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Coming Soon to Kingshighway & Delmar: More Low-Density Sprawl

The site of the former National/Schnucks at Kingshighway & Delmar, long vacant, has now been cleared for new development. I’ve viewed the site as an opportunity to build a dense urban project, ideally connected with a Delmar extension of the future Loop Trolley. But current plans may delay dense development of the 4+ acre site for at least the next 20-30 years.

Former grocery store building has now been razed.
Former grocery store building sat back at the east end of the site
The long-vacant building was recently razed.
The long-vacant building was recently razed.
Discount grocer Aldi has announced a new location here.
Discount grocer ALDI has announced a new location here.

But ALDI doesn’t need over 4 acres! Looking at city records online I see The Roberts Brothers has divided the site into three parcels, with ALDI buying one of the three.

Outline of the parcel Aldi purchased.
Outline of the parcel ALDI purchased with Kingshighway on the left, Delmar on the bottom.

The boundaries of the three parcels is intriguing, my guess is so all three can have automobile  entrances facing Kingshighway, or at least a Kingshighway address.  This new store will be part of three recently announced locations also including Creve Coeur & Des Peres (source).

My assumption is this Kingshighway & Delmar location will replace the ALDI less than a mile to the north at Kingshighway & Page (1315 Aubert).

The Aldi at 1315 Aubert (Page & Kingshighway) was built in 1991.
The Aldi at 1315 Aubert (Page & Kingshighway) was built in 1991.

Below is a look at a few ALDI locations in the area, showing size of parcel, year built, and the building size:

Comparison of a few select Aldi locations
Comparison of a few select ALDI locations

The most recently completed ALDI on the list above is the 7701 Olive location. I visited that ALDI in May 2006, shortly after it opened.

View from the Olive auto entrance
View from the Olive auto entrance
A route is provided from Olive but it is not ADA-compliant.
A route is provided from Olive but it is not ADA-compliant.
An ADA-compliant route is provided off North and South
An ADA-compliant route is provided off North and South

This is how ALDI builds US locations from coast to coast. For example, in late 2010 a blogger noted the design for a dense Washington DC neighborhood (see Terrible Aldi design shows need for new parking zoning). As with so many retailers, they’ll do the cheapest design they can, barely meeting minimum standards. If we want/expect better we must demand better — raising the minimum. Retailers will meet the improved standard as long as they can get sales & profit growth.     ALDI does have a few urban locations, but only in super-dense places like Queens, NY.

And before anyone says ALDI and Trader Joe’s are part of the same company let me clarify their relationship.

The [ALDI] chain is made up of two separate groups, Aldi Nord (North – operating as Aldi Markt), with its headquarters in Essen, and Aldi Süd (South – operating as Aldi Süd), with its headquarters in Mülheim an der Ruhr, which operate independently from each other within specific areas.

[snip]

Both Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd also operate in the United States; Aldi Nord is owner of the Trader Joe’s chain while Aldi Süd operates as Aldi. (Wikipedia)

Thus the ALDI we see in the US is NOT related to our Trader Joe’s stores. Another difference between our ALDI stores and our Trader Joe’s is the latter is willing to go compact in dense, walkable areas. For example, the Trader Joe’s I visited in 2009 located at 1700 E Madison St, Seattle, WA.  The store is located on the ground floor with sidewalk entrance, a level of structured parking over the store and four levels of housing over that.

Garage of the Trader Joe's in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle
Garage of the Trader Joe’s in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle

Madison St. in Seattle still has low-density development, like the gas station across from the Trader Joe’s, but one property at a time it is getting more urban. As it gets more urban it attracts more people, increasing the need to be more urban.

Back in St. Louis, we do the opposite. We continue to build low-density sprawl, then scratch our heads wondering why more people don’t walk, use transit, or why our population declines. I’m not suggesting development patterns are the reason for our population decline in the past, but it is a factor today.

A single story ALDI surrounded by surface parking on this corner is totally inappropriate given the context to the east and south.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

 

Old Big Box Stores Live On, Some Too Long

It has been 15 years since St. Louis-based Venture stores closed.

The chain was founded in 1968 when Target founder John F. Geisse went to work for May Department Stores. Under an antitrust settlement reached with the Department of Justice, May was unable to acquire any more retail chains at the time, and the department store company needed a way to compete against the emerging discount store chains. When May’s Executive Vice President Dave Babcock learned that Geisse had resigned from Target Stores, he spoke with Geisse about starting a new discount retailer, resulting in the founding of Venture.

The first Venture store opened in 1970 in the St. Louis suburb of Overland (after Venture closed, the location became a Kmart, which later closed & was demolished for the current Home Depot). In 1976, Geisse retired and left Venture Stores, which had by that time expanded to 20 units. (Wikipedia)

When I was a kid, following the failure of the Woolco discount chain, Venture expanded into Oklahoma City (source). A Woolco/Venture was very close to my parent’s house, I biked there often to buy 45s & later cassingles.

Last week, as I stepped into a former Venture store at 5401 Collinsville Rd in Fairmont City, IL, I recalled biking to Venture as a kid and even visiting a Venture after moving to St. Louis.

Venture sign
Venture sign remains
This Venture store is now Gateway Classic Cars, click image for website
This Venture store is now Gateway Classic Cars, click image for website
The old Venture name is covered by the current sign
The old Venture name is covered by the current sign
The interior is very original, complete with the paint scheme of the walls.
The interior is very original, complete with the paint scheme of the walls.

When a building gets built we should assume it’ll be around for at least half a century. Often this longevity is a good thing, but not always. I took a picture of the men’s restroom but I decided to spare you that sight.

Older structures do provide good low-rent options for businesses, while not making a positive contribution to the area’s image. This is a good example of why we need to think beyond the original depreciation schedule when building.

— Steve Patterson

 

Dumpsters Block Pine Street Sidewalk At The Park Pacific

I’ve not had much reason to walk along the south side of the Park Pacific building but that changed on Monday when three new eateries opened for business: Smoothie King, Alumni St. Louis, & Flying Cow Frozen Yogurt.

Flying Cow Frozen Yogurt in the NW corner of the Park Pacific at 13th & Olive
Flying Cow Frozen Yogurt in the NW corner of the Park Pacific at 13th & Olive
Alumni St. Louis restaurant facing 13th Street
Alumni St. Louis restaurant facing 13th Street
Smoothie King is located on Pine St in the garage attached to the Park Pacific
Smoothie King is located on Pine St in the first floor of the parking garage attached to the Park Pacific

Very handy having these three so close to my loft! Unfortunately a problem exists reaching all three. You see, the roll out dumpsters for Park Pacific are frequently left out blocking the sidewalk along Pine. Depending upon where they are it’s ether a pain in the butt, or impossible, to pass by in a wheelchair. The able-bodied are forced into the street as well.

Looking west toward 13th
Looking west toward 13th
Looking east toward Tucker
Looking east toward Tucker

The dumpsters have a designated space between the Park Pacific and adjacent parking garage, yet someone is just leaving the out where the block the sidewalk. Hopefully this won’t continue!

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Clothing Retailer Uniqlo Coming To St. Louis? When, Not If

March 29, 2013 Featured, Retail 19 Comments

Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo (pronounced YOU-nee-klo) has only six US stores right now but they plan to have 200 by 2020. Never heard of Uniqlo? I hadn’t either until Sunday when I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning’s report The ambitious clothing company Uniqlo aims high (video).

Uniqlo has 1,200 stores worldwide and is the 4th largest clothing retailer in the world. They want to be #1 by 2020, so that means a big push in the US.

New Uniqlo at the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall has an outside entrance in addition to the interior entrance. Click image to see mall in Google Maps.
New Uniqlo at the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall has an outside entrance in addition to the interior entrance. Click image to see mall in Google Maps.

Uniqlo, the Japanese basics brand, is starting aggressive growth plans at shopping malls that are expected to include 20 to 30 new stores a year over the next eight years.

[snip]

To hit the company’s stated target of $10 billion in sales in the United States by 2020, “we need to go where the customer is, and in the United States, malls are the premier location where Americans shop,” Mr. Kyogoku said. The Uniqlo executives declined to discuss specifics about the expansion plans, beyond saying they also included stores in other big American cities. The company is also working on an e-commerce site in the United States, the executives said. (NY Times As U.S. Retailers Retreat, a Japanese Chain Sees an Opening)

So this means we’ll likely get a store in The Galleria and/or West County Mall rather than a pedestrian-friendly area like The Loop or downtown. Remember when people hoped for Urban Outfitters and H&M to locate somewhere other than The Galleria?

Possibly they might locate in the MX District or Ballpark Village, but my money is on The Galleria. Wherever they open it’ll put pressure on chains like Old Navy, Gap, etc.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Springfield IL & Niemann Foods Don’t Understand Pedestrian-Friendly Design

Recently a reader in Springfield IL, the Illinois state capital 90 miles from St. Louis, alerted me to a new County Market grocery store about to open on the NW edge of their downtown. A local newspaper article  talked about the 11,000+ residents within a mile of downtown Springfield and 68,000+ within 5 miles. Tom Moore, director of the new store, was quoted:

“All day long, they come in and say, ‘When are you going to open?’” said Moore. “With the hospitals close by and the apartments close by, we’re expecting quite a bit of foot traffic here. “We’re targeting the whole downtown area, whether it’s the medical community or the neighborhoods.” (State Journal-Register)

Great, they recognize there are many people in the area and they expected lots of foot traffic. Memorial Medical is 2/10th of a mile to the north and St. John’s Hospital is a half mile directly east. County Market is a 100-store chain operated by Niemann Foods based in Quincy IL, an affiliate of Supervalu.  Supervalu is the parent company of St. Louis-based chains Save-A-Lot and Shop ‘N Save. More on the new market later. Springfield’s Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (R\UDAT)  report from 2002 speaks briefly to making downtown pedestrian-friendly:

As a neighborhood, downtown Springfield should offer a pedestrian friendly environment with pleasant streetscapes, welcoming crosswalks, green space, or other “softscape” areas, parallel or diagonal parking as a buffer from vehicular traffic, adequate signage and easy to understand “way-finding” systems for visitors. The “way-finding” system should be easy to use, but should be somewhat unobtrusive in keeping with the neighborhood environment. Although the linkages are not yet established, the contiguous districts of commercial and historical importance in Springfield – the Lincoln home, the Capitol District – are very walkable from the central downtown core. A visitor will find it convenient to park in downtown Springfield and walk to these and other nearby attractions. Such programs as Lincoln Walks to Work and Looking for Lincoln will reinforce this walk-ability and contribute to the linkages between the downtown and the Lincoln home neighborhood. (Downtown as a Neighborhood)

In that same section they recognized the need to for additional retail to serve local needs, including a grocery store:

The retail mix should meet the needs of the downtown residents, the downtown employees, the residents in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown and downtown visitors and tourists. This mix should include coffee shops, gourmet retail and take out, bookstores, general grocery and merchandise, dry cleaners that offer bundle service, souvenir and general gift shops, ice cream, bakery and other service based businesses for residents. Bringing these uses into the downtown depends on achieving a larger resident population and the resulting greater purchasing power.

