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Vacant Land Near Centene Stadium Awaits New Construction

May 12, 2022 Downtown, Featured, MLS Stadium, Planning & Design, Real Estate Comments Off on Vacant Land Near Centene Stadium Awaits New Construction

Centene Stadium (St. Louis) – Wikipedia, the soccer stadium finishing up construction now, is reshaping the Downtown West neighborhood.   This got me thinking about a vacant parcel just south of the stadium, next to the former YMCA that became a Drury Hotel in the 1980s. The official address is 222 South 21st Street.

Looking west across 20th from the St. Louis Wheel. March 2021

This site is 9.16 acres, is one parcel, and owned by Bi-State Development (aka Metro) since July 2019. According to city records Bi-State paid $1.65 million.

Just before Bi-State closed on the property the 1960s commercial laundry building was razed. It had a fire in 2005, that was repaired. A new occupancy permit was issued in 2018 for warehouse/storage.

Looking east from the former highway ramps. March 2010

So a 1960s commercial laundry occupied the western half of the site for decades. What about more than a century ago?

This site is outlined in red, pink means brick, yellow wood on this 1909 Sanborn Map..  Click image to view sheet from the Sanborn map.

The brown box is the new Railroad YMCA , the city block was divided by a small portion east of Tom Street, and the bigger portion west of it. When Union Station added more tracks Tom Street became 20th Street, giving the station more land up to Market Street. Many buildings between Eugenia and Market were razed so that 20th could shift west. The site now knowm as 222 South 21st Street was 13 parcels with houses and stables on the east, at Tom.

As you can tell from the 2010 photo above of the now-razed laundry, I’ve had an interest in the site for a very long time. At the time it didn’t make any sense to propose new construction — a business occupied the existing building and the site was on a tiny short block of Clark Ave, between 20th & 21st.

Now Clark Ave will soon connect to 22nd Street, I-64, and Jefferson Ave.  I thought of this site again earlier this year when I saw an article about a 7-unit apartment building in Philadelphia built on leftover land measuring only 11′ x 93′. View in Google Street View.

This site is considerably larger. What I’d do is build an apartment building on the east end that has zero off-street parking. With the Union Station MetroLink light rail station nearby this is ideal for some apartments without parking, since structured parking is so costly.

The west end of the site has great views of the new soccer practice fields, build tall enough and you can see over the Drury Hotel parking garage.  A rooftop patio would be outstanding.

A garage entrance off the low end of the alley would keep the perimeter public sidewalks unbroken. Creative architects could probably come up with many options to maximize the site without any surface parking or curb cuts.

I think 2-3 buildings ranging from low-income to high end would do this site justice, and provide a nice range of options. It would require thinking differently, but so did getting 7 units on a parcel only 11’x93’.

— Steve Patterson

 

MetroLink Escalators “Temporarily Closed” For Years

April 18, 2022 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on MetroLink Escalators “Temporarily Closed” For Years

Escalators are great, very helpful to those who find stairs difficult.  However, like elevators, they’re expensive to install and maintain. Escalators exposed to the elements are even more challenging to keep in operation.

When our original light rail line opened in 1993 two stations were located within an old freight tunnel under the central business district (CBD). The Convention Center and 8th & Pine stations were designed with stairs, elevators, and escalators. Because the tunnel is narrow the tracks are in the center, the passenger platforms are on both sides — one per direction of travel, east or west. This meant a total of four elevators and four pairs of escalators — all exposed to elements to a degree.

When the Shrewsbury (Blue) expansion line opened in 2006 its three underground stations had stairs, elevators/ramps — no escalators.

In 2018 & 2019 I’d frequently see ThyssenKrupp maintenance people working on the Convention Center escalators, or at least their service truck on the public sidewalk near the westbound entrance/exit. April 1, 2019
Here’s the same location on November 2, 2020
Another view, with parts visible. November 2, 2020
View from the platform level. November 2, 2020
The big plywood barricade has been gone for quite a while, but the escalators remain out of service. March 7, 2022
The eastbound escalators at 8th & Pine have been a similar story. Note access to the elevator is on the right, back — between the escalators and stair. April 21, 2021.
The street entrance of the eastbound 8th & Pine station after the plywood construction barricade was constructed, steps & elevator are accessible. March 1, 2022

I search all Metro press releases from 2019 through the present, only one mentioned escalators in the subject/summary.

From May 3, 2021:

Rehabilitation work on the westbound escalator at the 8th & Pine MetroLink Station in downtown St. Louis begins on Tuesday, May 4. During this project, the station’s westbound elevator will remain in service, however, the accessible pathway to the westbound side of the 8th & Pine Station (near Pine Street) will have to be closed temporarily.

