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Fields Foods Has Blatant ADA Violation, Shouldn’t Get Occupancy Permit Until Corrected (UPDATED)

In early November I visited the site of a new grocery store opening on January 4th, Fields Foods.  I was disappointed with respect to pedestrian access:

I’m very glad to see the store nearing completion. It’ll provide needed jobs, though jobs may be lost elsewhere as people change where they buy groceries. Sadly, it doesn’t appear any consideration to the many who will arrive daily on foot, some pushing strollers, and even the occasional wheelchair user. <snip>

Hopefully, somehow, I’ll be proven wrong when the grocery store opens January 4th.

I visited again last Thursday, and with the site work done I can say it isn’t what I expected: it’s both better and worse!

A new sidewalk connects to the public sidewalk along Lafayete, something I didn't see on my prior site visit.
A new walkway connects to the public sidewalk along Lafayete, something I didn’t see on my prior site visit. Could I have been wrong, is this a proper ADA-compliant access route?
Unfortunately this walkway is only for the able-bodied because at the end there isn't a curb ramp, nor one across the driveway
Unfortunately this walkway is only for the able-bodied because at the end there isn’t a curb ramp, nor one across the driveway
The non-ADA walkway seen from the driveway looking back toward 14th & Lafayette
The non-ADA walkway seen from the driveway looking back toward 14th & Lafayette
The green line represents what would be a logical point for a crosswalk, the red line is the route wheelchair users, like myself, will be forced to use after entering via the main automobile drive, formerly 14th Street. This is a major conflict with cars.
The green line represents what would be a logical point for a crosswalk, the red line is the route wheelchair users, like myself, will be forced to use after entering via the main automobile drive, formerly 14th Street. This is a major conflict with cars.
The sidewalk remains from when 14th was a public street. Pedestrians entering via 14th will have to walk in the grass since the sidewalk wasn't continued.
The sidewalk remains from when 14th was a public street. Pedestrians entering via 14th will have to walk in the grass since the sidewalk wasn’t continued. A BSI employee confirmed the concrete work was complete, the rest of this area will be grass or plantings.
Anyone thinking about pedestrian access would've connected to the 14th & Lafayette intersection.
Anyone thinking about pedestrian access would’ve connected to the 14th & Lafayette intersection.
The able-bodied not pushing a stroller or walking  with a small child and approaching from the west will likely but through the parking lot (right) rather than use the walkway where the red sign is located.
The able-bodied not pushing a stroller or walking with a small child, and approaching from the west, will likely cut through the parking lot (right) rather than use the walkway where the red sign is located.
As I previously noted, no provisions are provided for pedestrians to the east.
As I previously noted, no provisions are provided for pedestrians to the east. St. Louis has or will be vacating Soulard St between 13th and the former 14th
The ADA also requires a pedestrian route between buildings within the same development, which wasn't considered here at all.
The ADA also requires a pedestrian route between buildings within the same development, which wasn’t considered here at all. Another building(s) is planned for the land bounded by Lafayete, 13th, Soulard (former), and 14th (former).
Not sure who's a fault for the failure to comply with the spirit and letter of the ADA: owner, designer, contractor?
Not sure who’s a fault for the failure to comply with the spirit and letter of the ADA: owner, architect, contractor?
Or perhaps the developer is to blame?  My guess is a combination of all of these as well as the City of St. Louis.
Or perhaps the master developer is to blame? My guess is a combination of all of these as well as the City of St. Louis. Pace is the developer behind the proposed Midtown Station and served as IKEA’s commercial broker

Last Thursday I contacted several St. Louis officials to alert them to the issues I discovered. I suggested they withhold the occupancy permit until the walkway is retrofitted to be ADA-compliant with a curb ramp, crosswalk, and curb ramp on the building side. Providing pedestrian access not accessible to all is a very clear ADA violation.  I gave my card to the BSI employee I talked to last week, he said he’d give it to the owner. I’ve not heard back from anyone.

