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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

Eight Great New Books on Urban Planning

Book publishers have been busy this year, here are eight books I received that expand and illustrate the latest efforts of planners to design cities & suburbs for people, not just their cars.

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Charter of the New Urbanism, 2nd Edition, edited by Emily Talen

Thoroughly updated to cover the latest environmental, economic, and social implications of urban design, Charter of the New Urbanism, Second Edition features insightful writing from 62 authors on each of the Charter’s principles. Featuring new photos and illustrations, it is an invaluable resource for design professionals, developers, planners, elected officials, and citizen activists. Real-world case studies, plans, and examples are included throughout.

My take: An important update to the 1999 original. A must-read for advocates & critics of New Urbanism.

City-Rules-cover

City Rules: How Regulations Affect Urban Form by Emily Talen

Many planners look down on zoning and think of it more as limiting rather than enabling. While the initial intentions behind zoning were noble and egalitarian, zoning became a huge disappointment in many cities, failing to either protect the public good, promote public health, or keep nuisances away from people. These discrepancies between zoning intentions and its outcomes have become subjects of heated debate among planners and policymakers. For example, how does top-down zoning stack up against the virtues of self-regulating voluntary cities? Does Houston’s model of land development, regulation based solely on the inner workings of the private market, exemplify a more efficient, democratic, and egalitarian planning mechanism compared to the growth boundaries and zoning laws of Portland, Oregon? How has zoning affected residents’ quality of life? And, can we conclude that zoning regulations have become instruments for snobbism and exclusion? Against the backdrop of these questions and debates, City Rules: How Regulations Affect Urban Form critically examines zoning and explores why it has sometimes harmed more than helped cities.

My take: This book has long been needed to show the unintended consequences of use-based “Euclidean” zoning, how we need to change our regulations to achieve a more desirable outcome.

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Designing Suburban Futures: New Models From Build A Better Burb by June Williamson

Suburbs deserve a better, more resilient future. June Williamson shows that suburbs aren’t destined to remain filled with strip malls and excess parking lots; they can be reinvigorated through inventive design. Drawing on award-winning design ideas for revitalizing Long Island, she offers valuable models not only for U.S. suburbs, but also those emerging elsewhere with global urbanization.

Williamson argues that suburbia has historically been a site of great experimentation and is currently primed for exciting changes. Today, dead malls, aging office parks, and blighted apartment complexes are being retrofitted into walkable, sustainable communities. Williamson shows how to expand this trend, highlighting promising design strategies and tactics.

My take: Excellent color color illustrations show how to design better suburbs, without trying to make them into Manhattan.  A great design resource!

goodcities-betterlives-cover

Good Cities, Better Lives: How Europe Discovered the Lost Art of Urbanism by Peter Hall

The book is in three parts. Part 1 analyses the main issues for urban planning and development – in economic development and job generation, sustainable development, housing policy, transport and development mechanisms – and probes how practice in the UK has fallen short.

Part Two embarks on a tour of best-practice cities in Europe, starting in Germany with the country’s boosting of its cities’ economies, moving to the spectacularly successful new housing developments in the Netherlands, from there to France’s integrated city transport, then to Scandinavia’s pursuit of sustainability for its cities, and finally back to Germany, to Freiburg – the city that ‘did it all’.

Part Three sums up the lessons of Part Two and sets out the key steps needed to launch a new wave of urban development and regeneration on a radically different basis.

My take: Hall takes a complex problem and breaks it down into manageable lessons.

green-cities-europe-cover

Green Cities of Europe: Global Lessons on Green Urbanism, edited by Timothy Beatly

Timothy Beatley has brought together leading experts from Paris, Freiburg, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Heidelberg, Venice, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and London to illustrate groundbreaking practices in sustainable urban planning and design. These cities are developing strong urban cores, building pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and improving public transit. They are incorporating ecological design and planning concepts, from solar energy to natural drainage and community gardens. And they are changing the way government works, instituting municipal “green audits” and reforming economic incentives to encourage sustainability.

