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Advertising Blocks Public Sidewalk

Over the weekend I drove across the newly rebuilt and just reopened Chouteau bridge. At the end I pulled into the parking lot for Bellon’s Market Deli & Pizzeria, owned by the family which razes much of St. Louis’ history. I could not believe my eyes, a big cheap sign ugly blocking the public sidewalk.

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I will be contacting Bellon’s as well as Ald. Joe Roddy, asking them to immediately remove the sign. If you spot other situations where the public space is being abused let me know.

UPDATE 1/22/07 – 2:45pm:

I received the following email response back from owner Carrie Bellon:

“I am very sorry about the sign. MODOT workers have been moving it around for several months, while all the road construction was going on. We will move the sign asap. Sorry I did not notice that it had been moved to the sidewalk.”

I’m glad they are on top of the situation now but I guess I am a bit confused why MoDot workers would be moving a sign that should be contained on private property, not in the public right of way where they have been working.

UPDATE 1/24/07 – 2pm:

The Potato, not to be confused with The Onion, did a really funny posting today mocking this post:  Newspaper Blocks Public Sidewalk

 

Valet Zones Established on Washington Avenue

Finally! My first mention of valet parking was on December 6, 2005. Today, just over a year later, the problem was basically solved — the city’s Street Department installed signs marking valets zones in the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Washington Ave.

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The West end of Lucas Park Grille’s valet zone (in the 1200 block) is basically at the end of their restaurant, as it should be.  [Update 1/12/07 10:45am – I measured their space from sign to sign this morning and it is a reasonable 88ft.]

The real confusing thing here has nothing to do with valet parking — from the signs to my back is no parking as this is both a bus stop and the intersection with 13th Street (although part does not have through traffic) yet a parking meter is attached to the post (mostly hidden in this view). So the signs say no parking from the sign back yet a parking meter exists as though it would be OK.  [Update 1/12/07 10:45am – I missed this last night but saw it this morning and a commenter also pointed it out — some of the meters in this area are located at the back of the spaces rather than the front.  That is the case here — the meter is for the space where the BMW is parked above.]

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This sign is the opposite end of the Lucas Park Grille valet zone. Again, they’ve got the full space in front of their restaurant for people to drop off and pick up their cars. The remainder of the spaces they had been taking, roughly 7-10 are now available for the general public.

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Moving to the East we get to the 1100 block of Washington Ave where Copia has been taking the entire block for a year. I took this picture during the no-parking on street time of 4pm-6pm, another subject I will get to later in this post. I returned later after 6pm and the valet company had covered this meter with one of their no-parking covers and saying the space where I am standing to take this picture was also for valet. As you can see, the restaurant is up ahead and they have the zone up to the white car in the background. The sign is clearly pointing that direction but I didn’t bother arguing with him. There will be an education and adjustment period and I have faith in the new acting Director of Streets to do what it takes keep the streets in order.

[Update 1/12/07 @ 10:45am — I went down there this morning and did some measuring.  From the sign shown below at the east end of their zone to the sign shown above it is a huge 129ft — too long.  Plus they were thinking they got the space that the sign is attached to — that total length is 151ft.  In reality they should have one less space for a total of 106ft, still a reasonable length in my view. ] 

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This image is the eastern end of the Copia valet zone. Again, they have a reasonable amount of space to conduct their business while everyone else has public parking to be shared. This small change will have a significant impact on the visual appearance of the street, including the perception of how happening the street is. No longer will we see big dead zones due to valets co-opting all the available spaces. Good common sense has prevailed.

I want to thank Ald. Lyda Krewson (D-28th Ward) for her many hours of working on this issue. I know it has been hours because she and I have literally spent hours talking and emailing over this subject for a good six months or more. Plus I gather she has had numerous conversations with valet company owners, other aldermen and so on. In the past I’ve said 8 years was plenty for an alderman, that after that many years they nothing else to give and it was time to move on. Well, I think I was wrong — despite the 9 years Ald. Krewson has been on the Board of Aldermen it is clear to me now Ald. Krewson has plenty of drive to tackle issues and can be open to suggestions and alternate views. Click here to send an email to Ald. Krewson thanking her for taking the time to pursue this issue.
Also deserving attention is the new acting Director of Streets, Todd Waeltermann. Having just started the job in December he has rolled up his sleeves and got down to work with Ald. Krewson on this issue. Like Krewson, he has gotten very involved and applied some very sensible common sense to the issue. I also hear the folks in the Slay administration were very supportive so thank you Room 200!

