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From Dated to State of the Art: 100 North Broadway

January 18, 2023 Downtown, Economy, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on From Dated to State of the Art: 100 North Broadway

Buildings are expensive to construct, so frequently renovation makes more sense than razing & replacing. If the structure is sound changing the finishes, fenestration (windows & doors), technology, etc is cost-effective and green. The office tower at 100 North Broadway is a good example. Most was good, very little was bad — but the bad was so prominent it overshadowed the positives. I posted about this building in 2015, suggesting the 2-story section get reimagined. The building’s owner thanked me for my interest.

The owner hired longtime tenant Trivers Architects to sketch up some ideas. Not for them, but to help sell the building. In February 2020 a new local owner took possession of the building. Then the pandemic hit, office employees worked from home. Ouch! What was initially going to be a simple interior update turned into a major project — kudos to the owner & investors for seeing the big picture, playing the long game.

building
The renovated pavilion & plaza of 100 N. Broadway in November 2022
The original greenhouse design was well past its prime.

Granted, the former branch bank inside was even more horrendous.

Looking toward the building lobby, July 2015
Inside looking East along the South atrium/greenhouse wall we can see those inward points

The timing at the beginning was actually a good thing. The owner & architects from Trivers were able to rethink amenities for attracting tenants. The former bank offices on the 2nd floor became a common areas and high-tech conference rooms. Let’s take a look.

First up, a monumental staircase. The bank tenant didn’t want everyone going to their offices instead of tellers, but now an inviting stair makes sense. Elevators on the east & west sides were also replaced.
A huge preserved moss wall brings color to the new lobby, adds natural warmth.
Again, this isn’t a high-maintenance living wall — it’s the largest preserved moss wall in the region. Note the seating below.
A view of the lobby from the 2nd floor.
Yes, under the stair is a small meeting space enclosed by orange glass.
The other side is space for eating. behind me is a cafe space, with room for a commercial kitchen including exterior exhaust.
At the top of the monumental stair is a kitchen space, for tenant events.
Just off that kitchen is an outdoor space. A group from one tenant was gathered when I was there.
The outdoor space has great views.
Back on the main floor, the security/reception ares is between the lobby and elevators.
This is significantly larger than before, the elevators are more visible.
These efforts helped attract McCormack-Baron when their lease was up in the old Laclede Gas building. Their new space is on several floors. Trivers also designed their offices.
Outside the 2-story part was clad in horizontally ribbed terra cotta, a nice contrast to the metal of the tower. Both the east & west plazas were totally redone so the roof of the underground parking garage could be resealed. The east entrance now has this ramp rather than just steps.

The only criticism I have is one that’s easily corrected. The only bicycle parking is for tenants, in the garage — none for a guest. bike rack on each side would solve this.

As a person who saw the before and envisioned how it could be I’m so glad the new owner, investors, architects, consultants, and contractors made something happen. As a former designer I loved seeing tired buildings rethought around current requirements, materials, technology, esthetics. For additional building information see Loopnet, for project info see Trivers Architects.

— Steve
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St. Louis urban planning, policy, and politics @ UrbanReviewSTL since October 31, 2004. For additional content please consider following on Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, and/or Twitter.

 

What Should Replace the 1960s 7th Street Parking Garage?

November 15, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Planning & Design Comments Off on What Should Replace the 1960s 7th Street Parking Garage?

In 1961 the former Stix, Baer & Fuller department store began building a 900-car parking garage, attached to its downtown location via a skywalk over 7th Street. Six plus decades later the old Stix store contains apartments, hotel, a museum, and restaurants. The garage is now surrounded on 3 sides by the convention center. The skyway connecting the two has been sealed for years. See 701 North 7th Street on Google Maps.

The dome can be seen un the background in this August 2010 image
Pedestrian entrance on North 7th Street
Damage to underside of floors, 2016

I’ve previously posted about this garage, see Privately-Owned Convention Center Parking Garage in Questionable Condition from May 2016. At the time I shared that post with convention & building inspection officials hoping to get them to take action, not just leave it to the private sector.

Recently the city was able to purchase it. There’s no funds in the current convention center expansion project, AC Next Gen, to replace the garage. It was inspected, condemned for use, and now being razed.

