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Three Infill Projects Accomodate Pedestrians and Motorists

I’m a huge fan of Retrofitting Suburbia, the redevelopment of formerly auto-centric suburban retail sites. In late September, while on my honeymoon, I got to see three different examples in the Denver area. Two site once had traditional enclosed malls, the third was previously an airport. We started with the oldest and finished with the newest.

Englewood, CO

In June 2000 the CityCenter Englewood project opened, replacing Cinderella City mall that had opened just 32 years earlier:

The mall was completed and officially opened for business on 7 March 1968 and once held the distinction of being the largest covered shopping center west of the Mississippi River. It featured four sections: Rose Mall, Gold Mall, Shamrock Mall and Cinder Alley. In addition, the Center Court area was known as the Blue Mall. It was demolished in 1999. (Wikipedia)

Englewood was founded in the 19th Century but largely developed in the Post-WWII era. Like many post-war suburbs, it lacked a downtown. By the 1980s newer malls had eclipsed Cinderella City. In the late 1990s they saw the replacement of the mall and the coming of light rail as an opportunity to build a downtown:

CityCenter Englewood replaced Cinderella City with a transit-oriented development (TOD).  This TOD is a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use concept that includes retail, entertainment, residential, office, civic and open space elements with a transit focal point.  The former Foley’s building was renovated into the new Englewood Civic Center, which houses the City Hall offices, the Library, Municipal Court, and the Museum of Outdoor Arts.  The Civic Center was the first feature of CityCenter Englewood to open when it made its debut in June 2000.

The Civic Center creates the cornerstone of the redevelopment of Cinderella City that includes Wal-Mart, Trammell Crow apartments with first floor retail, Office Depot, the Sports Authority, IHOP, Qdoba, and other retail and commercial businesses, second floor office with first floor retail, an RTD light rail station, and a Bally’s Fitness Center.  (City of Englewood)

You can see a current aerial here, and a 1991 aerial here. In the Southwest corner of the site an anchor store building was retained, as was part of the structured parking. The adjacent street grid was brought through the site. Apartments were added nearest the new light rail station, big box stores added to the east end of the site. All connected by a grid of streets and sidewalks.

The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.

Not bad for an early example of such a project. We saw people walking as we drove through, others can be seen in Google Street View.

Lakewood, CO

The Villa Italia mall opened two years before Cinderella City, in 1966. By the 1990s Lakewood officials saw both malls dying off, they didn’t want a vacant mall in their city.

A referendum was held in 1997, which authorized “urban renewal” to redevelop Villa Italia into a more conventional downtown district, something that the post-war suburb had never had.

In 1998, Lakewood entered into a joint venture with Denver-based Continuum Development. Continuum purchased the land beneath the mall from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation in September 1999 and acquired the buildings and ground leases from Equitable in early 2001. The site was rezoned (from that of an enclosed shopping center to a mixed-use development) and the redevelopment plan put in motion.

Villa Italia closed in July 2001, demolition began the following January. Belmar opened in 2004. Like CityCenter Englewood, streets were cut through the site. Not private driveways, public streets with public sidewalks. The pedestrian grid was as equally important as the vehicular grid, not an afterthought.

You can view an old aerial here and a current one here.

A new street at Belmar
A new street at Belmar
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.

A former anchor department store building was kept, it’s now a Dick’s Sporting Goods store. New housing is on the perimeter of the site, surrounding the retail core.

Stapleton

When Denver decided to build a new airport east of the developed region the question became what to do with the old airport.

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A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
An internal street in the venter of the retail area
An internal street in the center of the main retail area called The Shops at Northfield Stapleton
Another view
Another view
Another street in the core of the retail area
Another street in the core of the retail area, note the on-street parking
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target's parking lot.
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target’s parking lot.
The street where we parked terminated in
The street where we parked terminated in a Bass Pro Shops store, also connected to the sidewalk system

The overall site is massive, as you might expect from a former airport. It has many residential neighborhoods, distinct retail areas, and a business park.

Final thoughts

All three are variations on the New Urbanist/Retrofitting Suburbia theme. While I wouldn’t want to live at any of the three I know someone like me, who uses a wheelchair often, can get to businesses at each development on a sidewalk network. All three remain very car friendly, I drove to all three. Providing the option to walk doesn’t make them less appealing to motorists. Some pedestrians probably arrived by car but decide to explore on foot rather than drive from store to store.

— Steve Patterson

 

Eleanor Roosevelt Visited St. Louis 75 Years Ago

Seventy-five years ago today First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about her visit to St. Louis the day before.  She arrived at St. Louis’ Union Station, having been in Kansas City.  Later that Sunday she visited Fort Belle Fontaine:

I visited a training school for boys between the ages of 12 and 18, yesterday afternoon. It is about 16 miles out of St. Louis and is run on the cottage system with much land around it. The boys work three hours of the day on academic school courses and four hours on actual labor jobs.

