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Rethinking the North Grand Corridor for Jobs, Economic Opportunity

Grand Boulevard is one of, if not the most, important north-south streets in St. Louis. It connects north & south St. Louis to the east-west central corridor.  It carries our busiest MetroBus route, the #70.

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North Grand at 20th, click for map

After visiting the soon-to-close Schnucks at Grand & Kossuth last week it occurred to me the North Grand corridor could benefit from some comprehensive planning to bring needed jobs, housing, retail, etc to north St. Louis. This post isn’t a comprehensive solution it’s an introduction to the idea of concentrating efforts in a linear fashion along Grand north of Delmar.

POSITIVES:

  1. Despite massive population loss in the city, especially north city, the areas near Grand remain populated, in-part because of the #70 MetroBus route.
  2. The #70 MetroBus route will get five (5) higher-capacity articulated vehicles starting in June, by the end of summer all 12 will be articulated.
  3. Vacant land ready to build on.

NEGATIVES

  1. Few major institutions to help build support
  2. Numerous problems: crime, poverty, unemployment, aging infrastructure & building stock
  3. Lack of hope

We could list more negatives, as well as positives. In fact, taking stock of the area is a good first step.

Looking north from Grand & Delmar, click for map

Bringing real jobs to this area won’t be easy. I don’t think we should just sit back and watch as jobs and people continue to leave the area. This is a chance to do some grassroots planning.  Done right North Grand can have a more prosperous future.

 — Steve Patterson

 

Some Possible Reasons Why the North Grand Schnucks Didn’t Make a Profit

Local grocery store chain Schnucks made a big announcement on Monday regarding a store they acquired in their 1995 purchase of the National chain:

Next month, the region’s leading grocer will have only one store in the city north of Delmar Boulevard.

The Maryland Heights-based company announced Monday it is closing its grocery at North Grand Boulevard and Kossuth Avenue, effective 6 p.m. May 10. (stltoday)

Here is the press release:

ST. LOUIS – Leaders of Schnuck Markets, Inc. today announced they will not renew the lease on the Grand and Kossuth Store (4127 N. Grand, 63107) in north St. Louis. The store will close permanently at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 10. No jobs will be lost; all 65 teammates will be transferred to nearby Schnucks stores.

According to Schnucks President and CEO Todd Schnuck, the 28,000-square-foot store has consistently operated in the red since it was purchased as part of the 1995 National acquisition. “Closing any store is a difficult decision particularly when we have invested so substantially in the 45-year-old facility including a $200,000 Pharmacy remodel just one year ago. Nothing we’ve done has helped improve the store’s performance.”

“Store Manager Roger Hines and Co-Manager Sharon Evans lead an experienced and dedicated team. Yet despite their best efforts and strong rapport with customers, the store continues to lose money,” Schnuck said. “While customers appreciate the offering we bring to the neighborhood, sales at this store will not offset needed repairs, escalating labor, utility and insurance costs.”

Currently, operating a total of nine stores within the city limits (including Grand and Kossuth), Schnucks continues to demonstrate its commitment to city residents. “In this particular location, we are challenged by lack of population growth and the opportunity to attract new customers,” said Schnuck. “We thank our customers and community partners for their support over the years and we will continue to look for more ways in which to deliver needed services to our customers in St. Louis City.”

Schnuck says that should the landlord entice another grocer to the site, Schnucks would leave the majority of the store’s fixtures in place. In the meantime, the company will start a sell down of goods prior to the May 10 close.

Pharmacy customers may continue to have their prescriptions filled through May 10. Additional information will be provided prior to the close.

Founded in St. Louis in 1939, Schnuck Markets, Inc. operates 101 stores (including Grand and Kossuth) and 95 in-store pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.

# # #

I’d been by this store numerous times, when it was a National I lived not far away in Old North St. Louis, but I’d never been inside. So the day after the announcement I boarded the #41 MetroBus, which stops on Kossuth right next to the store property.   Between downtown (14th & Washington) and the Schnucks a couple of passengers boarded the bus that got off at the Kossuth & Grand stop to do their grocery shopping.   Let’s take a critical look at this store to see why they couldn’t attract new customers.

