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Balancing Sidewalk Seating & Walkability at Culinaria

I love outdoor seating, see Lunch Al Fresco from last month, but I also think public sidewalks should remain passable. Achieving both requires effort to create an ideal balance. When the downtown grocery store Culinaria first opened in August 2009 there was a good balance, but over time the walkability was sacrificed in favor of twice as many tables & chairs. Take a look:

When Culinaria opened in August 2009 bikes were the biggest obstacle on the sidewalk
When Culinaria opened in August 2009 bikes were the biggest obstacle on the sidewalk
There was even enough room for a nice planter.
There was even a nice planter.
july 2013
Over the years the number of tables & chairs doubled! The remaining sidewalk was so narrow people had to walk single file the entire city block. Photo from June 2013
In November 2013 the tables & chairs were pushed aside for winter, not done in prior winters. The sidewalk was again clear.
In November 2013 the tables & chairs were pushed aside for winter, not done in prior winters. The sidewalk was again clear. except for the occasional bike perpendicular to the curb.
On the afternoon of March 18, 2014 I spotted the chairs pulled back out like they'd been in prior years. Thirty minutes later I emailed this plc to the new store manager, starting a dialog.
On the afternoon of March 18, 2014 I spotted the chairs pulled back out like they’d been in prior years. Thirty minutes later I emailed this plc to the new store manager, starting a dialog.
On April 4th they still had too many tables
On April 4th the many tables were still being pulled out too far
April 10th
April 10th, our dialog continued
By April 16th nearly half the tables & chairs were removed and placed on pallets along the Locust Street side
By April 16th nearly half the tables & chairs were removed and placed on pallets along the Locust Street side
April 24th there were fewer tables & chairs but they were still using the same amount of sidewalk
April 24th there were fewer tables & chairs but they were still using the same amount of sidewalk
This May 2nd photo shows the tables & chairs still taking up as much space as a bike
This May 2nd photo shows the tables & chairs still taking up nearly as much space as a bike
May 6th no improvement in the sidewalk, but the manager says they've received compliments for reducing the number of tables & chairs
May 6th no improvement in the sidewalk, but the manager says they’ve received compliments for reducing the number of tables & chairs

I was glad to see fewer tables, but I knew they could be arranged better. Also, the remaining tables were the larger round tables that seat four, the smaller rectangle tables for two were gone. I think I’ve convinced them to remove a couple more round tables and bring back four of the rectangular tables. This will give another option for customers while maintaining the same seat count.  The seating area, and sidewalk, are now more generous and comfortable for everyone.

Yesterday the round tables were positioned as we discussed. The 4 rectangular tables weren't yet  added back as of yesterday.
Yesterday the round tables were positioned as we discussed. The 4 rectangular tables weren’t yet added back as of yesterday.

Working on better bike parking now.

— Steve Patterson

 

An Urbanist Look at the Lewis & Clark Branch Library

For quite a while now I’ve seen the posts about saving St. Louis County’s  1963 Lewis & Clark Branch, located at 9909 Lewis & Clark Blvd.

The east facade of the branch of the St. Louis County Library
The east facade of the branch of the St. Louis County Library features decorative windows

Here are some examples of the posts:

I hadn’t written about this subject before because I’d never been to the Lewis & Clark branch, but that changed Friday. I took the #40 (Broadway) MetroBus to the Riverview Transit Center, then the #27 (No County Shuttle) directly to the library. I spent some time inside both levels, and outside.

Here is an incomplete list of arguments for both sides:

Arguments in support of replacement:

  • Over 50 years old, old plumbing & electrical. etc.
  • Poor relationship to neighborhood, main street
  • Windows are inefficient
  • Doesn’t meet ADA guidelines
  •  Can remain open while new building is built

Arguments in support of renovating/adding on

  • Only branch in St. Louis County considered architecturally significant
  • Designed by Frederick Dunn
  • Design still looks good, fresh
  • Reusing the existing structure more sustainable than dumping it into a landfill
  • This part of St. Louis County has few structures on which residents can take pride.
The library seemed very busy during my Friday morning visit.
The interior of the main room.
The drinking fountains on the lower level don't meet the ADA, still not a reason to discard the rest.
The drinking fountains on the lower level don’t meet the ADA, still not a reason to discard the rest.
Looking back toward the bus stop we need more ADA issues. Site issues, however, don't require  new building to be addressed.
Looking back toward the bus stop we need more ADA issues. Site issues, however, don’t require new building to be addressed.

