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Readers: Keep Central Express Open

January 16, 2013 Downtown, Education 4 Comments
ABOVE: Interior of the Central Express library in the Old Post Office
ABOVE: Interior of the Central Express library in the Old Post Office

Despite being just four blocks east of the newly renovated Central Library, a majority of readers think the Central Express located in the Old Post Office should remain open:

Q: Should The “Express” Library In The Old Post Office Be Closed?

  1. No, keep it open 58 [54.21%]
  2. Yes, when the existing lease expires 26 [24.3%]
  3. Unsure/no opinion 14 [13.08%]
  4. Yes, immediately 7 [6.54%]
  5. Other: 2 [1.87%]

The two other answers were:

  1. yes, after a new tenant can be found, NLT 1 year
  2. How many patrons use the Express daily? What’s it cost to keep it open?

Given the perceived barrier of crossing Tucker I can see an advantage of an express location to server the central business district.

I think the library should compare usage in 2013 to 2012 to see any changes following the reopening of Central.  Once the lease is up I could see the express location moving further east so it is closer to more office workers.

— Steve Patterson

Readers: Library Renovation A Good Investment

Last week readers indicated in the poll the millions spent renovating the Central Library was a good investment. The results are at the very end but I want to show you some areas where the library has changed. I was fortunate to tour the library with the AIA St. Louis last week, many photos below.

The library  reopens to the public on Sunday December 9, 2012 so you can see in person then.

ABOVE: Main facade of the Central Library by Cass Gilbert

First we need to understand how the central library was designed. From the sidewalk it appears to be a solid mass, but that is not the case.

ABOVE: Central Library undergoing renovation as viewed from the roof of the Park Pacific, May 2011
ABOVE: The grand hall is in the center with connections to all four outer sides/wings. The stacks wing on the north side was very a modern  contrast to the rest of the building in 1912.

So now you know how the building is organized around the grand hall, let’s head inside.

ABOVE: The lower level entry under the prominent south entrance is no longer open.
ABOVE: The north facade prior to renovation, the stacks aren’t visible through the frosted glass.
ABOVE: Now the stacks and atrium are visible to everyone.
ABOVE: Looking east we can see the new Locust Street entry to the library with the Shell Building in the background
ABOVE: Waller McGuire, director of the St. Louis Pubic Library, heads back to his office across 14th Street. A water feature divides the sidewalk from the entry.
ABOVE: Looking out from the new glass entry vestibule.
ABOVE: The atrium in the former stacks area is a very modern and welcoming area.
ABOVE: The glass wall behind the Locust St circulation desk was made from the old glass floors in the 7-story stacks area
ABOVE: An information board explains the changes to the central stacks area
ABOVE: One photo gives you a before glimpse of the stacks with the glass floor walkways. This area was never open to the general public.
ABOVE: Looking up we can see the stacks on upper levels
ABOVE: This space will now face a cafe, not all furniture had arrived yet
ABOVE: Adjacent to the cafe is a room for book club meetings
ABOVE: And self checkout is now an option
ABOVE: New public space was created in the once-dark basement level
ABOVE: This auditorium was created where the former coal storage room was located
ABOVE: The children’s area is in the same spot as before but new activity areas added and the old outside entrance is just an emergency exit
ABOVE: The Stedman Architectural Library is unchanged, it is still by appointment only.
ABOVE: The 3rd floor Carnegie Room is one of several meeting rooms in the library.
ABOVE: From the 3rd floor you can see the gap between the outer wings and grand hall (right)
ABOVE: The stacks remain in the stacks section of the building but by using movable shelves they occupy less space.
ABOiVE: The staff lounge has a great view of Lucas Park located across Locust St.

Still here? Below are the poll results:

Q: $70 Million To Renovate The Central Library A Good Investment?

