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Salazar & LaHood Show Support For City+Arch+River Project

December 18, 2010 Downtown, Metro East, Parks, Planning & Design Comments Off on Salazar & LaHood Show Support For City+Arch+River Project
ABOVE: View of the St. Louis skyline as seen from the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis IL., with the lookout tower in the foreground.

Last week I attended a press event held at the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis IL.

The event featured some big names showing support for the City+Arch+River project.  Representing the Obama administration was Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior; and Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation.  Missouri’s Senator Claire McCaskill was also there , the one that got two cabinet members here at the same time. Additional speakers included East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

This video is long — 24 minutes.


I look forward to being able to reach this park without being a pedestrian in the road.

– Steve Patterson


Eastport Plaza Neither Walkable Nor Accessible

ABOVE: Aerial view of Eastport Plaza in Collinsville IL. Click image to view in Google Maps.

Sure, you can walk at Collinsville’s Eastport Plaza, but it isn’t easy.  I navigated the area in my wheelchair, but it wasn’t pleasant or even ADA-compliant.  Planned as a Metro East version of Westport Plaza in St. Louis County.

Based on my research, Eastport Plaza was platted in the early 1980s.  This is a decade before the ADA but walkable environments have been built for centuries.  This was an auto-centric development with token sidewalks.  The post is a follow up to my post from a week ago.

ABOVE: The main road in/out is Eastport Plaza Dr with sidewalk on one side only

The width of the roads are excessive for two lanes.  This, along with a lack of street trees, diminish the pedestrian experience.

Gateway Center, in the middle of Eastport Plaza, talks about the area:

“The only hospitality district in Collinsville accommodates events at Gateway Center with more than 900 hotel rooms in a variety of hotel properties, and 60 restaurants ranging from casual family dining to fine dining. Another 2,100 hotel rooms are conveniently located within a 20-minute driving radius of the convention center for overflow accommodations.
Most of Collinsville’s lodging is within walking distance of the convention center.”

Walking distance, but not walkable.


img_1584 img_1523

What I don’t yet know is: the developer, the engineer responsible, or the level of involvement from Collinsville.  I do know the area has boomed since Illinois changed it’s TIF law, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Monday, March 28, 1988:

“East St. Louis, Belleville and Collinsville are among cities whose tax increment finance (TIF) districts are criticized in a recent report by the Taxpayers Federation of Illinois. [The ] report shows illustrations of TIF districts under headings of ”The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

Collinsville’s TIF district is listed under ”The Ugly. ” The report says a 500-acre tract of mostly undeveloped land at the city’s northwest edge was hooked to its central business district by a strip one block wide and several miles long.

Mayor Brombolich said the federation’s labeling his city’s TIF district ugly because of its shape illustrates what happens when someone tries to generalize without adequate knowledge.  The city’s rapidly developing Eastport Plaza area was linked to its comparatively stagnant downtown area to obtain money to help revive the central business district, Brombolich said.

Collinsville’s TIF ordinance does not allow sale of bonds, but requires a pay-as-you-go policy, he added. ”We have not spent a penny of TIF money up to this date.”
About $100,000 has been accumulated through growth in sales and real estate taxes at Eastport, and three downtown projects are planned, he said.
They are new curbs and sidewalks around a block where Home Federal Savings & Loan Co. plans a new building, a sprinkling system and other improvements to allow the old Miners Theater to reopen its upper level, and re-paving of part of Clay and Church streets

ABOVE: An earth berm stands between the public sidewalk and a hotel sidewalk

By February 2007 the area was booming; from the Post-Dispatch:

“City leaders are overseeing development on more than half a million square feet of office and warehouse space on the city’s west side that is expected to create at least 1,000 jobs.
Fourteen businesses are opening in the area known as Eastport Plaza, which is mostly east of Interstate 255 and north of Interstate 55-70. The businesses include Floors Inc., a commercial and residential floor company, and Tetra Tech, an engineering firm. Officials expect more businesses to move there by the end of the year.”

img_1531The vast majority of those who come to Eastport Plaza do so in a private vehicle.  But the area is served by a Madison County bus (#15 Collinsville Shuttle), which was how I arrived on a recent visit.  No matter how someone arrives in the area I have an expectation that within the relatively small area that walking would be encouraged as an alternative to driving short distances.

ABOVE: Main sidewalk leads you east to highway 157
ABOVE: Main sidewalk leads you east to highway 157
ABOVE: Sidewalk ends before crossing Hwy 157
ABOVE: Sidewalk ends before crossing Hwy 157

These 300 acres were flat farm land before being developed.  The developer had a complete blank slate to work with but clearly making a walkable environment wasn’t a priority.  The sidewalk is just there to create a passing appearance of walkability.  Say what you will about New Urbanism but those principles would have created a far more satisfying environment.

– Steve Patterson

– Steve Patterson


Collinsville’s Gateway Conference Center & Adjacent Doubletree Hotel

Where do you look to plan an annual conference in the St. Louis region where you will have large & small meeting rooms plus hotel space for 2,000+ attendees.  If your budget is large you go to America’s Center in downtown St. Louis.  But if your budget isn’t so big you go to the Gateway Conference Center in Collinsville IL (aerial).

