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Better Big Box Development

Recently I was critical of a proposed big box development along Forest Park Ave, adjacent to the main Saint Louis University campus. My issue isn’t with big box retail stores themselves, my issue is with how big box developments are typically laid out: massive surface parking lots, large blank walls facing public sidewalks, too few pedestrian connections to the outside & internally.

From page 12 of a 2010 Brookings report:

Considering the economic benefits, walkability should be a critical part of all strategic growth plans. The implications of this study cut across the federal and state, metropolitan, and place levels.

Public policy should become more favorable toward walkable placemaking. Currently, many federal and state subsidies substantially favor low-density development and tip the scales against walkable development. Further, many local zoning codes make walkable development illegal, necessitating costly and time-consuming zoning changes with no guarantee of success. Federal, state, and local policy makers should conduct a systematic review of existing public policies that are biased against walkable development, and adopt new measures aimed at facilitating (or at least removing roadblocks to) this type of development.

For their part, local and regional planning agencies should incorporate assessments of walkability into their strategic economic development plans. Planning entities should identify where regional- serving and local-serving walkable urban places exist within a metropolitan area, seek out those places that are positioned to become more walkable, and determine potential locations of future walkable places. This type of assessment will help determine where infrastructure and other built environment improvements are needed. Since high-density walkable urban places seem to account for a small amount of a metropolitan area’s existing land mass, it is probable that the infrastructure cost per dwelling unit or commercial square foot will be a fraction of that of existing low-density drivable suburban infrastructure costs.

At the same time, the apparent supply-demand mismatch for walkable places may be contributing significantly to the price premium these places demand. To the extent that this is the case, the short- and medium-term shortage of walkable places makes them inaccessible (unaffordable) to many people who desire to live in such places. As such, it is important to have an affordable housing strategy in place while those improvements are being implemented. (Walk this Way: The Economic Promise of Walkable Places in Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Christopher B. Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo)

The proposed “Midtown Station” project would turn its back on both Vandeventer & Forest Park Avenues, which is only marginally acceptable pattern out in suburbia, but unacceptable in an urban context — especially adjacent to a major university.

In searching for alternatives I remembered a project I visited about a decade ago and blogged about in 2005. This development has multiple big box stores including a 2-level Target, a Best Buy, a Sport’s Authority, and a Ross. Smaller size spaces front the sidewalk.

Urban big box development on Northgate in Seattle
Urban big box development on Northgate in Seattle
A Quiznos faces Northgate Way
A Quizno’s fronts onto the Northgate Way sidewalk

This project isn’t located in downtown Seattle either, it’s nearly 8 miles up I-5 (map). The main mode in this part of Seattle is private automobile, but thankfully newer development isn’t geared solely to motorists.

The best local example of rethinking big box development the Market at McKnight in Rock Hill, with a 36,000sf Stein Mart that opened in October 2007.  Ok, not exactly a big box, but a big portion of the 130,000sf development.

The Market at McKnight project in Rock Hill is the best local example of providing a more pleasant front along the roadway with big box behind
The Market at McKnight project in Rock Hill is the best local example of providing a more pleasant front along the roadway with big box behind
One story buildings along Manchester Rd give a more urban feel, windows give something for pedestrians to look into as they walk by
One story buildings along Manchester Rd give a more urban feel, windows give something for pedestrians to look into as they walk by
No business has a door onto the Manchester sidewalk, but it is pleasant as a pedestrian and motorists can see businesses as they drive by.
No business has a door onto the Manchester sidewalk, but it is pleasant as a pedestrian and motorists can see businesses as they drive by.
The businesses front the surface parking lot
The businesses actually front the surface parking lot
Pedestrians have a clear path to reach the Stein Mart on the far side of the development.
Pedestrians have a clear path to reach the Stein Mart on the far side of the development.
My window view from The Original Mongolian Grill
My window view from The Original Mongolian Grill

The view isn’t great, but the point is there’s a relationship with the sidewalk & street. From inside I could see others going by and they could see me. Instead of creating something active along Forest Park Ave. Midtown Station wants to create something like this:

Back side of the Hampton & Chippewa Target location.
Back (Clifton Ave) side of the Hampton & Chippewa Target location.

