might not support a new skin after the concrete skin is cut off. Despite being open in the center the exterior walls should continue to allow for airflow — natural ventilation eliminates the need for costly mechanical systems.

I think creative types could come up with some interesting ideas on how to reskin these. I want to share one such parking garage I saw in Cincinnati in November.

This colorful screen appears to be rather simple in construction, click image to view in Google Street View
This colorful screen appears to be rather simple in construction, click image to view in Google Street View
From the sidewalk
From the sidewalk
At night
At night

This screen on an old garage was the work of artist Julian Stanczak, it is titled “Additional”. I like that the Cincinnati garage only had this colorful side facing 6th St.

In St. Louis each of the two Kiener garages could have something unique for each, for each side, or both. I think everyone would agree the South facades facing Kiener Plaza are the most visually important.  All facades should look good day & night — same for the pedestrian entrances for each.

In the past people have mentioned giant video screens but those are costly, cut off airflow, and contribute to light pollution. Steel mesh, colored aluminum, LED lights, etc. are just some of the materials that come to mind. I’d like to see solar panels on the South facade and a new roof canopy to generate power for new LED lighting.

Thanks to reader “Mark-AL” for technical advice.

— Steve Patterson

 

A Decade Since Locust Street Returned To Two-Way Traffic

February 16, 2016 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Planning & Design, Transportation, Walkability Comments Off on A Decade Since Locust Street Returned To Two-Way Traffic

A decade ago I was still living in South St. Louis, but I posted about a street I would move to within 2 years:

What a difference! Today I drove the full length of Locust Street from 14th west to Teresa (just shy of Grand). For the first time since I’ve lived in St. Louis, I was able to drive eastbound on Locust. It was like a totally different street!

Heading westbound from downtown you see new markings on the street when you are approaching 14th Street behind the library. The right lane becomes a right-turn only lane while the left lane is forward or a left turn. Ahead you can see temporary two-way signs that will likely stay around until people have adjusted to the change.

Driving down the street I noticed myself not wanting to drive as fast. With only a single lane in my direction and cars coming the other way in their lane it just didn’t seem like a high-speed escape route anymore. I knew if would feel different but it was more profound than I had anticipated. Locust St. Now Two-Way West of 14th!

That was ten years ago today — here are a few of images from that post:

In November 2007 I bought a loft in the building on the left.
In November 2007 I bought a loft in the building on the left.
Looking West from 14th & Locust. This signalized intersection still doesn't have crosswalk markings. Click image to see recent post on crosswalks.
Looking West from 14th & Locust. This signalized intersection still doesn’t have crosswalk markings. Click image to see recent post on crosswalks.
Looking West from 17th
Looking West from 17th

I can imagine  how awful these last eight years would’ve been if Locust St had remained one-way Westbound. Hopefully we’ll get around to changing Pine & Chestnut back to two-way traffic West of Tucker (12th) – 14th.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

More On Soccer Stadiums

Yesterday’s post was my site idea for locating a Major League Soccer (MLS) downtown — Downtown West, to be precise. In trying to figure out if a soccer-specific stadium would fit I looked at other recently built stadiums. Today I thought I’d share some of the research.  I like to start with a big picture historical view — knowing where we’ve been helps to know where we may go.

The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team originated in St. Louis in 1875, as the Brown Stockings. The team started here, has stayed here. The Chicago Cardinals football team moved to St. Louis for the 1960 season — staying through the 1987 season. St. Louis was just a pit stop. In 1967 the St. Louis Blues hockey team was created during the NHL’s first expansion — doubling in size to twelve teams. Founded here, stayed here.

And of course, the always moving Rams:

  • Cleveland 1936-1945
  • Los Angeles 1946-1994
  • St. Louis 1995-2015
  • Los Angeles 2016-

Teams that were founded here, have stayed here. Teams founded elsewhere —  that moved here — moved again.

What about soccer?

