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Hearing To Reopen Praxair Today at 1pm

Lafayette Square has been a “hot” neighborhood since I moved to St. Louis in 1990. And why not; beautiful homes, convenient location and a magnificent urban park.

But in June of this year it got a little hotter than the residents could stand. Rather than exploding home sales you got exploding storage tanks at Praxair on Chouteau.

During the crisis, which lasted for weeks, Praxair company officials talked of relocating and the city made strong statements about making sure they moved away from such a heavy residential area. It all seemed like it would resolve itself.

Now one side is backing away from their original words and thankfully it is not the City. Praxair has requested a permit to renovate and reopen their facility but the city refused. Praxair has appealed. Today is a hearing on Praxair’s appeal. Not surprising, residents are actively opposing Praxair complete with signs, a letter writing campaign and a new website called, appropriately enough, PraxairWatch.com

From the site you can link to local sources for pictures and video of the explosion, fire and aftermath. Sensational images!

I’ve gone back and forth on this issue to a degree. At various times I’ve wondered if the residents were just pampered NIMBY types (not in my back yard). After all, industry has been around the edge of Lafayette Square longer than any of them have lived there.

But, in the end, I’ve separated in my mind “regular” industry from hazardous and explosive materials. That is where I, and clearly the residents, have drawn the line. Lafayette Square has a number of other businesses at the edge such as an overhead door distributor, a truck repair center and small manufacturers and distributors. These types of businesses have co-existed with the residences for decades and it is a nice mix. St. Louis’ is still very much an industrial city. But explosive gasses?

No resident, regardless of affluence or influence, should be subjected to the risk of such explosions. The mere fact the fire department had to keep water on the scene to cool the contents for what seemed like weeks is proof enough this doesn’t belong anywhere but a highly industrial area where the risk to home and life is minimized. Praxair needs to move to another location.

Today’s meeting is at 1pm in room 208 of City Hall.

– Steve


Reversing Trends Since WWII

November 4, 2005 Downtown, Local Business, St. Louis County, Suburban Sprawl Comments Off on Reversing Trends Since WWII

I’m heading downtown in a few minutes for the First Friday Gallery & Design Walk. One stop will be modern furniture store, The Ambiente Collection, located at 10th and Locust.

I happened to be in the hell known as Manchester Road at 141 in far St. Louis County earlier today and drove past Ambiente’s former location in a reasonably new strip center. The tenant in their old space is Dirt Cheap — the beer & cigarette’s place. I love it, we get designer furniture and they get cheap smokes!

Maybe on my next visit way out there I’ll see some pawn shops or check cashing places?

– Steve


Bringing Life to a Suburban Corner


This weekend I was reviewing pictures from previous trips to Seattle and ran across images of a project I spotted on a 2002 visit. I found it quite interesting at the time and think we could do well to employ such thinking on more than a few corners in our region.

This Tully’s Coffee location is located in suburban Seattle (map). From this view you can see how it conforms to the sidewalk which includes right turn lanes typical of suburban streets. But pedestrians do exist in the area.


From the main street you can see the building is not very large but is well detailed. It creates a sense of place at the corner of an intersection that needed it. Street trees and outdoor seating make this a pleasant place.

You’ll never guess what it is in front of.



Yes, this small Tully’s Coffee location is in front of a typical corner Walgreen’s store. It includes entrances facing the corner as well as the Walgreen’s. I can envision people stopping at Walgreen’s to pick up something and deciding to run in for a latte. Conversely someone might stop for a coffee and realize they needed a few things they can pick up at Walgreen’s. It is a win-win for both retailers and the community.

I’m not a fan of Walgreen’s — they seem to procreate more quickly than rabbits. Throughout our region we have many stores identical to this one in Seattle. With so many existing and likely more on the way we should give serious consideration to such a concept.

It doesn’t have to be a coffeehouse at the corner. Could be a small restaurant like a Subway (or a locally owned equivalent). The idea is to begin placing buildings at the sidewalk line to make our cities more pedestrian friendly.

– Steve


Winghaven Grocer to Reopen!

A week ago I reported that Dave’s, a small grocer located in the suburban area known as Winghaven, had closed. Here is a portion of Dave’s letter to the community he served:

After many weeks of indecision it is with a great deal of regret that Kathy and I have to share with you that we will be closing our store for the last time Sunday, October 16, 2005.

The two and one half years we have been open have made us a success in everything we tried to do with the exception of one, and that is the financial portion of the business.

Today I learned the community has rallied to save Dave’s. Now the website read’s differently:

Thanks to this AWESOME community,

Dave will be back!

Apparently part of the problem had to do with debt associated with startup costs. I’m told about 500 people rallied to help Dave and raised an undisclosed sum of money to offset debts. Day to day operations are profitable.

Couple of things to consider….

Sometimes it takes incubating new retail in places where you are trying to change shopping patterns from auto-oriented to the corner store. This is where I think New Town at St. Charles is doing a good job getting businesses located in their central core.

A large parcel across the street from Winghaven’s Boardwalk is a large parcel of land that Pyramid has proposed new condos. Locals are hoping the City of O’Fallon approves the project quickly so new residents will be nearby to support Dave’s and other retailers.

– Steve


Winghaven Grocer Closes Store


Last January I shared the tales of a trip to visit friends in St. Charles County. I learned more about my friend’s grocery shopping habits:

They go to Dave’s on the Boardwalk in Winghaven. Earlier in the day, Dave himself took out their groceries to their SUV. Who knew such friendly neighborhood markets existed – much less in a new area in St. Charles County. This is not some glorified convenience store – they have a full selection of groceries including fresh produce and a deli. Plus, the store was very attractive in a smart way – much like our small Straub’s chain. I had low expectations and was immediately surprised.

Today my friends told me that yesterday was the store’s last day open. This certainly does speak volumes about the shopping habits of the typical suburban resident. They have a great market in walking/biking distance from their homes and they don’t support it.

Below is a note from Dave’s website:


A letter from Dave

After many weeks of indecision it is with a great deal of regret that Kathy and I have to share with you that we will be closing our store for the last time Sunday, October 16, 2005.

The two and one half years we have been open have made us a success in everything we tried to do with the exception of one, and that is the financial portion of the business.

Kathy and I tried to capture this “NEW URBANISM” spririt with the return of the old “CORNER GROCERY STORE” and feel that history will show that we were just four years too early.

We’ve had fun as we watched our friend’s and families grow, our friends getting married, and prayed for our friends working through health situations. We have enjoyed just watching the kids grow.

Please remember this special community that exists here in O’Fallon and work to keep it that.

We have been blessed in so many ways as each of you have been our greatest blessing. As our life continues into the future we know that we will have a difficult path to travel, but also believe that one greater than all of this will light the way.

We have made many friends here and hope to remain in contact with all of you, as we do live in the O’Fallon area.

While I began this with a “farewell” it would be more appropriate to use the Austrain version of “AUF WIEDERSEIN” (Until we meet again)!

Love and many thanks,
Kathy & Dave

P.S. Kathy, Dave and all our “GREAT” associates will be looking for jobs.

First I want to give Dave and his wife Kathy credit for giving it a try. Unfortunately Winghaven was billed as New Urbanism but it was really only a half-assed attempt at true New Urbanism. Blame can be pinned on the City of O’Fallon, the lenders afraid of something new and the developer for not pushing for the real thing. I would guess than when Dave signed on as a tenant he was sold a bill of goods.

We have only one true example of New Urbanism in our region and that is New Town at St. Charles. It is everything that Winghaven is not.

– Steve