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Dead Sidewalks Won’t Come Back To Life With Overhead Walkways Gone

May 21, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Dead Sidewalks Won’t Come Back To Life With Overhead Walkways Gone

Enclosed walkways over public sidewalks are generally a bad idea — removing pedestrians from the public realm. However, with these elevated walkways often comes the real culprits to killing sidewalk life: blank walls, inward focus, etc.

A prime example of what not to do in a downtown was downtown St. Louis’ St. Louis Centre indoor mall.

Blank walls faced the public sidewalk, under the walkways it was dark.

ABOVE: Looking east on May 27, 2010

It was 8 years ago today that a big event was held to begin the removal of the very oppressive walkway from over Washington Ave — the first step in transforming the inward-focused mall into outward-facing MX retail with the interior becoming a parking garage.

See:

 

Two other walkways have been removed in the last year, one on each side of the former Southwestern Bell headquarters, later an AT&T building on Chestnut between 9th & 10th. The walkways connected the now vacant tower, now longer owned by AT&T with an older Bell building to the West and a 90s data center to the East.

Former walkway over 9th Street, 2009 photo
Similar walkway over 10th St, also a 2009 photo

These walkways were very different than those at the former St. Louis Centre — up high, small, transparent, These allowed employees to walk to/from all 3 buildings without having to keep going through security. With AT&T’s significant reduction in the number of downtown employees the center towner became unnecessary. The tower’s new owners needed to reconfigure the tower from a single-occupany headquarters into a multi-tenant building. For them and AT&T that meant disconnecting the three buildings.

In SEptember 2017 the walkway over 9th was gone, though work remained to fill in the hole in the West side of the data center created by removing the walkway.

The exteriors are all repaired now, though all three buildings are lifeless at the sidewalk level. This us by design. The removal of these two walkways won’t have the dramatic results we’ve seen at MX.

St. Louis has systematically killed street life block by block, neighborhoods by neighborhood. Attempting to bring back vibrant sidewalks for more than a few blocks here or there is likely a waste of time at this point.

— Steve Patterson

 

Permanent Lane Shifts Can Be Problematic

May 7, 2018 Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Permanent Lane Shifts Can Be Problematic

St. Louis has numerous places where, if you drive, you know the lanes shift left or right. The recent work to raise Forest Park Parkway/Ave up to be an at-grade intersection with Kingshighway added two more: WB Forest Park Ave at Euclid Ave and SB Kingshighway at Forest Park. The other day I photographed the former.

Looking East toward Forest Park & Euclid — All 3 lanes of Westbound traffic must shift top the right while crossing Euclid
Looking East from the pedestrian refuge.
The planter protecting pedestrians has been hit numerous times, the yellow markers have been added to make them more visible.

On numerous occasions I’ve been on the #10 MetroBus in the left-turn lane from SB Kingshighway onto EB Forest Park and I’ve seen cars in the center of the 3  SB Kingshighway lanes just continue straight — not shifting to the right. This puts them in the left most of 3 lanes. The problem occurs when a car is also in the left lane and shifts to the right to avoid hitting the pedestrian refuge planter — suddenly you have two vehicles wanting to occupy the same space. I’m rarely in either intersection as a motorist though I have driven both since the change was made.

I have experienced our car nearly being hit in a similar situation on EB Chippewa at Meramec. When traveling EB on Chippewa you have two EB lanes until just past Morganford Rd when only the left lane continues EB and the right lane goes off right to Meramec St. Again, on numerous occasions I’ve seen vehicles in the right lane just continue straight ahead — nearly hitting our car at least once. When I’m driving I’m aware this intersection is poorly designed — so I anticipate other drivers might not be aware of what is expected.

Back ar Forest Park and Kingshighway & Euclid the volume of cars is much higher. Both pedestrian refuge planters have been hit/damaged by vehicles. I suspect traffic accidents have been caused when a motorist doesn’t shift to the right — going straight ahead which means they’re changing lanes in the middle of an intersection.

Most drivers who regularly travel these routes will learn/remember to shift. It only takes one driver not paying attention or visitor to cause an accident or hit the planter and damage their vehicle.

How will future autonomous vehicles handle these shifts? We can and should do better in our street design!

