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. Â This post is about trying to safely reach Forest Park via Skinker & Clayton Ave.
If you look the image above, with the top intersection being Clayton & Skinker, you can see crosswalks don’t cross either into Forest Park.
Pedestrians (able-bodied & disabled) need to reach Forest Park.
The “Cross County” MetroLink extension opened in August 2006. Â In that time many would expect new development and increased walkability around the new stations but we had no plan beyond the line. Â I’d plan for and require dense development and walkability over time. Â But Â not in our region, here we can spend hundreds of millions on transit infrastructure but not change the land planning to justify the infrastructure capital investment.
To make the transit investment worthwhile there must be nearby destinations (housing, office, retail, etc) and the ability to walk to/from transit and these nearby destinations. In cities where transit is planned and zoning is changed in anticipation of a transit line you get new dense & walkable development occurring before the line even opens for riders.
In May 1988 a small mall in the St. Louis suburb of Richmond Heights began planning to expand, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 15, 1988:
“Earlier this month, Hycel Properties Co. announced an ambitious plan to quadruple the size of the Saint Louis Galleria. The Richmond Heights shopping mall will add four department stores, 100 new specialty stores, a 300-room luxury hotel, two covered parking garages and up to three office buildings.”
At the time both sides of Brentwood Blvd was lined with buildings. Â The developer needed help from the Richmond Heights:
“The St. Louis Galleria said Monday that it would seek eminent domain power from the city of Richmond Heights to acquire 94 of the 113 commercial buildings and houses in the Clay North neighborhood.” – P-D Aug 30 1988
Richmond Heights granted the power of eminent domain but did nothing to ensure pedestrians could also reach the expanded Galleria. Â The mall has five entrances to the outdoors and a few more connecting to the parking garage along the west side of the mall. The expansion was built in the early 1990s, after the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 became law.
The expanded Galleria would be open for nearly 15 years before the MetroLink light rail line would open nearby but since the mall is surrounded by housing & businesses they should have planned for customers to arrive on foot rather than behind the wheel. In a minimal way, they did but I’ll get to that in a bit.
I did “drive” my wheelchair through the parking lot to reach the nearest entrance – once. On my next visit I followed the perimeter sidewalk trying to access an entrance without risking my life wheeling through the parking lot.
That’s right, the other four entrances have sliding door that open automatically but this entry has standard doors! The door on the right has a wheelchair sticker at the bottom but no opener so I don’t get why. Â But I was able to get past the doors and the set of doors right behind but it involved considerably more work than wide sliding doors.
On my next visit I will see if I can go around the former Mark Shale space to reach the entry by Restoration Hardware. A lot of work to reach the mall, someone working at the office building just across I-64 would never travel this far on foot to the mall on their lunch break or after work. Â Nor would they walk through the parking lot from the public sidewalk along Brentwood. Â The Galleria at Clayton & Brentwood could have easily been designed with pedestrian routes to five entrances. Â Very little effort, very little cost — but lasting benefits.
In August 2010. a year after opening, door openers have been added to the two front doors at Culinaria downtown.
These went up just days after I posted about the absence of them. Â These were already in the works so my post had nothing to do with them being installed. Â They were just waiting to determine if the State of Missouri was going to foot the bill for their installation. You see, we taxpayers own the 9th Street Parking Garage where Culinaria is located.
Yesterday I looked at MVVA’s plan to close Washington Ave between the river and I-70.Â Today I will look at proposed changes an the edge of the Mississippi River.
“Our proposal removes the existing waterfront streetscape in order to reinstate the full form of the cobblestone levee. Sculptural river gauges mirror the monumentality of Saarinen’s river walls and frame the use of the levee surface in relation to the fluctuating river edge. The single central stage is replaced by a gentle swell in the cobble surface that can accommodate a broader spectrum of markets, concerts, and seasonal attractions.”
Consultants had this to say:
This design would improve connectivity for pedestrians and bikes at the north and south ends, but reduce vehicular connectivity overall with the closure of Washington Avenue and Poplar Street. Gates would be added to the arches under Eads Bridge, removing vehicular access to Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard from the north. In addition, moving the garage entrance closer to the river would result in diminished access due to frequent flooding.
The drawing looks good but the reality will be quite different. Â Like the many failed pedestrian malls we’ve had in the US, removing cars is no guarantee pedestrians will fill the space. In fact, removing auto access makes it more difficult for some to reach the location. Â So do I think it should remain unchanged? Â Hardly. Â I’m an advocate of mixing all modes of transportation — pedestrians, bicycles, transit, and vehicles.
Like the stretch of Washington Ave next to Eads Bridge, Lenore K. Sullivan is excessively wide.
I personally would like to see a very narrow street remain, too narrow for tour buses & trucks. Â Include pockets of on-street parking on both sides but include bulb-outs between the pockets so the main curb to curb is narrow, even if no cars are parked. Â For events the street can be closed as has always been the case for years.
The stated goal of the competition was connectivity, closing off streets does the opposite.
Overall I’m fine with MVVA’s winning proposal for connecting to the Arch but one idea is horrible — the removal of Washington Ave along the south edge of the Eads Bridge. Â On page 12 of the MVVA narrative they wrote:
“By removing the existing Memorial garage and the terminus of Washington Avenue, which is used almost exclusively by garage patrons, our proposal allows the openings in the Eads Bridge to serve as portals between Laclede’s Landing and a dynamic civic landscape. Accessible pathways stitch together a mix of neighborhood programs and event space, including a large playground, comfortable shaded seating, an earthen amphitheater, and the Gateway Urban Ecology Center, which offers afterschool programs and summer camps for St. Louis and East St. Louis students.”
Yes, the north parking garage is a hideous barrier between Laclede’s Landing and the Arch Grounds, but Washington Ave is not a problem. Â Streets connect. Narrow the street to the width of those in Laclede’s Landing but leave it so circulation in the area isn’t cut off more. Â Allow pedicabs, carriages and vehicles to slowly navigate the area. Â But cutting off more of the grid will create more problems than it solves.
Has it really been nearly two full years since I’ve written about Loughborough Commons? It wasÂ December 2008 when I wrote about the new Burger King’s lack of pedestrian access despite the nearby sidewalk.
“Burger King has very generous provisions for the motorist but zip for the pedestrian. What pedestrians you might ask. Well, people do walk to Loughborough Commons. People also arrive by bus and bike. Yes, most use a car but we shouldnâ€™t overlook those not driving private autos. Everyone spending money at Loughborough Commons is paying an extra tax to the Community Improvement district. Shouldnâ€™t pedestrians expect some accommodation in return?”
Of course, nothing was done to correct the lack of pedestrian access. Â Now construction has started on the Fifth Third Bank for the parcel between the main entrance and the Burger King. Â Here is what the site looked like in late 2008:
The bank building faces Loughborough but will be reached internally. The drive through lanes, not the front door is what is visible from the main drive.
My assumption is the existing sidewalk will not be continued across the edge of the parcel and not up to the front door, a clear violation of the ADA.
I was only at Loughborough Commons for a few minutes but I spotted pedestrians leaving as I was leaving. Walkability is not that difficult but it is obviously out of the mindset of civil engineers and the developers who hire them.
This view of Charlie Gitto’s with an big parking garage on the left and a surface parking lot on the right exemplifies everything that went wrong with urban planning. On this city block, only one other building dodged the wrecking ball.
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