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An Urban ‘Agrihood’ Is Worth Considering In St. Louis

Fox Park Farm is now of many community gardens in St. Louis
Fox Park Farm is now of many community gardens in St. Louis

The recent Sunday Poll was actually two polls, both n0n-scientific. First, the questions and votes:

#1: Which of the following, if any, should residents be allowed to raise in the city? Animals would be subject to minimum space requirements. (Check all that apply)

  1. Chickens 29 [24.17%]
  2. Rabbits 26 [21.67%]
  3. Goats 15 [12.5%]
  4. Sheep 10 [8.33%]
  5. Alpacas 9 [7.5%]
  6. None should be allowed 8 [6.67%]
  7. TIE 6 [5%]
    1. Emus
    2. Ostriches
    3. Dairy Cows
  8. Pigs 4 [3.33%]
  9. Unsure/no opinion 1 [0.83%]

#2: Agree or disagree: With so much vacant land in the city, much more land should be used for urban food production

  • Strongly agree 16 [44.44%]
  • Agree 7 [19.44%]
  • Somewhat agree 8 [22.22%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.78%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [2.78%]
  • Disagree 0 [0%]
  • Strongly disagree 3 ]8.33%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

I think it’s fair to say among readers there is general support for some farm animal and increased agriculture. For a few years now I’ve been seeing stories about new suburban subdivisions with a farm in the center instead of a golf course:

From 2013:

There’s a new model springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement: Farms — complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees — are serving as the latest suburban amenity.

It’s called development-supported agriculture, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture — a farm-share program commonly known as CSA. In planning a new neighborhood, a developer includes some form of food production — a farm, community garden, orchard, livestock operation, edible park — that is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together. (NPR: Forget Golf Courses: Subdivisions Draw Residents With Farms)

From 2015:

The phrase “planned community” conjures up a lot of images — maybe a swimming pool, obsessively manicured lawns, white picket fences — but a farm is probably not one of them. 

Pushing back against that stereotypical image of suburban living is a growing number of so-called “agrihoods” springing up nationwide. These developments center around a real, functional farm as their crown jewel. According to CivilEats, there are currently about 200 of them nationwide. 

The latest, called The Cannery, officially opened this past Saturday on a site that was previously home to a tomato cannery facility located about a mile outside downtown Davis, California. The 100-acre project of the New Home Company development company is considered to be the first agrihood to take root on formerly industrial land. All of its 547 energy-efficient homes will be solar-powered and electric car-ready, KCRA, NBC’s Sacramento affiliate, reports. (Huffington Post: ‘Agrihoods’ Offer Suburban Living Built Around Community Farms, Not Golf Courses)

Also from 2015, a CBS News story, video below:

This CBS News story was recently repeated on CBS’ Sunday Morning. So this story and taking a survey on urban food production in the city got me thinking: must the “agrihood” movement be limited to very expensive suburban developments? I could see an agrihood being part of the development of the near north side. In an agrihood, the farm is professionally run. It’s not a community garden run my neighbors. It could be a way to create jobs for area youth. I’d want housing to be a different price points and not displace current residents.

We have more land than we’ll likely ever have residents to fill. For years, in cities coast to coast, people have been farming on vacant urban land.  St. Louis is no exception — see RFT’s 10 Local Urban Farms We Love.

— Steve Patterson

 

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An Example Of How The St louis Region Fails Pedestrians, Transit Users

Part of the implied contract when taking a bus to a destination is when you’re dropped off at your stop, you’ll be able to get to the corresponding stop in the opposite direction for the return trip. Seems simple enough, right? But in many parts of the St. Louis region being able to reach a bus stop in the opposite direction is impossible if you’re disabled. I don’t go looking for them, I run across them just going about my life.

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 became law, transit operators, like Metro St. Louis, formerly Bi-State Development Agency, have equipped their fleet of buses with either a lift or ramp in new low-floor models. This permits those us who use wheelchairs to board every bus with access to hundreds of routes throughout the region — theoretically, at least. Bus routes are operated on municipal/county roads throughout our region. The responsibility for these public rights-of-way (PROW) are that of the municipality, county, or state — depending upon the entity that has assumed responsibility. Regardless, the transit agency generally isn’t responsible for the pedestrian infrastructure (sidewalks, curb cuts. etc) to/from their bus stops.

Today’s example involves a 2.5 mile stretch of Manchester Ave from McCausland Ave to Kingshighway Blvd — all in the City of St. Louis. A third of this stretch is fronted by the St. Louis Marketplace — a strip retail center that opened in 1992 — it was St. Louis’ very first TIF project. A former industrial area was reclaimed for retail by relocating railroad tracks further away from Manchester. The entire site was new from scratch and post-ADA.  Furthermore, Manchester Ave has had a bus route for the entire 26 years I’ve lived in St. Louis — probably for at least 3-4 decades. For years it was the #59, but after the Cross County MetroLink line opened in 2006 the #59 stops at Maplewood and the #32 was extended West to Maplewood.