Yesterday being Sunday, the WPA orchestra and the choral leader were putting on a concert in which the boys themselves participated. The commentator told the story of the music which the orchestra was about to play and the boys joined in the singing. Sometimes it was a quartette of boys trained under the WPA recreational project by the choral director, sometimes it was a song by the entire glee club.

The boys never had any time to weary of too much orchestral music, nor did they have to sit still too long, because periodically they rose and sang as loudly as they wanted. (My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt Monday November 6, 1939)

The Works Progress Administration (WPA), started in 1935, had numerous projects on the historic site, including terraces down to the Missouri River.

The WPA built the stone terraces & steps down to the Missouri River
The WPA built the stone terraces & steps down to the Missouri River, that’s my husband on the left

Why is it historic? Glad you asked:

Fort Belle Fontaine Park has been a St. Louis County Park since 1986. Few are aware that this was the first United States military installation west of the Mississippi River, established in 1805. Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery expedition (1804-1806) spent the first night of their expedition on an island opposite Cold Water Creek and their last night two years later at the fort, which had been established in their absence. Other major expeditions left from this site betweem 1805 and 1819 to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Until it was replaced by Jefferson Barracks in 1826, Fort Belle Fontaine was an important gathering place in the wilderness for officers and enlisted men, Native American, French, Spanish and American settlers, trappers and traders, and the local businessmen and farmers who supplied the fort with necessities. (St. Louis County)

A year after, to the day, that Mrs. Roosevelt visited St. Louis her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt won an unprecedented 3rd term in office.

The recent PBS special The Roosevelts was fascinating, highly recommenced!! If you haven’t been, I also revommend visiting Fort Belle Fontaine

— Steve Patterson

 

Remembering Sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955); 75th Anniversary of Aloe Plaza Next May

Aloe Plaza, across Market from Union Station, was many  years in the making. President of the Board of Aldermen (1916-1923) Louis P. Aloe had championed a 1923 bond issue that included razing buildings across from Union Station to create a more attractive way to welcome visitors arriving by train.  Aloe died in 1929 but his widow continued his vision, from the city’s former website on Aloe Plaza:

Edith Aloe, Louis P. Aloe’s widow, became acquainted with the work of the Swedish sculptor, Carl Milles, at an exhibition of modern art held by the St. Louis League of Women Voters in 1930. The idea of commissioning Milles to build a fountain in Aloe Plaza grew out of her enthusiasm for his work.

But the country was in the middle of the Depression so her idea was put on hold until January 1936 when Mrs. Aloe gave a dinner in her home for the sculptor,Carl Milles, and members of the St. Louis Art Commission. She officially presented her check for $12,500.

The City signed a contract with Milles in 1936. Milles designed and cast the bronze statues for the fountain in his studio at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook, Michigan. The fountain was completed in November 1939, but remained veiled until its dedication on May 11, 1940 before a crowd of 3,000 persons.

The fountain, originally named “The Wedding of the Rivers,” depicts the union of the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers, represented by the two central figures. Accompanying the two main figures and forming a wedding procession are 17 water spirits, symbolic of the smaller streams that empty into the two major rivers.

An uproar arose over the nudity of the male figure, reprenting the Mississippi River and the female figure, the Missouri River. In deference to the criticism, the name of the fountain was changed to ,”The Meeting of the Waters.” (PDF of website on Scribd)

Milles was in his early 60s when we was commissioned by St. Louis.

The former website listed the total cost of Aloe Plaza at $225,000, broken down as follows:

  • Fountains: $150,000
  • Statues: $60,000
  • Lighting: $12,000
  • Landscaping: $3,000
  • Tulips: $200

The cost of the tulips wasn’t included in the total. Not listed was the cost to acquire the land and raze the buildings.

Carl Milles, date unknown, Source: findagrave.com, click to view
Carl Milles, date unknown, Source: findagrave.com, click to view his memorial
Carl Milles' 'Meeting of the Waters' is the focal point of Aloe Plaza
Carl Milles’ ‘Meeting of the Waters’ is the focal point of Aloe Plaza

Milles died on this day in 1955 — 59 years ago.