Dreadful anywhere, but especially so close to a college campus and near public transit. Developers have shown there are alternatives to the standard big box project of the last 15-20 years.

— Steve Patterson

 

Crossing Manchester Rd (MO 100) at McKnight

Recently I wanted to cross Manchester Rd, state highway 100, at McKnight. I quickly found out doing so is far from ideal in a wheelchair.  On the surface it looks good: crosswalks, pedestrian signals, etc.  Let me show you one glaring problem I discovered:

Looking north across Manchester at McKnight
Looking north across Manchester at McKnight
Looking southwest from the NE corner of Manchester & McKnight
Looking southwest from the NE corner of Manchester & McKnight
Close up of cut out for those crossing McKnight
Close up of cut out for those crossing McKnight. Attractive, huh?
But those trying to cross Manchester are out of luck
But those trying to cross Manchester are out of luck

Over the last 20+ years three out of the four corners at this intersection have been redeveloped, and Rock Hill has been trying nearly as long on the fourth. Why is this still an issue? Who cut out part? How long ago?

2011
The cutout existed in 2011. I drove this day so I didn’t attempt to cross either McKnight or Manchester

Three possible culprits: Rock Hill, St. Louis County, or most likely, MoDOT. I suspect MoDOT because Manchester Road is Missouri State highway 100.  I hope to find out why this wasn’t addresses recently when a gas station replaced the stone Rock Hill church on this corner.

This is part of the problem with having too many entities: municipal, county, & state.

— Steve Patterson

 

Cordish & Cardinals Failed To Plan for Pedestrians at Ballpark Village

Last month Alderman Scott Ogilvie called Ballpark Village a “total failure”:

“Taxpayers have earned a better project than they have delivered,” Ogilvie tells us. “The city of St. Louis has been a great home for the Cardinals…and this is a place downtown where we could use a great project…. It’s just maddening to see what I would call the total failure of this project. It is completely unacceptable that the citizens of St. Louis have been asked to subsidize two themed bars [and a parking lot].” (Riverfront Times)

It’s too soon to call it a total failure, large undeveloped areas used for parking is par for the course with a multi-phase development. They should’ve planned the site as a phased project from the start, they’d be further along by now. But it is what it is, we must wait to see about the success of the total project.

Looking east from the Stadium West garage on August 27, 2013
Looking east from the Stadium West garage on August 27, 2013, the striped walkway appears like an afterthought

In the meantime, I can already say the pedestrian access & circulation is a failure. I got a sense of this back in February when the Phase 1 site plan was released:

Site plan for BPV Phase 1 released 2/8/2013
Site plan for BPV Phase 1 released 2/8/2013

No internal pedestrian was shown on the drawing, but I knew the final might be more detailed. Might, but it quickly became clear the released site plan was pretty accurate.  In fact, what’s built so far isn’t even as good.  Let me show you what I mean:

This east-west route should've been planned as a sidewalk for the long-term. Instead it was an afterthought.
This east-west route should’ve been planned as a sidewalk for the long-term. Instead it was an afterthought.
Newly poured walkway connecting new parking to the Clark St sidewalk has a curb instead of a ram.
Newly poured walkway connecting new parking to the Clark St sidewalk has a curb instead of a ram.
The newly  poured sidewalk & curb along Clark ignores crosswalks & ramps to reach Busch Stadium
The newly poured sidewalk & curb along Clark ignores crosswalks & ramps to reach Busch Stadium
Another example of ignoring the crosswalk to Busch
Another example of ignoring the crosswalk to Busch
Looking across Clark at the first crosswalk
Looking across Clark at the first crosswalk
And the second crosswalk leading to a solid curb
And the second crosswalk leading to a solid curb
Looking north from the first building toward 7th Street we cab see no planned route for pedestrians to enter BPV from the north at the center
Looking north from the first building toward 7th Street we cab see no planned route for pedestrians to enter BPV from the north at the center
The site plan showed a wide sidewalk connecting  to 7th Street, but this wasn't built as the previous image shows.
The site plan showed a wide sidewalk connecting to 7th Street, but this wasn’t built as the previous image shows. Likely sacrificed to maximize auto parking
Pedestrians will be forced to walk over curbs & landscaping or into  cars leaving. Total pedestrian failure.
Pedestrians will be forced to walk over curbs & landscaping or into cars leaving. Total pedestrian failure.
In July I noticed the perimeter of BPV wasn't ADA-compliant. The single  ramp is point sorta across Walnut, no ramp for crossing Broadway. This needs a "blended corner" due to high volumes of pedestrians on game days, click image for explanation of a blended corner (PDF).
In July I noticed the perimeter of BPV wasn’t ADA-compliant. The single ramp is point sorta across Walnut, no ramp for crossing Broadway. This needs a “blended corner” due to high volumes of pedestrians on game days, click image for explanation of a blended corner (PDF).
Looking west across Broadway at Walnut
Looking west across Broadway at Walnut
Looking south across Walnut
Looking south across Walnut