  1. Yes 113 [73.38%]
  2. No 17 [11.04%]
  3. Maybe 13 [8.44%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 10 [6.49%]
  5. Other  “too much money but needed some renovation”: 1 [0.65%]

I was nervous about changing the library, the impact of so much money could’ve been a bad thing. In the end I think we’ve made a great investment for the next 100 years. St. Louisans in 2112 can decide what to do next.

— Steve Patterson

Poll: $70 Million To Renovate The Central Library A Good Investment?

Next month the Central Library will reopen after being closed for nearly two and a half years:

Central Library is in the midst of a $70 million dollar restoration and renovation. Over four million books and other items were moved out of the building for safekeeping and reorganization before this enormous project could begin. Central Library will reopen late in 2012 – a century after it first opened to the public – as a great research and community library for the 21st century. (slpl,org)

It reopens to the public on Sunday December 9, 2012.

ABOVE: Main facade of the Central Library, November 17, 2012

From July 2010:

The city of St. Louis closed on the sale of $65 million in bonds June 30, clearing the way for construction on the nearly century-old facility to begin later this summer. (St. Louis Business Journal)

The remaining funds were raised privately through the library foundation. The new library will be quite different than what generations have known, the old central stack area behind the scenes no longer has the glass walkways and administrative offices moved to a newer building to the west, freeing up more public space.

A few Central Library facts:

  • Opened: January 6, 1912
  • Architect: Cass Gilbert 
  • Carnegie grant: May 12, 1901

With Carnegie’s $1,000,000 grant St. Louis built seven libraries — six branches and the central (source). I read somewhere Carnegie told other cities to not do like St. Louis did — putting a large percentage in one building. Today some might say $65 million in public bonds might have been better spent if spread around to the many infrastructure needs of the city. Others say such an institution is critical to our future.

The poll question this week asks if this was a good investment? The poll is in the upper right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson

Readers: Would Send Kid To Best High School In Missouri Even Though It’s In the St. Louis Public School System

June 13, 2012 Education, Featured 3 Comments
ABOVE: Missouri's top high school, Metro Academic & Classical High School at 4015 McPherson in the City of St. Louis

Metro Academic & Classical High School in the St. Louis Pubic School system is the top high school in the state (prior post)! It’s student body is also selected from the best in the city, not just any kid can attend. Of course, this is a major factor in producing the outstanding results.

The poll results and the comments varied widely, as one might expect:

Q: Assume You Have Kids: Would You Send Your Kid To The Top High School In The Region/Missouri If You Could? BTW: It’s Metro Academic and Classical High School

  1. Sure, no problem 39 [42.39%]
  2. No way, it’s part of St. Louis Public Schools 14 [15.22%]
  3. Yes, that’s where they go! 13 [14.13%]
  4. Maybe 12 [13.04%]
  5. Other: 8 [8.7%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 6 [6.52%]

The #1 & #3 answers represent for than half those that took the poll. The “other” answers were:

  1. Private
  2. Yes, that’s his alma mater
  3. of course, but why such success at this location and not others?always wondered?
  4. They would go to the closest High School to the house
  5. Loaded poll alert! Please make them more interesting in the future.
  6. If I had kids they would go there.
  7. Only sending kids to private schools
  8. onlt if I couldn’t afford to send them to one of our great catholic schools

The purpose of the poll was to spark some discussion around education, which it did.

– Steve Patterson

Poll: Would You Send Your Kid To The Top High School In The Region/State If You Could?

Fourteen high schools in Missouri made Newsweek’s list of Top 1,000 High Schools for 2012. All but one were in the St. Louis metropolitan area. No Metro East high school made the list.

To generate the overall rankings, we factored in six criteria. Three make up 75 percent of the overall score—the four-year graduation rate, college-acceptance rate, and number of AP and other high-level exams given per student. Average SAT/ACT scores and AP/college-level test scores count for another 10 percent each, and the number of AP courses offered per student counts for the final 5 percent. Because most of these data aren’t available from a central source, we collected it by reaching out directly to high-school administrators directly. 15,000 were contacted, and 2300 responded.

