Home » Zoning » Recent Articles:

Lindell & Euclid: Worth the Wait

In April 2006 it looked like Opus Development would be moving forward on a high-rise condo tower at the NE corner of Lindell & Euclid. They’d revised the base and been granted a variance to permit the height. However, the project was abandoned even before the economy crashed.

Now Opus is back with a new proposal for the corner, Ald. Lyda Krewson tweeted on December 6th “Lindell Residences proposed for Lindell/Euclid – 217 first class apts.” with this pic attached:

Artist rendering of proposed building at Lindell & Euclid.
Artist rendering of proposed 12-story building at Lindell & Euclid. A later tweet in response to questions Ald. Krewson says they propose 240 parking spaces on three levels –two below grade, one above.
NextSTL then tweeted this image of the retail base.
NextSTL then tweeted this image of the retail base.
Revised proposal in April 2006
April 2006: Opus’ proposal for 26-story building, with a revised base from the Feb/March 2006 proposal.

Back in 2006 the historic code required heights to be relative to other buildings. The language, like many of our historic codes, was poorly written. Today the Central West End’s form-based code isn’t wishy-washy: maximum of 12 stories at this location.

The new form-based code and the mixed-use project one block south with apartments over a Whole Foods likely renewed interest in this conner. Ok, it is apartments instead of $300k condos. No big deal, when I rented an efficiency in The President 2 doors to the east in 1990 an A.G. Edwards VP rented the large apartment next door! Rental apartments aren’t a bad thing at all.

The NE corner of Lindell & Euclid was built in 1968. A high-rise was planned for this site when the economy crashed.
The NE corner of Lindell & Euclid was built in 1968.
The SW corner of Lindell & Euclid has been a parking lot for 20+ years
The SW corner of Lindell & Euclid has been a parking lot for 20+ years, will hopefully draw interest from developers for retail & residential.

While a tall tower makes the skyline more interesting, the latest proposal will have a bigger positive impact. The decision to go underground with most of the parking makes the base more appropriate.

I’m glad the 26-story building proposed in 2006 didn’t happen, the new proposal was worth the wait.

— Steve Patterson

 

McKinley Heights Code Made New Family Dollar Better Than Their Boilerplate, Still Has Room For Improvement

In case you haven’t noticed, Family Dollar stores are popping up all over St. Louis. From November 2012:

Family Dollar Stores Inc. will expand its store base by 500 this fiscal year as it looks to capture a bigger share of the dollar-store market. (Charlotte Business Journal)

A good number of those 500 new stores seem to be in St. Louis, I’ve spotted new locations next to Jefferson Commons, Grand @ Magnolia and now Jefferson near Gravois.

New Family Dollar entrance doesn't face Jefferson & Victor.
New Family Dollar entrance doesn’t face Jefferson & Victor.

So what does their typical new construction look like? Not much architecturally, with little to no connection to the sidewalk.

Family Dollar at 6000 Natural Bridge has no connection to public sidewalk. Click image to see my post.
Family Dollar at 6000 Natural Bridge, built in 2006, has no connection to public sidewalk. Click image to see my post from March 2011.
In 2007 Family Dollar built this location on Dr. Martin Luther King, just west of Grand
In 2007 Family Dollar built this location on Dr. Martin Luther King, just west of Grand

When building these two stores in 2006 & 2007 they used a pretty auto-centric approach and the cheapest materials. Now let’s take a look at the south Jefferson location where they built their newest location, starting with the Burger King that occupied the site for years.

Closed Burger King December 2011
Closed Burger King December 2011, looking north along Jefferson
North side of the former Burger King facing Victor St.
North side of the former Burger King facing Victor St.

The Burger King was a typical suburban design in what was previously an urban location. Years of chipping away at the urban fabric devalued the urban experience, but money was made. That is, until it got old, then the money stopped flowing. Uses for former fast food restaurants are limited, often to check cashing places or other businesses that could care less about the city where they are located.  Okay, back to the site on Jefferson.

By August 2012 the site was  back to bare earth.
By August 2012 the site was back to bare earth.

b

The north side facing Victor St has a red brick veneer, but no doors or windows.
The north side facing Victor St has a red brick veneer, but no doors or windows.
The Jefferson facade is narrow, with blank walls at the intersection.
The Jefferson facade is narrow, doesn’t come out to the sidewalk, with blank walls at the intersection.

