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New Arch To Riverfront Ramps Are A Great Improvement

February 20, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on New Arch To Riverfront Ramps Are A Great Improvement

When I first moved to St. Louis in August 1990 the grand staircase down to our riverfront wasn’t complete — it was grass with steps only on the North & South edges. At some point the center steps were completed.But even as a young (20s) able-bodied person the steps were a pain. I recall one time, in the early 90s visiting the Arch grounds with my parents & grandfather — in their early 60s & mid-90s, respectively, The steps were a huge problem.

Visitors to the Arch grounds yesterday enjoy the sun on the grand stairs

This weekend I visited the Arch grounds twice — along on Saturday and with my husband on Sunday. Both days I did all four of the new ramps connecting the upper Arch grounds to Lenore K Sullivan Blvd on the riverfront.

Looking South from the North outlook area,a new ramp on the right and the North steps on the left. The steps are closed currently because they’re in poor condition.
At the bottom of that ramp
Moving toward the river you can begin to see how much longer the ramp is vs the steps
The North steps, mirrored to the South
The two South ramps each feature a longer flat section with s bench. — excellent for those who may need to sit and rest
Looking North from the South lookout area

I saw many people using the new ramps both days, but nobody else in a wheelchair. Users were all ages, some were biking, others walking their dogs, some pushing baby strollers, most just out with family and/or friends.

The Arch & grounds were designed at a time when the disabled were institutionalized — not independent members of the community. Ramps just weren’t done back then.  Today, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, those of us who are disabled are better able to live independent lives.

These four ramps, plus the connection next to the Eads Bridge, make getting to/from the riverfront a pleasure.

— Steve Patterson

 

Remembering Peter Fischer, Improving Citygarden

August 1, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Remembering Peter Fischer, Improving Citygarden

Peter Fischer, the reserved head of the Gateway Foundation, died a year ago Saturday 7/23. His best known work is Citygarden, which opened June 30, 2009:

Citygarden started with his Gateway Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting art and urban design. His affinity for unpretentious art is reflected throughout the park. Park patrons can climb on the sculptures, dart around the water plumes and swim in the fountains.

A frequent visitor to the park, Mr. Fischer especially loved watching kids splash in the water features. When safety concerns arose, he proposed to continue to allow swimming but hired lifeguards to keep watch.

The world soon took note of the park. A New York Times piece praised the park, and numerous awards were given. In 2011, Citygarden won its biggest award, the ULI Amanda Burden Urban Open Space award. (Post-Dispatch)

Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011
Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011

I was there for the ribbon cutting , I think he was too. But he wasn’t on the stage giving a speech, he always proffered to remain in the background.

One of the few times he and I talked was shortly after Citygarden opened, I saw him sitting and observing people. I rolled over and chatted briefly. I got an email from him once — just before a public Gateway Mall Advisory Board meeting — he didn’t want me taking/posting pictures of the model we’d be shown for Kiener Plaza.

I love Citygarden, visiting often. However, it’s not perfect.

The only restroom is inside the restaurant, so these are on the 10th Street (West) side.
The only restroom is inside the restaurant, so these are on the 10th Street (West) side.

As I’ve stated before, I’d like to see the block to the West joined via the Hallway walkway with a public restroom.

There was no thought about communicating to pedestrians on the hallway about traffic on 9th Street, so Fischer had it closed to vehicles.
There was no thought about communicating to pedestrians on the hallway about traffic on 9th Street, so Fischer had it closed to vehicles.
Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles
Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles

I chose not too pursue the opening of 9th Street while Peter Fischer was still alive — I knew better. But now, more than a year after his death, I think the subject deserves attention. But it’s not as simple as just moving the barricades out of the way. There’s no way to communicate to pedestrians that Northbound vehicles on 9th Street have a green light.

One way streets function only in pairs — one each direction. Eighth and 10th streets are both one-way Southbound.