The morning of August 11th my husband forgot his phone, so I decided to take it to him. His morning client lives a few blocks North of Manchester Ave. in the Franz Park neighborhood (aka Dogtown), 24th ward. With my car key I was able to leave his phone in the door pocket and a note on the seat. I needed to return to Manchester Ave and catch the #32 Eastbound.

I crossed Manchester at the light at Prather Ave, Google maps told me the stop was to the right. Thankfully ramps were built.
I crossed Manchester at the light at Prather Ave, Google maps told me the stop was to the right. Thankfully ramps were built.
Looking West toward the bus stop
Looking West toward the bus stop
Thankfully my chair had enough power to roll over the grass. If it had been wet or muddy I couldn't have reached this bus stop . A user of a manual chair probably couldn't have. and finally, why should ab;e-bodied pedestrians have to walk through grass? The bus stop sign is attached to the light post.
Thankfully my chair had enough power to roll over the grass. If it had been wet or muddy I couldn’t have reached this bus stop . A user of a manual chair probably couldn’t have. and finally, why should ab;e-bodied pedestrians have to walk through grass? The bus stop sign is attached to the light post.

When I boarded the bus from this stop the driver asked me how I managed to get to the stop!  On the bus I noticed a stop further East that I’ve blogged about before.

A bench head been casually placed at the stop, partially blocking the pad that was barely big enough for a wheelchair user to turn around.
A bench head been casually placed at the stop, partially blocking the pad that was barely big enough for a wheelchair user to turn around.

I paid attention to all the stops as we passed each one. I decided I needed to look at the entire stretch, not just one stop here or there. Again, the distance between Kingshighway and McCausland is 2.5 miles. There are 12 MetroBus stops in each direction.  All 12 in the Westbound direction are accessible — not ideal but adequate.  However, in the Eastbound direction only half are accessible/adequate.

Six aren’t accessible, although I was able to power through the grass to reach one of them. Four of these six inaccessible bus stops are in front of the St. Louis Marketplace, the retail development that was created 100% from scratch after the ADA became law. Let’s take a look.

 

Starting at Ecoff Ave on the West edge of St. Louis Marketplace, you can see the curb ramp in the lower right corner but it leads to grass not sidewalk
Starting at Ecoff Ave on the West edge of St. Louis Marketplace, you can see the curb ramp in the lower right corner but it leads to grass not sidewalk
My guess is either the city or developer were supposed to add a sidewalk
My guess is either the city or developer were supposed to add a sidewalk
This is the stop I used on August 11th
This is the stop I used on August 11th
The next EB stop has a place for the bus to pull over and a shelter -- the city & Metro planned ahead for this stop
The next EB stop has a place for the bus to pull over and a shelter — the city & Metro planned ahead for this stop
The back side shows a curb prevents access from the parking lot
The back side shows a curb prevents access from the parking lot
The next stop also has a space for the bus and a shelter, but no sidewalk along Manchester
The next stop also has a space for the bus and a shelter, but no sidewalk along Manchester
This looks accessible. right?
This looks accessible. right?
Like the previous stop, a curb prevents access from the parking lot
Like the previous stop, a curb prevents access from the parking lot
The last of the four stops in front of the shopping center also has a shelter. Here you can see concrete was recently added -- the old walkway next to the shelter was too narrow to meet the ADA minimum.
The last of the four stops in front of the shopping center also has a shelter. Here you can see concrete was recently added — the old walkway next to the shelter was too narrow to meet the ADA minimum.
Oh yes, it's wide enough now, But no sidewalk leading to the bus shelter and shrubs are at the back
Oh yes, it’s wide enough now, But no sidewalk leading to the bus shelter and shrubs are at the back
Charter vans blocked my view of the walkway but it's safe to assume it has a curb like the two previous stops.
Charter vans blocked my view of the walkway but it’s safe to assume it has a curb like the two previous stops.
The next stop East of the shopping center isn't accessible at all
The next stop East of the shopping center isn’t accessible at all
But yes, Metro added a wheelchair pad in a recent round of ADA improvements. I guess we're expected to cross Manchester between signals to reach this stop? If I'm heading EB would a driver let me off at this stop? Anyone using this stop risks getting hit crossing Manchester.
But yes, Metro added a wheelchair pad in a recent round of ADA improvements. I guess we’re expected to cross Manchester between signals to reach this stop? If I’m heading EB would a driver let me off at this stop? Anyone using this stop risks getting hit crossing Manchester.
The bench that was blocking the stop at Hampton was moved after I tweeted about it, but seating is needed -- just not blocking the pad.
The bench that was blocking the stop at Hampton was moved after I tweeted about it, but seating is needed — just not blocking the pad.
And the 6th inaccessible stop is just East of Macklind
And the 6th inaccessible stop is just East of Macklind
Metro also poured a pad here even though there's no safe way to reach it.
Metro also poured a pad here even though there’s no safe way to reach it.

Previous posts on a couple of bus stops on this stretch of Manchester:

 

Gee, I wonder why few walk or use public transit? Seems so inviting…

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Aquarium A Good Fit For Union Station

I’ve never been to an aquarium before, but I know they’re popular attractions.  We recently spent the day at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, next to their Shedd Aquarium.  Shedd’s ticket prices range from $8/adult ($6/child) to $54.95/adult ($45.95/child). I assume most but the $37.95/28.95 “total experience” ticket, it allows you to see everything but you must wait in lines.