The McKinley Heights Historic District Design Standards is to thank for the fact this store isn’t awful like the prior examples. The follow section, in particular:

ARTICLE 5: COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT CORRIDORS DESIGN STANDARDS

501 NEW CONSTRUCTION AND EXISTING NON?HISTORIC COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS

All new construction within the designated Commercial Development Corridor (the Corridor) must be reviewed and approved by the Preservation Board taking into account the following considerations:

501.1 Height

New buildings must be constructed within 15 percent of the average height of existing buildings on the block. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

501.2 Scale

The scale of all proposed new construction in the Corridor must respect the existing scale of any surrounding historic structures by seeking to minimize the difference in height, mass, fenestration and location. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

501.3 Location

New or moved commercial structures shall be positioned on the lot to not only enhance the character of the commercial location but also to be compatible with the surrounding streetscape. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

501.4 Exterior Materials

All new building materials shall be compatible in type and texture with the dominant materials of adjacent buildings. While artificial masonry such as “Permastone” is not permitted, introduction of new materials for new construction will be considered. A submission of all building material samples shall be required prior to approval. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

501.5 Details

Details on new structures should be compatible with the surrounding built environment. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

I have numerous problems with the code:

  1. The code is 41 pages of text! Not a single diagram to illustrate what is desired, or what is discouraged. Lawyers might like to read written code, but those trying to design to codes are often visual learners.  The general public can benefit greatly from diagrams, increasing understanding.
  2. If someone wanted to build a 5-story urban/mixed-use building on this site, it wouldn’t be allowed because it would be greater than 15% above the few 1-2 story buildings on the block. Never mind that we have 2 story buildings next to 5+ story buildings in many historic neighborhoods. Increased density, if allowed, not required, would be good for area businesses.
  3. The code is too general: compatible, respect, and enhance are all subjective terms.
  4. Form-based codes, for example, deal with issues such as width of the building facing the primary street, more building should’ve faced Jefferson.

I’m very glad this code is in place, but I’d like to see it and others improved.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: New Construction Should…

I’m not a preservationist, though I often favor saving old buildings. I do so because they frequently exhibit the urban qualities I think creates a desirable built environment, while new construction rarely has any qualities I find redeeming.  Still, new construction is a must. But what should it look like?

[Reporter Tracy] Smith asked Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for Vanity Fair, how we decide what to save: “We want to save the best of every period, ideally,” he replied. “We also want to protect certain kinds of neighborhoods — like Beacon Hill in Boston, or Georgetown in Washington. That’s really important.

The dark underside of historic preservation is that we often preserve not so much because we love what we’re protecting; it’s because we fear what will replace it,” he continued. “And, unfortunately, we’ve been right a lot of the time.” (CBS News)

True, replacements for old urban buildings have often been urban disasters, turning their back on the sidewalk or placing vast surface parking lots between the sidewalk and entrance. In St. Louis if new construction is wrapped in red brick it often gets approved, regardless of form, proportion, etc.

New Town at St. Charles mimics older buildings in St. Charles & St. Louis
New Town at St. Charles mimics older buildings in St. Charles & St. Louis
This 2008 building at Park Ave & Dolman near Lafayette Park
This 2008 building at Park Ave & Dolman near Lafayette Park is urban, but not detailed to convince anyone it is old. Or is it?

The CBS story showed new buildings that looked old, well enough to fool many. Some buildings around Lafayette Park are this detailed. Do you think that is good, bad or do you even care?

The poll this week is a rather philosophical one, a question of your aesthetic viewpoint. How do you think new construction should look? The poll is in the right sidebar, you can create your own answer if you don’t like the ones I’ve provided. I’ll present the results on Wednesday June 12th, along with my thoughts on the topic.

— Steve Patterson

 

Coming Soon to Kingshighway & Delmar: More Low-Density Sprawl

The site of the former National/Schnucks at Kingshighway & Delmar, long vacant, has now been cleared for new development. I’ve viewed the site as an opportunity to build a dense urban project, ideally connected with a Delmar extension of the future Loop Trolley. But current plans may delay dense development of the 4+ acre site for at least the next 20-30 years.

Former grocery store building has now been razed.
Former grocery store building sat back at the east end of the site
The long-vacant building was recently razed.
The long-vacant building was recently razed.
Discount grocer Aldi has announced a new location here.
Discount grocer ALDI has announced a new location here.

But ALDI doesn’t need over 4 acres! Looking at city records online I see The Roberts Brothers has divided the site into three parcels, with ALDI buying one of the three.

Outline of the parcel Aldi purchased.
Outline of the parcel ALDI purchased with Kingshighway on the left, Delmar on the bottom.

The boundaries of the three parcels is intriguing, my guess is so all three can have automobile  entrances facing Kingshighway, or at least a Kingshighway address.  This new store will be part of three recently announced locations also including Creve Coeur & Des Peres (source).

My assumption is this Kingshighway & Delmar location will replace the ALDI less than a mile to the north at Kingshighway & Page (1315 Aubert).

The Aldi at 1315 Aubert (Page & Kingshighway) was built in 1991.
The Aldi at 1315 Aubert (Page & Kingshighway) was built in 1991.

Below is a look at a few ALDI locations in the area, showing size of parcel, year built, and the building size:

Comparison of a few select Aldi locations
Comparison of a few select ALDI locations

The most recently completed ALDI on the list above is the 7701 Olive location. I visited that ALDI in May 2006, shortly after it opened.

View from the Olive auto entrance
View from the Olive auto entrance
A route is provided from Olive but it is not ADA-compliant.
A route is provided from Olive but it is not ADA-compliant.
An ADA-compliant route is provided off North and South
An ADA-compliant route is provided off North and South

This is how ALDI builds US locations from coast to coast. For example, in late 2010 a blogger noted the design for a dense Washington DC neighborhood (see Terrible Aldi design shows need for new parking zoning). As with so many retailers, they’ll do the cheapest design they can, barely meeting minimum standards. If we want/expect better we must demand better — raising the minimum. Retailers will meet the improved standard as long as they can get sales & profit growth.     ALDI does have a few urban locations, but only in super-dense places like Queens, NY.

And before anyone says ALDI and Trader Joe’s are part of the same company let me clarify their relationship.

The [ALDI] chain is made up of two separate groups, Aldi Nord (North – operating as Aldi Markt), with its headquarters in Essen, and Aldi Süd (South – operating as Aldi Süd), with its headquarters in Mülheim an der Ruhr, which operate independently from each other within specific areas.

[snip]

Both Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd also operate in the United States; Aldi Nord is owner of the Trader Joe’s chain while Aldi Süd operates as Aldi. (Wikipedia)

Thus the ALDI we see in the US is NOT related to our Trader Joe’s stores. Another difference between our ALDI stores and our Trader Joe’s is the latter is willing to go compact in dense, walkable areas. For example, the Trader Joe’s I visited in 2009 located at 1700 E Madison St, Seattle, WA.  The store is located on the ground floor with sidewalk entrance, a level of structured parking over the store and four levels of housing over that.

Garage of the Trader Joe's in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle
Garage of the Trader Joe’s in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle

Madison St. in Seattle still has low-density development, like the gas station across from the Trader Joe’s, but one property at a time it is getting more urban. As it gets more urban it attracts more people, increasing the need to be more urban.

Back in St. Louis, we do the opposite. We continue to build low-density sprawl, then scratch our heads wondering why more people don’t walk, use transit, or why our population declines. I’m not suggesting development patterns are the reason for our population decline in the past, but it is a factor today.

A single story ALDI surrounded by surface parking on this corner is totally inappropriate given the context to the east and south.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

 

Crappy Little Commercial Boxes Rarely Go Away

Buildings are largely permanent structures, although a demolition crew can change that quickly. Much of what we build stays with us for decades. Lowest common denominator auto centric structures, such as gas stations, seem to live on forever.

Early gas stations of the 1920s were small, much closer to the sidewalk and had details similar to housing of the day. Today these are often viewed as charming.

ABOVE: The former QT on Gravois in the Bevo area is something new, not sure what though.

Get off the bus or just walk down the sidewalk this spot is an urban void. What are the hours of this business? A menu? Heck, how do I even get to the front door?

ABOVE: The former convenience store structure built in 1991 is set far back from the sidewalk unlike adjacent properties.

Check out the aerial on Google Maps here to see how this is a radical departure from the long-established commercial district. This never should’ve been built 21 years ago. Too late for Bevo but we must prevent further such atrocities to happen to our urban commercial districts.

Hopefully I’ll see the day a new 2-3 story commercial building is built, up to the sidewalk, on this site.

— Steve Patterson

 

Advertisement



FACEBOOK POSTS

This message is only visible to admins.

Problem displaying Facebook posts.
Click to show error

Error: Server configuration issue

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe