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Fifth Anniversary of Citygarden, Five Biggest Flaws

June 30, 2014 Downtown, Featured, Parks 8 Comments

Five years ago today Citygarden was officially opened to the public.  I want to talk about five big design flaws, but first some background and a few of the many positives.

The two blocks of Citygarden were cleared in the early 90s for "passive space." Photo date: May 12, 2006
The two blocks of Citygarden were cleared of some historic buildings in the early 90s to create “passive space.” They were too passive! Photo date: May 12, 2006
Both blocks were fenced off for more than a year as workers built Citygarden.  Photo date May 17, 2008.
Both blocks were fenced off for more than a year as workers built Citygarden. Photo date May 17, 2008.
Mayor Slay at the opening on June 30, 2009. Instead of cutting a ribbon Slay called the mechanical room to have the splash fountains turned on.
Mayor Slay at the opening on June 30, 2009. Instead of cutting a ribbon Slay called the mechanical room to have the splash fountains turned on.
Splash fountains at night, October 2011
Splash fountains at night, October 2011
Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011
Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011
A friend's grandsons love ringing the bells. This photo is from June 2011, they're much bigger now and they have a younger sister.
A friend’s grandsons love ringing the bells. This photo is from June 2011, they’re much bigger now and they have a younger sister.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Citygarden in the last five years, observing the good & bad.   Here are the five biggest flaws at Citygarden:

  1. Didn’t plan for continuation of Gateway Mall “Hallway” to the east & west
  2. Lack of curb bulbs on perimeter streets (8th, Market, 10th, Chestnut) — see map
  3. Keeping 9th Street closed
  4. No public restroom
  5. Restaurant space

Let’s take a look at each:

1) Didn’t plan for continuation of Gateway Mall “Hallway” to the east & west

One the best things about the Gateway Mall Master Plan was the idea of a wide “hallway” running the length of the mall, Citygarden got things going with the first two blocks. Had they built the east & west ends of these two blocks, at 8th & 10th, with continuation we might have be wen able to add another block or two to the Hallway by now. In the center, at 9th, they built the prototype for how the hallway would cross streets.

The line of sight matches the path you take on the hallway, imagine this from Broadway to 20th.
The line of sight matches the path you take on the hallway, imagine this from Broadway to 20th.
At 8th Street the hallway comes to an terminus.
At 8th Street the hallway comes to an terminus, to continue east the Citygarden end will need to be busted out and rebuilt how it should’ve been done originally. The fire hydrant will also need to be moved, a rather simple task when the project was being built from scratch in 2008-09.
The same problem exists at the  10th Street end of the 2-block hallway, the finished side will need to be busted out and rebuilt correctly to continue west of 10th Street.
The same problem exists at the 10th Street end of the 2-block hallway, the finished side will need to be busted out and rebuilt correctly to continue west of 10th Street.

Had the ends at 8th & 10th been designed to match how the hallway crosses 9th Street it would be so much easier (cheaper) to continue. Either continuation wasn’t considered or the decision was made to not make it easy. The previous version of these two blocks (1994-2008) had a similar scheme of a wide walkway through an allée of trees with the hope of it extending. Never happened in its 14 years.

2) Lack of curb bulbs on perimeter streets (8th, Market, 10th, Chestnut)

At the south and north ends of 9th, Market & Chestnut, respectively, 9th was narrowed by “bulbing” the curb out to cap the parking lane, reducing the crossing distance. This is also mentioned in the Master Plan. Sadly, it was only done on 9th.

Looking east from 9th a rain garden/ bulb to cap the parking lane would've helped shorten the walk across Market
Looking east from 9th a rain garden/ bulb to cap the parking lane would’ve helped shorten the walk across Market

Had they done it at 10th and 8th too they could’ve extended the hallway mentioned above. This also would’ve helped crossing the too-wide Market Street and Chestnut. The master plan called for a 20-direction bike lane along the north side of Market, but the planners could never describe how that would work with signals, entry/exit, etc.

3) Keeping 9th Street closed

Initially 9th Street was supposed to be reopened the vehicles once Citygarden was completed, 9th is one-way northbound. But some wanted to closed permanently.

Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles, the old fire ice cream truck is allowed in to vend
Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles, the old fire ice cream truck is allowed in to vend

Initially they’d move the barricades late at night to allow traffic through, not sure if they still do that. One-way couplets only work if streets remain open in opposite directions, 8th & 10th are both one-way southbound. Except that now, because of Ballpark Village, 8th is two-way south of Market.  We have a poorly functioning downtown grid of one-way & two-way streets, each with  random blocks closed to traffic. Maddening.