— Steve Patterson

 

A Small Local Boulevard Through Forest Park Grew To Become A Major Interstate

Last week I posted about Forest Park’s 140th anniversary.  Earlier this month my husband and I visited the Science Center, looking out from the walkway over Interstate 64 I was reminded that land was originally part of the park.

i-64.kingshighway
6/11/16 2:14pm

In 1958 Kingshighway hadn’t been straightened, but a small road cut through the Southern edge of Forest Park — see aerial. Highways were meant to connect cities to each other, but within cities they divided and consumed valuable land.

— Steve Patterson

 

Forest Park Dedicated June 24, 1876, 140 Years Ago Today (6 Historic Photos)

Forest Park opened 140 years ago today — nearly three decades before the 1904 World’s Fair:

Forest Park, officially opened to the public on June 24, 1876, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. At 1,293 acres, it is approximately 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York.

In 1904, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, The St. Louis World’s Fair, drew more than 20 million visitors from around the world to Forest Park. (St. Louis)

When Forest Park was created by the Board of Aldermen residents to the North & South also wanted large parks in their part of the city, so O’Fallon & Carondelet parks were created before Forest Park opened. At that time the parks were largely rural, a way to preserve land in a rapidly growing city.

When Forest Park officially opened to the public on Saturday afternoon, June 24, 1876, it was located in St. Louis County, almost two miles west of the St. Louis City limits and a 40 minute carriage ride from downtown. 

The Globe-Democrat reported that the opening day ceremony attracted 50,000 people — at a time when the population of the city was only 350,000.

It was on a railroad line, which had opened only a week before the park was dedicated. The train ride from downtown took 20 minutes. 

At the same time as the dedication, the Democratic Party was holding its national convention in Downtown St. Louis. (The 1870 census called St. Louis the fourth largest city in the country behind New York, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.) (St. Louis)

Yes, Forest Park was in unincorporated St. Louis County when initially dedicated. This was a good excuse for me to scan & post vintage/undated images from the archives of Louis (1907-1999) & Georgia (1918-2009) Buckowitz:

Cabanne Spring, Buckowitz Archives
Cabanne Spring, Buckowitz Archives
Hooved Animal Enclosure, Buckowitz Archives
Hooved Animal Enclosure, Buckowitz Archives
Old Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Old Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Old Wabash Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Old Wabash Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Superintendents House, Buckowitz Archives. "Constructed in 1875 from plans drawn by St. Louis architect James H. McNamara, the Second Empire style house was conceived as part of the original Master Plan for Forest Park. The Cabanne House was completed in June 1876, in time for the formal dedication of Forest Park/" Click image for quote source
Superintendents House, Buckowitz Archives. “Constructed in 1875 from plans drawn by St. Louis architect James H. McNamara, the Second Empire style house was conceived as part of the original Master Plan for Forest Park. The Cabanne House was completed in June 1876, in time for the formal dedication of Forest Park/” Click image for quote source
Pagoda Bandstand, Buckowitz Archives
Pagoda Bandstand, Buckowitz Archives

Information on the pagoda bandstand is too much for the caption:

The original Forest Park bandstand, or music pagoda, was a wooden structure that stood on an island in Pagoda Lake. It was built about the time the park was dedicated in 1876. Mary J. Rankin donated statues representing the four seasons in 1886.

The bandstand was renovated and was landscaped for the 1904 World’s Fair. It was the site of concerts before and after the fair.

However, the bandstand fell into disrepair and was declared unsafe in 1911. 

Before it could be renovated, it blew down in a storm and was damaged beyond repair. 

In July 1924, St. Louis lawyer Nathan Frank donated funds to build a new bandstand. It was designed by Heffensteller, Hirsh and Watson.

The new bandstand cost about $50,000 and is of classic Renaissance design. It is made of white marble with bronze railings and ornaments.

It was renovated in 1981 with $13,000 from the Central West End Charitable Trust, raised by the Central West End Association. 

