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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

 

Readers: Ban Pet Stores From Selling Puppy Mill Dogs

November 13, 2013 Board of Aldermen, Politics/Policy, Retail Comments Off on Readers: Ban Pet Stores From Selling Puppy Mill Dogs
Kennels at Stray Rescue
Kennels at Stray Rescue

Readers that voted in the unscientific poll last week made it clear they’d support a ban on puppy mill dogs:

Q: Would you support a municipal/county ban on pet stores selling dogs from puppy mills?

  1. Yes 61 [78.21%]
  2. No 9 [11.54%]
  3. Unsure/no opinion 6 [7.69%]
  4. Possibly 2 [2.56%]

Such bans aren’t new:

Thirty-one cities have passed ordinances that ban pet stores from selling animals that come from commercial breeders. They are only allowed to offer rescued animals from shelters. (KMOV)

Maybe an alderman will introduce bill to ban pets stores in St. Louis from selling puppy mill dogs.

— Steve Patterson

 

Roberts Market Place at Kingshighway & Delmar Hostile to Pedestrians

The Roberts Market Place has opened at Kingshighway & Delmar, the site of a former Schnucks. Discount grocer ALDI, the only business so far, is the anchor. Unfortunately, it is designed to be driven to, not walked to.

Roberts Market Place on the NE corner of Kingshighway & Delmar
Roberts Market Place on the NE corner of Kingshighway & Delmar, click image for map link
The same corner back in April
The same corner back in April
Looking east along Delmar
Looking east along Delmar
Looking north along Kingshighway, a stop for the #95 MetroBus is circled in red
Looking north along Kingshighway, a stop for the #95 MetroBus is circled in red. Concrete barriers block the auto driveway.
The fencing blocks pedestrian access, except at the auto driveways
The fencing blocks pedestrian access, except at the auto driveways. Not welcoming at all
Looking east along Enright we see a family leaving ALDI
Looking east along Enright Ave we see a family leaving ALDI
An opening in the fence at the auto driveway.
An opening in the fence at the auto driveway.
At least a walkway was provided at one point
At least a walkway was provided at one point
Not a straight shot or wide enough if you meet someone, but as a bare minimum it works...except...
Not a straight shot or wide enough if you meet someone, but as a bare minimum it works…except…
Who fits between the carts & bollard? Certainly nobody using a cane, walker, scooter, or wheelchair! #adafail
Who fits between the carts & bollard? Certainly nobody using a cane, walker, scooter, or wheelchair! #adafail
Looking back at the problem from the opposite side
Looking back at the problem from the opposite side
Looking west toward Kingshighway
Looking west toward Kingshighway
Looking south toward Delmar
Looking south toward Delmar
Getting closer toward Delmar we can see the fence forces pedestrians to enter/exit via the auto driveway
Getting closer toward Delmar we can see the fence forces pedestrians to enter/exit via the auto driveway

Seriously? The one minimal pedestrian route from a secondary road is blocked by a bollard!?! As I mentioned in April, the site has been divided into three parcels.

Outline of the parcel Aldi purchased.
Outline of the ALDI parcel, the other two are just parking right now.
A hearing will be held on the 20th for a drive-thru fast-food restaurant at the Kingshighway & Enright parcel
A hearing will be held on the 20th for a drive-thru fast-food restaurant at the Kingshighway & Enright parcel

It would’ve been relatively easy to plan a north-south sidewalk through the site connecting Enright to Delmar, with a perpendicular walk connecting to the bus stop on Kingshighway. This would’ve provided a pedestrian route to all three adjacent streets and to all three parcels. Instead we’ve got another development that ignores pedestrians almost entirely.

The #97 (Delmar) bus and #95 (Kingshighway) bus generate lots of pedestrian traffic at this location. Many customers & employees of ALDI, a new drive-thru, and a third place will arrive on foot. Development in our neighborhoods should be designed to welcome motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. This must be mandated, developers aren’t going to do it on their own — especially not in low-income areas where they do as little as possible.

— Steve Patterson

 

Two New Outlet Malls In Chesterfield Valley: Prestige Vs. Premium

This year two competing outlet malls opened in the Chesterfield valley, not far from each other. I had a chance recently to visit both by car, a rental. I’d hoped to visit one or both via MetroBus so I could have my wheelchair.  Before you question the idea, the #258 MetroBus stops in the valley every 20-60 minutes weekdays.

