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Generic Form Letters Mailed To Owners Of Poorly Maintained Surface Parking Lot Notifying Them Of Code Violations

August 30, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parking 17 Comments

In May I posted about the parking lot to the East of my condo building, see Deplorable Surface Parking Lot At 1601 Locust Cited, Fined. The next month I submitted a request to the city for copies of the notice(s) sent to the owner. I’ve finally received  them.

Standing water in some of the many holes in the paving, August 23rd
Standing water in some of the many holes in the paving, August 23rd

Here’s the timeline:

  • Friday June 3 @ 9:09am: Emailed request to St. Louis’ centralized custodian of records.
  • Wednesday June 8 @ 4:43pm:  Reply from the city acknowledging the request, describing the process. “We anticipate completing this process during the week of June 13, 2016.”
  • Tuesday June 21 @ 10:03am: I replied to followup on the status.
  • Friday August 12 @ 11:02am: I replied again, but copied Maggie Crane in the mayor’s office, I wrote: “It’s been nearly three (3) months since my request was made. Guess I’ll have to file a complaint with the state…”
  • Friday August 12 @ 11:46am: I received a reply from the custodian of records: “I apologize for the delay in getting back to you regarding your above-referenced Sunshine Law request. I appreciate your patience in this matter. Attached are the responsive documents.”

I was initially encouraged when I found out the city had centralized the request process, as opposed to having a person in each department be familiar with Missouri’s Sunshine Law and ensure compliance. I was disappointed I didn’t receive a response by the date they said I would. I was upset when I didn’t get a reply to my followup email. By the time I remembered in mid-August I was furious.  I should’ve copied someone else on my initial followup of June 21st.  Lesson learned.

Cars overhanging & parked on the public sidewalk, August 23rd
Cars overhanging & parked on the public sidewalk, August 23rd

Here are the documents I received:

I now know the name of the building inspector, we’ve talked by phone and are communicating. I’ve asked if the owner is being fined and if it can be sent to court for prosecution of the violations. I’m not an expert in these matters, but I don’t think mailing letters to an LLC in Illinois regarding a surface parking lot with the first sentence that reads “Thank you for choosing to live in the City of St. Louis” is an effective strategy.

I didn’t want to do this, but yesterday morning I emailed Carl Phillips at Parking Enforcement and asked them to warn/ticket people who end up over/on the sidewalk. After lunch I went out and the same two cars from 6 days earlier had something under their wiper.

Looking North
Looking North
Looking South
Looking South

Hopefully drivers will start paying attention, or will park elsewhere. If the owners lose enough business perhaps they’ll take action.

— Steve Patterson

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The Things You Hear & See In An Urban Environment, Part 2

July 27, 2016 Featured, Parking Comments Off on The Things You Hear & See In An Urban Environment, Part 2

Last month I posted about seeing a car get repossessed from below our balcony, see The Things You Hear & See In An Urban Environment (w/Video).  That event happened on the evening of Monday May 19th.  A little over a week later, at 6:30am on the morning of Tuesday May 27th I saw & heard a tow truck in front of an SUV in the lot to the North. My thought was it was going to be towed away for non-payment.

View from our balcony, see in the upper left corner
View from our balcony, see in the upper left corner
Here's a crop of the image above
Here’s a crop of the image above

I quickly realized the flatbed tow truck had dropped off the SUV on the lot!

By June 3rd I was surprised it was still there , unmoved. Not ticketed or booted.
By June 3rd I was surprised it was still there , unmoved. Not ticketed or booted.

Here we are two months later and it’s still there! No tickets, no boot!

— Steve Patterson

 

Line For Post Office Parking Garage Two Blocks Long

Recently I saw a line of cars Eastbound on Market waiting to turn right onto 16th to park in a parking garage. For the Blues playoffs? Big concert at Scottrade Center? No, shift change at the main post office. Seriously.

