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CORTEX Commons Attractive, Has Accessibility Issues

The masterplan for St. Louis’ technology district, called CORTEX, included a significant green space. Originally formed in 2002, the green space is just now being completed. Here is how they describe the CORTEX campus:

The intent of the CORTEX Master Plan is to create well-designed public open spaces that will contribute significantly to the quality of life within the district, community and city. The Master Plan calls for the creation of the CORTEX Commons, a public park that will be accessible to all who work and live in the district and surrounding neighborhoods.

  • The Commons: right in front of the @4240 entrance you’ll find a beautiful green space with areas for relaxing, meeting, or just enjoying the fresh air.
  • Restaurants/Cafes: surrounding the @4240 building will be cafes, restaurants and other places to grab lunch, dinner, or have cocktails after work.
  • Living Space: within walking distance of @4240 are lofts, apartments and other living spaces that allow for a commute that is literally minutes away.
  • Shops: retail space will be part of the new Phase II expansion, providing convenient shopping and unique boutiques all within a short stroll of the office and laboratory space.
  • Transportation: getting to and from work will be simplified for those driving as well as those wishing to use public transportation. A new highway interchange at the major east-west Interstate 64 provides convenient access for drivers, plus a new MetroLink light rail station will be within a block of the @4240 building.
Concept drawing of the CORTEX Commons
Concept drawing of the CORTEX Commons

Let’s take a look, starting at the South end at S. Boyle Ave. & Clayton Ave., then moving North to Duncan Ave:

The visitor sees lush landscaping, at right is the new BJC @ The Commons building
The visitor sees lush landscaping, at right is the new BJC @ The Commons building
Turning to the left we see the sidewalk follows the curve of Boyle. The orange circle is the logo for the CORTEX Commons. In a couple of places the sidewalk make a sharp shift.
Turning to the left we see the sidewalk follows the curve of Boyle. The orange circle is the logo for the CORTEX Commons. In a couple of places the sidewalk make a sharp shift.
An open area  hardscape area to the West of the building
An open area hardscape area to the West of the building
Looking back toward Clayton we can see the sign marking the rain garden and the patio beyond. I couldn't get close enough to the sigh to read the body text. Numerous such signs throughout are also too far away to be read.
Looking back toward Clayton we can see the sign marking the rain garden and the patio beyond. I couldn’t get close enough to the sigh to read the body text. Numerous such signs throughout are also too far away to be read.
Looking North from the patio, the movable tables & chairs are better than fixed furnishings -- allows people to rearrange.
Looking North from the patio, the movable tables & chairs are better than fixed furnishings — allows people to rearrange.
Back out by the hardscape circle, looking North
Back out by the hardscape circle, looking North
Heading North on the Boyle sidewalk these plants in the rain garden are already reducing the sidewalk width. This is the only plant choice I didn't like.
Heading North on the Boyle sidewalk these plants in the rain garden are already reducing the sidewalk width. This is the only plant choice I didn’t like.
We can now see the light rail line, known as MetroLink, divides the space. Will discuss the renovated building in the background later in this post.
We can now see the light rail line, known as MetroLink, divides the space. Will discuss the renovated building in the background later in this post.
The sidewalk narrows at the track crossing, this is the low point in the experience.
The sidewalk narrows at the track crossing, this is the low point in the experience.
With the train gone we can cross.
With the train gone we can cross.
Looking back South after having crossed the two MetroLink tracks and a third extra track (nearest)
Looking back South after having crossed the two MetroLink tracks and a third extra track (nearest)
Looking back North we are again faced with the sidewalk making a hard shift to the right. The parked cars on Boyle don't have a bulb out to enclose the parking lane.
Looking back North we are again faced with the sidewalk making a hard shift to the right. The parked cars on Boyle don’t have a bulb out to enclose the parking lane.
Turning toward the Southeast we can see an unfinished spot, this is likely to connect to the new light rail station to be built. Hopefully the track crossing will be improved at that time.
Turning toward the Southeast we can see an unfinished spot, this is likely to connect to the new light rail station to be built. Hopefully the track crossing will be improved at that time.
Approaching the @4240 building
Approaching the @4240 building
Looking North. DuPont, formerly Solae, is across Boyle on the left.
Looking North. DuPont, formerly Solae, is across Boyle on the left.
Turning Eastward we see the centerpiece shade canopy.
Turning Eastward we see the centerpiece shade canopy.
Looking North at the canopy, the same movable tables & chairs are used.
Looking North at the canopy, the same movable tables & chairs are used.
Back at the sidewalk parallel with Boyle we see the first of numerous connections to draw you into the space from the edge.
Back at the sidewalk parallel with Boyle we see the first of numerous connections to draw you into the space from the edge.
The Northernmost of the connections leads right to the @4240 building entrance, more on that in a bit.
The Northernmost of the connections leads right to the @4240 building entrance, more on that in a bit.
Looking back South along the Boyle sidewalk
Looking back South along the Boyle sidewalk
Looking diagonally into the CORTEX Commons
Looking diagonally into the CORTEX Commons
Looking East along Duncan Ave, the main East-West spine in the district.
Looking East along Duncan Ave, the main East-West spine in the district.
Looking South from a position closer to the @4240 building we see another patio with the same movable furnishings. Most of this area is a metal grate over a rain garden.
Looking South from a position closer to the @4240 building we see another patio with the same movable furnishings. Most of this area is a metal grate over a rain garden.
Looking back West toward Boyle, with DuPont/Solae in the background
Looking back West toward Boyle, with DuPont/Solae in the background
Back in the Commons we can approach the @4240 building after crossing the rain garden on the metal grate pedestrian bridge -- love this!
Back in the Commons we can approach the @4240 building after crossing the rain garden on the metal grate pedestrian bridge — love this!
Another pf the informational signs that can't be read from the paved areas
Another pf the informational signs that can’t be read from the paved areas
Looking out to Boyle & Duncan we can see the South facade of the first CORTEX building. It was built without an ADA-complianfr accessible route  and hasn't yet been corrected
Looking out to Boyle & Duncan we can see the South facade of the first CORTEX building. It was built without an ADA-complianfr accessible route and hasn’t yet been corrected
The paving clearly directs the user to the entry but the the curb on this side of the drive prevents me from continuing
The paving clearly directs the user to the entry but the the curb on this side of the drive prevents me from continuing
The view out from the entry shows the accessible entry on the near side and the non-accessible curb on the far side. D'oh!
The view out from the entry shows the accessible entry on the near side and the non-accessible curb on the far side. D’oh!
The next area, connecting to accessible parking, has the same problem
The next area, connecting to accessible parking, has the same problem
And the next one, a good place for a raised crosswalk
And the next one, a good place for a raised crosswalk
And again. Clearly, someone goofed! The disabled shouldn't have to go all the way to the Duncan public sidewalk
And again. Clearly, someone goofed! The disabled shouldn’t have to go all the way to the Duncan public sidewalk
To finish on a positive, here's a detail I liked. Next to fixed benches are power outlets.
To finish on a positive, here’s a detail I liked. Next to fixed benches are power outlets.
Just lift the cover and plug in your phone, tablet, laptop, or wheelchair.
Just lift the cover and plug in your phone, tablet, laptop, or wheelchair.

