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Readers Favor Sympathetic Infill, But Clearly From A Different Period

ABOVE: Infill construction in Oklahoma City

The poll last week was interesting with the largest group of readers picking the answer that best sums up my thoughts.

  1. Respectful of the massing & proportions of the old but clearly from a different period 84 [47.73%]
  2. Be whatever is fashionable in new neighborhoods at the time 36 [20.45%]
  3. Any structure is better than a vacant lot 22 [12.5%]
  4. Replicate the older structures so you can’t tell new from old 18 [10.23%]
  5. Approximate the old structures but not as detailed so you can easily tell new from old 9 [5.11%]
  6. Other answer… 5 [2.84%]
  7. Unsure/no opinion 2 [1.14%]

The five other answers were:

  1. Replication is the first option, but new style should blend well with existing.
  2. I think the one in the picture looks cool.
  3. Whatever historic preservation boards tell us bc theyre always right.
  4. As long as it is quality construction…
  5. they can do whatever they want; it’s their property and money

I’ll plan a future post looking at numerous examples of infill in St. Louis.

- Steve Patterson

PR: MVVA Team Moves Forward in City+Arch+River 2015 Competition

The following is a press release from this afternoon:

Sept. 21, 2010
MVVA Team Moves Forward in City+Arch+River 2015 Competition

“Strong Team and Solid Methodology” Pushes Team Led by Michael Van Valkenburgh into 90-day Program Analysis and Design Development Effort

ST. LOUIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and a multidisciplinary team introduced as experts in “urban renewal, preservation, commemoration, social connections and ecological restoration” have been picked for the planning phase of The City+The Arch+The River 2015 International Design Competition.

Leaders of the team will be introduced, along with details on the next stages of the process, at 10:00 a.m., Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, at the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

The jury chose the MVVA Team over four others competing to enliven the area around the Gateway Arch and connect it to downtown St. Louis, the Mississippi River and the Illinois bank. Based in New York, MVVA’s portfolio includes the redesign of Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House, the design of Brooklyn Bridge Park and many other prominent projects. (Please see the MVVA Team profile at end of this document for information on expertise and accomplishments of its members.)

In its final report, the competition jury called the MVVA Team “a strong team with solid methodology.” As a team, “they convey intelligence and provide clear technical support for their design proposals,” the jury report states.

“MVVA is an outstanding team that presented a winning combination of the ambitious and the manageable,” said Tom Bradley, Superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. “They showed great reverence for the beauty and significance of the existing site, while suggesting improvements and attractions in line with our competition goals. We’re excited to start planning.”

Over a 90-day period, the team will work in partnership with the sponsors, the City of St. Louis, the National Park Service and others to further define program requirements; begin developing a design that takes into account the feasibility and practicality of proposed solutions; create a construction budget and fundraising plan; and define the delivery expectations from now until 2015.

“Between now and January, we will be challenging the MVVA Team to rise to the challenge to do what’s best for the city, for the region and for this national park,” said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. “The Arch is a national treasure, but it is intensely personal to people in and around St Louis. We will be working with Michael and his team, with continued input from the community and the experts, on creating the best solutions for the Arch grounds and the neighboring area.”

“There is huge potential for the Illinois riverbank area and collaboration on both sides of the river,” said Dr. Vaughn Vandegrift, Chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, who serves with Bradley, Mayor Slay and others on the competitions governing group. “Our discussions regarding Illinois intensified and evolved even after the competition was launched. There are opportunities for the Illinois riverbank area now that didn’t exist when we gave instructions to the teams. We will work closely with the MVVA Team to evaluate what they have proposed and expand from there.”

Strong support for project implementation was shared last month in a letter to competition organizers from the bi-partisan Missouri and Illinois congressional delegations and during a visit by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, who oversees the National Park Service and pledged to get the project done.

“This is another critical step in a continuum that began with the review of the park’s general management plan and continued on to the call for a competition, the skillful execution of the competition itself, today’s announcement of a winning design team, the establishment of an implementation team and a concept from which we can build,” said Bradley. “We are looking to this effort as a model for both public-private collaboration and improved connections between cities and our urban national parks.”

