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CORTEX Commons Attractive, Has Accessibility Issues

The masterplan for St. Louis’ technology district, called CORTEX, included a significant green space. Originally formed in 2002, the green space is just now being completed. Here is how they describe the CORTEX campus:

The intent of the CORTEX Master Plan is to create well-designed public open spaces that will contribute significantly to the quality of life within the district, community and city. The Master Plan calls for the creation of the CORTEX Commons, a public park that will be accessible to all who work and live in the district and surrounding neighborhoods.

  • The Commons: right in front of the @4240 entrance you’ll find a beautiful green space with areas for relaxing, meeting, or just enjoying the fresh air.
  • Restaurants/Cafes: surrounding the @4240 building will be cafes, restaurants and other places to grab lunch, dinner, or have cocktails after work.
  • Living Space: within walking distance of @4240 are lofts, apartments and other living spaces that allow for a commute that is literally minutes away.
  • Shops: retail space will be part of the new Phase II expansion, providing convenient shopping and unique boutiques all within a short stroll of the office and laboratory space.
  • Transportation: getting to and from work will be simplified for those driving as well as those wishing to use public transportation. A new highway interchange at the major east-west Interstate 64 provides convenient access for drivers, plus a new MetroLink light rail station will be within a block of the @4240 building.
Concept drawing of the CORTEX Commons
Concept drawing of the CORTEX Commons

Let’s take a look, starting at the South end at S. Boyle Ave. & Clayton Ave., then moving North to Duncan Ave:

The visitor sees lush landscaping, at right is the new BJC @ The Commons building
The visitor sees lush landscaping, at right is the new BJC @ The Commons building
Turning to the left we see the sidewalk follows the curve of Boyle. The orange circle is the logo for the CORTEX Commons. In a couple of places the sidewalk make a sharp shift.
Turning to the left we see the sidewalk follows the curve of Boyle. The orange circle is the logo for the CORTEX Commons. In a couple of places the sidewalk make a sharp shift.
An open area  hardscape area to the West of the building
An open area hardscape area to the West of the building
Looking back toward Clayton we can see the sign marking the rain garden and the patio beyond. I couldn't get close enough to the sigh to read the body text. Numerous such signs throughout are also too far away to be read.
Looking back toward Clayton we can see the sign marking the rain garden and the patio beyond. I couldn’t get close enough to the sigh to read the body text. Numerous such signs throughout are also too far away to be read.
Looking North from the patio, the movable tables & chairs are better than fixed furnishings -- allows people to rearrange.
Looking North from the patio, the movable tables & chairs are better than fixed furnishings — allows people to rearrange.
Back out by the hardscape circle, looking North
Back out by the hardscape circle, looking North
Heading North on the Boyle sidewalk these plants in the rain garden are already reducing the sidewalk width. This is the only plant choice I didn't like.
Heading North on the Boyle sidewalk these plants in the rain garden are already reducing the sidewalk width. This is the only plant choice I didn’t like.
We can now see the light rail line, known as MetroLink, divides the space. Will discuss the renovated building in the background later in this post.
We can now see the light rail line, known as MetroLink, divides the space. Will discuss the renovated building in the background later in this post.
The sidewalk narrows at the track crossing, this is the low point in the experience.
The sidewalk narrows at the track crossing, this is the low point in the experience.
With the train gone we can cross.
With the train gone we can cross.
Looking back South after having crossed the two MetroLink tracks and a third extra track (nearest)
Looking back South after having crossed the two MetroLink tracks and a third extra track (nearest)
Looking back North we are again faced with the sidewalk making a hard shift to the right. The parked cars on Boyle don't have a bulb out to enclose the parking lane.
Looking back North we are again faced with the sidewalk making a hard shift to the right. The parked cars on Boyle don’t have a bulb out to enclose the parking lane.
Turning toward the Southeast we can see an unfinished spot, this is likely to connect to the new light rail station to be built. Hopefully the track crossing will be improved at that time.
Turning toward the Southeast we can see an unfinished spot, this is likely to connect to the new light rail station to be built. Hopefully the track crossing will be improved at that time.
Approaching the @4240 building
Approaching the @4240 building
Looking North. DuPont, formerly Solae, is across Boyle on the left.
Looking North. DuPont, formerly Solae, is across Boyle on the left.
Turning Eastward we see the centerpiece shade canopy.
Turning Eastward we see the centerpiece shade canopy.
Looking North at the canopy, the same movable tables & chairs are used.
Looking North at the canopy, the same movable tables & chairs are used.
Back at the sidewalk parallel with Boyle we see the first of numerous connections to draw you into the space from the edge.
Back at the sidewalk parallel with Boyle we see the first of numerous connections to draw you into the space from the edge.
The Northernmost of the connections leads right to the @4240 building entrance, more on that in a bit.
The Northernmost of the connections leads right to the @4240 building entrance, more on that in a bit.
Looking back South along the Boyle sidewalk
Looking back South along the Boyle sidewalk
Looking diagonally into the CORTEX Commons
Looking diagonally into the CORTEX Commons
Looking East along Duncan Ave, the main East-West spine in the district.
Looking East along Duncan Ave, the main East-West spine in the district.
Looking South from a position closer to the @4240 building we see another patio with the same movable furnishings. Most of this area is a metal grate over a rain garden.
Looking South from a position closer to the @4240 building we see another patio with the same movable furnishings. Most of this area is a metal grate over a rain garden.
Looking back West toward Boyle, with DuPont/Solae in the background
Looking back West toward Boyle, with DuPont/Solae in the background
Back in the Commons we can approach the @4240 building after crossing the rain garden on the metal grate pedestrian bridge -- love this!
Back in the Commons we can approach the @4240 building after crossing the rain garden on the metal grate pedestrian bridge — love this!
Another pf the informational signs that can't be read from the paved areas
Another pf the informational signs that can’t be read from the paved areas
Looking out to Boyle & Duncan we can see the South facade of the first CORTEX building. It was built without an ADA-complianfr accessible route  and hasn't yet been corrected
Looking out to Boyle & Duncan we can see the South facade of the first CORTEX building. It was built without an ADA-complianfr accessible route and hasn’t yet been corrected
The paving clearly directs the user to the entry but the the curb on this side of the drive prevents me from continuing
The paving clearly directs the user to the entry but the the curb on this side of the drive prevents me from continuing
The view out from the entry shows the accessible entry on the near side and the non-accessible curb on the far side. D'oh!
The view out from the entry shows the accessible entry on the near side and the non-accessible curb on the far side. D’oh!
The next area, connecting to accessible parking, has the same problem
The next area, connecting to accessible parking, has the same problem
And the next one, a good place for a raised crosswalk
And the next one, a good place for a raised crosswalk
And again. Clearly, someone goofed! The disabled shouldn't have to go all the way to the Duncan public sidewalk
And again. Clearly, someone goofed! The disabled shouldn’t have to go all the way to the Duncan public sidewalk
To finish on a positive, here's a detail I liked. Next to fixed benches are power outlets.
To finish on a positive, here’s a detail I liked. Next to fixed benches are power outlets.
Just lift the cover and plug in your phone, tablet, laptop, or wheelchair.
Just lift the cover and plug in your phone, tablet, laptop, or wheelchair.

