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St. Louis’ MLS Stadium Will Be Built On Site I Proposed In February 2016

October 7, 2019 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Popular Culture Comments Off on St. Louis’ MLS Stadium Will Be Built On Site I Proposed In February 2016

In 2015 St. Louis officials were proposing razing historic buildings/districts in the North Riverfront area, between Laclede’s Landing and the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, to build a new NFL stadium to keep the Rams in St. Louis.  It never happened, in early January 2016 the Rams officially applied to relocate to Los Angeles.

The next month it was announced a group had formed to attempt to get a Major League Soccer (MLS) team in St. Louis — they were scouting for sites. I’d opposed the North Riverfront as a site for an NFL stadium, I also felt it wasn’t the best site for a smaller MLS stadium.

I weighed in:

The site they shouldn’t consider is the North riverfront one previously targeted for a significantly larger NFL stadium — we shouldn’t tear down buildings when we have vacant land available. We have land, mostly state owned, without any buildings and a target for redevelopment for years already. I’m talking about the 22nd Street Interchange area — an area on the West side of downtown I’ve written about numerous times over the 11+ years.

In that February 8, 2016 post I imagined fitting a stadium in between Pine, 20th, Market, and the hotel to the west. Busch Stadium fits in a space 2 blocks x 3 blocks, so a MLS stadium with less seating should fit in a smaller footprint. I emailed my post to a contact at St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC)

Looking West from the Pear Tree Inn at 2211 Market in February 2016.

That first group proposed a stadium in the 22nd Street Interchange area, but south of Market Street, not north. I don’t know if they were already looking at this location prior to my post & email, but the entire year before development officials were so focused on the North riverfront I can’t help but think they wanted to stick with what they knew and had so much time invested in.

When the state & city residents opposed public funding a of soccer stadium the ownership group was out.  When the current ownership group entered the picture in October 2018 they’d privately finance a stadium in the 22nd Street Interchange area many, including myself, assumed it’d also locate south of Market St.  In April 2019 they showed some renderings, but no site plan. Again, many of us assumed the larger area south of Market St.

I can now guess this view is looking east. The parking garage roof seen at the bottom is the existing Pear Tree Inn garage. Pine, to the left of the garage, would not go through from 20th to the new 22nd Street

We were wrong, it will be the area I’d proposed in February 2016! However, instead of stopping at Pine the site will go one more block north to Olive. A few buildings would be razed, businesses are already being forced to relocate on short notice.

The tenants of these buildings on Olive have been told to vacate. May 2013 photo
On the sidewalk in front of the buildings that’ll likely be razed. I’ve been a fan of the 2-story buff brick building for years. May 2013 photo.

I reviewed the ownership records for these and the remaining buildings to the west, none showed a recorded change of ownership — yet. I don’t like seeing businesses and/or residents forced to move. Hopefully they’ll be offered a financial package to compensate for their time, trouble, and loss of business.

I’m also not a fan of closing streets, though Pine has been an awful one-way street for decades. Hopefully the one-way couplet (opposite directions) of Chestnut & Pine will both be returned to two-way traffic as a result of the existing on/off ramps going away.

I still want to see an official proposed site plan. Despite holes from parking lots, Olive has clung to a urban feel with multi-story buildings on both sides. I also wonder if we’ll see a revised I-64 on/off ramp that ends at Market Street — I’d be disappointed, but not surprised.  Even if that happens, a lot less land could be devoted to highway on/off so the area would support additional development and tax revenue.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Two Urban Medical Campuses Compared: Big Differences Despite Similarities

September 16, 2019 Central West End, Featured, Planning & Design, Travel, Walkability Comments Off on Two Urban Medical Campuses Compared: Big Differences Despite Similarities

I often spend days, weeks, or months thinking about a post before writing it. I’ve been thinking about today’s post for over 5 years now!