My take: Contributors look at 7 European cities, then Beatly draws conclusions. I’ve not yet visited Europe so I don’t have personal experience to draw from, but now I want to go more than ever.

nature-urban-design-cover

The Nature of Urban Design: A New York Perspective On Resilience by Alexander Washburn

In this visually rich book, Alexandros Washburn, Chief Urban Designer of the New York Department of City Planning, redefines urban design. His book empowers urbanites and lays the foundations for a new approach to design that will help cities to prosper in an uncertain future. He asks his readers to consider how cities shape communities, for it is the strength of our communities, he argues, that will determine how we respond to crises like Hurricane Sandy, whose floodwaters he watched from his home in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

My take: Washburn helps the reader look at the city differently, and care about its future. His approach works regardless of your city.

principals-urban-retail-cover

Principles of Urban Retail: Planning and Development by Robert J. Gibbs

The retail environment has evolved rapidly in the past few decades, with the retailing industry and its placement and design of “brick-and-mortar” locations changing with evolving demographics, shopping behavior, transportation options and a desire in recent years for more unique shopping environments.

Written by a leading expert, this is a guide to planning for retail development for urban planners, urban designers and architects. It includes an overview of history of retail design, a look at retail and merchandising trends, and principles for current retail developments.

My take: St. Louis planners, aldermen, retail developers, and urban naysayers need to study this book cover to cover!

urban-planning-handbook-cover

The Urban Masterplanning Handbook by Eric Firley & Katharina Groen

A highly illustrated reference tool, this handbook provides comparative visual analysis of major urban extensions and masterplans around the world. It places an important new emphasis on the processes and structures that influence urban form, highlighting the significant impact that public or private landownership, management and funding might have on shaping a particular project. Each of the book’s 20 subjects is rigorously analysed through original diagrams, scale drawings and descriptive texts, which are complemented by key statistics and colour photography. The case studies are presented in order of size rather than date or geographical location. This offers design professionals, developers and city planners, as well as students of architecture and urban design informed organisational and formal comparisons, leading to intriguing insights.

My take: Wow, so much useful information is packed into this book, presented in a way to make it easily accessible.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Housing Development in Pagedale Ignores Pedestrians, ADA

In August 2010 a new Save-A-Lot grocery store opened in the St. Louis County municipality of Pagedale:

ST. LOUIS, August 5, 2010 – Save-A-Lot, a SUPERVALU (NYSE: SVU) company, one of the nation’s leading hard discount carefully selected assortment grocery chains, has extended its commitment to a local neighborhood in need of access to fresh produce, dairy and meats with the opening of the first new grocery retailer in the Pagedale community in 40 years. The store is a result of a partnership with Beyond Housing, one of the St. Louis region’s leading providers of housing and support services for low-income families and homeowners.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the opening of this new Save-A-Lot Food Store, which will serve thousands of families including hundreds in the Pagedale community,” says Chris Krehmeyer, president and CEO of Beyond Housing. “The opening of this store is another step toward our goal of providing families with access to necessities, such as groceries and bringing new jobs to the community.” (Save-A-Lot

Pagedale is a low-income municipality that has long been ignored by for-profit developers.

The Save-A-Lot in 2010, set back from Page
The Save-A-Lot in 2010, set back from Page
Looking from the front of the store out toward Page. Despite being very close there isn't a safe accessible route.
Looking from the front of the store out toward Page. Despite being very close there isn’t a safe accessible route.
An ADA-compliant route does exist, but few will go the extra distance required to use it.
An ADA-compliant route does exist, but few will go the extra distance required to use it. The slope might be too steep to be ADA-compliant.
The red line shows the accessible route from the bus stop to entry
The red line shows the accessible route from the bus stop to entry. Click image to view map
The customer circled in red was headed west on Page, he took the shortest route.
The customer circled in red was headed west on Page, he took the shortest route.
Looking west in 2010, the east end of the site was undeveloped
Looking west in 2010, the east end of the site was undeveloped
Looking into the site in 2010, future development site on the left and Save-A-Lot parking on the right
Looking into the site in 2010, future development site on the left and Save-A-Lot parking on the right
In this 2013 view you can now see the new development on the east end.
In this 2013 view you can now see the new development on the east end.

The new development includes a bank and senior apartments:

Mayor of Pagedale Mary Louise Carter looked on as Chris Krehmeyer, president and CEO of Beyond Housing, and Ron Barnes, Midwest BankCentre (MBC) chairman, recently unveiled the city’s first-ever full-service bank.