I hope get CORTEX to correct the accessibility issues to the @4240 building. Read more about the building and how it is being used here.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Saint Louis University Hospital An Opportunity To Build A Great Urban Mixed-Use Campus

On Tuesday SSM Health took over Saint Louis University Hospital from Saint Louis University, at the same time announcing plans to construct a new facility:

SSM Health plans to invest $500 million to build a new St. Louis University hospital and ambulatory care center. 

The new facilities, which will be situated in the immediate vicinity of the current 365-bed hospital near the midtown campus of St. Louis University, will be completed within five years, SSM officials said. (Post-Dispatch)

Uncertainty of the existing Desloge Tower left many wondering if it might be razed.

Desloge Tower in 2011
Desloge Tower in 2011

First, some background:

Going back in the history books, Firmin Desloge Hospital was officially dedicated on November 3, 1933, rising 250 feet and topped by a French Gothic roof of copper-covered lead. Over the next several weeks, it began admitting its first patients. It was unique for its time, offering patients private or semi-private rooms instead of the open ward model common in most hospitals. Desloge Tower served as the main hospital building of the Saint Louis University Medical Center until 1959 when Firmin Desloge Hospital, the Bordley Memorial Pavilion and the David P. Wohl Sr. Memorial Institute were collectively renamed Saint Louis University Hospital.

Desloge Tower is also home to the chapel of Christ the Crucified King, commonly known as Desloge Chapel, which was designed by Gothic revivalist architect, Ralph Adams Cram, who was a prolific and influential American architect of collegiate and ecclesiastical buildings. The chapel was designed to echo the contours of the St. Chapelle in Paris, which was Louis IX’s palace chapel, and in 1983, Desloge Chapel was declared a landmark by the Missouri Historical Society.

Desloge Tower continues to serve SLU Hospital with physician offices, gastroenterology, interventional radiology and the cardiac catheterization lab.

