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New Grocery Store Located Among Walkable Neighborhoods Not Designed For Pedestrian Customers/Employees

A new grocery store will open soon on the near south side, between Soulard to the east, Lafayette Square to the west, and The Georgian/King Louis Square to the north, Lasalle Park. The I-55/I-44 highway interchange is to the south. Technically this is located in the Peabody Darst Webbe neighborhood, partly named after the  former public housing project that were located where King Louis Square was built years ago.

Fields Foods is our vision come to life. A full-service grocery store rooted in the heart of historic Lafayette Square near downtown St. Louis. The Lafayette Square area is one of St. Louis’ oldest neighborhoods with historical stores, parks and homes. It’s truly one-of-a-kind, and that’s why it’s the perfect fit for our store.

Our team of friendly, dedicated, knowledgeable foodies guides our customers through a vast arrangement of local, healthy, delicious foods that will inspire your inner gourmet. You will walk through lush fields sampling vine-ripened fruits and vegetables. Stroll down urban streetscapes and visit the local butcher and baker. Head down to the docks to our seafood shack and enjoy what truly fresh from the sea means. And if you’re not in the mood to cook tonight, that’s okay. Stop by our prepared food section and pick up a slice of brick oven pizza, a toasty panini, salads and so much more. Need a bit more than a slice of pizza? We have a chef on staff creating restaurant quality dinners for carry out. A Sushi bar and a Wine and Beer cellar stocked with vintages from across the globe and local craft beers completes your experience.

Many area residents, tired of having to drive to the grocery store, welcome a neighborhood store they can walk to.

“Can’t wait to have a grocery store within walking distance. Actually I can see the store from my 3rd floor window.”— Jean C.  commented on a Facebook picture.

A market here was proposed in early 2007:

Koman recently partnered with Chris Goodson of Gilded Age on plans for an $80 million mixed-use development just east of the Lafayette Square neighborhood and just south of downtown. Goodson’s Georgian Square development includes plans for a Walgreens, grocery store and coffee shop. Goodson has helped transform Lafayette Square in recent years. In 1999 he helped spearhead the creation of an $8.5 million tax increment financing district in Lafayette Square. Through Gilded Age, a development company Goodson founded with partner Trace Shaughnessy, he has developed more than $125 million in real estate projects since 1996. He also is president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners. (St. Louis Business Journal

Immediately south of downtown, another grocery store is under development. St. Louis-based Gilded Age plans to break ground on a Walgreens across the street from its Georgian Condominiums this August. Next to the Walgreens, a City Market grocery store, a unit of SuperValu, will open in the summer or fall of 2008, said Gilded Age principal Chris Goodson. (St. Louis Business Journal

In March 2008 things were still moving forward:

The SLDC already has approved forgivable loans for two other projects to receive funding from the pool of excess revenue: Gilded Age and Koman Properties’ planned $30 million first phase of its Georgian Square retail development, across from Gilded Age’s Georgian condominium project, will receive $300,000. The developers have signed an agreement with Walgreens to locate on the site, said Gilded Age principal Chris Goodson. A City Market grocery store, a division of Supervalu, and a Starbucks are also planned for the development. “We’re moving forward with the Walgreens, that will be built first,” Goodson said.  (St. Louis Business Journal

The Walgreens opened in 2009. Several other attempts were made to get a grocery store here, but each fell through:

When Gilded Age announced plans for a grocery in 2007, it was with Minneapolis-based Supervalu, a project that never materialized. Other pending deals with Phoenix-based grocery chain Sunflower Farmers Market and local operator Sappington Farmers’ Market also failed to move forward. (stltoday.com)

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.  Let’s start in the adjacent Bohemian Hill to the east.

Looking west on Soulard St, the new Fresh Fields is on the left, Walgreens center.
Looking west on Soulard St, the new Fresh Fields is visible on the left, Walgreens center.
The concrete curbs between the parking lot and Soulard St are already poured, no provisions for ramps, sidewalk
The concrete curbs between the parking lot and Soulard St are already poured, no provisions for ramps or a sidewalk
Looking south across Lafayette Ave on 14th the new grocery store is straight ahead
Looking south across Lafayette Ave on 14th the new grocery store is straight ahead
The circle indicates the location where the new store is being built
The circle indicates the location where the new store is being built next to the Walgreens
The area has good sidewalks but it takes careful planning to design new developments to encourage walking.
The area has good sidewalks but it takes careful planning to design new developments to encourage walking.
The parking lot will blend into the Walgreens lot
The parking lot will blend into the Walgreens lot

I understand most customers and many employees will drive to this new store. I also know many will opt to walk here from home, Walgreens, nearby bus stop, etc. How many isn’t know, but if we do a pedestrian count later it’ll surprise you just how many do walk, or bike.  Had the civil engineers, architects, & developers actually planned a welcoming sidewalk approach the numbers would be higher. From press releases and articles it’s clear they’re  not targeting local residents, “Goodson and Randol also hope the store’s proximity to major highways will attract customers entering or leaving downtown St. Louis.” (Sauce)

Clearly the city has been working with the developers for six years on this project, there was time to figure out how residents of his own project across the street can walk to his new grocery store.  The city failed big time by not requiring good pedestrian access.