The earliest record of organized soccer in St. Louis date to 1881. In 1891, the St. Louis Soccer League was organized, and before long, amateur soccer was flourishing in the city. Unlike other cities where clubs were often associated with immigrant working communities and sponsored by ethnic social clubs, many of the major clubs in St. Louis were associated with churches and parishes, and later with manufacturing & retail companies. The catholic parishes in St. Louis, through the CYC chapters, adopted soccer as an inexpensive mass participation sport for their recreational programs, and it wasn’t long before the top teams were winning national honors. One result of this is the long history in St. Louis of developing home grown talent rather than attracting foreign players to the top level professional leagues. 

The Kensingtons won the first two league championships, followed by Blue Bells and St. Teresa’s. Later, the first dynasty was established by St. Leo’s who won nine consecutive championships between 1905/06 and 1913/14. St. Leo’s was originally composed entirely of members of the St. Leo’s Sodality, a church men’s organization. After the team opened its memberships to outsiders, it began its championship run. They were also the first team to tour the East, as they played a series of New Jersey teams in tours during this time. St. Louis soccer grew very early on, and the leagues have been strong from the beginning, but the city also had a very independent tradition, and even after the local association joined the United States Soccer Federation, it remained somewhat aloof, not fully integrating itself into the national body until 1918.
(History of Soccer in St. Louis — recommenced)

So soccer has a very long history in St. Louis.

To see if a soccer stadium would fit in Downtown West I needed to look at dimensions.

A soccer-specific stadium typically has amenities, dimensions and scale suitable for soccer in North America, including a scoreboard, video screen, luxury suites and possibly a roof. The field dimensions are within the range found optimal by FIFA: 110–120 yards (100–110 m) long by 70–80 yards (64–73 m) wide, These soccer field dimensions are wider than the regulation American football field width of 53 1?3 yards (48.8 m), or the 65-yard (59 m) width of a Canadian football field. The playing surface should also consist of grass as opposed to artificial turf, since the latter makes players more susceptible to injuries.

Lastly, the seating capacity is generally small enough to provide an intimate setting, between 18,000 and 30,000 for a Major League Soccer franchise, or smaller for minor league soccer teams. This is in comparison to the much larger American football stadiums that mostly range between 60,000 – 80,000 in which the original North American Soccer League teams played at and most MLS teams participated in during the league’s inception. (Wikipedia: Soccer-specific stadium)

I also looked at some recent stadiums and how those would overlay in the area bounded by Pine, 20th, Market, and 22nd (new). The distance between Market and Pine is tight, between 20th and 22nd generous — assuming the pitch was oriented East-West. Placing the pitch North-South might be better — would give lots of room to the East & West sides for amenities. Ideally restaurants, team store, etc would face 20th Street. I love the idea of the main stadium entry being located at 20th & Market. A tower at that corner could have a rooftop restaurant open year round with Eastern views of Aloe Plaza/Gateway Mall, Union Station, Civil Courts,  and the Arch.

Approximate view looking East from new tower at 20th & Market/Chestnut
Approximate view looking East from new tower at 20th & Market/Chestnut

There is a preference for urban stadiums:

Going urban also helps activate the building on non-gamedays with everything from company picnics on the pitch to conferences in suites and club spaces that offer more than the mundane four walls of a downtown hotel.

“It is an amazing thing to have (the stadium) in the heart of downtown,” Portland Timbers president of operations Mike Golub, tells SI.com. “The energy, intimacy and passion comes through.” (Sports Illustrated)

Providence Park in Portland OR is an urban neighborhood (aerial). I’m still reviewing Wikipedia’s List of Major League Soccer stadiums. More will open in 2017 & 2018.