It would’ve been fairly easy to design & build this to be highly accessible/walkable from all directions, new construction shouldn’t need to be retrofitted. When the city is vacating public streets pedestrian access from that direction should be provided.

The parties involved in the project are collectively incompetent with respect to pedestrian access. The ADA is more than grab bars in the bathroom. I’ll be there on January 4th to see if the situation is improved.

— Steve Patterson

UPDATE 12/23/2013 @ 9:45am — I just talked with Fields Foods owner Chris Goodson, he said workers are correcting the situation. The sidewalk shown wasn’t part of the original design, it was added after the fact after my November post.

 

Occasional Home Delivery Allows Me To Shop as a Pedestrian, Transit User Most of the Time

December 19, 2013 Environment, Featured, Retail 12 Comments

A reader brought up a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now. Moe asked how I’d get a Christmas tree home since I don’t have a car, here’s the thread:

Comments on Sunday's blog post with respect to delivery, click to view post.
Comments on Sunday’s blog post with respect to delivery, click to view post.

Moe expressed a common, but fundamentally flawed view: that everyone driving a car is more efficient than using delivery services. Researchers have been looking into this topic for a while and the results are interesting and surprising. From 2009:

Books are by far the most popular items purchased through the Internet. In just the past two years, the number of consumers buying books online rose by nearly 10 percent. Most patronize book “e-tailers” because of lower prices, but done right, online bookselling also has a smaller carbon footprint.

Like any good novel, the story of how a bookworm gets her book has a beginning, a middle and an end. A book destined for a brick-and-mortar store is printed, packed in bulk, transported by heavy-duty truck to a publisher’s warehouse, transferred to an intermediate warehouse or two, and delivered to the bookstore. Customers might then drive 15 or more miles round trip to purchase the exciting new title. A book sold online has a slightly different plot line: after arrival at the publisher’s warehouse, air or freight travel to a sorting center and individual repackaging, its dramatic finale is home delivery by light-duty truck.

Transportation is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions in both retail and e-tail product pathways. When purchasing a book from a bookstore, each household drives separately, but delivery trucks take purchases to many customers on a single route. There’s also a decent chance that the delivery truck is more fuel-efficient than your family sedan. UPS, for example, has invested millions of dollars in alternative fuel technologies, and as of 2008, its fleet included more than 10,000 low-emission, hydraulic, hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicles.

When it comes to packaging, however, brick-and-mortar bookshops generally claim the environmental edge. Shrink-wrapping, padding and boxing each individual novella, as e-tailers do, is hardly going to maximize materials efficiency and minimize waste. (Walking to a used bookstore, or downloading an ebook, will do exactly that—but we haven’t been asked about those options yet!)

Both online and brick-and-mortar booksellers operate climate-controlled storage warehouses, but retailers usually own or lease additional storage and distribution facilities. Likewise, the energy consumed to browse and purchase books online is much less than that needed to build, light, heat, and cool physical bookstores. By streamlining the purchase and delivery process, e-tailers minimize the need for buildings and their associated energy usage. (Sanford Magazine) 

Online retailer Amazon has been working to reduce packaging:

Launched in 2008 with 19 products, participation in the initiative has grown from 4 to over 2,000 manufacturers, including Fisher-Price, Mattel, Unilever, Seventh Generation, Belkin, Victorinox Swiss Army, Logitech and many more. To date, Amazon has shipped over 75 million Frustration-Free items to 175 countries.

Frustration-Free Packaging also reduces waste for customers. So far, the initiative has:

  • Eliminated 58.9 million square feet of cardboard
  • Removed 24.7 million pounds of packaging
  • Reduced box sizes by 14.5 million cubic feet

Amazon customers have helped guide the program with their ratings and feedback on product packaging. (Sustainable Brands)

Disclosure: I’m an Amazon (AMZN) shareholder.

