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SLU’s Sculpture Garden Not Accessible To All

The northeast corner of Grand & Lindell, once an urban corner, is Saint Louis University’s Ellen Clark Sculpture Park. This large open site contains a number of sculptures that apparently please SLU President Lawrence Biondi.

ABOVE: The once vibrant urban street corner is now a passive hole in the city
ABOVE: The once vibrant urban street corner is now a passive hole in the city

I’ve only seen the colorful sculptures from the public sidewalk surrounding the fenced space. It is open to the public but the design isn’t accessible to those of us using wheelchairs.

Bare dirt at both entrances is  an invitation to get stuck. Even grassy areas can be a challenge for my power chair and nearly impossible for those in manual chairs.
Bare dirt at both entrances is an invitation to get stuck. Even grassy areas can be a challenge for my power chair and nearly impossible for those in manual chairs.

I can walk with my cane if there was a way to get my chair inside the gates so I don’t have to leave it out on the sidewalk to risk being stolen.  I’d think this sculpture garden should comply with the ADA due to #9 below:

Under the ADA public accommodations are private entities that own, lease, lease to or operate a place of public accommodation. This means that both a landlord who leases space in a building to a tenant and the tenant who operates a place of public accommodation have responsibilities to remove barriers.

A place of public accommodation is a facility whose operations affect commerce and fall within at least one of the following 12 categories:

  1. Places of lodging (e.g., inns, hotels, motels, except for owner-occupied establishments renting fewer than six rooms)
  2. Establishments serving food or drink (e.g. , restaurants and bars)
  3. Places of exhibition or entertainment (e.g. , motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls, stadiums)
  4. Places of public gathering (e.g. , auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls)
  5. Sales or rental establishments (e.g. , bakeries, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centers)
  6. Service establishments (e.g. , laundromats, dry-cleaners, banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair services, funeral parlors, gas stations, offices of accountants or lawyers, pharmacies, insurance offices, professional offices of health care providers, hospitals)
  7. Public transportation terminals, depots, or stations (not including facilities relating to air transportation)
  8. Places of public display or collection (e.g. , museums, libraries, galleries)
  9. Places of recreation (e.g. , parks, zoos, amusement parks)
  10. Places of education (e.g. , nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private schools)
  11. Social service center establishments (e.g. , day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies)
  12. Places of exercise or recreation (e.g. , gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses) (source)


The park also serves as a dog park
The park also serves as a dog park

SLU installed a bag dispenser so dog owners can clean up and Biondi likes seeing dogs there.

“I am a dog lover,” said Biondi, who has an 8-year-old golden retriever named Iggy, in honor of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit order. “But even if I didn’t love dogs, I’d still want the dogs in the park. It’s a nice opportunity for the community to get together and come to the campus and form friendships.” (stltoday.com)

Even as a dog park it has issues. If I were to try to enter the park there’s a risk someone’s dog might escape since no vestibule is provided.

Officially the entire corner is temporary, the university sought development  proposals when the recession hit. Rather than make the park accessible I’d much prefer to see it get redeveloped. SLU has tons of open land, plenty of space exists to create another dog park nearby.

Marina Building August 1977
Marina Building August 1977

The historic Marina Building was only two stories high but a new building could be many more floors given the height of others in the area. I’d love to see a Trader Joe’s in the ground floor of a new building.

Here’s an interesting tidbit I ran across researching this post:

This year [2011] marks the sesquicentennial of the Camp Jackson massacre at this site, then known as Lindell Grove on the western edge of the city. On May 10, 1861, federal troops — already on edge and spooked by the sound of gunfire — fired into the crowd, killing 28 civilians, including several children, and wounding nearly 100 more. From 1929 to 1959 a monument to the event stood nearby, but it was banished when a descendant of Daniel M. Frost, general of the pro-Confederate Missouri militia, donated funds for Saint Louis University to purchase the midtown Frost Campus. Today, the site houses the Ellen Clark Sculpture Park, which is full of colorful abstractions reflective of Saint Louis University president Lawrence Biondi’s taste in art. Not even a small plaque commemorates the historic event or the two dozen-plus civilians who died here. (RFT Best Hidden Historical Site – 2011)

