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Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

May 19, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Plazas Comments Off on Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago the trees at the renovated Kiener Plaza looked so new, provided no shade. Now they’ve matured nicely. Saturday we spent 2+ hours sitting in the shade.

Look at the size of the trees on the right, they provide actual shade now.
This February view shows the new visitor center building. The trees are bigger but hadn’t put on level for the seaso9n yet.
Same area, at the reopening in 2017
The awful May Amphitheater sunk into the west end of the previous Kiener Plaza.

It’s nice seeing Kiener Plaza be a space that can hold thousands of people and still function. Now if only we could do something about those two parking garages across Chestnut, to the north.

— Steve Patterson

 

Rethinking 811 North 9th Street (Holiday Inn Express)

May 17, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Rethinking 811 North 9th Street (Holiday Inn Express)

I recently posted about a 1960s hotel in the Downtown West neighborhood that no longer worked (see Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn). Today is a similar look at an early 1980s hotel the no longer works: The Radisson/Ramada/Holiday Inn at 811 North 9th Street.

The primary view of the 5-story hotel is from 9th & Convention Plaza (formerly Delmar, Morgan before that). April 2016 photo

It is across 9th Street from the blank west wall of our convention center, but soon the convention center expansion will mean it is surrounded on 3 sides. Its backside will soon face the only through street passing the property.

Before I get into the problems & possible solutions a little history is important.

Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

In 1977 our convention center opened. Delmar, historically known as Morgan, was renamed to Convention Plaza between 3rd/4th and 14th Street. This street remained open as it has always been. The convention center originality occupied four city blocks bounded by Delmar/Convention Plaza, 9th, Cole, and 7th. Two blocks of Dr. Martin Luther King (formerly Franklin) and two blocks of 8th Street were erased from the grid.

The Sheraton Hotel also opened in 1977 — on the east side of the convention center, bounded by 7th, Cole, 6th, and Dr. Martin Luther King.  Then on April 1, 1981 the Radisson St. Louis Hotel opened on the west side of the convention center on  “9th at Convention Plaza”, aka 811 North 9th Street. Radisson was a very small hotel chain at the time, this was roughly #30 for them.

Demolition of the decade-old Sheraton Hotel to make room for the new football stadium. July 1992 — looking South from Cole & 7th

Ok, back to the Radisson and how it doesn’t fit 41+ years later:

Click image to see a larger view.

In this view the green box on the left is the parking lot to the south that will soon become an outdoor convention space. The blue in the upper left will be a parking garage with ground floor retail/restaurant. The grey box on the right will be new convention center space. 10th Street (left to right on top) will become 2-way traffic, unfortunately only for the short distance between Washington Ave and Cole Street. The hotel main entrance is the red star, bottom center. The red hexagon at 10th & Dr. Martin Luther King is the hotel dock/service entrance.

As always, I look first to see options where as much of the existing is retained. Maybe move the entrance/lobby from the east (9th) to west (10th) side?

This December 2012 view shows a problem with relocating the entrance to 10th Street — the 1st floor level is below the street/sidewalk. Plus the main elevators are on the east side.
Guests approaching from southbound 10th Street will be greeted by the docks and often employee cars.

Because the height of the ground floor relative to 10th Street, elevator locations, dock, etc relocating the entrance said lobby to the opposite side doesn’t look feasible — at least not to me. Again, the building has had many updates over the decades, but I don’t see anyway to avoid totally razing it. Maybe the interior has some redeaming quality to make it worth saving?

Nope!

Looking up from the 1st floor corner of the lobby. December 2012
On the 2nd floor you can see how the pool is at the center, spreading humidity and chlorine smell throughout. December 2012.

Maybe those planning the convention center expansion thought of this, but I’d have liked to have seen a land swap. Get the hotel to build a modern structure on the surface lot one block south, green in my diagram above. When the new hotel is finished tear down the old one and use that for the outdoor convention space — would be conveniently between the new wing of the convention center on the north and the new hotel on the south. Instead of 3 extra 1-block sections of streets surrounding the old hotel that land could be put to better use. The hotel could get a great new property closer to Washington Ave with zero downtime.

Again, this might have been proposed and ruled out Just not sure since the design was final when presented to the public.

So let up suppose the hotel owner, a Washington DC – based LLC, is willing to raze and rebuild on the existing site. What should they do?

Public streets all the way around is excessive paving, city maintenance. I’m at a loss how to design an attractive/functional hotel on this site, but I think creative architects could come up with some great concepts.

Short of a new building, I’d like to see the perimeter updated. Landscaping and maybe some shallow/liner retail spaces to fill in the gaps between the blank first floor walls and the public sidewalk(s).

Looking east from 10th along the south side (Convention Plaza/Delmar).

The south side has the most extra land. This isn’t inviting at all — a totally blank wall and boring turf grass. Maybe add some texture to the wall, giving it some gentle lighting at night? Or you widen the public sidewalk and build little storefronts to fill in the remaining lawn? Put a green roof on these so the hotel guests have something nice to look at from above.