It was May 2014 when we first stayed at friend’s newly purchased vacation condo in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood — across the street from Northwestern Hospital. Not a wide boulevard either, Erie Street is like most of Chicago’s streets — two drive lanes and two parking lanes.

We experienced the busy sidewalks but also the internal walkway system connecting the campus’ numerous buildings, complete with bridges over roadways. I immediately thought how different it felt from St. Louis’ Washington University Medical Campus (WUMC)/Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJC).

St. Louis’ Washington University Medical Campus is prominently identified along Kingshighway, Forest Park Ave, etc
Points along Kingshighway are now labeled A, B. C, etc…

In the Fall of 2017 I had an unexpected emergency surgery and an overnight stay at BJC, I got to experience the walkway going from the Center for Advanced Medicine to Barnes. Then again the next morning going to the bus transit center. Yes, usually you don’t leave hospitalization via public transit, but that’s how I got there with my power wheelchair and a very broken wrist.

I’ve visited the Northwestern campus numerous times while visiting Chicago and I’ve returned to WUMC/BJC for numerous appointment and to photograph/observe the walkway.  I’m finally in a position to compare observation of the two.

First, the similarities between the two:

  • Were built over decades, slowly expanding.
  • Began life in an affluent neighborhood of gridded streets.
  • Comprised of generic beige buildings, parking garages.
  • Lots of people & cars.
  • Have an internal network to help people navigate from building to building indoors.
  • Have one hard edge (Lake Michigan in Chicago, Forest Park in St. Louis)

Given all the above similarities you’d think the two would function the same. But no, the end results are vastly different! This post will hopefully explain the differences I’ve observed and their impact on each campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

In short, the major differences can be reduced to:

  • Sidewalk level activities: Many of Northwestern’s buildings, especially newer ones, have “active” ground floors — mostly restaurants.
  • Street grid: Northwestern didn’t alter the street grid, WUMC/BJC has decimated the grid.

Let’s start in St. Louis (map):

The Center for Advanced Medicine (CAM) building on the SW corner of Forest Park & Euclid avenues is a very busy place
As a pedestrian you can’t enter the building directly off of either major avenue.
Pedestrians have a narrow walk next to the large auto drive to reach the actual entry.
The newer Center for Outpatient Health across Forest Park Ave did not repeat the pedestrian access problem of CAM.
It is built right up to Euclid. An auto drive for patient drop-off is on the back side.
Pedestrians get their own entrance right off the Euclid sidewalk.
There’s a change of level but the ramp is wide and direct, the steps are narrower and off to the side. Through the windows you can see the automobile drive & patient drop-off entrance.
Looking North on what used to be Euclid Ave., the CAM building is on the left.
Looking at the closed Euclid from the WUMC/BJC walkway system — called LINK. Entering LINK from CAM is pretty natural, but the rest is convoluted.
Back on the ground for a moment, another closed part of Euclid, the LINK is visible.
In the background is the busiest light rail station in Metro’s system. LINK overlooks it, but they don’t connect.
This was the view to the North from my hospital room in November 2017.
The LINK winds its way around connecting all the buildings.
Sometimes it is in a spacious area
There are a few retail outlets, but not many. There was also a tiny Sprint store.
Windows give you a glimpse of where you are.
When I was discharged a nurse had to escort me to Metro’s bus transit center because there is no good public route from the BJC hospital to transit! Her card had to be used a couple of times along the way.
Finally I’m on my way to the bus. This walkway also connects to massive parking garages for staff.
Here we are, the entrance to the garage where the buses converge on the ground level.

Before moving on I should note that I was very pleased with my treatment and all those who took care of me that visit and my other appointments, cataracts surgery, etc.

Okay, now Chicago (map). Starting outside.

