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Reimagining 100 North Broadway to Take Advantage of New Luther Ely Smith Square & Arch Entrance

For over 5 years now I’ve been thinking about how to redesign the Bank of America Tower at 100 N. Broadway. My primary beef wasn’t with the 22-story tower, but with the 1-story section to the South of the tower.

Looking North from Broadway & Chestnut, June 2010
Looking North from Broadway & Chestnut, June 2010

First, a little background:

Bank of America Tower is a 22-story, 500,000 square foot Class-A office tower located in the heart of the prominent Downtown St. Louis market – the regional center for Missouri’s largest law, accounting and financial service firms. Located at the intersection of two major downtown arteries, Broadway and Pine, the Bank of America Tower offers easy access to the region’s extensive highway system and Metrolink light rail system.

Bank of America Tower was built to exceptional standards in 1976 as the corporate headquarters facility for Boatman’s Bancshares. Designed by the world-renowned architectural firm Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, the building features exquisite granite and marble finishes throughout and floor configurations which offer tenants breathtaking views.

Hertz Investment Group acquired this prestigious property in 2005. It is currently owned and managed by Hertz Investment Group. (Hertz Investment Group)

NationsBank bought Boatman’s Bancshares in 1996, and two years later it bought the larger BankAmerica Corporation — taking the name Bank of America. At some point the building was sold to investors. Through all the ownership changes the 1-story section remained a branch bank — until November 21, 2014.  See: Bank of America closing one of its downtown St. Louis branches.

My design idea is directed at the San Diego owners, I’m not proposing taxpayers do or fund any of what I’ll suggest below. Some of you may think if there was market demand for my idea it would already exist. This viewpoint ignores the fact that markets & buildings are constantly changing to reflect new market conditions. Because building changes don’t happen overnight, there’s a delay between a shifting market and physical changes.

Before I get into my idea I want to show you more of the photos I took in June 2010:

Looking North at the West side plaza, this is considered the front since it faces Broadway, June 2010
Looking North at the West side plaza, this is considered the front since it faces Broadway, June 2010
Though my main focus was the 1-story glass wing, I didn't like how the tower and the sidewalk/plaza met, June 2010
Though my main focus was the 1-story glass wing, I didn’t like how the tower and the sidewalk/plaza met, June 2010
From this view we can see it is across Chestnut from the Old Courthouse, June 2010
From this view we can see it is across Chestnut from the Old Courthouse, June 2010
Looking East see can see the Arch. The building has zero relationship with the sidewalk, June 2010
Looking East see can see the Arch. The building has zero relationship with the sidewalk, June 2010
The East plashes a different feel because it is raised above the 4th St sidewalk, June 2010
The East plashes a different feel because it is raised above the 4th St sidewalk, June 2010
A view of the East side plaza from 4th & Chestnut, June 2010
A view of the East side plaza from 4th & Chestnut, June 2010
Both plazas and the building are built over underground parking. This fact places limits on what can be done to give the building a better relationship with sidewalks on Broadway, 4th, and Chestnut in particular, June 2010
Both plazas and the building are built over underground parking. This fact places limits on what can be done to give the building a better relationship with sidewalks on Broadway, 4th, and Chestnut in particular, June 2010

I returned in September of 2010 to have another look. With an active bank branch in the 1-story part my focus was on the tower’s ground floor facing Broadway. This time I did do a brief post, sharing the next two images. The captions are new.

The SW corner the tower as it meets the plaza. The interior floor level is nearly level, making it easier open this space directly to the exterior. But what, if anything, is on the ground floor? Can't tell just passing by.
The SW corner the tower as it meets the plaza. The interior floor level is nearly level, making it easier open this space directly to the exterior. But what, if anything, is on the ground floor? Can’t tell just passing by. September 2010
From inside the lobby we see it's a restaurant, September 2010
From inside the lobby we see it’s a restaurant, September 2010
In my September 2010 post I didn't share this image, but it shows the restaurant space going back along the exterior wall.
In my September 2010 post I didn’t share this image, but it shows the restaurant space going back along the exterior wall.

The Atrium Cafe was very good, but it’s only open for lunch weekdays. Given that it’s hidden from anyone outside, that makes sense.

After the Bank of America branch closed I returned in July of this year to see the interior space and take another look at the exterior.

The SE corner of the vacant 1-story atrium bank branch from the Chestnut sidewalk
The SE corner of the vacant 1-story atrium bank branch from the Chestnut sidewalk, July 1015
Looking at the East greenhouse
Looking at the East greenhouse, July 2015
Looking West along the narrow Chestnut sidewalk, the interior floor level is higher than the sidewalk, July 2015
Looking West along the narrow Chestnut sidewalk, the interior floor level is higher than the sidewalk, July 2015
At one of the breaks between greenhouse glass we see the exterior is damaged and poorly patched, July 2015
At one of the breaks between greenhouse glass we see the exterior is damaged and poorly patched, July 2015
Looking closer we see a little dead space used to separate the greenhouses, July 2015
Looking closer we see a little dead space used to separate the greenhouses, July 2015
On Broadway we see more pedestrians with the Old Courthouse being the new main ticketing point for the Arch, July 2015
On Broadway we see more pedestrians with the Old Courthouse being the new main ticketing point for the Arch, July 2015
Turning toward the building we can see the top of the Arch peaking above the 1-story atrium space, July 2015
Turning toward the building we can see the top of the Arch peaking above the 1-story atrium space, July 2015
Inside looking East along the South atrium/greenhouse wall we can see the inward point we saw outside and the structure set back from the glass, July 2015
Inside looking East along the South atrium/greenhouse wall we can see the inward point we saw outside and the structure set back from the glass, July 2015
Looking toward the building lobby, July 2015
Looking toward the building lobby, July 2015
Looking at the Old Courthouse through the window screens
Looking at the Old Courthouse through the window screens, July 2015
Looking at the Arch through the window screens
Looking at the Arch through the window screens, July 2015

