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Celebrate Your Independents Festival July 1, 2006

I’m passing along an announcement from my friends over at Business United for Local Independent Development, aka BUILD St. Louis:

BUILD St. Louis would like to invite you to our annual Celebrate Your Independents Festival! The party starts at 3 p.m. and goes on into the night on July 1, 2006 in the lot at the Schlafly Tap Room, located at 2100 Locust St. at 21st Street (map). What do we have going on this year?

The Big Tent – 50 independents business showcasing everything from Fair Trade Jewelry to home baked dog treats. Food to inspire the palate and colors to delight the senses. Build some community while you shop!

On the Stage – Set your feet to tapping and your hips to swaying with City Folk, the Red Headed Strangers, and Folknbluesgrass. If you haven’t heard them yet in the local music scene, then you don’t want to miss out on this Festival.

The Art Corner – Join Jenna at SCOSAG and let your imagination fly. If you’re the only one over 12 covered in finger paint, we promise not to tell. Bring the kids and get ready for fun.

Locally Grown Pie Contest – Do you know what’s in season here in Missouri? Can you whip up a mean pie? If the answer to both questions is yes, maybe, or I’d like to, then prizes may be in your future. Visit with the GreenMarket and the Clayton Farmer’s Market to pick up supplies and meet local farmers, then get to baking. If you just like pie, maybe we’ll let you help us judge. Email us at [email protected] or call (314) 808-8032 for information on how to get your pie in the running.

Downtown Bike Tour – Join the St. Louis Bike Federation and BUILD St. Louis for a 6-mile bike tour of some great St. Louis neighborhoods. Don’t worry, even novice riders can make this one. Three stops at mystery independent businesses provide breaks and a history of the area. Bring 2 dollars if you’re not a Bike Federation member. We leave at 5pm from the Tap Room, so make sure to get to the festival early!

If you are an independent business and would like to get a booth for the festival, email us at [email protected] or call (314) 808-8032. See you all at the Tap Room!

Many things to like about this event: locally owned businesses, pie, good music, pie, art, pie, and bicycles. And what is better after a six mile ride? Pie! Well, and some Schlafly beer! Sounds like a great event.

On an aside, can you believe the Tap Room has been open since 1991? They’ve done a great job with their building over the years but despite all the events and such they have always been this little island in the area. Slowly the area has seen other development such as the Sporting News Lofts at 2020 Washington. Next year many other buildings in the area will have new residents. Just goes to show that sometimes it takes a while for a seed to germinate.

The BUILD St. Louis Celebrate Your Independents Festival will be held on the Tap Room’s parking lot. I hope to see this land become so valuable that surface parking no longer makes financial sense. Building new on their surface lot would be a nice evolution for the local brew pub.

– Steve


Tower Grove Farmer’s Market a Huge Success!

towergrovefarmersmarket20061The speeches haven’t even begun opening the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market but if the first few hours are any indication, it will be hugely successful.

Occupying a small paved area west of the Pool Pavilion (which itself is on the West side fo the traffic circle), the market was full and vendors and paying customers.

Organic produce, live plants, eggs and meats. Other local items such as handmade soaps, bread, and pasta rounded out the selection.

The only problem was really a good one, lots of people and bicycles. It was crowded but that added to the feeling of success. Had the same number of people and vendors been spread over a wider area it wouldn’t have been as good.

Bike parking was an issue so some secured their bikes to the fence of the nearby tennis courts or light poles. Hopefully before the end of the market in October some bike racks can get installed nearby. Joining the Friends of Tower Grove Park might help that cause.

I noticed many residents walking to the farmer’s market both from Tower Grove South and Shaw neighborhoods. That is really great as I’d hate to see so many cars in the park that someone starts thinking a parking lot is needed.

Big kudos to all the organizers, sponsors and elected officials (including Ald. Jennifer Florida), for making this happen.

See additional photos on Flickr.

– Steve


Think Twice Before Writing Off an Ugly Building

virginia ave kroeger - 2I hear it often, “that building is not worth saving.” Indeed, many of our buildings have been so poorly remodeled over the decades that it is hard to imagine them as anything but an eyesore. Such is the case with the building shown at right.

If you’ve been to the awesome Iron Barley restaurant on Virginia in Dutchtown then you’ve probably seen this building at the corner of Virginia and Fassen (map). To most eyes it is not worthy anything except the wrecking ball.

But what did it once look like?

… Continue Reading


Hodak’s Seeking to Close Part of Cushing Street

The Benton Park Neighborhood is being asked to support a plan by Hodak’s restaurant (map) to close part of Cushing St. so that the popular eatery can expand its increasing number of parking spaces.