I think part of the reason they wanted 9th kept closed is they quickly realized nobody had considered pedestrian signals at the hallway crossing 9th (nor at Chestnut). Oops. Once again pedestrians weren’t given proper consideration.

4) No public restroom

The Gateway Foundation spent tens of millions of dollars building Citygarden, and for the most part it is a world-class facility.

Half the year twi port potties are on the 10th street sidewalk on the west end of Citygarden -- classy!
Half the year twi port potties are on the 10th street sidewalk on the west end of Citygarden — classy!

Really? All that money but no place to use the bathroom? The simplest fix now is to extend the hallway one block west to incorporate the Twain block, adding a modern restroom structure off of the hallway in that block. I suggested as much in 2010.

5) Restaurant space

The third restaurant opened recently in the restaurant space in the northeast corner (8th & Chestnut. Architecturally the building is a looker, the main reasons the first two places failed were poor service (The Terrace View) and food & service (Joe’s Chili Bowl). I ate at both more than once, because of the ambiance.  I met a friend for lunch at Death in the Afternoon on Friday, I was impressed with both the food & service. Others seemed to be impressed too as the place quickly filled for lunch.

Interior of the restaurant on Friday
Interior of the restaurant on Friday
Outside tables were also busy
Outside tables were also busy

The previous problems were service (2) and food (1), so why is the building a flaw? The problems are on the Chestnut side.

This cool-looking overhang onto the Chestnut sidewalk can't be ADA-compliant, a visually impaired person could walk right into the building.
This cool-looking overhang onto the Chestnut sidewalk can’t be ADA-compliant, a visually impaired person could walk right into the building.
The facade to the public street (Chestnut) isn't welcoming. I know, it's designed to face the garden. They could've grown vines over this side or done something to soften it. Mount menu boards so passersby could read the menu to see if they wanted to go around to the front.
The facade to the public street (Chestnut) isn’t welcoming. I know, it’s designed to face the garden. They could’ve grown vines over this side or done something to soften it. Mount menu boards so passersby could read the menu to see if they wanted to go around to the front.
The previous modern sink in the unisex bathroom I used has been replaced by a traditional-looking non-ADA compliant pedestal.
The previous modern sink in the unisex bathroom I used has been replaced by a traditional-looking non-ADA compliant pedestal.

These five flaws need to be addressed. A 6th, a poorly-built ADA ramp at 10th & Chestnut, got replaced a couple of years ago after I finally made a formal complaint with the city. The City of St. Louis owns the land but the Gateway Foundation funded, designed, built and manages Citygarden.

— Steve Patterson

 

Compton Hill Reservoir Park: A Century of the Naked Truth

May 27, 2014 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks, South City Comments Off on Compton Hill Reservoir Park: A Century of the Naked Truth

St. Louis is rich with history from many immigrant groups over the last 250 years, including Germans. A century ago they unveiled a sculpture in the Compton Hill Reservoir Park:

The statue called “The Naked Truth,” designated a city landmark in 1969, was controversial before it was even built. It is a memorial to Dr. Emil Preetorius, Carl Schurz and Carl Daenzer, German-American editors of the St. Louis Westliche Post. Adolphus Busch was the major donor, giving $20,000 of the $31,000 cost.

A jury selected a design by sculptor Wilhelm Wandschneider of Berlin. Busch was appalled by the jury’s selection and the controversy over the nudity in the statue prompted great debates. The sculptor refused Busch’s request that the figure be draped.

The jury voted 14 to 12 to accept the original design but said the nude figure should be made of a material other than white marble, to de-emphasize the nudity. The figure is made of bronze.

The statue is a nude figure of a woman seated on a stone bench with arms outstretched, holding torches. The figure symbolizes “Truth” and the torches are for the “enlightenment of Germany and the United States.” The figure of Truth is of bronze in heroic size. The eyes are painted as in some bronze figures of the Greeks and as in many modern German statues. The inscription on the back of the shaft in incised lettering expressing the devotion of German-American citizens to the country of their adoption. This inscription is repeated in German.

The memorial was a gift to St Louis by the German-American Alliance and was unveiled on May 27, 1914.