In 2012 the Holiday Inn was a Ramada.

Regardless of the brand, I’d like to see the check in driveway located somewhere not between the sidewalk and the front door. It’s not impossible.

An Embassy Suites hotel in Chicago has no valet or other vehicle provision out front. Click image to see in Google Maps.
Parallel to the main street is a driveway for valet, etc. There’s an other entrance for guests to self-park.

To close I think if the 41+ year old hotel at 811 North 9th Streets remains as is, surrounded by wide streets, it’s going to be awkward for convention guests. It’s not going to look/feel good to anyone. Not sure of the best solution but I know it should be figured out before we spend millions locking it into this location.

— Steve Patterson

 

Vacant Land Near Centene Stadium Awaits New Construction

May 12, 2022 Downtown, Featured, MLS Stadium, Planning & Design, Real Estate Comments Off on Vacant Land Near Centene Stadium Awaits New Construction

Centene Stadium (St. Louis) – Wikipedia, the soccer stadium finishing up construction now, is reshaping the Downtown West neighborhood.   This got me thinking about a vacant parcel just south of the stadium, next to the former YMCA that became a Drury Hotel in the 1980s. The official address is 222 South 21st Street.

Looking west across 20th from the St. Louis Wheel. March 2021

This site is 9.16 acres, is one parcel, and owned by Bi-State Development (aka Metro) since July 2019. According to city records Bi-State paid $1.65 million.

Just before Bi-State closed on the property the 1960s commercial laundry building was razed. It had a fire in 2005, that was repaired. A new occupancy permit was issued in 2018 for warehouse/storage.

Looking east from the former highway ramps. March 2010

So a 1960s commercial laundry occupied the western half of the site for decades. What about more than a century ago?

This site is outlined in red, pink means brick, yellow wood on this 1909 Sanborn Map..  Click image to view sheet from the Sanborn map.

The brown box is the new Railroad YMCA , the city block was divided by a small portion east of Tom Street, and the bigger portion west of it. When Union Station added more tracks Tom Street became 20th Street, giving the station more land up to Market Street. Many buildings between Eugenia and Market were razed so that 20th could shift west. The site now knowm as 222 South 21st Street was 13 parcels with houses and stables on the east, at Tom.

As you can tell from the 2010 photo above of the now-razed laundry, I’ve had an interest in the site for a very long time. At the time it didn’t make any sense to propose new construction — a business occupied the existing building and the site was on a tiny short block of Clark Ave, between 20th & 21st.

Now Clark Ave will soon connect to 22nd Street, I-64, and Jefferson Ave.  I thought of this site again earlier this year when I saw an article about a 7-unit apartment building in Philadelphia built on leftover land measuring only 11′ x 93′. View in Google Street View.

This site is considerably larger. What I’d do is build an apartment building on the east end that has zero off-street parking. With the Union Station MetroLink light rail station nearby this is ideal for some apartments without parking, since structured parking is so costly.

The west end of the site has great views of the new soccer practice fields, build tall enough and you can see over the Drury Hotel parking garage.  A rooftop patio would be outstanding.

A garage entrance off the low end of the alley would keep the perimeter public sidewalks unbroken. Creative architects could probably come up with many options to maximize the site without any surface parking or curb cuts.

I think 2-3 buildings ranging from low-income to high end would do this site justice, and provide a nice range of options. It would require thinking differently, but so did getting 7 units on a parcel only 11’x93’.

— Steve Patterson

 

MetroLink Escalators “Temporarily Closed” For Years

April 18, 2022 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on MetroLink Escalators “Temporarily Closed” For Years

Escalators are great, very helpful to those who find stairs difficult.  However, like elevators, they’re expensive to install and maintain. Escalators exposed to the elements are even more challenging to keep in operation.

When our original light rail line opened in 1993 two stations were located within an old freight tunnel under the central business district (CBD). The Convention Center and 8th & Pine stations were designed with stairs, elevators, and escalators. Because the tunnel is narrow the tracks are in the center, the passenger platforms are on both sides — one per direction of travel, east or west. This meant a total of four elevators and four pairs of escalators — all exposed to elements to a degree.

When the Shrewsbury (Blue) expansion line opened in 2006 its three underground stations had stairs, elevators/ramps — no escalators.

In 2018 & 2019 I’d frequently see ThyssenKrupp maintenance people working on the Convention Center escalators, or at least their service truck on the public sidewalk near the westbound entrance/exit. April 1, 2019
Here’s the same location on November 2, 2020
Another view, with parts visible. November 2, 2020
View from the platform level. November 2, 2020
The big plywood barricade has been gone for quite a while, but the escalators remain out of service. March 7, 2022
The eastbound escalators at 8th & Pine have been a similar story. Note access to the elevator is on the right, back — between the escalators and stair. April 21, 2021.
The street entrance of the eastbound 8th & Pine station after the plywood construction barricade was constructed, steps & elevator are accessible. March 1, 2022

I search all Metro press releases from 2019 through the present, only one mentioned escalators in the subject/summary.