“Most of Collinsville’s lodging is within walking distance of the convention center.”

That seems very convenient!

The Gateway Convention Center is located adjacent to the Doubletree Collinsville/St. Louis and is an ideal partner for your larger meetings and tradeshows. Gateway Center offers 50,000 square feet of flexible, ground-level space that is sure to suit all your event needsThe convention center is surrounded by more than 40 restaurants and several visitor-friendly attractions. Lambert St. Louis International Airport is a short 30 minute drive away.

Together with Doubletree Collinsville/St. Louis, Gateway Center is “The Great Way to Gather” in the St. Louis MO metropolitan area for large events!

Wow, perfect! Convention center with adjacent hotel and others within walking distance.  Sounds perfect, right? Well almost…

ABOVE: Stairs over drainage ditch from Doubletree to Gateway Center (see in background)

If your conference has persons with mobility issues these stairs are a major obstacle. The problem is a flood control channel owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

ABOVE: Flood control ditch between the Doubletree (left) and Gateway Center (right)

The Doubletree is adjacent to the Gateway Center  and it has the small meeting rooms the other hotels in the area lack but the stairs are a major barrier when 100 or so of your attendees use mobility scooters, wheelchairs or just push baby strollers.

ABOVE: Stairs over drainage ditch from the Gateway Center to the Doubletree (see in background)

Part Two of this post will be published next week on the 29th.  That post will look at the walkability & accessibility of the Eastport Plaza area where Collinsville’s Gateway Center is located.  Pushing carts of convention materials from the main hotel to the center is also impossible.  The solution is a “switchback ramp” on each side of the levee. The Doubletree Hotel has new ownership and recently received a $12 million dollar makeover inside & out.

ABOVE: New concrete work around the Doubletree, but no connection to public sidewalk or ramp to Gateway Center
ABOVE: New concrete work around the Doubletree, but no connection to public sidewalk or ramp to Gateway Center

The hotel was built in 1982, construction on the Gateway Center started six years later. In 2007 the hotel, then a Holiday Inn, made the headlines.  This article from July 3, 2008 explains:

“The state auctioned off the hotel Thursday. St. Louis-based Lodging Hospitality Management, which owns 16 hotels in the St. Louis area, submitted the highest bid of six that were submitted, according to [Illinois State Treasurer Alexi] Giannoulias.

Giannoulias said in a statement that installing new owners will put an end to a 25-year “financial debacle.” Giannoulias said former owners B.C. Gitcho and Gary Fears received “an outrageously favorable $13.4 million state-backed loan” and quickly fell behind on payments enough that the outstanding principal and interest totaled $32.2 million.”

What I don’t yet know is when the steps and bridge were built over the flood control ditch.  Was the costs shared by the hotel and Collinsville? Did bonds for the Gateway Center finance the steps & bridge to the existing hotel?  I will keep digging.

In the meantime, next week I will post a look at the area where the Gateway Center is located, called Eastport Plaza.

– Steve Patterson


Collinsville IL Still Has One-Way Streets

ABOVE: Downtown Collinsville IL
ABOVE: Main looking east from Clinton, Collinsville IL

Yesterday I was briefly in downtown Collinsville IL.  I’d forgotten how nice their Main Street looks.  I last wrote about their Main Street in July 2007 when it looked like they may undo what never should have been done: Collinsville IL May Finally Correct One-Way Main Street Mistake.  Unfortunately, Collinsville still has a one-way couplet — Main St eastbound and Clay St westbound.

Does the direction of auto traffic matter to pedestrians?  Yes!  On the sidewalk you feel like you are next to an escape route. Decades ago traffic engineers convinced nearly every town, big & small, to install one-way streets to move traffic faster.  One-way streets in a small town make little sense but undoing what has been in place for so long is nearly impossible.

It is a shame too, Main St in Collinsville has very charming buildings and a decent streetscape. Changing Main & Clay to be two-way again would have huge benefits.  The vibe would instantly be different.

– Steve Patterson


Affordable Housing In Granite City, IL

October 30, 2010 Metro East, Real Estate 6 Comments

Eight new homes were recently completed on infill lots to the east of downtown Granite City, IL.


Assistance was provided by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act via the Illinois Housing Development Authority. The homes were developed by Justine PETERSEN.


ABOVE: Master bathroom in one of the accessible house

The one-story house I toured was very basic, a good home for someone needing an accessible residence.  Granite City, IL still needs to work on sidewalks and curb ramps so that a disabled resident living in one of these houses could reach the grocery store, bank, post office, bus transfer station and so on.

ABOVE: Washington Ave in Granite City where some of the homes were built
The two-story homes on North Lincoln have impressive detailing, especially for affordable housing

The model Justine PETERSON is using for the houses is interesting, an affordable rent-to-buy arrangement.

  • Those eligible must be below 80% of the median income.
  • Rent is $595.
  • The current value of the homes is $150,000; after the 15-year rental tenure, the tenant pays 60% of the market value of the home at that juncture.

– Steve Patterson