MetroLink riders who are traveling to or from the 8th & Pine Station and use a wheelchair or mobility device may need to make adjustments to their commute, as it will be necessary for riders to use stairs (located near Chestnut Street) when entering or departing the westbound side of the 8th & Pine Station.

The escalator rehabilitation work is expected to take approximately three months to complete. (Source: Metro)

The above press release was issued a week after I followed up with Metro again since I hadn’t received any specifics from my inquiry on December 28, 2020. Receipt of my original inquiry was acknowledged but I never received anything. Just the one press release, above.

Since I use my power wheelchair when using transit why do I care if the escalators aren’t working?

Well, it looks bad to have something temporarily non-functional for days, weeks, months..years.

What do I hope to accomplish with this post?  I want all the escalators either in good working condition — or I want them removed and replaced with fixed stairs (I can’t speak to concerns of those who have a hard time with stairs). It obviously won’t happen quickly, but steady progress needs to be demonstrated.

It looks very bad for visitors to see out of service signs, but it’s even worse when returning visitors say “oh yeah they were out the last two years I’ve visited.”

— Steve Patterson

 

Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn)

March 21, 2022 Downtown, Featured, MLS Stadium, Planning & Design Comments Off on Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn)

As I outlined two years ago, the blocks around new Centene Stadium will most certainly change in the coming years, decades. We’ve already seen some buildings on Olive be razed for the stadium, and more for a new garage. These weren’t architectural masterpieces, but they were urban. Hopefully it’ll be a good trade off.

One building I want to see razed, or significantly altered, is the hotel at 2211 Market Street (2.78 acres). Currently it’s officially known as the “Pear Tree Inn Near Union Station.” With the new major league soccer stadium nearing completion next door I think they’ll rename the hotel to reflect the ideal proximity. I’d like to bigger change — a complete rethink.

Photo of Pear Tree Inn
The 11-story hotel was built in 1965. It is set back from Market Street behind parking. It doesn’t orient to any of the three streets (Market, 23rd, Pine) that has bordered it since new.
Photo of low parking garage behind Pear Tree Inn
The 2-level parking garage to the north of the tower was built at the same time.

One of the first things I like to do is look back at what existed before — especially streets & alleys. Not that I’d necessarily want to recreate what existed over a hundred years ago, I just find it helpful.

1909 Sanborn fire insurance map
In February 1909 we can see Chestnut between Market and Pine, 22nd on the east, 23rd on the west. City blocks 914 & 915.
Aerial view with interchange east of hotel
For decades is was next to what was planned to be the 22nd St Parkway. This interchange was all that ever got built.
Aerial view with stadium construction east of hotel
Now the new MLS stadium is going up, and 22nd Street will once again exist!

Interestingly, the little bit of land between the east side of the hotel and the new 22nd Street is deeded in several small parcels, at least one to TKFC Properties, LLC in Moscow Mills, MO. The accessor classifies it as “9900 (OTHER UNDEVELOPED LAND AND WATER AREAS, NEC)”, so perhaps it’ll collect runoff water. Seems too valuable for water retention.

I strongly dislike this hotel and parking garage. I suspect the owner, Drury Hotels, is contemplating their options now that their real estate has a prime spot near the MLS stadium, and a higher valuation. The big question is what are the various ways to rebuild or start over?

I believe in reusing existing structures, so the first option would be to look at adding a new tower perpendicular to the existing one so hotel rooms on the east side could look toward the stadium and downtown. The roof of a new tower could contain a rooftop restaurant/bar with outstanding views. A new urban entrance facing Market, 22nd, or Pine. Some sort of drive though for check in that doesn’t block the many pedestrians that will soon be in this area.  Parking will need to go somewhere, preferably underground.

Other options involve razing the tower and garage, completely starting over from scratch. If they get the little bit of land between the existing lot and 22nd Street the site will be bordered by four streets — it needs to acknowledge all of them.

Reconstructing Chestnut Street needs to be considered. Chestnut still exists between 23rd and Jefferson Ave. so this would help reconnect the original street grid. We would then have two parcels, with the north larger than the south.  Perhaps a parking garage in the center of the larger parcel, wrapped in hotel rooms, apartments, and/or offices? The new block of Chestnut might be a full public street, a public walkway, or a private walkway that’s generally open to the public. I can see a Chestnut walkway being filled with outdoor dining, a new building(s) on the south side blocking the hot sun.

