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North 14th Street Finally Reopened To Vehicle Traffic

ABOVE: North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall 1991
ABOVE: North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall 1991

In March 1977 the North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall opened with high expectations.  However, the high expectations quickly turned to high vacancy as merchants closed up shop. Retailers have long known the importance of providing some on-street parking in front of their establishments but over 100 pedestrian malls had been built in North America by 1977 and St. Louis didn’t want to be left out of the trend.

ABOVE: 14th & Montgomery, 1972 (pre-mall), photo by Robert Spatz

Just fourteen years later, in 1991, the mall was nearly dead.  It had already been this way for a while.  It had, perhaps, one good year of life.

ABOVE: Earlier this week the street was opened to auto traffic

In July a celebration was held to mark the completion of the street but delayed streetlights meant the city wouldn’t permit vehicles.  Prior to the mall the sidewalks were narrow and broken.  After the mall there was far more sidewalk than pedestrians.  Today the street offers a balance between pedestrian & motorist. With construction time, North 14th was out of balance for 34 years, a very long time when the failed urban planning experiment prevented organic revitalization of the street.

– Steve Patterson

Reaching My Polling Place

My polling place is just under a mile west of my loft, just west of Jefferson at the Heritage House senior housing building located at 2800 Olive.  In the past few elections I have driven my car but I decided to use transit for yesterday’s election.  The bus ride was direct and short.

ABOVE: Looking west across Leffingwell Ave on the north side of Olive St

Exiting the bus at Leffingwell Ave & Olive St. I noticed the first problem, I couldn’t cross Leffingwell due to no curb ramp on the other side of the street. I needed to cross Olive St. anyway so I did that first.

ABOVE: Looking west across Leffingwell Ave on the south side of Olive St, the eastbound bus shelter is visible on the sidewalk

Unfortunately, the same problem existed when trying to cross Leffingwell on this side of Olive.  Since I needed  to cross the street to vote I had to look for alternate places to cross.

img_1126Halfway down the block I found a place to cross, on the east side of Leffingwell was a drive from an alley and the other side was a driveway for my destination.  My first preference to cross a street is a signalized intersection.  Second is a 4-way stop and the least desirable is mid-block. I was well aware that

I have reported this lack of curb ramps to St. Louis’ Citizens Service Bureau via Twitter (@csbSTL).

- Steve Patterson

Update on Taxi Stand on Sidewalk

ABOVE: Rams fans are forced around taxis on Sunday Oct 31, 2010
ABOVE: Rams fans are forced around taxis on Sunday Oct 31, 2010, taking the narrow path next to the curb or the circle driveway

I’ve been blogging about the placement of a taxi stand on the sidewalk in front of the convention center for years, with few results. In January 2007 I posted this video of a taxi exiting the stand via the pedestrian crosswalk:


That prompted the Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC) to add bollards at the two crosswalk locations across Washington Ave.  This prevented the taxis from exiting onto the crosswalk but it didn’t address the primary problem: the former sidewalk was now occupied by taxis.  Where should the pedestrians walk?

Pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk in front of America’s Center has increased since the old St. Louis Centre pedestrian bridge came down but it has still been hard to capture the problem in still images or video.  But Sunday after the Rams game the sidewalks were packed and it became easy to photograph & video the problem with parking taxis smack dab in the middle of the pedestrian sidewalk.

The following video is seven minutes of people walking around the taxis, not riveting but telling of the problem.


Happily I think a solution is near, I will meet with the CVC next week to see a drawing of their concept on how to return the sidewalk space to pedestrians. I’m finally optimistic about the situation.

– Steve Patterson

Most Readers Keen On Sunken Public Spaces, But Many Not

ABOVE: sunken amphitheater at Kiener Plaza

Readers like the changes of level offered by sunken spaces, here are the results from last week’s poll:

Q: How do you feel about sunken public spaces like the May Amphitheater?

  1. I like the change of levels. 62 [52.1%]
  2. Not good, it is hard to see activity going on. 36 [30.25%]
  3. Unsure/no opinion 12 [10.08%]
  4. Other answer… 9 [7.56%]

The other answers were:

  • I don’t care for them; they are just plain ulgy!
  • Ok for certain uses, like an amphitheatre, but not really a good idea otherwise
  • Not sure, this needs a refresh on its look.
  • great for events like Macy’s Holiday Celebration
  • Doesn’t work unless their is natural contours to work with
  • Nice to have elevations as long as one elevation feeds to street level
  • It depends on context
  • It makes a great place to skateboard.
  • Love em, they draw my attention right to em
ABOVE: sunken amphitheater at Kiener Plaza during an anti Prop A rally

So you can see people around the edge during an event but you have no clue how many are inside.

img_0983From the outside you can’t see the stage or get any sense of the activity happening within.  Some changes of level, such as at Citygarden, is good but  a hidden hole is bad.