The MVVA Team’s design concept narrative describes their vision for the redesigned park as a “centerpiece of civic culture, an engine of regional economic growth, a showcase for sustainable ecological restoration and a celebration of the national significance of this historic place.”

The sponsoring group, the MVVA Team and others will host intensive reviews and workshops this fall to analyze the design concept and conduct a more detailed design exploration. At a minimum, the study will focus on the review of the technical advisory group, the impact on related downtown park properties and the Illinois side of the river, traffic and transportation and federal compliance issues.

The sponsors also will study issues relating to cost and construction, traffic, financial resources and federal compliance.

A monthly web-based progress report will update the public throughout the implementation period.

The eight-member jury counted among its members a Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, a professor in the humanities, a former deputy director of the National Park Service, a real estate economist, a museum curator and renowned architects and landscape architects.

The jury shared its report and team rankings with the competition sponsor and managers after a series of presentations and tours of the community, competition site and exhibit of design concepts led by the sponsors and culminating in public presentations by the teams late last month.

The project will be constructed by Oct. 28, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Arch.

About the Competition

The goal of The City+The Arch+The River 2015 international design competition is to create an iconic setting for the international icon, the Gateway Arch, honoring its immediate surroundings and weaving connections and transitions from the city and the Arch grounds to the Mississippi River, including the east bank in Illinois.

The competition, launched Dec. 8, 2009, has had three stages. Portfolio submissions in Stage I included a description of the lead designer, a statement of design intent and philosophy of the lead designer, a profile of the design team and examples of their work. From the original 49 submissions, in February 2010, the jury picked nine to enter Stage II.

Stage II involved the formation of the complete teams capable of executing the project, submission of required qualifications and a jury interview. This phase culminated in early April 2010, when the teams met with the jury and the field was narrowed to five teams.

On April 28, 2010, at the beginning of Stage III, the finalist teams presented their design philosophies and examples of past work at a public “Meet the Design Teams” event in downtown St. Louis, hosted by sportscaster Joe Buck. This event was followed by a three month design concept competition to explore the finalists’ design approach and test their working methodology.

The design concepts went on display on Aug. 17, 2010, at the Arch and in an exhibit traveling throughout the bi-state region. Visitors were able to voice opinions about the design concepts in the first week of the exhibit. A synopsis of the more than 600 comments received was shared with the jury. The finalist teams presented their design concepts to the jury in public session on Aug. 26, 2010.

The final project design, budget and implementation plan will be presented in January 2011. The project will be constructed by Oct. 28, 2015.

The new design is called for in the National Park Service’s General Management Plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which was developed with extensive public input over an 18-month period and approved Nov. 23, 2009.

The competition is sponsored by the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation, which includes National Park Superintendent Tom Bradley, St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay, community leaders from Missouri and Illinois, academics, architects and national park advocates.

Financial contributions to the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation are being handled by the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation, a public charity with more than $140 million in charitable assets and representing more than 350 individual funds.

Donors to the competition include: Emerson, Gateway Center of Metropolitan St. Louis (Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park), Peter Fischer, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Civic Progress, Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation, Danforth Foundation, John F. McDonnell, Bryan Cave LLP, Greater St. Louis Community Foundation, National Park Foundation, Monsanto, Alison and John Ferring, Bank of America, David C. Farrell and others who choose to remain anonymous. The traveling exhibit was sponsored by Civic Progress member companies.

Competition information at www.cityarchrivercompetition.org.


The MVVA Team

Since 1982, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates has completed over 350 landscape architecture and urban planning projects. MVVA has emerged as a leader in sustainable landscape design, with a particular interest in urban ecology, stormwater management, materials salvage, and soil remediation. Over the last decade, MVVA has designed several highly acclaimed, infrastructurally complex waterfront landscapes, including Brooklyn Bridge Park and Hudson River Park in New York, Allegheny Riverfront Park in Pittsburgh, and the Lower Don Lands in Toronto. In addition, MVVA has successfully rehabilitated many historic landscapes, including the Harvard University campus, Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House, and Dan Kiley’s Miller Garden in Columbus, Indiana. MVVA is one of the most consistently lauded firms in practice today; in addition to its many project awards-which include two 2010 Designing the Parks awards from the National Park Service-Michael Van Valkenburgh has been regularly commended for his contributions to the field. He won the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum’s 2003 National Design Award for Environmental Design, and this year he became only the second landscape architect to be awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture-Dan Kiley is the other.

