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Poll Results On Downtown Macy’s

Just over half (50.77%) the readers who voted in the poll last week felt the closing of the downtown Macy’s will have a negative/very negative affect on downtown. Here are the results:

Q: How will Macy’s closing their downtown location affect downtown St. Louis in the long-term?

  1. Negatively 47 [36.15%]
  2. Neutral 43 [33.08%]
  3. Very negatively 19 [14.62%]
  4. Positively 11 [8.46%]
  5. Unsure/No Answer 6 [4.62%]
  6. Very positively 4 [3.08%]

Here’s my take (not spin): I specifically included “in the long-term” in the question because I think the short-term effect will be negative, but will be neutral in the long-term. How long is long-term? I’d say 8-10 years, in this case.

Cities/neighborhoods are resilient places, provided they don’t pass a tipping point. For many of us that live downtown, Macy’s just wasn’t that important. I personally bought more from Macys.com than in the Macy’s store. When Macy’s closed both restaurants in the consolidation to 3 floors a couple of years ago I no longer had a reason to visit.    Previously I’d attend a monthly lunch in the St. Louis Room, then browse the kitchenware section afterwards, often making a purchase.

On the positive side I see the void as opening up the market so another retailer might consider a new store. The new urban CityTarget format comes to mind:

The Chicago store is housed in a 113-year old historical landmark constructed by architect Louis Sullivan in the heart of the city at the corner of State and Madison Streets. Nearby retailers include H&M, Forever 21, Office Depot, Nordstrom Rack, Sears and T.J. Maxx.

CityTarget stores are more expensive to operate and build, as they are housed in pre-existing spaces, Schindele said. In Chicago, for example, Target had to rip out old floors and strip dozens of coats of paint off of columns to give the store the CityTarget look.

CityTarget shelves are bright white rather than almond-colored. Mannequins, tested in one Target store, and brushed silver racks are used to display clothing. In a first for the Target chain, music plays in the Chicago and Seattle locations. (Huffington Post)

CityTarget stores are also located in Seattle, Los Angeles (2), San Francisco. Additional CityTarget locations are planned for Boston & Portland OR,  with additional stores in LA and SF.

Last month, in a different conference call, Target chief financial officer John Mulligan said the company was “very excited” about the CityTarget concept.

Target plans to open three more this year, Mulligan said. “And then, we’ve said all along, we’ll pause,” Mulligan said. “We’re pretty thoughtful about things like this. So we’re going to pause in 2014 and evaluate where we are at.” (Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal)

So even if Target can be interested it’ll be a while before it would happen. Other retailers might see an opportunity in the meantime.

— Steve Patterson

 

McKinley Heights Code Made New Family Dollar Better Than Their Boilerplate, Still Has Room For Improvement

In case you haven’t noticed, Family Dollar stores are popping up all over St. Louis. From November 2012:

Family Dollar Stores Inc. will expand its store base by 500 this fiscal year as it looks to capture a bigger share of the dollar-store market. (Charlotte Business Journal)

A good number of those 500 new stores seem to be in St. Louis, I’ve spotted new locations next to Jefferson Commons, Grand @ Magnolia and now Jefferson near Gravois.

New Family Dollar entrance doesn't face Jefferson & Victor.
New Family Dollar entrance doesn’t face Jefferson & Victor.

So what does their typical new construction look like? Not much architecturally, with little to no connection to the sidewalk.

Family Dollar at 6000 Natural Bridge has no connection to public sidewalk. Click image to see my post.
Family Dollar at 6000 Natural Bridge, built in 2006, has no connection to public sidewalk. Click image to see my post from March 2011.
In 2007 Family Dollar built this location on Dr. Martin Luther King, just west of Grand
In 2007 Family Dollar built this location on Dr. Martin Luther King, just west of Grand

When building these two stores in 2006 & 2007 they used a pretty auto-centric approach and the cheapest materials. Now let’s take a look at the south Jefferson location where they built their newest location, starting with the Burger King that occupied the site for years.