– Steve Patterson

The Schlafly Bottleworks Lacks Pedestrian Route To Front Door

ABOVE: One of two automobile entrances at Bottleworks with the entrance in the background

Twice now I have visited Schlafly’s Bottleworks in Maplewood (map) using public transit. Being disabled, I arrived at the site in my power wheelchair after departing the bus. The issue of access is the same for the able-bodied using transit or by walking from the surrounding area.

While it is great Schlafly reused an old grocery store building it is unfortunate their architect/engineer didn’t include a walkway to connect to the public sidewalk on Southwest.  During the $5 million construction work, in 2003, a patio was added out front and the parking lot was reconfigured. It is at this time that a walkway should have been added to connect the public sidewalk to the front door.

ABOVE: pedestrians can see, but not reach, the front door from the sidewalk

As you can see from the above photo the distance to reach the walk next to the patio just isn’t that great. From an aerial view it looks like this:

ABOVE: the blue line represents the short path to connect to the public sidewalk

The amount of effort that would have been required, at the time the work was done, would have been minimal.  Even today the effort isn’t much, including the loss of one auto parking space.

Hopefully Schlafly’s will see fit to correct their pedestrian access deficiency. Based on my conversation with the manager last night I think they will.

– Steve Patterson

Accessible Not The Same As Walkable

Walkability & accessibility are two subjects that are important to me. Ideally places would be both walkable & accessible, but that is rare.  The minimum, for me, is accessible.  But being accessible, ADA-compliant, isn’t remotely close to being walkable.

ABOVE: Downtown Belleville is an example of walkable with narrow streets and buildings up against the sidewalks.  Main St is also accessible.
ABOVE: Downtown Belleville IL is an example of walkable with narrow streets and buildings up against the sidewalks. Main St is also accessible.

Walkable, in my mind, requires active tree-lined streets with generous sidewalks.  In residential areas the buildings may be set back a bit from the sidewalk, but not too much.  Someone on the sidewalk should be able to converse with someone on a front porch.  Residential sidewalks should connect to a nearby commercial area no more than 1/4 mile away.  The commercial district will have a variety of adjacent buildings all fronting onto the public sidewalk.  Building fronts shall mostly be glass windows & doors, not blank walls.  Public transit is available in walkable areas.

Accessible, in my mind, means a disabled person can navigate the area.  This includes someone in a wheelchair as well as deaf or low vision/blind persons.

ABOVE: ADA-compliant access route to CVS at Gravois & Hampton/Germania
ABOVE: ADA-compliant access route to CVS at Gravois & Hampton/Germania
ABOVE: ADA-compliant access route to Arby's on Lindell

The CVS and Arby’s are both accessible but neither is walkable.  Yes, someone can walk there along the accessible route but neither contributes to a walkable environment.

I reluctantly accept that not everyplace is going to be built walkable but I refuse to accept anyplace not being accessible from the public sidewalk adjacent to the property.

ABOVE: short-lived Starbucks in Soulard is neither walkable nor accessible
ABOVE: short-lived Starbuck's in Soulard is neither walkable nor accessible

The Starbuck’s, above, closed after being open less than a year.   It was drivable, but not walkable or accessible.

– Steve Patterson

The Galleria Revisited

On October 11th I posted Reaching The Galleria Not Easy For Pedestrians and noted the accessible route let to the one entrance that didn’t have automatic doors.

ABOVE: The entrance directly inline with the access route from post on the 11th

I wrote: “On my next visit I will see if I can go around the former Mark Shale space to reach the entry by Restoration Hardware.” I visited again on Wednesday and discovered I could reach an entrance with automatic doors.


img_0846More distance but hey I’ve traveled a long way already.

ABOVE: Blue line represents my path from the nearby light rail station
ABOVE: Blue line represents my path from the nearby light rail station

So I can access the mall without working my way through the parking lot or struggling with a manual door.  But nobody should have to travel that far to reach an accessible entrance.  The Galleria needs to look at building some new structures between Brentwood Blvd and the mall, aligned with the Galleria Parkway that leads to the transit station.

