Home » Retail » Recent Articles:

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

 

An Infuriatingly Avoidable Accessibility Issue

The former headquarters of the Missouri Pacific Railroad reopened on May 12, 2011 as luxury apartments called Park Pacific. The Lawrence Group was the architect as well as owner/developer, they an impressive job.

ABOVE: Ribbon cutting was held on May 12, 2011
The ribbon cutting was held on May 12, 2011, click image to read my post about the reopening of the building

But I’ve had a few issues, such as rolling dumpsters left blocking the Pine Street sidewalk.

Looking west toward 13th
In April of this year the sidewalk was blocked, not the first time. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been blocked since.

In the 2+ years since the building reopened a number of businesses moved in. KMOX radio moved into some commercial office space, for example. At the street-level there are a number of options: frozen yogurt, fine dinning, smoothies, and most recently, Art Saint Louis + Mississippi Mud coffeehouse.

Earlier this week I had a meeting with someone, she suggested we meet at Art Saint Louis + Mississippi Mud. When Art Saint Louis announced their plans to relocate from 555 Washington Ave to the Park Pacific I was interested, the sidewalk entrance from their Washington Ave location wasn’t wheelchair accessible, but at least they also had a 2nd entrance via the lobby.

I snapped this shot in late April showing the step into the retail space. New door, new step, new sidewalk -- all from 2011.
I snapped this shot in late April showing the step into the retail space. New door, new step, new sidewalk — all from the renovation in 2009-2011.

I just assumed with the $109 million dollar building renovation the accessible entrance to their new space must be through the main lobby as well. I thought nobody would build a tenant space with a brand new non-ADA exterior-only entrance. Turns out I was wrong, The Lawrence Group designed, built, & leased a storefront with one public entrance without required wheelchair access as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The architect can’t say the owner made changes without their knowledge — the owner & architect are the same entity!

The sidewalk should’ve been raised up when poured, but it wasn’t. They had two years to fix it while the space was vacant and for lease, but they didn’t. No, it wasn’t until I arrive that it became an issue to fix. The executive director of Art Saint Louis and owner of Mississippi Mud were both apologetic, they genuinely felt bad.  Two staff from the Park Pacific got involved, guiding me through the lobby to a back service corridor, to a back door to the Art Saint Louis space.

Back hall I had to use, they had wood piled up so I barely fit. Very likely s fire code violation.
Back hall I had to use, they had wood piled up so I barely fit. Very likely a fire code violation.

But it was worth the journey, the new space is very nice. Much better than their previous space, which had become very dated.

Gallery inside Art Saint Louis
Gallery inside Art Saint Louis
Mississippi Mud coffeehouse in the front section of Art St. Louis
Mississippi Mud coffeehouse in the front section of Art Saint Louis
Since April the step got yellow paint so guests don't trip.
Since April the step got yellow paint so guests don’t trip.

One person said they could grind off the step, though it would be steeper than the ADA allows. On Tuesday post some were shocked when I said I was ok with the city using asphalt to deal with a problem where a sidewalk sank, causing a bit of a lip less than this one. It was suggested I have a double standard.

Well, yes and no.

The sidewalk situation I posted about Tuesday has several parties involved, hard to determine who’s at fault for the sidewalk sinking next to a water vault lid that didn’t sink.  Here we know clearly who’s responsible — and they received tax incentives to do the project. The mayor and other elected officials were present at the ribbon cutting.  So yes, I hold this project to a higher standard, but I wouldn’t call it a double standard.

At this point I want the entrance fixed precisely conforming with the ADA — not a fraction of an inch out of compliance. I have a digital level I’ll bring to test the solution. The Lawrence Group should know better, they cannot claim ignorance. They created the problem for themselves during the renovation, they didn’t address it for the 2 years the space was vacant.

Unfortunately the very nice people at Art Saint Louis + Mississippi Mud will be inconvenienced while this is busted out and redone in compliance with the ADA. If you plan to lease space for a business please make sure it is ADA-compliant. You can’t assume just because the owner of the building is an architecture firm that they got it right, bring along an independent 3rd party to verify before you sign the lease.

I emailed Lawrence Group partner Steve Smith that same day, saying I was “angry & disappointed.” Infuriating!!

— Steve Patterson

 

Competing Visions for Forest Park Avenue Corridor

Forest Park Ave from Kingshighway to Grand (map) is 1.6 miles long with the potential to be a dense urban corridor. Developers, however, would like to make it a typical low-density big box chain retail corridor. I’d like to show you why I believe two big box retail developments at Forest Park Avenue & Vandeventer are out of character, why these will undo the work others have done recently.

I had enough photos of various buildings along Forest Park Ave to write this post, but Saturday I spent about 90 minutes taking around 150 photos as I traveled the entire length in my wheelchair. Why go to such trouble? I believe cities can’t be properly understood driving through in a car, or worse, relying on Google street view. You’ve got to hit the pavement to really get what an area is about.

I got off the bus on Forest Park Ave at the first stop east of Kingshighway and returned downtown from the Grand MetroLink station, about 2 miles of travel.  Don’t worry, I’m only going to show you a small percentage of the images I took.