– Steve Patterson

Urban Planning and Generational Differences

Our life experiences shape our decisions and outlook on life. My parents, born in 1929 & 1931, were raised  poor on the fringes of the worst part of the Dust Bowl in western Oklahoma. Their upbringing, by fathers born in the late 19th century, and moms from the early 20th century, was radically different than my childhood in a 1960s suburban subdivision.

xyzA couple born in the same years as my parents, but raised affluent in Ladue, are still going to have shared characteristics with my poor rural folks just as I will with their child born the year I was, even if s/he has a trust fund. Because of these shared characteristics demographers make generalizations of each generation based on the study of millions over time. Do these generalizations fit every individual from a given generation? Of course not, they are summations of tens of millions.

Wikipedia has a good summary of the seven most recent generations:

  1. The Lost Generation, also known as the Generation of 1914 in Europe, is a term originating with Gertrude Stein to describe those who fought in World War I. The members of the lost generation were typically born between 1883 and 1900.
  2. The Greatest Generation, also known as the G.I. Generation, is the generation that includes the veterans who fought in World War II. They were born from around 1901 through 1924, coming of age during the Great Depression. Journalist Tom Brokaw dubbed this the Greatest Generation in a book of the same name.
  3. The Silent Generation, also known as the “Lucky Few” were born 1925 through 1945, is the generation that includes those who were too young to join the service during World War II. It includes most of those who fought during the Korean War. Many had fathers who served in World War I. Generally recognized as the children of the Great Depression, this event during their formative years had a profound impact on them.
  4. The Baby Boomers are the generation that was born following World War II, generally from 1946 up to 1964, a time that was marked by an increase in birth rates. The term “baby boomer” is sometimes used in a cultural context. Therefore, it is impossible to achieve broad consensus of a precise date definition. The baby boom has been described variously as a “shockwave” and as “the pig in the python.” In general, baby boomers are associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values; however, many commentators have disputed the extent of that rejection, noting the widespread continuity of values with older and younger generations. In Europe and North America boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up in a time of affluence. One of the features of Boomers was that they tended to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before them. In the 1960s, as the relatively large numbers of young people became teenagers and young adults, they, and those around them, created a very specific rhetoric around their cohort, and the change they were bringing about.
  5. Generation X is generally defined as those born after the baby boom ended. Demographers, historians and commentators use beginning birth dates from the early 1960s to the early 1980s The term has also been used in different times and places for a number of different subcultures or countercultures since the 1950s.
  6. Generation Y, also called Millennials, describes the generation following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when the Millennial generation starts and ends. Commentators have used birth dates ranging somewhere from the latter 1970s or from the early 1980s to the early 2000s (decade).
  7. Generation Z is a name used (although other terms exist) for the cohort of people born from the early 2000s to the present day who are distinct from the preceding Millennial Generation. (Wikipedia

Why bother, do the differences matter? Yes, yes they do matter. St. Louis’ first planner was Harland Bartholomew, born in 1889, was part of the Lost Generation where many died in WWI:

Those who came home were profoundly affected by their war experience. Feeling cynical about humanity’s prospects, they rebelled against the values of their elders, seeking debauchery instead of decency, and hedonism instead of ideology. (source)

It was this generation that sought to improve upon cities through massive urban renewal projects and expansive highways though Bartholomew’s New York contemporary Robert Moses (b18888) and President Dwight D. Eisenhauer (b1890), respectively.

Bartholomew, blinded by his views, missed generational change taking place during his tenure. Despite a drop in population from 1930-1940, the City Plan from 1947 said:

The Plan Commission confidently predicts that by 1970 barely a generation hence-the city proper can have 900,000 population. This would be an increase of only slightly more than 10 per cent since the 1940 census, but such a growth of 84,000 calls for making proper room for the new roofs, adequate traffic ways for the added automobiles, economical plans for all the additional public and semi-public facilities to be required. Furthermore, there must be a catching-up with all the improvements perforce neglected during the long war period. (Comprehensive City Plan 1947)

Bartholomew didn’t see that the middle class of the two generation after his, the Greatest Generation & Silent Generation, were leaving the urban core for the new suburbs. Or he thought that they’d return/stay if we just rebuilt the urban core to emulate suburban development. He was wrong, his generation was in charge at all levels of local, state and federal government.

