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Urban Design After COVID-19: Restaurants & Carryout Windows

May 1, 2020 Featured, Planning & Design, Retail Comments Off on Urban Design After COVID-19: Restaurants & Carryout Windows

The current Coronavirus pandemic will change many things about our lives going forward, others not so much. Restaurants will likely see some of the biggest changes — both inside and out.

Restaurant owners/managers will have a standard table layout (packed) and a reduced capacity layout. Dividers, fake plants, etc might be pulled out of storage to use to keep the dining room from looking to sparse. Extra tables & chairs will go into the storage room, stacking/folding chairs saves space.

Hand washing at the entrance would be nice.

The biggest change may be placing a small kitchen up front, so a carryout window can be easily managed. For a few years now some restaurants have already operated with two kitchens: one for the dining room and another for carryout & delivery orders. This was a response to more and more customers taking food home to binge watch shows.

Placing the carry out/delivery kitchen in the right place would eliminate the need for customers to come inside. There could be a separate order window. Think if it like a brick & mortar food truck.

Ted Drewes has been serving frozen custard through a walk-up window for decades. Grand location in May 2013.

The walk-up window restaurant would have online ordering to reduce lines. Those located in walkable neighborhoods will need larger public sidewalks to allow for adequate space for customers and passing pedestrians. I love the idea of going from window to window getting different street foods. Pizza by-the-slice is a favorite.

None of this will happen quickly, but expect newly built/renovated restaurants to be physically different in response.

— Steve Patterson

 

GreenLeaf Market Knowingly Blocking ADA Accessible Route

April 8, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, North City Comments Off on GreenLeaf Market Knowingly Blocking ADA Accessible Route

Yesterday morning I had minor outpatient surgery (post surgery photo) at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Last evening, after my husband left for work as a Home Health Aide, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and get a few things we needed from the nearby GreenLeaf Market — he’d called earlier to confirm they were open until 8pm. I had my mask on, hand sanitized, and canvas shopping bag on the back of the headrest on my power wheelchair.

Before I continue the story of last night I want to discuss their ADA accessible route — the route for pedestrians off of the Tucker public sidewalk.

During construction I was excited to see the inclusion of an accessible route, though the light post was in the path I could see the striped around it, to the East/right.
GreenLeaf Market opened on April 1, 2019 — just over a year ago.
A parking stop protected the accessible route going around the light base and provided a parking space for a compact car.

It didn’t take long, however, for a change to be made. The parking stop was removed and a cart carousel was put there instead — but it was initially kept back from the light base to keep the accessible route clear. Over the last year I arrived and found the cart carousel pushed up against the light base numerous times. I always extended my right foot and used my power wheelchair to put the carousel back into place for them, then went inside and did my shopping — leaving through the cleared accessible route.

Last night I arrived just before 7pm to find it pushed against the light base yet again. This time a staff member was retrieving carts from the carousel so I asked him to please move it back from the light base.  He said, “go around.” I mentioned the route was an ADA route, that this was a civil rights issue. Unfazed, he continued with the carts.

In hindsight I could’ve handled this differently, but it had been a very long day.

I said I can push it. To I quickly pushed one side away from the light base, it came close to him. He was upset, I was upset. He yelled at the security guard to not allow me into the store — he was blocking the doorway as I arrived. I headed back out but stopped to take the following photograph.

The cart carousel was right where I’d left it.

The security guard came out to tell me to leave the premises immediately, which I did. I went out to the public sidewalk to tweet about the experience. While sitting there tweeting (1/2) I noticed numerous people walking past me, and using the accessible route to enter the store. I also noticed the staff, however, had pushed the cart carousel back up against the light base!

Here a man is using the accessible route to reach the store from the public sidewalk.
When he gets to the blockage he is forced to go around.

Again, I own a big part of this. I had numerous times throughout the last year to point this out to management, but I didn’t. And last night rather than get upset with a guy just doing his job I should’ve just gone around and then mentioned the problem to the manager while leaving with my purchase.

And yes JZ, it can get designed & built correctly and the end user can screw it up. Hopefully I can speak to the manager today. The solution is simple, some pins to prevent the cart carousel from getting pushed up against the light base.

— Steve Patterson

 

Slight Majority of Readers OK With a Medical School at Pruitt-Igoe Site

March 18, 2020 Featured, NorthSide Project, Planning & Design Comments Off on Slight Majority of Readers OK With a Medical School at Pruitt-Igoe Site

The old Pruitt-Igoe public housing site has been vacant since the 33 towers were razed in the 1970s. Some of the original 57 acres were used for a public school. Developer Paul McKee controls the rest.

The Pruitt-Igoe project in the background.

Work has resumed on his 3-bed hospital, and now a medical school may be next:

Ponce Health Sciences University announced plans Friday to construct an $80 million facility in north St. Louis and launch a doctor of medicine program.

The for-profit university is expected to break ground on the campus by the end of the year on the former site of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project, near a proposed three-bed hospital. The campus could begin teaching students in 2022 if it gains accreditation this summer.