Grocery delivery is another that is growing in popularity and researchers looked at this in a recent case study in the Seattle area:

Home food delivery trucks, they found, produce 20 to 75 percent less carbon dioxide than having the same households drive to the store. The variation is based on how close people live to the store, the number of people in the neighborhood getting food delivered and the efficiency of the truck’s route. (NPR: Grocery Home Delivery May Be Greener Than Schlepping To The Store)

Source:
NPR/TRF/Univ of Washington

What’s surprising is how home delivery results in bigger reductions in rural/suburban areas vs urban areas due to distances traveled.  If you take the time to think about it, it does make sense. Those who live in rural & suburban areas drive many more miles than those who live in more compact urban centers.

So yes, I do have items delivered at times. With roughly 80 units in our condo association, UPS & FedEx are here almost daily anyway. By shopping locally using my electric wheelchair, taking MetroBus &/or MetroLink to stores, I’ve reduced my carbon footprint substantially over driving a car for those trips. Having items delivered, especially the occasional large bully item, allows me to do most of my shopping as a pedestrian and transit user.

As an informed consumer, I do sleep better at night.

— Steve Patterson

 

Cortex District Needs A Pedestrian Circulation Plan Before IKEA Is Built

Cortex is a district created by a collaboration of numerous research institutions, self-described as:

Founded in 2002, Cortex is mid-America’s premiere hub for bioscience and technology research, development and commercialization, anchoring St. Louis’ growing ecosystem of innovative startups and established companies. Providing state-of-the-art facilities to support the nation’s most promising technological advances, Cortex offers custom lab and office space, proximity to world-class research institutions, a highly-trained tech workforce, access to venture capital…all surrounded by amenity-rich urban neighborhoods.

They describe the location like this:

Cortex is conveniently located next to I-64 and easily accessible via private or public transportation. The area is home to some of St. Louis’ most exciting attractions and neighborhoods. In addition to being neighbors with other leading science and technology companies, you are within easy reach of Forest Park, which is larger than New York’s Central Park, the St. Louis Science Center, the St. Louis Zoo, The Muny and many other cultural and entertainment centers. Midtown is also home to charming sidewalk cafes, galleries, antique shops, boutiques and pubs. The area has been described as a little European, a little New York, and totally St. Louis.

For a while now Cortex has been working to add a new transit station along the existing MetroLink light rail line. I don’t know if it has been given the green light, but it has been studied at great length. Here are some quotes from a June 2013 ULI Technical Assistance Panel Report:

By placing the station as close to Boyle as possible, riders would be welcomed to the District by the Commons, thereby creating an impressive and distinctive park-like ‘front door’ to the District. The station would be also easily visible from Boyle, making way-finding easier and promoting future ridership by virtue of its visibility to auto traffic.

While the station should be placed close to Boyle, the Panel still felt strongly that the station should be accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists via entrances at Boyle and Sarah, providing riders with two options for ingress/egress. Directional signage should also be placed on and highly visible from both streets to assist passengers with finding the station entrance. (p5)

Of immediate note was the current state of the streets and pedestrian experience in the District. There is a significant amount of overgrowth in the area, particularly along sidewalks, which leaves visitors with a sense that the area is largely ignored or abandoned. To truly operate as a District, care should be taken to maintain the sidewalks and streetscapes throughout the area, not just those in the immediate vicinity of current or complete development. (p10)

With the station nearing reality and additional businesses planning to bring innovation and employees to the District, the members of Cortex are faced with another opportunity to come together once again to solve a need. In this instance, the challenge is parking in the District. By creating a parking district or ownership/management entity consisting of the five Cortex members, a more thoughtful and comprehensive strategy can be put in place which will address future parking needs, create a unified parking solution that is in keeping with the design and operational principles of the District, and help determine the most advantageous pricing strategy that will meet the needs of the consumer, fund the parking entity, and ultimately provide for a system of parking that is successful and sustainable. (p12)

The report also talks about Cortex’s plan to make Duncan Ave a pedestrian-oriented street. I know from personal experience it’ll need a lot of work to get to that point. Cutting off Duncan before it reaches Vandeventer isn’t a good idea, though IKEA could be used a nice terminus.

However, St. Louis has more than two decades of experience with light rail stations surrounded by anything but good transit-oriented development (TOD). Now’s the opportunity to change. I’ve yet to see any evidence, ULI study included, that anyone has looked at the route(s) pedestrians would take to get to/from this proposed station and all the building sites within the district.

What needs to happen immediately is the development of a pedestrian plan for the district and just beyond its borders. This would be similar to a traffic circulation study, but for people. See Seattle’s Pedestrian Master Plan (h/t to Exploring St. Louis).

Some of the questions that need to be asked are:

  1. Are there barriers to pedestrian circulation within the district? (hint, yes)
  2. Is the pedestrian network sized and designed to handle expected foot traffic at build out?  (no)
  3. Does the existing pedestrian network have ADA-compliance issues? (Big YES)
  4. Does the existing pedestrian network encourage transit use and/or walking? (no)
  5. How will pedestrians get from the proposed MetroLink station to the proposed Midtown Station retail development across Vandeventer? (see below)

With these asked and identified new work can be built to reduce problems, not create new ones, and gradually improve the area. Let’s take a look at some specifics:

Proposed site plan for the IKEA, I marked the area to the east to indicate the proposed retail development. Click image to view larger.
Proposed site plan for the IKEA, I marked the area to the east to indicate the proposed retail development. Click image to view larger version.
Looking east from in front of the grain silo toward the future IKEA. A sidewalk exists currently.
Looking east from in front of the grain silo toward the future IKEA. A sidewalk exists currently.
Current site plan doesn't show pedestrian access from the south side of Duncan Ave., intersection at Sarah needs to be addressed to connect IKEA to MetroLink.
Current site plan doesn’t show pedestrian access from the south side of Duncan Ave., intersection at Sarah needs to be addressed to connect IKEA to MetroLink. Click image to view larger version.
For pedestrians going from MetroLink or other locations to Midtown Station is means taking a convoluted route in front of IKEA.  For SLU students arriving at the corner of Forest Park & Vandeventer they'll likely cut through the parking lot rather than use the ADA accessible routes. Click image to view larger version.
For pedestrians going from MetroLink or other locations to Midtown Station is means taking a convoluted route in front of IKEA. For SLU students arriving at the corner of Forest Park & Vandeventer they’ll likely cut through the parking lot rather than use the ADA accessible routes.
Click image to view larger version.

IKEA’s Reed Lyons told me they tried different configurations, including pushing the building out to the corner so it would be more urban. I believe him, but this is the “show-me” state so I’d like to see these rejected configurations. It’s like in school when you had complicated math problems — you had to show your work.

I also want to explore the width of Forest Park and Vandeventer. Both have a parking lane, roughly 10ft wide, that will become useless since there isn’t a reason to park on the street. Will this lane but used to direct traffic into the IKEA or can we do curb bulbs or other treatments to reduce the width of the roadway? There’s no reason to leave unused paving.

I do have one idea on how to get pedestrians from the proposed MetroLink to Vandeventer and the proposed Midtown Station retail project — a pedestrian route next to the tracks.

Overview of pedestrian routes that need examination. A direct path next to the track down to Vandeventer could help increase the walkability of the area, serving as another way for SLU students to reach a light rail station. Click image to view a larger version.
Overview of pedestrian routes that need examination. A direct path next to the track down to Vandeventer could help increase the walkability of the area, serving as another way for SLU students to reach a light rail station. Click image to view a larger version.
MetroLink train crossing over Vandeventer.
MetroLink train crossing over Vandeventer. A pedestrian path next to the tracks is not unlike the bike/ped peth in St. Clair County, click for information.

I’m excited about IKEA and realize it and Cortex have a lot of potential for St. Louis and the region. I also know just plopping in a light rail station doesn’t automatically create a vibrant & walkable neighborhood/district.  Planning today will pay off in the long run.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Pop-Up Retail Different Than Food Trucks?

