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U.S. Senate Candidate Eric Greitens To Hold Campaign Press Conference Today

April 1, 2022 Big Box, Books, Featured Comments Off on U.S. Senate Candidate Eric Greitens To Hold Campaign Press Conference Today
Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens

Former governor Eric Greitens is a candidate for the U.S. Senate, one of nine Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the Missouri primary on August 2, 2022. The Democratic primary has eight candidates.  Senator and former Governor Roy Blunt is not seeking another 6-year term.

Greitens was recently in the news over new allegations:

Allegations stem from an affidavit from his ex-wife Sheena Greitens filed in their ongoing child custody case in Missouri. She alleges the former governor was physically abusive toward both her and one of their sons, who was 3 years old at the time, the Associated Press reported.

The accusations come years after Greitens resigned as governor while facing allegations of sexual misconduct and blackmail involving his hairdresser and a House investigation into his campaign’s finances.

Greitens has emerged as a leading candidate in a crowded Republican field to succeed the retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. His primary opponents include Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, Mark McCloskey and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz. (USA Today via MSN)

This allegation has apparently prompted some republicans to call for Greitens to drop out of the race.

Just last week, Greitens’ ex-wife accused him in court of physically abusing her and their two children while they were married. McConnell reportedly seemed hopeful that the news would torpedo Greitens’ campaign, according to a New York Times report last week.

“We caught a break,” McConnell reportedly told fellow GOP senators. 

Greitens has since claimed — without evidence — that McConnell and GOP operative Karl Rove conspired against him to spread allegations of misconduct. (MSNBC)

In an effort to refocus his campaign on wining the primary, Eric  Greitens has hired former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to assist with  getting the campaign on track.

So at 3pm this afternoon Giuliani will introduce Greitens at a press conference and campaign rally at the Four Seasons in Chesterfield, MO. I’d go out of curiosity, but it would require 3 different bus routes (90 minutes!) to get all the way out there.

— Steve Patterson

 

Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn)

March 21, 2022 Downtown, Featured, MLS Stadium, Planning & Design Comments Off on Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn)

As I outlined two years ago, the blocks around new Centene Stadium will most certainly change in the coming years, decades. We’ve already seen some buildings on Olive be razed for the stadium, and more for a new garage. These weren’t architectural masterpieces, but they were urban. Hopefully it’ll be a good trade off.

One building I want to see razed, or significantly altered, is the hotel at 2211 Market Street (2.78 acres). Currently it’s officially known as the “Pear Tree Inn Near Union Station.” With the new major league soccer stadium nearing completion next door I think they’ll rename the hotel to reflect the ideal proximity. I’d like to bigger change — a complete rethink.

Photo of Pear Tree Inn
The 11-story hotel was built in 1965. It is set back from Market Street behind parking. It doesn’t orient to any of the three streets (Market, 23rd, Pine) that has bordered it since new.
Photo of low parking garage behind Pear Tree Inn
The 2-level parking garage to the north of the tower was built at the same time.

One of the first things I like to do is look back at what existed before — especially streets & alleys. Not that I’d necessarily want to recreate what existed over a hundred years ago, I just find it helpful.

1909 Sanborn fire insurance map
In February 1909 we can see Chestnut between Market and Pine, 22nd on the east, 23rd on the west. City blocks 914 & 915.
Aerial view with interchange east of hotel
For decades is was next to what was planned to be the 22nd St Parkway. This interchange was all that ever got built.
Aerial view with stadium construction east of hotel
Now the new MLS stadium is going up, and 22nd Street will once again exist!

Interestingly, the little bit of land between the east side of the hotel and the new 22nd Street is deeded in several small parcels, at least one to TKFC Properties, LLC in Moscow Mills, MO. The accessor classifies it as “9900 (OTHER UNDEVELOPED LAND AND WATER AREAS, NEC)”, so perhaps it’ll collect runoff water. Seems too valuable for water retention.

I strongly dislike this hotel and parking garage. I suspect the owner, Drury Hotels, is contemplating their options now that their real estate has a prime spot near the MLS stadium, and a higher valuation. The big question is what are the various ways to rebuild or start over?