Am ambulance only drive for the emergency department
An auto area for the outpatient building next door to where we stay while in Chicago. You can see all the way through to the next block. To the left there are three retail spaces spaces — including on both street corners.
The sidewalks are wide with street trees.
There are some truly awful buildings along some of the sidewalks. No retail, no life.
But old historic buildings, including ones not owned by Northwestern still exist within the street grid.
One of the oldest campus buildings is very attractive — much more so than most everything around it.
Another example of not everything along the sidewalks was interesting. That’s mostly reserved for the corners at intersections.
One of the newest buildings. Being located mid-block it didn’t have any sidewalk retail.
Another older building, not exactly inviting.
Here is a corner, which is very active.
Another corner
And another corner
Medical entrance mid-block
Another auto drop-off area
An older parking garage with a mid-block entrance

Now let’s go inside their walkway system.

There are numerous maps posted, all showing how to reach the street grid outside and other buildings
Building lobbies invite you to the walkway system.
An internal intersection in a central building. A couple of food court areas are very close to this point.
One of the newest food court seating areas with lots of seating
There are many different food retailers located along their walkway system, most concentrated in a couple of central areas.
Another restaurant
Their walkways always seen to be busy.

CONCLUSION:

Both medical campuses have good & bad buildings. While Northwestern does a far better job activating corners it is the fact they still have corners that explains why the sidewalks are so full of people. The non-medical public, like us, are able to easily get through the campus on the sidewalks or via the enclosed walkway system. Northwestern’s campus isn’t a monolithic fortress to go around — you can go right through it just like you would elsewhere in Chicago.

I’m firmly convinced the many closed streets within St. Louis’ Washington University Medical Campus are largely responsible for the relative lack of pedestrian activity. Short of reopening the closed streets, I don’t think there’s anything we can do to fix the problem.

There’s a lot more detail I’d hoped to include, but I knew I just had to get this post finished. I might do some followup posts.

— Steve Patterson

 

White Flight, Black Flight, Abandonment, Poverty, and Gentrification

August 26, 2019 Featured, Neighborhoods, North City, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on White Flight, Black Flight, Abandonment, Poverty, and Gentrification

St. Louis has some positive things going on lately, Square announcing they’re moving/expanding from Cortex to downtown, Major League Soccer awarded a St  Louis ownership group an expansion team, etc.  These will bring new needed investments and jobs.

Will any benefit reach those north & south of the “central corridor?” The central corridor runs from the central business district west to the burbs.

A friend on Facebook said Square’s move downtown will cause more gentrification.  Not sure he’s correct, but the challenge of attracting investment and jobs without leaving out large segments of the region is real.

This is a good opportunity to talk about how we bring new investments without negative consequences. It’ll help me get these thoughts out of my brain.

5744 & 5748 Highland Ave, Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood

Merriam-Webster defines gentrification as follows:

The process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents.

Gentrification is a major problem in many regions, but here we still have so many highly vacant neighborhoods. Sure, the average worker can’t afford a downtown loft, but that’s not gentrification.

First we need to look at how we got here.

By the 1920s the white middle class began leaving the City of St. Louis for life in the suburbs. With new people moving to the city from rural areas looking for work the census didn’t show what was happening.

In 1948 the Supreme Court ruled on a St. Louis case, saying racial restrictive covenants couldn’t be enforced through the courts (Shelley v Kraemer).  This prompted more white middle class residents to flee. Upwardly mobile black middle class residents were now able to purchase nicer housing than where they’d been limited to previously.

This house at 4600 Labadie was at the center of the case Shelley v Kraemer

Post WWII brought many to the region looking for work, others just trying to escape oppressive Jim Crow laws in the South. Basements and attics were crudely converted into living spaces. Large homes were subdivided. The population was too high, our housing stock just couldn’t handle all the people resulting in overcrowding. In 1950 St. Louis recorded its highest population — 856,796.

It didn’t help that entire neighborhoods were being razed for “urban renewal” projects and others being divided as highway construction cut wide paths through densely-populated neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods like Fountain Park remained respectable middle class, just now black instead of white. Eventually the black middle class got older, while some would stay but others began buying housing in North County as the white middle class there began moving to St. Charles County.