Downtown and city leadership have long opposed food carts/trucks, citing the need to support brick & mortar restaurants over temporary operations with little overhead.  Retail, however, is viewed differently. “Pop-up retail”  gets the blessing of the Partnership  for Downtown St. Louis.

A pop-up retail event at the Old Post Office Plaza which is owned by the Partnership  for Downtown St. Louis
A pop-up retail event at the Old Post Office Plaza which is owned by the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis

Don’t get me wrong, I like pop-up retail and pop-up/drive-up restaurants. They seem the same to me, a business in a temporary location for a brief period. I’m in the camp that thinks more street vending would make downtown more vibrant, attracting more people. More people means more customers for brick & mortar retail & restaurants.

Conversely, dead sidewalks are a disincentive to walk and window shop.   A decade ago leaders wanted to make the Old Post Office District a 24/7 area, but they haven’t done much of anything to get there.  Culinaria initially stayed open until 10pm but now closes at 9pm.

Can anyone tell me why pop-up retail is OK but pop-up restaurants aren’t?

 

 

Historic Art Deco Storefronts Removed From Board of Education Building

The former St. Louis Board of Education Building was built in 1893, but in the late 1930s the storefront spaces on the ground floor were replaced with new Art Deco fronts. The National Register Nomination lists the period of significance for the building as 1893-1953, so these storefronts are considered historic even though they’re not original.  The building is now loft apartments.

The quotes in the post are from the nomination linked above:

Overall, most of the building retains a high degree of historic integrity. The primary elevations have seen few changes and most of the exterior storefront modifications took place during the period of significance. The only other major exterior change is the loss of the pressed metal cornice, removed in 1942 during the historic period.

In March I was worried when I saw the plywood up at the entrance to the main Art Deco storefront. But perhaps it was just to protect the vitrolite and curved glass…

In March I was worried when I saw the plywood up at the entrance to the main Art Deco storefront. But perhaps it was just to protect  the vitrolite and curved glass...
The curved glass, vitrolite tile, and aluminum details are visible above.
Earlier this month workers began removing the 75+ year old storefronts
Earlier this month workers began removing the 75+ year old storefronts
The main storefront during demolition
The main storefront during demolition
Workers demolishing the storefronts facing 9th Street
Workers demolishing the storefronts facing 9th Street
The 9th Street storefronts were tiny and not wheelchair accessible
The 9th Street storefronts were tiny and not wheelchair accessible

Here’s more detail on the exterior:

The remaining openings on the first floor (901-909 Locust and 401-409 North Ninth Street) are either display windows or entrances into the businesses that once occupied the first floor of this building. The original configuration of first floor openings generally alternated between display windows and recessed storefront entrances with display windows on one or both sides. Minor changes to these storefronts were noted in school board records as early as 1910. Major renovations in the 1930s transformed the original wood-framed first floor storefront entrances and display windows into distinctive examples of the Art Deco style with new Vitrolite storefronts and aluminum transom windows along the east elevation and in two bays (901, 903 Locust) on the south elevation. Art Deco modifications were completed on the 905 and 907 storefronts in 1937. An Art Deco entry, storefront and lobby was installed at 911 Locust in 1935, including a revolving door, but the revolving door was replaced in 1948 with paired glass doors within the revolving door enclosure. Additionally a single storefront was created at 905-907 Locust by removing the lower portion of the load-bearing pilaster and replacing it with a half-round, steel column. Modernization of the storefronts again took place in the 1960s, removing some of the Art Deco period features, mostly by replacing some of the doors and display window framing along Locust with the aluminum framed units seen today. The second floor windows of these bays are triple window units with fixed transoms.

The city’s Cultural Resources office attempted to get the owner to retain the storefronts but ultimately had no authority to prevent their removal.  While I loved the design of these Art Deco storefronts I also knew they were an obstacle to getting tenants in the spaces. It’ll be interesting to see new storefronts in this building.

Will they be wood like the 19th Century originals or a modern design? I’d favor a modern storefront system at this point, with busy retail stores or restaurants behind them.

— Steve Patterson

 

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