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The Proposed QuikTrip Doesn’t Work In An Urban City

Chouteau Ave, an East-West roadway, was once like most St. Louis streets — lined with urban buildings on both sides.

Chouteau West of Jefferson in 1908, click image to see full size source
Chouteau West of Jefferson in 1908, click image to see full size source
Vin de Set and PW Pizza are popular destinations, causing people to cross Chouteau often. April 2012
Vin de Set and PW Pizza, right, are popular destinations in an urban building — a former brewery. April 2012 photo
In the of Chouteau where the new QuikTrip is proposed you can see urban buildings on both sides of the street. When I was in real estate I represented the owner inn the purchase of the 3-story building on the left.
In the 26xx block of Chouteau, where the new QuikTrip is proposed, you can see urban buildings on both sides of the street. When I was in real estate I represented the owner inn the purchase of the 3-story building on the left. The QT would be to the East of the building on the right. May 2013 photo

The prevailing pattern on both Chouteau & Jefferson is urban — buildings built up to the property line. Sure, more holes exist now than 100 or even 50 years ago — but that’s no reason for the entire street to become the image of a suburban arterial. Even suburbs now are trying to urbanize their unsustainable development patterns.

Urban buildings in the 26xx block of Chouteau being razed, July 2011
Urban buildings in the 26xx block of Chouteau being razed, July 2011
The two buildings remaining to be razed aren't worthy of the National Register of Historic Places, but they do date from the late 19th century.
The two buildings remaining to be razed aren’t worthy of the National Register of Historic Places, but they do date from the late 19th century. April 2012

Chouteau is the southern boundary of my neighborhood of 7+ years: Downtown West. In April 2012 I wrote about a need to study Chouteau Ave, here are a couple of quotes from Chouteau Needs To Go On A Diet:

Chouteau Ave has four travel lanes plus generous parking lanes, it’s too wide. I couldn’t find the curb-to-curb width but the public right-of-way (PROW) is a massive 80 feet, encompassing the road and adjacent sidewalks.

Recent road diet projects on Grand and Manchester had the number of travel lanes reduced from four to two. I don’t think that’s necessary or even a good idea on Chouteau. It’s not lined with shops, although some do still exist in places. No need to make Chouteau into a low volume shopping street but there is no reason it’s can’t accommodate the current volume of vehicular traffic AND be less hostile to pedestrians.  This takes a corridor study.

Chouteau Ave extends east to the river and west until it becomes Manchester as it crosses Vandeventer, 3.4 miles long.  The far east end isn’t as wide and is located in what will become Chouteau’s Landing. A corridor study should focus on the 3 mile stretch from S. 4th on the east to Vandeventer Ave on the west.

And:

A corridor study of the 3 mile length of Chouteau Ave would identify key points where crosswalks are needed. Those not at intersections, like Mississippi Ave, would have a yellow caution light flashing overhead. In the 6/10th of mile between Truman Parkway and Jefferson Ave I’d suggest two pedestrian crossing points: Mississippi Ave and 22nd Street, this would equally space them 2/10th of a mile apart. Too far apart for a commercial district but adequate for this area.

My main focus was on improving pedestrian amenities, but a corridor study would also look at building form. From end to end urban buildings remain — the key to having the corridor be more urban 20-25 years from now is to retain existing urban buildings or replace them with new buildings that are at least as urban. At the time Kacie Starr Triplett had been reelected to a new term a year before. After Triplett resigned I suggested to the newly-electred Ald Christine Ingrassia that Chouteau needs to be studied — she said it wasn’t a priority.

Her priority, it appears, is playing the same games aldermen have played for decades: pretend to be pro-city while introducing anti-city legislation. When called on it crying “I thought we were friends…” You see, they want to be friends so you won’t publicly oppose their bad public policy. I encountered this a decade ago when Jennifer Florida supported a new McDonald’s on Grand (McDonald’s eventually gave up, a multi-story urban building now occupies the site). At that time I referred to guidelines in other cities pushing for more urban fast-food buildings. So I found it funny when Ald Ingrassia told me “As an aside I’m looking at introducing a bill requiring an urban design for gas stations in the city (similar to one in Ottawa – see attached info sheet).”

Ok, so you work for a year on a gas station opposed by many — that you yourself say “Needs a lot of work” — then after getting pushback to the legislation sent to the mayor for signature you ask for urban help and say you plan to require that future gas stations be urban — just not this one. Sorry, that’s not how a smart city does business. A smart city, like Ottawa, develops guidelines to ensure new construction contributes to the environment they seek.