Looking at the above images it may not be obvious to you, but to the various city staff that I emailed in July they quickly knew Cordish would need to redo this corner of BPV. Upon site inspection, one city staffer said; “Everything they’ve done so far is questionable. Many areas are extremely tight. ”

Expect to see these mistakes busted out and corrected. If only Cordish & the Cardinals had taken pedestrian access seriously…

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Galleria To Improve Pedestrian Access, Adding ADA Access Routes From Public Transit Stops

I’m very pleased to announce The Galleria Saint Louis & General Growth Properties, Inc. (GGP) will make substantial site modifications to better accommodate pedestrian visitors to the mall.

Thankfully GGP was very cooperative from day one, they willingly recognized the access issues I raised and quickly agreed to address them.  For the last 18+ months we’ve been working together on a mutually agreeable resolution. GGP and I share a desire to increase accessibility for persons with disabilities.

For those pedestrians arriving at The Galleria via the Richmond Heights MetroLink light rail station, a new pedestrian access route will be completed.

This sidewalk that goes no where will be removed, a sidewalk safely leading pedestrians to the SE corner of Dillard's will be built
This sidewalk that goes no where will be removed, a sidewalk safely leading pedestrians to the SE corner of Dillard’s will be built. See drawing below.
New access route from Brentwood & Galleria Parkway, click image to view full 10-page PDF of construction drawings
New access route from Brentwood & Galleria Parkway, click image to view full 10-page PDF of construction drawings

Additional pedestrian access routes will be constructed as well.

Again, I’m very pleased to be able to make this announcement.

— Steve Patterson

 

Manchester Ave More Accessible Than Expected

I highlight accessibility problems all the time, like Tuesday & Thursday, so today I’m going to talk about the pleasant surprise I discovered on Monday. I ended up at Manchester & Macklind well before the westbound MetroBus was due, so I headed west. I knew this stretch of Manchester Ave isn’t a trendy neighborhood so I wasn’t sure what to expect as I rolled along passing the time.

Manchester Rd @ Pierce
Manchester Ave @ Pierce was one of many cross streets with new ramps

Pleasantly rather than find obstacles at every cross street I found new ADA ramps. Plus they are directional, meaning I could actually continue in a straight path rather than be directed out into Manchester Ave.

This truck wasn't even a problem because the driver parked such that I had room to go to the right and behind.
This truck wasn’t even a problem because the driver parked such that I had room to go to the right and behind. Approaching I thought I’d have a problem getting by.
I was able to travel 1.1 miles westbound on Manchester before I encountered a problem preventing me from continuing
I was able to travel 1.1 miles westbound on Manchester before I encountered a problem preventing me from continuing. Not sure who poured the new concrete here, my guess is someone other than the city.

So at least 1.1 miles of Manchester Ave from Macklind to Dale (map) is now accessible. Because MoDOT is resurfacing Manchester they updated the accessibly, as required by federal guidelines.

As for the problem I encountered above I got this reply from Streets director Todd Waelterman: “At this particular intersection, sewers and the proximity of buildings did not allow them to install a compliant ramp. Thus we are utilizing the ramp a few feet north and will be placing signs to indicate such access.”

I was prepared to wait for the bus at Macklind, so I was very happy I could spend the wait moving in that direction.

— Steve Patterson

 

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