Even at this point it hadn’t hit me, though I knew the protruding greenhouse glass had to go. It was on my 2nd visit to the new Luther Ely Smith Square that I figured it out. Lets start with the last photo from that post.

Looking toward 4th & Chestnut
Looking toward 4th & Chestnut

The owners consider Broadway & Pine the main corner, but the diagonally opposite corner is positioned to take advantage of the new Square and future Arch entrance.Many Arch visitors will park in the Kiener garages and walk right past 100 N. Broadway.

The solution is to remove all the glass & cladding from the 1-story section and rethink it. The space has been vacant for over a year, with bank branches continuing to close it’s unlikely a bank will lease it. It is time for s physical change to the space to respond to the changing market. It isn’t 1976 anymore!

Looking at the building from the NW corner of the Luther Ely Smith Square. Many Arch visitors will be parking un the garage seen in the background
Looking at the building from the NW corner of the Luther Ely Smith Square. Many Arch visitors will be parking un the garage seen in the background

So my thought is this should become a restaurant. Not a weekday lunch-only spot but a place open for breakfast, lunch, & dinner 7 days a week. With all the tourists it should be familiar — Panera — still called St. Louis Bread Co here. There’s one on the ground floor of the Kiener East garage a block West — this could be a larger more up-to-date location.

Here’s more detail:

  • Remove the greenhouse glass from all three sides, widen Chestnut sidewalk
  • Create new building lobby with door to new restaurant — not open like it has been for nearly 4 decades.
  • Place the kitchen & restrooms in the center.
  • Include an elevator and stairs to a new rooftop patio. Shade for rooftop patio could come from a pergola, stretched canvas, umbrellas, etc.
  • Nighttime lighting would be important to make this a great evening destination.

A St. Louis Bread Co here would be bad for the Atrium Cafe, perhaps they move to the old Bread Co space a block West. Their old space could be opened to the plaza like I suggested in September 2010 — occupied by a restaurant different enough from Panera/Bread Co. to survive.

The other side of the Old Courthouse has a similar low platform with tower arrangement. That low platform is occupied by the inwardly-focused Tony’s. I don’t see change coming to that building anytime soon. The owners of 100 N. Broadway have a great opportunity to rethink their building to take advantage of the new Arch entrance.

— Steve Patterson

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Aloe Plaza Lighting Is Too Bright

Aloe Plaza, across Market Street from Union Station, used to be very dark at night — too dark. While Kacie Starr Triplett was Alderman of the 6th Ward new lighting was added. The best that can be said is that it’s no longer dark.

Two new light poles were added to shine lights on Carl Milles' "Meeting of the Waters":, October 22nd
Two new light poles were added to shine lights on Carl Milles’ “Meeting of the Waters”:, October 22nd

From a distance, the lighting does a good job.  Before nobody wanted to be there after dark because it too dark, but now it’a too bright! Trying to get a good photo with Union Station in the background is impossible.

 

Not sure how much was spent on this lighting, or if it can be modified. It shouldn’t stay like this.

— Steve Patterson

 

Remembering Sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955); 75th Anniversary of Aloe Plaza Next May

Aloe Plaza, across Market from Union Station, was many  years in the making. President of the Board of Aldermen (1916-1923) Louis P. Aloe had championed a 1923 bond issue that included razing buildings across from Union Station to create a more attractive way to welcome visitors arriving by train.  Aloe died in 1929 but his widow continued his vision, from the city’s former website on Aloe Plaza:

Edith Aloe, Louis P. Aloe’s widow, became acquainted with the work of the Swedish sculptor, Carl Milles, at an exhibition of modern art held by the St. Louis League of Women Voters in 1930. The idea of commissioning Milles to build a fountain in Aloe Plaza grew out of her enthusiasm for his work.

But the country was in the middle of the Depression so her idea was put on hold until January 1936 when Mrs. Aloe gave a dinner in her home for the sculptor,Carl Milles, and members of the St. Louis Art Commission. She officially presented her check for $12,500.

The City signed a contract with Milles in 1936. Milles designed and cast the bronze statues for the fountain in his studio at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook, Michigan. The fountain was completed in November 1939, but remained veiled until its dedication on May 11, 1940 before a crowd of 3,000 persons.