Yes, she talked with residents immediately to the West & South — they wanted police for security and a ban on hard liquor sales. This is the type of feedback when you talk to neighbors, the bigger planning issues never come up or if they do the project is presented as basically a done deal — just help make it better.  Here, we’ll allow you to rearrange the Titanic’s deck chairs…

The proposed QuikTrip (see site plan) has no business being built anywhere in the City of St. Louis — especially not at Jefferson & Chouteau. If built, how long before it’s on QuikTrip’s list of surplus properties? Probably 20 years. They can quickly depreciate their real estate then try to do a sale leaseback to maximize profits on their $11 billion plus in annual revenues.

QuikTrip can afford to develop an urban prototype and we have no incentives to allow them to build the planned location. It’s not like we must drive out to the suburbs to purchase a hot dog, chips, soda, or fuel. They want to build here because they can generate a profit in the location. Fine — let them build & profit — but let’s also not reduce the urban form on Chouteau or Jefferson in the process.

In the last Sunday Poll nearly 70% of the readers wanted an urban form or outright rejection:

Q: QuikTrip wants to build a typical QT at Jefferson & Chouteau, St. Louis should:

  1. Allow it, but require an urban form w/building at the primary corner 23 [38.98%]
  2. Deny it completely 18 [30.51%]
  3. Let them build what they want 14 [23.73%]
  4. Allow it, but require a few minor changes 4 [6.78%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 0 [0%]

Can we please stop electing faux progressives?

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis’ Latest Folly: New NFL Stadium

The Rams Task Force unveiled its proposal for a new open-air stadium in downtown St. Louis last Friday:

The proposed location of the new stadium is on the North Riverfront, adjacent to Laclede’s Landing, sitting on over 90 acres of privately and publicly owned property. The completion date would be set no later than 2020. (KSDK)

The reactions to Friday’s announcement of a proposal for a new stadium were swift and varied; some liked it, others habte it. It was suggested it’ll never happen, it’s just a way for politicians to say they tried their best to keep the Rams from leaving or Kroenke is set on LA, he’ll never go for it. Unlike when we failed to get an NFL expansion team and we had to attract an existing team, now all we need to do make the proposal attractive enough so the NFL owners don’t vote to allow the Rams to leave — except that Kroenke seems willing to build a new LA stadium, move the team, and fight his fellow NFL owners in court. The truth is likely a combination of all these.

Rather than rush out a post, I wanted to visit the area again in person before putting my thoughts down. My previous visit was in May 2012, passing through on Amtrak.

The Cotton Belt is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, click image to see nomination.
The Cotton Belt is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, click image to see nomination.

Hopefully this won’t go forward, but we must act as if it will to help block it.

The good:

  • Proposed stadium not within the CBD (Central Business District): I’ve been posting for years that NFL has no place in a CBD, they play too few games and the tailgate tradition means surface parking — both bad if you desire a 24/7 downtown.  For these reasons, other cities have placed their stadiums just outside their CBD
  • Recognition of need to connect two areas long separated by highway: Two long-neglected areas on each side of I-44, previously I-70, each need investment and access to each other.
  • Open-air, dual use for soccer: Open air is much nicer than dark and closed (EJD), weather permitting. Major League Soccer (MLS) is expanding, we could get an expansion team if we build a stadium. This sounds vaguely familiar…
  • Would retain the Ashley Street Power House, a city landmark.

And the bad:

  • Bad use of public resources, see Nicklaus: Stadium may sparkle, but it’s not an investment“St. Louis is being asked to pay dearly for the prestige of remaining an NFL city, so I think Peacock described his stadium plan accurately when he called it a “crown jewel.” A jewel can sparkle and make its owner feel good, but it’s hardly a productive use of half a billion dollars.”
  • Would destroy recently completed (April 2013) $10 million+ transitional housing project called Stamping Lofts, halt plans for future phase to create urban farming jobs know as FarmWorks.
  • Would destroy the unique Cotton Belt building (shown above), individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places for over a decade.
  • Would destroy the William Kerr Foundation building, a state of the art green building.
  • Would destroy the Laclede Power building.
  • Would wipe out most of the North Riverfront Industrial Historic District & the North Broadway Wholesale and Warehouse District, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places,in 2003 & 2010, respectively.
  • Would  destroy numerous vacant warehouses that could be used for offices and/or residential.
  • Would force numerous businesses to close or relocate.
  • The railroad isn’t likely to agree to routing their track to the West of this new stadium, in a ditch.  Leaders must’ve forgotten about the legal battles won by the railroad when designers want the track moved for the Arch, see tunnel.
  • Although MetroBus service exists, light rail isn’t close.