I believe in reusing existing structures, so the first option would be to look at adding a new tower perpendicular to the existing one so hotel rooms on the east side could look toward the stadium and downtown. The roof of a new tower could contain a rooftop restaurant/bar with outstanding views. A new urban entrance facing Market, 22nd, or Pine. Some sort of drive though for check in that doesn’t block the many pedestrians that will soon be in this area.  Parking will need to go somewhere, preferably underground.

Other options involve razing the tower and garage, completely starting over from scratch. If they get the little bit of land between the existing lot and 22nd Street the site will be bordered by four streets — it needs to acknowledge all of them.

Reconstructing Chestnut Street needs to be considered. Chestnut still exists between 23rd and Jefferson Ave. so this would help reconnect the original street grid. We would then have two parcels, with the north larger than the south.  Perhaps a parking garage in the center of the larger parcel, wrapped in hotel rooms, apartments, and/or offices? The new block of Chestnut might be a full public street, a public walkway, or a private walkway that’s generally open to the public. I can see a Chestnut walkway being filled with outdoor dining, a new building(s) on the south side blocking the hot sun.

My one time in the hotel was to get this photo from the hallway of an upper floor. This was the view I used in my February 2016 post when I called for this to be the site of a new stadium — over six years ago! Click image to view post.

I’m confident this site will look dramatically different within a decade, just not sure how it’ll look. If I’m still around when something happens I’ll be sure to post about it.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘American Urbanist: How William H. White’s Unconventional Wisdom Shaped Public Life’ by Richard K. Rein

March 18, 2022 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘American Urbanist: How William H. White’s Unconventional Wisdom Shaped Public Life’ by Richard K. Rein

cover of american urbanist book Willam H. Whyte is one of two people who influenced how I see our built environment, the other is Jane Jacobs. Had I known about either in 1985 I probably would’ve studied urban planning instead of architecture. Both focus on observation, but in very different ways.

On an otherwise normal weekday in the 1980s, commuters on busy Route 1 in central New Jersey noticed an alarming sight: a man in a suit and tie dashing across four lanes of traffic, then scurrying through a narrow underpass as cars whizzed by within inches. The man was William “Holly” Whyte, a pioneer of people-centered urban design. Decades before this perilous trek to a meeting in the suburbs, he had urged planners to look beyond their desks and drawings: “You have to get out and walk.”
 
American Urbanist shares the life and wisdom of a man whose advocacy reshaped many of the places we know and love today—from New York’s bustling Bryant Park to preserved forests and farmlands around the country. Holly’s experiences as a WWII intelligence officer and leader of the genre-defining reporters at Fortune Magazine in the 1950s shaped his razor-sharp assessments of how the world actually worked—not how it was assumed to work. His 1956 bestseller, The Organization Man, catapulted the dangers of “groupthink” and conformity into the national consciousness.
 
Over his five decades of research and writing, Holly’s wide-ranging work changed how people thought about careers and companies, cities and suburbs, urban planning, open space preservation, and more. He was part of the rising environmental movement, helped spur change at the planning office of New York City, and narrated two films about urban life, in addition to writing six books. No matter the topic, Holly advocated for the decisionmakers to be people, not just experts.
 
“We need the kind of curiosity that blows the lid off everything,” Holly once said. His life offers encouragement to be thoughtful and bold in asking questions and in making space for differing viewpoints. This revealing biography offers a rare glimpse into the mind of an iconoclast whose healthy skepticism of the status quo can help guide our efforts to create the kinds of places we want to live in today. (Island Press)

He was right, in-person observation is incredibly valuable. Photos, videos, etc are good, but the best observations are made in person. This is why for 17+ years I like to visit places in person before posting about them here.

You can read some preview pages of this hardcover book here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Exploring Housing Options for 801 Dickson Street

March 17, 2022 Featured, North City, Planning & Design, Real Estate Comments Off on Exploring Housing Options for 801 Dickson Street

Monday’s post was about reconnecting the pedestrian grid at 8th Street, just south of Cass Ave — see 8th Street Walkway Needed To Fill Missing 110’ Connectivity Gap. Today’s post is about exploring options for new housing on the large lot known as 801 Dickson Street — it stretches a full block along the north side of Dickson, between 8th & 9th streets. This vacant land is owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority.

