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Demolition of St. Louis Centre Bridge Over Washington Ave Began A Decade Ago

May 21, 2020 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Demolition of St. Louis Centre Bridge Over Washington Ave Began A Decade Ago

Ten years ago today work began on reversing a mistake that had been in place for 25 years prior — the pedestrian bridge over Washington Ave created a dark environment at the sidewalk level.

Taken two days before the bridge bash you can see how dark it was underneath

The “Bridge Bash” event started with comments from numerous white men, followed by Mayor Slay operating the wrecking ball, pyrotechnics made breaking glass a little more exciting.  Here’s the video I uploaded from the scene — the action starts at 8:45.

St. Louis Centre was part of the ‘bring the suburbs to the city’ movement. The inwardly focused mall was a killer to the sidewalks downtown — especially under the Washington & Locust wide bridges connecting to Dillard’s & Famous-Barr, respectively.

Looking west from 6th Street on May 22, 2010
Looking west from 6th Street May 2010
Looking east along Washington Ave from 7th, February 2006
Looking east along Washington Ave from 7th, February 2006
Same view yesterday
Same view after the bridge was removed

Removal of this oppressive bridge and facing the ground level retail of the MX (formerly St. Louis Centre) has done wonders for this part of downtown. If only we hadn’t wasted decades trying to be like the burbs.

— Steve Patterson

 

Eads Bridge Pedestrian Path Finally Accessible Again After 4+ Years Inaccessible

May 14, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Eads Bridge Pedestrian Path Finally Accessible Again After 4+ Years Inaccessible

The renovation of the Arch grounds a few years back greatly improved accessibility for the public. Going from the top of the steps down to the riverfront used to be a major challenge if you were pushing a stroller, or using a wheelchair. New ramps now make it very easy.

But the project accidentally cut off access to the pedestrian walkway on the Eads Bridge, as early as May 2015. This month it was finally rectified, though the solution created another problem.

Looking west heading into St. Louis from the Eads Bridge. May 13, 2020

Let’s do a quick recap of the problem caused when a contractor busted through into the light rail tunnel below.

The earliest I can find the issue on Google Street View is from May 2015, how much earlier it began is uncertain.

May 7, 2017 is my oldest photo of the problem. This is when I began conversations with various officials about being able to access the pedestrian walkway in my wheelchair.
By March 16, 2019 the broken concrete had been removed but the height from steel plate to bridge sidewalk was too much for 99.9% of wheelchairs.

In January of this year I posted about the problem, see Eads Bridge Remains Inaccessible Years After Arch Project “Completed”. I was told a fix was in the works, but I’d been hearing excuses since 2017.

A week ago a friend sent a pic to me showing work happening. Yay, finally! Yesterday I went by to see the result, approaching from the North.

Approaching from Laclede’s Landing. I’m happy to see a smooth transition to the bridge, but the width of the crosswalk markings have no relationship to the width of the ramps on either end. 

I’m happy to report the accessibility is better than it ever was. The slopes, cross-slopes, ramps, etc. are all improved. I was very relived to be able to access the bridge. I then went to head West toward downtown.

Approaching the corner from the Arch grounds. At left is the point to cross the street to head into downtown proper.
Here’s a more direct view. Like before, the crosswalk is much wider than the ramp, but that’s not the main problem.
The stupid “beg button” for a walk signal is set back too far from the curb — only by leaning and stretching could I reach it.

Walkable areas shouldn’t have buttons to get a walk signal — they should always come up in the cycle. But if you’re going to make us press these damn buttons at least place them where they can be reached! I can see bottlenecks here post-covid with lots of tourists coming and going.

— Steve Patterson

 

Eads Bridge Remains Inaccessible Years After Arch Project “Completed”

January 13, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on Eads Bridge Remains Inaccessible Years After Arch Project “Completed”

Thursday last week I decided to go see the level of the Mississippi River before we began getting rains and localized flooding. The best view is from the pedestrian walkway on the south side of the Eads Bridge top deck. I knew there had been accessibility issues at the west end of the sidewalk, but the I’d seen some asphalt had been put down to lessen the problem.

The loaner wheelchair I’m using couldn’t get over the huge gap.

So I had to stand up and, while not falling, drag the chair up onto the sidewalk by pulling on each front caster, alternating from left to right. Someone saw me and came to help when I was nearly finished.