Some north city neighborhoods have been without the black middle class for decades now. In these neighborhoods the working poor have also been leaving, seeking affordable housing in other neighborhoods or in older north county areas where the black middle class have left more recently. An example is Wells Goodfellow — more vacant lots than residents.

!912 Clara Ave, left, and 1904 Clara Ave are occupied, the two houses in between were just razed.

Here is what I struggle with. We need money in the city — we need middle class and more affluent people so jobs will be created. This doesn’t mean white, though that’s often what happens.

How do we change long-disinvested neighborhoods so they’re attractive to all people with more money — without pricing out those who still call the neighborhood home?

In the ideal world we’d invest in neighborhoods in a way that attracts & accommodates all races & economic classes. This means housing at a variety of price points — from low-income to high end with everything in between.  Retail & restaurants should appeal to all segments and pocketbooks.

This may not be possible, I know it won’t happen without regulation. Free-market capitalism has demonstrated it is ok with excluding many.  The trick is learning from other regions so we can reduce unintended negative consequences from regulations.

Unfortunately I think our city/region is too laissez-faire to enact regulations to transform vacant neighborhoods so they’ll become great neighborhoods.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Reflections on the Recent Jehovah’s Witness Conventions This Month

August 19, 2019 Featured, Parking, Walkability Comments Off on Reflections on the Recent Jehovah’s Witness Conventions This Month

A large convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses was just in St. Louis. An advance group came through at the beginning of August, the main (larger) group just left yesterday. They made an impression on me, but not about beliefs — I’m still an atheist. Let me explain.

The area across Cole Street from The Dome was going to become “The Bottle District” over a decade ago. It never happened. Usually it’s just vacant and unsightly.

Jersey barriers blocked off many streets. Looking East from 7th & Biddle, March 2019
Looking North March 2019
Looking south on Broadway

In early August we noticed the first group making changes.

One of the most visible things they did was paint one side of the barriers this soft green color.
They had equipment and were busy moving/rearranging barriers in the vacant lots.

When the recent group arrived it became clear why all that work had been done. To prep the vacant lots (all of them) for parking.

This past weekend usually vacant lots were filled with cars, saw many out of state license plates.
6th Streets runs north-south through the vacant lots, they used cones to designate a pedestrian area of the street width.

The other thing they did that caught my eye is they put down bright tape to highlight potential trip hazards around The Dome.

There were a lot more, couldn’t photograph them all. Sometimes it was missing bricks, others were raised bricks. Still others were just uneven areas.

I love that they go to so effort to make sure their membership doesn’t fall and injure themselves.  Perhaps our Convention & Visitors Commission could learn a lesson from our recent guests? Perhaps Paul McKee could develop or sell the “Bottle District” land?

— Steve Patterson

 

Time For St. Louis To Decide What The Area Around A Future MLS Stadium Should Look Like, How It Should Function

August 16, 2019 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Time For St. Louis To Decide What The Area Around A Future MLS Stadium Should Look Like, How It Should Function

On Wednesday a long expected, though still unconfirmed, report indicated St. Louis will be the next city to get a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team.

Major League Soccer will award an expansion franchise to St. Louis, a source close to the prospective ownership group has confirmed to ESPN. The deal is expected to be announced as soon as next Tuesday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was first to report that St. Louis will be MLS’s 28th team.

The ownership group, MLS4TheLou, declined to directly comment on the reports, issuing the following statement: “Major League Soccer is responsible for the timing of any announcements around League expansion, but we remain confident St. Louis has made a strong case for a team.”

MLS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.” (ESPN)

Now that it looks likely the team and new stadium will happen we can delve more seriously into the design of the stadium and, more importantly, the surrounding blocks.