View from the Kossuth bus stop
View from the Kossuth bus stop, a beauty supply &  laundromat are next door
Looking toward Grand from the front of a building on the same property
Looking toward Grand from the front of a building on the same property, a #70 MetroBus is in the background
The laundromat attached to the Schnucks
The laundromat attached to the Schnucks
Once at the Schnucks access to the south entranced is blocked by the carts
Once at the Schnucks access to the south entranced is blocked by the carts
The view from Grand
The view from Grand
The separation between the Grand sidewalk and the parking lot is almost nonexistent
The separation between the Grand sidewalk and the parking lot is almost nonexistent
The north entrance is close to Lee Ave but a dish-drainer type bike rack blocks direct access
The north entrance is close to Lee Ave but a dish-drainer type bike rack blocks direct access
The entry is just as impressive as the rest of the exterior
The entry is just as impressive as the rest of the exterior
Immediately you get the idea this Schnucks wants to be an ALDI or Save-A-Lot.
Immediately you get the idea this Schnucks wants to be an ALDI or Save-A-Lot.
The fresh produce dept, including greens,  was very nice though
The fresh produce dept, including greens, was very nice though
The pharmacy that was recently added or updated.
The pharmacy that was recently added or updated.
Throughout the store ceiling times were missing or water stained.
Throughout the store ceiling times were missing or water stained.

Now you’ve seen the store, inside and out. Think anyone goes out of their way to shop here? Nope! Anyone pass other grocery stores on the way home from work shop here? Nope! Those who live near this Schnucks likely shop elsewhere if they have a car or access to another bus route.

An ALDI is located  just the other side of Fairgrounds Park, it was built in 1999, the Schnucks was built in 1968. Those who use the #70 route can just as easily go to the much nicer ALDI. Those who drive likely pass other grocery stores on the drive home from work, so they have nicer options. I worked at Union near I-70 when the Schnucks at Union & Natural Bridge opened in 1998, I’d go by sometimes at lunch to get a salad.

The Kossuth Schnucks lacks profitable departments like salad/olive bars, deli, prepared foods, floral, etc. The store is only 28,000 sq ft, about half of most newer Schnucks, but larger than the 21,000 sq ft Culinaria store downtown that has all those departments. A ALDIs doesn’t have prepared foods, floral, etc and manage with 17,000 sq ft stores, but their model is very different from Schnucks.

And hours is another big difference. The Schnucks at Union & Natural Bridge is open, like many Schnucks, from 6am-midnight every day. This allows customers to shop before or after work. The Kossuth store hours have been “Mon-Sat 7am-9pm, Sun 8am-8pm” which means many can’t shop there even if they wanted to.

Is Schnucks the bad guy here? For the most part, no. Schnucks doesn’t own the property, they’re a tenant.

The North Grand building is owned by Marvin Holdings LLC, which lists Mishaal Taqui as its organizer. It acquired the building in the fourth quarter of 2013 and offered to do about $100,000 in roof repairs, said Taqui’s spokesman, Glenn Jamboretz.

Taqui wanted a multiyear lease from the retailer and a small rent increase to offset the cost of the repairs. It had been renting the building year-to-year for about $6,100 a month, Jamboretz said. A sales incentive clause sometimes bumped that monthly payment up to around $6,500.

Schnucks said no thanks to the multiyear lease, and soon after, announced it would close. (stltoday)

The closure of this store will leave a void on the market, the Schnucks carries products the nearby ALDI simply doesn’t stock. Those who get their prescriptions here will need to find another pharmacy, perhaps the Schnucks at Union & Natural Bridge. I can imagine some who are transit-dependant moving closer to another grocery store or a different bus line. The landlord will need to do lots of work to attract a quality store, even then it doesn’t seem likely.

The site is ideal for a 3-5 story urban building with 100,000 sq ft of ground floor retail, much of which could be a grocery store. I’d like to see local upstart Fields Foods consider such a store.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Want Walkability and Long-Term Jobs at NorthSide Regeneration

northside regeneration map
Map of project area

Last week readers at least 135 readers took the poll, indicating what they’d like to see as priorities at Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project. Here are the results in the order the software listed, two answers tied for the the top spot.