At right a white car waits on 18th St to turn right onto Market St, 6:50am on 5/26/2016
At right a white car waits on 18th St to turn right onto Market St, 6:50am on 5/26/2016
Thew line of cars you see aren't parked on Market, they're in the outside drive lane in a line to access the USPS parking garage
Thew line of cars you see aren’t parked on Market, they’re in the outside drive lane in a line to access the USPS parking garage
These cars, between 16th-17th, are also waiting. The parking is on the upper level(s) of the addition to the main post office shown in the background
These cars, between 16th-17th, are also waiting. The parking is on the upper level(s) of the addition to the main post office shown in the background
This view shows cars waiting next to a line of cars parked on the street
This view shows cars waiting next to a line of cars parked on the street
Looking East from 17th the waiting cars are now against the curb because parking isn't allowed on this block
Looking East from 17th the waiting cars are now against the curb because parking isn’t allowed on this block
When a car exists another is allowed to enter. Supervisors don;t wait in line, they come up from 16th and enter upon arrival.
When a car exists another is allowed to enter. Supervisors don;t wait in line, they come up from 16th and enter upon arrival.

A postal employee waiting in line told me this was a routine shift change…waiting for parking. Another said the garage has about 300 spaces…and exposed rebar. I was unable to determine when the addition was added to the East of the main post office. I’d guess 1960s or 70s.

While I did see some workers arrive via Madison County Transit, more need to consider public transit, car pooling, etc. All these running cars, polluting my neighborhood, waiting to park is unacceptable.  Recently I posted about intersections that bookend the post office, on 16th & 18th.

— Steve Patterson

 

Privately-Owned Convention Center Parking Garage In Questionable Condition

Our publicly-owned convention center, known as America’s Center, surrounds the privately-owned parking garage at 701 N. 7th Street. The garage, built in 1964, is attached to the former Stix, Baer and Fuller/Dillard’s department store building — now a mixed-use building. The pedestrian bridge over 7th St still exists, but is closed.

The garage was more than a decade old when the Cervantes Convention Center was built across Convention Plaza, previously Delmar. In the early 90s Cervantes was expanded South to Washington Ave and the dome was built to the East. That’s when the garage became surrounded on the North, West, and South. Convention guests can park in the garage and go directly into the convention center.

I photographed from the garage in August 2010, and again last week. During my recent visit I noticed damage I didn’t see nearly 6 years earlier.

The dome can be seen un the background in this August 2010 image
The dome can be seen un the background in this August 2010 image
Pedestrian entrance on North 7th Street
Pedestrian entrance on North 7th Street
Rebar exposed along East edge
Rebar exposed along East edge
Thus is just under the top deck
Thus is just under the top deck
More
More
And more
And more

I’m not not qualified to evaluate the damage or integrity of the structure, so I emailed the last four images to reader Mark-AL, an engineer who specializes in parking garages. From his reply:

It’s a garage restoration contractor’s pot of gold! It’s a classic case of garage neglect, where the operator has failed to protect the decks with a sealer or coating and has allowed water to infiltrate the deck, rusting the rebar mats and (probably) the post tensioned cables. The rust on the bottom mat steel has resulted in spalling concrete and general degradation, resulting in loss of deck strength and homogeneity. The upper level of rebar mat is most likely in equal or worse condition, and only god knows how the post tensioned cables are holding up, even though they are likely plastic encased. If the concrete deterioration is widespread and into the PT cable anchorage zones, it is probable that the decks lack the elasticity and plasticity required of the original design, resulting in increasing frictional losses–all of which says that the decks are no longer ready for prime time!

What we don’t know is if the operator is responsible for maintenance, the current operator might not have had the contract very long — we just don’t know. We do know from the lawsuits, regarding the garage at Tucker & Locust, that an operator can only do so much for a structure at the end of it’s useful life. That condemned garage is three years younger than the convention center garage on 7th.

