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IKEA St. Louis: The Good & Bad

I’ll never forget the first time I stepped into an IKEA store, in August 1990. At that time IKEA only had a handful of stores in the US, I visited the 2nd located in Woodbridge VA outside Washington D.C. All were on the east coast. Since then I’ve shopped at five more IKEA locations, including the two Chicago-area locations: Schaumburg (opened in 1998) and Bolingbrook (opened in 2005).

Today every room in our loft includes products from IKEA:

  • Kitchen: Shelves, serving dishes, silverware, gadgets, bar stools, etc
  • Dining Room: table, art
  • Living Room: sofa, tv stand, wall shelves, end tables,
  • Office: Wall of bookshelves, lighting
  • Bedroom: bed, nightstands, chests, shelving, sheets, duvet, lighting
  • Closet: wood hangers (no wire hangers!)
  • Bathrooms: cart for toiletries, towels, art

We’re happy with the quality of all the items except the sofa — it was the cheapest one they sold about 8 years ago and it needs to be replaced. Was a good value though.

Some of the IKEA trips I’ve had over the years I bought very little — even their compact flat packages are too big for the overhead bins! I can, however, recall 4-5 trips to Schaumburg/Bolingbrook, either by myself or with a friend, where we left with our vehicle packed so tight we barely fit inside to drive back to St. Louis. The time I bought the sofa we were driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee — we tied the sofa to the roof rack because the inside was full. I’ve also made two purchases through a local company that brings back items for a fee. Why share all this? To show I’ve been a customer for many years.

In March I posted that distribution was key to IKEA’s midwest expansion, that we’d see a store only after the Joliet IL distribution center, announced in 2007, was actually open. When it became clear recently that IKEA was going to announce plans for a St. Louis location I wondered if I was off in my assessment so before the press conference last week I asked Joseph Roth about the long-stalled Joliet distribution center. Turns out the St. Louis location is the “tipping point” to justify the new distribution center! When the Kansas City-area IKEA opens next fall it’ll be stocked from an east coast distribution center like the two Chicago area stores have been. Roth said they’re not sure which will open open first: the new distribution center or the St. Louis store. If the St. Louis location opens before the distribution center, it won’t be far behind.   

Last week IKEA officials announced plans to seek approval for a store at Forest Park & Vandeventer:

IKEA, the world’s leading home furnishings retailer, today announced it is submitting plans to the City of St. Louis, Missouri for a store that would increase the Swedish retailer’s presence in the Midwestern United States. The application marks the beginning of the governmental approval process. Until the store opens in Fall 2015, customers can shop at the closest IKEA stores: the Chicago-area IKEA Bolingbrook and IKEA Schaumburg; or online at IKEA-USA.com. Additionally, a Kansas City-area store is under construction and on track to open Fall 2014 in Merriam, KS.

Located in the heart of Midtown St. Louis, the 380,000-square-foot proposed IKEA store would be built along the northern side of Interstate-64 near the Vandeventer Avenue exit. It would sit on nearly 21 acres purchased in the Cortex Innovation District, a vibrant technology community created to commercialize the benefits of university and regional corporate research in St. Louis. One level of parking below the store and spaces accessible at-grade would provide approximately 1,250 parking spaces on-site. Store plans reflect the same unique architectural design for which IKEA stores are known worldwide. IKEA also will evaluate potential on-site power generation to complement its current U.S. renewable energy presence at nearly 90% of its U.S. locations. (IKEA)

IKEA doesn’t own the land yet, that’ll happen if they get approvals to proceed.

Location of the proposed IKEA in St. Louis.
Location of the proposed IKEA in St. Louis. Source: IKEA

The good news:

  1. A lackluster corner will have lots of activity
  2. Adjacent to light rail (MetroLink) and on the #42 MetroBus route.
  3. The store will draw customers from over 100 miles away
  4. Tax revenue generated for the city will be substantial.
  5. 300 permanent jobs will be created
  6. Will likely spur adjacent development consisting of more retail, hotel(s), and restaurants.

The bad news:

  1. Most of the activity generated on Vandeventer & Forest Park will be motorists coming and going.  Traffic will be a nightmare if signals aren’t well timed.
  2. Despite being near public transit, many customers and some employees will drive.
  3. Getting out of town visitors to stay and spend more money will be a challenge.
  4. What will be the sales tax rate we’ll have to pay? Bolingbrook IL is 8%, Schaumburg is 10%.
  5. Many of the jobs will be low paying.
  6.  Adjacent development, such as the proposed Midtown Station, will be low-density sprawl.

On Thursday I’ll look at design issues that need to be addressed by IKEA, CORTEX, and the city.

— Steve Patterson

Poll: Thoughts on Bike Lanes

Eastbound on Olive just before Jefferson the bike lane becomes part of the right turn lane
Eastbound on Olive just before Jefferson the bike lane becomes part of the right turn lane

Few aspects of the public right-of-way are as controversial as bike lanes. This may surprise you: bicyclists are deeply divided on them. One side argues bike lanes make riders feel for comfortable biking near traffic. The other side argues trained cyclists don’t need bike lanes. Both are correct.

For the poll this week I’ve listed diverse statements about bike lanes, I’d like you to pick which most closely matches your views. You may agree with more than one so pick the one that’s a better match or that you feel more strongly about. The poll is in the right sidebar.

Results and more on the subject on Wednesday December 18th.

— Steve Patterson


9th Street Crosswalk Now Visible, Shouldn’t Get Blocked Again

Not every crosswalk point in the city is marked with paint. Ninth Street at St. Charles St was such an example, a well-used point that was unmarked. Hotel guests cross here to reach the parking garage.  But unmarked crossing points can inadvertently get blocked by motorists.

November 4th a VW Golf is parked blocking the ramp to cross 9th at St. Charles St.
November 4th a VW Golf is parked blocking the ramp to cross 9th at St. Charles St.
As seen from the opposite corner
As seen from the opposite corner

The lane where the Golf is parked is has been marked as no parking for a long time, not sure why. On the morning of December 4th I met with traffic commissioner Steve Runde to discuss allowing parking on 9th, mentioning a crosswalk designation would be nice.  The following morning it was already done!

By December 5th the crosswalk had been painted.
By December 5th the crosswalk had been painted.

Should the crosswalk get blocked now it’ll be easier to get parking enforcement to issue a ticket. Once the parking meters get installed on 9th I’ll do another post.

Thanks to Steve Runde for listening and responding!

— Steve Patterson

How To Not Build Next To Proposed Transit Station

The newly completed BJC @ The Commons is an example of what not to build next to a proposed light rail station.

Looking west through new surface parking lot
Looking west through new surface parking lot
MetroLink train heads east
MetroLink train heads east
BJS @ The Commons (6) is adjacent to the proposed transit station (14)
BJS @ The Commons (6) is adjacent to the proposed transit station (14)
The industrial building that was razed filled the site, including being built up to the Clayton Ave sidewalk
The industrial building that was razed filled the site, including being built up to the Clayton Ave sidewalk
BJC @ The Commons is set back in office park fashion, even though the grass is green this isn't an environment designed to attract pedestrians.
BJC @ The Commons is set back in office park fashion, even though the grass is green this isn’t an environment designed to attract pedestrians.

All brand new, from scratch. Totally wrong.  Transit passengers see little but parking, why exit and walk?  On Clayton Ave pedestrians don’t have a sense of enclosure — the building it too far back from the narrow sidewalk.

Unfortunately the people planning the CORTEX area don’t understand pedestrian behavior and how to create a vibrant transit-oriented environment. Office park next to tracks doesn’t cut it.

— Steve Patterson

Wellston’s 2002 Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative

In October I posted about the New Wellston Child Care Center Under Construction, Adjacent To MetroLink Station, and noted promotional materials referenced compliance with the Wellston Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative. I wanted to see this initiative to see how the new construction complies, if it all. After a few emails I received a copy of the initiative — it had to be scanned!   The initiative process started in 1998, the final document was from January 2002.

Click cover to view PDF on Scribd
Click cover to view PDF on Scribd

The goals detailed were:

  1. Raise the incomes of Wellston’s residents.
  2. Improve the system of education in Wellston.
  3. Improve the quality of Wellston’s neighborhoods.
  4. Establish a central destination place in Wellston.
  5. Improve access to employment, goods, and services for Wellston’s residents.
  6. Improve the health and well being of Wellston’s citizens.
  7. Enhance the image of Wellston and pride its citizens hold about their community.
  8. Stimulate local economic growth.
  9. Increase the social capital and improve the community capacity in Wellston.
  10. Revitalize the MLK Corridor.

It’s hard to know how well Wellston has done with many of the above, however, the early development child care center now under construction should pay future dividends with respect to education, and eventually incomes.

Diagram from page 17
Diagram from page 17

The report was prepared by The National Institute for Community Empowerment, Inc., which no longer seems to exist. I couldn’t find a website and their last phone number is not in service. A local contributor was the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance (RHCDA), rebranded this year as Rise. Area Resources for Community and Human Services (ARCHES‘) is still around as well.

I’ve been looking through the report for the last month, developing questions to ask about the progress that’s been made in the last dozen years.  The most obvious are measurable results toward the ten goals listed above. Do they consider a recent Family Dollar store and a gas station as having met #10, revitalizing the MLK corridor? Any positive gains in education? Given the Wellston School District shut down in 2010 and unaccredited Normandy School District struggles, I rather doubt there’s good news to report.

The new Wellston Early Childhood Center will open in the fall of 2014, not a moment too soon.

— Steve Patterson