Q: Paul McKee’s “Northside Regeneration” project is slowly moving foreword, pick your top 5 priorities from the following:

  1. Good walkability 76 [11.33% – TIE]
  2. Jobs for locals: long-term work at various pay levels 76 [11.33% – TIE]
  3. Rail transit connected to downtown 64 [9.54%]
  4. Urban form with adequate parking behind buildings 60 [8.94%]
  5. Safety 59 [8.79%]
  6. Mixed uses, incomes 52 [7.75%]
  7. Good street grid with short blocks 48 [7.15%]
  8. Architecture that IS historic looking 43 [6.41%]
  9. Hoodlum-free zone 39 [5.81%]
  10. Renovation of the Clemens Mansion 35 [5.22%]
  11. Many builders/developers, not just a few 33 [4.92%]
  12. Good bikeability 24 [3.58%]
  13. Something…anything ASAP 21 [3.13%]
  14. Jobs for locals: short-term construction work 17 [2.53%]
  15. Architecture that is NOT historic looking 11 [1.64%]
  16. Easy access to highways 8 [1.19%]
  17. Plenty of free parking 3 [0.45%]
  18. Suburban planning, big blocks and cul-de-sacs 2 [0.3%]

I agree with most of the items in the top 10, very glad to see “Good Walkability” tie with “Jobs for locals: long-term work at various pay levels” at the top, followed closely by rail transit to downtown and urban form. I do take exception with one item: architecture.

I was disappointed “Architecture that IS historic looking” got 43 votes, but “Architecture that is NOT historic looking” only got 11 votes. Buildings in 2014 trying to look like they’re from 1914 end up looking cheesy.  Other cities do a great job building new urban buildings that relate to the sidewalk and neighboring buildings without being faux historic. We need to drop the expectation that every new building be given a bit of red brick on the front and a fake mansard roof on top.

— Steve Patterson

 

9th & 10th One-Way Couplet Should Be Returned To Two-Way Traffic

Decades ago traffic engineers converted many downtown St. Louis streets from two-way traffic to one-way traffic, 9th & 10th going north & south, respectively. The 9th/10th couplet extended north to I-70, basically serving as very long on/off ramps, cutting through the Columbus Square neighborhood. Today the former Cochran Gardens high-rise public housing project is gone, replaced with mixed income apartments. The 1980s Columbus Square condos and townhouses are still nice, the neighborhood is generally pleasant and safe. Despite the fact that 9th & 10th are no longer connected to I-70, they remain very wide one-way streets, undermining the positive investment in the area.

Looking south at 9th from Cass
Looking south at 9th from Cass
The St. Louis Housing Authority owns this retail building on 9th at Cass, one-way streets as a freeway on ramp aren't good for neighborhood retail businesses.
The St. Louis Housing Authority owns this retail building on 9th at Cass, one-way streets as a freeway on ramp aren’t good for neighborhood retail businesses.
Most streets perpendicular to 9th/10th have a nice neighborhood scale. This is  New Haven Ct.
Most streets perpendicular to 9th/10th have a nice neighborhood scale. This is New Haven Ct.
Looking north on 9th from O'Fallon St, lanes aren't marked but wide enough for at least 3
Looking north on 9th from O’Fallon St, lanes aren’t marked but wide enough for at least 3
Looking north on 10th St from O'Fallon St, just as wide and useless as 9th
Looking north on 10th St from O’Fallon St, just as wide and useless as 9th
Looking north on 9th from Cole
Looking north on 9th from Cole

 

Looking south at 9th from Cole St.
Looking south at 9th from Cole St., the dividing line between downtown and the Columbus Square neighborhood
Looking north at Cole St & 10th St
Looking north at Cole St & 10th St

I’d like to see 9th & 10th be two-way all the way through downtown, but that’s more complicated with garage entrances/exits. signals, etc. But from Cole St. to Cass Ave it would be very simple, just some changes to the signals at Cole & Cass, the rest is signs and paint.

We ran these long on/off ramps through this neighborhood for decades, now we need to do the right thing and make 9th & 10th neighborhood streets again!

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: Paul McKee’s “Northside Regeneration” Project is Slowly Moving Foreword, Pick Your Top 5 Priorities

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Paul McKee’s “Northside Regeneration”  has been controversial since before it became public, it has faced court challenges and has experienced delays. Now, however, it seems to be ready to move forward.

The question for the poll this week is what qualities should be priorities of the project?  Please select your top from from the list provided in the poll in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson

 

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