Hodak’s is seeking to close Cushing St. from McNair Ave. to a small street known as Devolsey St. Hodak’s is already surrounded by way too much parking, especially since they (illegally) razed buildings to the east a few years ago for more parking. Yet, that is not good enough. They want more spaces and more control.

As it is Hodak’s parking remains vacant during most hours of the day with a large spike at dinner time. Do we really want to see streets closed and possibly more buildings razed simply for a dinner crowd? Not me.

Granted, Custing St. is not much of a street. Really, it is more of a glorified alley but it does serve a number of adjacent property owners along McNair & Victor as well as some real alleys connecting to the street. It is wide enough to provide access for emergency vehicles for various properties on both sides.

At this time I do not know what position, if any, that Alderwoman Phyllis Young has taken. If you have an opinion please be sure to share it with her and in the comments below.

The Benton Park Neighborhood Association meeting is tonight at The Epiphany United Church of Christ located at 2911 Mc Nair. The first hour, 6:30pm – 7:30pm, is a pot luck dinner and problem property meeting with the main meeting starting at 7:30pm.

[UPDATE 5/3 @ 9:20am – The closure of Cushing would only be “partial”, not going all the way to McNair. It still prevents through traffic.]

– Steve


Pyramid’s Claims to be “Leader in Urban Redevelopment”

sullivan_place - 12.jpg

John Steffen’s Pyramid Companies is trying to remake its tarnished public image. Their website is newly updated with a vision statement:

The Pyramid Companies were founded in 1992 to realize owner John Steffen’s vision to rebuild urban areas with high quality historic renovations and the construction of new homes. Today, Pyramid is the acknowledged leader of urban redevelopment in the City of St. Louis with over $500 million in projects completed or in various stages of development.

“Acknowledged leader?” Under who’s terms? Perhaps if you look solely at the total cost of the projects they are the biggest, most likely with the most tax-payer contributions. Biggest does not mean the best. What about criteria that includes urban form factor? How about neighborhoods that have long-term prospects of remaining sustainable in 50 years?

With most of Pyramid’s bigger projects located downtown in existing structures it has been nearly impossible for them to screw up the urban form. But their new construction, throughout the city, has been highly questionable.

The mission statement talks about “John Steffen’s vision to rebuild urban areas.” I think his vision is a bit cloudy. One look at Pyramid’s new Sullivan Place project, at right, and it is easy to doubt any vision other than a money making suburban one. Steffen certainly can’t think Sullivan Place represents a wonderful urban vision!

Over the years they’ve built numerous projects of questionable urbanity. Early projects included very suburban looking houses along Delmar with front-facing garages. Moving on they started and then abandoned Keystone Place. What was built there had attached garages and long driveways, a small step up from front garages. Sure, a detached garage option was listed in sales literature but customers were never shown a display from which to chose.

Next up was King Louis Square, an apartment complex trying hard to be urban but falling short on several levels such as building form and the actual architecture with its PVC molding carelessly applied to the facade. Just up the street they built Old Frenchtown, another uninspired apartment complex. Now we have La Saison, a new single family home project between King Louis Square & Old Frenchtown. In La Saison many of the homes are set far apart and nearly all are set way back from the street as if they were in suburbia. Poor detailing on the houses does not bode well for their long-term value. Pyramid had a great opportunity to create a wonderful mixed-used neighborhood where these recent projects stand yet their suburban “vision” resulted in the housing types all being segregated from each other. This land, cleared once in the 1950’s for public housing, was cleared again in the 1990’s. We should have demanded better. Although, we should have gotten better from a major developer and the city.

A true urban vision would have resulted in a greater variety of housing types, all mixed. We would have seen rental buildings next to single family homes next to attached townhouses. Granny flats over some garages could have helped create affordable rental units convenient to transportation and jobs. Commercial activity on Park in Lafayette Square should have been continued East toward Tucker. Apartments/condos over storefronts would have helped create streets people might actually walk down. As it is, this redeveloped area is clean but lifeless. Is this Steffen’s vision?

Back to propping up Pyramid’s image.

A recent St. Louis Business Journal article on Pyramid was little more than a press release. Everyone got into the act:

“We have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that John will be able to complete St. Louis Centre and the other projects he has embarked on, based on the fact that over the past five years, everything that he has said he would do in the downtown area, he has done and done on schedule,” Geisman said.

The key phrase is “in the downtown area.” Other quotes in the same article used the same ‘downtown’ qualifier. Pyramid’s downtown track record might be good but outside downtown the track record is poor, and getting worse.

– Steve