Just as not all agree on the years for defining a generation, there isn’t agreement on how many people of each generation are with us today.

The Millennial generation, also known as Generation Y or the “Echo Boomers,” is three times bigger than Generation X and even bigger than the Baby Boom generation. The dates of the Millennial generation are not precisely defined, but depending on what measure you use, their birth dates typically stretch from the late 1980 to 2000. (source)

Other sources indicate about 50 million Gen X and 75-80 million Gen Y. What’s not disputed is Gen Y outnumbers the Baby Boomers and both outnumber Gen X.

We’re familiar with talk about how Vietnam permanently shaped the baby boomers. But if you grew up in or near an American city in the 1970s, you grew up with crime (and divorce), and this disorder was bound to leave a permanent mark. It was bound to shape the people, now in their 40s and early-50s, reaching the pinnacles of power.

It has clearly influenced parenting. The people who grew up afraid to go in parks at night now supervise their own children with fanatical attention, even though crime rates have plummeted. It’s as if they’re responding to the sense of menace they felt while young, not the actual conditions of today.

The crime wave killed off the hippie movement. The hippies celebrated disorder, mayhem and the whole Dionysian personal agenda. By the 1970s, the menacing results of that agenda were all around. The crime wave made it hard to think that social problems would be solved strictly by changing the material circumstances. Shiny new public housing blocks replaced rancid old tenements, but in some cases the disorder actually got worse. (NYTimes – Children of the ’70s)

Gen X moved to the suburbs in droves either as kids or young adults. In my case, my parents built a new suburban house while my mom was carrying me. Gen Y largely grew up in suburbia.

One area where generations vary is employment:

Relative to older generations, Gen Y is the most optimistic about the future and is willing to do whatever it takes to build a career, including going back to school, starting a business or moving back in with their parents. Despite a tough jobs market and the strong likelihood that they have student loan debt, 88 percent of millennial job seekers say they are optimistic about finding a new job. After all, they do have their whole working lives ahead of them. The fact that, overall, members of Gen Y are finding work faster than older generations surveyed may also have something to do with their optimism. The jobs millennials are getting may not be ideal — lots in retail and categories that don’t require a college degree — but at least the job hunt isn’t being dragged out forever.

Nearly half of Gen Y has considered going back to school instead of continuing their job search (35% of Gen X and 23% of Boomers), and nearly one-third are being forced to move back in with their parents (31% of Gen Y, 24% of Gen X and 13% of Boomers). One more difference about millennials is that, naturally enough for a generation that came of age with Twitter and Facebook, they’re more likely to use social media in the course of the job hunt. Before interviewing, Gen Y members are more likely to follow and interact with the company’s social media profiles over older generations (24% of Gen Y, vs. 19% of Gen X and 16% of Boomers). (Time.com – How Different Generations of Americans Try to Find Work)

Once hired, Gen Y are very different in the workplace than older workers:

Right now, there are about 80 million millennials and 76 million boomers in America. Half of all millennials are already in the workforce, and millions are added every year. Approximately 10,000 millennials turn 21 every day in America, and by the year 2025, three out of every four workers globally will be Gen Y. “This generation is reshaping today’s consumer and media markets, and even MTV itself,” says Nick Shore, a senior vice president at MTV involved in the “No Collar Workers” study.

Gen Y will also reshape the workplace—sooner than later, if they have their way. Among other characteristics that stand out, millennials, who have come of age with the text message and social media, are an impatient bunch: They’re hyper-connected, tech savvy, entrepreneurial, and collaborative. They also favor fast-paced work environments, want quick promotions, and aren’t fans of traditional office rules and hierarchies. (Time.com – Millennials vs. Baby Boomers: Who Would You Rather Hire?)