Closed Burger King December 2011
Closed Burger King December 2011, looking north along Jefferson
North side of the former Burger King facing Victor St.
North side of the former Burger King facing Victor St.

The Burger King was a typical suburban design in what was previously an urban location. Years of chipping away at the urban fabric devalued the urban experience, but money was made. That is, until it got old, then the money stopped flowing. Uses for former fast food restaurants are limited, often to check cashing places or other businesses that could care less about the city where they are located.  Okay, back to the site on Jefferson.

By August 2012 the site was  back to bare earth.
By August 2012 the site was back to bare earth.

b

The north side facing Victor St has a red brick veneer, but no doors or windows.
The north side facing Victor St has a red brick veneer, but no doors or windows.
The Jefferson facade is narrow, with blank walls at the intersection.
The Jefferson facade is narrow, doesn’t come out to the sidewalk, with blank walls at the intersection.

The McKinley Heights Historic District Design Standards is to thank for the fact this store isn’t awful like the prior examples. The follow section, in particular:

ARTICLE 5: COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT CORRIDORS DESIGN STANDARDS

501 NEW CONSTRUCTION AND EXISTING NON?HISTORIC COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS

All new construction within the designated Commercial Development Corridor (the Corridor) must be reviewed and approved by the Preservation Board taking into account the following considerations:

501.1 Height

New buildings must be constructed within 15 percent of the average height of existing buildings on the block. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

501.2 Scale

The scale of all proposed new construction in the Corridor must respect the existing scale of any surrounding historic structures by seeking to minimize the difference in height, mass, fenestration and location. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

501.3 Location

New or moved commercial structures shall be positioned on the lot to not only enhance the character of the commercial location but also to be compatible with the surrounding streetscape. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

501.4 Exterior Materials

All new building materials shall be compatible in type and texture with the dominant materials of adjacent buildings. While artificial masonry such as “Permastone” is not permitted, introduction of new materials for new construction will be considered. A submission of all building material samples shall be required prior to approval. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

501.5 Details

Details on new structures should be compatible with the surrounding built environment. Any additions must be compatible with both the existing building and the surrounding structures.

I have numerous problems with the code:

  1. The code is 41 pages of text! Not a single diagram to illustrate what is desired, or what is discouraged. Lawyers might like to read written code, but those trying to design to codes are often visual learners.  The general public can benefit greatly from diagrams, increasing understanding.
  2. If someone wanted to build a 5-story urban/mixed-use building on this site, it wouldn’t be allowed because it would be greater than 15% above the few 1-2 story buildings on the block. Never mind that we have 2 story buildings next to 5+ story buildings in many historic neighborhoods. Increased density, if allowed, not required, would be good for area businesses.
  3. The code is too general: compatible, respect, and enhance are all subjective terms.
  4. Form-based codes, for example, deal with issues such as width of the building facing the primary street, more building should’ve faced Jefferson.

I’m very glad this code is in place, but I’d like to see it and others improved.

— Steve Patterson

 

County Market Near Downtown Springfield IL Retrofits A Pedestrian Route

In March I posted about a new grocery store on the edge of downtown Springfield IL (map) that anticipated many customers on foot, but they expected these pedestrians to either use the automobile driveways or walk over curbs and through grass & lots of parking.  A few days after my post, Springfield Journal-Register columnist Dave Bakke wrote Some criticisms of Springfield justified mentioning my criticism, later Bakke followed up with Critique of Springfield’s image touches nerve.

Here's what customers leaving the entrance facing Carpenter see now.
Here’s what customers leaving the entrance facing Carpenter see now.
Back in March the New County Market near downtown Springfield didn't have a route for pedestrians to/from the public sidewalk.
Back in March the New County Market near downtown Springfield didn’t have a route for pedestrians to/from the public sidewalk. The only provision was to reach disabled parking.

