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MVVA’s Winning Concept To Finish Destroying Riverfront Street Grid Pt2

Yesterday I looked at MVVA’s plan to close Washington Ave between the river and I-70. Today I will look at proposed changes an the edge of the Mississippi River.

“Our proposal removes the existing waterfront streetscape in order to reinstate the full form of the cobblestone levee. Sculptural river gauges mirror the monumentality of Saarinen’s river walls and frame the use of the levee surface in relation to the fluctuating river edge. The single central stage is replaced by a gentle swell in the cobble surface that can accommodate a broader spectrum of markets, concerts, and seasonal attractions.”

Consultants had this to say:

This design would improve connectivity for pedestrians and bikes at the north and south ends, but reduce vehicular connectivity overall with the closure of Washington Avenue and Poplar Street. Gates would be added to the arches under Eads Bridge, removing vehicular access to Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard from the north. In addition, moving the garage entrance closer to the river would result in diminished access due to frequent flooding.

ABOVE: Artist rendering from Page 17 of MVVA narrative

The drawing looks good but the reality will be quite different.   Like the many failed pedestrian malls we’ve had in the US, removing cars is no guarantee pedestrians will fill the space. In fact, removing auto access makes it more difficult for some to reach the location.  So do I think it should remain unchanged?  Hardly.  I’m an advocate of mixing all modes of transportation — pedestrians, bicycles, transit, and vehicles.

Like the stretch of Washington Ave next to Eads Bridge, Lenore K. Sullivan is excessively wide.

ABOVE: The current Lenore L. Sullivan Blvd looking north at Eads Bridge

ABOVE: the blvd is way too wide for the low volume of traffic

ABOVE: view of Eads from the levee below Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd.

ABOVE: raising the level of the levee/road makes sense to reduce the amount of time it is flooded.


I personally would like to see a very narrow street remain, too narrow for tour buses & trucks.  Include pockets of on-street parking on both sides but include bulb-outs between the pockets so the main curb to curb is narrow, even if no cars are parked.  For events the street can be closed as has always been the case for years.

The stated goal of the competition was connectivity, closing off streets does the opposite.

– Steve Patterson

MVVA’s Winning Concept To Finish Destroying Riverfront Street Grid Pt1

Overall I’m fine with MVVA’s winning proposal for connecting to the Arch but one idea is horrible — the removal of Washington Ave along the south edge of the Eads Bridge.  On page 12 of the MVVA narrative they wrote:

“By removing the existing Memorial garage and the terminus of Washington Avenue, which is used almost exclusively by garage patrons, our proposal allows the openings in the Eads Bridge to serve as portals between Laclede’s Landing and a dynamic civic landscape. Accessible pathways stitch together a mix of neighborhood programs and event space, including a large playground, comfortable shaded seating, an earthen amphitheater, and the Gateway Urban Ecology Center, which offers afterschool programs and summer camps for St. Louis and East St. Louis students.”

ABOVE: This image is from page 162 of the MVVA narrative

ABOVE: North parking garage is a detriment to the quality of the street so removal makes sense.
ABOVE: Washington Ave south of the Eads Bridge is a key part of navigating Laclede's Landing.
ABOVE: Washington Ave south of the Eads Bridge is a key part of navigating Laclede's Landing.
ABOVE: Many use Washington Ave to reach the Landing, the North Riverfront Trail, etc
ABOVE: The road width (curb to curb) is excessively wide
ABOVE: Too much road and too little sidewalk
ABOVE: 2nd St on the landing would become a dead end street if Washington is removed.
ABOVE: 1st St would also become a dead end street.

Yes, the north parking garage is a hideous barrier between Laclede’s Landing and the Arch Grounds, but Washington Ave is not a problem.  Streets connect. Narrow the street to the width of those in Laclede’s Landing but leave it so circulation in the area isn’t cut off more.  Allow pedicabs, carriages and vehicles to slowly navigate the area.  But cutting off more of the grid will create more problems than it solves.

– Steve Patterson

Will Fifth Third Bank At Loughborough Commons Connect To Sidewalk?

Has it really been nearly two full years since I’ve written about Loughborough Commons? It was December 2008 when I wrote about the new Burger King’s lack of pedestrian access despite the nearby sidewalk.