Where Gen Y works is different too:

Gen Y workers don’t tend to have jobs inside the biggest U.S. companies, especially if those companies are not in high tech. Most members of Gen Y prefer to work for smaller firms that offer more flexibility and the chance to do social networking at work without strict corporate guidelines. The survey showed that the highest concentration of Gen Y workers, 47%, work for companies with fewer than 100 employees, followed by medium-sized companies with between 100 and 1,500 employees (30%). The fewest, 23%, work in companies with more than 1,500 employees. Of those companies, the top five are all tech firms: Qualcomm, Google, Medtronic, Intel and Microsoft. (Forbes – The Best Cities For Gen Y Jobs)

Considerable attention was paid to housing as Boomers sought suburban housing when they were raising families. Now developers are focusing on housing Gen Y.

Given their large numbers and potential to consume, Generation Y, most of whom are in their 20s and early 30s, are a major focus of real estate investors and developers. Prominent researchers have investigated and analyzed how this generation will consume, live, work and play.

The quote above is from the description of an upcoming ULI (Urban Land Institute) St. Louis event: Generation Y: What Kind of Real Estate Do They Really Want?

Any city or metropolitan region that cannot provide affordable, walkable, and attractive neighborhoods in which gen-Yers can afford to live will simply lose the best of them to those regions that have such neighborhoods. If they have to “drive ’til they qualify,” as the workforce before them has had to do, gen-Yers are more likely to simply fly off to another city or region.

Simply put, generation Y represents the future of every region’s economy. Attracting and keeping this group requires careful planning and a commitment to develop new mixed-income housing in mixed-use neighborhoods close to the central city and to the surrounding suburban town centers. The time to do this is now, while gen-Yers are still living at home, because when jobs for them do come back, the pent-up demand they represent will move quickly to those regions that are ready for them. (ULI – Housing Gen Y: The Next Challenge for Cities)

Boomers and Gen X did the “drive until you qualify” routine to find affordable new housing.  Thankfully Gen Y isn’t interested in driving out from the core to reach affordable housing. In fact, they’re not too interested in driving in general.

From 2001 to 2009, the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by people ages 16-34 dropped 23 percent, from 10,300 to 7,900, the survey found. Gen Y-ers, also known as Millennials, tend to ride bicycles, take public transit and rely on virtual media.

More than a quarter of Millennials – 26 percent – lacked a driver’s license in 2010, up 5 percentage points from 2000, the Federal Highway Administration reported. (Reuters – America’s Generation Y not driven to drive)

Cynical Boomers will say this is simply because they’re unemployed or underemployed in large numbers. “Get them jobs and they’ll be driving like we have” is the viewpoint.  This is how older generations misunderstand later generations, failing to see emerging trends early on. In February 2008, pre-recession, a NY Times piece

In the last decade, the proportion of 16-year-olds nationwide who hold driver’s licenses has dropped from nearly half to less than one-third, according to statistics from the Federal Highway Administration.

Reasons vary, including tighter state laws governing when teenagers can drive, higher insurance costs and a shift from school-run driver education to expensive private driving academies.

To that mix, experts also add parents who are willing to chauffeur their children to activities, and pastimes like surfing the Web that keep them indoors and glued to computers. (NY Times – Fewer Youths Jump Behind the Wheel at 16)

Certainly lack of work is part of the reason but so is the fact Gen Y grew up being driven everywhere by their parents.

The cities/regions that understand Gen Y will be able to attract them and the employers that want to hire them. Some of these employers will be run by members of Gen Y. The sheer numbers entering the workforce, moving out of mom & dad’s safe suburban home, and willingness to relocate means a migration is on. Will the St. Louis region capitalize on this by making the entire core (ie: city) the type of walkable place they seek? Right now I’d say no, we won’t capitalize on the chance to retain and attract significant numbers of Gen Y.

– Steve Patterson


Enough With The IKEA Rumors

Having worked in real estate I learned not to spend the sales commission until after the deal was closed. Blogging is similar.

ABOVE: Ikea in Bolingbrook, IL
ABOVE: Ikea in Bolingbrook, IL was built in 2006 on a 23 acre site

On Sunday nextSTL.com got many St. Louis IKEA fans excited:

Several WhoLou sources are alleging that highly-coveted Swedish-based furniture chain Ikea intends to develop their first St. Louis store close to the campus of St. Louis University. The 300,000 sq. ft. store will allegedly be built near the Laclede Gas and Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center complexes on Forest Park Ave. between Sarah Street and Vandeventer Ave.

While IKEA does have some inner-city locations, most are in suburban sprawl. IKEA contributes to sprawl.

The next day the Post-Dispatch had a story saying the rumor was untrue:

Responding to the nextstl.com post, [Ikea spokesman] Roth said Monday: “We still have not committed to a time frame, let alone a specific site.” The chain has not listed St. Louis among the cities where it plans to open a store. “Nothing has changed,” Roth said. “We continue to evaluate opportunities in the market,” he said. (stltoday.com)

Online many were excited when they saw the original rumor, repeated on KMOV, Fox2, KPLR, but disappointed when IKEA officials said no deal to build a St. Louis store.

I have no doubt that local commercial real estate brokers are talking to every big retail chain to try to lure them to various sites. These retailers might even show some initial interest in one site or another. But until something is signed I feel it’s too premature to report.

— Steve Patterson

The Future of the Brick & Mortar Retail Store

Many of us think of a big chain store first when we need to purchase something but the retail landscape is changing as many big chains face financial difficulty:

ABOVE: Garage-level entrance to the Best Buy in Brentwood
ABOVE: Garage-level entrance to the Best Buy in Brentwood

Retail is an industry in decline—but only for traditional retailers. For companies that have become successful doing something else, opening a chain of stores can bring millions of new customers and the profits that go with them. This paradox of the retail marketplace is evident in some of the biggest names at the mall. Traditional retailers such as Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Sears, and Kmart are struggling to reverse losses, turn themselves around and give shoppers new reasons to think they’re relevant. The recently announced merger of Office Max and Office Depot is just the latest example of a retail glut that has already sunk Borders, CompUSA, Circuit City, and many others. Yet Apple, a technology company and newcomer to the retail scene, operates a network of more than 200 U.S. stores that have created a new paradigm for brick-and-mortar success. Microsoft, a software company, runs about 60 U.S. stores, with plans to open more. Even Google, an information company, is rumored to have retail ambitions. (US News)

Even giants like Walmart are doing good to get 5% growth:

That sluggish curve is clearly one reason the Arkansas-based company has started devoting so much time and attention to its Silicon Valley operations. Headquartered just south of San Francisco, Walmart.com is heavily recruiting tech talent. And in some ways its investment is starting to pay off. The company’s wide-ranging experiments in “clicks-and-mortar” retail have put it at the forefront of merging online, offline and mobile commerce. (Wired)

Are retail stores doomed as more of us shop online? Thankfully, no.

Just because more people shop online, though, doesn’t mean they’ll stop shopping at stores completely. Indeed, for most retail sectors, a physical store can serve a fundamentally different function, giving consumers the ability to see, taste and touch the products in a way that is impossible online. The challenge for retailers in the future, industry analysts say, will be to figure out a way to play up the strengths of the bricks-and-mortar store while incorporating new technology into the experience. (The Street)

The changing retail landscape does mean everyone involved in city development needs to rethink what “retail” means. For many the word conjures up images of 2-3 massive big box (50,000-200,000sf) stores connected by numerous small (5,000-15,000sf) stores.  Those who think of this when they hear retail don’t understand how I can advocate for street-level retail in commercial districts. How will it fit? Parking?