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Deutsch Family Profiting From Public Right-of-Way…Again

April 16, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Walkability Comments Off on Deutsch Family Profiting From Public Right-of-Way…Again

A couple of weeks from now will mark two years since my post titled: Deutsch Family Has Profited From Public Right-Of-Way For Nearly Two Decades. It was a more detailed follow up to an April 2009 post called Stealing a Sidewalk.

From the 2016 post:

In the late 1990s, Larry Deutsch was finally allowed to raze the historic 4-story building at 1101 Locust St. that housed Miss Hullings Cafeteria for decades. After the demolition crew left, new sidewalks were poured and the lot was covered in asphalt for surface parking. That’s when the line dividing private from public property was moved more than 3 feet. Legally the lot is 121 feet x 102 feet 6 inches. But by narrowing the public sidewalk, they made their lot 124.33′ x 105.83′ — a gain of 6%! This is roughly 750 square feet of public space that has been used privately for years.

This allowed them to have 5 additional parking spaces. The current daily rate is often $10, but let’s say $5/day. With about 300 revenue days a year, that’s $7,500 in additional revenue per year. Over 18 years the total estimate is $135,000. Serious money made by taking from the public right-of-way.

After my May 2016 post they put orange cones in the parking spaces that were partially on public property.

The building represents the property line, not the concrete sidewalk.

On the East end of 1101 Locust St the same thing along 11th — they [placed cones along the actual property line
Each time I’d go past the cones would be out — not as good as pouring new concrete sidewalks at the actual property line. But the other day I noticed they were back to stealing public right-of-way for their profits!

The driver’s half of this car is parked on the public right-of-way
And along 11th half of this vehicle is parked on the public right-of-way.

Ownership hasn’t changed. As I said two years ago, the city needs to force the Deutsch family to pour new concrete sidewalks that extend all the way to the property lin. They also need to bring this surface lot up to current standards for surface lots — with physical barriers between sidewalk & parking so cars can’t park on or drive on public sidewalks.

I’ll be reminding 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar about this today.

 

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First Stainless Steel Triangle of Gateway Arch Set Into Place 55 Years Ago

February 12, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks, Planning & Design Comments Off on First Stainless Steel Triangle of Gateway Arch Set Into Place 55 Years Ago
Looking toward the Arch from 4th Street, July 2014

Fifty-five years ago today “the first stainless steel triangle that formed the first section of the arch was set in place on the south leg” of the Gateway Arch. Demolition of 40 blocks of old buildings and original street grid of the original village of St. Louis had begun nearly a quarter century earlier — in 1939.  The idea of completely erasing the riverfront and starting over began following the 1904 World’s Fair.

On April 11, 1934, lawyers filed incorporation papers for the new Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association. Its charge was to develop “a suitable and permanent public memorial” to President Thomas Jefferson along the city’s dingy riverfront.

Its leader was Luther Ely Smith, who always seemed to be in the middle of noble endeavors. He would guide the riverfront project through Depression and war, a massive land-clearance and a top-flight design competition. He would be praised as the founding father when St. Louis selected as the suitable memorial Eero Saarinen’s idea for what would become the Gateway Arch. (Post Dispatch)

Luther Ely Smith (June 11, 1873 – April 2, 1951) didn’t live long enough to see the Arch even started, though he knew which design had been selected from the competition.

Not surprising St. Louis continues to honor people like Smith, someone who created a massive hole in the center of the city for decades. As chair of the City Planning Commission he hired Harland Bartholomew, who also pushed for massive destruction of the city & street grid — widening the remaining streets and opposing new rail transit.  See Harland Bartholomew negatively impacted many cities.

— Steve Patterson

 

Filling In The Gap Between The Campbell House & The Former YMCA

February 5, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, Planning & Design Comments Off on Filling In The Gap Between The Campbell House & The Former YMCA

In the middle of the 19th century the mansions along Lucas Place, now Locust St, were considered way out on the edge of town.