My map of the area from 2016

Nearly four months ago we got our first look at the proposed stadium, here’s how I ended my post then:

Here’s what I think about the site, both north & south of Market Street:

  • The stadium & new buildings should take advantage of the existing hole for basement or underground parking.
  • Market Street between 20th & 21st is a deteriorating bridge, it should be removed. Under it can be filled in with foam so a new road/sidewalks can be built at grade.
  • Market Street should be redesigned to be friendly to pedestrians. This means narrowing the road (fewer, narrower lanes) and more crossing points. Right now there’s a crosswalk at 20th and at Jefferson –this is nearly a half a mile without a crossing.
  • Hopefully the changes at Union Station, including the upcoming Farris Wheel along 20th Street, will mean easier access under the train shed between the Union Station MetroLink platform on the East side of 18th to the new MLS stadium.
  • Metro will need to rethink downtown circulation with a revised Union Station, a MLS stadium, and hopefully active surroundings.
  • Pine & Chestnut have been a one-way couplet for decades. Once the on/off ramps to/from I-64 are gone both streets should be returned to two-way traffic. The revised Soldiers Memorial, however, has only one eastbound lane on Chestnut between 13th-14th.  Chestnut has our only protected bike lane.

I’ll probably think of more issues, hopefully the site planning being done now will address at least some of these.

My views haven’t changed, but I do have some additional thoughts now that we’re getting close. Most are questions, in no particular order:

  • We still need to see a proposed site plan. What is the current ownership of the current land?  How much city & state property will exist beyond the stadium boundaries? Is the stadium site too small? Too large?
  • Because not everything will get built by the date of the first match, we need to think long-term. What might this large vacant hole look like in 10-15-20 years? What do we as a community want it to look like?
  • I think minority businesses should get work from infrastructure improvements, stadium, and new construction adjacent to the stadium. Big investments are being made, every part of the community should benefit.
  • We need to plan an area larger than the stadium — I-64 on the South (since it’s a hard boundary), the West side of Jefferson (since the city is looking at Jefferson changes to accommodate the coming NGA West headquarters further North, to the North I’d say at least include Locust. To the East Union  Station is a hard boundary but there are development opportunities surrounding the historic train station (16th, perhaps 14th).
  • Housing should be included within the larger area described above. This should be at all price points from low-income to high-end. It should include purchase & rental.
  • Hopefully we can agree that new low-density uses like gas stations & stand-alone fast food restaurants would be inappropriate.
  • Pedestrian circulation needs to be considered as much, or more, than vehicular circulation. We’re going to have lots of visitors coming into town for future MLS matches, they need to be able to fly into St. Louis, take MetroLink to Union Station, easily walk to their hotel, walk from their hotel to the stadium, patronizing local businesses along the way. Will pedestrians be able to freely walk from 18th to 20th through the Union Station train shed, or will they be forced to go up to Market Street?
  • New infrastructure (water, sewer, electric, etc) needs to be planned for future development. Initial surface parking lots should be development sites in the future. For example, we shouldn’t need to move a water line just five years later.
  • Unlike Ballpark Village, the surroundings shouldn’t all be owned by the team ownership. It shouldn’t even be just one entity. A different company might work each direction from the stadium. The community plan, hopefully with form-based zoning, will ensure they all work to create what we want this area to become over time.
  • How can we make the area active on days without a match? One option might be having one street where restaurants are concentrated on both sides. Or maybe just at all corners?
  • How do we create a good West terminus to The Gateway Mall? Currently there’s a little bit of the linear park west of 20th Street.  Do we end at 20th? End at a new 21st?  At a new 22nd?
  • Will there be a place for match-day events? A side street that gets closed? A plaza adjacent to the stadium? The west end of The Gateway Mall?
  • Though this area is part of the Downtown West neighborhood, the stadium area needs a good name. This will help identify this district.

My fear is the rush to get a new stadium built mistakes with long-term consequences will be made. We’ve got one chance to do this right.

— Steve Patterson

 

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