With ongoing demolition the circular ramp was visible from the street, November 11, 2022

It had a lot of open/unused area in the center, with a circular ramp popular at the time. The 2nd floor of the 1993 convention center expansion connected to a level in the back. A new garage would certainly be designed very different. Prior to the early 90s the garage occupied an entire city block (#166), surrounded by 7th, Convention Plaza (aka Delmar, Morgan), 8th. The soon to be vacant site has 196 feet of frontage along 7th Street, it is 270 feet deep.

3D view of the garage from Apple Maps
Aerial view, the skywalk was visible in the lower right. Apple Maps

Before the city rushes to fund & build a conventional new garage to fill the site I think it makes sense to explore alternative options. We are talking about a full city block, though closed on 3 sides.

Doing nothing, holding for the future, is always an option. Another is a modern conventional parking garage. Beyond that it’s possible some of the back of the site might be useful to the convention center. At the street it would be nice to see some active uses, perhaps a restaurant(s) on the upper. A rooftop patio, balconies, etc are all worth considering to enliven the street. Residential and/or office space probably wouldn’t work, though I’m always looking for places for more low-income accessible units.

I’d love to see any parking be automated. These take half as much land as a conventional garage with ramps & drive aisles consuming a lot of space. They do cost more per space, but depending on the design of using half the block for active uses other than parking static vehicles for hours at a time could make it worth the investment. Various designs and costs/benefits need to be reviewed — before a commitment is made!

Big benefits include no need for mechanical ventilation or 24/7 lighting interior, but fire suppression is still necessary. Vehicles would be secured against theft or break in, the roof could hold solar panels. My only reservation is how automated parking would do with large events, such as an XFL game at the dome. Not sure if EV charging is possible.

My point is this city blocked-sized parcel needs to be examined from today’s perspective looking forward 50 years (2023-2073).

— Steve Patterson

 

Recent Book — “Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It” by M. Nolan Gray

November 11, 2022 Books, Featured, Zoning Comments Off on Recent Book — “Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It” by M. Nolan Gray

Over a century ago a new idea called “zoning” began, intended to guide cities to grow in a less chaotic manner than they had until then. Reality, however, was very different. It’s time to let go, change.

book cover

A recently published book explains the why & how.

What if scrapping one flawed policy could bring US cities closer to addressing debilitating housing shortages, stunted growth and innovation, persistent racial and economic segregation, and car-dependent development?

It’s time for America to move beyond zoning, argues city planner M. Nolan Gray in Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It. With lively explanations and stories, Gray shows why zoning abolition is a necessary—if not sufficient—condition for building more affordable, vibrant, equitable, and sustainable cities.

The arbitrary lines of zoning maps across the country have come to dictate where Americans may live and work, forcing cities into a pattern of growth that is segregated and sprawling.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Reform is in the air, with cities and states across the country critically reevaluating zoning. In cities as diverse as Minneapolis, Fayetteville, and Hartford, the key pillars of zoning are under fire, with apartment bans being scrapped, minimum lot sizes dropping, and off-street parking requirements disappearing altogether. Some American cities—including Houston, America’s fourth-largest city—already make land-use planning work without zoning.

In Arbitrary Lines, Gray lays the groundwork for this ambitious cause by clearing up common confusions and myths about how American cities regulate growth and examining the major contemporary critiques of zoning. Gray sets out some of the efforts currently underway to reform zoning and charts how land-use regulation might work in the post-zoning American city.

Despite mounting interest, no single book has pulled these threads together for a popular audience. In Arbitrary Lines, Gray fills this gap by showing how zoning has failed to address even our most basic concerns about urban growth over the past century, and how we can think about a new way of planning a more affordable, prosperous, equitable, and sustainable American city. (Island Press)

St. Louis’ first city planner, Harland Bartholomew, a civil engineer, was big on zoning. His planning firm unfortunately helped hundreds of municipalities adopt zoning laws — including in St. Louis. This form of zoning is known now as used-based zoning based on how it separates everything into separate pods. No longer can a business owner build a new building with their apartment over their store — these uses must be separate. No longer can a 2-family residential building be near single-family detached houses — these must be separate.

The latter ended up being a way of keeping immigrant/people of color communities separated from white folks — because whites shouldn’t be subjected to living near anyone different than themselves.  Idyllic new suburbs, in their mind, meant all white — except for servants, of course.  This attitude wasn’t limited to just the Jim Crow south, northern cities joined in this more subtle form of housing discrimination.

The St. Louis region is a prime example — it’s one reason why we have so many tiny municipalities. Going forward we must change the status quo, otherwise the entire region will continue to suffer.

Gray’s book will help you understand the problems & solutions.

— Steve Patterson

 

I’m Now More Optimistic (Less Pesemistic?) About The Next NGA West Campus

October 18, 2022 Featured, Neighborhoods, North City, Planning & Design Comments Off on I’m Now More Optimistic (Less Pesemistic?) About The Next NGA West Campus

A decade ago the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), located near Anheuser-Busch brewery, announced it intended to build a new campus. If you’re not familiar with the NGA here’s how they describe themselves:

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) delivers world-class geospatial intelligence that provides a decisive advantage to policymakers, military service members, intelligence professionals and first responders. 

Anyone who sails a U.S. ship, flies a U.S. aircraft, makes national policy decisions, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cellphone relies on NGA. (NGA)

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The NGA site is a big chunk of the St. Louis Place neighborhood. The latest documents call it 97 acres, not 99 on this image used in a prior post.

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I just couldn’t see how building a large high security military facility was going to be a positive for the immediate area — people would drive in for work, maybe drive out for lunch, then drive home at night. Having seen the secure entrance to their current facility numerous times it’s not welcoming, nor pedestrian oriented.

Current NGA entrance, 2015

This February 2016 concept was prior to the final decision of the St. Louis Place site in April 2016

In the concept above we see structures in the center of the site, not edges — for security. In the very center is 7 separate buildings, with a parking garage to the north & south (left & right). If you’ve been watching the construction taking place you know NGA’s actual design is different than St. Louis’ concept rendering. Again, the concept above was part of the successful St. Louis effort to have the site at Jefferson & Cass selected.

Construction of a parking garage in September 2021, as seen from the #04 Metrobus

Last month us residents participating in the process to create new plans for the 6 neighborhoods around NGA (St. Louis Place, Old North, Hyde Park, JeffVanderLou, Carr Square, and Columbus Square) were invited on site for an open house.

The open house was at Gate 3, off of Cass Ave. There was a presentation in the parking area, then we got to go up into the viewing tower on the right for a better view. Yes, I slowly walked up the flight of steps.

Photography & video were not allowed, but we were given a site plan for the actual design. To my knowledge this is the first site plan the public has seen of this project.

Site plan distributed last month, click image to see a larger version.

Finally seeing what the NGA is actually building gives my some hope that it can potentially have a positive impact on the trajectory of North St. Louis. My concern had been this becoming a big barrier, especially once the intact street grid was erased. Well, it’s still a barrier but the employees within the grounds will have opportunities to come & go relatively easily as pedestrians. Hopefully this will translate to businesses east, south, and west of the site.

I was also concerned about a line of cars on Jefferson Ave to enter the site.

There will be two “Access control points” for those driving to work — one in the NW & SE corners of the site. Each has a curved drive to give cars room to queue up without blocking through traffic on Parnell or 22nd. This design also means vehicles can’t get a good straight run at trying to crash through the gate.  All cars entering the facility are examined, especially for explosives.

The inspection facility in the NW corner will allow trucks with deliveries to unload and leave out the alley on the north. Items will be inspected before being loaded onto a secure truck for delivery to the main building.

You can see a sidewalk out to Jefferson. The SW corner of the site is the intersection of Jefferson & Cass avenues. The security fencing will be set way back from Cass to allow a corner park/plaza space and visitor parking. A park that’s not behind a security fence? They’ll allow visitors?

A visitor’s center will be adjacent to the visitor parking. This center is where guests will go through security. Apparently the main building is compartmentalized such that visitors can be allowed in part without risking security in the remainder. It will have an outdoor courtyard in the center of the building.

The SE corner of the site (22nd & Cass) is the other access control point — accessed via 22nd Street, not Cass Ave. Along 22nd Street is where I hope to see businesses in the existing buildings, or maybe urban new construction. Perhaps places workers see driving in/out so they decide to walk to them at lunch.

I think 22nd & Cass will likely become a signalized intersection, possibly another at the other access point.  I use the #32 bus along Cass Ave at times so I’m curious about the nearest bus stop to Jefferson — right now the westbound bus stop is before 22nd Street, so a long distance from Jefferson. No bus stops are shown on the site plan. Across Cass Ave to the south is the mostly vacant former Pruitt-Igoe site. How this gets developed will determine the long-term success of the area. I hope we don’t get a free-standing Starbucks with or without a drive-thru.  A coffeehouse on the ground floor of a multi-story building on the SE corner of Cass & Jefferson would be great.

