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Last Blumeyer High Rise Tower Coming Down

Now that residents of the last tower at the former Blumeyer public housing project have been relocated, see New Phases of North Sarah Apartments, Buildings on Vandeventer, the balding is being razed.

The last Blumeyer tower being razed
The last Blumeyer tower being razed, demolition started on October 23rd
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3501 Franklin in March 2012
Blumeyer Elderly Apartments, January 2007
Most of the Blumeyer towers were razed years ago, photo from January 2007

A 2011 article says the site will become “green space.”  I doubt it’ll be quality park space, just a green-ish rectangle.

— Steve Patterson

 

Three Infill Projects Accomodate Pedestrians and Motorists

I’m a huge fan of Retrofitting Suburbia, the redevelopment of formerly auto-centric suburban retail sites. In late September, while on my honeymoon, I got to see three different examples in the Denver area. Two site once had traditional enclosed malls, the third was previously an airport. We started with the oldest and finished with the newest.

Englewood, CO

In June 2000 the CityCenter Englewood project opened, replacing Cinderella City mall that had opened just 32 years earlier:

The mall was completed and officially opened for business on 7 March 1968 and once held the distinction of being the largest covered shopping center west of the Mississippi River. It featured four sections: Rose Mall, Gold Mall, Shamrock Mall and Cinder Alley. In addition, the Center Court area was known as the Blue Mall. It was demolished in 1999. (Wikipedia)

Englewood was founded in the 19th Century but largely developed in the Post-WWII era. Like many post-war suburbs, it lacked a downtown. By the 1980s newer malls had eclipsed Cinderella City. In the late 1990s they saw the replacement of the mall and the coming of light rail as an opportunity to build a downtown:

CityCenter Englewood replaced Cinderella City with a transit-oriented development (TOD).  This TOD is a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use concept that includes retail, entertainment, residential, office, civic and open space elements with a transit focal point.  The former Foley’s building was renovated into the new Englewood Civic Center, which houses the City Hall offices, the Library, Municipal Court, and the Museum of Outdoor Arts.  The Civic Center was the first feature of CityCenter Englewood to open when it made its debut in June 2000.

The Civic Center creates the cornerstone of the redevelopment of Cinderella City that includes Wal-Mart, Trammell Crow apartments with first floor retail, Office Depot, the Sports Authority, IHOP, Qdoba, and other retail and commercial businesses, second floor office with first floor retail, an RTD light rail station, and a Bally’s Fitness Center.  (City of Englewood)

You can see a current aerial here, and a 1991 aerial here. In the Southwest corner of the site an anchor store building was retained, as was part of the structured parking. The adjacent street grid was brought through the site. Apartments were added nearest the new light rail station, big box stores added to the east end of the site. All connected by a grid of streets and sidewalks.

The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.

Not bad for an early example of such a project. We saw people walking as we drove through, others can be seen in Google Street View.

Lakewood, CO

The Villa Italia mall opened two years before Cinderella City, in 1966. By the 1990s Lakewood officials saw both malls dying off, they didn’t want a vacant mall in their city.

A referendum was held in 1997, which authorized “urban renewal” to redevelop Villa Italia into a more conventional downtown district, something that the post-war suburb had never had.

In 1998, Lakewood entered into a joint venture with Denver-based Continuum Development. Continuum purchased the land beneath the mall from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation in September 1999 and acquired the buildings and ground leases from Equitable in early 2001. The site was rezoned (from that of an enclosed shopping center to a mixed-use development) and the redevelopment plan put in motion.

Villa Italia closed in July 2001, demolition began the following January. Belmar opened in 2004. Like CityCenter Englewood, streets were cut through the site. Not private driveways, public streets with public sidewalks. The pedestrian grid was as equally important as the vehicular grid, not an afterthought.

You can view an old aerial here and a current one here.

A new street at Belmar
A new street at Belmar
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.

A former anchor department store building was kept, it’s now a Dick’s Sporting Goods store. New housing is on the perimeter of the site, surrounding the retail core.

Stapleton

When Denver decided to build a new airport east of the developed region the question became what to do with the old airport.

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A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
An internal street in the venter of the retail area
An internal street in the center of the main retail area called The Shops at Northfield Stapleton
Another view
Another view
Another street in the core of the retail area
Another street in the core of the retail area, note the on-street parking
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target's parking lot.
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target’s parking lot.
The street where we parked terminated in
The street where we parked terminated in a Bass Pro Shops store, also connected to the sidewalk system

The overall site is massive, as you might expect from a former airport. It has many residential neighborhoods, distinct retail areas, and a business park.

Final thoughts

All three are variations on the New Urbanist/Retrofitting Suburbia theme. While I wouldn’t want to live at any of the three I know someone like me, who uses a wheelchair often, can get to businesses at each development on a sidewalk network. All three remain very car friendly, I drove to all three. Providing the option to walk doesn’t make them less appealing to motorists. Some pedestrians probably arrived by car but decide to explore on foot rather than drive from store to store.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Not Keen On Aventura Apartments

Overall readers in the poll last week indicated are general disliking of the new Aventura Apartments in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, just south of I-64.

