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Sunday Poll: Will St. Louis’ First ‘Blight Elimination Zone’ Be An Asset Within 15 Years?

July 21, 2019 Featured, Neighborhoods, North City, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Will St. Louis’ First ‘Blight Elimination Zone’ Be An Asset Within 15 Years?
Please vote below

On Friday there was lots of activity in one North St. Louis neighborhood:

The Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood in St. Louis is undergoing a much needed transformation as part of a new Blight Elimination project.

The goal is to demolish 30 abandoned buildings in three days between Cote Brilliante Avenue, Maffitt Avenue, Clara Avenue and Belt Avenue. In addition, 130 vacant lots will be cleaned up for residents to enjoy. (KSDK)

The center point of this four blocks zone is Burd Ave & Wabada Ave.

At an event Friday, Dorsey and Pulte, along with Mayor Lyda Krewson, announced the city’s first Blight Elimination zone.

The zone will cover four blocks in the Wells Goodfellow neighborhood, comprised of more than 130 lots between Cote Brilliante Avenue, Maffitt Avenue, Clara Avenue, and Belt Avenue.

30 vacant buildings will be demolished, 12 by the City of St. Louis and 18 by the St. Louis Blight Authority. Additionally, the Blight Authority will clear eight acres of vacant lots and alleys with the goal of prepping them for future use and purchase.

The plan is to perform all of the removal in three days. (KMOV)

Here is some more specifics:

Tech billionaire Jack Dorsey, a St. Louis native and co-founder and CEO of both Square Inc. and Twitter, along with Detroit native Bill Pulte, whose grandfather founded national homebuilder Pulte Homes, were paying for the demolitions — $500,000 for a pilot program to completely clear more than 130 lots in a four-block area of the northwest St. Louis neighborhood hard hit by abandonment and vacancy.

“St. Louis is a lot easier to solve,” said Pulte, who several years ago launched the Blight Authority, a similar initiative in the Detroit area. “This problem can be solved. This problem can be solved in less than 15 years…. This is just about willpower at the government and private sector level.”

The new nonprofit he and Dorsey are funding, the St. Louis Blight Authority, aims to complement city efforts to tackle vacancy and demolish abandoned buildings, a key initiative for Mayor Lyda Krewson. This initial pilot phase will knock down 30 structures — 18 funded privately and 12 by the city — and then fund debris removal and beautification. Dorsey and Pulte hope to inspire other philanthropists to contribute to the effort and perhaps expand it to other city neighborhoods. (Post-Dispatch)

This effort is the subject of today’s non-scientific poll.

The poll will automatically close at 8pm tonight. Wednesday morning I’ll share my thoughts and the results.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Vacant to Vibrant: Creating Successful Green Infrastructure Networks’ by Sandra L. Albro

July 19, 2019 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Vacant to Vibrant: Creating Successful Green Infrastructure Networks’ by Sandra L. Albro

A new book I received earlier this year is about something St. Louis has in abundance — vacant lots.

Vacant lots, so often seen as neighborhood blight, have the potential to be a key element of community revitalization. As manufacturing cities reinvent themselves after decades of lost jobs and population, abundant vacant land resources and interest in green infrastructure are expanding opportunities for community and environmental resilience. Vacant to Vibrant explains how inexpensive green infrastructure projects can reduce stormwater runoff and pollution, and provide neighborhood amenities, especially in areas with little or no access to existing green space.

Sandra Albro offers practical insights through her experience leading the five-year Vacant to Vibrant project, which piloted the creation of green infrastructure networks in Gary, Indiana; Cleveland, Ohio; and Buffalo, New York. Vacant to Vibrant provides a point of comparison among the three cities as they adapt old systems to new, green technology. An overview of the larger economic and social dynamics in play throughout the Rust Belt region establishes context for the promise of green infrastructure. Albro then offers lessons learned from the Vacant to Vibrant project, including planning, design, community engagement, implementation, and maintenance successes and challenges. An appendix shows designs and plans that can be adapted to small vacant lots.

Landscape architects and other professionals whose work involves urban greening will learn new approaches for creating infrastructure networks and facilitating more equitable access to green space. (Island Press)

Here are the 6 chapters:

  1. Green Stormwater Infrastructure on Vacant Lots
  2. City Dynamics that Shape Vacant Land Use
  3. Vacant to Vibrant Planning
  4. Vacant to Vibrant Implementation
  5. Sustaining Urban Greening Projects
  6. Scaling Up Networks of Small Green Infrastructure

You can read an extensive preview of Vacant to Vibrant at Google Books.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Union Station Made Right Decision To Ditch Failed Retail Mall

July 17, 2019 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Readers: Union Station Made Right Decision To Ditch Failed Retail Mall

St. Louis Union Station, built in 1894, has an interesting history.