May 11, 2015 will mark 75 years since Aloe Plaza was first dedicated and ‘Meeting of the Waters’ unveiled. Our IKEA store won’t be open yet, but perhaps the Swedish retailer can be involved in a celebration.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Union Station Opened 120 Years Ago Today

September 1, 2014 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Transportation Comments Off on St. Louis Union Station Opened 120 Years Ago Today

The labor of many built the building that opened 120 tears ago today: St. Louis Union Station. This 1894 station replaced the original St. Louis Union Station, which was located six blocks east, at 12th & Poplar. The original had opened 19 years earlier, on June 1, 1875

The beauty of Carl Milles' work with Union Station in the background
The beauty of Carl Milles’ sculpture with Union Station in the background
Window detail inside the Grand Hall at Union Station
Window detail inside the Grand Hall at Union Station

After millions passed through this station over 80+ years it closed. In ruins it was the location of the fight scene from Escape from New York (1981).  Last Friday, August 29th, marked 29 years since Union Station reopened as a festival marketplace. Basically a mall under the train shed. New owner are replacing the failed mall with convention/meeting space to support the hotel. See StLouisUnionStation.com for more information.

Happy Labor Day!

— Steve Patterson

 

Aviator Charles Lindbergh Died 40 Years Ago Today

U.S. Route 67 runs north-south from the Mexico border in Texas into Iowa after passing through Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois. In St. Louis County U.S.67 is better known as Lindbergh Boulevard, named after famed aviator Charles Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 – August 26, 1974):

One of the finest fliers of his time, Charles Lindbergh was the chief pilot for the first St. Louis to Chicago airmail route, in April 1926. While based at Lambert Field, he conceived of an airplane that could fly from New York to Paris, and persuaded a group of St. Louis businessmen to finance the project. The result was the immortal “Spirit of St. Louis,” which he flew across the Atlantic on May 20-21, 1927. The feat made Lindbergh a national hero, and raised public awareness of aviation’s potential to an unprecedented level. (St. Louis Walk of Fame)

Lindbergh was born in Detroit and died in Maui, Hawaii at age 72:

The "Spirit of St. Louis" in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, photo Sept 2001
The “Spirit of St. Louis” in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, photo Sept 2001

Lindbergh didn’t live here long:

March 1924 – Lindbergh enlists in the Army Air Service and begins training. He graduates, first in his class, from the Army’s Advanced Flying School and is commissioned as a second lieutenant. At loose ends because few squadrons need new pilots, he decides to head for St. Louis, where he begins working as a test pilot, barnstormer, stunt flyer and mail pilot.

Fall 1926 – Bored with mail flying, Lindbergh dreams of capturing the $25,000 Orteig Prize that will be given to the first aviator to fly nonstop between New York and Paris. He starts searching for the financial backers necessary to sponsor his flight. Time is of the essence because several other teams of pilots in the U.S. and France, including U.S. Navy Commander Richard Byrd, are preparing their own transatlantic flights.

April 1927 – Construction on Lindbergh’s plane, built by the Ryan Aeronautical Company in San Diego, is completed, and Lindbergh conducts a series of test flights.

May 12, 1927 – Lindbergh arrives in New York. He had crossed the entire country in less than twenty-two hours of flying time. The media takes a shine to Lindbergh, not only because he is physically the most attractive of all the fliers attempting the New York/Paris flight but because he is the only one attempting the journey on his own.

May 20, 1927 – At 7:54 am, Lindbergh, who has not slept in almost twenty-four hours, takes off from Long Island’s Roosevelt Field.

May 21, 1927 – At 10:54 pm, Lindbergh lands at Le Bourget airfield near Paris. A human tidal wave of spectators, 150,000 strong, is there to greet him and Lindbergh is quickly caught up in the riptide of the masses. Overnight, the modern wonders of communication transform the 25-year “boy” into the most famous man on earth. (Lindbergh Foundation)

Lindbergh needed financial backing to buy the plane he needed for the attempt, it came from St. Louis businessmen:

He had $2,000 in savings, and he figured he’d need an additional $15,000.

The first to pony up was Maj. Albert Bond Lambert (note the last name), an enthusiastic balloonist and the city’s first licensed pilot. The others were banker Harold M. Bixby, head of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce; broker Harry H. Knight and his father, Harry F. Knight; aircraft execs Frank and William Robertson; Earl C. Thompson; J.D. Wooster Lambert; and St. Louis Globe-Democrat publisher E. Lansing Ray.

Bixby suggested that Lindbergh name the plane the Spirit of St. Louis. Today Bixby’s nephew, Charles Houghton, says his Uncle Harold had more in mind than honoring his own city. “What most people don’t know is that the patron saint of Paris was Louis IX, Saint-Louis,” Bixby says, “so the French were just thrilled when this plane arrived. Besides honoring the backers and the community, there was that wonderful connection to the French people.” (St. Louis Magazine)

I wasn’t able to find out where Charles Lindbergh lived during his couple of years living in St. Louis prior to the famous flight, perhaps someone out there knows. Charles A. Lindbergh was born on

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