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Broken Zipper: Washington Ave Street Tree Wells

The Washington Avenue streetscape, completed about 15 years ago, was designed to visually play tribute to the area’s history as a garment district:

Through the ’30s and ’40s, St. Louis had one of the largest needle-trade centers in the country—second, many said, only to New York—and was the center of manufacture for junior-size dresses. (St. Louis Magazine)

So Washonhgton Ave was given a zipper motif. But in the last 15 years the very expensive streetscape’s design elements haven’t always been respected. Most recently the street trees.

The picture on the left shows how the metal tree grate aligns with stones in the street, the pic on the right was take just to the West. The same visual has been totally obliterated because the pavers were opened up to uncover more of the tree well.

The street trees never did well because the costly streetscape was designed with style over function — too small of a surface area to collect rainwater. After removing the dead/dying trees extra grates were used to cover the holes where the original trees were planted, which kept the design motif intact.

If the the new trees survive perhaps it’s worth sacrificing the design, still visually jarring after all these years.

— Steve Patterson


Heating With Soft Coal Caused Black Tuesday 75 Years Ago Today

"Mist and smoke hung over St. Louis on this day in January more than year after Black Tuesday however the smoke lifted within a hour." Missouri Department of Natural Resources
“Mist and smoke hung over St. Louis on this day in January more than year after Black Tuesday however the smoke lifted within a hour.” Missouri Department of Natural Resources

During the 1930s the population of St. Louis was declining, no doubt in part due to the unhealthy air during the winter months when soft coal was used to heat nearly every building.

In February 1937 a smoke ordinance was passed creating a “Division of Smoke Regulation in the Department of Public Safety”, forcing larger businesses to burn only clean coal and setting standards for smoke emission and inspection. By 1938 emissions from commercial smokestacks had been reduced by two-thirds. (Wikipedia)

Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann, the first Democratic Mayor in decades, put Raymond Tucker in charge of cleaning the air. In 1941 Dickmann lost the race for a third term, defeated by Republican William F. Becker:


Perhaps the most significant development during Becker’s term as mayor was the adoption of a civil service amendment to the City Charter. The amendment enacted a merit system for the hiring of city employees. Prior to that time, a political patronage system prevailed in which all city employees could be replaced with a change of partisan administration. Becker supported the civil service reform and it was approved by the voters in September 1941. Becker also retained Raymond Tucker who had been appointed Smoke Commissioner by Mayor Dickmann, and supported his efforts to reduce air pollution within the city. (Wikipedia)

Becker was killed in a glider accident just two years later, he was succeeded by the Republican President of the Board of Aldermen Aloys P. Kaufmann.  Kaufmann was elected to a full term in 1945, he was the last Republican mayor in St. Louis.

I’m glad the citizens of St. Louis in the 30s & 40s took the big steps they did to clean the air. Today I don’t think we have the kind of political leadership that it takes to achieve such change.

— Steve Patterson


Chouteau Park Just Getting Started

October 20, 2014 Environment, Featured, Parks 3 Comments

Chouteau Park is the newest city park, created by ordinance in 2008, as compensation for the future loss of Hudlin Park to BJC. The fate of Hudlin Park was a hot issue in the Spring of 2006. This new 2.8 acre park is intended to replace the 12 acre Hudlin Park.

Chouteau Park is just largely a graded empty lot right now, awaiting funds to become a fully realized park space. The design was done by H3 studios in 2009.

Revised renderings from the H3 2009 design include a shaded promenade, adventure playground, spray fountain and park cafe.

Update January 1, 2014: the classic St. Louis park sign has been added and trees are being planted. (St. Louis w/design & revised design)

As you might expect, parks don’t happen overnight. Every park in the city was once newly created and not looking like much. Citygarden, opened in 2009, is a rare exception because it was privately funded. Construction on Chouteau Park began in the fall of 2011.

