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Intersection of Clayton Road & Clayton Ave Still Not Right

In the last couple of years the intersection of Clayton Rd & Clayton Ave, between the giant Amoco sign and Cheshire Inn, went on a much-needed road diet.

The dashed blue line shows the curb line that existed for decades.  The new configuration puts these two perpendicular to each other.  Click image to view map
The dashed blue line shows the curb line that existed for decades. The new configuration puts these two perpendicular to each other, improving safety for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
Click image to view map

The space gained from reducing the public right-of-way is now part of the Cheshire parking lot, see the related: Pedestrian Access Route to The Cheshire Easily Blocked. Finally there was a chance to improve this intersection and get it right.  Well, it’s improved — no doubt about that.  Unfortunately, it isn’t “right” given that it’s new construction.

Looking east across the new intersection
Looking east across the new intersection. The ramps/detectable warnings point the user into traffic, not a straight line across.
Looking west from the opposite side. Again, the ramps and detectable warnings used to guide the visually-impaired aren't directional.
Looking west from the opposite side. Again, the detectable warnings are used to guide the visually-impaired. Wheelchair users need to approach ramps perpendicular.

In addition to the ramps/detectable warnings being poorly situated, there’s no crosswalk. Crosswalks help guide the visually-impaired and reinforce to motorists to look out for pedestrians crossing the street. Pedestrians have the right-of-way, motorists must yield to pedestrians.

The City of St. Louis either designed this, or approved the drawings of the contractor. Either way it’s pretty pathetic given how easy it would’ve been to do it right. What would be right? Just look at the nearly identical situation at Olive & Lindell.

The pedestrian is allowed to continue on a straight path with ramps, detectable warnings, and crosswalk that reinforce each other.   
The pedestrian is allowed to continue on a straight path with ramps, detectable warnings, and crosswalk that reinforce each other.   Click image to see post from June 2012

I’m emailing this post to various officials, including 28th ward alderman Lyda Krewson, though it’s too late now without great expense.

— Steve Patterson

Pedestrian Access Route to The Cheshire Easily Blocked

The Cheshire on Clayton Road has been as we know it since the early 1960s. I hadn’t been to either the hotel or restaurant since either reopened in the last couple of years.  I’d been to both a few times over my years in St. Louis, driving each time.  I knew when I recently received the invite for an event at the Cheshire I’d take public transit and arrive as a pedestrian in my power chair. I also knew the current owner added a pedestrian route from the public sidewalk to the restaurant.

Before getting into the pedestrian access here’s a brief history:

In 1960, a man from another local family, Stephen J. Apted, bought the building and remodeled the restaurant into The Cheshire Inn, complete with authentic British art, antiques, furnishings and details. Hailing from a family of restaurateurs, Mr. Apted’s mother, Mrs. Florence Hulling, had started a comfortable cafeteria-style restaurant in the 1940?s called Miss Hulling’s which quickly grew and became a tradition in St. Louis.

Apted transformed The Cheshire Inn into one of the most popular and successful restaurants in St. Louis. A story in the St. Louis Globe Democrat on October 28, 1961 called it “the most unusual and inviting atmosphere in town.” Apted’s vision, though, was for something much larger. Legend has it that the entire Cheshire complex came from an idea developed when the Apteds visited an old tavern nestled in the back streets of London named Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Inspired, he chose to recreate the concept at the corner of Clayton Road and Skinker Boulevard for its proximity to Forest Park and easy highway access, a location that remains one of the property’s best attributes.

Four years after opening the new restaurant, Mr. Apted built The Cheshire Lodge and furnished it with antiques and collections from his world travels. British details were everywhere, from the long riding coats of the houseman to the English accents in the guestrooms. The glass enclosed, year-round pool/conservatory was the first of its kind in the city. The Cheshire’s horse-drawn carriage rides and double-decker bus became fixtures along the St. Louis streets. In the 1980’s the popular Fantasy Suites, including everything from the Safari Rainforest to the Treehouse at Sherwood Forest, were added to the experience. In its heyday, The Cheshire Inn & Lodge was the most popular restaurant and hotel in St. Louis.