Its image is a well-recognized part of the St. Louis skyline, and is often the symbol of the hospital itself. (SLU Hospital)

With a fresh start nearby, it does mean the future is uncertain. The future of the old Pevely Dairy just to the North is more certain — it’ll likely be gone.

The former Pevely Dairy at Grand & Chouteau, 2011
The former Pevely Dairy at Grand & Chouteau, 2011

I’m fine with the Pevely coming down — as long as the new facilities are very urban in form. This is on the route of the busiest MetroBus route in the region — the #70 (Grand), and the #32 (ML King-Chouteau) runs in Chouteau. Just to the North is the Grand MetroLink (light rail) station.

Westbound #32 MetroBus on Chouteau just barely west of Grand. The Pevely bldg is to the left. 2012
Westbound #32 MetroBus on Chouteau just barely west of Grand. The Pevely bldg is to the left. 2012
#70 MetroBus riders at the Grand MetroLink station, August 2012. Dislodge Tower can be seen in the distance
#70 MetroBus riders at the Grand MetroLink station, August 2012. Dislodge Tower can be seen in the distance

What many in St. Louis, especially at City Hall, fail to realize is facilities can be friendly to motorists and pedestrians — these are not mutually-exclusive. The street grid need-not be decimated to create a campus.

Looking east along Erie St at Fairbanks, Chicago IL
Looking east along Erie St at Fairbanks, Chicago IL

When we visit Chicago next month, our 4th time in 2015, we’ll be staying in a friend’s condo located within the Northwestern Medicine/Northwestern Memorial Hospital campus. The sidewalks are packed with people visiting street-level restaurants. The internal walkway system and lots of parking garages hasn’t made the sidewalks a ghost town.

SSM Health is going to build a new complex. Now’s the opportunity to look at how medical campuses in other cities can be vibrant active places that are also convenient to those using cars. Dislodge Tower could become a mixed-use building with retail, restaurants, offices, and residential.

— Steve Patterson

 

Dangerous Reaching Bus Stop On Manchester At Hampton

Last week I was near Manchester & Hampton doing research, I arrived & departed on the #32 (ML King-Chouteau) MetroBus. Arriving the bus was headed West on Manchester, so the stop was on the adjacent sidewalk. For the return trip I needed to catch the bus as it headed East on Manchester — no sidewalk on that side.  But there is a just big enough concrete pad.  I didn’t get a pic from across the street but you can see it on Google Street View here.

It took a while but I finally got a break in traffic where I could quickly cross Manchester to the stop I needed.

Looking North from Metro Stop ID: 13572
Looking North from Metro Stop ID: 13572
Looking West I was concerned the bus driver wouldn't be able to see me. A path was worn in the grass from others using this stop.
Looking West I was concerned the bus driver wouldn’t be able to see me. A path was worn in the grass from others using this stop.
The ground was also worn East of the stop.
The ground was also worn East of the stop.

I was right at the edge waving as the bus approached. Another passenger got off at my stop so she stood close to my wheelchair on the small pad while the driver extended the lift so I could board. Would the driver have seen me if a passenger wasn’t wanting to exit at my stop?

I had wanted to go to the next stop to the East where I could cross at a crosswalk, but vegetation (upper left of last photo) blocked the sidewalk.

So who’s responsible?

  • Metro
  • MoDOT
  • St. Louis

All three are involved, but fragmentation means the pedestrian experience here sucks. The quick solution is to trim the vegetation in both directions. A crosswalk with warning signs for motorists to stop for pedestrians would be relatively cheap. I’m going to email Ald. Vollmer (10th) & Ald. Ogilvie (24th) to let them know about the issues here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Over A Month To Move One Trash Can

When I spotted a trash can sitting in the middle of a curb ramp last month I thought it would be a simple matter to get it moved. Boy was I wrong!

On the morning of July 17th I posted the following image on Facebook & Twitter, stating “Trash can placed on curb ramp SW corner 14th & Pine”

My text read "Trash can placed on curb ramp SW corner 14th & Pine"
My text read “Trash can placed on curb ramp SW corner 14th & Pine”

At the end of the tweet I mentioned @stlcsb — to report problem to the Citizens Service Bureau.

The CSB responded: “What are you asking or saying about it?” At this point many others joined the conversation, not always including me in the loop. In short, others could see the problem from the pic but the CSB: 1) thought I or someone else was talking about the car making a left turn in the background, 2)  was confused by the term “curb ramp” and told me it’s a “wheelchair ramp” — more on that later, 4)  that the containers don’t belong to the city — they just empty them. The tweets went back and forth for nearly 4 hours! Finally I got a Service Request number, which I favorited for future reference.