I hope get CORTEX to correct the accessibility issues to the @4240 building. Read more about the building and how it is being used here.

— Steve Patterson

 

100 Days Until 50th Anniversary of Final Piece of Arch Placed

On October 28, 1965 the last piece of the Arch was lowered into place, so October 28, 2015 is the 50th anniversary of that event.

I’ve been posting the following image when discussing the CityArchRiver project for nearly 3 years now, the view is looking East from the Old Courthouse.

2012 rendering of Luther Ely Square extended over the highway, leading to the future Arch/museum entrance
2012 rendering of Luther Ely Square extended over the highway, leading to the future Arch/museum entrance

Two weeks ago, looking out from the 7th floor balcony of the CityArchRiver offices, I saw the work underway.

Construction on Luther Ely Square with the Old Courthouse in the background, the red line indicates the central sidewalk area
Construction on Luther Ely Square with the Old Courthouse in the background, the red line indicates the central sidewalk area

At first I thought we were going to have lots of people crossing 4th Street between Market & Chestnut — going to & from the Old Courthouse and Luther Ely Square & Arch. But as I put the rendering into this post I looked closely at the bottom and it looks like a wall is shown keeping pedestrians from crossing 4th Street mid-block. Or it’s a cut-out to pull over and drop people off — not sure.

Looking North along 4th, with Luther Ely Square on the right, temporary  Jersey Barrier wall on left.
Looking North along 4th, with Luther Ely Square on the right, temporary Jersey Barrier wall on left.

If there isn’t a wall people will cross mid-block. If there is a wall, pedestrians will be taken via a circuitous route.

Plans for the 50th anniversary will be announced shortly, but Luther Ely Square is supposed to be completed by then. The riverfront work maybe — the high river level has delayed the project.  If they can clean the mud off the work area quickly then it to should be complete, in a few weeks we’ll know.   Plans will include a festival the weekend before October 28th, and a ceremony that day.

Remember the original landscaping wasn’t finished until the early 80s, here’s a look from May 1982:

It has been almost five years since the CityArchRiver competition was reduced to five finalists.

The clock is ticking.