First we’ll look at the site, conditions, etc. and then some of the various configurations I’ve considered. You may have others.

Aerial view of 801 Dickson Street
801 Dickson is owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority, zoned D Multi-Family Housing. The strategic land use is NPA — neighborhood preservation area. The long sides are 292.52 feet, the east/right short side is 110 feet, and the left/west short side is 120 feet. Click to view in Google Maps — sans boundary lines.

Site characteristics:

  • Faces south-southwest.
  • Gentle slope south from alley.
  • The parking for 12 cars at the alley has been in place for 70 years, it lacks an accessible space and adjacent loading zone.
  • The Youth & Family Center on the north side of the alley was built in 1982. It was previously called Cochran Youth & Family Center. It has entrances onto Cass and the back alley. It has no parking on its site at 818 Cass Ave. Nobody ever parks on Cass Ave, even though it isn’t marked as no parking.
  • A northbound bus stop (#32) is on the short side, on 9th Street.
  • Overhead electric enters the site on the east side, about 20 feet south of the alley. The poles and overhead wires stop just before 9th Street (left side).
  • Some mature trees exist along the alley, 9th. Smaller street trees exist along Dickson Street. The trees next to the alley have been trimmed so as to not interfere with the overhead power lines.
  • The west end had part of Cochran Gardens tower C-9 from 1951 until about 2005, the west end was part of a Cochran Gardens playground. Presumably the building foundations were fully removed. Potentially 19th century remnants remain buried.
Looking west at 801 Dickson
Looking north on 9th, at Dickson. The #32 bus frequently stops here to drop off a rider, or let one board.
Looking back east from 9th, the brick circle is all that remains from Cochran Gardens. Parking & electrical poles are visible.
A direct view of the parking from the alley. Again, the overhead electric is visible.

Before getting into the various options for new construction please understand this post isn’t concerned with who would build any housing, or how it would be paid for, demand, market economics, etc. The purpose here is to see the various options for constructing additional housing on the site — what does & doesn’t physically fit on the site. Ideally I’d like to avoid a curb cut/driveway off both Dickson & 9th streets.

A good plan to start with ideas is to look at the context, the housing around the site. To the east of where I want a new 8th Street pedestrian walkway the dimension between 8th and 7th is just a few feet wider. It has two buildings, each with four townhouses. Along the alley are two garage buildings, each with a 2-car garage — one for each of the 8 total townhouses. When Cochran Gardens was replaced all the new construction, like my apartment, is rental — but each of the 8 townhouses are privately-owned, owner-occupied.

Row houses 7xx Dickson
Row houses 7xx Dickson
Garages behind 7xx Dickson
Garages behind 7xx Dickson

The problem is the aforementioned parking spaces off the alley, on the west end of the site. If the trees along the alley were removed you could building one group of four townhouses, with garage. You could do a second if the parking were removed, but that’s not ideal.

Directly across Dickson Street are more townhouses, these are mixed-income rentals with a common shared parking lot behind. Theoretically it may be possible to put a shallow parking lot behind townhouses.

This is a 2012 view of townhouses on 9th Street, the ones facing Dickson are similar.

The other contextual option is a building with garden apartments. The Cambridge Heights garden apartment buildings each contain 12 apartments — 3 floors, six units per two entrances/breezeways. Like townhouses, parking might be possible behind. One such building could fit. A variation with 18 units with three entrances/breezeways could potentially fit.

What about going higher than 3 floors? While elevators are expensive, and costly to maintain, a 4-5 story building could work as you get more units in the same space. The scale of an old 5-story building on 7th seems fine in the neighborhood. I’d love to see a lot of accessible units as the need for low-income housing for the disabled is needed — especially near downtown. With an existing bus stop adjacent it would be great for many people who don’t drive or own a car, this would make it easier to not have any off-street parking. Perhaps the site is arranged so a small parking lot is located off the alley, on the east end of the site.

It would be nice if an elevator building had a retail space at the corner, perhaps part of a live/work unit.

