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Opinion: Downtown Needs a Form-Based Code, Not An Old Height Restriction

December 7, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Zoning Comments Off on Opinion: Downtown Needs a Form-Based Code, Not An Old Height Restriction

The building at 620 Market, like most, has had numerous uses since it was first built, I recall attending a meeting at East-West Gateway when they were on the 2nd floor — back in the 90s. The most recent occupant was Mike Shannon’s restaurant, which closed January 30, 2016.

7th St facade of 620 Market St, May 2012 photo
7th St facade of 620 Market St, May 2012 photo

When St. Louis’ Chinatown, known as Hop Alley, was razed in the 1960s for Busch Stadium (1966-2006), a 35 ft height restriction was placed on the 620 Market deed. A taller building could have allowed occupants to look down into the new stadium. For a decade now the replacement Busch Stadium has been to the South and the old site a slowly developing mixed-use project between the Cardinals & developer Cordish, called Ballpark Village. Ironically, Phase 2 of Ballpark Village will include a tall building where occupants can look down into the current stadium.

Meanwhile, Mike Shannon has been trying to sell 620 Market. I’m sure, for the right price, he could find buyers willing to accept the 35 ft height restriction. Like anyone who owns real estate, he correctly views the substantial public & private investment in Ballpark Village as increasing the value of his property. Shannon’s former employer, the Cardinals, don’t want to agree to lifting the height restriction unless they get a say in what may replace the current building.  See Messenger: Mike Shannon takes on the Cardinals in battle to sell his building.

Results from the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree? Cardinals/Cordish should get to approve/reject proposals for Shannon’s site in exchange for releasing 35ft height restriction.

  • Strongly agree 1 [4%]
  • Agree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [12%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 4 [16%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [4%]
  • Disagree 6 [24%]
  • Strongly disagree 9 [36%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [4%]

I’d forgotten to uncheck the option allowing user-entered answers, I turned it off after the first, which read: “no subsidy for Cordish unless restriction lifted” Agreed, but that should read ‘no ADDITIONAL subsidy for Cordish unless restriction lifted’.

This is another demonstration of failed urban design policy in St. Louis. Within the central business district the only regulation on height of new construction should be minimum height — not maximum.  Issues such as heights and design could easily be addressed within a form-based code, replacing our 1940s use-based code. Even a form-based overlay for Ballpark Village and surrounding a decade ago would’ve been a good idea.

St. Louis would rather battle parcel by parcel rather than determine a larger vision through a public process. Great for those in control, bad for creating a healthy city.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Should Height Restriction at 620 Market Remain?

December 4, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Real Estate, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Height Restriction at 620 Market Remain?
Please vote below
Please vote below

Local news stories are great sources for weekly poll topics. The November 30th story ‘Messenger: Mike Shannon takes on the Cardinals in battle to sell his building‘ is the basis for today’s Sunday Poll. Here’s a summary off the issue:

  • Any development at the location of the now-closed Shannon’s site is legally limited to 35 feet in height.
  • This 35′ height restriction dates back to 1997 or 1966 — depending upon who you believe.
  • The property is just North of the Ballpark Village site — where Busch Memorial Stadium was located 1966-2006.
  • If a new owner could build a new structure higher than 35 feet the property is worth more money.
  • Mike Shannon was a player and then announcer for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals offered to lift the height restriction but only if they  get a say in the site’s development.

 

Lots of great issues with this one, this poll will remain open until 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Reduce The number of Vehicle Lanes on Eads Bridge

November 9, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Readers: Reduce The number of Vehicle Lanes on Eads Bridge

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about the Eads Bridge,specifically the configuration of the top level.

Tere are the visuals from the poll:

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

Again, those voting were self-selected so the results aren’t scientific or representative of the regional mindset — just of 46 individuals. Still, these 46 do represent a small segment of the region — those interested in local infrastructure.