— Steve Patterson

 

Yellow Curb Isn’t Visible Enough To Keep Motorists From Parking In Bus Stops

One of my pet peeves is blocked bus stops, people thinking they’re entitled to park in them. To be fair, many drivers who do so may just be oblivious to the fact that buses need to pull up next to the curb so some of us can board/deboard. The response of some is “call the police” or “tow them away.”  Yes, enforcement is part of the solution — but the St. Louis Police really have more important things to do. I don’t think Metro’s Police have jurisdiction on city streets.

Besides, the police can be just as guilty.

Last year A St. Louis traffic police officer parked in front of a fire hydrant and blocked the adjacent bus stop. Market at 16th.
Last year A St. Louis traffic police officer parked in front of a fire hydrant and blocked the adjacent bus stop. Market at 16th.

When you’re on the bus and need to get off at a blocked stop you can’t expect it to wait a couple of hours for a tow truck to remove the offending car, or when you need to get on the bus you don’t have time for enforcement to work. Ticketing the car still doesn’t get you on the bus.

What’s needed at some bus stops is highly visible markings so the oblivious drivers see they shouldn’t park there. Those who don’t care will potentially be more embarrassed parking in a visible bus stop than at a yellow curb. It doesn’t need to be complicated, just out of the ordinary.

Paint is cheap, by painting the pavement in addition to the curb they've made it clear this isn't for parking. Location: in front of St. Louis Police Headquarters on  Olive.
Paint is cheap, by painting the pavement in addition to the curb they’ve made it clear this isn’t for parking. Location: in front of St. Louis Police Headquarters on Olive.

I’ve said all this before, so why bring it up again? Last Tuesday morning my husband and I visited the St. Louis Zoo, we were there for four hours — great time.  I returned downtown the way I arrived, via public transit in my wheelchair. My husband drove our car, going directly to work. Leaving the Zoo’s North entrance I saw a problem as soon as I started across the street to the bus stop.

The last three vehicles are parked in the bus stop I need to get home
The last three vehicles are parked in the bus stop I need to get home
I'm now at the spot where the bus should extend the ramp to pick me up.
I’m now at the spot where the bus should extend the ramp to pick me up.

I went down to the corner to wave at the bus as it approached. It turned the corner and stopped in the street since it couldn’t get to the curb. All traffic was now stopped. I rolled in the street to reach the bus. After I paid the fare the ramp was folded back into the bus — the #3 Forest Park Trolley. I was inconvenienced, the other passengers were inconvenienced, other motorists were inconvenienced, the bus was delayed so more people were inconvenienced.

My goal is compliance, to ensure people don’t park in the bus stop. Sure, increased enforcement of tickets, booting, & towing might also keep it clear. But at what cost? First the person(s) that would be assigned to increased enforcement wouldn’t be able to serve the public elsewhere in the city or park.  Ticketing, booting,  & towing also isn’t free — and it just server to anger motorists. Yes, they parked at a yellow curb. I suspect many didn’t notice, or didn’t see any harm.

If there is paint on the pavement though, the oblivious excuse goes out the window. Adding the words “NO PARKING”, “BUS STOP, and/or “TOW AWAY ZONE” would convey the message to the driver that parking here isn’t a good idea.

The stop above is served by the #90 (Hampton) and #3 (Forest Park Trolley)

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. (Forest Park Forever)

This trolley bus operates May through September, largely to mitigate the summer problem of traffic congestion within the park.

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

I’d like to see these seven partners take action so the bus can reliably be used by everyone. On Twitter I offered to ride the trolley with them so they can see which stops are problematic. I suggested the stops be painted solid so they’re not only visible to motorists but to visitors. The stops could become part of the marketing effort.

I emailed Forest Park Forever President & Executive Director Lesley Hoffarth, who replied, and said they’re working on new striping for the park now, this issue will be taken into consideration. I’m not optimistic it’ll be solved. The new striping work should be done before Fall, I’ll keep trying to influence the work before it’s done.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Remove/Change The Confederate Memorial

First, let me apologize for the lack of posts Monday & Tuesday, our new fiber optic internet in our building went out last Saturday night. Our building’s IT provider didn’t get it fixed until after 4pm yesterday.

Sunday the poll software didn’t automatically close the poll at 8pm like I had set it to do. As a result, the poll stayed open until I noticed it Monday morning — closing it via my smartphone. That said, the percentages are roughly the same as they were at 8pm the night before:

Q: What should St. Louis do about the confederate memorial & street name in Forest Park?