Ken Greenberg is a leading expert on the life and design of the post-industrial North American city. His work includes the Lower Don Lands in Toronto, the Anacostia Waterfront in Washington, D.C., the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, and master plans for Philadelphia and Detroit; he was given the 2010 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture. Ed Uhlir masterminded the design and programming of Chicago’s Millennium Park, which has attracted $2.6 billion in tourism and has had a $1.4 billion impact on nearby property values. John Alschuler of HR&A Advisors has pioneered innovative phasing and financing schemes for large-scale urban projects including the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York. Cooper, Robertson & Partners has designed programming for world-class institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum.

James Carpenter Design Associates has integrated art and architecture, with a particular focus on light and glass, in projects including 7 World Trade Center in New York and the Lens Ceiling in Phoenix, Arizona; James Carpenter was a 2004 MacArthur “genius” fellow. Steven Holl is one of the United States’ most eminent living architects; his record of built work includes the award-winning addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, which consists of five “lenses” seamlessly integrated into a Dan Kiley landscape. Structural engineer Guy Nordenson has collaborated with Steven Holl and MVVA for many years, and has worked with Renzo Piano, Pei Cobb Freed, and many other leading architects.

Arup is a leading international engineering firm with a broad range of specialties; their work includes Hudson River Park and the East River Waterfront in New York, as well as the Sydney Opera House and work for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Hydrological science and engineering firm LimnoTech has expertise in surface water modeling, contaminant analysis, wastewater and stormwater collection systems, and riverine and wetland hydrodynamics. Applied Ecological Services is a broad-based ecological consulting firm consisting of a multidisciplinary team of botanists, biologists, and ecosystem restoration specialists; its work includes environmental permitting efforts, natural resources inventories, and prairie and wetland restoration projects. ABNA Engineering provides local civil engineering support.

Throughout her career, Ann Hamilton has integrated multi-sensory public art installations into existing and newly built architecture and landscape projects; she was a 1993 MacArthur “genius” fellow. Elizabeth K. Meyer is a professor at the University of Virginia and one of the foremost American landscape theorists. In addition to her influential work on Dan Kiley, she has written about the complexities inherent in building new landscapes on industrial sites, and has argued for incorporating aesthetic concerns into the sustainability agenda. Award-winning design firm Project Projects specializes not only in identity and graphic design, but also wayfinding and public outreach efforts. They are supported locally by Vector Communications.

The Design of Parking Garages Has Changed Over The Years

I find myself touring our many parking garages — to check how they are used, their condition and so on.

img_0097Our older garages are not space efficient at all.  The buildings they replaced were considered “obsolete” for modern use but we know how to adapt old buildings to new uses. Old garages just languish.

The old spirals for ramps gave way to sloping parking decks to get you from level to level, this is what we still have today.  I hope to see much more efficient parking systems here one day.


Parking like this would allow us to replace our above ground garages with…buildings occupied by humans.  Some might say we have cheap land so there is no incentive to build more compactly. To that I’d say we have policies that have encouraged poor use of land. We need to change our policies so we use our core urban area more efficiently.

- Steve Patterson

Updating Non-ADA Compliant Properties

Returning from Oklahoma City last week I booked a room in St. Robert MO (along I-44)

ABOVE: Quality Inn, St. Robert MO
ABOVE: Quality Inn, St. Robert MO

When I arrived the first thing I noticed was the lack of a curb ramp onto the sidewalk from the loading zone between the disabled parking spaces. As soon as I got into my “accessible” room I knew I couldn’t stay — a tub/shower is impossible for me to use.  Two grab bars does not make a tub/shower accessible.

The staff was helpful, they called the Holiday Inn Express next door and got me a room there.

