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Tickets Will Not Be Sold Here

March 4, 2019 Featured, Planning & Design, Popular Culture Comments Off on Tickets Will Not Be Sold Here

At least personally, paper tickets have been obsolete for a while. I either print my ticket or show it on my phone. The latter is what we did last month on our round trip to/from Chicago via Amtrak.  What about for local events?

If you plan on going to a St. Louis Blues game this season, you’ll need to have a smartphone or at least an e-mail address. Tickets to the game are now completely mobile.

Staff said you can purchase tickets through the NHL app and pull them up on your phone. (Fox2)

I use a card for transit, not a paper pass, transfer, or ticket.  All this change has me wondering about ticket windows.

I doubt these 3 ticket windows at the Forest Park MetroLink station have ever been used. These were built in 2006 when the station changed for the Blue Line to Shrewsbury.
The Dome at America’s Center (aka convention center) has ticket windows scattered around the perimeter. Several have regular signs indicating “TICKETS WILL NOT BE SOLD HERE”
Here’s another
The main ticket area is in the center of the East (Broadway) side. There are seven sections for 14 total windows, but only seven have ever been set up with transaction drawers.

These are always closed when I pass by, not much going on that requires tickets. The recent UMC conference was busy, but no ticket sales.

Then lsat week I saw activity at the far window. The sign for tickets/will call was rolled out.
Yes, people & activity at one window.
Friday last week I noticed this trailer had been put into place along Convention Plaza (aka Delmar)

The event with physical ticket sales was the 2019 Monster Jam truck show held the last two days (March 2-3). Even they link to Ticketmaster for tickets.

The days of the ticket window are numbered.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Closed Streets Do Not Reduce Crime

February 27, 2019 Crime, Featured, Transportation, Walkability Comments Off on Opinion: Closed Streets Do Not Reduce Crime

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about closed streets and crime, prompted by a news story about new research at Saint Louis University:

St. Louis’ often-interrupted street grid is the outgrowth of the 1970s-era “defensible space” strategy to address rising crime championed by Oscar Newman, a prominent urban planner who was a Washington University architecture professor in the mid-1960s, according to the paper. That idea stems from the notion that an area is safer when residents feel a sense of ownership and control, which Newman described as allowing neighbors to focus their attention on “removing criminal activity from their communities.”

St. Louis became the birthplace of such ideas, according to the paper. And they haven’t had the desired effect. (Post-Dispatch)

Below is one such example where “Schoemehl pots”, just sections of sewer pipe, were used to limit vehicular traffic.

Schoemehl pots used in their traditional role of messing up the street grid, 2012 photo.

Their paper’s conclusion:

Oscar Newman’s defensible space theory is a product of St. Louis’s mid-century history. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that St. Louis also offers a large-scale implementation of defensible space in the street barriers that constrict swaths of the city’s geography. The barriers scattered across the city’s landscape are a testament not only to former Mayor Vincent Schoemehl, the elected official most closely associated with the barriers, but to Newman himself. We have developed the most comprehensive known list of closures in the city, and find that the density of closures is not associated with less crime in neighborhoods. Our finding is an important one for St. Louis, given that addressing crime is the argument being made explicitly in the legislation that authorizes more recent installations of barriers. For other municipalities that may be considering defensible space or other techniques to “design out” crime, our findings suggest that street closures are at best ineffective and at worst associated with higher rates of violent crime in neighborhoods. They may also have secondary effects on first responders’ ability to reach the neighborhoods they serve. (Research paper)

I completely agree with the conclusions of the researchers, but I also think they should be looking at earlier changes to the urban street grid. As I’ve said before, when Harold Bartholomew (1889-1989) first arrived in St. Louis in the nineteen teens he quickly began assaulting our fine network of public streets. Writing decades later in the 1947 plan:

Since 1916 St. Louis has expended over $40,000,000 in opening, widening, connecting, and extending the system of major streets. Much has been accomplished in converting a horse and buggy street system to automobile needs. As the total volume of traffic increases, however, certain new needs arise. An example is the desirability of grade separations at extremely heavy intersections, such as at Grand and Market and at Kingshighway and Lindell. Likewise there is a need for complete separation of grade where traffic volume is sufficiently heavy to justify the cost involved. The Federal Government, which has helped finance our splendid system of national highways, has recently revised its policies and Congress has appropriated substantial funds to aid the cities in the construction of express highways and for facilitation of traffic flows from certain selected state highways through metropolitan areas to the central business districts of large cities. (1947 Plan)

In just three decades St. Louis spent today’s equivalent of nearly a half a billion dollars on dramatic changes to the street grid.  Half a billion!

Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis

The reference to the “horse and buggy street system” illustrates he didn’t think it was suitable for the automobile. Bartholomew, a civil engineer by training, was no doubt influenced by the City Beautiful movement.

City Beautiful movement, American urban-planning movement led by architects, landscape architects, and reformers that flourished between the 1890s and the 1920s. The idea of organized comprehensive urban planning arose in the United States from the City Beautiful movement, which claimed that design could not be separated from social issues and should encourage civic pride and engagement. (Britannica)

This was soon followed by the modernists and their vision for roads to connect everything. The Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair was hugely popular, helped shape legislation that let to destructive urban renewal projects, interstate highways slicing through cities, etc.  See original 23-minute 1939 Futurama promo video.

Oscar Newman was born in 1935, so he was barely around during the 1939 fair. With the Great Depression & WWII the ideas from Futurama were on hold until he was a teen. Newman likely went along with most others, not foreseeing any problems with additional alterations to the street grid.

By the time republished his 1972 book urban renewal & highway projects had further disrupted the street grid beyond recognition. These changes are cumulative, not isolated. Our street grid was designed for the horse and buggy times — but that’s what made it go great. Street grids can take little changes and still function. St. Louis had decades of massive overwhelming changes to the street grid.

It has proven to be excessive. Abandonment, crime, etc are the results. I don’t know that it’s repairable.

Former Biddle Street, looking East toward 9th Street

The results from Sunday’s non-scientific poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: City streets closed to through traffic reduce crime.

  • Strongly agree: 1 [3.13%]
  • Agree: 2 [6.25%]
  • Somewhat agree: 6 [18.75%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 2 [6.25%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [6.25%]
  • Disagree: 9 [28.13%]
  • Strongly disagree: 9 [28.13%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [3.13%]

More than half correct don’t think closed streets reduce crime.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Olive Boulevard In University City Is A Pedestrian’s Nightmare

February 25, 2019 Accessibility, Featured, St. Louis County, Walkability Comments Off on Olive Boulevard In University City Is A Pedestrian’s Nightmare

University City Missouri is a first-tier suburb of St. Louis. Many towns in the region are older, starting as rural villages.  More than a quarter century after the municipal boundaries of the City of St. Louis were set in stone way out in the rural countryside, U City began at those limits:

University City was founded by publisher Edward Gardner Lewis, who began developing the location in 1903 around his publishing complex for Woman’s Magazine and Woman’s Farm Journal. Historic buildings associated with municipal operations, including today’s City Hall, were built by Lewis as facilities for his magazine enterprise. In 1906, the city incorporated and Lewis served as its first mayor.  (Wikipedia)

The streetcar from the city was extended West into the new suburb, turning around there. The urban business district is now knows as the Delmar Loop because of the streetcar loop to reverse direction.

University City has a second East-West business district: Olive Boulevard. Where the Delmar Loop was established first, in the streetcar era, Olive developed later. Initially buildings were similar to those on Delmar: 2-story with residential over a business on the ground floor. As development marched Westward the automobile became more important and residential units above retail was no longer a thing — it was all about separation of uses. Business zoning meant businesses only, residential meant single-family detached homes, with a few zones for multi-family. Mixing these was considered a formula for creating blight.

As a result, the 3.6+ miles of Olive Blvd has always been very different than the short half mile of the Delmar Loop business district located within University City’s limits. On Saturday August 25 2018 I decided to explore a portion of Olive Blvd targeted for redevelopment. Today’s post isn’t about proposed development and all the pros & cons associated with it. No, today is about documenting what exists now. My round trip took more than four hours, including stopping for lunch to eat and recharge my wheelchair. In that time I took 181 photos.

It was quite hot on that Saturday, but I feel it’s important to personally experience an area before writing about it. I’m not going to share all my images, just enough to give you a sense of the area. The #91 MetroBus starts at the Delmar Station (I arrived on the #97 MetroBus, not via MetroLink). Anyway, the #91 heads North on Skinker before turning left to head Westbound on Olive Blvd. — the start of the U City limits.