On the right is The Naked Truth sculpture, unveiled 100 years ago today. Photo date May 19, 2012
On the right is “The Naked Truth” sculpture, unveiled 100 years ago today. Photo date May 19, 2012

Behind the sculpture is the water tower, one of three in St. Louis, one of seven in the county. The tower is open for tours ($5) on the following dates:

2014 Saturday Openings are scheduled:
Open from Noon to 4pm

  • June 7th
  • July 5th
  • August 2nd
  • September 6th
  • October 4th
  • November 1st

2014 Full Moon Openings are scheduled:

  • Friday, June 13th, 5:30pm to Midnight
  • Saturday, July12th, 5:30pm to Midnight
  • Sunday, August 10th, 5:30pm to Midnight
  • Tuesday, September 9th, 5:30pm to 11pm
  • Wednesday, October 8th, 5:30pm to 10pm
  • Thursday, November 6th, 5:30pm to 9pm

For more information see the Water Tower & Park Preservation Society.

— Steve Patterson

 

112 Parks in 112 Days

Recently a friend posted the following status on Facebook:

I discovered that there are 111 parks in the city of St. Louis–112 when you include Tower Grove Park which is privately owned. I decided that I will visit each of them this summer. Serendipitously, there are 112 days from today to Labor Day. So each day I will post a few pics from one of my visits. #112parks112days

A few hours later he posted three images from the first park he visited.

His text read "Lyon Park is across the street from the Budweiser plant. Nice paths, a well-used baseball diamond and a statue of General Lyon who kept the St. Louis Arsenal from falling into the hands of secessionists during the Civil War. #112parks112days"
His text read “Lyon Park is across the street from the Budweiser plant. Nice paths, a well-used baseball diamond and a statue of General Lyon who kept the St. Louis Arsenal from falling into the hands of secessionists during the Civil War. #112parks112days” Photo by Jeff Wunrow

This prompted a discussion about the role of St. Louis & Missouri in the Civil War, including learning more about the park namesake, Nathaniel Lyon:

In February of 1861, Lyon was made commander of the Union arsenal in St. Louis, Missouri, where tensions grew between the Union soldiers stationed there and the secessionist governor of the state, Claiborne Jackson. When the Civil War broke out, Jackson refused to send volunteers from the state to fight for Abraham Lincoln. Instead, Jackson had the militia muster outside the city to begin training in preparation to join Confederate forces. On May 10, 1861, Lyon and his troops surrounded the pro-Confederate Missouri militia under General D. M. Frost, and forced their surrender. While marching his captured prisoners through St. Louis, many citizens began to riot, and provoked the Camp Jackson Affair, during which Lyon ordered his troops to fire into the rioters. On May 17, 1861, Lyon was promoted to brigadier general and was given command of Union troops in Missouri.

On August 10, 1861 the Union forces met a combined force of the Missouri Militia and Confederate troops under the command of Ben McCulloch near Springfield, Missouri, during the battle of Wilson’s Creek. Nathaniel Lyon was killed during the battle while trying to rally his outnumbered soldiers. Although the Confederate forces would win the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Lyon’s efforts prevented the State of Missouri from joining the Confederacy.

Here is the list of parks he’s visited so far, in order:

  1. Lyon Park
  2. Cherokee Park
  3. Benton Park
  4. Minniewood Park
  5. Laclede Park
  6. Marquette Park
  7. Gravois Park
  8. Amberg Park
  9. Joseph Leisure Park
  10. Christy Park
  11. Sherman Park
  12. Marie Fowler Park

For privacy reasons his Facebook posts aren’t public. What’s great about Jeff’s project is he’s getting out everyday, seeing a new park. You might not want to do the same, but it’s appealing. Jeff’s project will last over three and a half month. At one park per week it would take someone over two years to visit them all. I hope to convince Jeff to turn this project into a blog, visible to everyone.

Official information on all our parks:

Thank you to Jeff Wunrow for sharing his project with friends, and allowing me to share it here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Metro Resumes Forest Park Trolley Service Today

May 3, 2014 Featured, Parks, Public Transit Comments Off on Metro Resumes Forest Park Trolley Service Today

As summer approaches that means vehicle traffic in Forest Park increases, especially on the weekends. Parking is limited, traffic moves slowly, exhaust pollution increases. If only there was a better way to get to the outstanding institutions in the park!

2012: People board the Forest Park Trolley to visit the park
2012: People board the Forest Park Trolley to visit the park

The press release explains the best way to navigate the park other than as a pedestrian or cyclist:

The Metro Forest Park Trolley will return to Forest Park on Saturday, May 3, giving individuals visiting Forest Park a convenient method of navigating the Park, in addition to assisting to alleviate Park congestion.

