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Urban Land Banking Prairie In Chicago

August 19, 2014 Environment, Featured, Parks, Planning & Design, Real Estate, Travel Comments Off on Urban Land Banking Prairie In Chicago

Yesterday’s post was about an interesting parking garage in Chicago, today is the story of why I went up to the top of the garage.

A long block was a prairie with native grades & flowers, it looked well kept because a wide border was mowed.
A long block was a prairie with native grades & flowers, it looked well kept because a wide border was mowed. A concrete curb separates the natives from the tidy lawn.
From the top of the adjacent parking garage you can see fenced-in prairie.
From the top of the adjacent parking garage you can see fenced-in prairie. Click image for map link. 

My assumption is this is a way of land banking until Northwestern decides to build on the land. The block held a large zig-zag 1940s/50s building, razed sometime within the last decade. The block is fenced, it isn’t used as a park. Land here, between Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, is much too valuable to sit vacant. The campus map doesn’t identify it.

The result is a very neat looking, but easy to maintain, block.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Solar Carport At The Centennial Malt House Located At 2017 Chouteau

The building at 2017 Chouteau, known as the Centennial Malt House, was built in 1876 as part of the  Joseph Schnaider Brewery complex.

Merged with the St. Louis Brewing Association in 1889, Schnaider’s brewery was shut down within a decade. The Chouteau Avenue Crystal Ice & Storage Plant occupied several buildings; other property including the garden was razed for the enormous International Shoe factory. Eventually, the malt house was relegated to use by a truck parts company. Things looked pretty grim when Wendy and Paul Hamilton, owners of the nearby 1111 Mississippi restaurant, purchased the property in April 2005. Faced with a tight timetable, Paul and his restaurant staff spent many extra hours working alongside an army of contractors led by Spiegelglass Construction Co. Office space under construction on the first floor is already leased; the rooftop bar and bistro Vin de Set should open this June. National City Bank plus federal and state historic tax credits financed the $4 million mixed-use project designed by Tom Cohen. (Landmarks Association 2006 Most Enhanced Award)

To make renovation financially viable the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Since the Hamilton’s opened Vin de Set they’ve added PW Pizza, Moulin Events, Grand Petite Market, and the Malt House Cellar. They opened Eleven Eleven Mississippi nearby in 2003.

In April 2012
The Centennial Malt House at 2017 Chouteau before the carport was built, April 2012 photo

When I was there a few months ago for the 6th Ward Participatory Budget Project Expo I had no idea a solar carport was planned, it was a pleasant surprise upon arriving for dinner on Saturday.

View of the carport in the center of the small parking lot
View of the carport in the center of the small parking lot
Looking down from Vin de Set's rooftop
Looking down from Vin de Set’s rooftop
Looking toward downtown you can see Ameren's headquarters, the solar carport is at the bottom
Looking toward downtown you can see Ameren’s headquarters, the solar carport is at the bottom

From a year ago:

Hamilton and his wife, Wendy, are investing $98,000 to have solar energy panels installed near the Centennial Malt House at 2017 Chouteau Ave., built in 1876, which houses Vin de Set, PW Pizza and Moulin Events. The 25-kilowatt, photo-voltaic system is expected to be complete by September.
As part of the project, the Hamiltons are installing a solar carport canopy on the east portion of the restaurant’s parking lot. The panels will be adjacent to Ameren Missouri’s headquarters at 1901 Chouteau, and Hamilton said Ameren will purchase excess power generated by the canopy. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Like most projects, it took longer to complete than originally planned. I like how, over the 9 years since they bought the building, they’ve added little by little to utilize the large building.  Missouri’s Historic Tax Credit Program saved an otherwise unsalvageable building, creating many jobs and tax-generating businesses.  The Solar Investment Tax Credit, Ameren rebates, etc made this project possible.  Two tax credits working as intended!