Having lived in St. Louis for over 28 years I’d driven this part of Olive many times, but this was my first time seeing it from the bus window. My interest on Saturday, however, was the far end of Olive. I got off the bus in front of Royal Banks (map).  Before I get into my photos illustrating Olive Blvd I should give you some additional background. Neither University City or St. Louis County is responsible for maintenance of the road, sidewalks, signals, etc. The State of Missouri has that responsibility because Olive Blvd is also known as state Route 340.

Route 340 is a highway in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Its western terminus is Route 100 (Manchester Road) in Ellisville, and its eastern terminus is at an intersection with Ferguson Avenue and Olive Boulevard in University City. The stretch of Route 340 between Manchester Road and the Interstate 64 / U.S. 40 / U.S. 61 interchange is known locally as Clarkson Road. The remainder of Route 340 between this intersection and its eastern terminus is variously known as Olive Boulevard (which does not connect with Olive Street in the city of St. Louis. Route 340 ends at Ferguson Avenue in University City, but Olive Boulevard continues to Skinker Boulevard on St. Louis city line. (Wikipedia)

Not a divided limited-access interstate, but an urban corridor that is supposed to move more cars than other corridors — like Delmar Blvd. The headline gives away the theme — it was a nightmare.  This comes from auto-centric development in the absence of a mandate for accommodating pedestrians.

OK, let the visual tour begin.

Taken on the bus, this 1915 building has residential above commercial. This is shortly before Olive Blvd becomes Missouri Route 340. Due to parking, clear pedestrian access is limited.
Looking West as the bus continues heading on Olive Blvd to Chesterfield Mall.
Looking East from the same spot. Olive Blvd is 4 travel lanes, plus a center turn lane. Sidewalks at this point are “attached”, no tree lawn separating roadway from sidewalk.
The Royal Banks building, 8021 Olive Blvd, was built in 1971. In 1958 the land was vacant.
Next door, to the West, is a store specializing in Asian/International groceries. It was built in 1960 — has been updated many times since. Both are set way back from Olive to provide more room for parking.

Despite the presence of a bus stop, neither provide an accessible route to their accessible building entrance. This is the case for nearly every property I encountered the next few hours.

I quickly encounter a point where foliage is hanging over the sidewalk. I’m sitting in my wheelchair and still hit it when ducking.
In places the paving changes to a paver brick intended to spruce up the pedestrian experience. As expected, they were uneven.
The streetlight is also intended to help the image of Olive. The banner is for the Olive Link International district, next to rings meant to hold planters.
This shows a 1962 pizza place is relatively close to Olive.
Broken grate around a former street tree.

The above was written back in August, shortly after taking the trip on Olive. Rather than continue procrastinating, I’m going to post more pics with limited commentary to be able to finish this post.

One of many places where no curb cut exists, there’s a good ramp across the street but not this side

Yesterday as I was finishing up this post I reviewed all nearly 200 photos I took that hot August day. After wishing it wasn’t so cold now, I recall all the obstacles I encountered in my wheelchair. I also thought about how horrid the environment is for anyone to experience as a pedestrian.

Now that I’ve finally gotten this post completed, I can post about plans to redevelop the Western end of Olive Blvd in University City.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Thinking about the former Ackerman Toyota site on South Kingshighway

February 11, 2019 Featured, Planning & Design, South City Comments Off on Thinking about the former Ackerman Toyota site on South Kingshighway

For decades Ackerman Toyota was located on South Kingshighway Blvd, between Tholozan Ave on the North, and Beck Ave on the South. In 2015 they announced they’d build a new dealership on the NE corner of Hampton & I-44, the site of the former MSD headquarters.

Ackerman Toyota, the southern outpost of the decades-old string of St. Louis car dealerships on South Kingshighway, is hitting the road.

After nearly 27 years at 3636 South Kingshighway, the dealership plans to move to 2000 Hampton Avenue. The three-acre site owned by the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority is the former headquarters of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District at Hampton and Interstate 44.

Jerry Ackerman, the dealership’s owner, said Thursday he hopes to begin construction by December and open his new location as early as June. (Post Dispatch, August 2015)

Today’s post isn’t about their new location, this is about the location they recently vacated.

Their old address was listed as 3636 S. Kingshighway — the address for the building on the South, at Beck Ave. It dates to 1940, per city records online. The other building on Kingshighway, at Tholozan Ave. is from 1929. Both have been remodeled so many times neither has any historic value.  A 3rd building, an anonymous service structure,  facing Tholozan, was built in 1948.