The Springfield Strategy 2020 report, completed in 2010, certainly says all the right things speaks more to making Springfield pedestrian-friendly:

“The Springfield of 2020 has preserved residential neighborhoods surrounding the downtown, which boosts pedestrian traffic in the downtown historic district and acts as a buffer to protect the downtown core.” (p23) “We believe that an effective transportation system must also include facilities to encourage biking and pedestrian traffic.” (p27) “The Springfield of 2020 will be pedestrian friendly with sidewalks being maintained, constructed and reconstructed when necessary throughout the city. This is but one way that the Springfield of 2020 will be know as a city that stresses better accessibility for all of its citizens. In addition, requirements for new subdivisions will be developed to encourage the development of amenities for walking and bicycling, as well as additional green space in all new subdivisions.” (p27) “The Springfield of 2020 will include bike paths downtown that have been sponsored and built by the city to encourage biking to area businesses and work places. The city will also develop new pedestrian walkways to encourage pedestrian traffic to historic and government sites so as to reduce downtown vehicular traffic and increase tourist use of area businesses.” (p27)

Great, Springfield seemed to know what was needed to achieve their objectives. Or not… The new County Market that’s expecting lots of pedestrians opened on March 8th, I visited on the 21st.

The main entrance faces west, with a surface parking lot between the 2nd Street public sidewalk and the door. No ADA accessible  route is provided.
The main entrance faces west, with a surface parking lot between the 2nd Street public sidewalk and the door. No ADA accessible route is provided.

Remember, they’re expecting lots of foot traffic to this store. But 2nd Street is a minor road, Carpenter Street is a main arterial. But access is no better from that new public sidewalk.

Looking east on Carpenter St from the County Market auto driveway
Looking east on Carpenter St from the County Market auto driveway
A second entrance to County Market is located on the corner, facing Carpenter St.
A second entrance to County Market is located on the corner, facing Carpenter St. Seeing the marking on the pavement you might think that was to guide pedestrians safely to the public sidewalk.
But it leads to disabled parking, not the sidewalk.
But it leads to disabled parking, not the sidewalk.

Again, they’re expecting lots of foot traffic yet they’ve made zero provisions for all these pedestrians to reach the store. Like so many places, the pedestrians will be forced to compete with the cars.

A customer in a manual wheelchair leaves the County Market via the auto exit on 3/8/2013, opening day. Photo by Steven Simpson-Black

Springfield wants to be pedestrian-friendly by 2020, but they allow this to happen? They also assembled the land and did a $2 million dollar TIF!

Planning and Economic Development Director Mike Farmer hopes it will act as a catalyst for further business growth near the city’s downtown and medical district.

Niemann Foods says 110 full and part-time staff have been hired from the area. The store’s floor plan and design has been called more “urban” than most County Market locations.

The smaller store features a coffee shop with drive-through window and upstairs lounge/dining area with free wireless internet access. A similar store has been built in the heart of the University of Illinois’ Champaign-Urbana campus. (WUIS)

The County Market location at 331 E Stoughton St, Champaign, IL (Google Maps) has the same look, two entrances, and an upstairs — unfortunately that’s where the similarities end. Champaign’s corner entrance is on a different corner and placed at the intersection, while the main entrance faces a surface parking lot.

The secondary entrance to the County Market in Champaign IL helps define the street and welcomes pedestrians.  Source: Google Maps/Streetvew
The secondary entrance to the County Market in Champaign IL helps define the street and welcomes pedestrians. Source: Google Maps/Streetvew
The main entrance in Champaign fronts onto another street with the parking lot on the opposite side.
The main entrance in Champaign fronts onto another street with the parking lot on the opposite side. Source: Google Maps/Streetvew

The Champaign County Foods store lacks the two drive-through windows of Springfield — one for coffee and one for pharmacy. I’m pretty sure drive-through service windows decrease pedestrian traffic, not increase it.

Springfield & Niemann Foods had a chance to build a good urban prototype that would’ve been equally accessible by pedestrians and motorists, but they blew it big time. They need to at least provide an ADA Pedestrian Route from both Carpenter and 2nd Streets to each entrance.

Municipalities and businesses in the St. Louis region make the same mistakes too often.

– Steve Patterson

 

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