By the last decade of the 19th century St. Louis found itself in an increasingly important role as “The Gateway To The West” since it lay at the conjunction of the mighty Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  The Transcontinental Railroad had been finished just over 20 years prior and new lines were still being built across the Frontier.  In addition, many eastern and western trunk lines, or their future subsidiaries, terminated at the city such as the Iron Mountain & Southern (Missouri Pacific); Wabash; Ohio & Mississippi (Baltimore & Ohio), Louisville & Nashville; Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis (the “Big Four” controlled by the New York Central); St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco); Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy); New York, Chicago & St. Louis (Nickel Plate Road); and Pennsylvania.  Following the Civil War, a growing St. Louis expanded to the point that it boasted the nation’s fourth largest metropolitan region behind only New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. (American Rails)

This was St. Louis’ second Union Station, the first was quickly outgrown. Additional tracks were added on the west side of the shed within the first decade — to accommodate increased passengers for the 1904 World’s Fair. The train was how people got from city to city at the time.

The beauty of Carl Milles’ work with Union Station in the background
Grand Hall in St. Louis Union Station, 2010

Passenger volume peaked in the 1940s, dropping off steadily after that as improved cars, highways, and air travel shifted how people got from city to city. St. Louis Union Station closed completely in 1978, the vacant station was then used in filming scenes from the post-apocalyptic (1997) film Escape From New York (1981).

The month I began my first semester of college, studying architecture, Union Station reopened as a “festival marketplace.” That was a fancy way of saying a speciality mall without a department store anchor(s). Though the retail mall was only a portion of the space under the massive train shed, that was a big part of the image.  At the time it was hailed as a way to reuse large historic properties.

Union Station had only been reopened for 5 years when I moved here in August 1990. I remember my excitement finally getting to experience what I’d only read about in college. The original retail mix was good — lots of well-known stores. One of my favorites was Kansas City-based Function Junction — I still have a tray purchased there in November 1990.

Also in 1985 a huge mall opened in the main Central Business District — connecting two large department stores. St. Louis Union Station’s retail mall was very different from the large St. Louis Centre mall. Like many other malls across the country, both failed. Prime tenants gave way to tourist t-shirt shops, eventually there were more vacancies than shops.

Vacant retail spaces in the midway, 2011

St. Louis Union Station’s current owners bought the property after the retail mall was on life support, they made the correct decision to pull the plug.  Not sure if the coming aquarium, Ferris wheel, and other attractions will be sustainable — but I appreciate their bold decisions.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll a majority agreed dumping the retail mall was the right decision.

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis Union Station should’ve updated the retail mall & food court rather than switch to an aquarium.

  • Strongly agree: 1 [1.75%]
  • Agree: 3 [5.26%]
  • Somewhat agree: 6 [10.53%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 2 [3.51%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [5.26%]
  • Disagree: 15 [26.32%]
  • Strongly disagree: 27 [47.37%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

I personally look forward to riding the Ferris wheel on a clear day so I can enjoy the views and take hundreds of photos.

— Steve Patterson

 

Neighborhood Street Lights Back On 24/7

July 15, 2019 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Neighborhood Street Lights Back On 24/7

In April I posted how My Neighborhood’s Street Lights Are Always On, notifying the Citizens Service Bureau (CSB) via Twitter.  It was Service ID 1206799.

I posted a follow up a month later once CSB clued me in on the issue — Neighborhood Streetlights Still On Because Electrical Station Is Blocked.  I figured it shouldn’t the long for Streets to move the barrier so Lighting could activate the dusk to down timer(s).

Looking west on Cole from 7th, the lights all the way down at least to 9th are on

In the meantime I looked back through old Google Streetview images and found the lights were as early as August 2018, but not a year earlier. So all we know is the lights have been on 24/7 since sometime after August 2017.

Finally on the afternoon of June 25 I noticed the street lights were off.  I was so thrilled I shared on Facebook.

?In April I reported to the city how the streetlights in the Columbus Square neighborhood were on 24/7. They’d been on…

Posted by UrbanReview ST LOUIS on Tuesday, June 25, 2019

And yes, they came on at night just like they’re supposed to. I was very glad I’d help correct a highly wasteful situation!

However, my joy only lasted a week and a half. On July 6th the lights were back on 24/7 again.

A street light on our street was back on the afternoon of July 6, 2019

What I still don’t know is the location of the subterranean switches for the entire neighborhood. I also don’t know what kind of timer controls street lights for an entire neighborhood.

I just want the city to replace the burned out lights and then get them working correctly for more than a week and a half.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should Union Station Have Updated The Retail Mall & Food Court Rather Than Gut Them For An Aquarium?

July 14, 2019 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Union Station Have Updated The Retail Mall & Food Court Rather Than Gut Them For An Aquarium?
Please vote below

As you probably know the retail mall under the old train shed at St  Louis Union Station is gone. The former retail/food court space is being converted to an aquarium. The plan for the aquarium was announced almost three years ago.

The other day I overheard a couple of people saying how they missed the mall & movie theater at Union Station. Out of curiosity I want to see what you think.

Today’s poll will close at 8pm tonight. Wednesday morning I’ll have the non-scientific results and my thoughts on the aquarium, Ferris wheel, and other aspects of Union Station’s post-mall future.

— Steve Patterson

 

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