The two opened three weeks apart:

  1. Taubman Prestige Outlets on August 2, 2013
  2. St. Louis Premium Outlets on August 22, 2013

There was debate about St. Louis being able to support two outlet malls just 4+ miles apart, in addition to the existing St. Louis Outlet Mall in Hazelwood that opened in November 2003. For now I’ll focus on the two new outlets by Taubman and Simon Properties:

Both developers are publicly traded companies with impressive track records in the retail world. But Simon, the largest U.S. shopping mall owner, has been in the outlet business a lot longer.

Linda Humphers, who tracks the outlet mall industry for the International Council of Shopping Centers as editor of Value Retail News, noted that Simon has more than 60 outlet centers in the U.S. compared to basically two for Taubman. (Taubman and Simon both have many full-priced malls in their portfolios.) (stltoday.com)

Taubman, the underdog, opened first. Like many, I tend to lean in favor of the underdog. But I knew that many shoppers more impressed by Chesterfield’s second outlet mall. With all this background I visited both, in the order they opened, on Monday October 28th. Again, I drove a rental car we had for the weekend because both would require using the shoulder for the mile from the closest bus stop.

Similarities:

  • Highly visible from I-64
  • Site was underwater during the Flood of 1993
  • Primarily internally focused
  • Upscale/desirable retail outlets
  • Multiple entrance points from parking lot
  • One level, open air design
  • Indoor, centrally-located, food court
  • Green design elements like rain gardens to handle water runoff

For the differences many have focused on the number & importance of stores, but I’m not going to debate Ralph Lauren (Taubman) vs Coach (STL Premium). My focus is on the layout, approach, physical design, etc.

Taubman Prestige Outlets

Signage is prominent at the several auto entrances
Signage is prominent at the several auto entrances
Green storm water management is attractive, should be highly functional
Green storm water management is attractive, should be highly functional
The white/light color scheme of the exterior doesn't feel upscale to me
The white/light color scheme of the exterior doesn’t feel upscale to me
A typical entry into the interior walkway
A typical entry into the interior walkway
The entrance points are wide and use nice materials, but they feel generic
The entrance points are wide and use nice materials, but they feel generic
Standing at the center looking at the open west end
Standing at the center looking at the open west end

 

Looking east from the center
Looking east from the center

 

The food court building at the center
The food court building at the center
The directory shows the linear design, parking is focused between the mall and highway outer drive
The directory shows the linear design, parking is focused between the mall and highway outer drive

 

Crosswalks connect disabled parking to the mall entrances, but the angle was confusing for new construction
Crosswalks connect disabled parking to the mall entrances, but the angle was confusing for new construction

St. Louis Premium Outlets

This mall is in the center of a much larger site that'll eventually all be developed.  The entrance signs have room for other projects besides the outlet mall
This mall is in the center of a much larger site that’ll eventually all be developed. The entrance signs have room for other projects besides the outlet mall
Outlet Mall Drive approaching the mall
Outlet Blvd approaching the mall
As you turn off of Outlet Blvd into the mall the signage gets specific
As you turn off of Outlet Blvd into the mall the signage gets specific
An ADA pedestrian access route was planned from the start to connect to future adjacent development
Between the entry drive and parking is a pedestrian access route connecting to future adjacent development
Well marked crosswalks to the disabled parking
Well marked crosswalks to the disabled parking
The medium to dark color scheme looks richer to me
The medium to dark color scheme looks richer to me
Entrances are more interesting, false side windows relieve otherwise blank walls.
Entrances are more interesting, false side windows relieve otherwise blank walls.
A children's playground is next to the food court in the center
A children’s playground is next to the food court in the center
The directory shows this mall is more than a shingle corridor. The various colors represent different districts with local names like "Meramec River District"
The directory shows this mall is more than a shingle corridor. The various colors represent different districts with local names like “Meramec River District”
The corridors are not very interesting
The corridors are not very interesting
I got excited when I saw the bus plaza, but then I realized it's for tourist buses, not public transportation
I got excited when I saw the bus plaza, but then I realized it’s for tourist buses, not public transportation

My Conclusions

Both malls will do fine initially, but the smaller Taubman mall will fade out quicker. It feels smaller, less generous, since it’s shoehorned in between the highway and a levee. It won’t close  for many years, it’ll just be the less desirable outlet mall, though still ahead of Hazelwood’s decade-old St. Louis Outlet Mall.

The St. Louis Premium Outlets area will get built up over the next 5-10 years, hotels, restaurants and other retail will be added. They’ve planned ahead so as it gets built out it’ll be connected by a sidewalk network. Nothing you’d call super walkable, but minimally acceptable. The location is right as you enter from St. Charles County, so it’s convenient to many.

— Steve Patterson

 

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