It was renovated and landscaped by the Flora Conservancy of Forest Park under the Forest Park Master Plan. (St. Louis)

Now you know why “Pagoda Drive” is named as such. A decade until the 150th. For information on events celebrating the 140th click here.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Kiener Parking Garages Need A Major Facelift

Work has started on the $19 million revamp of Kiener Plaza”, which will help guide visitors to the upcoming city-facing entrance to the museum under the Arch. With the 1980s Arch parking garage razed visitors will be directed to existing parking garages in the central business district (CBD) — largely the two Kiener garages — across Chestnut Street from Kiener Plaza.

The East & West Kiener garages are highly visible
The East & West Kiener garages are highly visible
From Market & Broadway
From Market & Broadway

After investing a billion in changes to improve the Arch experience and connectivity to downtown, the first & last thing many will see are the Kiener garages. Today I want to discuss the problems and how we might solve them.

The Problems

  • They’re privately owned
  • Owner has little financial incentive to make them more attractive
  • They’re in too good of condition to buy & replace
All four sides of two city blocks are covered in the most awful concrete panels
All four sides of two city blocks are covered in the most awful concrete panels
6th Street is awful with a garage on each side
6th Street is awful with a garage on each side
The layout is dated
The layout is dated
They were built in 1964 (East) and 1966 (West). The garage in the background was used for Famous-Barr for decades -- built in 1962. Photo is approximately 1963-64, from my personal collection
They were built in 1964 (East) and 1966 (West). The garage in the background was used for Famous-Barr for decades — built in 1962. Photo is approximately 1963-64, from my personal collection
The pedestrian entry/exit points require walking into deep walkways, the materials, lighting, elevator, etc don't add up to a positive impression
The pedestrian entry/exit points require walking into deep walkways, the materials, lighting, elevator, etc don’t add up to a positive impression
The East garage pedestrian entry
The East garage pedestrian entry

 

There is some good news…

Built with ground floor retail on all four sides of each -- very rare in the mid-60s.
Built with ground floor retail on all four sides of each — very rare in the mid-60s.
The structures have been maintained. This is structural repairs being made in 2010
The structures have been maintained. This is structural repairs being made in 2010
The concrete exterior panels are attached to the structure, not part of it.
The concrete exterior panels are attached to the structure, not part of it.

The Solutions

With the ugly concrete panels being attacked to the structure one solution is to remove them and reskin it. Easier said than done, but worthy of discussion. Before I go any further let me say I don’t know how this would be paid for. The city has offered facade grants to building owners before, but otherwise using public money on a private building has issues. Perhaps tax abatement if the owner does it? I think this can be figured out — let’s discuss the design.

The old anchors into the structure might not support a new skin after the concrete skin is cut off. Despite being open in the center the exterior walls should continue to allow for airflow — natural ventilation eliminates the need for costly mechanical systems.

I think creative types could come up with some interesting ideas on how to reskin these. I want to share one such parking garage I saw in Cincinnati in November.

This colorful screen appears to be rather simple in construction, click image to view in Google Street View
This colorful screen appears to be rather simple in construction, click image to view in Google Street View
From the sidewalk
From the sidewalk
At night
At night

This screen on an old garage was the work of artist Julian Stanczak, it is titled “Additional”. I like that the Cincinnati garage only had this colorful side facing 6th St.

In St. Louis each of the two Kiener garages could have something unique for each, for each side, or both. I think everyone would agree the South facades facing Kiener Plaza are the most visually important.  All facades should look good day & night — same for the pedestrian entrances for each.

In the past people have mentioned giant video screens but those are costly, cut off airflow, and contribute to light pollution. Steel mesh, colored aluminum, LED lights, etc. are just some of the materials that come to mind. I’d like to see solar panels on the South facade and a new roof canopy to generate power for new LED lighting.

Thanks to reader “Mark-AL” for technical advice.

— Steve Patterson

 

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