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

— Steve Patterson

 

Automobile Driveway Replaced With Pedestrian Access Route

Every so often I get back to a once-familiar place and I’m pleasantly surprised by positive changes. Recently I drove through the strip mall on Ladue Road that formerly contained a Wild Oats store, in a space previously occupied by a Schnucks. Wild Oats was bought out by Whole Foods in 2007, leaving the dated center largely vacant. The strip center underwent renovations in 2012.

A pedestrian route leads to a space formerly occupied by Lammert's Furniture
A pedestrian route leads to a space formerly occupied by Lammert’s Furniture

A decade ago I visited the Wild Oats every morning before work, but I’d forgotten the exact layout of the parking lot. So I turned to Google Maps and it still showed the old pattern, with a wide auto driveway where the dedicated pedestrian path is now.

The before view from Google streetview. Click image to view in Google Maps
The before view from Google streetview. Click image to view in Google Maps

Most of the center, including the pedestrian access, is located in Ladue, while the east end is located in Clayton. St. Louis County records indicate this strip mall was built in 1960, a time when wide auto driveways were valued but more and more developers & retailers know walkability and a more pleasant arrival sells, especially to those with disposable incomes.

Kudos to those responsible.

— Steve Patterson

 

This Building Not Approved For Occupancy

November 1, 2013 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Retail, St. Louis County, Suburban Sprawl, Walkability Comments Off on This Building Not Approved For Occupancy

I’d never heard of Tee’s Golf Grill until Monday when I was driving around the Chesterfield Valley, it closed in July 2012:

The 10,400-square-foot golf center opened in early 2011 at 103 Chesterfield Valley Drive. “We’re doing a full-service sports bar and grill,” Ben Rassieur IV, Tee’s owner with Phil Harris, told Sauce magazine at the time. In addition to the bar and grill, Tee’s had 330-square-foot golf simulators that visitors used to practice their swings. (St. Louis Business Journal)

I’m not sure if the building was constructed new for this tenant, or a previous tenant. I also don’t know why this business closed so soon, but I found a number of issues that should be addressed by the owner before the next tenant leases the space.

Paper over the windows, only car is my rental
Paper over the windows, only car is my rental. But look, no ramp to access the front door! Click image to view on Google Maps. 
The ramp is off to the side, requiring the disabled to go into the driveway to access it. I prefer ramps when walking with my cane, so do folks who use walkers.
The ramp is off to the side, requiring the disabled to go into the driveway to access it. I prefer ramps when walking with my cane, so do folks who use walkers.
There's a ramp & crosswalk out to the sidewalk that connects to other development, but no ramp to access it.
There’s a ramp & crosswalk out to the sidewalk that connects to other development, but no ramp to access it.
We can see the walk to the entry is minimal width.
We can see the walk to the entry is minimal width.
This sticker was affixed to both entrances to this building. I wonder if the City of St. Louis uses something like this to improve compliance?
This sticker was affixed to both entrances to this building. I wonder if the City of St. Louis uses something like this to improve compliance?

This building shares the same site with a multi-tenant building to the south, yet there isn’t an ADA-compliant accessible route connecting them, as required.

I will attempt to share the above issues with the owner and St. Louis County.

— Steve Patterson

 

Better Big Box Development

Recently I was critical of a proposed big box development along Forest Park Ave, adjacent to the main Saint Louis University campus. My issue isn’t with big box retail stores themselves, my issue is with how big box developments are typically laid out: massive surface parking lots, large blank walls facing public sidewalks, too few pedestrian connections to the outside & internally.

From page 12 of a 2010 Brookings report:

Considering the economic benefits, walkability should be a critical part of all strategic growth plans. The implications of this study cut across the federal and state, metropolitan, and place levels.

Public policy should become more favorable toward walkable placemaking. Currently, many federal and state subsidies substantially favor low-density development and tip the scales against walkable development. Further, many local zoning codes make walkable development illegal, necessitating costly and time-consuming zoning changes with no guarantee of success. Federal, state, and local policy makers should conduct a systematic review of existing public policies that are biased against walkable development, and adopt new measures aimed at facilitating (or at least removing roadblocks to) this type of development.