Looking east toward Euclid Ave we see numerous multi-story buildings, including medical, hotel, & apartments
Looking east toward Euclid Ave we see numerous multi-story buildings, including medical, hotel, & apartments, all recent structures
One low-rise strip center exists on the NE corner at Taylor Ave. If the St. Louis Streetcar gets built expect this 1985 building to be replaced with something more dense
One low-rise strip center exists on the NE corner at Taylor Ave. If the St. Louis Streetcar gets built expect this 1985 building to be replaced with something more dense
The Parkview Apts next door contain 192 units on a lot just 65% bigger than the strip center.
The 1972 Parkview Apts next door contain 192 units on a lot just 65% bigger than the strip center.
This 3-story apt building was built in 1930, it contains 24 units
This 3-story apt building was built in 1930, it contains 24 units. The building next door was built in 1908
Across Forest Park is the Rehab Institute, I had some outpatient physical therapy here.
Across Forest Park is the Rehab Institute, I had some outpatient physical therapy here.
Back on the north side of Forest Park we have a 242 unit building built in 1977
Back on the north side of Forest Park we have a 242 unit building built in 1977
This block contains older buildings as well
This block contains older buildings as well, all 2-3 stories
Same is true on the south side of Forest Park Ave
Same is true on the south side of Forest Park Ave
This is a very pleasant place  to be a pedestrian even with many cars passing by
This is a very pleasant place to be a pedestrian even with many cars passing by
The 3-story Cortex building from 2006 faces Forest Park Ave
The 3-story Cortex building from 2006 faces Forest Park Ave
Unfortunately this 2-story structure at S. Boyle, built in 1919, will be razed for a wide pedestrian mall leading to a new MetroLink station to be built 2 blocks south
Unfortunately this 2-story structure at S. Boyle, built in 1919, will be razed for a wide pedestrian mall leading to a new MetroLink station to be built 2 blocks south
Across the street a similar building was successfully renovated for an independence center and upscale resale store
Across the street a similar building was successfully renovated for an independence center and upscale resale store. This was built in 1931.
One of the few 1-story buildings, this one dates to 1912 and has many windows on the street-facing   facade. Currently a dialysis center.
One of the few 1-story buildings, this one dates to 1912 and has many windows on the street-facing facade. Currently used as a dialysis center.
The general rule, however, is 2-levels up to 6 or more at times. All front Forest Park Ave
The general rule, however, is 2-levels up to 6 or more at times. All front Forest Park Ave
Former Ford plant is now apartments with street-level retail
Former Ford plant is now apartments with street-level retail
Two of the four storefronts are still available.
Two of the four storefronts are still available.
The 3-story warehouse from 1901 is now part of the Center for Emerging Technologies
The 3-story warehouse from 1901 is now part of the Center for Emerging Technologies
A long-time Salvation Army facility, 3-stories facing Forest Park Ave
A long-time Salvation Army facility, 3-stories facing Forest Park Ave
A 2-story Laclede Gas building
A 2-story Laclede Gas building
A 2-story firehouse at Vandeventer
The 2-story firehouse at Vandeventer was built in 1965
A former warehouse facing Forest Park and another facing Laclede are apartments geared toward SLU students. The parking garage was set back enough to permit a shallow liner building.
A former warehouse facing Forest Park, and another facing Laclede, are apartments geared toward SLU students. The parking garage was set back enough to permit a shallow liner building.
At Spring Ave millions have been invested in existing urban buildings
At Spring Ave millions have been invested in existing urban buildings
Microbrewer Six Row is in the urban building on the SE corner at Spring Ave
Microbrewer Six Row is in the urban building on the SE corner at Spring Ave
Finally at Grand we have one of SLU's residence halls
Finally at Grand we have one of SLU’s residence halls, though not oriented to Forest Park Ave

As you can see each block for the last 1.5 miles from Kingshighway has buildings fronting Forest Park Ave, nearly all 2 or more floors. Seems like every decade since the early 20th century new buildings have followed this pattern. But now Pace wants to change the pattern drastically, a new vision.

Pace Properties wants to build a retail center, called Midtown Station, on Forest Park Ave. between Vandeventer and Spring.

Pace says the site is ideal because of its proximity to St. Louis University and Washington University, as well as major employers like Ameren Missouri, BJC and Wells Fargo. (KSDK)

From the development flyer:

Pace wants to have the backs of big boxes facing Forest Park Ave & Vandeventer Ave
Pace wants to have the backs of big boxes facing Forest Park Ave & Vandeventer Ave
This big box development (yellow) coupled with another to the west purple will completely undo the hard work and investment of  others along the Forest Park Ave corridor
This big box development (yellow) coupled with another to the west (purple) will completely undo the hard work and investment of others along the Forest Park Ave corridor

Next to Saint Louis University should be walkable retail shops, not the blank walls of the back of big boxes. I’m not opposed to retail, I’m opposed to the form these developments will likely take. I’m gathering examples of how this could be done much better, look for another post next month.

I don’t want this new suburban big box vision to reverse the urban corridor.

— Steve Patterson

 

Advertisement



[custom-facebook-feed]

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe