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Chesterfield Valley May Add Shelters At Inaccessible MetroBus Stops

June 9, 2014 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Retail, St. Louis County, THF Realty Watch, Walkability Comments Off on Chesterfield Valley May Add Shelters At Inaccessible MetroBus Stops

I applaud Chesterfield’s continued support of pubic transportation. Last week I read about more potentially good news:

Chesterfield’s City Council on Monday night gave initial approval an cooperation agreement between the city, Metro, and the Chesterfield Valley Transportation Development District for of bus stop shelters in Chesterfield valley and in other areas of the city in which there are Metro bus routes. A final vote on the legislation is set for June 16. (stltoday)

Bus shelters are an improvement, but what about getting to/from the shelters?

One of five MetroBus stops along Chesterfield Airport Rd serving retail in the Chesterfield Valley, just a sign on the shoulder
One of five MetroBus stops along Chesterfield Airport Rd serving retail in the Chesterfield Valley, just a sign on the shoulder (below highway 40 sign). Click image for map.
The other side of the same stop shows the grass that must be crossed to/from the stop. A sidewalk exists at this spot but not all stops have a sidewalk nearby.
The other side of the same stop shows the grass that must be crossed to/from the stop. A sidewalk exists at this spot but not all stops have a sidewalk nearby.

I took these images in October when I checked out the area in a rental car. My conclusion was Chesterfield Valley is an ADA nightmare, taking MetroBus to shop wouldn’t be possible in a wheelchair. Given that everything was built since the big flood of 1993, it should be ADA-compliant.  I checked Chesterfield’s ADA Transition Plan, there’s no mention of their responsibility in the public right-of-way.

I’d love to meet former Chesterfield Mayor & Metro President John Nations and current mayor Bob Nation at one of these MetroBus stops to have them see the challenges the transit-using public, including the able-bodied, face in navigating this area on foot.

— Steve Patterson

 

Neighborhood Retail In Older Suburbs

Driving around the inner ring suburb of Overland recently I was struck at the number of corner retail buildings adjacent to the residential streets. Unlike more recent suburbs, where retail is miles away from housing, these were very close. End of street close. Today when we think of retailing in the suburbs it’s easy to assume it was always big boxes or enclosed mall, but like the inner city, it started off with stores within walking distance.

Lackland at Ashby, click for map
This storefront building facing Lackland, just east of Ashby, was built in 1950. Click for map
This building was built in 1952, to the east of the previous.
This building was built in 1952, to the east of the previous.
The 1952 building even included a 2-story section
The 1952 building even included a 2-story section
Most of the housing in this area are modest one-story  homes from the 1920s-1960s, this house across the street was built in 1844
Most of the housing in this area are modest one-story homes from the 1920s-1960s, this house directly across Lackland was built in 1844
The commercial building a block east, at 10236 Lockland, was built in 1936. I don't know the prior uses, my guess was a market.
The commercial building a block east, at 10236 Lockland, was built in 1936. I don’t know the prior uses, my guess was a market.
The 21,000+ square foot commercial building at Lackland Rd & Bryant Ave was built in 1947
The 21,000+ square foot commercial building at Lackland Rd & Bryant Ave was built in 1947

This is far different than the 1960s subdivision in Oklahoma City where I grew up. The 1960s subdivisions I’ve seen here are very similar, by that time commercial development was further away  and with lots more parking than these examples. Suburbs & their subdivision development seemed to continue on this trajectory, except for New Urbanist developments like New Town St. Charles.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

From Art Deco To Aluminum

Work is progressing on the construction of new storefronts at the former Board of Education building located at 901 Locust St. Last November I posted about the historic Art Deco storefronts being removed, they weren’t original to the building.

Modern aluminum frames for new storefronts
Modern aluminum frames for new storefronts, these are facing 9th Street

I personally love the contrast between old architecture and crisp modern storefronts so I’m excited to see how this will turn out. I’m especially curious to know how they plan to deal with ADA access on 9th Street. It appears vaults are under part of the public sidewalk, making the task of building a ramp more difficult.

The 9th Street storefronts were tiny and not wheelchair accessible
The old 9th Street storefronts were tiny and not wheelchair accessible

It would’ve been impossible to make the old storefronts ADA compliant, sadly, they had to go. Originally the building had wood storefronts, not the best choice for retailing in the 21st Century, hopefully the aluminum will turn out nice, attracting a good tenant(s).

No post tomorrow, new weekly poll at 8am Sunday.

— Steve Patterson

 

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

 

Some Possible Reasons Why the North Grand Schnucks Didn’t Make a Profit

Local grocery store chain Schnucks made a big announcement on Monday regarding a store they acquired in their 1995 purchase of the National chain:

Next month, the region’s leading grocer will have only one store in the city north of Delmar Boulevard.

The Maryland Heights-based company announced Monday it is closing its grocery at North Grand Boulevard and Kossuth Avenue, effective 6 p.m. May 10. (stltoday)

Here is the press release:

ST. LOUIS – Leaders of Schnuck Markets, Inc. today announced they will not renew the lease on the Grand and Kossuth Store (4127 N. Grand, 63107) in north St. Louis. The store will close permanently at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 10. No jobs will be lost; all 65 teammates will be transferred to nearby Schnucks stores.

According to Schnucks President and CEO Todd Schnuck, the 28,000-square-foot store has consistently operated in the red since it was purchased as part of the 1995 National acquisition. “Closing any store is a difficult decision particularly when we have invested so substantially in the 45-year-old facility including a $200,000 Pharmacy remodel just one year ago. Nothing we’ve done has helped improve the store’s performance.”

“Store Manager Roger Hines and Co-Manager Sharon Evans lead an experienced and dedicated team. Yet despite their best efforts and strong rapport with customers, the store continues to lose money,” Schnuck said. “While customers appreciate the offering we bring to the neighborhood, sales at this store will not offset needed repairs, escalating labor, utility and insurance costs.”

Currently, operating a total of nine stores within the city limits (including Grand and Kossuth), Schnucks continues to demonstrate its commitment to city residents. “In this particular location, we are challenged by lack of population growth and the opportunity to attract new customers,” said Schnuck. “We thank our customers and community partners for their support over the years and we will continue to look for more ways in which to deliver needed services to our customers in St. Louis City.”

Schnuck says that should the landlord entice another grocer to the site, Schnucks would leave the majority of the store’s fixtures in place. In the meantime, the company will start a sell down of goods prior to the May 10 close.

Pharmacy customers may continue to have their prescriptions filled through May 10. Additional information will be provided prior to the close.

Founded in St. Louis in 1939, Schnuck Markets, Inc. operates 101 stores (including Grand and Kossuth) and 95 in-store pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.

# # #

I’d been by this store numerous times, when it was a National I lived not far away in Old North St. Louis, but I’d never been inside. So the day after the announcement I boarded the #41 MetroBus, which stops on Kossuth right next to the store property.   Between downtown (14th & Washington) and the Schnucks a couple of passengers boarded the bus that got off at the Kossuth & Grand stop to do their grocery shopping.   Let’s take a critical look at this store to see why they couldn’t attract new customers.

View from the Kossuth bus stop
View from the Kossuth bus stop, a beauty supply &  laundromat are next door
Looking toward Grand from the front of a building on the same property
Looking toward Grand from the front of a building on the same property, a #70 MetroBus is in the background
The laundromat attached to the Schnucks
The laundromat attached to the Schnucks
Once at the Schnucks access to the south entranced is blocked by the carts
Once at the Schnucks access to the south entranced is blocked by the carts
The view from Grand
The view from Grand
The separation between the Grand sidewalk and the parking lot is almost nonexistent
The separation between the Grand sidewalk and the parking lot is almost nonexistent
The north entrance is close to Lee Ave but a dish-drainer type bike rack blocks direct access
The north entrance is close to Lee Ave but a dish-drainer type bike rack blocks direct access
The entry is just as impressive as the rest of the exterior
The entry is just as impressive as the rest of the exterior
Immediately you get the idea this Schnucks wants to be an ALDI or Save-A-Lot.
Immediately you get the idea this Schnucks wants to be an ALDI or Save-A-Lot.
The fresh produce dept, including greens,  was very nice though
The fresh produce dept, including greens, was very nice though
The pharmacy that was recently added or updated.
The pharmacy that was recently added or updated.
Throughout the store ceiling times were missing or water stained.
Throughout the store ceiling times were missing or water stained.

Now you’ve seen the store, inside and out. Think anyone goes out of their way to shop here? Nope! Anyone pass other grocery stores on the way home from work shop here? Nope! Those who live near this Schnucks likely shop elsewhere if they have a car or access to another bus route.

An ALDI is located  just the other side of Fairgrounds Park, it was built in 1999, the Schnucks was built in 1968. Those who use the #70 route can just as easily go to the much nicer ALDI. Those who drive likely pass other grocery stores on the drive home from work, so they have nicer options. I worked at Union near I-70 when the Schnucks at Union & Natural Bridge opened in 1998, I’d go by sometimes at lunch to get a salad.

The Kossuth Schnucks lacks profitable departments like salad/olive bars, deli, prepared foods, floral, etc. The store is only 28,000 sq ft, about half of most newer Schnucks, but larger than the 21,000 sq ft Culinaria store downtown that has all those departments. A ALDIs doesn’t have prepared foods, floral, etc and manage with 17,000 sq ft stores, but their model is very different from Schnucks.

And hours is another big difference. The Schnucks at Union & Natural Bridge is open, like many Schnucks, from 6am-midnight every day. This allows customers to shop before or after work. The Kossuth store hours have been “Mon-Sat 7am-9pm, Sun 8am-8pm” which means many can’t shop there even if they wanted to.

Is Schnucks the bad guy here? For the most part, no. Schnucks doesn’t own the property, they’re a tenant.

The North Grand building is owned by Marvin Holdings LLC, which lists Mishaal Taqui as its organizer. It acquired the building in the fourth quarter of 2013 and offered to do about $100,000 in roof repairs, said Taqui’s spokesman, Glenn Jamboretz.

Taqui wanted a multiyear lease from the retailer and a small rent increase to offset the cost of the repairs. It had been renting the building year-to-year for about $6,100 a month, Jamboretz said. A sales incentive clause sometimes bumped that monthly payment up to around $6,500.

Schnucks said no thanks to the multiyear lease, and soon after, announced it would close. (stltoday)

The closure of this store will leave a void on the market, the Schnucks carries products the nearby ALDI simply doesn’t stock. Those who get their prescriptions here will need to find another pharmacy, perhaps the Schnucks at Union & Natural Bridge. I can imagine some who are transit-dependant moving closer to another grocery store or a different bus line. The landlord will need to do lots of work to attract a quality store, even then it doesn’t seem likely.

The site is ideal for a 3-5 story urban building with 100,000 sq ft of ground floor retail, much of which could be a grocery store. I’d like to see local upstart Fields Foods consider such a store.

— Steve Patterson

 

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