Knowing NGA employees can get in/out of the site pretty easy as a pedestrian is encouraging.  The construction will be finished in 2025, the NGA expects to relocate to this new facility in 2026.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — “Build Beyond Zero: New Ideas for Carbon-Smart Architecture” by Bruce King and Chris Magwood

September 23, 2022 Books, Environment, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on New Book — “Build Beyond Zero: New Ideas for Carbon-Smart Architecture” by Bruce King and Chris Magwood

With all the talk of electric vehicles it’s easy to forget that buildings are a major contributor toward climate change. Building low or neutral carbon buildings has been the goal for a long time, now a new book is proposing going even further:

“Net Zero” has been an effective rallying cry for the green building movement, signaling a goal of having every building generate at least as much energy as it uses. Enormous strides have been made in improving the performance of every type of new building, and even more importantly, renovating the vast and energy-inefficient collection of existing buildings in every country. If we can get every building to net-zero energy use in the next few decades, it will be a huge success, but it will not be enough.  
 
In Build Beyond Zero, carbon pioneers Bruce King and Chris Magwood re-envision buildings as one of our most practical and affordable climate solutions instead of leading drivers of climate change. They provide a snapshot of a beginning and map towards a carbon-smart built environment that acts as a CO2 filter. Professional engineers, designers, and developers are invited to imagine the very real potential for our built environment to be a site of net carbon storage, a massive drawdown pool that could help to heal our climate.
 
The authors, with the help of other industry experts, show the importance of examining what components of an efficient building (from windows to solar photovoltaics) are made with, and how the supply chains deliver all those products and materials to a jobsite. Build Beyond Zero looks at the good and the bad of how we track carbon (Life Cycle Assessment), then takes a deep dive into materials (with a focus on steel and concrete) and biological architecture, and wraps up with education, policy and governance, circular economy, and where we go in the next three decades. 
 
In Build Beyond Zero, King and Magwood show how buildings are culprits but stand poised to act as climate healers. They offer an exciting vision of climate-friendly architecture, along with practical advice for professionals working to address the carbon footprint of our built environment. (Island Press)

We need as many “climate healers” as we can get! Like so many books this is highly detailed and technical. So here’s the chapters so you can see how they present their arguments:

  • Chapter 1: The Story of Carbon: The Birth of the Universe, of Carbon, and of Life
  • Chapter 2: A Brief History of Green Building: Waking Up to Climate Emergency
    Box 2.1: The Existing Building Solution by Larry Strain
  • Chapter 3: Life Cycle Analysis: Tracking Carbon’s Stocks and Flows
  • Chapter 4: Metals and Minerals: Steeling Ourselves
  • Chapter 5: Concrete: Many Ways to Make a Rock
    Box 5.1: Asphalt: the Other Concrete
    Box 5.2: The Case for Modern Earthen Building by Lola Ben Alon
    Box 5.3: Human Health is Climate Health by Gayatri Datar
    Box 5.4: Entering the Market as an Earth Block Producer by Lisa Morey
    Box 5.5: Can We Grow Carbon-Storing Buildings? by Wil Srubar
  • Chapter 6: Biological Architecture: Wood and Mass Timber, Agricultural By-Products, Purpose- Grown Crops, Waste Stream Fibers, and Lab-Grown Materials
    Box 6.1: Landscape: Connecting the Carbon Conversation by Pamela Conrad
  • Chapter 7: Witches’ Brew: Plastics, Chemistry, and Carbon
  • Chapter 8: Construction: On Site and Under Zero
  • Chapter 9: Education: We All Need Schooling to Make This Possible
  • Chapter 10: Circular Economy: Extending the Lifespan of Captured Carbon
  • Chapter 11: Policy and Governance: Twenty-first Century Cat Herding
  • Chapter 12: A Just Transition: Building a Better Society Means More than Capturing Carbon
    Box 12.1: A Manifesto for the Pivotal Decade by Ann Edminster
  • Chapter 13: The Next Three Decades: Where Do We Go from Here?  15 by 50
    Box 13.1 Case study, Trent University’s Forensic Science Building
  • Chapter 14: What’s Next? Wow. Just, wow.

I can’t say they’ve hit on the right solution, but those making building decisions (architects, developers, code officials, etc) should give this a serious review. If you’re planning new construction or a major renovation project these ideas might also be good food for thought.

— Steve Patterson

 

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