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Three Infill Projects Accomodate Pedestrians and Motorists

I’m a huge fan of Retrofitting Suburbia, the redevelopment of formerly auto-centric suburban retail sites. In late September, while on my honeymoon, I got to see three different examples in the Denver area. Two site once had traditional enclosed malls, the third was previously an airport. We started with the oldest and finished with the newest.

Englewood, CO

In June 2000 the CityCenter Englewood project opened, replacing Cinderella City mall that had opened just 32 years earlier:

The mall was completed and officially opened for business on 7 March 1968 and once held the distinction of being the largest covered shopping center west of the Mississippi River. It featured four sections: Rose Mall, Gold Mall, Shamrock Mall and Cinder Alley. In addition, the Center Court area was known as the Blue Mall. It was demolished in 1999. (Wikipedia)

Englewood was founded in the 19th Century but largely developed in the Post-WWII era. Like many post-war suburbs, it lacked a downtown. By the 1980s newer malls had eclipsed Cinderella City. In the late 1990s they saw the replacement of the mall and the coming of light rail as an opportunity to build a downtown:

CityCenter Englewood replaced Cinderella City with a transit-oriented development (TOD).  This TOD is a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use concept that includes retail, entertainment, residential, office, civic and open space elements with a transit focal point.  The former Foley’s building was renovated into the new Englewood Civic Center, which houses the City Hall offices, the Library, Municipal Court, and the Museum of Outdoor Arts.  The Civic Center was the first feature of CityCenter Englewood to open when it made its debut in June 2000.

The Civic Center creates the cornerstone of the redevelopment of Cinderella City that includes Wal-Mart, Trammell Crow apartments with first floor retail, Office Depot, the Sports Authority, IHOP, Qdoba, and other retail and commercial businesses, second floor office with first floor retail, an RTD light rail station, and a Bally’s Fitness Center.  (City of Englewood)

You can see a current aerial here, and a 1991 aerial here. In the Southwest corner of the site an anchor store building was retained, as was part of the structured parking. The adjacent street grid was brought through the site. Apartments were added nearest the new light rail station, big box stores added to the east end of the site. All connected by a grid of streets and sidewalks.

The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.

Not bad for an early example of such a project. We saw people walking as we drove through, others can be seen in Google Street View.

Lakewood, CO

The Villa Italia mall opened two years before Cinderella City, in 1966. By the 1990s Lakewood officials saw both malls dying off, they didn’t want a vacant mall in their city.

A referendum was held in 1997, which authorized “urban renewal” to redevelop Villa Italia into a more conventional downtown district, something that the post-war suburb had never had.

In 1998, Lakewood entered into a joint venture with Denver-based Continuum Development. Continuum purchased the land beneath the mall from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation in September 1999 and acquired the buildings and ground leases from Equitable in early 2001. The site was rezoned (from that of an enclosed shopping center to a mixed-use development) and the redevelopment plan put in motion.

Villa Italia closed in July 2001, demolition began the following January. Belmar opened in 2004. Like CityCenter Englewood, streets were cut through the site. Not private driveways, public streets with public sidewalks. The pedestrian grid was as equally important as the vehicular grid, not an afterthought.

You can view an old aerial here and a current one here.

A new street at Belmar
A new street at Belmar
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.

A former anchor department store building was kept, it’s now a Dick’s Sporting Goods store. New housing is on the perimeter of the site, surrounding the retail core.

Stapleton

When Denver decided to build a new airport east of the developed region the question became what to do with the old airport.

b

A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
An internal street in the venter of the retail area
An internal street in the center of the main retail area called The Shops at Northfield Stapleton
Another view
Another view
Another street in the core of the retail area
Another street in the core of the retail area, note the on-street parking
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target's parking lot.
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target’s parking lot.
The street where we parked terminated in
The street where we parked terminated in a Bass Pro Shops store, also connected to the sidewalk system

The overall site is massive, as you might expect from a former airport. It has many residential neighborhoods, distinct retail areas, and a business park.