Based on my observations, the library is too small by today’s standards. It seemed busy during my morning visit, much more space is needed.  ModernSTL proposed a pretty predictable addition, which copies the original design. Good additions to historic buildings don’t mimic or repeat the original. That said, the idea is right. New entry connecting old & new wings.

Concept from ModernSTL with original on the left and addition on the right.  Click to view their post
Concept from ModernSTL with original on the left and addition on the right. Click image to view their original post

I do like the idea of turning the entry toward Lewis & Clark Blvd(367), and getting St. Louis County/MoDOT to put a public sidewalk along the west side of 367 from Chambers Rd to Berwyn Dr, roughly 3/10 of a mile. This would connect users of the #61 MetroBus route on Chambers Rd to the library site. Currently only a shoulder exists.  Better pedestrian connection in the area should be considered and planned for regardless if a new building is built or the existing structure gets a needed addition.

I don’t think the St. Louis County Library board has given any thought toward renovating this historic structure, which is a real pity.  We need leadership that considers retention of historic structures, especially when it is their only one!

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Want Walkability and Long-Term Jobs at NorthSide Regeneration

northside regeneration map
Map of project area

Last week readers at least 135 readers took the poll, indicating what they’d like to see as priorities at Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project. Here are the results in the order the software listed, two answers tied for the the top spot.

Q: Paul McKee’s “Northside Regeneration” project is slowly moving foreword, pick your top 5 priorities from the following:

  1. Good walkability 76 [11.33% – TIE]
  2. Jobs for locals: long-term work at various pay levels 76 [11.33% – TIE]
  3. Rail transit connected to downtown 64 [9.54%]
  4. Urban form with adequate parking behind buildings 60 [8.94%]
  5. Safety 59 [8.79%]
  6. Mixed uses, incomes 52 [7.75%]
  7. Good street grid with short blocks 48 [7.15%]
  8. Architecture that IS historic looking 43 [6.41%]
  9. Hoodlum-free zone 39 [5.81%]
  10. Renovation of the Clemens Mansion 35 [5.22%]
  11. Many builders/developers, not just a few 33 [4.92%]
  12. Good bikeability 24 [3.58%]
  13. Something…anything ASAP 21 [3.13%]
  14. Jobs for locals: short-term construction work 17 [2.53%]
  15. Architecture that is NOT historic looking 11 [1.64%]
  16. Easy access to highways 8 [1.19%]
  17. Plenty of free parking 3 [0.45%]
  18. Suburban planning, big blocks and cul-de-sacs 2 [0.3%]

I agree with most of the items in the top 10, very glad to see “Good Walkability” tie with “Jobs for locals: long-term work at various pay levels” at the top, followed closely by rail transit to downtown and urban form. I do take exception with one item: architecture.

I was disappointed “Architecture that IS historic looking” got 43 votes, but “Architecture that is NOT historic looking” only got 11 votes. Buildings in 2014 trying to look like they’re from 1914 end up looking cheesy.  Other cities do a great job building new urban buildings that relate to the sidewalk and neighboring buildings without being faux historic. We need to drop the expectation that every new building be given a bit of red brick on the front and a fake mansard roof on top.

— Steve Patterson

 

Washington Ave Sidewalk Reopened

The last part of filling in the old railroad tunnel under Tucker was the NW corner of Tucker & Washington Ave. In January I posted the Last Remaining Corner of Tucker Project, at that time, 

Washington Ave sidewalk in from of the Bogen Lofts is now reopened.
Washington Ave sidewalk in from of the Bogen Lofts is now reopened.

The basement of the Bogen lofts extends under the Tucker & Washington sidewalks, requiring more work to to create the concrete top over the basement vaults. Up top the Washington Ave sidewalk looks the same as it did before, the bricks were reset on top of the concrete. I’m glad I can finally use the north side of Washington.

— Steve Patterson

 

Update: Chippewa Road Diet, Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Lane

Last month when I posted Chippewa Road Diet, Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Lane the project wasn’t finished, I was holding out judgement until complete. The project now appears to be complete, but I’ve only experienced it as a passenger in a passing vehicle.

Looking east you see the westbound  bike lane to the right of the orange cones.
March 2014: Looking east you see the westbound bike lane to the right of the orange cones.
Now the bike lane is separated from the pedestrian area
April 2, 2014: Now the bike lane is separated from the pedestrian area

I’ll take MetroBus there this Spring so I can check it out end to end using my wheelchair, paying close attention to the transitions from the sidewalks at each end. On the reverse trip we noticed lots of water covering the sidewalk on the south side of the street.

— Steve Patterson

 

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