Let’s take a look:

The Laclede Power building, just North of the Ashley Street Power House, a contributing building in the , would be razed
The Laclede Power building, just North of the Ashley Street Power House, a contributing building in the North Riverfront Industrial Historic District, would be razed. Considerable money has been spent over the years to stabilize the building so it might be rehabbed in the future.
Warehouses in the along Ashley between 2nd and Lewis.
Warehouses, contributing buildings in the North Riverfront Industrial Historic District along Ashley St between 2nd and Lewis.
These buildings along North Broadway are the main part of the Wholesale & Warehouse Historic District, the Shady Jacks  Saloon is located in part
These buildings along North Broadway are the main part of the Wholesale & Warehouse Historic District, the Shady Jacks Saloon is located in part
These buildings are part of the same district on the National Register.
These buildings are part of the same district on the National Register.
After a $10 million dollar investment, the Stamping Lofts opened in April 2013. Also part of the same historic district.
After a $10 million dollar investment, the Stamping Lofts opened in April 2013. Also part of the same historic district.

For years now this area has been coming together, with two National Register historic districts and one individually-listed building, substantial investments have been made to numerous buildings as a result. Don’t our leadership care about the investments, businesses, and year-round jobs? Sadly, as I pointed out yesterday, St. Louis began planning to raze a hotel less than a decade after it opened.

It also seems like every decade our leadership wants to raze a historic building — this would let them take away two entire districts and an individually-listed building. It’s been just over a decade since the wrecking ball began taking down the Century Building, so they’re on schedule I suppose.  This area is also likely targeted because the owners of Lumière Place Casino and Hotels and Bissinger’s don’t like the rest of the area between them.

I’ll end with an open note to Rams owner Stan Kroenke:

Mr. Kroenke:

There are lots of large vacant sites in the St. Louis region where you could build a stadium. I say you build it because you’re a real estate developer, you know the value of owning the real estate. More importantly, I want you to own any new stadium so you’ll reinvest your profits in it as you see fit, also making it harder to walk away in 10-20 years.

You can do something else with your property in Inglewood, CA, but I think you already know prime property like that has many potential projects. Hell, build a stadium on it for another NFL team. But please, don’t accept the task force proposal — we’d lose too much and gain…more public debt.

So build elsewhere in the region or move the team back to LA!

 — Steve Patterson

 

State & Local Leadership Have Failed To Learn From Mistakes Of The Last 75+ Years

I’d like to think that after decades of leadership pushing projects that clear many acres of buildings, streets, sidewalks, utilities, etc., that someone in city hall or Jefferson City would realize that such projects are costly follies that never live up to the promises. Some examples:

mage from Jefferson National Expansion Memorial archives.
Forty city blocks sat vacant for over 3 decades, helping to drag down downtown. In the late 60s the Arch opened and in the 70s the site was landscaped. Currently we’re spending hundreds of millions more to correct design flaws that separated the Arch grounds from downtown.   Image from Jefferson National Expansion Memorial archives.
The failed Pruitt-Igoe project is still studied all over the world, the site has been vacant now twice as long as the 33 buildings stood.
The failed Pruitt-Igoe project is still studied all over the world, the site has been vacant now twice as long as the 33 buildings stood.
The Darst-Webbe towers on the near south side circa 1990-91, razed
The Darst-Webbe towers on the near south side circa 1990-91, razed
The last high-rise tower from the Cochran Gardens project was razed in 2011
The last high-rise tower from the Cochran Gardens project was razed in 2011
The last Blumeyer tower starting to be razed,, November 2014
The last Blumeyer tower starting to be razed,, November 2014
Aloe Plaza across from Union Station cleared away "undesirable"  buildings, followed by decades more demolition creating the largely failed Gateway Mall
Aloe Plaza across from Union Station cleared away “undesirable” buildings, followed by decades more demolition creating the largely failed Gateway Mall
The historic Western Union building at 9th % Chestnut was razed in 1993 for a 2-block passive green space as part pf the Gateway Mall.
The historic Western Union building at 9th % Chestnut was razed in 1993 for a 2-block passive green space as part of the Gateway Mall.  Just 15 years later we realized more passive space was a huge mistake, so we got the active 2-block Citygarden.
Looking east along Washington Ave from 7th, February 2006
St. Louis Centre was a huge internally focused indoor mall downtown between two department stores, the mall is now a parking garage
ABOVE: The 8th Street face of the Stadium West garage. The pedestrian ramp to the street crossing isn't ADA-compliant, Stadium East doesn't have a similar ramp.
In 1966 Busch Stadium II project wiped out our Chinatown district, 4 decades later we started over again
Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis
All over the city we tore off the fronts of buildings to widen streets, 4 decades later everything you see was razed for the Cervantes Convention Center. Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis
Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D'Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.
Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

