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North 14th Street Demonstrates How A Pedestrian-Friendly Streetscape Should Be Designed

On September 1 2006 I reviewed the plan for replacing the North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall with North 14th Street: Old North’s Pedestrian Mall May Soon Be Gone! I concluded the post with this paragraph:

“I have some initial reservations about the streetscape plan but I will hold those back until I’ve had a chance to talk with the local residents, the RHCDA and Rosemann Architects. I want to congratulate everyone involved for finally getting a project to this point – I look forward to working with them to see it to fruition.”

The following drawing was included in the post.

ABOVE: Concept drawing from September 2006.

Privately I shared my reservations about the pedestrian circulation.

ABOVE: Close-up of 14th & Montgomery on 2006 plan

Unfortunately I can’t locate the somewhat harsh email I fired off. However my criticism focused on 1) the decorative brickwork and the fact pedestrians couldn’t maintain a straight line as they walked down the street. The green areas were to be planters.  These would have created tight points where pedestrians tried to cross the streets.  Remember, this was 17 months prior to the stroke that disabled me.

ABOVE: Close-up of 14th & Warren on 2006 plan

The planters and the ramp placement would have forced all pedestrians (able-bodied & disabled) to zig-zag at each intersection. At the time I had no idea how annoying such intersections would be from a wheelchair but I did know the concept was not pedestrian-friendly.

June 2010
ABOVE: During construction, June 2010

In June 2010 I was glad to see my criticisms had been observed with the design now permitting all pedestrians to maintain a straight line as they walked from one block to the next.

ABOVE: The final result is very pedestrian-friendly. November 2010

I’m so glad the completed design permits the disabled in wheelchairs to use the same pathway as the able-bodied.  All have lots of room, all can stay on a direct path.  Nobody is pointed into the center of the intersection with angled ramps.  This is how pedestrian-friendly business districts should be designed.

Unfortunately many of the new streetscapes being installed in other areas  do not have the same direct path for pedestrians.

– Steve Patterson


North 14th Street Finally Reopened To Vehicle Traffic

November 6, 2010 North City, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on North 14th Street Finally Reopened To Vehicle Traffic
ABOVE: North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall 1991
ABOVE: North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall 1991

In March 1977 the North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall opened with high expectations.  However, the high expectations quickly turned to high vacancy as merchants closed up shop. Retailers have long known the importance of providing some on-street parking in front of their establishments but over 100 pedestrian malls had been built in North America by 1977 and St. Louis didn’t want to be left out of the trend.

ABOVE: 14th & Montgomery, 1972 (pre-mall), photo by Robert Spatz

Just fourteen years later, in 1991, the mall was nearly dead.  It had already been this way for a while.  It had, perhaps, one good year of life.

ABOVE: Earlier this week the street was opened to auto traffic

In July a celebration was held to mark the completion of the street but delayed streetlights meant the city wouldn’t permit vehicles.  Prior to the mall the sidewalks were narrow and broken.  After the mall there was far more sidewalk than pedestrians.  Today the street offers a balance between pedestrian & motorist. With construction time, North 14th was out of balance for 34 years, a very long time when the failed urban planning experiment prevented organic revitalization of the street.

– Steve Patterson


PR: French Hosts 3rd Annual Halloween “Safe Zones” for Kids in North St. Louis

October 29, 2010 North City, Press Release 2 Comments
The following is a press release:
(ST. LOUIS) — This weekend, Alderman Antonio French (21st Ward) will be hosting a Halloween “Safe Zones” for kids in north St. Louis. This is the third year French has sponsored the event.

Each year, several blocks throughout the ward are set up as “safe zones” where streets are blocked off and police patrol to ensure a safe place for kids to trick-or-treat. Residents on the “safe zone” blocks decorate their yards, dress up in costumes, and pass out candy supplied by Alderman French. Kids come from all over the area to participate.

“Halloween is a tradition that children look forward to all over the nation,” said Alderman French. “Creating ‘safe zones’ allows our kids to participate without fear. It’s great to see kids out after dark trick-or-treating just like we used to when we were younger. I’m proud to host an event which highlights the sense of community that continues to thrive in north St. Louis.”

Alderman French is also hosting a new event this year — pumpkin carving for kids at the newly renovated O’Fallon Park Boathouse.

Pumpkin Carving
Saturday, October 30th
Noon to 2:00PM

Sunday, October 31
6:00 to 9:00PM
4400-4500 blocks of Holly & Athlone
4700 blocks of Lee & Kossuth

To donate to these events or to volunteer, call the 21st Ward TMAP Office at 769-9000.


Blank Walls Kill Sidewalks

ABOVE: NW corner of Page & N. Kingshighway

Like so many other areas, the intersection of Page & North Kingshighway suffers from disinvestment.  Yet, at one point in the last few decades, the 1904 building on the corner received new investment in the form of street facades featuring blank walls and mirrored glass.   The building next door, also from 1904, has a blank facade where windows and doors should be.

I’m not saying this corner would be lively if the corner building hadn’t gained blank walls during the unfortunate new skin with blank walls. But, the blank walls make improving the vibrancy of the sidewalk today impossible.  A new pro-urban formed-based zoning code would prevent future blank walls to the sidewalk.

– Steve Patterson


Maintaining Infrastructure in Sparsely Populated Areas

ABOVE: Sidewalk conditions along North Florissant Ave at North Market St
ABOVE: Sidewalk conditions along North Florissant Ave at North Market St

At 61.9 square miles of land area, St. Louis is a relatively small city.  But many parts of this area are sparsely populated and sidewalks are few.  The above sidewalk at North Florissant Ave at North Market St. was passable, I saw worse between here and the new sidewalks on two blocks of North 14th (Warren to St. Louis Ave.)

Which comes first? New residents or new sidewalks? The residents aren’t going to arrive until conditions improve and conditions won’t improve until there is more residents to help justify the capital expenditure on the infrastructure.

A future light rail line has been studied for North Florissant so improvements to the entire right of way would presumably come with that investment.  Population, it is expected, would follow.   A hundred years ago develop happened along new transit lines lines.  More recently, development happened along investment in highways. So I’d say the new sidewalks need to come first.  Of course, buildings and population aren’t going to just appear because some new sidewalks have been installed in a few places.  Someone has to put together a vision for how, in this case, this corridor, might look.

Maintenance, clearly, just isn’t done.  And really, minimal maintenance is probably just a waste of money.  So much is needed here to populate the area.

– Steve Patterson