Final thoughts

All three are variations on the New Urbanist/Retrofitting Suburbia theme. While I wouldn’t want to live at any of the three I know someone like me, who uses a wheelchair often, can get to businesses at each development on a sidewalk network. All three remain very car friendly, I drove to all three. Providing the option to walk doesn’t make them less appealing to motorists. Some pedestrians probably arrived by car but decide to explore on foot rather than drive from store to store.

— Steve Patterson

 

Accessibility Error at Yorkshire Village Shopping Center Addressed

Back on July I posted about a problem accessing Yorkshire Village Shopping Center, recently completed construction had created a new obstacle! I contacted the property owner about the problem, we even met at the site once.

A new curb!?!
July 2014: a new curb kept the path between buildings from being accessible. I don’t know how stuff like this gets built more than two decades after the ADA, but it does all too often
The developer fixed the problem on October 23rd, I visited again on the 31st.
The developer fixed the problem on October 23rd, I visited again on the 31st.
Looking the other way, toward the new CVS
Looking the other way, toward the new CVS

It’s a small change, but was much more expensive after the fact than if it had been done correctly in the first place. Their architect/engineer still insists it was compliant the way it was first built, but it wasn’t. The fact the building was existing is irrelevant:

Because barrier removal under the ADA is a continuing obligation, an accessible route may need to be provided at a later date, if a route for the general public develops or is created, and the provision of an accessible route is readily achievable. For instance, if a new bus stop is established near a site, an accessible route may have to be provided if pedestrians commonly walk between the new bus stop and the entrance to the facility. Similarly, if a sidewalk or walkway is provided between the facility and the new bus stop, an accessible route may be required. (Dept of Justice)

I’ve taken readings of the ramp, based on the slope it needs handrails on both sides to be fully compliant with ADA guidelines. If it weren’t as steep handrails wouldn’t be necessary.

Thanks to Matthew Stack of Koch Development for recognizing the problem and taking corrective action.

— Steve Patterson

 

Town & Country Crossing: Getting To/From On Public Transit; The Shopping Center Itself

My last visit to Town & Country Crossing shopping center was in July 2008, the Whole Foods* had just opened, the Target wasn’t quite open yet (current aerial via Google Maps). This was just over a month after coming home from my stroke, I drove there because I wasn’t familiar with our transit system. see: Town & Country Crossing A Marked Improvement Over The Typical Strip Center in Our Region. * Full disclosure: we currently have Whole Foods shares in our portfolio.

Now I’m very familiar with our public transit system and my husband uses our shared car to get to work. So I took public transit from downtown way out to Town & Country to see the shopping center 6+ years later.

Public Transit:

From our loft Google Maps says the drive  to Town & Country Crossing, located at Clayton Rd & Woods Mill Rd., is just over 19 miles, taking 23 minutes via I-64 or 56 minutes if you avoid highways. The 57x is the MetroBus route that runs along Clayton Rd in far west county. How long does it take? From my loft it takes 68- 87 minutes, depending upon departure time and route. The 57x usually heads west from the Brentwood MetroLink station, but a few trips per day leave from the Central West End MetroBus center adjacent to the CWE MetroLink. Interestingly, catching the #10 MetroBus a block from our loft can get me to Town & Country Crossing in 77 minutes, less than some combinations involving MetroLink light rail!

The latest morning arrival weekdays is 7:34am. The next arrival? Not until 2:32pm. Clearly Metro wisely caters to worker’s schedules rather than run buses throughout the day. The 57x also serves Chesterfield.

I went out three weeks ago, Monday October 6th. I took MetroLink to the Brentwood station to catch the first afternoon trip 57x westbound.

"Connecting Missouri MetroBus routes at Brentwood-I 64 Station include: #02 Red Line, #59 Dogtown, #158 Ballas-West County, and #57X Clayton Rd Express." Click image to view station page
“Connecting Missouri MetroBus routes at Brentwood-I 64 Station include: #02 Red Line, #59 Dogtown, #158 Ballas-West County, and #57X Clayton Rd Express.” Click image to view station page
The 57x I took to Town & Country stopping on Clayton Rd. between Woods Mill & Hwy 141
The 57x I took to Town & Country stopping on Clayton Rd. between Woods Mill & Hwy 141. The concrete pad is fairly new, Metro has been working to improve accessibility of bus stops throughout the region
The next WB MetroBus stop isn't good for many people
However, the next WB MetroBus stop isn’t good for many people. Town & Country Crossing is visible in the background

For the return trip I had three choices; one across Clayton Rd from where I got off the 57x, and two along the north edge of Town & Country Crossing. Here are the two next to my destination.

For the eastbound 57x the eastern most stop is at a point where the sidewalk is far away from the curb
For the eastbound 57x the eastern most stop is at a point where the sidewalk is far away from the curb, the sign can be seen next to the red & white taxi
The stop I used was tossed the west end of the shopping center, no psd to reach the bus but closer than the other option.
The stop I used was toward the west end of the shopping center, no pad to reach the bus but considerably closer than the other stop.

The 57x I took back to the east stopped at Brentwood MetroLink then continued east to the Central West End MetroBus Center, where I caught the #10 that dropped me off at 16th & Olive, a block from my loft. Because the #57 uses I-64 from Brentwood to Mason Rd the trip is relatively quick.

Woods Mill Plaza:

I’d never been to Woods Mill Plaza, located just east of Town & Country Crossing, so I thought I’d take a look while I was in the area. The main anchor is a Schnucks.

Approaching from the traffic island after crossing Clayton Rd
Approaching from the traffic island after crossing Clayton Rd
A decent sidewalk runs along Clayton Rd and includes one bus stop I previously mentioned, but no accessible route into the site
A decent sidewalk runs along Clayton Rd and includes one bus stop I previously mentioned, but no accessible route into the site
View of the various buildings from the public sidewalk. Maybe access is off of Woods Miill?
View of the various buildings from the public sidewalk. Maybe access is off of Woods Miill?
The first auto in/out on Woods Mill not only lacks a pedestrian entry but blocks a straight path. I got the contract info for a Town & Country employee who said Woods Mill Plaza is responsible, he'd contact them about this.
The first auto in/out on Woods Mill not only lacks a pedestrian entry but blocks a straight path. I got the contract info for a Town & Country employee who said Woods Mill Plaza is responsible, he’d contact them about this.
The next entry also lacked a pedestrian route. No other pedestrian route into Woods Mill Plaza was found despite the presence of sidewalks & bus stops.
The next entry also lacked a pedestrian route. No other pedestrian route into Woods Mill Plaza was found despite the presence of sidewalks & bus stops.

From property records I learned Woods Mill Plaza was built in 1986, the 2-story office building on the site was built in 1991.  If you think this site is somehow “grandfathered” you’d be very wrong:

Because barrier removal under the ADA is a continuing obligation, an accessible route may need to be provided at a later date, if a route for the general public develops or is created, and the provision of an accessible route is readily achievable. For instance, if a new bus stop is established near a site, an accessible route may have to be provided if pedestrians commonly walk between the new bus stop and the entrance to the facility. Similarly, if a sidewalk or walkway is provided between the facility and the new bus stop, an accessible route may be required. (Dept of Justice)

Moving on…

 Town & Country Crossing:

As I said at the opening, my only other visit was in July 2008. I’d been impressed with what I saw then but I wanted to return in my wheelchair to see the completed shopping center. I remain impressed but did note some problems in maintenance and design.

Immediately upon crossing Woods Mill I encountered a situation with a vertical height higher than allowed. This was the only problem like this I encountered in the site.
Immediately upon crossing Woods Mill I encountered a situation with a vertical height higher than allowed. This was the only problem like this I encountered in the site.
View toward Woods Mill
Moving into the site this was the view toward Woods Mill
And the view toward Clayton Rd.I decided to follow this cute to enter the site.
And the view toward Clayton Rd.I decided to follow this cute to enter the site.
To the immediate west of the Clayton Rd entrance is a new home development.
To the immediate west of the Clayton Rd entrance is a new home development. This land was part of the previous AT&T center where Town & Country Crossing is located now. These homes are marketed as being adjacent to the shopping center, especially the Whole Foods.
However, the intended connection between the two isn't accessible.
However, the intended connection between the two isn’t accessible.
The Clayton Rd entrance
The Clayton Rd entrance, Town & Country apparently doesn’t allow tall backlit retail signs or the developer realized a more tasteful approach is more visually appealing.
The architects/engineers that originally laid our=t Town & Country Crossing gave a lot of thought to pedestrian accessibility, this is to a small out building on the west edge
The architects/engineers that originally laid our=t Town & Country Crossing gave a lot of thought to pedestrian accessibility, this is to a small out building on the west edge
View looking east along the main east-west pedestrian route, which is parallel to the main east-west auto route, the building on the left contains several storefronts and a bank is just beyond that.
View looking east along the main east-west pedestrian route, which is parallel to the main east-west auto route, the building on the left contains several storefronts and a bank is just beyond that.
Unfortunately something went wrong here, despite the efforts to make this shopping center fully accessible.
Unfortunately something went wrong here, despite the efforts to make this shopping center fully accessible. This is easily corrected, not sure about to the bank beyond.
Looking back west you can see someone forgot to consider making sure wheelchairs/strollers could cross the driveway leading to dumpsters. Easy mistake  , easy fix.
Looking back west you can see someone forgot to consider making sure wheelchairs/strollers could cross the driveway leading to dumpsters. Easy mistake , easy fix.
Some buildings facing north toward Clayton Rd look out onto this pond.
Some buildings facing north toward Clayton Rd look out onto this pond.
South of the Whole Foods the internal sidewalk network heads east toward Woods Mill Rd.
South of the Whole Foods the internal sidewalk network heads east toward Woods Mill Rd. (left) or Target (right)
Looking east toward Woods Mill, the Whole Foods ids to the left, Target is behind.
Looking east toward Woods Mill, the Whole Foods ids to the left, Target is behind.
Ahead is Woods Mill Rd
Ahead is Woods Mill Rd. But let’s go back west to the Target
In front of the Target looking north, we can see a path leading out into the parking lot.
In front of the Target looking north, we can see a path leading out into the parking lot with disabled spots on each side, a common Target feature. .
When we get further out we see it has changed to a sidewalk with regular parking spots on each side
When we get further out we see it has changed to a sidewalk with regular parking spots on each side
Turning around we see the Target. So how far does this go? It connects with the original east-west sidewalk we used.
Turning around we see the Target. So how far does this go? It connects with the original east-west sidewalk we used.
The white car id headed west on the main east-west drive, the east-west sidewalk is on the other side of it.
The white car id headed west on the main east-west drive, the east-west sidewalk is on the other side of it.

Closing Thoughts:

Town & Country Crossing isn’t perfect, someone dropped the ball when the storefront building & bank was built in the northwest corner. Still, this remains the best example in the St. Louis region of a well connected shopping center. It still largely caters to motorists while being mostly ADA-compliant. They’re not mutually exclusive.

— Steve Patterson

 

ADA Violation: Mini of St. Louis Doesn’t Have Required Pedestrian Access They Said They Would

Back in 2011 Mini of St. Louis announced they would relocate from Clayton to a large site adjacent to the Sunnen MetroLink light rail station (blue line).  I took the opportunity to remind them they needed to provide an accessible pedestrian route.

Twitter conversation in June 2011
Part of Twitter conversation in June 2011, read from the bottom to the top. My reply they responded too last (top) was “@miniofstl you still must provide pedestrian access to the public sidewalk.”