ABOVE: Retail operations pop up all over the city everyday
ABOVE: Retail operations pop up all over the city everyday

They fail to realize retail doesn’t even need a box. The point is “retail” comes in all shapes & sizes, it’s ridiculous to try to put all retail into the same box. We also can’t fool ourselves into thinking people will ever buy stuff the way they did decades ago. Downtown will never again be the retail center of the region.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Population May Drop Below 300K In 2020 Census

We’re still seven years away from the 2020 census but it’s already on my mind. Last month I attended at I attended a lunch where the two speakers talked about Detroit and St. Louis. From the invite:

Detroit’s New Plan for Urban Regeneration and What It Means for St. Louis


Alan Mallach, senior fellow of the National Housing Institute, is the author of many works on housing and planning, including Bringing Buildings Back and Building a Better Urban Future: New Directions for Housing Policies in Weak Market Cities. He served as director of housing and economic development for Trenton, N.J. from 1990 to 1999. He is also a fellow at the Center for Community Progress and the Brookings Institution.

John Gallagher is a veteran journalist and author whose latest book, Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City, was named by The Huffington Post as among the best social and political books of 2010. He joined the Detroit Free Press in 1987 to cover urban and economic redevelopment efforts in Detroit and Michigan, a post which he still holds. His other books include Great Architecture of Michigan and, as co-author, AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture.

One of the two said Detroit has accepted that it has shrunk and it is likely to shrink more in the 2020 census, that St. Louis is also likely to lose population again — possibly falling below 300,000. The fact is this may well happen.

Detroit's population (blue) increased faster than St. Louis' (green) but it also dropped faster. Click image to see larger view.
Detroit’s population (blue) increased faster than St. Louis’ (green) but it also dropped faster. Click image to see larger view.

Still, others love to dump on St. Louis. For example, a recent opinion piece in the Kansas City Star titled Kansas City is rising as St. Louis keeps falling:

• In 1950, St. Louis was the eighth largest U.S. city, with 857,000 people. But by 2010, St. Louis had lost a stunning 538,000 people and plummeted to the 58th largest city, with only 319,000 residents.

• In 1980, St. Louis was still Missouri’s largest city, barely ahead of Kansas City. But by 2010, Kansas City’s population of 460,000 was 44 percent larger than St. Louis’. 

In response friend Matthew Mourning posted on Facebook:

The 1940 city limits of KC were a 58 square mile box of the Missouri River (N), State Line Rd. (W), Blue River (E), and 79th Street (S). (St. Louis is, and has been since the 1876 divorce, 62 square miles, while present day Kansas City tops out at 315 sq. mi. after a series of annexations).

Those 1940 KC city limits had a population of 400,178. In 2010, the population of the same approximate area was *184,803*. That’s a drop of ~215,000, or nearly 55%. St. Louis’s core loss was around 62% since 1940. – Matthew Mourning via Facebook

The point is to look at what’s happening in the core, not including ring after ring of low-density sprawl. Our fixed city limits is the regional core whereas cities like Kansas City and Oklahoma City were able to annex as population fled their core.

St. Louis' population density (persons/sq mile) is on par with Detroit & Cleveland and higher than Portland OR.
St. Louis’ population density (persons/sq mile) is on par with Detroit & Cleveland and higher than Portland OR.

Kansas City is denser than Oklahoma City, but that’s not saying much. St. Louis, Detroit, & Cleveland being denser than the acclaimed Portland OR is huge. But numbers themselves can be deceiving, Portland has very dense central neighborhoods. It’s very walkable & cyclist friendly.

In the 2010 census our tracks that had investment in becoming more urban (downtown, near north & south) saw increases in population, while north & south St. Louis continued to lose population. Wake up St. Louis, we need to make the entire City of St. Louis urban/walkable/bikeable. Not in a half-ass way either, the whole deal with transit, strong pedestrian plan, modern zoning.

Auto-centric monstrosities like Loughborough Commons can’t keep happening if we expect to stop the loss of population. But I don’t see any willingness or leadership to prioritize urbanizing more than a few pieces here and there, fragmented in true St. Louis fashion.

If we stay on our current course I wouldn’t be surprised if we drop below 300,000 when the 2020 census comes out in 2021.


Check back Sunday at 8am for a new poll.


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