As I stated yesterday, I think any new soccer stadium should[n’t] be owned by the public. I think government’s role would be to rework the public streets and highway on/off ramps to free up land for private development.  The city/state were responsible for the existing hole in the urban fabric — they’re responsible to piece it back together. Part of this investment into getting currently wasted land ready for development would be a form-based zoning code to achieve a walkable urban neighborhood once fully built out.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

A Great Site For A Major League Soccer (MLS) Stadium In Downtown St. Louis

Last week Major League Soccer (MLS) officials indicated they’re interested in expanding — adding a team in St. Louis:

Major League Soccer will begin searching for a stadium site in St. Louis and planning for its financing and operations immediately, the league’s commissioner told the Post-Dispatch Thursday. (Post-Dispatch)

The site they shouldn’t consider is the North riverfront one previously targeted for a significantly larger NFL stadium — we shouldn’t tear down buildings when we have vacant land available. We have land, mostly state owned, without any buildings and a target for redevelopment for years already. I’m talking about the 22nd Street Interchange area — an area on the West side of downtown I’ve written about numerous times over the 11+ years.

Large area of mostly unused land on the West edge of downtown, the views East are spectacular -- would look great during televised broadcasts
Large area of mostly unused land on the West edge of downtown, the views East are spectacular — would look great during televised broadcasts
Same image without the text & lines
Same image without the text & lines

Why this location?

  1. Brings needed activity/development to Downtown West
  2. Right size for stadium
  3. Paul McKee was going to redevelop the area, but nothing has happened yet
  4. Most of the land is owned by Missouri or St. Louis
  5. Would not involve relocating any residents or businesses
  6. Doesn’t require the demolition of any buildings
  7. Numerous hotels already serve this area
  8. New stadium could anchor West end of the Gateway Mall, events could take place in Aloe Plaza
  9. Market St viaduct/bridge is in poor condition
  10. Great views to the East.
  11. Would give a reason for the #99 Downtown Trolley (Bus) to make a complete circle and serving Downtown West, operating in both directions

What physically needs to happen for this to work?

  1. Gateway Greening’s urban farm project would need to be relocated
  2. Street grid restored, Pine/Chestnut 1-way couplet returned to 2-way traffic
  3. Highway on/off ramps need to be reworked:
    1. Entrance onto I-64 in both directions from 22nd & Clark
    2. EB off ramp connects to grid at 21st & Clark instead of 20th & Chestnut
    3. WB off ramp connects to grid at Clark between 21st-22nd
    4. Roundabouts may help along Clark at on/off ramps

What politically needs to happen for this to work?

  1. Elected officials need to abandon the idea of razing the North Riverfront
  2. City/region/state pays for these new roads/sidewalks, on/off ramps
  3. New ownership group pays for the actual stadium
  4. Form-based code to ensure development creates an urban pedestrian-friendly neighborhood over the next 15-20 years

Below is a rough mock-up:

The blue box near the center is the stadium site, red are new streets/ramps, Purple are development sites, yellow is a revised trolley route. Click image to view map in Google Maps
The blue box near the center is the stadium site, red are new streets/ramps, Purple are development sites, yellow is a revised trolley route. Click image to view map in Google Maps

Here are some additional images to show current conditions:

The EB highway off ramp could end at 21st & Clark
The EB highway off ramp could end at 21st & Clark
Looking North from 21st & Eugenia
Looking North from 21st & Eugenia
The area between 21st & 22nd could be infilled with new development
The area between 21st & 22nd could be infilled with new development
From the existing EB I-64 off ramp
From the existing EB I-64 off ramp
Under the Market St bridge/viaduct. This would be filled in so Market would be at grade
Under the Market St bridge/viaduct. This would be filled in so Market would be at grade
Repair on the Market St bridge/viaduct
Repair on the Market St bridge/viaduct
Exposed rebar on Market
Exposed rebar on Market
Looking down from Market to where the 22nd Parkway was to continue North, and tight ramp leading to 20th at Chestnut.
Looking down from Market to where the 22nd Parkway was to continue North, and tight ramp leading to 20th at Chestnut.
Looking West from 20th & Chestnut
Looking West from 20th & Chestnut
20th & Pine, privately owned parking lot would become part of stadium site
20th & Pine, privately owned parking lot would become part of stadium site
Area North of Pine could see infill development
Area North of Pine could see infill development
Pine could become 2-way again -- another route East from Jefferson
Pine could become 2-way again — another route East from Jefferson
Gateway Greening's Urban Farm
Gateway Greening’s Urban Farm
Gateway Greening's Urban Farm has used some of this excess land, would need to relocate to other vacant land
Gateway Greening’s Urban Farm has used some of this excess land, would need to relocate to other vacant land
West of 20th is Aloe Plaza West Extension -- really just leftover from the off ramp. This should be the prime corner of a new MLS stadium
West of 20th is Aloe Plaza West Extension — really just leftover from the off ramp. This should be the prime corner of a new MLS stadium

I think this location offers the chance to create a new neighborhood and provide the environment/experience desired by the MLS.

— Steve Patterson

 

Porano Pasta Is Just What Downtown Needed

February 5, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Retail 5 Comments

The closing of two long-time downtown restaurants last month got a lot of media attention, so did the new restaurant that opened: Porano Pasta.

News of this restaurant broke a year ago:

Chef Gerard Craft of Niche and its affiliated restaurants will open a fast-casual concept called Porano Pasta & Gelato at the Mercantile Exchange downtown. Porano will draw on the food served at Craft’s Clayton restaurant Pastaria and follow what he calls the “Chipotle format.”

[snip]

Porano will be open for lunch and dinner. Diners will build their meals by choosing a base (organic semolina pasta, gluten-free pasta, farro, focaccia or lettuce), a protein (slow-roasted beef brisket, pork shoulder, pork meatballs, grilled free-range chicken, Calabrian-spiced tofu or roasted seasonal vegetables) and a sauce (pomodoro, pomodoro with smoked pork or roasted red pepper) or salad dressing.

Diners can further customize their meal with such toppings as cheese, anchovies and pickled chiles. Pastaria gelato will be available in single-serve cups (complete with wooden spoons).

Porano will take over the space at 634 Washington Avenue previously occupied by Takaya New Asian. Craft projects a summer opening date.

They didn’t make their original schedule — it has only been open for a few weeks. Right now they’re only open for weekday lunch, but hours will soon be extended into the evening and weekends.

Porano Pasta at 7th & Washington Ave is inviting
Porano Pasta at 7th & Washington Ave is inviting
The place filled quickly on my visit on Wednesday
The place filled quickly on my visit on Wednesday
You go through a line where you pick your items and the staff assemble your dish. It moved very quickly.
You go through a line where you pick your items and the staff assemble your dish. It moved very quickly.
I got the organic semolina pasta, pomodoro sauce, half spicy tofu & half seasonal veggies two kinds & crunch garlic.
I got the organic semolina pasta, pomodoro sauce, half spicy tofu & half seasonal veggies two kinds & crunch garlic. $8.95
As "fast casual" you don't use fine dinnerware. but everything I used can be recycled. -- including the bowl & fork
As “fast casual” you don’t use fine dinnerware. but everything I used can be recycled. — including the bowl & fork
A staff person is often around to help, but I noticed recyclable items in the trash container on the right.
A staff person is often around to help, but I noticed recyclable items in the trash container on the right.

Fast casual pasta has been tried downtown before — remember 10th Street Italian or Pasta House Pronto!? Both of those were failed concepts, but Porano Pasta has nailed the concept. While $8.95 isn’t cheap, the same meal on good china with metal silverware would cost twice as much and take at least twice as long.

The location is ideal, lots of daily foot traffic. With a great mix of restaurants & a theater, the MX is a happening spot. Soon the Blues Museum will open across the street.

My one suggestion is a new sign over the recycling bin that has images of what can be recycled.

— Steve Patterson

 

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