In December 2010, the property was purchased by St. Louis-based Lodging Hospitality Management with the vision of restoring it to its former glory and updating it for today’s discriminating travelers. Over a period of seven months, the hotel underwent a multi-million dollar renovation reopening in August 2011. The result is stunning! In the fall of 2012, the historic restaurant building will re-open as well. The “new” Cheshire celebrates the great history of the hotel, preserving its charm and character while transforming it into a modern, luxury boutique hotel.

Like I said, I hadn’t been back since reopening, but I knew a pedestrian route existed. How did I know? In July a reader sent me a picture of a car blocking it!

I received this image of a Porsche squeezed into the unloading space between two disabled spots in July 2013, this is also part of the route to the public sidewalk
I received this image of a Porsche squeezed into the unloading space between two disabled spots in July 2013, this is also part of the route to the public sidewalk, visible in background

I didn’t do a post using this picture because I hadn’t visited the site, I didn’t know the context. Last week I visited the Cheshire and ended up with a similar photo upon leaving. First let’s start with arrival.

The hotel on the west half of the site is an auto drive
The hotel on the west half of the site is an auto drive
Looking toward the restaurant from the auto drive there's no clear pedestrian path
Looking toward the restaurant from the auto drive there’s no clear pedestrian path
Here's the opening I was looking for!
Here’s the opening I was looking for!
Looking toward the restaurant there's now a clearly delineated pedestrian route
Looking toward the restaurant there’s now a clearly delineated pedestrian route
Looking back toward Clayton Rd
Looking back toward Clayton Rd
Looking back after crossing the drive right in front of the building
Looking back after crossing the drive right in front of the building

This was a great way to enter the property as a pedestrian, it also helps those walking to/from their vehicles — except when an “unruly” driver  parks where they shouldn’t. Which brings me to when I was leaving…

A Mercedes C-Class managed to squeeze into the space left for the pedestrian route
A Mercedes C-Class managed to squeeze into the space left for the pedestrian route
A closer shot, maybe the driver just didn't notice the crosswalk and opening in the fence? Not all drivers are very observant about their surroundings.
A closer shot, maybe the driver just didn’t notice the crosswalk and opening in the fence? Not all drivers are very observant about their surroundings.
I was observant enough to notice the two police-related  items in the rear window!
I was observant enough to notice the two police-related items in the rear window!

I waited for about 10-15 minutes for the driver to come out, it was obvious to him at that point he shouldn’t have parked his car where he did. He was very apologetic, which immediately diffused my anger.

Some might say this is an enforcement issue but I say both examples of blocking the route could’ve been prevented. A bollard in the center at each point would physically prevent a car from being parked where it shouldn’t. I will make the owner, Lodging Hospitality Management, aware of the problem and my suggested solution.     LHM is also the owners of Hilton St. Louis at the Ballparks, Union Station, Seven Gables in Clayton, and other hotels.

I applaud them for having a pedestrian route, now we just need to modify it so it remains useable.

— Steve Patterson

Historic Art Deco Storefronts Removed From Board of Education Building

The former St. Louis Board of Education Building was built in 1893, but in the late 1930s the storefront spaces on the ground floor were replaced with new Art Deco fronts. The National Register Nomination lists the period of significance for the building as 1893-1953, so these storefronts are considered historic even though they’re not original.  The building is now loft apartments.

The quotes in the post are from the nomination linked above:

Overall, most of the building retains a high degree of historic integrity. The primary elevations have seen few changes and most of the exterior storefront modifications took place during the period of significance. The only other major exterior change is the loss of the pressed metal cornice, removed in 1942 during the historic period.

In March I was worried when I saw the plywood up at the entrance to the main Art Deco storefront. But perhaps it was just to protect the vitrolite and curved glass…

In March I was worried when I saw the plywood up at the entrance to the main Art Deco storefront. But perhaps it was just to protect  the vitrolite and curved glass...
The curved glass, vitrolite tile, and aluminum details are visible above.
Earlier this month workers began removing the 75+ year old storefronts
Earlier this month workers began removing the 75+ year old storefronts
The main storefront during demolition
The main storefront during demolition
Workers demolishing the storefronts facing 9th Street
Workers demolishing the storefronts facing 9th Street
The 9th Street storefronts were tiny and not wheelchair accessible
The 9th Street storefronts were tiny and not wheelchair accessible

Here’s more detail on the exterior:

The remaining openings on the first floor (901-909 Locust and 401-409 North Ninth Street) are either display windows or entrances into the businesses that once occupied the first floor of this building. The original configuration of first floor openings generally alternated between display windows and recessed storefront entrances with display windows on one or both sides. Minor changes to these storefronts were noted in school board records as early as 1910. Major renovations in the 1930s transformed the original wood-framed first floor storefront entrances and display windows into distinctive examples of the Art Deco style with new Vitrolite storefronts and aluminum transom windows along the east elevation and in two bays (901, 903 Locust) on the south elevation. Art Deco modifications were completed on the 905 and 907 storefronts in 1937. An Art Deco entry, storefront and lobby was installed at 911 Locust in 1935, including a revolving door, but the revolving door was replaced in 1948 with paired glass doors within the revolving door enclosure. Additionally a single storefront was created at 905-907 Locust by removing the lower portion of the load-bearing pilaster and replacing it with a half-round, steel column. Modernization of the storefronts again took place in the 1960s, removing some of the Art Deco period features, mostly by replacing some of the doors and display window framing along Locust with the aluminum framed units seen today. The second floor windows of these bays are triple window units with fixed transoms.

The city’s Cultural Resources office attempted to get the owner to retain the storefronts but ultimately had no authority to prevent their removal.  While I loved the design of these Art Deco storefronts I also knew they were an obstacle to getting tenants in the spaces. It’ll be interesting to see new storefronts in this building.

Will they be wood like the 19th Century originals or a modern design? I’d favor a modern storefront system at this point, with busy retail stores or restaurants behind them.

— Steve Patterson

Stifel Missed Opportunity For Good Urbanism

I’m a fan of public art, but I’m a bigger fan of active urban corners. I’ll explain the missed opportunity at the end, first let’s look at the corner of Stifel’s building known as One Financial Plaza.

Bear vs. Bull sculpture by  Harry Weber
New “Forces” sculpture by Harry Weber, click image for more information.
For years the SW corner of Washington & Broadway looked like this
For years the SW corner of Washington & Broadway looked like this,
a big solid corner with financial updates
In August I noticed some stone cladding had been removed from the corner
In August I noticed some stone cladding had been removed from the corner
On September 5th I posted this pic to Facebook & Twitter with the note "Corner of Broadway & Washington will get two bronze statues, a bull and a bear."
On September 5th I posted this pic to Facebook & Twitter with the note “Corner of Broadway & Washington will get two bronze statues, a bull and a bear.”
By October 17 the sculpture was in place but still under wraps
By October 17 the sculpture was in place but still under wraps
The back of the stone benches is where exhaust from the underground parking parking garage is vented.
The back of the stone benches is where exhaust from the underground parking garage is vented. A little bit of work remains.

So what’s the missed opportunity? This would’ve been the perfect time to activate the street level of the building, the corner in particular. Imagine a 24 hour Walgreens or CVS with a glass corner entry. Or a coffee shop/cafe, newsstand, etc.  Something more interesting than seeing the closed vertical window blinds of office workers.

One  Financial Plaza at 6th
One Financial Plaza at 6th

They can still create an active corner on the west side, at 6th — facing MetroLink.

— Steve Patterson

Riverfront Groundbreaking Held

Yesterday a ground breaking was held for the riverfront portion of the CityArchRiver project. Sitting there listening to the speakers I realized the enormity of the project, just how many federal, state, & local agencies are involved.

Walter Metcalfe of the CityArchRiver Foundation speaking at the ground breaking
Walter Metcalfe of the CityArchRiver Foundation speaking at the ground breaking

Reminded me of how long it took to get the Arch in the first place. It was nearly 35 years from the time the idea of a riverfront memorial (December 15, 1933) to the dedication (May 25, 1968). Even then, the landscaping wasn’t completed.

On October 28, 2015 I’m sure some will be critical of what isn’t complete. In 2017 we can celebrate the 50th anniversary of the trams or in 2018 the 50th anniversary of the original dedication, more will be completed by then.

Workers were busy on Memorial near Washington yesterday
Workers were busy on Memorial near Washington yesterday

The next couple of years will be interesting, I hope the new visitor experience being built pays off over the coming 50 years.

— Steve Patterson

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