From May 3, 2021:

Rehabilitation work on the westbound escalator at the 8th & Pine MetroLink Station in downtown St. Louis begins on Tuesday, May 4. During this project, the station’s westbound elevator will remain in service, however, the accessible pathway to the westbound side of the 8th & Pine Station (near Pine Street) will have to be closed temporarily.

MetroLink riders who are traveling to or from the 8th & Pine Station and use a wheelchair or mobility device may need to make adjustments to their commute, as it will be necessary for riders to use stairs (located near Chestnut Street) when entering or departing the westbound side of the 8th & Pine Station.

The escalator rehabilitation work is expected to take approximately three months to complete. (Source: Metro)

The above press release was issued a week after I followed up with Metro again since I hadn’t received any specifics from my inquiry on December 28, 2020. Receipt of my original inquiry was acknowledged but I never received anything. Just the one press release, above.

Since I use my power wheelchair when using transit why do I care if the escalators aren’t working?

Well, it looks bad to have something temporarily non-functional for days, weeks, months..years.

What do I hope to accomplish with this post?  I want all the escalators either in good working condition — or I want them removed and replaced with fixed stairs (I can’t speak to concerns of those who have a hard time with stairs). It obviously won’t happen quickly, but steady progress needs to be demonstrated.

It looks very bad for visitors to see out of service signs, but it’s even worse when returning visitors say “oh yeah they were out the last two years I’ve visited.”

— Steve Patterson

 

Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn)

March 21, 2022 Downtown, Featured, MLS Stadium, Planning & Design Comments Off on Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn)

As I outlined two years ago, the blocks around new Centene Stadium will most certainly change in the coming years, decades. We’ve already seen some buildings on Olive be razed for the stadium, and more for a new garage. These weren’t architectural masterpieces, but they were urban. Hopefully it’ll be a good trade off.

One building I want to see razed, or significantly altered, is the hotel at 2211 Market Street (2.78 acres). Currently it’s officially known as the “Pear Tree Inn Near Union Station.” With the new major league soccer stadium nearing completion next door I think they’ll rename the hotel to reflect the ideal proximity. I’d like to bigger change — a complete rethink.

Photo of Pear Tree Inn
The 11-story hotel was built in 1965. It is set back from Market Street behind parking. It doesn’t orient to any of the three streets (Market, 23rd, Pine) that has bordered it since new.
Photo of low parking garage behind Pear Tree Inn
The 2-level parking garage to the north of the tower was built at the same time.

One of the first things I like to do is look back at what existed before — especially streets & alleys. Not that I’d necessarily want to recreate what existed over a hundred years ago, I just find it helpful.

1909 Sanborn fire insurance map
In February 1909 we can see Chestnut between Market and Pine, 22nd on the east, 23rd on the west. City blocks 914 & 915.
Aerial view with interchange east of hotel
For decades is was next to what was planned to be the 22nd St Parkway. This interchange was all that ever got built.
Aerial view with stadium construction east of hotel
Now the new MLS stadium is going up, and 22nd Street will once again exist!

Interestingly, the little bit of land between the east side of the hotel and the new 22nd Street is deeded in several small parcels, at least one to TKFC Properties, LLC in Moscow Mills, MO. The accessor classifies it as “9900 (OTHER UNDEVELOPED LAND AND WATER AREAS, NEC)”, so perhaps it’ll collect runoff water. Seems too valuable for water retention.

I strongly dislike this hotel and parking garage. I suspect the owner, Drury Hotels, is contemplating their options now that their real estate has a prime spot near the MLS stadium, and a higher valuation. The big question is what are the various ways to rebuild or start over?

I believe in reusing existing structures, so the first option would be to look at adding a new tower perpendicular to the existing one so hotel rooms on the east side could look toward the stadium and downtown. The roof of a new tower could contain a rooftop restaurant/bar with outstanding views. A new urban entrance facing Market, 22nd, or Pine. Some sort of drive though for check in that doesn’t block the many pedestrians that will soon be in this area.  Parking will need to go somewhere, preferably underground.

Other options involve razing the tower and garage, completely starting over from scratch. If they get the little bit of land between the existing lot and 22nd Street the site will be bordered by four streets — it needs to acknowledge all of them.

Reconstructing Chestnut Street needs to be considered. Chestnut still exists between 23rd and Jefferson Ave. so this would help reconnect the original street grid. We would then have two parcels, with the north larger than the south.  Perhaps a parking garage in the center of the larger parcel, wrapped in hotel rooms, apartments, and/or offices? The new block of Chestnut might be a full public street, a public walkway, or a private walkway that’s generally open to the public. I can see a Chestnut walkway being filled with outdoor dining, a new building(s) on the south side blocking the hot sun.

My one time in the hotel was to get this photo from the hallway of an upper floor. This was the view I used in my February 2016 post when I called for this to be the site of a new stadium — over six years ago! Click image to view post.

I’m confident this site will look dramatically different within a decade, just not sure how it’ll look. If I’m still around when something happens I’ll be sure to post about it.

— Steve Patterson

 

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