ABOVE: Holiday Inn Express St. Robert MO
ABOVE: Holiday Inn Express St. Robert MO

It turns out the Quality Inn was the old Holiday Inn.  It was renovated but that didn’t include ADA requirements such as a roll-in shower or curb ramps. The useful life of the property has been extended through renovation so it will continue for years to be non-compliant.

The Holiday Inn Express, opened in April 2010, was as close to perfect as I could expect.  The ramps, above, are not the recommended design as someone walking past one has to deal with the cross slope.  The better was is to have the sidewalk drop down to create the access point and then rise on the other side.  Better still, just don’t have a curb and use bollards.

ABOVE: the roll-in shower at the Holiday Inn Express was ideal
ABOVE: the roll-in shower at the Holiday Inn Express was ideal

The shower in the new Holiday Inn Express was ideal for me.  I wasn’t traveling with my manual or my motorized wheelchair but the lack of a raised curb, a seat and grab bars ensured a safe shower. Half the hotels I’ve stayed in recently that had seats had padded vinyl seats which can be dangerously slippery when soapy & wet.  The Quality Inn should have updated one bathroom to have a roll-in shower.

Closer to home we have the case of the restaurant space at 711 Olive.

711oliverWhen the Downtown Cantina occupied this space the above door was their main door. After they closed a new place, Slay’s on Zaytoon opened after remodeling the space.  In their remodel they made the above accessible entrance a secondary doorway and the other door their main door.

711olivelThis entrance, as you can see, is not accessible. At the time the person from Slay’s said just come in and they’d unlock the accessible door.  That works if you are with someone but not when alone.  Slay’s wasn’t open long and on November 11, 2009 I sent an email to David Newburger, St. Louis’ Commissioner on the Disabled, about  the situation. Here is part of his response:

From the point of view of the law, the City cannot deny an occupancy permit to new operators of a facility who are not doing significant rehab if that facility has previously had an occupancy permit for the same use. So, as I think you understand, from the City’s point of view and unless the new occupant will need a building permit, this is a matter for moral persuasion rather than legal imperative.

If I can get the owners attention, I will try to impress the new owners. Likewise, it is possible Alderman Young or others in City Hall can have some say in this.

As a last resort, of course, if the owners do not set the situation up to use that accessible entrance, both you and any other person with a disability who might patronize the restaurant can file a discrimination charge with the City’s Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, and/or the US Department of Justice.

When Everest opened in this space they didn’t make any significant changes from the previous tenant.  The main door is not accessible and the accessible door says “use other door.”

Someone issued a permit to renovate the space for Slay’s on the Zaytoon.  Who would that have been that OK’d making the non-accessible doorway the main door?  The City of St. Louis!  The city cannot keep passing the buck when they fail to ensure that spaces that are being remodeled do not end up less accessible than before.

I think I will begin filing complaints with the above agencies  — complaints against the municipal agency that should ensure compliance when issuing permit. For them to knowingly allow a tenant to remodel a space so that it became less accessible is discriminatory action in my view.

- Steve Patterson

The Modern Strip Shopping Center

ABOVE: Modern strip shopping center in Oklahoma City
ABOVE: Modern strip shopping center, Classen Curve, in Oklahoma City

We all know the strip shopping center: a line of storefronts set behind a massive, usually tree-less, parking lot.  Oklahoma City’s newest shopping area, Classen Curve, is not like any strip center you’ve ever seen before – at least not in St. Louis.

  • The architecture of the buildings is crisp & modern.
  • It is situated on a odd shaped site adjacent to a residential neighborhood.
  • Once inside the boundaries you get a sense of place.
ABOVE: Large overhangs protect pedestrian from weather
ABOVE: Large overhangs protect pedestrian from weather
ABOVE: many buildings feature an outdoor seating area in the center
ABOVE: several buildings feature an outdoor seating area in the center
ABOVE: buildings on both sides of a drive give a sense of enclosure
ABOVE: buildings on both sides of a drive give a sense of enclosure
ABOVE: Vegan & raw lasagna from 105degrees
ABOVE: Vegan & raw lasagna from 105degrees

Classen Curve is on clearly on the high end. I had lunch at 105degrees — a vegan/raw restaurant.  If you are unfamiliar with raw food it is a growing niche market. You are not likely to find such a place in your typical strip mall next door to a Subway.  Classen Curve is located near the City of Nichols Hills, Oklahoma City’s equal to out Ladue (old money).