This is the view as I approached. The steel plate and asphalt are more recent, but now ineffective.
If we step back across Memorial Drive we see barricades have been placed to physically prevent anyone from going from the Eads to Arch grounds, or vice versa.

It seems a contractor on the Arch project accidentally busted into the MetroLink light rail tunnel beneath the Eads Bridge/Washington Ave. Since Metro owns the bridge & tunnel it’s up to them to get it fixed.

Let’s take a look at my older photos, in reverse order.

May 31, 2019. A steel plate covered the gravel but no asphalt yet to get up
May 2, 2019
April 1, 2019
March 16, 2019
May 7, 2017 is my oldest photo of the problem. This is when I began conversations with various officials about being able to access the pedestrian walkway in my wheelchair.

So this problem is about three years old at this point. Three years!

I did get to see the river level last week, but it took far more effort than it should have.

As Spring flooding season begins I’d like to get regular photos to show how water is approaching and eventually covering Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd.   I live close by so this shouldn’t be the issue it is.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Two Urban Medical Campuses Compared: Big Differences Despite Similarities

September 16, 2019 Central West End, Featured, Planning & Design, Travel, Walkability Comments Off on Two Urban Medical Campuses Compared: Big Differences Despite Similarities

I often spend days, weeks, or months thinking about a post before writing it. I’ve been thinking about today’s post for over 5 years now!

It was May 2014 when we first stayed at friend’s newly purchased vacation condo in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood — across the street from Northwestern Hospital. Not a wide boulevard either, Erie Street is like most of Chicago’s streets — two drive lanes and two parking lanes.

We experienced the busy sidewalks but also the internal walkway system connecting the campus’ numerous buildings, complete with bridges over roadways. I immediately thought how different it felt from St. Louis’ Washington University Medical Campus (WUMC)/Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJC).

St. Louis’ Washington University Medical Campus is prominently identified along Kingshighway, Forest Park Ave, etc
Points along Kingshighway are now labeled A, B. C, etc…

In the Fall of 2017 I had an unexpected emergency surgery and an overnight stay at BJC, I got to experience the walkway going from the Center for Advanced Medicine to Barnes. Then again the next morning going to the bus transit center. Yes, usually you don’t leave hospitalization via public transit, but that’s how I got there with my power wheelchair and a very broken wrist.

I’ve visited the Northwestern campus numerous times while visiting Chicago and I’ve returned to WUMC/BJC for numerous appointment and to photograph/observe the walkway.  I’m finally in a position to compare observation of the two.

First, the similarities between the two:

  • Were built over decades, slowly expanding.
  • Began life in an affluent neighborhood of gridded streets.
  • Comprised of generic beige buildings, parking garages.
  • Lots of people & cars.
  • Have an internal network to help people navigate from building to building indoors.
  • Have one hard edge (Lake Michigan in Chicago, Forest Park in St. Louis)

Given all the above similarities you’d think the two would function the same. But no, the end results are vastly different! This post will hopefully explain the differences I’ve observed and their impact on each campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

In short, the major differences can be reduced to:

  • Sidewalk level activities: Many of Northwestern’s buildings, especially newer ones, have “active” ground floors — mostly restaurants.
  • Street grid: Northwestern didn’t alter the street grid, WUMC/BJC has decimated the grid.

Let’s start in St. Louis (map):

The Center for Advanced Medicine (CAM) building on the SW corner of Forest Park & Euclid avenues is a very busy place
As a pedestrian you can’t enter the building directly off of either major avenue.
Pedestrians have a narrow walk next to the large auto drive to reach the actual entry.
The newer Center for Outpatient Health across Forest Park Ave did not repeat the pedestrian access problem of CAM.
It is built right up to Euclid. An auto drive for patient drop-off is on the back side.
Pedestrians get their own entrance right off the Euclid sidewalk.
There’s a change of level but the ramp is wide and direct, the steps are narrower and off to the side. Through the windows you can see the automobile drive & patient drop-off entrance.
Looking North on what used to be Euclid Ave., the CAM building is on the left.
Looking at the closed Euclid from the WUMC/BJC walkway system — called LINK. Entering LINK from CAM is pretty natural, but the rest is convoluted.
Back on the ground for a moment, another closed part of Euclid, the LINK is visible.
In the background is the busiest light rail station in Metro’s system. LINK overlooks it, but they don’t connect.
This was the view to the North from my hospital room in November 2017.
The LINK winds its way around connecting all the buildings.
Sometimes it is in a spacious area
There are a few retail outlets, but not many. There was also a tiny Sprint store.
Windows give you a glimpse of where you are.
When I was discharged a nurse had to escort me to Metro’s bus transit center because there is no good public route from the BJC hospital to transit! Her card had to be used a couple of times along the way.
Finally I’m on my way to the bus. This walkway also connects to massive parking garages for staff.
Here we are, the entrance to the garage where the buses converge on the ground level.