My one time in the hotel was to get this photo from the hallway of an upper floor. This was the view I used in my February 2016 post when I called for this to be the site of a new stadium — over six years ago! Click image to view post.

I’m confident this site will look dramatically different within a decade, just not sure how it’ll look. If I’m still around when something happens I’ll be sure to post about it.

— Steve Patterson

 

Exploring Housing Options for 801 Dickson Street

March 17, 2022 Featured, North City, Planning & Design, Real Estate Comments Off on Exploring Housing Options for 801 Dickson Street

Monday’s post was about reconnecting the pedestrian grid at 8th Street, just south of Cass Ave — see 8th Street Walkway Needed To Fill Missing 110’ Connectivity Gap. Today’s post is about exploring options for new housing on the large lot known as 801 Dickson Street — it stretches a full block along the north side of Dickson, between 8th & 9th streets. This vacant land is owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority.

First we’ll look at the site, conditions, etc. and then some of the various configurations I’ve considered. You may have others.

Aerial view of 801 Dickson Street
801 Dickson is owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority, zoned D Multi-Family Housing. The strategic land use is NPA — neighborhood preservation area. The long sides are 292.52 feet, the east/right short side is 110 feet, and the left/west short side is 120 feet. Click to view in Google Maps — sans boundary lines.

Site characteristics:

  • Faces south-southwest.
  • Gentle slope south from alley.
  • The parking for 12 cars at the alley has been in place for 70 years, it lacks an accessible space and adjacent loading zone.
  • The Youth & Family Center on the north side of the alley was built in 1982. It was previously called Cochran Youth & Family Center. It has entrances onto Cass and the back alley. It has no parking on its site at 818 Cass Ave. Nobody ever parks on Cass Ave, even though it isn’t marked as no parking.
  • A northbound bus stop (#32) is on the short side, on 9th Street.
  • Overhead electric enters the site on the east side, about 20 feet south of the alley. The poles and overhead wires stop just before 9th Street (left side).
  • Some mature trees exist along the alley, 9th. Smaller street trees exist along Dickson Street. The trees next to the alley have been trimmed so as to not interfere with the overhead power lines.
  • The west end had part of Cochran Gardens tower C-9 from 1951 until about 2005, the west end was part of a Cochran Gardens playground. Presumably the building foundations were fully removed. Potentially 19th century remnants remain buried.
Looking west at 801 Dickson
Looking north on 9th, at Dickson. The #32 bus frequently stops here to drop off a rider, or let one board.
Looking back east from 9th, the brick circle is all that remains from Cochran Gardens. Parking & electrical poles are visible.
A direct view of the parking from the alley. Again, the overhead electric is visible.

Before getting into the various options for new construction please understand this post isn’t concerned with who would build any housing, or how it would be paid for, demand, market economics, etc. The purpose here is to see the various options for constructing additional housing on the site — what does & doesn’t physically fit on the site. Ideally I’d like to avoid a curb cut/driveway off both Dickson & 9th streets.

A good plan to start with ideas is to look at the context, the housing around the site. To the east of where I want a new 8th Street pedestrian walkway the dimension between 8th and 7th is just a few feet wider. It has two buildings, each with four townhouses. Along the alley are two garage buildings, each with a 2-car garage — one for each of the 8 total townhouses. When Cochran Gardens was replaced all the new construction, like my apartment, is rental — but each of the 8 townhouses are privately-owned, owner-occupied.

Row houses 7xx Dickson
Row houses 7xx Dickson
Garages behind 7xx Dickson
Garages behind 7xx Dickson

The problem is the aforementioned parking spaces off the alley, on the west end of the site. If the trees along the alley were removed you could building one group of four townhouses, with garage. You could do a second if the parking were removed, but that’s not ideal.

Directly across Dickson Street are more townhouses, these are mixed-income rentals with a common shared parking lot behind. Theoretically it may be possible to put a shallow parking lot behind townhouses.

This is a 2012 view of townhouses on 9th Street, the ones facing Dickson are similar.

The other contextual option is a building with garden apartments. The Cambridge Heights garden apartment buildings each contain 12 apartments — 3 floors, six units per two entrances/breezeways. Like townhouses, parking might be possible behind. One such building could fit. A variation with 18 units with three entrances/breezeways could potentially fit.

What about going higher than 3 floors? While elevators are expensive, and costly to maintain, a 4-5 story building could work as you get more units in the same space. The scale of an old 5-story building on 7th seems fine in the neighborhood. I’d love to see a lot of accessible units as the need for low-income housing for the disabled is needed — especially near downtown. With an existing bus stop adjacent it would be great for many people who don’t drive or own a car, this would make it easier to not have any off-street parking. Perhaps the site is arranged so a small parking lot is located off the alley, on the east end of the site.

