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Arlington Grove Apartments: An Urban Project In An Unplanned Context

In yesterday’s post, my 9th annual look at Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, I briefly mentioned the now-complete Arlington Grove Apartments. Today is a closer look at this project by McCormack Baron Salazar, the folks behind the North Sarah Apartments.

The biggest problems with Arlington Grove is the context: crossing Martin Luther King Drive on foot and recent non-urban developments.

ABOVE: The urban Arlington Grove Apts as seen from the auto-centric gas station across the street
ABOVE: The urban Arlington Grove Apts as seen from the auto-centric gas station across the street

The gas station across the street is a 4,300 square foot building on a 52,087 square foot lot, built in 2007.  It is massive and destroys urban potential of the three-story buildings facing MLK Dr.

ABOVE: The Arlington Grove project will occupy the entire city block.  Image: Google Maps (click to view)
ABOVE: Aerial view of the site before construction began. Image: Google Maps
ABOVE: Aerial after construction completed. Image: Google Maps
ABOVE: Aerial after construction completed, note the solar panels. Image: Google Maps

Arlington Grove contains 112 1, 2 & 3-bedroom apartments in 22 new buildings and a renovated 3-story school on two parcels totaling 213,800 square feet. At the scale of the gas station, this large site would contain just 17,650 square feet of interior space. Each floor of the renovated school contains nearly 15,000 square feet!  The school, without the 22 new buildings, was already far denser than the gas station.

In other words, these two are radically different visions for the community. The 112 new apartments doesn’t detract from the gas station, but the gas station is a major detractor from the new residential neighborhood.  An urban gas station like this one in Milwaukee would’ve been ideal to create a 3-story front to MLK while also providing a place for people to fuel their cars. Update 1/122 @ 9:25am: See this example of an urban gas station on Google maps here.

Artist rendering of people easily crossing MLK
ABOVE: Artist rendering of people easily crossing MLK
ABOVE: The actual street is missing places to safely cross.
ABOVE: The actual street is missing places to safely cross.
ABOVE: The nearest place to cross MLK is the west side of Clara Ave that runs next to the gas station. Arlington Grove can be seen in the far right.
ABOVE: The nearest place to cross MLK is the west side of Clara Ave that runs next to the gas station. Arlington Grove can be seen in the far right.

The next place to cross is Arlington Ave four blocks to the east! Someone needs to look at this area and make it easier/safer to cross the street.

Ok, back to the development itself. Like I said, the Arlington School, built in 1900, is the centerpiece.

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ABOVE: In 2011 work had begun on adapting the Arlington School to apartments
ABOVE:
ABOVE: The renovated school building now full of apartments
ABOVE: The old Arlington School is the centerpiece of the development
ABOVE: The old Arlington School is the centerpiece of the development

The one flaw I found with Arlington Grove is wheelchair access to the school building. A wheelchair ramp is provided in back — very convenient for anyone driving a $45,000 van.

ABOVE: Pedestrians entering from the pedestrian entry off Cote Brilliante don't have a direct path, a curb is a barrier.
ABOVE: Pedestrians entering from the pedestrian entry off Cote Brilliante Ave don’t have a direct path, a curb is a barrier (foreground).
ABOVE: What could've been an excellent pedestrian route is easily fixed
ABOVE: From the opposite view, what could’ve been an excellent pedestrian route is easily fixed. I had a leasing person come out to see the problem.
arlingtongrove8
ABOVE: The blue line shows how the current ramps force wheelchair users to go out of their way and into the auto drive rather than just crossing it at a less busy point.
ABOVE: I like that one of the two 3-story buildings facing MLK has storefront spaces
ABOVE: I like that one of the two 3-story buildings facing MLK has storefront spaces
The 22 new buildings have similar materials but unique designs.
The 22 new buildings have similar materials but unique designs.

I realize the entire 5+ mile stretch of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive can’t be lined with 3-story buildings, some with storefronts. But with some advanced planning the Arlington Grove development could’ve been anticipated prior to the construction of the gas station in 2007. That would’ve allowed for the plans to create similar building scales on both sides of MLK with either an urban gas station or with the gas station located a little further away.

But we don’t plan, we do piecemeal.

— Steve Patterson

Fueling Assistance For The Disabled

January 18, 2013 Accessibility, Featured 2 Comments

With hand controls many disabled people are able to drive, filling their tank is another story though. In the nearly four years I owned a car after my stroke I never needed assistance, thankfully.

ABOVE: Posted sign at the Shell station on Tucker & Delmar
ABOVE: Posted sign at the Shell station on Tucker & Delmar

This is another simple task so many people take for granted.  Some states don’t allow customers to pump their own fuel, everyone gets full service.

