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Shrinking Sidewalks

The sidewalks downtown seem to be shrinking in width, even though the curb line hasn’t changed in years.

ABOVE: On paper the sidewalks on Washington Ave are a decent width, various elements reduce the effective width considerably

When I first passed Copia, above, on Wednesday three people were conversing just outside the door, blocking my only path. One moved the sign as I started to hit it and he said “sorry”, apologizing for the sign blocking the sidewalk.  A half an hour later I come back through and the sign is placed in the same location. The supports for the awning also reduce the width. So does the planter in the background.

Block after block our sidewalks are effectively reduced to single file. Not exactly friendly or what was envisioned when the sidewalks were widened at significant public expense some years ago.

If allowed, some adjacent property owners will privatize the public sidewalk.

— Steve Patterson

Tucker Tunnel Now Completely Opened Up

The work to fill in the old railroad tunnel under Tucker Blvd is dow to the end. All of the tunnel has now been opened up. Interestingly, the last few blocks of the tunnel were only half the width of the rest of the tunnel.

ABOVE: Looking south from Lucas Ave toward Washington Ave, the end of the old tunnel
ABOVE: Looking north from Lucas Ave, the Globe-Democrat building is on the right

The empty space is being filled by the dense foam blocks being placed in the last of the tunnel now. i can’t wait for this work to be completed so Washington Ave is connected to Cass Ave.

— Steve Patterson

Readers: Library Renovation A Good Investment

Last week readers indicated in the poll the millions spent renovating the Central Library was a good investment. The results are at the very end but I want to show you some areas where the library has changed. I was fortunate to tour the library with the AIA St. Louis last week, many photos below.

The library  reopens to the public on Sunday December 9, 2012 so you can see in person then.

ABOVE: Main facade of the Central Library by Cass Gilbert

First we need to understand how the central library was designed. From the sidewalk it appears to be a solid mass, but that is not the case.

ABOVE: Central Library undergoing renovation as viewed from the roof of the Park Pacific, May 2011
ABOVE: The grand hall is in the center with connections to all four outer sides/wings. The stacks wing on the north side was very a modern  contrast to the rest of the building in 1912.

So now you know how the building is organized around the grand hall, let’s head inside.

ABOVE: The lower level entry under the prominent south entrance is no longer open.
ABOVE: The north facade prior to renovation, the stacks aren’t visible through the frosted glass.
ABOVE: Now the stacks and atrium are visible to everyone.
ABOVE: Looking east we can see the new Locust Street entry to the library with the Shell Building in the background
ABOVE: Waller McGuire, director of the St. Louis Pubic Library, heads back to his office across 14th Street. A water feature divides the sidewalk from the entry.
ABOVE: Looking out from the new glass entry vestibule.
ABOVE: The atrium in the former stacks area is a very modern and welcoming area.
ABOVE: The glass wall behind the Locust St circulation desk was made from the old glass floors in the 7-story stacks area
ABOVE: An information board explains the changes to the central stacks area
ABOVE: One photo gives you a before glimpse of the stacks with the glass floor walkways. This area was never open to the general public.
ABOVE: Looking up we can see the stacks on upper levels
ABOVE: This space will now face a cafe, not all furniture had arrived yet
ABOVE: Adjacent to the cafe is a room for book club meetings
ABOVE: And self checkout is now an option
ABOVE: New public space was created in the once-dark basement level
ABOVE: This auditorium was created where the former coal storage room was located
ABOVE: The children’s area is in the same spot as before but new activity areas added and the old outside entrance is just an emergency exit
ABOVE: The Stedman Architectural Library is unchanged, it is still by appointment only.
ABOVE: The 3rd floor Carnegie Room is one of several meeting rooms in the library.
ABOVE: From the 3rd floor you can see the gap between the outer wings and grand hall (right)
ABOVE: The stacks remain in the stacks section of the building but by using movable shelves they occupy less space.
ABOiVE: The staff lounge has a great view of Lucas Park located across Locust St.

Still here? Below are the poll results:

Q: $70 Million To Renovate The Central Library A Good Investment?

  1. Yes 113 [73.38%]
  2. No 17 [11.04%]
  3. Maybe 13 [8.44%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 10 [6.49%]
  5. Other  “too much money but needed some renovation”: 1 [0.65%]

I was nervous about changing the library, the impact of so much money could’ve been a bad thing. In the end I think we’ve made a great investment for the next 100 years. St. Louisans in 2112 can decide what to do next.

— Steve Patterson

Idea: Retail Retrofit To AT&T’s Parking Garage

Today parking garages are built with retail on the first floor so they are have potential activity at the sidewalk level. Unfortunately, we still have many garages built in earlier times when no provisions were made for anything other than the storage of cars. Some, like the 1960s stadium garages, can’t easily be retrofitted, see Fixes For Stadium West, Stadium East.  The AT&T parking garage at 1101 Chestnut, built in 1985, can be retrofitted with retail.

ABOVE: The main corner of the AT&T parking garage at 11th & Chestnut St.

Before anyone says something like ‘the city has bigger problems for its limited resources’ let me state this post is about trying to repair one small section our city by showing a way a corporate citizen can help out by modifying their private property . Why would they? Because they like to be seen as a good corporate citizen.

Any need?

Yes, anyone that has ever had jury duty across the street knows finding a place for lunch isn’t too easy close by. Saint Louis University Law School will soon be located in the building adjacent to the west end of the garage.

ABOVE: Renovation work on SLU’s new Law School building is underway (left) and the garage is to the right.
ABOVE: The north face of the garage on Pine St could be active with storefronts
ABOVE: The formed concrete panels at the sidewalk level do not appear to be structural elements.

This wouldn’t require 100% of the ground floor, although most of the south side facing Chestnut would be a good concentration facing the courthouse.  The small area facing 11th and the long area facing Pine could be done later as demand increases.

Again, I’m not advocating public monies be spent on this effort. I also don’t think AT&T is going to start work on implementing this idea right away, or ever.  It’s an idea I thought I’d stare because I think it could have a positive impact on the activity level in the area.

— Steve Patterson

Wheelchair Users Unable To Pay Parking Fee In City Parking Lot

The City of St. Louis Parking Division operated by the Treasurer’s office recently built a surface parking lot at 3019-35 Olive Street to serve Midtown Alley businesses, including Hamburger Mary’s next door. The parking fee must be paid 24 hours per day.

ABOVE: Sign alerts drivers of conditions of parking in this public lot.
ABOVE: It is a short distance from the disabled parking spaces to the area with the central point of payment.
ABOVE: However, those disabled drivers that use a wheelchair are unable to reach the payment machine because no ramp up was provided.

I’ll be interested to find out if the Board of Public Service designed this for the Treasurer or if it was done separately. Regardless, it must be changed to comply with the ADA.

Larry Williams, the current Treasurer, is in his last month in office. Tishaura Jones will be sworn in as Treasurer on New Year’s Day. Jones indicated during the primary she’d work to remove parking as a responsibility of the office.

— Steve Patterson


Check back Sunday at 8am for a new poll.



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