The other people that deserve credit are the many of you that sent emails and made phone calls regarding this issue. I have a big mouth but I think it took the efforts of more voices to get things rolling. Citizens standing up on an issue can be heard, persistence will eventually pay off. Of course the work is not complete. The city apparently had about 16 valet permits/areas so it will take some time for the zones to be established throughout the city to the other 14. The good thing is once that is done the companies that supposedly operate reguarly without a permit will become far more obvious. Short-term permits (1 or 2 days) will still be issued without any signs being installed.

So despite being quite pleased with the action taken today I want to point out a few issues that need to be looked at in the near future. The main one is the obnoxious 4pm-6pm no parking rule on Washington Ave from Tucker East. It really only applies to two blocks (1000 & 1100) because the remainder of the blocks to the river are no-parking 24/7. As I said a year ago, I think we should allow parking along Washington all the way to the river — with the possible exception of the spaces immediately in front of American’s Center. Those spaces, in front of the convention center, should be reserved for cabs.

The concern, of course, is how do we allow for workers to quickly flee the city at 5pm. By allowing parking on-street in the morning & evening rush it will take them a bit longer. Well, I say time the lights better along Washington so some is not having to stop at every signal. Also, encourage East-West traffic to use the much wider Cole Ave to the North of the convention center. We’ve literally invested millions of dollars in Washington Ave and visitors coming and going between the convention center and the hotel across the street currently get the impression the street is dead. All they can see from 8th street is an empty street with little to no activity. The only real activity they see are four lanes of traffic going by but not stopping.

Back in the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Washington Ave I am concerned the lack of on-street parking between 5pm and 6pm is negatively affecting the happy hour business at Kitchen K, Dubliner and even Copia. I’d like to see the city do a test of allowing on-street parking from at least 9th street to Tucker throughout the day at it is to the West. At the same time push back the start time for Copia’s valet to 5pm or 5:30pm from 6pm so they can capture that after work crowd. To make this work it would be good to perhaps put up some signs on Tucker and other places where traffic is originating to direct them to alternate routes such as Cole along with reworking the timing on the traffic lights. Tonight I go to bed feeling better about St. Louis. I leave you with a well known quote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

 

Rumor: Schnuck’s to Open in Former St. Louis Centre

December 30, 2006 Downtown, Local Business 12 Comments

The rumor is Schnuck’s will be opening some sort of grocery store in Pyramid’s St. Louis Centre project, which is to be renamed 600 Washington. It has been many years since Schnuck’s was even close to downtown, after shuttering their store on Cass in 2000.

An earlier rumor had Schnuck’s locating a store directly behind the Syndicate in the base of the parking garage in which Schnuck’s development company Desco is a partner. That would be the parking garage that replaced the historic marble-clad Century Building that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And Desco is the same group that is developing the sprawl-centric Loughborough Commons in South St. Louis.

Recently developer Craig Heller announced that his City Grocers was moving across the street into a significantly larger space in the Syndicate Building. So the question becomes can we support two downtown grocers? Frankly, I don’t think we can. City Grocers is now established and the newer space will allow them to carry more products and help serve the daily needs of loft dwellers. However, Schnuck’s buying power may allow them to undercut City Grocers across the board.

The battle may not be over price but instead over location and perception. With numerous lofts around City Grocers and further to the West, will people venture over to 6th and Washington for Schnuck’s? Also, will Schnuck’s seem too ordinary for the loft crowd? Will Schnuck’s that is focused on 60,000+ square feet stores be able to design a smaller format store? If they can pull off a nice small format store, I’d like to see it be considered in other areas of the region, especially near transit stations. For example, a smaller Schnuck’s might do well at the new Forsyth MetroLink station on the border of University City & Clayton without completely sabotaging their larger store on Clayton Road in Richmond Heights.

Back to downtown and St. Louis Centre. If Schnuck’s does open in the former St. Louis Centre (again, this is still just a rumor at this point), this might help me get more on-street parking along Washington all the way to the Eads Bridge. Once the pedestrian walkway over Washington Avenue to the former Dillard’s is removed the vista will be opened again but the street will look very wide and vacant. Having 4-5 spaces which are say 30-45 minute limits would be a good way for someone to quickly stop in to buy a few things. This will also make the area look more lively, a key factor in impressing conventioneers in the area.