Below is a list of all 14 Missouri high schools on the list and where they ranked. The first two listed earned spots in the Top 20 High Schools in the Midwest.

125) Metro Academic and Classical High School, St. Louis, MO

ABOVE: Missouri's top high school, Metro Academic & Classical High School at 4015 McPherson in the City of St. Louis
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • Percent of college-bound graduates: 100
  • Number of AP/IB tests per student: 0.7
  • Average graduate SAT score: n/a
  • Average graduate ACT score: 26.9
  • Average student AP score: 2.6

129) Clayton High School, Clayton, MO

  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • Percent of college-bound graduates: 95
  • Number of AP/IB tests per student: 0.6
  • Average graduate SAT score: 2016
  • Average graduate ACT score: 25.8
  • Average student AP score: 4.1

181) Lincoln College Prep, Kansas City

188) Ladue Horton Watkins, Ladue

497) Rockwood Summit, Fenton

508) Lafayette, Wildwood

585) Marquette, Chesterfield

663) Lindbergh, St. Louis County

676) Eureka, Eureka

801) Parkway West, Ballwin

871) Parkway Central, Chesterfield

906) Kirkwood, Kirkwood

934) Parkway South, Manchester

947) Parkway North

The poll question this week asks you to assume you have kids, then answer if you’d send them to the best high school in the state if you could.

– Steve Patterson

Glad At Least A Few Blocks Of Grand Were Saved From Demolition

I was in the Grand Center part of Midtown Thursday night. Grand Center is centered on a too short 3-4 block stretch of North Grand that was not razed for urban renewal to the north of Delmar or grass south of Olive. Many buildings stood vacant for years, some remain vacant today. One recently occupied is the former headquarters of Carter Carburetor at 711 North Grand.

ABOVE: Entrance to the Grand Center Arts Academy

The Grand Center Arts Academy is “a charter school for visual and performing arts.”  The school moved into the building last year. I’m grateful buildings like this weren’t razed by short sided people so it could contribute to the streetscape along Grand and provide comfort to me as I waited on Delmar for the bus home. Hopefully I’ll get  a tour of the inside soon.

 – Steve Patterson

Raising Urban Kids

One of the great things about downtown’s Citygarden is I almost always seen someone I know when I pass through.

ABOVE: A friend plays ball with his young son as another friend watches.

Last Sunday was no exception, I stopped to talk to two friends and the young son of one friend. It seems like just last week when his son was in a tiny infant, now he’s playing ball. How’d that happen so quick? Downtown has a growing number of young kids being raised in the region’s most urban area. As you might expect schools and education is a concern for these parents. Rather than immediately flee the suburbs or exurbs a growing number of urban parents expect they can continue the walkable urban lifestyle they love while ensuring their kids get a good education as well as being exposed to a broad range of people.

These kids won’t be sheltered, they’ll know how to walk to the store alone when their older, they won’t be shocked when their out with friends in college and they spot a homeless person. The idea of a cleanup project won’t be a foreign concept either.

– Steve Patterson

New Mission & Neighborhood for Ittner’s Henry School

Last year’s redistricting meant I was now in the 5th ward, rather than the 6th. As such my polling place for voting changed from the senior apartment building on Olive west of Jefferson to Patrick Henry Elementary on North 10th St.

ABOVE: Henry Elementary at 1220 N. 10th, click image to view in Google Maps

It’s official name is now Patrick Henry Downtown Academy:

Nestled in the heart of downtown St. Louis, Patrick Henry Downtown Academy, located at 1220 N. 10th Street, offers a tuition-free world-class urban educational experience for children grades Pre-K-6th. We are beginning the first phase in the implementation of a GREEN School Model. We will emphasize ecological sustainability, environmental health, nutrition, personal responsibility, leadership and a comprehensive, high-quality academic program.