Another option would be groupings of tiny homes (300sf) or small homes (800sf).  Some could front onto the 8th Street walkway I’d like to see get built. Since the site is a block long there’s nothing to say it all has to be the same, some combination of ideas can be used.

The parking at the alley for the Youth & Family Center should probably be separated from the main lot, or a formalized easement. It would also be nice if the overhead electric was buried. The St. Louis Housing Authority also owns a larger lot between 8th & 9th, on O’Fallon Street (map), but kids often use this for ball, frisbee, etc.

The vacant land in my neighborhood, owned by the housing authority, is ideal for affordable/low-income new housing — perhaps by a developer seeking a tax break on a big project in the central corridor.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

8th Street Walkway Needed To Fill Missing 110’ Connectivity Gap

March 14, 2022 Accessibility, Featured, North City, Walkability Comments Off on 8th Street Walkway Needed To Fill Missing 110’ Connectivity Gap

When cold water flats and tenements were cleared just north of downtown for St. Louis’ first high-rise public housing project, Cochran Gardens, several blocks of 8th Street were erased from the grid. Six decades later 8th Street was rebuilt* when the mixed-income Cambridge Heights apartments & townhouses replaced Cochran Gardens’ towers.

* 110 feet of 8th Street wasn’t replaced!

This short missing piece is a connectivity problem for those of us who live here. Later, when Cass Ave over I-44 (aka I-70) was raised as part of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge project 7th Street got disconnected from Cass Ave. So now neither 7th or 8th connect to Cass. Getting to/from the bus at Cass Ave & Broadway is likely the primary reason for needing access here, it would also be nice when we go to Shady Jack’s or walk/roll up Broadway.

A little bit of the original 8th Street exists south of Cass Ave, but it quickly ends at an alley. Jersey barriers exist to keep drivers from going straight ahead.
From the broken sidewalk on the east side of 8th you can see a clear route to 8th Street 100 feet further south. The west side of 8th, unfortunately, has no sidewalk.
In the field you can see beyond Dickson Street to 8th Street
At the public sidewalk you can look south along 8th Street to downtown. 8th Street is the center of Cambridge Heights.

Motorists use the alley south of Cass to get to/from Cass Ave, but pedestrians often walk though vacant land where 110 feet of 8th street should be. As you’ll see, putting in street, curbs, drainage, etc would be challenging & costly — all that’s needed is a 110 foot long sidewalk and a couple of curb ramps.

Looking toward Cass Ave from the SW corner of 8th & Dickson streets.
Looking toward Cass Ave from the SW corner of 8th & Dickson streets.
The same view after a recent snowfall. Two desire lines where people walked are clear. A community center is visible on the left, but no good way to get there directly.

This is needed because going between the neighborhood and Cass Ave is challenging as a pedestrian. I’ve thought so for the 3+ years I’ve lived here. I’ve also seen a woman at least 15 years my senior (so 70+) walking though the grass with a cane. The trail through the snow earlier this year was also a clue.

You might be thinking this land is vacant do it can be developed for more housing. Let’s take a look at the property lines.

The blue dot marks a 15 foot wide parcel owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority (725 Dickson Street). They also own the land from here to 9th Street. 723 Dickson Street is 64.26 feet wide, includes the 22 foot wide end of 3 townhouses.

My assumption is the 15 foot wide parcel known as 725 Dickson (map) is there to prevent anyone building over utilities, like sewer, under the old 8th Street. The end row house has a lot of extra land beyond their fence. Basically there’s more than enough width to create a generous pedestrian path. There are some obstacles near the alley.

From the alley you can see a little bit of concrete and some useless chain link. And an electric utility pole.
From the lot you can see the pole and an electrical box (transformer?). There are also wires to help keep the pole upright on the private land side.

There’s room to fit a 5′ wide walkway at the alley to then toward 8th & Dickson streets, we just need to figure out property lines, utilities, easements, etc. City mowers have a hard time during the summer keeping the back area cut — a private home owner would get a violation letter from the city for such conditions. The elevation is slightly higher at the alley than south at Dickson Street.

The need exists, much of the land is owned by the housing authority. Cost wouldn’t be that substantial. I’d love to see fruit trees planed on both sides of a walkway so the public can access free fruit.

— Steve Patterson

 

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