The developer is not your typical real estate developer, but one of the largest US producers of natural gas, Chesapeake Energy. Chesapeake’s corporate campus is a block away. The campus has changed dramatically since I first saw it in 2003.  With over 1,500 employees on campus there is a built-in market for close shopping and restaurants. Between Chesapeake & Classen Curve construction has begun on Oklahoma City’s first Whole Foods.

ABOVE: site plan from ClassenCurve.com
ABOVE: site plan from ClassenCurve.com

You can see more on the aerial view in Google Maps.

ABOVE: sidewalk from one building to the next
ABOVE: sidewalk from one building to the next

The attempt was to create a pleasant experience, and to a large degree they succeeded. But despite good intentions they failed to create a good experience for pedestrians.

ABOVE: curb ramps are lacking in many areas
ABOVE: curb ramps are lacking in many areas
ABOVE: pedestrians on new sidewalk on Classen Blvd don't have access to shopping center, except through auto entry & exit points
ABOVE: pedestrians on new sidewalk on Classen Blvd don't have access to shopping center, except through auto entry & exit points

Like nearly every strip center built in the last 50 years, Classen Curve fails to make a strong pedestrian connection to the public sidewalk along the adjacent road. In getting from one building to the next you have curb ramps in some places, but not others.

The architect was Elliott & Associates Architects.  I met Rand Elliott in the Fall of 1985 as a freshman in the architecture program at the University of Oklahoma.  I was assigned him on a student + professional project in a 6th grade class. Elliott’s professional portfolio is outstanding which is why the poor walkability/accessibility of Classen Curve is so disappointing.

ABOVE: architecture makes a statement
ABOVE: architecture makes a statement

Care was given to make the back of the buildings attractive, dumpsters are cleverly concealed in steel structures that hold the tenant names.

While I have issues with the poor walkability/accessibility I’m very pleased with the effort to use the small/odd site and to rethink what a strip mall should be like.  I just wish people knew how to make new construction walkable & accessible.

- Steve Patterson

Driving Next Door For Dinner

Friday September 3rd I stayed the night in Joplin MO. Next door to the hotel was a Fazoli’s (map).

ABOVE: View of Fazoli's from my car in the hotel parking lot.
ABOVE: View of Fazoli's from my car in the hotel parking lot.

The distance from the hotel to the restaurant is not far, even for me. It was a nice day and a walk after 4+ hours of driving would have been nice.  But walking through auto drives, over numerous curbs and through grass was not an obstacle course I wanted to deal with when I was tired.

You know I get that everyone visiting this highway adjacent section of Joplin will be arriving by car as I did.  That doesn’t mean that once there we should be forced to use our car to visit adjacent businesses.

Since I was getting in my car to go to dinner I thought I’d go someplace nicer, it would cost more but I was on vacation.  I crossed I-44 to the North and arrived at the Olive Garden. I prefer local places, but I didn’t want to take the time to look.  I walked in the door of the Olive Garden where I was greeted with a question I hadn’t heard in a long time; “Do you have a smoking preference?” I was suddenly reminded I live in a backwards state. I politely informed them I wanted a nice meal which, by my definition, doesn’t include smoke. I turned around and left.  I drove back to the area where my hotel was but I pulled into the Fazoli’s next door.

ABOVE: View of my blue Toyota and the hotel in the background
ABOVE: View of my blue Toyota Corolla and the hotel in the background

A couple of points about the above picture.  First, us disabled folks don’t always get the best parking spots.  There was an empty spot next to the white car, right in front of the door.  Where I parked wasn’t the closest space, but it was the best for me. The loading zone allows me to open my driver’s door fully to make exit & entry possible.  Second the lack of a curb reduces the chances of a fall. So while us disabled folks may get parking nearest the entrance, we often do not.  The SUV, above, is also parked in a disabled spot. Had both spaces been empty I still would have taken the farther spot because of the access on the driver’s side. If the other space had been the only one free I would have backed into the space.  OK, back to the lack of walkability of this area.