  1. Change the street name & remove the memorial from Forest Park 20 [28.17%]
  2. TIE: 14 [19.72%]
    1. Do nothing
    2. Change the street name & supplement the memorial with additional information
  3. Change the street name, leave the memorial in Forest Park 11 [15.49%]
  4. Leave the street name, supplement the memorial with additional information 10 [14.08%]
  5. TIE: 1 [1.41%]
    1. Unsure/no answer
    2. Other: Change the street name and move the memorial History Museum grounds 
  6. Leave the street name, remove the memorial from Forest Park 0 [0%]

The “do nothing” vote was less than 20%, conversely those who wanted change of some type was more than 78%. This is a great opportunity for a public process to brainstorm possible solutions that’ll help us reach a consensus. Last week I visited the confederate memorial to check it out, I’ve lived here almost 25 years and didn’t know about it until recently.

I also asked landscape architect Eären Hummel for her thoughts, which were:

  • I think there should be a dialog, rather than a reactionary move. Further, I don’t think the monument should have been placed there to begin with.
  • City parks are meant to be places for all people to have a respite away from their busy lives, I think a park is no place for a confederate memorial, especially without the balance of a union memorial. That may sound “politically correct”. A civil rights garden could be created of the area, if the process is inclusive of all the players that civil rights – or lack there of – has affected. Whatever is done, I think it is important that it is not just a bandage, but true dialog.
  • As far as I can tell, there is no monument to the Union soldiers in St. Louis, nor a Civil Rights monument/memorial other than the “Naked Truth” sculpture at the Compton water tower. And that is really a monument to 3 German men, and not really for the cause of civil rights. Meaning there is not civil rights memorial significant to African-Americans.
  • The lack of other memorials in St. Louis, I think speaks volumes about the attitudes of the people of StL. Reinforcing the notion of white supremacy, everyday racism… It is the ongoing issues that were raised in Ferguson last summer, but have since fallen silent. Personally, I think focusing on removing flags or memorials skirts around the true issues and are only platitudes to quiet the cries of racism.
  • One thing that greatly bothers me about the monument, is the statement on it about the “battle to preserve the independence of the states…” The war was fought over slavery, as very clearly stated in the southern states on declarations. It was treason. The statement on the monument is revisionist history of the “lost cause”. That I find offensive and reprehensible. For that alone, I wish the monument was not there as it perpetuates erroneous “history”.
  • I would leave the language as is, but definitely have a panel next to it explaining that it is wrong, and why many people wanted to rewrite the history of the war.
  • It is a beautifully crafted monument by a notable sculptor.
  • I believe a civil rights garden could be sensitively incorporated into the park. There have been numerous additions to the park over the years.

I agree the memorial represents revisionist history and shouldn’t have been built. Let’s take a look…

The confederate memorial was dedicated in 1914, rededicated in 1964. Click image for more information
The 32 foot high confederate memorial was dedicated in 1914, rededicated in 1964. Click image for more information
The sculpture is by George Julian Zolnay,
The sculpture is by George Julian Zolnay, Click image to read about him on Wikipedia
The words on the south face
The words on the south face
I could't read the revisionist  text on the north face
I could’t read the revisionist text on the north face
Confederate Dr is in poor condition
Confederate Dr is in poor condition, the memorial is on the right

Renaming, or even removing, Confederate Dr is a given — relatively easy. The memorial is a much more complicated issue. The words are offensive, but it is a good reminder of St. Louis’ race problem. I think we should discuss the creation of a civil rights garden that would educate visitors on events from our history, for example:

There are many more that could be included in a civil rights garden, these could all be told.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: What Should St. Louis Do About The Confederate Memorial & Street In Forest Park?

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Since nine people were shot & killed at a historically black church in Charleston S.C., the confederate flag has thankfully become politically toxic:

In South Carolina, the governor called for the Confederate flag to stop flying over the capitol. The governors of Virginia and North Carolina quickly declared that they would remove the flag from state license plates. Meanwhile, several of the country’s top retailers — from Walmart to eBay and Amazon — announced in quick succession that they would stop selling Confederate flag merchandise.

Not for the first time this year, the concerns of political leaders and business elites converged on a single issue — and swiftly forced dramatic change. (CNN: Why business fought the Confederate flag)

The confederate battle flag should’ve been banished decades ago, but what about other confederate symbols & memorials? Namely the confederate memorial in Forest Park…located on Confederate Drive:

Historians say don’t let the old artillery mislead you. Forest Park was never a civil war battle field. The only reason there a confederate statue here is because it is where the donor wanted it built back in 1914. But now, some want it gone.

For 100 years the statue has stood just east of the Missouri History museum and some would say on the southern side of the state’s Civil War history – a monument to Confederate “soldiers and sailors” built fifty years after the war. (KSDK: Confederate memorial debate in Forest Park)

Today’s poll question asks: “What should St. Louis do about the confederate memorial & street name in Forest Park?”

The poll, open until 8pm tonight, is at the top of the right sidebar. Mobile users will need to switch to the desktop view to vote.

— Steve Patterson

 

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