It would be nice if an elevator building had a retail space at the corner, perhaps part of a live/work unit.

Another option would be groupings of tiny homes (300sf) or small homes (800sf).  Some could front onto the 8th Street walkway I’d like to see get built. Since the site is a block long there’s nothing to say it all has to be the same, some combination of ideas can be used.

The parking at the alley for the Youth & Family Center should probably be separated from the main lot, or a formalized easement. It would also be nice if the overhead electric was buried. The St. Louis Housing Authority also owns a larger lot between 8th & 9th, on O’Fallon Street (map), but kids often use this for ball, frisbee, etc.

The vacant land in my neighborhood, owned by the housing authority, is ideal for affordable/low-income new housing — perhaps by a developer seeking a tax break on a big project in the central corridor.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

8th Street Walkway Needed To Fill Missing 110’ Connectivity Gap

March 14, 2022 Accessibility, Featured, North City, Walkability Comments Off on 8th Street Walkway Needed To Fill Missing 110’ Connectivity Gap

When cold water flats and tenements were cleared just north of downtown for St. Louis’ first high-rise public housing project, Cochran Gardens, several blocks of 8th Street were erased from the grid. Six decades later 8th Street was rebuilt* when the mixed-income Cambridge Heights apartments & townhouses replaced Cochran Gardens’ towers.

* 110 feet of 8th Street wasn’t replaced!

This short missing piece is a connectivity problem for those of us who live here. Later, when Cass Ave over I-44 (aka I-70) was raised as part of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge project 7th Street got disconnected from Cass Ave. So now neither 7th or 8th connect to Cass. Getting to/from the bus at Cass Ave & Broadway is likely the primary reason for needing access here, it would also be nice when we go to Shady Jack’s or walk/roll up Broadway.

A little bit of the original 8th Street exists south of Cass Ave, but it quickly ends at an alley. Jersey barriers exist to keep drivers from going straight ahead.
From the broken sidewalk on the east side of 8th you can see a clear route to 8th Street 100 feet further south. The west side of 8th, unfortunately, has no sidewalk.
In the field you can see beyond Dickson Street to 8th Street
At the public sidewalk you can look south along 8th Street to downtown. 8th Street is the center of Cambridge Heights.

Motorists use the alley south of Cass to get to/from Cass Ave, but pedestrians often walk though vacant land where 110 feet of 8th street should be. As you’ll see, putting in street, curbs, drainage, etc would be challenging & costly — all that’s needed is a 110 foot long sidewalk and a couple of curb ramps.

Looking toward Cass Ave from the SW corner of 8th & Dickson streets.
Looking toward Cass Ave from the SW corner of 8th & Dickson streets.
The same view after a recent snowfall. Two desire lines where people walked are clear. A community center is visible on the left, but no good way to get there directly.

This is needed because going between the neighborhood and Cass Ave is challenging as a pedestrian. I’ve thought so for the 3+ years I’ve lived here. I’ve also seen a woman at least 15 years my senior (so 70+) walking though the grass with a cane. The trail through the snow earlier this year was also a clue.

You might be thinking this land is vacant do it can be developed for more housing. Let’s take a look at the property lines.

The blue dot marks a 15 foot wide parcel owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority (725 Dickson Street). They also own the land from here to 9th Street. 723 Dickson Street is 64.26 feet wide, includes the 22 foot wide end of 3 townhouses.

My assumption is the 15 foot wide parcel known as 725 Dickson (map) is there to prevent anyone building over utilities, like sewer, under the old 8th Street. The end row house has a lot of extra land beyond their fence. Basically there’s more than enough width to create a generous pedestrian path. There are some obstacles near the alley.

From the alley you can see a little bit of concrete and some useless chain link. And an electric utility pole.
From the lot you can see the pole and an electrical box (transformer?). There are also wires to help keep the pole upright on the private land side.

There’s room to fit a 5′ wide walkway at the alley to then toward 8th & Dickson streets, we just need to figure out property lines, utilities, easements, etc. City mowers have a hard time during the summer keeping the back area cut — a private home owner would get a violation letter from the city for such conditions. The elevation is slightly higher at the alley than south at Dickson Street.

The need exists, much of the land is owned by the housing authority. Cost wouldn’t be that substantial. I’d love to see fruit trees planed on both sides of a walkway so the public can access free fruit.

— Steve Patterson

 

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