Fol­low­ing the cholera epi­demic and fire in 1849, wealthy cit­i­zens became con­vinced that it was no longer desir­able to live in down­town St. Louis. James Lucas and his sis­ter Anne Lucas Hunt soon offered a solu­tion. They devel­oped the idea of the “Place,” a neigh­bor­hood with deed restric­tions that ensured it remained apart from the city and gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. The main thor­ough­fare was aptly called Lucas Place. Orig­i­nally Lucas Place (now Locust Street) extended between 13th and 16th streets when the city lim­its were just one block to the west between 17th and 18th streets. When estab­lished, Lucas Place was west of the devel­oped por­tion of the city, mak­ing it St. Louis’ first “sub­ur­ban” neighborhood.  (Campbell House Museum)

This 3-block oasis didn’t last long as St. Louis’ population exploded. The wealthy began to move Westward — this still happens in the region.One by one the grand old mansions became rooming houses and eventually razed for offices/warehouses.

Except one.

Built in 1851, the first house in the ele­gant Lucas Place neigh­bor­hood, the Camp­bell House was the home of renowned fur trader and entre­pre­neur Robert Camp­bell and his fam­ily from 1854 until 1938. The museum con­tains hun­dreds of orig­i­nal Camp­bell pos­ses­sions includ­ing fur­ni­ture, paint­ings, cloth­ing, let­ters, car­riages and a unique set of inte­rior pho­tographs taken in the mid-1880s. (Campbell House Museum)

More about the museum in a bit.

The Campbell House, lower right outlined in blue, was dramatically different by the time this Sanbon Map was made in February 1909. Click image to view source.

At this scale you can’t read that the abutting 24 foot wide lot includes a machine shop and garment factory. The next house West is still a residence but then we have a hotel and finally a printer. Across Locust St in the upper left is the Ely Walker Annex, and three old mansions turned into boarding houses. You’ll note the YMCA, closed in May 2017, hasn’t been built yet.

Last year the Campbell House Museum shared the following image as the YMCA was about to close. From their caption:

The YMCA is the last of the Campbell’s neighbors as Hugh and Hazlett Campbell were still alive for the first years of operation of the Downtown Y.

The photo dates from 1926 as the building nears completion. (Facebook)

 

This 1936 image shows the storefronts built in from of the mansion next door

After Robert & Virginia Campbell died their 3 sons continued living in the house until their deaths. Their youngest son died first, of the flu at age 30. The two older brothers lived into their 80s:

When Hugh died in 1931, Hazlett was declared of “unsound mind,” throw­ing into ques­tion the fate of the Camp­bell estate. While a lengthy court bat­tle broke out among the Camp­bells var­i­ous rela­tions fol­low­ing Hazlett’s death in 1938, some St. Louisans were more con­cerned about the house and its con­tents. Through their efforts, the Camp­bell House Museum was formed, and soon man­aged to pur­chase most of the Campbell’s orig­i­nal effects. The Museum opened in 1943. (Campbell House Museum)

Yes, the Campbell House Museum is owned & operated by a private group — NOT the City of St. Louis. The museum opened on February 6, 1943 — 75 years ago tomorrow!

The space between the Campbell House Museum and the former YMCA has been surface parking since the 1940s. Despite what you might think, it isn’t one big lot for the Y. The 24′ wide lot next to the CHM is guest parking. They didn’t raze the building that was there — American General Insurance, now Terra Cotta lofts, used it for surface parking.

A sign indicates this narrow lot isn’t Y parking
In this image you can see a little Campbell House on the left, the gap, and the East side of the former YMCA building
A much closer view
The upper floors of the YMCA were apartments, they’ve been vacant for any least a decade. The building is a 2-part condo: YMCA on the lower part, another owner for the upper floors
Ideally the gap would be filled in with something more active than a lifeless parking garage like the one across the street where the Ely Walker Annex once stood

The Campbell House Museum is planning new construction on the back of their narrow lot to construct an accessible entrance. At the front I’d like to see a building come within 5-10 feet of the CHM — with the same setback. In the rest of the gap I’d like to see infill step toward Locust — eventually meeting the sidewalk like the TMCA does. This building could be shallow to conceal a new parking garage at the rear of the lot.

I’d like all 3 automobile driveways in the gap area closed. A new garage can be accessed via the alley. Of course I want to see the former YMCA building renovated and occupied. It may take years, but it’ll happen. When it does I’m not so concerned about it as I am about the gap. It shouldn’t stay as surface parking, nor should it be another bland garage facing Locust. I would like to see the infill represent the best of 21st century design — in between 19th & 20th century buildings.

Again, tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Campbell House Museum. If you haven’t seen it I suggest you make an appointment or visit in March when regular hours resume.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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