The North building, at Tholozan, was their Scion showroom until Toyota pulled the plus on that youth-oriented brand. 2012 photo
That same building yesterday, all boarded up. Again, this structure was built in 1929. Note how it comes out to both Tholozan & Kingshighway. The city says the address here is 3608 S. Kingshighway.
The South building is mostly set back from the property line.
However, the corner at Beck Ave is out to the sidewalk. South of Beck Ave is Southtown Centre.

The former car dealership contains over 145k square feet, roughly 3.3 acres. It is made up of 6 different parcels. These could be combined, or developed separately. The most likely scenario is one developer will buy all six parcels and, after consolidating them into one, develop the total site.

Aerial view, from Apple Maps. The East edge of the site is a former railroad right of way, still owned by Union Pacific.

The bottom right section is 2 of the 6 parcels, it was still a field as late as 1971. It got paved for parking sometime between 1971 and 1991, based on historic aerials of the site. In the 2015 article, linked above, Jerry Ackerman is quoted as indicating they were seeing a franchise from another manufacturer for a dealership at this location. Given that they’ve boarded the buildings my assumption is that didn’t pan out.

Good.

This site needs to cease being about the sales & service of cars. It needs to be a mix of uses, including some residential. Two and three story buildings are very common on this stretch of Kingshighway, so a dense/urban site plan would be appropriate.

It’ll be interesting to watch to see what, if anything, becomes of this site.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Possible Soccer Stadium Will Not Help Downtown West Without A Neighborhood Plan

December 5, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Opinion: Possible Soccer Stadium Will Not Help Downtown West Without A Neighborhood Plan

Before I begin discussing my thoughts on a possible soccer stadium in the Downtown West neighborhood, let’s take a look at the results from the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: If awarded an MLS expansion team, the stadium could be a catalyst for the Downtown West neighborhood.

  • Strongly agree: 18 [34.62%]
  • Agree: 7 [13.46%]
  • Somewhat agree: 8 [15.38%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 3 [5.77%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [5.77%]
  • Disagree: 3 [5.77%]
  • Strongly disagree: 10 [19.23%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Over 63% percent voted in the affirmative, I voted “somewhat agree” because yes, it could become a catalyst. With history as a guide, it most likely won’t do anything positive for the surroundings. Busch Stadium II (1966-2006) didn’t have much of an impact on adjacent blocks for the 3 decades it stood. Our NFL dome didn’t do anything for its surroundings either — the large site to the North is still vacant.

To become a catalyst for private investment a lot of planning must happen, a form-based code adopted so every property owner contributes to the same vision. Part of the problem is the current ownership group, and the last, both want to located the stadium South of Market Street — between 20th & 22nd Streets.  In February 2016 I suggested a MLS stadium North of Market bounded by 20th Street, Market, a rebuilt 22nd Street, and Pine. Only the stadium would fit, if at all. This land is also owned by the State of Missouri. This would leave lots of room for new development South of Market Street, North of Pine, etc.

Looking East toward Union Station from 22nd Street, a new Fairfield Inn is under construction on the former site of Harry’s.

Part of the area where they want to build a stadium is where Harry’s Bar & Restaurant was located at 22nd & Market St. This small site is already being developed, from September 2017:

The Fairfield, a Marriott brand, will have about 125 rooms and a two-story parking garage along with event space on the almost 1-acre site at 2144 Market Street. Developer Equis Hospitality Management of Brentwood hopes to finalize financing for the $19.5 million project by January and begin construction in January. (Post-Dispatch)

In October it was said the hotel site wouldn’t be needed for the stadium.

Across 22nd Street from the hotel, now under construction, is the St. Louis office of the FBI. Urban Stadiums should be like Chicago’s Wrigley Field, surrounded on all sides by numerous businesses that are active even on days when the stadium is empty. Not surrounded on one side by a fenced parking lot at a fortress. I doubt the FBI has any plans to relocate.  The stadium would be focused more toward Union Station, presumably. Still, the best urban stadiums are surrounded by active properties owned by others.

Financially the deal isn’t the worst. the land hasn’t generated any property taxes for decades, so by abating property taxes it’ll continue as it would if nothing were built. The city would wave taxes on construction materials like they’re doing with the hotel and other projects. This isn’t a huge gesture because most construction materials used on these projects aren’t bought from suppliers located in the city. This might be an incentive for the contractors to buy from city suppliers rather than outside suppliers.

It’s really hard to be anything but cynical about a new stadium, likely surrounded by acres of surface parking. Hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised…assuming the MLS awards one of the two remaining expansion teams to St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

 

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