– Steve Patterson

Pedestrian Improvements At Utah Place & Gustine Ave

I recently noticed some pedestrian improvements at Utah Place & Gustine Ave.  To note the changes we need to look at a similar intersection, Utah Place & Spring Ave:

ABOVE: Utah Pl & Spring, pedestrians are exposed when crossing Utah Pl
ABOVE: Utah Pl & Spring, pedestrians now have a refuge when crossing Utah Pl
ABOVE: Looking north across Utah Pl
ABOVE: Looking west across Gustine Ave, note the detectable warnings point in the direction a blind person should walk
ABOVE: SE corner of Gustine & Utah with ramps/detectable warnings pointing in the right direction.

Scroll up and look at the aerial again, the ramps on west side of Gustine crossing Utah point into the center of the intersection, not at the crosswalk.  These new improvements are a step in the right direction, but not without flaws.

- Steve Patterson

Readers Not Positive About Proposed Solutions For Connecting The City To The Arch


Last week readers voted on their thoughts on the winning proposal in the City+Arch+River competition. While the top individual answer shows support (with changes) the overall sentiment is negative:

Q: Now that you’ve had a chance to review the MVVA proposal (for City+Arch+River), what do you think?

  1. With a few changes it will work 41 [29.5%]
  2. Few elements aren’t bad but otherwise not impressed 39 [28.06%]
  3. Very disappointed, my least favorite 24 [17.27%]
  4. Doesn’t matter, very little will get built. 18 [12.95%]
  5. Very excited, best of the five finalists 7 [5.04%]
  6. Other answer… 4 [2.88%]
  7. Don’t like or dislike it 3 [2.16%]
  8. Unsure/no opinion 3 [2.16%]

The other responses were:

  1. the arch is decaying, fix that first!
  2. Will this really make the riverfront more vibrant and connected to the city?
  3. Disappointed, this is the doable design, not the inspired vision design.
  4. The only do-able option

Hopefully in five years we will be impressed by the final outcome.  Here is the MVVA video:


– Steve Patterson

Reaching Forest Park A Challenge For Pedestrians Near SW Corner

ABOVE: Forest Park (upper right) is walking distance to many. The center is Clayton & Skinker. Image: Google Maps (click to view)

Forest Park is a major regional asset, larger than New York’s Central Park. Many people live within walking distance of the park but reaching the park isn’t an easy task.  This post is about trying to safely reach Forest Park via Skinker & Clayton Ave.

ABOVE: Aerial of Clayton & Skinker (vertical) showing no crosswalks across either road into Forest Park, hard to reach bus stop.

If you look the image above, with the top intersection being Clayton & Skinker, you can see crosswalks don’t cross either into Forest Park.

ABOVE: No crosswalk or pedestrian signal looking east across Skinker from the NW corner at Clayton
ABOVe: From the same corner looking south, a crosswalk & pedestrian signal are provided
ABOVE: looking west from the SW corner of Forest Park
ABOVE: rotating to the right (north) you see there is no sidewalk along Skinker to reach the bus stopÂ

ABOVE: Once on the corner of Forest Park you see the jogging trail
ABOVE: looking south from the corner of Forest Park, no crosswalk or signal

ABOVE: looking north toward Forest Park new concrete where a crosswalk should be
ABOVE: looking north toward Forest Park new concrete where a crosswalk should be

Pedestrians (able-bodied & disabled) need to reach Forest Park.

– Steve Patterson

10th ANNIVERSARY MONTH! OCT 31, 2004 — OCT 31, 2014

The end of October 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL.com -- same ownership, same URL!

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“The doctor told my husband, ‘We’re going to put you on a ventilator and let your lungs rest so your body can heal. And as soon as you’re breathing on your own we’re going to take you off of it. But I need your permission.’ My husband was sweating and breathing almost 50-60 times a minute and he pointed to me. The doctor said, ‘You mean you want your wife to make the decision?’ And that’s when I realized what till death do us part really meant. If I had known when I married him that I was going to have to decide when his last living speaking moment would be, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to get married. I looked at my husband and said, ‘You’ve got to go on the ventilator.’ He bowed his head because he couldn’t speak. I said, ‘I love you. I’ll see you when you get off of it.’ And he never got off. That was it. That was the last heartbeat between us.”

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