To have the walk next to the Fazoli’s run south to the property line to meet a walk from the hotel would have been easy to do if someone had given it any thought.  More importantly if Joplin had required the developer of this area to plan for walkability between parcels.

ABOVE: Couple staying at same hotel walk to Fazoli's
ABOVE: Couple staying at same hotel walk to Fazoli's

After I finished my dinner I noticed a couple walking to Fazoli’s.  You might look at this and say my idea of a walkable sidewalk to connect the two establishments is unnecessary.  But a test of good walkability is if a parent can push a baby stroller or a person can wheel in a wheelchair.  Neither is possible here.

ABOVE: Aerial view of area with the Fazoli's & Microtel on the right
ABOVE: Aerial view of area with the Fazoli's & Microtel on the right. Image: Google Streetview

What about guests at the hotel on the left? Or employees & clients of the Social Security Administration in the lower left corner?

The days of many square miles of cities being connected by a fine grid of roads, sidewalks and transit are long gone.  People will arrive here by car but they should have the option to walk within the immediate vicinity if they want.  We should be designing pockets of areas that are walkable within their area.

- Steve Patterson

Modern Infill In Older Neighborhoods

ABOVE: Modernist infill house in Oklahoma City
ABOVE: Modernist infill house in Oklahoma City

For the poll this week I hope to gauge the opinion of the readers on the subject of the design of infill in older areas.

Should infill be so well detailed that you can’t tell which building is from 1910 vs 2010? Or should infill be just whatever is being built in new edge communities at the time? Should high-design modern infill be given some wiggle room?

- Steve Patterson

Poet Eugene Field Was Born 160 Years Ago, At Start Of Dred Scott Case

Eugene Field’s father filed the lawsuit to win freedom for slave Dred Scott.  Soon after (1850) his wife gave birth to a son, Eugene.  He was born at the family home at 634 South Broadway, now the Eugene Field House & Toy Museum.  Eugene Field went on to write children’s poetry in his short 45-year life.

ABOVE: The Eugene Field House stands alone -- the only structure on the block.
ABOVE: the brick sidewalk & shutters are very authentic
ABOVE: the brick sidewalk & shutters are very authentic
ABOVE: walled garden next to the Eugene Field House
ABOVE: walled garden next to the Eugene Field House

The house has a lush green garden to the north and south (above) surrounded by a brick wall.  Roswell Martin Field was an attorney so it is fitting they would live well.  But looking at the house today gives you a false picture of South Broadway in 1850. But before I go back let’s start with the present conditions.

ABOVE: 634 S. Broadway is shown in the center.  Image: Google Maps
ABOVE: 634 S. Broadway is shown in the center ("A"). Image: Google Maps

Of course the highways and ramps didn’t exist, nor did the acres of surface parking.  But neither did the lush walled garden you see today!

ABOVE: In 1908 a corner store was to the south and to the north more flats. Image: Sanborn Fire Insurance map via UMSL Digital Library
ABOVE: In 1908 a corner store was to the south and to the north more flats. Image: Sanborn Fire Insurance map via UMSL Digital Library

I don’t know the exact conditions in 1908 but I’d guess not much different.  City records indicate the house was built in 1845 – five years before Eugene Field was born. Very likely the area was all new at the time.  By the time the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map was created in 1908 the house was 63 years old  — equal to a house built in 1947 relative to today.

By 1958 all the other houses in the area had been replaced by industry and I-55 was built to the east.

ABOVE: 1958 aerial of 634 South Broadway

By 1971 the industrial buildings were gone and highway 40 was now in place.

So much has changed in St. Louis over the decades it is important to peel back the layers to see how the city has evolved  — devolved

- Steve Patterson

Kroenke, Rams, Dome, Broadway and the Elevated Highway

ABOVE: The Edward Jones Dome
ABOVE: The Edward Jones Dome

Last week NFL owners approved Stan Kroenke’s bid to increase his ownership in the St. Louis Rams from 40% to 100%.  The sale is not strictly about sports.