“Burger King has very generous provisions for the motorist but zip for the pedestrian. What pedestrians you might ask. Well, people do walk to Loughborough Commons. People also arrive by bus and bike. Yes, most use a car but we shouldn’t overlook those not driving private autos. Everyone spending money at Loughborough Commons is paying an extra tax to the Community Improvement district. Shouldn’t pedestrians expect some accommodation in return?”

Of course, nothing was done to correct the lack of pedestrian access.  Now construction has started on the Fifth Third Bank for the parcel between the main entrance and the Burger King.  Here is what the site looked like in late 2008:

The bank building faces Loughborough but will be reached internally. The drive through lanes, not the front door is what is visible from the main drive.


My assumption is the existing sidewalk will not be continued across the edge of the parcel and not up to the front door, a clear violation of the ADA.


I was only at Loughborough Commons for a few minutes but I spotted pedestrians leaving as I was leaving. Walkability is not that difficult but it is obviously out of the mindset of civil engineers and the developers who hire them.

– Steve Patterson

Parking Garage Dwarfs Urban Building

Macy's parking garage next to Charlie Gitto's on 6th Street

This view of Charlie Gitto’s with an big parking garage on the left and a surface parking lot on the right exemplifies everything that went wrong with urban planning. On this city block, only one other building dodged the wrecking ball.

- Steve Patterson

Gems Hidden Inside Our Downtown Buildings

September 29, 2010 Downtown, Planning & Design 6 Comments

Yesterday I met a friend for lunch at a lunch place on the ground floor of the Bank of America building bounded by Broadway, Chestnut, 4th & Pine.

Atrium Cafe ext

The picture above is the Atrium Cafe as seen from the outside.  Exciting huh?

Atrium Cafe interior

However, from the lobby the place was very open visually and there was a steady flow of customers.  From the outside it is impossible to tell what is going on inside, a visitor to St. Louis could walk right past the building and not realize the place they want to grab a bite for lunch is right there.

This is not the fault of the owner of the Atrium Cafe, but the design of the building and so many others.  They are internally focused. Hopefully we can get building owners to begin piercing through the exterior walls to create more excitement at the sidewalk level.

– Steve Patterson

The MVVA Team Won, Now What? Part I

ABOVE: Artist rendering from the MVVA Team of the north end of the Arch grounds and the Eads Bridge

Today at 10am in the rotunda of the Old Courthouse the public will meet the MVVA Team — now the winner of the City+Arch+River Competition — and hear the next steps in the process leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Arch in October 2015.

The MVVA video:


The project area is large and includes both sides of the river. I have hot button issues both inside & outside the project area, these include:

  • The elevated highway lanes north of the Arch grounds as well as adjacent to the memorial site itself.
  • The flow of pedestrians and vehicles of those passing by as well as visiting the Arch.
  • As a member of the Gateway Mall Advisory Board, we will be asked to advise the St. Louis Parks Dept on proposed changes to Kiener Plaza.
  • The viability of the proposed changes within the project area and beyond.

Today I will look at parts of their proposal on the Missouri side.

ABOVE: Diagram from the MVVA Narrative, p32

The diagram above shows current circulation and proposed. The diagram is misleading to a degree in that it shows only the current vehicular access point at the north end. What is true is the pedestrian access points will be greatly improved.

From page 133 of their narrative:

“The Interstate 70 trench is now the most striking barrier between the Memorial and the city. Our proposal creates physical and experiential continuity by creating a pedestrian overpass between Market and Chestnut Streets. Both the deck itself and the landscape hoods on either side will break direct lines of sight and sound between the highway and Memorial-bound pedestrians, creating a quiet, landscape-focused choreography of approach between Luther Ely Smith Square and the Arch grounds.”

“We have proposed a one-block overpass, rather than an at-grade boulevard, because it is less expensive, easier to achieve by 2015, and would require fewer jurisdictional and regulatory negotiations. But the benefits of removing the highway altogether are clear, and we have purposely created a proposal that is compatible with either solution.”

I like that highway removal was something they designed for.  More tomorrow in part II.

– Steve Patterson

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



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