Corner of Chouteau & Newstead Avenues
Corner of Chouteau & Newstead Avenues
Gap in the sidewalk along Newstead & Chouteau may be because of the future park cafe on the corner.
Gap in the sidewalk along Newstead & Chouteau may be because of the future park cafe on the corner.
The colorful mounds will be great for kids once not surrounded by standing water & mud
The colorful mounds will be great for kids once not surrounded by standing water & mud. No telling what will end up inside he orange one
The largest encourages climbing
The largest encourages climbing
View from the top of the hill at the east end
View from the top of the hill at the east end

One sidewalk going up the hill just ended, I’m not sure of the future intent. A number of sewer inlets handle water runoff, hopefully in the future this water can be captured and refined onsite.

It’ll be fun to see this new park develop and mature over the years.

— Steve Patterson



Updating Parking Garage Lighting

Yesterday I posted about a parking garage attempting, poorly, to look like numerous buildings. In researching the garage I discovered in June Cheyenne WY approved spending a little more than $130,000 to upgrade the lighting from metal halide fixtures to LED.

Bob Bradshaw, the city’s special projects director, said the current metal halide bulbs are “burning out at a rate of a couple a day” and can cost up to $260 each to replace.

Not only are the LED bulbs more energy efficient, they last longer and require less maintenance, Bradshaw said. That means the city would save money on both energy bills and maintenance costs with the new lights. (source)

The new lighting is estimated to save $253,077 over the next decade, with the break even point “in just over four years.” While in Colorado & Wyoming electricians finished replacing the old halogen lights in our condo parking garage, located underneath both buildings.  The lights are on 24 hours a day, between electricity and replacements representing over 16% of our annual budget.

Our new lighting is brighter, with better color
Our new lighting is brighter, with better color
The fixtures look just like 4-tibe fluorescents, but these are LEDs.
The fixtures look just like 4-tube fluorescents, but these are LED tubes.

A rebate from Ameren reduced our upfront costs about 30%, but it was still a substantial investment. With a payoff of just 18 months the majority of us voted to proceed.

Once our inventory of compact fluorescents (CFL) has been depleted, we’ll begin using LED bulbs in our stairwells and hallways.

— Steve Patterson


In 2012 A Resident Had To Fight With Ferguson Officials To Keep His Front Yard Vegetable Garden

The post is a repeat of my post A Front Yard Vegetable Garden In Ferguson Missouri from August 2012:

In July one modest house in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson got the attention of many:

A Ferguson resident has won a battle with city officials that could be considered a matter of taste.

The resident, Karl Tricamo, had been feuding with the city for months over the vegetable garden he had planted in front of his house in the 300 block of Louisa Avenue.

The city saw the garden as a blot on the landscape and issued Tricamo a citation demanding he uproot the corn, tomatoes, sorghum, peppers and other crops sprouting there and, instead, seed the yard for grass. The garden measures 35 feet by 25 feet. (stltoday.com)

Other resources:

Numerous pictures were circulated on Facebook & Twitter as front yard gardening advocates celebrated this victory. But all the pictures concentrated tightly on the garden, I wanted to understand the context. I went to Google Maps but no streetview was available just an aerial.

The 45 degree view of the house in Ferguson, before the lawn was replaced with the garden. Click image to view in Google Maps.

I knew I wanted to see the garden and street in person but it’s a 12+ mile drive — and I don’t have a car. So I caught a bus at the North Hanley MetroLink station and I was within blocks.

ABOVE: The MetroBus dropped me off at Suburban Ave and S. Clark Ave, this is looking north on Clark
ABOVE: Looking west on Louisa St from Clark., nice but well-maintained homes. No manicured lawns.
ABOVE: Continuing on Louisa looking for the house & garden on the right.
ABOVE: I’m visiting on Monday August 20, 2012. The garden looks good to my eye given how dry it has been and how late in the growing season it is.
ABOVE: Lawn remains between the sidewalk and driveway
ABOVE: Another view

In an older neighborhood with mature trees locations for a vegetable garden are often limited, most vegetables need full sun.  I applaud Tricamo for fighting the City of Ferguson so he could grow food for his family.

— Steve Patterson