For their part, local and regional planning agencies should incorporate assessments of walkability into their strategic economic development plans. Planning entities should identify where regional- serving and local-serving walkable urban places exist within a metropolitan area, seek out those places that are positioned to become more walkable, and determine potential locations of future walkable places. This type of assessment will help determine where infrastructure and other built environment improvements are needed. Since high-density walkable urban places seem to account for a small amount of a metropolitan area’s existing land mass, it is probable that the infrastructure cost per dwelling unit or commercial square foot will be a fraction of that of existing low-density drivable suburban infrastructure costs.

At the same time, the apparent supply-demand mismatch for walkable places may be contributing significantly to the price premium these places demand. To the extent that this is the case, the short- and medium-term shortage of walkable places makes them inaccessible (unaffordable) to many people who desire to live in such places. As such, it is important to have an affordable housing strategy in place while those improvements are being implemented. (Walk this Way: The Economic Promise of Walkable Places in Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Christopher B. Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo)

The proposed “Midtown Station” project would turn its back on both Vandeventer & Forest Park Avenues, which is only marginally acceptable pattern out in suburbia, but unacceptable in an urban context — especially adjacent to a major university.

In searching for alternatives I remembered a project I visited about a decade ago and blogged about in 2005. This development has multiple big box stores including a 2-level Target, a Best Buy, a Sport’s Authority, and a Ross. Smaller size spaces front the sidewalk.

Urban big box development on Northgate in Seattle
Urban big box development on Northgate in Seattle
A Quiznos faces Northgate Way
A Quizno’s fronts onto the Northgate Way sidewalk

This project isn’t located in downtown Seattle either, it’s nearly 8 miles up I-5 (map). The main mode in this part of Seattle is private automobile, but thankfully newer development isn’t geared solely to motorists.

The best local example of rethinking big box development the Market at McKnight in Rock Hill, with a 36,000sf Stein Mart that opened in October 2007.  Ok, not exactly a big box, but a big portion of the 130,000sf development.

The Market at McKnight project in Rock Hill is the best local example of providing a more pleasant front along the roadway with big box behind
The Market at McKnight project in Rock Hill is the best local example of providing a more pleasant front along the roadway with big box behind
One story buildings along Manchester Rd give a more urban feel, windows give something for pedestrians to look into as they walk by
One story buildings along Manchester Rd give a more urban feel, windows give something for pedestrians to look into as they walk by
No business has a door onto the Manchester sidewalk, but it is pleasant as a pedestrian and motorists can see businesses as they drive by.
No business has a door onto the Manchester sidewalk, but it is pleasant as a pedestrian and motorists can see businesses as they drive by.
The businesses front the surface parking lot
The businesses actually front the surface parking lot
Pedestrians have a clear path to reach the Stein Mart on the far side of the development.
Pedestrians have a clear path to reach the Stein Mart on the far side of the development.
My window view from The Original Mongolian Grill
My window view from The Original Mongolian Grill

The view isn’t great, but the point is there’s a relationship with the sidewalk & street. From inside I could see others going by and they could see me. Instead of creating something active along Forest Park Ave. Midtown Station wants to create something like this:

Back side of the Hampton & Chippewa Target location.
Back (Clifton Ave) side of the Hampton & Chippewa Target location.

Dreadful anywhere, but especially so close to a college campus and near public transit. Developers have shown there are alternatives to the standard big box project of the last 15-20 years.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Galleria To Improve Pedestrian Access, Adding ADA Access Routes From Public Transit Stops

I’m very pleased to announce The Galleria Saint Louis & General Growth Properties, Inc. (GGP) will make substantial site modifications to better accommodate pedestrian visitors to the mall.

Thankfully GGP was very cooperative from day one, they willingly recognized the access issues I raised and quickly agreed to address them.  For the last 18+ months we’ve been working together on a mutually agreeable resolution. GGP and I share a desire to increase accessibility for persons with disabilities.

For those pedestrians arriving at The Galleria via the Richmond Heights MetroLink light rail station, a new pedestrian access route will be completed.

This sidewalk that goes no where will be removed, a sidewalk safely leading pedestrians to the SE corner of Dillard's will be built
This sidewalk that goes no where will be removed, a sidewalk safely leading pedestrians to the SE corner of Dillard’s will be built. See drawing below.
New access route from Brentwood & Galleria Parkway, click image to view full 10-page PDF of construction drawings
New access route from Brentwood & Galleria Parkway, click image to view full 10-page PDF of construction drawings

Additional pedestrian access routes will be constructed as well.

Again, I’m very pleased to be able to make this announcement.

— Steve Patterson

 

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