A curb ramp is the term used by the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Highway Administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation. They’re not called “wheelchair ramps” because many pedestrians use them — such as those who walk with a cane or walker, for example. Plus it’s six fewer letters.

Nearly 3 weeks later, on August 5th, I passed by and noticed the trash can still hadn’t been moved.  I realize not everything can be done immediately but often little things are addressed quickly. So I posted another image on Facebook & Twitter noting “Trash can blocking curb ramp SW crnr 14th & Pine, reported to (no 7560493) on 7/17 still in the way.”

The text read: "Trash can blocking curb ramp SW crnr 14th & Pine, reported to @stlcsb  (no 7560493) on 7/17 still in the way."
The text read: “Trash can blocking curb ramp SW crnr 14th & Pine, reported to @stlcsb (no 7560493) on 7/17 still in the way.”

This is a good time to note that I had no problem getting around the trash can in my power chair. My concern wasn’t for me — it was for others who use a manual wheelchair, came, walker. Trying to navigate the flared side can present problems! I didn’t want someone else wheeling in the road or falling because of this ill-placed trash can. This is a curb ramp I use often — the trash can had’t been there before in the last 7 years.

Two days later I heard from Dena Hibbard, a Neighborhood Stabilization Officer (NSO) asking if it had been moved.  I replied it hadn’t, then she said my service request was closed — city staff indicated it was not blocking the ramp. WTF!?! We keep in touch and finally she got through to someone in Refuse. I got word on August 20th it was finally moved off the ramp.  A few hours later I go by on the way from from the grocery store.

The trash can is now out of the ramp.
The trash can is now out of the ramp.
The circle shows where it had been.
The circle shows where it had been.

It shouldn’t have taken more than a month and lots of effort to get this moved! I’m grateful Dena Hibbard follows my blog/social media, without her help it wouldn’t have gotten moved. The best part is her area is the 9th Ward — but this ramp is in the 7th Ward.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Missed Opportunity With New Downtown Hotel Sidewalk

August 17, 2015 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Missed Opportunity With New Downtown Hotel Sidewalk

Another  downtown hotel is about to reopen:

After being shuttered since 2011, the original Hotel Lennox – once known as St. Louis’ tallest hotel – will re-open Sept. 2, the same day that the hotel originally opened in 1929, as The Courtyard by Marriott St. Louis Downtown/Convention Center Hotel. The newly revitalized hotel will be one of the most unique and historically significant Courtyard-branded hotels in the country. The hotel has undergone a significant renovation, with an investment of over $22M into the property during a 16-month restoration. (KMOX)

Los Angeles-based Maritz Wolff & Co. will own and manage the property. It bought the Renaissance Suites this year for $3.2 million from the bondholders who owned it. Lewis Wolff, co-founder and chairman of Maritz, Wolff & Co., and Phillip “Flip” Martiz, its co-founder and president, sold the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton for $56 million in December 2012 to Bruce Karsh and his Clayton St. Louis Property LLC.

The development and management team from Maritz Wolff is led by Patrick Lowery and Jeffrey Barone. (St. Louis Business Journal)

The narrow Washington Ave facade, 9th Street on the left. Our convention center is on the right.
The narrow Washington Ave facade, 9th Street on the left. Our convention center is on the right.

Thankfully the renovations included the new sidewalks you can see above, replacing the failed stamped concrete fake brick sidewalk that was installed about 15 years ago, when it reopened as the Renaissance Suites. The sidewalk is totally new, but they did one thing exactly as it had been: the location of the curb ramp across the auto driveway to the East.

The sidewalk width is generous and people tend to walk in the center. But those of us using wheelchairs are forced to use ramps pointing diagonally into the street. This new work should've had a wide ramp area in the natural flow of pedestrian traffic, not a ramp pointing into the street out at the corner.
The sidewalk width is generous and people tend to walk in the center. But those of us using wheelchairs are forced to use ramps pointing diagonally into the street. This new work should’ve had a wide ramp area in the natural flow of pedestrian traffic, not a ramp pointing into the street out at the corner.

You might say they were just matching the ramp on the East side of the driveway. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

View looking West across driveway
View looking West across driveway. In the winter snow gets piled up blocking ramps placed at the curb rather than the natural pedestrian flow closer to the buildings.

When new concrete is poured it should be done right, now continue an early 1990s mistake. If new work makes incremental improvements then eventually downtown will be more pedestrian-friendly.

This pedestrian crossing of Morgan St is a good example.
This pedestrian crossing of Morgan St is a good example.

In high pedestrian areas such as between the hotel and convention center this reduces the chances someone will trip & fall on a curb. As this is part of the public right-of-way (PROW), not private property, the city should’ve ensured this was done differently.

— Steve Patterson

 

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