 

Battle for Control of Cherokee Street

At 1pm this afternoon the Cherokee Street Business Association will hold elections for its board of directors and officers. Unlike most business assocations, where things just continue with little controversy, this meeting may well be as heated as they come. This meeting may be a glimpse of how the upcoming 20th Ward election will go.

You see, Ald. Craig Schmid is pretty much of the same ‘keep out things’ mode of thinking of Wallace and her supporters. In the past, I think this has served a valid purpose. But times change and we must learn and adapt along the way. Among the groups on Cherokee are professionals, business owners catering to Mexican clientele, restaurants and bakeries, various artists and art groups, and a somewhat “radical” left-wing element. Wallace seems to have issues with all of them.

Galen Gondolfi, a candidate for Schmid’s 20th ward seat, is among those seeking change on Cherokee. Jason Deem, a young business man whom I have met and consulted on a rehab project, is seeking to be the new President of the association. Deem has assembled a diverse group of people from the street, all running as a slate. You can view their flyer in: English or Spanish.

Will a win for Deem and his slate mean trouble for Schmid in the larger ward? Maybe, maybe not. But, a Deem win will mark a shift on the street that Gondolfi will certainly tout on the campaign countdown to March 6th. Craig Schmid is not among the favorites of St. Louis’ political establishments but I have to think they’d rather keep him over a more progressive Gondolfi. Ken Ortmann, whose ward includes part of Cherokee, is not up for re-election until March 2009.

At issue is more than just who controls the gavel at meetings. Cherokee is a special taxing district so those who control the board, along with the aldermen, control the use of monies collected from taxes. How this money is used, or not used, will be important in the coming years.

More information on the growing rift on Cherokee from the RFT archives:

The meeting will be held at 1pm on the 2nd floor of the Juvenile Court Building across from the Casa Loma Ballroom, at Iowa and Cherokee (map).  The group, under Wallace’s leadership does have a website, www.cherokeestation.com, which currently has only an announcement about a Cindo de Mayo this past May.

 

Waiting to Endorse Candidates

November 14, 2006 Local Business 15 Comments

For what it is worth, I do plan to endorse candidates in the upcoming municipal elections in the City of St. Louis. While people are already lining up behind this person or that person I want to share my thoughts on endorsements.

First, I will not be supporting anyone that is unopposed. It is just downright silly to see people endorse someone that has no challenger. That simply means your endorsement is worthless.

Second, I will not be supporting anyone until after campaign finance reports due on January 25th, 2007 are filed and I’ve had a chance to review them. I want to know, before I recommend a candidate, where their money is coming from — who is behind their candidacy. This is especially important this election since the campaign finance limits are getting tossed aside as of January 1st. Again, we won’t really know who is funding these races until late January and for me that makes a difference.

In municipal elections I could care less about political party — Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian or Independent. The Democrat’s National Platform doesn’t appear to speak to issues of say transportation or smart growth. The Missouri Democrats don’t have any platform at all, at least none that I could find. And the St. Louis City Democrats barely have a website, much less a coherent platform relevant to local issues. Where do local Democrats stand on smart growth, regional cooperation (consolidation?), transportation funding, and affordable housing? We are all expected to blindly vote for Democrats without any expectation of a vision. Oh sure, they say catchy phrases like they will, “improve the quality of our neighborhoods” but what does that mean? How specifically will they accomplish this task? Are they doing to work with others in the region to limit the affects of sprawl on the city and inner-ring suburbs? Maybe they are going to adopt new zoning? It is hard to say you are going to improve something until you cite that which needs improving — what is it in the neighborhoods that could be changed so as to create a higher quality environment?

Basically the Democratic stronghold on St. Louis politics has left them complacent on local issues. The group, currently led by Brian Wahby, focuses on state and national elections, local elections being an assumed. They’ve never had a reason to elaborate on a vision or strategies for lifting St. Louis out of decades of population decline. Through countless administrations the solution has been one mega “silver bullet” project after another — mostly downtown. This same flawed logic continues today with the idea that is what is good for downtown is good for the rest of the city. This has some truth in it but it can only go so far.

Until the Democrats, as a local party, demonstrate they collectively can agree on a vision and course of action I will certainly not give a blanket endorsement to voting for Democrats. Sadly, the Republicans are no better in this area and are virtually non-existant in this town. The Greens and Libertarians actually have some good ideas but they tend to focus all their energy (and limited resources) on running candidates for Mayor or Governor. I’d like to see one or both of these parties put together a competent candidacy for the open 6th Ward aldermanic seat.

Now that I think about all the flaws in local politics, come February I may not endorse a single person.

 

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