City records show only one inspection — on July 2, 2008. The four violations were complied on June 23, 2010. This morning I’ll be emailing this post to officials at city hall (including the building inspector), Kitty Ratcliffe at the Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the current operator, SP+. They can be the ones to determine if the garage is safe to use.

— Steve Patterson

 

Parking For A Renovated Railway Exchange: Old Garage Or Internal?

Let’s assume Hudson Holdings moves forward and buys the Railway Exchange for redevelopment, see Friday’s post: Cautiously Optimistic About the Future of the Railway Exchange Building, parking may be an issue.

The Railway Exchange occupies city block 128, bounded by Olive, 7th, Locust, and 6th. It contains 1.2 million square feet but not a single parking spot. In the early 60s buildings to the South were razed so a 1,000-car garage could be constructed.

The parking garage for the Railway Exchange building was built in 1962, per city records. Shown here in 1966 while the Kiener West garage is getting started. The Railway Exchange is in the background. Scanned from my collection, photographer unknown
The parking garage for the Railway Exchange building was built in 1962, per city records. Shown here in 1966 while the Kiener West garage is getting started. The Railway Exchange is in the background. Scanned from my collection, photographer unknown
Looking from the former department store into the bridge over Olive St connecting to the garage
Looking from the former department store into the bridge over Olive St connecting to the garage, January 2011

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6th & Pine corner of the garage
6th & Pine corner of the garage
7th & Pine
7th & Pine
7th St focus group at 7th & Pine on May 1, 2012
7th St focus group at 7th & Pine on May 1, 2012
A little further up the group is under the only ramp into the garage. The ULI TAP recommended the ramp be removed and access be gained another way
A little further up the group is under the only ramp into the garage. The ULI TAP recommended the ramp be removed and access be gained another way

The garage has lots of issues:

  • It’s 54+ years old
  • It has low heights
  • Looks dated inside & out
  • Is awkward to use as a motorist
  • Is unsecure — elevators open onto the sidewalk

Using some of the building’s square footage for parking is an option, especially the basement level. The problem? The building doesn’t have a back side. All four facades are finished and face public streets.

West/7th St facade
West/7th St facade
North/Locust St facade
North/Locust St facade
East/6th St facade
East/6th St facade
South/Olive St facade
South/Olive St facade

Last year parking came up for the Mark Twain Building in Kansas City, another future project of Hudson Holdings:

According to Chuck Reitzel, a project manager with Ebersoldt + Associates Architecture, Hassenflu is not planning parking on just four floors. Reitzel, who is Hassenflu’s architect for the Mark Twain project, said parking is planned on six levels: the lower level, first floor, a mezzanine level, and floors two through four.

The parking would be accessed off of Baltimore Avenue through a new garage doorway cut into the northeast corner of the building, Reitzel said. He said a driveway would proceed from the entrance through what his now retail space occupied by Goodden Jewellers, with a circulation ramp allowing motorists to access higher levels.

See the facade they wanted to cut open for garage access here, next door is a parking garage.

Back to the Railway Exchange…

When the indoor mall St. Louis Centre was built North of the Railway Exchange in the 80s it included a dock with elevator/tunnel connected to the basement. This might be better suited for those moving in/out of future apartments than accessing for parking
When the indoor mall St. Louis Centre was built North of the Railway Exchange in the 80s it included a dock with elevator/tunnel connected to the basement. This might be better suited for those moving in/out of future apartments than accessing for parking

Another option is to raze the 1962 garage and start over with a modern garage, or perhaps just a new structure to go under Olive St into the building.  Either would be very expensive.

I favor building the modern streetcar project that was floated a few years ago, it would run on 2-3 sides of the Railway Exchange.  T

he ground floor of the Railway Exchange should be active habitable space — restaurants/retail– not parking. No garage access/curb cut should be permitted either. Already too many garage entries to negotiate as a pedestrian downtown.

— Steve Patterson

 

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