Have a good friday.

— Steve Patterson

Reading: Made for Walking by Julie Campoli

Every so often I get a book to review that I keep repeating “Yes!” as I go through it, Made for Walking is that sort of book:

Landscape architect and urban designer Julie Campoli challenges our current notions of space and distance and helps us learn to appreciate and cultivate proximity. In this book, developed as a follow-up to Visualizing Density (2007, co-authored with aerial photographer Alex S. MacLean), she illustrates urban neighborhoods throughout North America with hundreds of street-level photographs.

Researchers delving into the question of how urban form affects travel behavior identify specific characteristics of place that boost walking and transit use while reducing VMT. In the 1990s some pinpointed diversity (of land uses), density, and design as the key elements of the built environment that, in specific spatial patterns, enable alternative transportation. After a decade of successive studies on the topic, these “three Ds” were joined by two others deemed equally important—distance to transit and destination accessibility—and together they are now known as the “five Ds.” Added to the list is another key player: parking.

This book should be required reading for everyone involved in neighborhoods, development, transit in the St. Louis region – especially St. Louis aldermen. Camponi articulates why it is beneficial to change land use patterns, accompanied by hundreds of images to make her points.

Cover of Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form by Julie Camponi. Click image for the publisher's page
Cover of Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form by Julie Camponi. Click image for the publisher’s page with free chapter download

One example I recognized immediately, the Coal Harbour area of Vancouver BC. Here the sidewalks in an area of new high rise buildings are pleasant because smaller-scale buildings front onto them, defining them.

ABOVE: The Coal Harbor area of Vancouver in 2003
ABOVE: The Coal Harbour area of Vancouver in 2003. Click image to view neighborhood in Google Maps.

Here is the chapter list:

  • Everything is somewhere else
  • Five Ds and a P
  • Neighborhood Form
  • Twelve places made for walking
  • Low-carbon neighborhoods
  • The shape of things to come
  • Good bones

Highly recommended!

— Steve Patterson

Walking From Hotel To Restaurant

In September 2010 I posted about the disconnect between a hotel and restaurant in Joplin (see Driving Next Door For Dinner) where I said the design made it difficult if someone wanted to walk next door for dinner after they checked into their room. Last week this hypothetical situation became reality in Amarillo Texas.

I was in Amarillo TX for the funeral of an 80 year old uncle, seven of us were staying in the same Holiday Inn Express. After the service some went back to the hotel to rest, my brother and I to check in. Three other relatives were going to come over to the hotel and the ten of us would walk together to the Texas Roadhouse restaurant, conveniently located right in front. This proved easier said than done.

ABOVE: Aerial view with the Holiday Inn Express on bottom facing the back of the Texas Roadhouse on top
ABOVE: Aerial view with the Holiday Inn Express on bottom facing the back of the Texas Roadhouse on top. Click image to view in Google Maps.

In my family I’m younger than all my cousins — by up to 19 years. Still, I’m the only one that walks with a cane. Our aunts and uncles are now in their 70s and 80s — one aunt will be 90 in a few months. Our group of ten was seven cousins, two aunts & an uncle. An aunt & uncle, both in their 80s,  require help to walk steady on level ground. Especially to cross an obstacle course like the one we encountered.

ABOVE: This was the barrier we had to cross twice.
ABOVE: This was the barrier we had to cross twice. The Holiday Inn is on the left, Texas Roadhouse on the right.

I suppose the three of us could’ve gotten in a car to drive from one side of the divider (above) to the other side, but that shouldn’t be necessary. The point where we crossed going to dinner the step down from the sidewalk to the grass was taller than most curbs. Returning to the hotel we found a spot that wasn’t so bad.  I suppose we could’ve walked around this barrier but that would’ve put us in a busy drive and meant walking a greater distance, a problem for all three of us.

We’ve built so much in every city like this that requires a car to get anywhere, even next door. I hope to live long enough to see the day when this is no longer the norm.

— Steve Patterson

The ADA, Design Professionals, and Soap Dispensers

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has many standards for design professionals to use when designing everything from public streets to stadiums to public bathrooms. It doesn’t seem to require a soap dispenser usable only with one hand.

ABOVE: Soap dispenser best used with two hands
ABOVE: Soap dispenser best used with two hands

I see this type of dispenser way too often, if it’s really short I can use it one handed. Most of the time I have to wash my hand without soap. Someone continues to select this dispenser even though not everyone can use it. I can’t find an ADA requirement that a dispenser be able to be used with one hand.

The point? Regulation isn’t perfect. Designers must think, not just meet the minimum requirements.

— Steve Patterson

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