Patrick Henry Downtown Academy will serve as a unique springboard for students who will be at the forefront of the industries and disciplines of the 21st Century. There will be an emphasis on the environmental sciences, energy alternatives and conservation, recycling, organic gardening and the food sciences, and the emerging “green” economy, students will focus on developing the math, science, writing and “hands-on” skills that will make them successful leaders to make a difference in improving the environment for humanity. Our goal is to be the first urban GREEN Model Pilot School in the country! (Saint Louis Public Schools).

The Henry school is one of many designed by architect William B. Ittner (Landmarks Association, Wikipedia). Voters entered through a basement entry to get to the small gym so the areas I saw weren’t grand spaces designed by Ittner. They were nice and clean and students going from class to class were well behaved. School staff were clearly in charge of the students. Those working the polls were helpful.

Last November I voted absentee but I’m glad I went in person on Tuesday, even though I had to walk down numerous steps. The area to the east was the Cochran Gardens high-rise public housing projects. Cochran has been replaced by Cambridge Heights, a mixed income neighborhood. Now that construction is nearly complete I’ll be visiting and posting about the changes, including pictures of the high-rise buildings before they were razed.

– Steve Patterson

BWorks Moves Worthy Programs to New Soulard Location

Since 1988, BWorks has worked with youth in St. Louis.

ABOVE: BWorks' new home in a historic Soulard building

The organization recently moved from a cramped storefront in the Shaw neighborhood to a much larger space in Soulard:

St. Louis BWorks was built on the idea that everyone deserves the chance to be more and to gain the skills they need to pursue their dreams. We believe that “at-risk” children — or any young people for that matter — can thrive when they have the opportunity to challenge their abilities in a safe, supportive environment. (full mission & history)

Originally the only program was St. Louis Bicycle Works where kids could learn to repair and maintain a bike. Later St. Louis Byte Works was added where kids learned computer skills and they could earn a reconditioned computer.

St. Louis Book Works was founded in 2011 to promote verbal, visual and cultural literacy through creative expression. Young people in the program work with volunteer editors to write and and illustrate their own books.

As the programs offered grew, so did their space requirements. BWorks outgrew their old space long ago.

ABOVE: Reconditioned bicycles await new owners after completing the St. Louis Bicycle Works program
ABOVE: St. Louis Book Works classroom space
ABOVE: Computer lab at St. Louis Byte Works
ABOVE: Shop area where donated computers are refurbished
ABOVE: Shop area where bikes are reconditioned

Each year St. Louis Bicycle Works sponsors Cranksgiving in St. Louis:

“Want to be a part of the biggest food collection ride in the country? Join us at Schlafly Bottleworks on 11/6 for a bike ride at 10 A.M. (5, 10 or 25 mile courses) and get some food for Food Outreach.

 2010 had over 650 riders collecting over 6000 food items for Food Outreach making it the largest Cranksgiving in the country. Lets keep this record in St.louis! Join us this year at a even better event.”

BWorks is looking for volunteers and contributions. Click here to learn how to get involved. The reuse of the building is extraordinary.

– Steve Patterson

Readers: Imagine’s St. Louis Charter Schools Need to Close

October 5, 2011 Education 16 Comments
ABOVE: The Imagine school at Chouteau & Spring

Nearly two-thirds of the readers that voted in the poll last week think charter schools operated by Imagine Schools, Inc need to close:

Q: Should Imagine’s Charter Schools in St. Louis Close?

  1. Yes 55 [62.5%]
  2. No 15 [17.05%]
  3. Maybe 6 [6.82%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 7 [7.95%]
  5. Other: 5 [5.68%]

The five other answers were:

  1. If they are not getting results, shutter them. Haven’t followed the issu too cl
  2. How about expelling the students who don’t care to be taught/can’t act properly?
  3. some should
  4. don’t know enough to make an educated choice
  5. The entire charter school system in Saint Louis needs to be reevalualed.


– Steve Patterson


Check back Sunday at 8am for a new poll.




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