The Metro Forest Park Trolley Service (MetroBus route #3) will operate daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. from May 3 through September 28 with summer hours of 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. It will connect all Park attractions, as well as the Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink Station. Adult Trolley fares are $2 per adult. Children 5-12, seniors and disabled passengers ride for $1. A valid Metro Reduced Fare permit is required for the Senior and Disabled discount. Kids 4 and under ride free. Two convenient Park N’ Ride options are available for visitors: the Twin Parking Lots across from the Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center and the Upper Muny Parking Lot. From these lots, visitors can hop aboard the Forest Park Trolley for a lift to their desired attraction.

The Metro #3 Forest Park Trolley is a partnership between Forest Park Forever, Bi-State Development Agency/Metro, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo, and the City of St. Louis.

#3 Forest Park Trolley Hours and Timing:
9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily, May 3 through September 28. Weekday service will be every 20 minutes and every 15 minutes on weekends.
Extended summer hours, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day (Saturday, May 24 – Monday, September 1.)
During Friday, Saturday and Sunday Trolley operating hours, the #90 Hampton MetroBus will reroute outside the Park. This will improve the on-time performance of the #90 Hampton and reduce the number of MetroBus vehicles in Forest Park. Contact Metro transit regarding the #90 Hampton schedule at 314-231-2345 or 618-271-2345.

Forest Park Trolley Rider Tips:
Fare is purchased on-board the Trolley, exact change required (paper or coin). Each Trolley ticket allows unlimited on & off privileges for the day the fare is purchased.
Metro Day, Weekly and Monthly Passes are acceptable fares for the Forest Park Trolley. Day passes are available for purchase at Metro Ticket Machines located at all MetroLink stations.
Trolley Head Signs – #3 Forest Park Trolley vehicles coming from the Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink station are identified as Southbound – To Science Center. Forest Park Trolley vehicles heading toward MetroLink are identified as Northbound – To Forest Park MetroLink Station.
The #3 Forest Park Trolley is fully accessible to persons with disabilities.

Information on Obtaining Senior Reduced Fare Permits
Seniors (age 65 and older) and the disabled can ride MetroBus and MetroLink at a reduced rate. Qualifying individuals must complete the following:
Apply in person at the MetroStore – 701 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101 – or at one of Metro’s mobile registration events. MetroStore hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Show a government issued picture identification card verifying age (age 65 and older) Acceptable forms of identification include a state vehicle driver’s license, state ID, passport or alien registration card.

Additional Traffic Support for Forest Park
While the #3 Forest Park Trolley will have a meaningful impact on alleviating traffic in the Park this summer, a Traffic Relief Route will again be implemented as an additional measure on especially busy days. When traffic congestion is particularly heavy at Forest Park’s popular Hampton entrance, the Park Rangers will put this Relief Route in motion. This effort is done in coordination with MoDOT as a means to reduce backups and closures on Interstate 64 at Hampton Avenue. To prevent traffic back-ups and highway closures, the Traffic Relief Route will direct drivers from Hampton on a circular path through the Park, past many available parking lots at the Upper Muny, the Visitor Center and ultimately along Government Drive and Saint Louis Zoo. After parking, visitors may then hop on the Trolley to reach their destination and navigate Forest Park.

Helpful Websites
www.metrostlouis.org/forestparktrolley
www.forestparkforever.org/navigation

So if you’re planning a trip to Forest Park please consider using the #3 Forest Park Trolley, or #90 Hampton. You can view the Forest Park Trolley map here (PDF).

— Steve Patterson

 

An Update on Lucas Park

The land that’s now Lucas Park was given to St. Louis by the Lucas family in the 1850s. Read about Lucas Place, now Locust, and Lucas Park here. In the last couple of decades the park became the gather place for the homeless downtown. For a couple of years the park has been closed as it undergoes a much-needed refresh. Slowly the park has been opening up again.

Lucas Park yesterday
Lucas Park yesterday, the former center fountain is now filled in with lawn grass
Temporary fencing remains up to allow the grass and perennials to get well established
Temporary fencing remains up to allow the grass and perennials to get well established
At the west end a former playground now has exercise equipment.
At the west end a former playground now has exercise equipment. I’ve yet to see this get used.
The east end has new children's playground equipment
The east end has new children’s playground equipment, the playground is frequently used.
Belongings of the homeless surround the park at the base of the construction fence.
Belongings of the homeless surround the park at the base of the construction fence.

Old habits don’t die easily. 

— Steve Patterson

 

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