The fountain, originally named “The Wedding of the Rivers,” depicts the union of the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers, represented by the two central figures. Accompanying the two main figures and forming a wedding procession are 17 water spirits, symbolic of the smaller streams that empty into the two major rivers.

An uproar arose over the nudity of the male figure, reprenting the Mississippi River and the female figure, the Missouri River. In deference to the criticism, the name of the fountain was changed to ,”The Meeting of the Waters.” (PDF of website on Scribd)

Milles was in his early 60s when we was commissioned by St. Louis.

The former website listed the total cost of Aloe Plaza at $225,000, broken down as follows:

  • Fountains: $150,000
  • Statues: $60,000
  • Lighting: $12,000
  • Landscaping: $3,000
  • Tulips: $200

The cost of the tulips wasn’t included in the total. Not listed was the cost to acquire the land and raze the buildings.

Carl Milles, date unknown, Source: findagrave.com, click to view
Carl Milles, date unknown, Source: findagrave.com, click to view his memorial
Carl Milles' 'Meeting of the Waters' is the focal point of Aloe Plaza
Carl Milles’ ‘Meeting of the Waters’ is the focal point of Aloe Plaza

Milles died on this day in 1955 — 59 years ago.

May 11, 2015 will mark 75 years since Aloe Plaza was first dedicated and ‘Meeting of the Waters’ unveiled. Our IKEA store won’t be open yet, but perhaps the Swedish retailer can be involved in a celebration.

— Steve Patterson

 

Triangle Park Plaza Is Useless Public Space, In Poor Condition

In May I posted about the upcoming Civic Center MetroBus center revisions, see: Civic Center Transit Center Sans Trees, Awaiting Redo. Since then Metro held two open houses on the same day, presenting the design as I showed previously.

Sign announcing expansion project
Sign announcing expansion project
Click image to view larger version on Scribd
Click image to view larger version on Scribd

My main criticism remains the useless plaza at the clark, right above. The “Triangle Park Plaza” is lifeless and in very poor condition. I think the plaza needs to be replaced with one or two small kiosk/buildings with outdoor seating. I understand these aren’t in Metro’s current budget, I’m sure fixing the plaza isn’t either.  Let’s take a look:

Looking east toward the plaza
Looking east toward the plaza, in 1993 the metal boxes were light/steam sculptures but the haven’t been on in years
The material used for the narrow decretive strips has failed
The material used for the narrow decretive strips has failed
It looks very bad, unkept
It looks very bad, unkept
This creates a hazard for pedestrians
This creates a hazard for pedestrians
It has failed throughout the plaza, plus the Jersey barriers along Clark are tacky!
It has failed throughout the plaza, plus the Jersey barriers along Clark are tacky!
All the paving has settled, creating trip hazards that exceed ADA maximums
All the paving has settled, creating trip hazards that exceed ADA maximums
Another issue is the settling creates places were water pools. This looks bad and creates places for mosquitoes to breed.
Another issue is the settling creates places were water pools. This looks bad and creates places for mosquitoes to breed when wet.
More areas where water has collected in the past
More areas where water has collected in the past
The ramp at 14th & Clark isn't directional for crossing Clark, also too narrow. The paving here creates a serious trip hazard.
The ramp at 14th & Clark isn’t directional for crossing Clark, also too narrow. The paving here creates a serious trip hazard.

The “Triangle Park Plaza” is low-quality left over space, a negative rather than a positive. Clark has an increasing number of pedestrians.  This is a good opportunity to build something to hold the corner. Ok, the budget doesn’t include anything here — I get that. But, plan ahead so when when work is done on the bus transit area you don’t prevent something better for the plaza space.

Apply for grants, work with local non-profits on incubator space, try something to find the money to redo this space so it’s a positive.

— Steve Patterson

 

Observing the Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

Last year I wrote a short post about plazas (Public plazas part one: people sit where there are places to sit), referencing the classic book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by the late William H. Whyte.  In 1979 Whyte produced a film of the same name, the book came out a year later in 1980 documenting what was shown in the film.

ABOVE: Paley Park in NYC, October 2001

I wanted to write a post about the film at the time, I was going to include it in 4-6 parts someone had uploaded to YouTube, but they were removed before the post was finished. But the recently that changed:

“Probably one of the most well-regarded films about urban planning is now available online in its entirety. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, a 1979 documentary by William H.  “Holly” Whyte, explores the successes and failures of public spaces in New York City. It was made as part of a research effort spearheaded by The Street Life Project in conjunction with the Municipal Art Society of New York.” (The Atlantic Cities)

To design the best public spaces it is critical to know how people use space. Whyte showed us how to study, document and analyze urban spaces and the behaviors of people using spaces.

The film is an hour long and very dated and dry — but worth every minute. Watch it in segments if you have to:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKf0inm5Pu8

Whyte goes through the following elements:

  1. Sittable Space
  2. Street
  3. Sun
  4. Food
  5. Water
  6. Trees
  7. Triangulation (external stimulus that prompts strangers to talk)

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this film now or referenced the book, very valuable information. I’d like to see an update for current times. Do people act differently now? Would they move to get a stronger 3G or Wi-Fi signal?

– Steve Patterson

 

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