A few years ago, David Lenihan bought the university and became its president. Ponce Health Sciences University is based in Puerto Rico and has a small campus in St. Louis that currently offers a master of science in medical sciences. (St. Louis Public Radio)

What’s not clear to me is how many acres the hospital and medical school will occupy. Will the site remain a monolith or will it have a grid of public streets? Hopefully the latter, but I’m not optimistic. If so retail, restaurants, housing, etc could be incorporated into the site.

Slightly more than half of participants in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll think the site is good for a medical school.

Q: Agree or disagree: A medical school campus is a good use for the old Pruitt-Igoe site.

  • Strongly agree: 7 [30.43%]
  • Agree: 1 [4.35%]
  • Somewhat agree:  4 [17.39%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [8.7%]
  • Disagree: 3 [13.04%]
  • Strongly disagree: 5 [21.74%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [4.35%]

I personally have no objections to a medical school using part of the site, my concern is the master plan for the full site. How will it connect to the area around it?

I need to see a site plan. I also want to know more about the corporation that owns Ponce Health Sciences University. I’d just hate to see it be another ITT Tech or Trump University.

— Steve Patterson

 

Speed Limit on Tucker Blvd is 35mph, but 7/10th of a Mile is 30mph

March 16, 2020 Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Speed Limit on Tucker Blvd is 35mph, but 7/10th of a Mile is 30mph

I’ve written before about using the adaptive cruise control on our 2015 Hyundai (see Inching Toward Autonomous Vehicles, Learning to Use & Trust New Technology). I use the system if I’m going over 20mph.  I like to set the cruise speed based on the posted speed limit.

Thankfully both the Hyundai map screen and, if using instead, the Apple CarPlay map screen, display the speed for the road I’m on.  The accuracy is amazing, even when the speed limit changes. For example, driving to Springfield IL the highway limit can be 55, 60, 65, or 70 depending upon location. The screens change just as the limit changes.

This has helped me notice the different speed limits on Tucker Boulevard. The entire length it’s 35mph — except a few blocks are 30mph. Driving to Target from the Columbus Square neighborhood I head south on Tucker from O’Fallon Street and set the cruise to 35mph. After crossing Chouteau Ave. the limit drops from 35 to 30.  After Lafayette Ave, 7/10ths of mile later, the speed goes back to 35mph.

Heading northbound on Tucker at Lafayette is a sign indicating the speed just dropped from 35mph to 30mph. After Chouteau it returns to 35mph
Gravois, which becomes Tucker has a 35mph speed limit.

I get why it’s 30mph in this area — it’s residential. Plus a recreational center is located at Tucker & Park. Other drivers, it seems, don’t realize the speed has dropped. They tailgate me, or change lanes to pass me like I’m going 5mph.

My observation is most drivers don’t adjust their speed in this section of Tucker that’s just over a half mile long.  If I had one of those speed guns I’d collect real data. My guess is most drivers exceed 40mph.  The design of the roadway (lane width, etc) is no different on Tucker or even on Gravois.

I like the idea of 30mph in this section, I’d just like to see it to designed to encourage slower speed. Perhaps just something to let drivers know this 7/10th of a mile is different.  If I felt like doing math I’d figure out how many more seconds this 7/10th of a mile would take at 30mph, 35mph, and 40mph.

The intention is good, but I think the execution needs improvement.

— Steve Patterson

 

Mill Creek Valley Neighborhood Was Less Important Than An Expressway

February 19, 2020 Featured, Urban Renewal Comments Off on Mill Creek Valley Neighborhood Was Less Important Than An Expressway

Since his arrival in St. Louis in 1915 Harland Bartholomew, a civil engineer by training, wanted cars to be able to move with greater ease. He relentlessly argued in favor of  destroying the city’s rich urban fabric, street grid, in order to save the city from urban decay. He was young and charismatic, convincing generations of St. Louisans his way was the only way.

“Horizontal, black and white photograph showing a row of dilapidated residential buildings in the 3200 block of Lawton in Mill Creek Valley. The buildings appear to be empty and awaiting demolition. Low wooden fences enclose the small front yards. There are several inches of snow on the ground.” February 16, 1960. Missouri Historical Society

Lawton was an east-west street between Pine & Laclede, the above would’ve been just west of Compton Ave.

The chaos created by decades of Bartholomew’s projects created so much instability — far worse than than anything natural decay was creating. Widening streets and building new expressways was part of Bartholomew’s vision. It was costly but necessary, he argued.

North edge of downtown: Franklin Ave being widened, looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis

In 1936 the first phase of a new expressway opened between Kingshighway and Skinner, cutting through the south edge of Forest Park. This was two decades before the creation of the Interstate Highway System! A year later another section opened between Vandeventer and Kingshighway. Many could see it reaching downtown eventually.

Highway planners in those days drew lines on map to connect the dots, sometimes meandering a bit here and there to avoid an important business, like Anheuser-Busch brewery in the case of what is now known as I-55. Otherwise their lines indiscriminately cut through neighborhood after neighborhood.

As these highways were going through the oldest parts of the city they were also going through the poorest neighborhoods. Older “slum” areas were viewed as obsolete anyway — two birds, one stone. By the 1959s Mill Creek Valley, bounded by Union Station on the east, railroad tracks on the south, Grand on the west, and Olive on the north, was a dense neighborhood.

“Horizontal, black and white photograph showing a rear view of dilapidated housing in Mill Creek Valley. View was taken from an area across the street that has already been cleared. Bricks and other rubble is strewn throughout the foreground.” Missouri Historical Society

Because of segregation, it was self-contained. Yes, it was deteriorated and most residences lacked running  water and indoor bathrooms.  The buildings were nearly a century old. Numerous generations of new immigrants had begun their lives in America in this neighborhood, the last was southern blacks trying to escape Jim Crow laws while looking for work.

To an outsider it likely seemed like a horrible place, but to residents it was home. They had connections with each other, lasting institutions, etc. Poor neighborhoods all over the city were the same way, they didn’t look like much but it was the ties among the residents that was more important than the street grid or buildings. But take away the buildings and the streets and those strong ties among thousands quickly disappear. It’s an unnatural disaster.

During the 1950s, Saint Louis found itself in a fervor over urban deterioration and renewal. Following Mayor Joseph Darst’s 1953 slum clearance in the Chestnut Valley area, Mayor Raymond Tucker initiated a similar project in the adjacent Mill Creek Valley. This area – bounded by 20th Street, Grand Avenue, Olive Street and Scott Avenue – housed a large African-American population, and was at one time the home to such famous African-Americans as Scott Joplin and Josephine Baker. At the start of the 1950s, the Mill Creek Valley house 20,000 inhabitants (95% African-American) and included over 800 businesses and institutions. Everything the residents needed – from grocery, clothing and hardware stores to restaurants, schools and churches – was within walking distance of their homes. The area was also home to the prominent African-American newspaper, The St. Louis Argus. However, many of these residences and institutions were considered unsanitary and in need of repair.

In 1951, Missouri Governor Forrest Smith signed the Municipal Land Clearance for Redevelopment Law, which brought state aid to the urban renewal efforts of Missouri’s cities. The law also created the St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, whose job it was to oversee urban renewal in Saint Louis and manage its funding. Under the 1954 Federal Housing Act – which provided federal aid for renewal projects – and the passage in 1955 of a $110 million bond issue, Mayor Tucker and the City of St. Louis began the clearance and demolition of slums in Mill Creek Valley. The most of the bond revenue went towards construction of new expressways, some of which cut through parts of Mill Creek. Roughly $10 million was utilized for slum clearance. The clearance of the area would involve the relocation of many residents and businesses; most residents would never return and many businesses would cease operations. Acquisition of buildings, like the Pine Street Hotel and the Peoples Finance Building, began in August of 1958, with actual demolition starting the following year. Redevelopment of the area would include new residential, commercial and industrial zones, with the majority of land going towards new industry. Certain industries that met zoning requirements, like Sealtest Foods, would not face demolition and were allowed to stay. Redevelopment of the entire area was scheduled for completion in 1968. (UMSL)

The city systematically created disasters all over the place. The pace must’ve been overwhelming to many at the time. Hundreds of thousands were uprooted. It’s a formula for the population losses that have happened since.

“Horizontal, black and white photograph showing Mayor Raymond Tucker and Sidney Maestre on a rooftop looking over dilapidated buildings slated for clearance in Mill Creek Valley. A note on the back of the print reads: “Mill Creek Valley, 1956 / Mayor Raymond Tucker and Sidney Maestre, Chairman of Citizens Committee which drafted bond issue program, are looking over decaying buildings in blighted area.””

Mill Creek Valley was at the wrong place at the wrong time. By 1950 Bartholomew was in Washington D.C., but his raze & replace attitude continued. Other options weren’t considered, especially when the land is needed for an expressway to connect downtown to affluent western suburbs as the wealthy continued moving westward along the central corridor.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Mill Creek Valley was a slum (no indoor plumbing, etc); leveling it was the only option

  • Strongly agree: 0 [0%]
  • Agree: 1 [5.56%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [5.56%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [5.56%]
  • Disagree: 4 [22.22%]
  • Strongly disagree: 10 [55.56%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [5.56%]

Again, demolition was the only option considered.  One, this generation didn’t see any value in the narrow & compact street grid or in 19th century flats. The other is they really wanted the land for a highway. As a bonus white folks could now drive on Olive & Market streets between the Central West End and downtown without having to go through a black neighborhood.

With so much uprooting & demolition it is amazing we have any residents or buildings left. The leaders at the time just couldn’t/didn’t see the tremendously negative consequences their actions would have on the city & region for decades to come. After all, everything they were doing was in an effort to save the city from decay.

— Steve Patterson

 

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