From this angle the change isn’t significant, no paint on asphalt will keep a distracted driver from hitting a pedestrian.  But look out toward the street and you’ll see new concrete.

From the public sidewalk you can see the new route they added.
From the public sidewalk you can see the new route they added so pedestrians don’t have to compete with cars.

I appreciate the after the fact gesture, but this is a good example why pedestrian access, just like automobile access, must be planned from the beginning. The new concrete walk does not meet ADA guidelines, it is too steep in places. I didn’t have my digital level with me on our Mother’s Day trip, but I could tell by walking it.

This route shown above is a consolation prize for pedestrians, it connects to Carpenter St only, not to 2nd St. Even if they retrofitted a route to 2nd it still wouldn’t be considered pedestrian-friendly. As I pointed out in my original post, the County Market in Champaign-Urbana is the model that should’ve been built in Springfield. It was built on a corner with direct access from both sidewalks. It also has a parking lot behind the building, with another entrance. Same number of entrances as the Springfield location, just arranged so customers arriving on foot or car are equally accommodated.

From the mezzanine you can see the route able-bodied pedestrians will likely take, cutting across the parking lot at a diagonal.
From the mezzanine you can see the route able-bodied pedestrians will likely take, cutting across the parking lot at a diagonal.

Springfield, like St. Louis and most cities, should not allow parking between the public sidewalk and buildings in areas where they seek to be pedestrian-friendly. In all other areas where public sidewalks are present/required they should require developers to actually connect to them. Public sidewalks are not window dressing, people actually use them.

If motorists were treated like pedestrians, no parking lot would have a driveway connecting to the public street. You’d be forced to drive over multiple curbs and through grass. All cars could be able to enter & exit, but 4X4 vehicles would have an easier time. While people could use parkings lot this way, they’d soon realize it wasn’t friendly and is potentially  damaging their vehicle. Those with high-clearance SUVs wouldn’t understand why a person driving a vintage MG Midget would complain, besides how often do you see one of those on the road… Why build costly driveways for the few people who have low cars?

Municipal zoning & building codes in cities coast to coast go to great lengths to detail every aspect of our arrival at developments by car: driveways, width of aisles, parking space dimensions, number of spaces, etc. Few say a word about arrival on foot.

It is no wonder so few people walk given our built environment.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: How Will Macy’s Closing Their Downtown Location Affect Downtown St. Louis In The Long-Term?

Macy's in the Railway Exchange building
Macy’s is located on 3 floors of the Railway Exchange building

You likely heard the news last week about the Macy’s store downtown:

Retailer Macy’s will close its downtown St. Louis in the Railway Exchange Center later this summer.

A final closing sale will begin June 2 and last 10 weeks. (KSDK)

Immediately following the announcement people were upset, but clearly not enough to keep the store open. The poll this week asks: How will Macy’s closing their downtown location affect downtown St. Louis in the long-term? The provided answers are:

  • Very negatively
  • Negatively
  • Neutral
  • Positively
  • Very positively
  • Unsure/no answer

These answers will be presented in random order in the poll (right sidebar) so the order doesn’t influence the results. You the comments below to share your thoughts.

— Steve Patterson

 

Accessing Food Truck Events

I love patronizing food trucks, street food is part of the reason I live downtown. Food trucks are often located at various downtown locations, right next to the sidewalk. Very convenient.

Foods trucks at Third Degree's recent open house
Foods trucks at Third Degree’s recent open house

Food truck events, on the other hand, aren’t so convenient for those of us who’re disabled. Walking across grass, which is often uneven, is not an easy task. For some, it’s impossible.

The able-bodied can easily line up in grass.
The able-bodied can easily line up in grass.

For a few years now cities coast to coast have wrestled with accessibility of popular food truck events, so no citizens are excluded from participation. In 2011 Napa, CA halted a friday night event until a more accessible location could be found (source).

I’m asking local organizers to consider everyone when planning a food truck event.

— Steve Patterson

 

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