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14th & Washington Ave: 2007-2013

A bank is now located at 14th & Washington Ave. Well, not exactly, a Commerce Bank ATM & surface parking lot now occupy this corner. In February 2007 the vision was much grander:

Metropolitan Development Enterprises is planning to build a $67 million, 22-story condo tower in the heart of the Washington Avenue loft district. The tower is the largest new-construction residential building proposed for downtown.

Chicago-based Metropolitan was expected to present plans to build the mixed-use building at 1400 Washington, on the site of Erlich’s Dry Cleaners, at a Tax Increment Finance Commission meeting Feb. 22. Metropolitan has requested $12 million of TIF for the project. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Rendering of the condo tower proposed in 2007
Rendering of the condo tower proposed in 2007
The corner had old buildings when the project was announced.
The corner had old buildings when the project was announced.
On October 10, 2007 a big deal was made about razing  the old buildings. Click image for video of the first wall coming down.
On October 10, 2007 a big deal was made about razing the old buildings. Click image for video of the first wall coming down.
By May 2012 an attempt to do a 2-story office/retail building had also failed
By May 2012 an attempt to do a 2-story office/retail building had also failed. Click image for 2008 article on the end of the Skyhouse project
1400 Washington has had numerous development plans, it is now becoming a parking lot, same owner as the previous lot across the alley.
May of this year work began on the parking lot
Yesterday a sign company was adding another sign.
Yesterday a sign company was adding another sign.

Surface parking is a good short-term land banking strategy. Now the land can bring in revenue until funding is fully in place for the next phase at this corner. I just hope that next phase begins within the next 5 years.

— Steve Patterson

 

Treasurer Jones Seeking Integrated Parking Management Bids, To Hold ‘Town Hall’ Events

I’ve now attended three meetings of the St. Louis Parking Commission (July, September, October). Here are the minutes from the prior meetings that were distributed:

These minutes are not available online so I scanned and uploaded them. Hopefully they will, in the interest of transparency, upload these in the future.

A sign facing Euclid near Lindell highlighting the fact these meters accept credit card payments.
A sign facing Euclid near Lindell highlighting the fact these meters accept credit card payments.

The “Liberty Meter” parking meter test being conducted in the Central West End has been mentioned each time.   In October specific reports were handed out showing payments by coin vs credit card. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t add up. The August total for credit card payments was copied into September, and other totals & percentages are incorrect.  Still, from the data presented we can see the use of credits cards during this trial are higher than the previous trial a few years ago on South Grand. We can also see credit card use has been increasing each month. It’s hard to know for sure given the spreadsheet errors.

Since I sold my car 18 months ago I haven’t had a chance to use these new meters, but I still think I’d prefer payment machines to individual meters. Anyone have any thoughts?

At the October meeting they went into closed session to discuss a recently issued Request for Proposal for an Integrated Parking Management System:

The City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office is soliciting proposals from qualified companies to furnish and potentially install an easy-to-use on-street parking system that allows payment flexibility and convenience for users while allowing real-time monitoring, reduced cost of operating, increased flexibility in changing rates and increased compliance.

It was also announced that four “Town Hall” events are scheduled for the coming weeks:

The City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office will host four town halls dedicated to the current and future state of parking in St. Louis. The Treasurer’s Office issued an RFP for parking meter management and processing on October 4 in efforts to modernize operations.

“We promised the citizens of St. Louis that all existing contracts would be reviewed and examined for their operational and financial efficiency. This is another step we’re taking to propel the office from the 19th Century to the 21st Century,” said Treasurer Tishaura Jones.

The town halls will provide more information on the RFP selection process and opportunities for citizens to provide feedback on the direction of parking in St. Louis. The RFP selection will consist of two phases. During the first phase a review committee will rank and score the proposals based upon the evaluation criteria. The Treasurer’s Office will select a limited number of vendors to proceed to the second phase which requires vendors to perform a six (6) month on-street field test evaluation of their equipment before a final selection is made. The field test will include installing parking equipment on both sides of one or more contiguous city blocks. Based upon the results of the trial and citizen feedback, the Treasurer’s Office may decide to proceed with an offer to one or more companies to furnish and potentially install units on a long-term basis throughout the City.

The town halls will take at the following locations:

Schlafly Branch Library, 225 N Euclid Ave.

Wednesday, October 23, 6:00pm-7:00pm

Central Library, 1301 Olive St.

Tuesday, October 29, 6:00pm-7:00pm

Carondelet Park Recreation Complex, 930 Holly Hills Ave.

Wednesday, November 6, 6:00pm-7:00pm

O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex, 4343 W Florissant Ave.

Tuesday, November 12, 6:00pm-7:00pm

Unfortunately, all are scheduled for 6pm on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Due to work schedules, not everyone will be able to attend. With four events it would’ve been nice to see four days of the week covered rather than just two, as well as other times besides 6pm-7pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

Fragmentation: One Tiny Example That Reeks

The St. Louis region ranks second in the nation for fragmentation of government, resulting in negative consequences:

With each decennial Census since 1980, we find that more people are leaving the St. Louis region than moving in. We rank very low among competing metropolitan areas in job growth and in new business starts. We have not attracted the new immigrants that other metros have done in recent decades, and our demographic profile is much less diverse than that of regions that are growing. Economic and racial disparities create chasms within the regional family. Our governmental structure is second in the nation in terms of fragmentation. (East West Gateway)

Not good, right? Often cited is the 90+ municipalities in St. Louis County but last week I discovered a small example of governmental fragmentation within the City of St. Louis.

A parking meter issue related to the Central Library was voted on by the Parking Commission last week that required me to dig into St. Louis’ history from 156+ years ago to get some answers. Huh?  Yes, I had to go back to two land transactions from 1857 to try to make sense of a modern day issue. I’m still not totally clear about the legality of a recent property boundary adjustment, but first let me set up the background for you.

The 1875 Compton & Dry map shows the park 8 years before the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall was built on the block.
The 1875 Compton & Dry map shows the park 8 years before the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall was built on the block.

We need to start with the history of the land bounded by Olive, 14th, St. Charles St., and 13th — today the site of the Central Library and Lucas Park. The old city website about Lucas Park had great information, good thing I saved it before it was removed:

Lucas Garden was the site of a brick house built by Judge Lucas in 1820 facing the present St. Charles Street or King’s Road, as it was called. There is still a flowing spring in the Public Library basement that was the water supply for the Judge’s home.

“Desirous of contributing to the ornament and health of the City of St. Louis and at the same time to establish a permanent monument to the memory of his ancestor (father) the late Honorable John B. C. Lucas, in the shape of a public square bearing his name,” reads the deed signed by James H. and Marie E. Lucas on March 24, 1857, giving the block of land immediately north of the St. Louis Public Library to St. Louisians. The deed states further that, “This conveyance is however made with the express condition, to wit: that said public square shall forever be maintained as a public promenade for the inhabitants of the City of St. Louis.”

On the same day in 1857 that he signed the deed on Lucas Garden, James H. Lucas sold the block where the Public Library now stands to the city for the sum of $95,000.

In 1859, a board of improvement for the park was created and its development started.

Its layout caused Locust Street to be closed at 13th and the park was given an asymmetrical plan with a bandstand near the foot of Lucas Place. Sale of the buildings at the southwest corner of the park was authorized by Ordinance in 1872. From the time of the first appropriation in 1858 to 1877, $41,465 was spent on it.

The entire 6.25 acres was named Missouri Park and provided popular downtown breathing space until the erection of the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall in 1883. Licensed to a private corporation for a period of 50 years, the ground was restored to use as a park in 1907 and designs for the Italian Renaissance inspired library building were drawn up by the famous architect Cass Gilbert. The library was completed in 1912.

Locust Street was reopened behind the Library from 13th to 14th Streets and the present sunken garden with its fountain was developed. (source)

So the city bought the block where the library stands, but the land for the park to the north was a gift to the city, with conditions. With both parcels part being public land there shouldn’t an issue over boundaries. Shouldn’t, but there is.

The city provided part of Locust St to the library, so the library wanted negotiate the parking meters on their property?
The city provided part of Locust St to the library, so the library wanted negotiate the parking meters on their property? Parking Commission minutes from the June meeting, click image for 4-page PDF.

“Their property?” The city “provided” land presumably part of the 1857 grant to the city to the public library, which then generously allowed the Treasurer’s office to keep parking meters located on the new moved sidewalk. Could citizens stage a protest on this sidewalk or would the library tell citizens it isn’t public property?

At the July meeting of the Parking Commission they voted to allow the library to “hood” the ten meters on library property up to 50 times per year for special events, including board meetings.

These meters are apparently on library property just gifted from the city
These meters are apparently on library property just gifted from the city

The next day I emailed all involved, informing them the library neglected to mention that two of the ten spaces are designated as disabled parking. Even if the parking meter is hooded, anyone parking in the space needs a legit disabled placard or plates. You can be sure I’ll be watching to see. Even so, I don’t like the idea of a disabled patron driving down to the library only to find every space on this side of the street taken by the library for board members.

A fragmented, reeking mess.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Not Enforcing Short-Term Parking Limits

As I posted last month, St. Louis will began charging to park at meters downtown on July 1, 2013.  For the first two Saturdays warning notices will be placed on vehicles. Because of this change of policy, those who wish to park at meters all day on Saturdays will go out and feed the meters every two like they have been Monday-Friday from 8am-7pm. In most cities re-feeding the meter to extend the time is illegal, presumably it is in St. Louis too — it just wasn’t enforced by the previous treasurer for 3 decades.

Two days ago, the first saturday of the month, warnings were placed on cars that hadn't fed the meters. The same will happen this coming Saturday.
Two days ago, the first saturday of the month, warnings were placed on cars that hadn’t fed the meters — where the days on the meters had been updated. The same will happen this coming Saturday, presumably all downtown meters will be updated by the 20th.

In the interest of trying to determine St. Louis’ policy regarding short-term parking I sent the following questions to Treasurer Tishaura Jones & her Chief of Staff Jared Boyd on the morning of June 20th:

  1. Is re-feeding the parking meter after the posted time limit is reached allowed or illegal in St. Louis?
  2. If illegal, what is the amount of the ticket? If allowed, why not set the meters to accept payment for more than 2 hours?
  3. What methodology is used to ensure a vehicle isn’t parked in a short-term space all day? If none, when might we expect expect enforcement to begin?
  4. Does your office enforce the 15 minute limit in front of Culinaria on 9th Street? (see photo attached) This is free parking daily but only for 15 minutes. If you don’t, does anyone?
This was the attached photo showing a 15-minute limit at non-metered angled spaces on 9th between Olive & Locust.
This was the attached photo showing a 15-minute limit at non-metered angled spaces on 9th between Olive & Locust.

An hour later I received the following reply from Jones:

Mr. Boyd and I appreciate your interest in urban affairs related to parking. However, we think it might be appropriate to direct your questions to those who have the day-to-day responsibility for parking administration. Please direct your future inquiries to either Carl Phillips or Lenny Freeman. They have been copied on this message.

Ok, that made sense. Jones ran on a platform of not wanting to be a “parking czar”, let the parking staff deal with these issues so she can handle more important matters. Within 10 minutes I emailed both Phillips & Freeman and reaffirmed the questions I wanted answered.

 

That afternoon Phillips replied with:

I want to address all of your questions properly. I’m out of town right now and won’t be back until Tuesday. We are researching your questions thoroughly and will have some answers for you Tuesday afternoon. 

I thought my questions were rather basic, not something worthy of prolonged research.  Tomorrow will be 2 weeks after the time I was told I’d get answers. Here’s what I believe is happening:

  1. Someone thought the 2 hour limit meant Saturdays were supposed to be free for the first two hours you park, and that you should pay after that. Thus, the decision was made to stop these “violations” from continuing by charging on Saturday. 
  2. Meanwhile I’ve already shown in the prior post the policy was in fact no charge for meters between 7pm Friday until 8am on Monday morning. This is confirmed the parking meters themselves, the downtown parking guide, and everyone who has spent time in downtown.  
  3. The concept of a time limit (meaning the car must physically be moved) remains a mystery to those in charge of parking in St. Louis.
  4. The Parking Commission solved a non-existant problem while ignoring a very real and ongoing problem.

I support charging on Saturdays, but more importantly we need smarter short-term parking policies. In some high-demand areas the time limit might be as short as 15-30 minutes, and up to 8-10 hours in areas less in demand. Though not popular with motorists who don’t want to park in an off-street lot all day, merchants need the on-street spaces to have time limits enforced so customers coming to their establishment can park for the duration of their visit (shopping, lunch, etc).

Here are some examples of such a policy from other cities:

Pasadena, CA:

In Pasadena, time limits are used to manage on-street parking in two general types of areas.  In residential areas adjacent to commercial areas, parking time limits are used to discourage long-term parking by employees of the businesses in the commercial areas.  The City allows a provision for daytime permits to residents in these time-limited areas who need to park on-street near their homes during the hours the time limits are in effect.  In commercial areas, generally by petition of the business/property owners, time limits are used to encourage the turnover of parking spaces to provide short-term parking for visitors to the commercial areas. (source)

Lenox, MA:

At a special meeting this past week, the Select Board voted 4-0 to authorize $3,000 for a 10-week program based on random, selectively scheduled ticketing by a Police Department parking enforcement officer, beginning around July 1. Warnings will be issued at first.

The immediate purpose is to free up on-street spaces for residents and visitors during the busy summer season. Because of the lack of enforcement, some of those spots are being occupied all day by employees or owners of local businesses, the Selectmen have said.

“Be warned, this is not popular,” declared Selectman Kenneth Fowler, a major proponent of the enforcement decision. “You’re going to hear a hue and cry. The biggest problem is that we had that lapse of so many years when we weren’t enforcing the parking.”

“No matter who gets the ticket, right or wrong, doesn’t matter, they’re angry about it and they yell,” observed Selectman John McNinch, noting that the parking officer is bound to be confronted by upset people.

The board directed Town Manager Gregory Federspiel to send a letter to downtown business owners advising them of the enforcement policy. The town bylaw limits downtown parking to two hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week. (source)

Berkeley, CA:

Time Limits May Not Be Extended

Time limits are strictly enforced and may not be extended by adding more money after time has expired.  This applies to both single space and multi-space meters per BMC 14.52.060. (source)

Berkeley, CA
Berkeley, CA takes time limits very seriously

New Brunswick, NJ:

On-street parking at meters and time-limit areas is designed and regulated to promote turnover for commercial and retail use. If someone parks in a space all day, it is not available for other users – and this hurts local businesses who rely on having some amount of on-street parking available.

Meter feeding is prohibited! At all on-street metered parking, adding more money to the meter past the designated time limit is not allowed and violators are subject to a ticket. Also, in areas with time limit restrictions it is illegal to park beyond the posted time limit. (source)

When you obey the time limits on short-term parking spaces, you help make valuable parking spaces available to you when you need them. (source)

Portland, OR:

Overtime:

Leave the blockface when the time limit of a short-term meter is over. A short-term meter has a time limit of less than 4 hours.  Also see Re-parking below.

Re-parking:

At a short-term meter (less than 4 hours), do not return sooner than 3 hours to the same blockface. (source)

Madison, WI:

Parking meters are intended for short-term parking.

  • The purpose of time limits on parking meters is to ensure that parking spaces regularly become available for customers of area businesses and visitors to the area.
  • It is illegal to deposit additional coins in the meter after the time limit has been reached.
  • You must leave a parking space when the time limit posted on the meter has been reached.
  • Vehicles parked longer than the posted time limit are subject to citation. (source)

Champaign, IL:

How long can I park?

Before 5 p.m., see the rate/time limit sticker on the meter. After 5 p.m., at meters with Blue labels, you can pay for up to 4 hours at one time.

Color coded meter labels help you determine where to park depending on your length of stay:

  • Red = 30 minutes or less to grab lunch or a cup of coffee to go
  • Blue = 2 hour maximum for lunch or some light shopping
  • Orange = 3 or 4 hour maximum for a movie or museum visit
  • Green = 10 hour maximum for a day-long meeting or outing downtown (source)
One of Champaign's blue labels I photographed on 8/9/2010
One of Champaign’s blue labels I photographed on 8/9/2010
And a meter in downtown Champaign IL on the same day nearly 3 years ago.
And a meter in downtown Champaign IL on the same day nearly 3 years ago.

Note that in downtown Champaign IL you must 8am-9pm (2 hours longer than St. Louis, with a 2 hour maximum time 8am-5pm. Someone can stay parked in the same spot from 5pm to 9pm as long as they pay the meter.

As you can see from these examples the idea of on-street spaces as being short-term is pretty common. They recognize the need to keep cars on the street moving. I shared the Champaign IL examples with the other members of the parking task force because we agreed the lack of enforcement was detrimental to downtown.

Even looking at our neighbor to the west, Clayton, we see they too enforce time limits:

Question :

When are the parking time limits enforced on parking meters?

Answer:

 The parking meter time limits are enforced between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are not enforced on weekends and on these holidays: the first (1st) day of January, the last Monday in May, the fourth (4th) day of July, the first (1st) Monday in September, the fourth (4th) Thursday in November and the twenty-fifth (25th) day of December. (source

In Clayton, and the other cities listed, you’ll see parking enforcement putting a small chalk mark on car tires so when they come around again after the time limit those cars still parked in the same spot will be ticketed. This is likely why my simple questions from weeks ago had to be researched, because the answers are very likely:

  1. Gee, we don’t have a clue if refeeding the meters is illegal. We don’t care if someone parks all day long at a metered spot as long as they have an endless supply of quarters.
  2. We only ticket for not feeding the meter, that’s $10.
  3. Uh, huh?
  4. There’re no meters on that block of 9th so we have no way to enforce the 15 minute limit.

In 2009 the Treasurer’s office under Larry Williams commissioned a downtown study. Serving on the Downtown Parking Task Force in 2010 I had a draft copy of the report from September 2009. I dug through my archives and uploaded it to Scribd, you can read it here. One of the findings:

St. Louis’ current downtown parking enforcement program has several opportunities for improvement. The parking violation rates are low, thereby discouraging compliance. Enforcement coverage is limited to regular business hours, regardless of need. Enforcement is concentrated on traditional issues (e.g., expired meters), perhaps at the expense of more pressing compliance issues (e.g., overtime parking). Finally, this traditional focus has a real opportunity cost—by limiting enforcement to parking tickets, the CBD may miss opportunities to satisfy other stakeholder needs (e.g., patron assistance, merchant surveys and district security).

The next meeting of the parking commission is 10am Thursday in Room 220 of City Hall, weather permitting I’ll be there.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Mixed on How to Reduce Auto Congestion in Forest Park

A few of you have expressed that you feel the weekly poll results here are predictable. Maybe you’re more perceptive than me because I couldn’t have predicted the outcome of the poll last week.

The green Forest Park Trolley loops around in the park and stops just north of the park at the Forest Park MetroLink station
The green Forest Park Trolley loops around in the park and stops just north of the park at the Forest Park MetroLink station

Here are the final results:

Q: How should we address auto congestion in Forest Park? (Pick up to 3)

  1. Run the existing Forest Park Trolley more frequently 44 [21.57%]
  2. Build a trolley/streetcar circulator system within the park 35 [17.16%]
  3. Change nothing, fine as is 32 [15.69%]
  4. Whatever you do don’t allow overhead wires within the park 23 [11.27%]
  5. Ban cars in the park at peak times only 17 [8.33%]
  6. Charge a toll per car to drive into the park anytime 15 [7.35%]
  7. Charge a toll per car to drive into the park at peak times only 11 [5.39%]
  8. Ban cars in the park at all times 10 [4.9%]
  9. Build an elevated monorail circulator in the park 9 [4.41%]
  10. Build an electric bus circulator system within the park 7 [3.43%]
  11. Unsure 1 [0.49%]

I’m not sure how I’d feel about tracks and/or overhead wires in Forest Park, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like a monorail. I included that option as a joke, but 9 voted for it.

Thankfully banning cars all the time got less than 5% of the vote. Comments on the original post showed a variety of viewpoints. I think it is fair to say no consensus was reached, the top three answers above are pretty dissimilar.

The Zoo and the Art Museum are the two biggest generators of autos, besides special events like the Ballon Glow.  The Zoo will be moving most parking across I-64 and using a gondola to get people into an expanded zoo. The Art Museum opens a new wing this coming weekend with a below-grade parking garage:

The design organically links the East Building to the Cass Gilbert. A new grand staircase provides a seamless transition to the lower-level galleries, where a concourse leads to a new café, a gift shop, auditorium and the new 300-space parking garage. (West End Word)

Both of these efforts will help. I think we need a year or two of both changes and evaluate then. In the meantime I’d like to see the Forest Park Trolley become more BRT (bus rapid transit) like with actual stations, longer hours, notification of the next trolley bus, etc. Hybrid buses would be nice to reduce pollution.

— Steve Patterson

 

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