— Steve Patterson

 

Climate Change Is Here; Readers Think We Need To Do Much More Than We Are Currently

May 7, 2014 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Climate Change Is Here; Readers Think We Need To Do Much More Than We Are Currently

Yesterday a new report confirmed what many of us thought, that Climate Change is already underway:

Climate change is no longer a distant threat, but a real and present danger in the United States, according to a government report issued Tuesday. The report is the latest update from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and details ways that climate change — caused predominantly by the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases — is already being felt across the country. (Huffington Post: Climate Change Is Already Here, Says Massive Government Report)

From Climate Change report issued May 6, 2014. Click image to view Midwest region
From Climate Change report issued May 6, 2014. Click image to view Midwest region

The following is from the Midwest region, which includes Missouri & Illinois:

Key Messages 1. In the next few decades, longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase yields of some crops, though those benefits will be progressively offset by extreme weather events. Though adaptation options can reduce some of the detrimental effects, in the long term, the combined stresses associated with climate change are expected to decrease agricultural productivity. 2. The composition of the region’s forests is expected to change as rising temperatures drive habitats for many tree species northward. The role of the region’s forests as a net absorber of carbon is at risk from disruptions to forest ecosystems, in part due to climate change. 3. Increased heat wave intensity and frequency, increased humidity, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality will increase public health risks. 4. The Midwest has a highly energy-intensive economy with per capita emissions of greenhouse gases more than 20% higher than the national average. The region also has a large and increasingly utilized potential to reduce emissions that cause climate change. 5. Extreme rainfall events and flooding have increased during the last century, and these trends are expected to continue, causing erosion, declining water quality, and negative impacts on transportation, agriculture, human health, and infrastructure. 6. Climate change will exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes, including changes in the range and distribution of certain fish species, increased invasive species and harmful blooms of algae, and declining beach health. Ice cover declines will lengthen the commercial navigation season.

The last section is “Response Strategies”, from the introduction:

People make choices every day about risks and benefits in their lives, weighing experience, information, and judgment as they consider the impacts of their decisions on themselves and the people around them. Similarly, people make choices that alter the magnitude of impacts resulting from current and future climate change. Using science-based information to anticipate future changes can help society make better decisions about how to reduce risks and protect people, places, and ecosystems from climate change impacts. Decisions made now and in the future will influence society’s resilience to impacts of future climate change. In recognition of the significance of these decisions, the National Climate Assessment presents information that is useful for a wide variety of decisions across regions and sectors, at multiple scales, and over multiple time frames. For the first time, the National Climate Assessment includes chapters on Decision Support, Mitigation, and Adaptation, in addition to identifying research needs associated with these topics.

The report is massive, I’ve only skimmed it a little. Here are the results from last week’s poll:

Q: Which of the following is closest to your current view on the environment

  1. We need to do much more to stop/reverse Climate Change 59 [71.08%]
  2. We’ve gone off the deep end worrying about global warming 10 [12.05%]
  3. We could do more, but there’s no need to be excessive 9 [10.84%]
  4. We’re doing all we can/should do 3 [3.61%]
  5. We’re fretting too much over the environment 2 [2.41%]
  6. Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

To those who say we’ve gone off the deep end, I suggest you buy ocean front property for your retirement years.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: Current Thoughts on the Environment

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

St. Louis is celebrating Earth Day in Forest Park today:

25 Years of Earth Day in 2014

Join us in Forest Park on Sunday, April 27 for the St. Louis Earth Day Festival from 11am to 6pm, rain or shine.

Don’t miss the Recycling Extravaganza at STLCC on the same day as the Festival (10am-4pm).

I was wondering how readers felt about the environment, and efforts such as Earth Day. The poll this week has six answers representing a wide range plus an unsure answer. The poll is in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson

 

Rain Gardens Are Great, Except When Blocked By Excessive Mulch

Rain gardens are an environmentally-friendly way to handle water runoff, rain water runs into an area where it gets absorbed into the soil. Well, assuming the water doesn’t get blocked.

Visual evidence of standing water at opening to this rain garden on Tucker
Visual evidence of standing water at opening to this rain garden on Tucker

The newly rebuilt North Tucker Boulevard has numerous rain gardens, but unfortunately many are like the one shown above — not able to function as designed because too much mulch blocks the water.

— Steve Patterson

 

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