Speculation and rumors about the future of the Rams is swirling after Stan Kroenke was allowed to buy St. Louis’ football franchise.

Will they demand a new stadium? Will they threaten to leave town? Nothing is for sure, but Rams fans are crossing their fingers, getting out their rabbit’s feet and eating Lucky Charms: anything to swerve things in St. Louis’ favor. (Full Story: KMOV)

In the next couple of years decisions will be made that may profoundly change the area between St. Louis’ convention center (aka America’s Center) and the nearby Lumiere Hotel & Casino.  In 2012 the process starts to bring the Edward Jones Dome into the top quarter of NFL facilities by 2015.  If we don’t get the dome into the top quarter, the Rams are free to leave the dome for another facility.

Another facility might be elsewhere in the region or perhaps, back in Los Angeles. The message to us is clear, pony up some serious money to improve the dome or find the dome without a tenant.  The third, but unlikely possibility, is the Rams stay put through the end of the 2025 lease without upgrades to get the dome into the top quarter. From the same KMOV story:

There probably won’t be a lot of new, taxpayer funded initiatives to lure the Rams away from St. Louis, but Kroenke is a developer. There has been speculation that he could push for a new stadium. That stadium could be in St. Louis county, near Earth City or even Illinois.

Sports economist Patrick Rishe said moving the stadium out of the city is not likely.

“I don’t think St. Louisans want to go to the suburbs to watch professional sports,” Rishe said. “I think we’re accustomed to watching it downtown, so I don’t think that’s an option. Geographically that’s an option, but logistically I don’t think it will be a reality.”

Rishe is right — if you are talking baseball.

ABOVE: L to R - Edward Jones Dome, Broadway, 4th St, elevated highway, Lumiere Casino

The poll this week asks what you think Kroenke’s purchase of the rest of the team means for the City/Region, the Rams and the dome. City to River wants to replace the elevated lanes you see above that divide Laclede’s Landing (right) from the city to the left.

- Steve Patterson

Growing Up In Sprawl

Our driveway was three cars wide by three deep, plus room for two more in the garage. We didn’t have sidewalks, when I was older I biked to stores — without a helmet. At times I got glimpses of older neighborhoods.  Our family doctor was located in an older commercial district just south of downtown Oklahoma City, known as Capitol Hill.   As a kid the area was likely in transition downward.  There were vacant department stores and storefronts but there was a clear grid of streets — with sidewalks.

ABOVE: Steve Patterson on the big wheel recieved on his 5th birthday
ABOVE: Steve Patterson on the big wheel received on his 5th birthday

My father would occasionally do carpentry work at our doctor’s house.  When he did I always wanted to tag along because our doctor lived in a big old house in the Heritage Hills neighborhood. When I’ve returned to Oklahoma City over the last 20 years I drive through these areas. They weren’t where I spent my childhood, but where I would escape to once I turned 16 and started driving. If a bus system existed I knew nothing of it.

I racked up a lot of miles for a high school kid with a new license, exploring areas that had long been written off or destroyed by Urban Renewal schemes. I preferred the remains of urbanism to the newness where I lived.

I’m curious why I desired a more urban environment? Most of my friends from high school have done as most people did and just locate in newer versions or sprawl further away from the center. Was it the used brick as the veneer on our frame house that got me curious about old brick buildings? The house next door was veneered with a pink brick made of concrete, it looked as bad as it sounds. Was it the fact I’m gay? I hadn’t read any manual on how to be gay.

Why some people have a strong need to break out of suburbia while others are quite happy fascinates me. My two older brothers were about 7 & 16 when they moved into our custom built new home, less than a year before I was born.  They had both experienced older homes before the move to the new home, in the new subdivision, near the new shopping center.  One has traveled the world with the Navy and he appreciates walkable urbanism. My other brother prefers drivable sprawl.

Does the urban gene skip the middle child?

- Steve Patterson


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