Here are the results:

Q: The Aventura apartments south of BJC/Cortex are… (pick up to two answers)

  1. architecturally out of place 63 [36.84%]
  2. not ideal, but could’ve been worse 27 [15.79%]
  3. better than the old gasometer 20 [11.7%]
  4. not my taste, but right for others 19 [11.11%]
  5. attractive to their target audience 17 [9.94%]
  6. TIE
    1. quality housing with needed density 11 [6.43%]
    2. Other: 11 [6.43%]
      1. yuk! total let down in otherwise awesome neighborhood
      2. ugly suburban crap. will be trashed in
      3. doesn’t interact with the street
      4. Cheap and suburban. Horrible design and little effort from the developers.
      5. Could not have been much worse
      6. good density, poor quality. what will they look like in 30 years?
      7. Crappy Suburan type desig
      8. Predictable design, but it works OK.
      9. Sad ongoing trend of what our beautiful city is morphing into
      10. The density is appropriate, the design is not
      11. whatever
  7. unsure/no opinion 3 [1.75%]

All 11 of the other comments are correct! My main issue isn’t so much the aesthetics, but the building’s lack of relationship to the public sidewalks and each other. It’s isolationist, a gated enclave.

This is the photo of the Aventura apartments used on the poll post
This is the photo of the Aventura apartments used on the poll post was the most positive image possible from the public sidewalk
The east side faces Chouteau Park (right) but isn't oriented to it
The east side faces Chouteau Park (right), but isn’t oriented to it

This project won’t age well, the plastic shutters that can’t cover the windows will fall off, the surrounding sidewalks will remain lifeless and therefore unsafe. This project sucks the life out of the area. Hopefully I’ll live long enough to see it razed and replaced with an appropriate development(s).

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: Thoughts On The Aventura Apartments South Of BJC/Cortex

For the poll this week I want to know what readers think of the Aventura apartments.  The site, 4431 Chouteau, previously had a gasometer.

Aventura apartments at 4431 Chouteau, click for website
Aventura apartments at 4431 Chouteau, click for website
The former gasometer, May 2007
The former gasometer, May 2007, the building on Chouteau remains, is for sale.

The poll is in the right sidebar, mobile users need to switch to the desktop layout.

— Steve Patterson

 

Perfect Location For Centene’s New Ferguson Claims Center

Earlier this week one local company stepped up to invest in Ferguson:

Centene Corp. has selected Ferguson, the site of unrest for more than three weeks following the police shooting of Michael Brown, as the location for a new claims processing facility, with plans to bring up to 200 jobs to the city. The unrest following Brown’s death prompted Centene to select the city for the expansion. (stltoday)

This is potentially great news! I say potentially because most major call centers fit perfectly in an exurban office park; generic building sounded by massive surface parking lots, all fenced in. Ferguson needs these jobs, but it needs them in an engaged environment. Where? What would it look like? The where is quite simple: Emerson owns the perfect site on the SW corner of W. Florissant & Ferguson Ave., 9001 W. Florissant Ave.

This corner is 7+ acres
This corner is 7+ acres
Looking north from an adjacent Ameren substation
Looking north from an adjacent Ameren substation, the Ferguson Market is in the background
Looking north from in front of the Ameren substation
Looking north from in front of the Ameren substation
Looking south from Ferguson Ave
Looking south from Ferguson Ave
Map of the site consisting of two parcels, both owned by Emerson
Map of the site consisting of two parcels, both owned by Emerson, right of the purple line is Jennings

I’m not sure why Emerson bought this property, likely to raze the structure that was on the site as of 1971. Having a neighbor like Centene could be beneficial to Emerson, more workers means more lunch places. Hopefully Emerson would be willing to sell to Centene, or partner on a project to develop the site. And build what?

What they shouldn't build is a building surrounded by parking
What they shouldn’t build is a building in the center surrounded by parking
Instead, the building should be pushed out to the corner so pedestrians can easily reach the entrances.
Instead, the building should be pushed out to the corner so pedestrians can easily reach the entrance(s).

Ideally the building would be at least two floors, with the first floor for retail. I’d like to see a St. Louis Bread Co (aka Panera*) or Chronicle Coffee on the corner. This would provide additional jobs and more places for these 200 employees and those who work in the area to get breakfast, lunch & dinner. Nearby locally-owned places like Ferguson Burger Bar & More would also benefit. Parking can be located behind the building. If Centene doesn’t need this much space the site could be planned for more than one building facing W. Florissant.  * Disclosure: I have a handful of Panera stock

If Ameren built a new substation at the back corner, an auto entrance could be created at the traffic signal at Solway Ave.

A project at this corner could be a great way to implement East West Gateway’s Great Street master plan for W. Florissant!

— Steve Patterson

 

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