Q: How should the top of the Eads Bridge be configured in the future?

  • 4 vehicle lanes, pedestrians Arch side only (existing) 12 [26.09%]
  • 3 vehicle lanes, pedestrians Arch side only 5 [10.87%]
  • 3 vehicle lanes, pedestrians both sides, wider on Arch side 5 [10.87%]
  • 2 vehicle lanes, pedestrians Arch side only 3 [6.52%]
  • 2 vehicle lanes, pedestrians both sides, wider on Arch side 14 [30.43%]
  • 2 vehicle lanes, pedestrians both sides, equal width 3 [6.52%]
  • 0 vehicle lanes, pedestrians full width 1 [2.17%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 3 [6.52%]

Just over a quarter supported the maximum number of vehicle lanes (4). A smaller number (21.74%) supported reducing driving lanes from 4 to 3. A whopping 43.47% voted to reduce vehicle lanes from the existing 4 to 2. Only one person (2.17%) voted to eliminate cars altogether.

I support the option that happened to receive the most votes: “2 vehicle lanes, pedestrians both sides, wider on Arch side.” Why?

The pedestrian width is barely the minimum required while 4 vehicle lanes greatly exceeds demand. While I recognize the greatest pedestrian demand is on the Arch side, the North side is also interesting,

Metro Board Chair speaking at the Eads Bridge Rehabilitation Kick Off on May 22nd, 2012
Metro Board Chair speaking at the Eads Bridge Rehabilitation Kick Off on May 22nd, 2012
Metro & partners celebrating the completion of the restoration project on October 7, 2016
Metro & partners celebrating the completion of the restoration project on October 7, 2016
I took this in June when a fallen sign in the narrow pedestrian path. I tried to tilt it to one side, but couldn't. My chair was barely able to power over it.
I took this in June when a fallen sign in the narrow pedestrian path. I tried to tilt it to one side, but couldn’t. My chair was barely able to power over it.
The 4 vehicle lanes were closed last month for the celebration, this much space isn't needed for the volume of daily traffic.
The 4 vehicle lanes were closed last month for the celebration, this much space isn’t needed for the volume of daily traffic.
The views to the King Bridge, riverfront, Laclede's Landing area to the North are all interesting -- would love to be able to see & photograph on more than just special occasions.
The views to the King Bridge, riverfront, Laclede’s Landing area to the North are all interesting — would love to be able to see & photograph on more than just special occasions.

So why not just make it all pedestrian? That would be as bad as it is currently, just in a different way. When driving, I like to use the Eads Bridge to cross the Mississippi River — it is the only non-interstate bridge crossing the river downtown.

If anything, I think it is worthwhile to examine the configuration of the top deck and see if a change should be made in the future.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Readers Prefer A Downtown Soccer Stadium Near Union Station

November 2, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Readers Prefer A Downtown Soccer Stadium Near Union Station
7 In February I proposed putting a dedicated stadium in between Pine & Market, West of 20th
7 In February I proposed putting a dedicated stadium in between Pine & Market, West of 20th

In the non-scientific Sunday Poll less than 10% of readers didn’t favor a dedicated soccer stadium, almost as many were undecided.  Just over half picked near Union Station first with Grand & Chouteau 2nd.

Q: Which of the following represents your priorities with respect to a dedicated soccer stadium:

  • 1) no dedicated soccer stadium 2) Grand/Chouteau 3) Near Union Station 3 [4.92%]
  • 1) no dedicated soccer stadium 2) Near Union Station 3) Grand/Chouteau 3 [4.92%]
  • 1) Grand/Chouteau 2) Near Union Station 3) no dedicated soccer stadium 16 [26.23%]
  • 1) Grand/Chouteau 2) no dedicated soccer stadium 3) Near Union Station 0 [0%]
  • 1) Near Union Station 2) Grand/Chouteau 3) no dedicated soccer stadium 31 [50.82%]
  • 1) Near Union Station 2) no dedicated soccer stadium 3) Grand/Chouteau 4 [6.56%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 4 [6.56%]

Back in February 2016 I proposed a site near Union Station, see A Great Site For A Major League Soccer (MLS) Stadium In Downtown St. Louis. Regardless, I don’t think either ownership team or city leaders have the slightest clue about how to crete a quality pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. The Grand & Chouteau site should become a dense mixed-use neighborhood, but SLU is opposed to quality urbanism.

We’ll see what happens.

— Steve Patterson

 

A Look At The New Addition To The Eugene Field House & Toy Museum

It was nearly two years ago when I saw the elevation drawing (below) for the proposed expansion of the 19th century Eugene Field House on South Broadway.

Eugene Field House Wins Approval for Museum Expansion

Initially my reaction was negative, I imagined cheap materials and poor detailing. However, I decided not to share my fears. I’m glad I didn’t.

Yesterday I visited the site, still under construction, to see what I thought in person.  First, we must know what used to be.

This 1920 photo shows houses on both sides. Source: unknown
This 1920 photo shows houses on both sides. Source: unknown

In 1936 the other row houses were razed — leaving one out of context. The Eugene Field House & Toy Museum needed to create an accessible entrance. Given enough money, they could have recreated the block. But it wouldn’t have been authentic or met their needs.

On my way there I was prepared for the worst.

Even before crossing Broadway, I knew I liked it.
Even before crossing Broadway, I knew I liked it.
The sole-survinving early 18th century row house with addition
The sole-survinving early 18th century row house with addition
Excellent details include selective concrete/stone work, quality brick, black windows. The two are connected via a glass walkway set back from the street. This allows old & new to stand on their own merits.
Excellent details include selective concrete/stone work, quality brick, black windows. The two are connected via a glass walkway set back from the street. This allows old & new to stand on their own merits.
A beautiful box-bay window, reminiscent of those used in the 19th century, is prominently located at the NW corner.
A beautiful box-bay window, reminiscent of those used in the 19th century, is prominently located at the NW corner.
A sidewalk guides you from the front (West) to the entry that faces East.
A sidewalk guides you from the front (West) to the entry that faces East.
One of my favorite things is the visual extension of the foundation line on the North side of the parking lot driveway. It's a small element, but it helps greatly in the separation of parked cars from pedestrian.
One of my favorite things is the visual extension of the foundation line on the North side of the parking lot driveway. It’s a small element, but it helps greatly in the separation of parked cars from pedestrian.

I couldn’t believe that I was liking what I was prepared to dislike. Once I saw the construction sign and the architect, my disbelief immediately vanished — I’ve known architect Dennis Tacchi for 25 years.

Let me be clear:

  • Razing the other non-significant row houses decades ago was a huge mistake.
  • Recreating the row house facades is something best left to Disney.
  • Broadway is a horrific pedestrian experience today.
  • An accessible entrance was needed.

I’m looking forward to the opening and seeing the interior. Now for some more history.

Located at 634 South Broadway, the three-story Greek Revival home was constructed in 1845.  Originally it was one of twelve attached houses called “Walsh’s Row”.  The other eleven buildings were demolished in 1936.  The Eugene Field House became a City Landmark in 1971.  It is known as the childhood home of the “Children’s poet” Eugene Field.

The Field House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. (St. Louis)

Poet Eugene Field was born on September 2, 1850 — 166 years ago today. His father, Roswell Martin Field, took over the Dred Scott case after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled he wasn’t a free man.

In March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared that all blacks — slaves as well as free — were not and could never become citizens of the United States. The court also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, thus permiting slavery in all of the country’s territories. (PBS)

The row house at 634 S. Broadway had two significant occupants, but it’s the entire block that should have been saved. Eighty years ago a bad decision was made, we must make the best of it today. This is a tiny step in the right direction.

— Steve Patterson

 

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