“This is a great day for the City of Pagedale,” Mayor Carter said. “This means convenience for our residents because they can now bank right in their own city at a financial institution with a long history of excellent service.” (St. Louis American)

Yes, a local bank branch can be very convenient.

Getting closer to the multi-story building
Getting closer to the multi-story building
Gee, how do we get to the bank or housing?
Gee, how do we get into the housing?
Or into the bank?
Or into the bank? Clearly the drive-up window is more important than pedestrians getting to the entry.
Senior housing as seen from Save-A-Lot's entry
Senior housing as seen from Save-A-Lot’s entry. Can grandma navigate this using a walker?

I applaud Beyond Housing for investing in Pagedale, adding needed retail, banking, & housing. But the common “drive everywhere, walk nowhere” viewpoint is expressed in the design. As a result, I’m disappointed.

Numerous buildings were razed allowing them a clean slate. Nobody on the design team asked how a senior got from their apartment to the 1) bus, or 2) grocery store.  Maybe they thought all low-income seniors have cars?

— Steve Patterson

Roberts Market Place at Kingshighway & Delmar Hostile to Pedestrians

The Roberts Market Place has opened at Kingshighway & Delmar, the site of a former Schnucks. Discount grocer ALDI, the only business so far, is the anchor. Unfortunately, it is designed to be driven to, not walked to.

Roberts Market Place on the NE corner of Kingshighway & Delmar
Roberts Market Place on the NE corner of Kingshighway & Delmar, click image for map link
The same corner back in April
The same corner back in April
Looking east along Delmar
Looking east along Delmar
Looking north along Kingshighway, a stop for the #95 MetroBus is circled in red
Looking north along Kingshighway, a stop for the #95 MetroBus is circled in red. Concrete barriers block the auto driveway.
The fencing blocks pedestrian access, except at the auto driveways
The fencing blocks pedestrian access, except at the auto driveways. Not welcoming at all
Looking east along Enright we see a family leaving ALDI
Looking east along Enright Ave we see a family leaving ALDI
An opening in the fence at the auto driveway.
An opening in the fence at the auto driveway.
At least a walkway was provided at one point
At least a walkway was provided at one point
Not a straight shot or wide enough if you meet someone, but as a bare minimum it works...except...
Not a straight shot or wide enough if you meet someone, but as a bare minimum it works…except…
Who fits between the carts & bollard? Certainly nobody using a cane, walker, scooter, or wheelchair! #adafail
Who fits between the carts & bollard? Certainly nobody using a cane, walker, scooter, or wheelchair! #adafail
Looking back at the problem from the opposite side
Looking back at the problem from the opposite side
Looking west toward Kingshighway
Looking west toward Kingshighway
Looking south toward Delmar
Looking south toward Delmar
Getting closer toward Delmar we can see the fence forces pedestrians to enter/exit via the auto driveway
Getting closer toward Delmar we can see the fence forces pedestrians to enter/exit via the auto driveway

Seriously? The one minimal pedestrian route from a secondary road is blocked by a bollard!?! As I mentioned in April, the site has been divided into three parcels.

Outline of the parcel Aldi purchased.
Outline of the ALDI parcel, the other two are just parking right now.
A hearing will be held on the 20th for a drive-thru fast-food restaurant at the Kingshighway & Enright parcel
A hearing will be held on the 20th for a drive-thru fast-food restaurant at the Kingshighway & Enright parcel

It would’ve been relatively easy to plan a north-south sidewalk through the site connecting Enright to Delmar, with a perpendicular walk connecting to the bus stop on Kingshighway. This would’ve provided a pedestrian route to all three adjacent streets and to all three parcels. Instead we’ve got another development that ignores pedestrians almost entirely.

The #97 (Delmar) bus and #95 (Kingshighway) bus generate lots of pedestrian traffic at this location. Many customers & employees of ALDI, a new drive-thru, and a third place will arrive on foot. Development in our neighborhoods should be designed to welcome motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. This must be mandated, developers aren’t going to do it on their own — especially not in low-income areas where they do as little as possible.

— Steve Patterson

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UrbanReview ST LOUIS shared Vintage St. Louis's photo. ... See MoreSee Less

July 24, 1967 The unique trams that take visitors to the top of the Gateway Arch were dedicated, nearly two years after the arch was finished. The trams are operated by Bi-State. Financial difficulty, and administrative bickering with in the agency delayed completion of the system.

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