Before moving on I should note that I was very pleased with my treatment and all those who took care of me that visit and my other appointments, cataracts surgery, etc.

Okay, now Chicago (map). Starting outside.

Am ambulance only drive for the emergency department
An auto area for the outpatient building next door to where we stay while in Chicago. You can see all the way through to the next block. To the left there are three retail spaces spaces — including on both street corners.
The sidewalks are wide with street trees.
There are some truly awful buildings along some of the sidewalks. No retail, no life.
But old historic buildings, including ones not owned by Northwestern still exist within the street grid.
One of the oldest campus buildings is very attractive — much more so than most everything around it.
Another example of not everything along the sidewalks was interesting. That’s mostly reserved for the corners at intersections.
One of the newest buildings. Being located mid-block it didn’t have any sidewalk retail.
Another older building, not exactly inviting.
Here is a corner, which is very active.
Another corner
And another corner
Medical entrance mid-block
Another auto drop-off area
An older parking garage with a mid-block entrance

Now let’s go inside their walkway system.

There are numerous maps posted, all showing how to reach the street grid outside and other buildings
Building lobbies invite you to the walkway system.
An internal intersection in a central building. A couple of food court areas are very close to this point.
One of the newest food court seating areas with lots of seating
There are many different food retailers located along their walkway system, most concentrated in a couple of central areas.
Another restaurant
Their walkways always seen to be busy.

CONCLUSION:

Both medical campuses have good & bad buildings. While Northwestern does a far better job activating corners it is the fact they still have corners that explains why the sidewalks are so full of people. The non-medical public, like us, are able to easily get through the campus on the sidewalks or via the enclosed walkway system. Northwestern’s campus isn’t a monolithic fortress to go around — you can go right through it just like you would elsewhere in Chicago.

I’m firmly convinced the many closed streets within St. Louis’ Washington University Medical Campus are largely responsible for the relative lack of pedestrian activity. Short of reopening the closed streets, I don’t think there’s anything we can do to fix the problem.

There’s a lot more detail I’d hoped to include, but I knew I just had to get this post finished. I might do some followup posts.

— Steve Patterson

 

Reflections on the Recent Jehovah’s Witness Conventions This Month

August 19, 2019 Featured, Parking, Walkability Comments Off on Reflections on the Recent Jehovah’s Witness Conventions This Month

A large convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses was just in St. Louis. An advance group came through at the beginning of August, the main (larger) group just left yesterday. They made an impression on me, but not about beliefs — I’m still an atheist. Let me explain.

The area across Cole Street from The Dome was going to become “The Bottle District” over a decade ago. It never happened. Usually it’s just vacant and unsightly.

Jersey barriers blocked off many streets. Looking East from 7th & Biddle, March 2019
Looking North March 2019
Looking south on Broadway

In early August we noticed the first group making changes.

One of the most visible things they did was paint one side of the barriers this soft green color.
They had equipment and were busy moving/rearranging barriers in the vacant lots.

When the recent group arrived it became clear why all that work had been done. To prep the vacant lots (all of them) for parking.

This past weekend usually vacant lots were filled with cars, saw many out of state license plates.
6th Streets runs north-south through the vacant lots, they used cones to designate a pedestrian area of the street width.

The other thing they did that caught my eye is they put down bright tape to highlight potential trip hazards around The Dome.

There were a lot more, couldn’t photograph them all. Sometimes it was missing bricks, others were raised bricks. Still others were just uneven areas.

I love that they go to so effort to make sure their membership doesn’t fall and injure themselves.  Perhaps our Convention & Visitors Commission could learn a lesson from our recent guests? Perhaps Paul McKee could develop or sell the “Bottle District” land?

— Steve Patterson

 

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