They said ” Oh, of course!!! That’s a non-issue. We have all that in place already…” but I knew the dismal record of their architects on pedestrian accessibility.  In October 2012 I blogged about what I was seeing happening at this station, see Transit-Ignored Development (TID) At Sunnen MetroLink Station

Earlier this month I visited again to see if it turned out as I’d predicted. Unfortunately, it did.

Upon arrival on a WB train you can easily see the way out to the extended Sunnen Dr
Upon arrival on a WB train you can easily see the way out to the extended Sunnen Dr
The civil engineer responsible for Sunnen Dr didn't plan a way for pedestrians to cross it, the only option is to squeeze between the crossing gate and track.
The civil engineer responsible for Sunnen Dr didn’t plan a way for pedestrians to cross it, the only option is to squeeze between the crossing gate and track. This might explain why Mini thought pedestrians wouldn’t cross the street.
Once across the street and on the new public sidewalk you can easily see the destination, but no accessible route.
Once across the street and on the new public sidewalk you can easily see the destination, but no accessible route.
I west up Sunnen Dr  looking for an accessible  pedestrian route into the dealership.
I west up Sunnen Dr looking for an accessible pedestrian route into the dealership.
This entry could've easily included at short accessible route, but it doesn't
This entry could’ve easily included at short accessible route, but it doesn’t
Out along Hanley Rd they've got hundreds of feet of new sidewalk but no accessible way for pedestrians to enter.
Out along Hanley Rd they’ve got hundreds of feet of new sidewalk but no accessible way for pedestrians to enter.

It’s very simple folks, if you’re building on a site that has public sidewalks, transit stops (bus or rail), or another way for a pedestrian to reach the building you need to provide an accessible route. The Dept of Justice, in a 1993 letter, gave an example of when an accessible route isn’t required:

For example, the Standards would not require that a developer provide an accessible route between an accessible entrance to a retail store and a major highway bordering the site, if customers only have access to the store by driving to the parking lot. (US DOJ — recommended reading)

In urbanized areas (non-rural) even sites next to highways can be accessed by pedestrians because of other streets & sidewalks. This type of anti-pedestrian development isn’t tolerable anywhere in the region, especially next to a light rail station that had such potential. Crossing the street at the station can be retrofitted as can an accessible route to Mini of St. Louis.

For once I’d like it if our new construction included planning for pedestrians.

— Steve Patterson

 

Olive Sidewalk East Of 13th Street Improved

September 26, 2014 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on Olive Sidewalk East Of 13th Street Improved

Back on May 6th I got fed up with the sidewalk condition along Olive at 13th, so I emailed Bill Burkhardt, the city employee in charge of asphalt, and copied his boss, Director of Streets Todd Waelterman.

One of the photos I sent showed bucked sidewalk sections, the raised edges were hard to pass over in my wheelchair and a trip hazard for others.
One of the photos I sent showed bucked sidewalk sections, the raised edges were hard to pass over in my wheelchair and a trip hazard for others.
In the same block, to the east, two concrete utility covers were very rough
Another, in the same block, to the east, two concrete utility covers were very rough
Less than a week later a little asphalt was now placed at various points to make the sidewalk less hazardous, but the rough utility covers remained for months.
Less than a week later a little asphalt was now placed at various points to make the sidewalk less hazardous, but the rough utility covers remained for months.
But on August 27th I noticed one had been removed, the spot prepped for new concrete
But on August 27th I noticed one had been removed, now facing west
The following day it was prepped for new concrete
The following day it was prepped for new concrete
On September 6th the other was removed
On September 6th the other was removed
On September 15th the 2nd had been poured but workers remained.
On September 15th the 2nd had been poured but workers remained.
September 17th all workers are gone, both rough utility lids replaced,
September 17th all workers are gone, both rough utility lids replaced,

Turns out the underground utility vaults belong to Ameren, the worker I spoke to said the lids shouldn’t have been allowed to get that bad. Eventually the sidewalk needs to be replaced, but the asphalt makes it tolerable in the meantime. Very glad the city contacted Ameren about their lids.

— Steve Patterson

 

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