There have been countless other projects; including highways that separated neighborhoods, warehouses that destroyed the street grid, etc. In 1988 the city began discussing buying the Sheraton Hotel, located immediately east of the Cervantes Convention Center to expand and build a football stadium, the 600+ room hotel wasn’t even a decade old when talk began of razing it to expand the convention center and build a domed stadium.

As politicians smiled and sweated in Monday morning’s 89-degree heat, ground was broken for the $260 million stadium expansion of Cervantes Convention Center.  The building, scheduled for completion by October 1995, will seat 70,000 for professional football. With 177,000  square feet of exhibit space on one level, it will accommodate events as large as national political conventions.  During the hour-long ceremonial groundbreaking at Seventh Street and Convention Plaza, demolition crews began swinging a giant ”headache ball” at the old Sheraton Hotel, one block north. Each swipe at the 13-year-old hotel, which sits near the 50-yard-line of the stadium expansion, brought cheers.  But the sturdily built hotel was slow to succumb to the headache ball. (Post-Dispatch Tuesday, July 14, 1992)

I was just 25 when demolition began on a tall hotel that wasn’t even 15 years old, but it was worth a couple of shots on my roll of film.

The Sheraton Hotel being razed in July 1992
The 13 year old Sheraton Hotel being razed in July 1992

Razing the hotel built to serve conventions meant we had to build another convention hotel, the Renaissance Grand has lost money since opening.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

— Albert Einstein

Tomorrow I’ll post about the particulars of the latest St. Louis folly: last friday’s proposal for a new NFL/MLS stadium to convince billionaire Stan Kroenke from moving the Rams back to Los Angeles.

— Steve Patterson

 

Followup: Gotham Apartments Completed

December 29, 2014 Featured, Real Estate Comments Off on Followup: Gotham Apartments Completed

In late 2012 I posted about an upcoming project.  Now, 2+ years later, I finally stopped to see the end result. The Gotham Apt project involved the renovation of an old building and the construction of a new mixed-use building consisting of apartments over storefronts.

October 2012
October 2012: 5900 Enright built in 1926
December 2014
December 2014: after new windows with dark frames — a big improvement over white framesgfcf AZ

b

Rendering of the new construction to face Delmar Blvd
Original rendering of the new construction to face Delmar Blvd
Oct 2012
Oct 2012: Framing just going up
April 2013
April 2013: taking shape
December 2014: The finished building at Delmar & Hamilton, click for map
December 2014: The finished building at Delmar & Hamilton, click for map
The NVme Boutique occupies the corner storefront space. click for website.
The NVme Boutique occupies the corner storefront space. click for website.
The entrance for the upstairs apartments ids located on the West end of the building.
The entrance for the upstairs apartments ids located on the West end of the building.

Once the Loop Trolley project is built we should see more urban infill like this.

— Steve Patterson

 

1893 House on Delmar Blvd Getting Rehabbed

I like to end each week with a positive post and nothing is more positive than a favorite building, long written off, getting rehabbed. A large house on Delmar, with unique dormers, has been in disrepair for years.  A few months ago a friend posted on Facebook that work was starting on the building. Earlier this month I took the #97 MetroBus to photograph the progress.

Work was still ongoing on my December 12th visit.
Work was still ongoing on my December 12th visit.
Diagonally across Delmar & Pendleton
Diagonally across Delmar & Pendleton, click image for map
This March 2014 photo from GEO St. Louis shows the old fire escape from when the house was divided into multiple units.
This March 2014 photo from GEO St. Louis shows the old fire escape from when the house was divided into multiple units.

City records indicate 4270 Delmar Blvd was built in 1893 and contains 5,687 sq ft. This property is just a couple of blocks West of another favorite building, that also recently got rehabbed, now known as Freedom Place. Fingers crossed someone will take on the building at the East end of Fountain Park.

— Steve Patterson

 

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