For years I’d heard about the World Aquarium, located within City Museum. Now it’s in Laclede’s Landing. Adult admission, for comparison, is only $6.

The new aquarium will be in addition to the existing:

St. Louis Aquarium will be a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, LHM said. The facility will employ marine biologists and aquarists to care for the creatures displayed and oversee water chemistry, animal nutrition, veterinary duties, education, staffing and safety.

The association, based in Silver Spring, Md., has more than 230 members. Among them is the Butterfly House, which opened in 1998 in Chesterfield and, since 2001, has been a division of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The aquarium, expected to get a million visitors annually, will be a draw for school groups as well as an entertainment destination, LHM said. An 8,500-square-foot event space with the shark tank as a backdrop will be available for weddings, social gatherings and corporate parties. (Post-Dispatch)

As with zoos, I question the ethics of keeping wild animals in captivity for our amusement.

The former food court and retail spaces under the train shed had a decidedly mall feel, October 2011
The former food court and retail spaces under the train shed had a decidedly mall feel, October 2011

The results of the non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: An aquarium in the former shopping mall area is a good fit for Union Station

  • Strongly agree 13 [27.08%]
  • Agree 11 [22.92%]
  • Somewhat agree 7 [14.58%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.08%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [4.17%]
  • Disagree 6 [12.5%]
  • Strongly disagree 6 [12.5%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [4.17%]

I voted for “somewhat agree”, but it depends on the execution, admission price, etc. I’m more excited about the new hotel rooms to be built within the clock tower!

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Impressed With St. Louis’ New Riverfront

July 28, 2016 Planning & Design Comments Off on Readers Impressed With St. Louis’ New Riverfront

The biggest group of readers in the latest non-scientfc Sunday Poll were “somewhat impressed” with the remake of Lenore K Sullivan Blvd.

Q: Impression of St. Louis’ new riverfront?

  • Very impressed 8 [15.09%]
  • Impressed 9 [16.98%]
  • Somewhat impressed 15 [28.3%]
  • Neither impressed or unimpressed 7 [13.21%]
  • Somewhat unimpressed 6 [11.32%]
  • Unimpressed 3 [5.66%]
  • Very unimpressed 0 [0%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 5 [9.43%]

More than 1 in 5 are neutral at this point.

The opening event didn’t work well for accessibility — they parked food trucks on the sidewalk. The end of the food lines were behind a curb. I too voted for “somewhat impressed” — I like the stainless steel railings and the raised streetlight bases.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

A Sneak Peak Inside The Lofts @ 625 North Euclid

July 25, 2016 Central West End, Featured, Planning & Design, Real Estate Comments Off on A Sneak Peak Inside The Lofts @ 625 North Euclid

Two weeks ago I visited a building I’d been in many times before. The 6-story warehouse on the SW corner of Euclid & Delmar, known as the Euclid Plaza Building for decades, is being transformed into high-end apartments known as 625 Lofts at Euclid. I got a personal tour from the developers. I previously posted about this project in May, see: Delmar & Euclid Building Will Soon Have New Use As Apartments.

The following are gone:

  • The 70s/80s dated 2-story center lobby
  • Former offices, hallways, bathrooms, etc
  • The fixed windows
  • Freight elevator in SW corner of the building

The following were retained:

  • Three passenger elevators
  • Medicine Shoppe pharmacy

Three of five floors are finished, residents have begun moving in. We took a look at the display units, plus a couple units on a floor still being completed.

I was impressed with the quality/amount of cabinets, the finishes & appliances.
I was impressed with the quality/amount of cabinets, the finishes & appliances.
Units in the SW corner feature kitchens in the former freight elevator shaft, with exposed brick walls above the cabinets. The glass door + transom to the balcony wasn't installed yet.
Units in the SW corner feature kitchens in the former freight elevator shaft, with exposed brick walls above the cabinets. The glass door + transom to the balcony wasn’t installed yet.

Each unit is unique compared to others on the same floor. One bathroom featured a rain shower head, for example. Due to construction, we didn’t get up to the roof. When finished, it’ll be fully accessible, but it wasn’t yet when I visited. Interior parking is wisely unbundled — you pay extra if you need a parking space.

The developers say they’ve had no problems leasing the units, anticipate full occupancy despite rents on the high side. I think it’s important for cities to offer a variety of housing options — at a variety of price points. Purchase & rental.

They leased the rough surface parking lot to the East during construction, hopefully the Roberts brothers will develop it or sell to someone who will.
They leased the rough surface parking lot to the East during construction, hopefully the Roberts brothers will develop it or sell to someone who will.
625 N Euclid, on the left, with 6 floors, is about the same massing as the 8-story building to the North.
625 N Euclid, on the left, with 6 floors, is about the same massing as the 8-story building to the North.

After they get all the 82 residential units finished and occupied they’ll push for commercial tenants facing Euclid. Euclid & Delmar is a corner to watch. If you’re in the market for a nice apartment check out their website and visit the leasing office.

— Steve Patterson

 

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