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Old Gas Station, New Use

Nearly two years ago, March 18, 2011, ground was broken on a rehab & new construction project called Botanical Grove, west of Botanical Heights and part of the area once known as McRee Town. The main focus that day was residential — rehab of existing buildings and new modern infill. I was there and thrilled by the ambitious plans of the developers. The work continues but many of the residential units are occupied by homeowners. I was also skeptical about the future of a tiny little former gas station at the corner of McRee & Tower Grove Ave.

ABOVE: The gas station I saw on March 18, 2011

I could see the appeal and potential but I knew the lending climate that existed, would anything come of the idea to remake the gas station? In a word, yes!

ABOVE: On February 16, 2013 I visited Olio with friends. Olio had been open a few months at this point. Click image for Olio’s website.
ABOVE: Interior of Olio
ABOVE: Interior of Olio retains & exposes much of the old structure
ABOVE: Baked yogurt dessert
ABOVE: Baked yogurt with honey & compote dessert

Some will say gentrification, the affluent are pushing out the poor. I see a once decrepit structure brought back to live bringing in tax revenue for the city and employing people. Botanical Heights to the east employed the cleared earth strategy of urban renewal but Botanical Grove kept and rehabbed many existing structures and infilled on vacant lots. Many housing types were offered as a result.

— Steve Patterson



Chronicle Coffee Now Open, Grand Opening Soon

Last July I posted about a New Coffeehouse Opening Soon on Page Blvd Just East of Grand Ave. It took a white while to open but last month it finally did. A few days ago I met someone there and returned for lunch.  The concept is simple, a nice neighborhood coffeehouse that hires employees from the area.

ABOVE: Chronicle Coffee is located in the corner of a building that also houses the St. Louis Public Housing Authority and a PNG Bank branch.  Click for Google Maps.
ABOVE: Chronicle Coffee is located in the corner of a building that also houses the St. Louis Public Housing Authority and a PNG Bank branch. Click for Google Maps.

But how do you make such an enterprise financially viable? During my visit I was able to chat with the owner, turns out the answer is through acquisition!

Rick Milton, owner of Northwest Coffee Roasting Co., has sold his company to Jason Wilson, the owner of Chronicle Coffee. Chronicle is located just north of Grand Center at 1235 Blumeyer Ave. The sale, completed in December, includes both the Northwest Coffee roasting operation as well as Northwest Coffee cafes in Clayton and the Central West End. (Sauce Magazine)

By buying the well established Northwest Coffee Wilson has quality coffee for Chronicle and a good place to train new employees.

ABOVE: Owner Jason Wilson sat down with us to talk about Chronicle, Northwest and creating jobs in a community in need of work.
ABOVE: Owner Jason Wilson sat down with us to talk about Chronicle, Northwest, and creating jobs in a community in need of more employment opportunities.
ABOVE: Tables & chairs will arrive next month
ABOVE: Tables & chairs will arrive next month

One wall of Chronicle Coffee includes enlarged black & white prints of the former Blumeyer public housing project that once  occupied the immediate area.I know I’ll return when I’m nearby. Wilson is finalizing plans for their grand opening later this month.

— Steve Patterson


9th Street Storefront Being Emptied

December 28, 2012 Downtown, Featured, Retail 3 Comments

Starting to see some positive action on the vacant storefront I first posted about in September (Storefront Still Vacant A Decade Later, Tax Dollars Wasted?) and again in October (Hotel Has Used State-Owned Retail Storefront Rent-Free For A Decade).

ABOVE: December 18th the doors were opened
ABOVE: December 18th the doors were opened
ABOVE: Peaked in, very full of stuff
ABOVE: I peaked in, very full of stuff
ABOVE: A few days later on December 21st I went by again and saw a truck out front
ABOVE: A few days later on December 21st I went by again and saw a truck out front
ABOVE: This time the space was nearly empty.
ABOVE: This time the space was nearly empty.

Looks like the space is being readied to lease to a retail tenant, after a decade of rent-free use as storage.  Maybe it won’t get leased right away or it’ll get leased and the first tenant will fail, but we have to try.

Putting up paper over storefront windows for a decade in a city that needs more sidewalk activity is just destructive. To do it in a state-owned building built by an agency whose mission it is to foster development is baffling.

— Steve Patterson


Idea: Retail Retrofit To AT&T’s Parking Garage

Today parking garages are built with retail on the first floor so they are have potential activity at the sidewalk level. Unfortunately, we still have many garages built in earlier times when no provisions were made for anything other than the storage of cars. Some, like the 1960s stadium garages, can’t easily be retrofitted, see Fixes For Stadium West, Stadium East.  The AT&T parking garage at 1101 Chestnut, built in 1985, can be retrofitted with retail.

ABOVE: The main corner of the AT&T parking garage at 11th & Chestnut St.

Before anyone says something like ‘the city has bigger problems for its limited resources’ let me state this post is about trying to repair one small section our city by showing a way a corporate citizen can help out by modifying their private property . Why would they? Because they like to be seen as a good corporate citizen.

Any need?

Yes, anyone that has ever had jury duty across the street knows finding a place for lunch isn’t too easy close by. Saint Louis University Law School will soon be located in the building adjacent to the west end of the garage.

ABOVE: Renovation work on SLU’s new Law School building is underway (left) and the garage is to the right.
ABOVE: The north face of the garage on Pine St could be active with storefronts
ABOVE: The formed concrete panels at the sidewalk level do not appear to be structural elements.

This wouldn’t require 100% of the ground floor, although most of the south side facing Chestnut would be a good concentration facing the courthouse.  The small area facing 11th and the long area facing Pine could be done later as demand increases.

Again, I’m not advocating public monies be spent on this effort. I also don’t think AT&T is going to start work on implementing this idea right away, or ever.  It’s an idea I thought I’d stare because I think it could have a positive impact on the activity level in the area.

— Steve Patterson


Readers: Price, Convenience, Selection Are Shopping Influencers

November 21, 2012 Featured, Retail 1 Comment

In the poll last week readers picked price as their top factor in deciding there to shop this holiday season.  Early in the week convenience was the top answer but it ended up just one vote behind price.

ABOVE: Brothers Randy (L) and Jeff Vines (R) of STL-Style on Cherokee at Compton.

Q: Factors influencing where you’ll shop this holiday season (pick up to 3)

  1. Price 41 [21.24%]
  2. Convenience 40 [20.73%]
  3. Selection 27 [13.99%]
  4. Sales/Specials 24 [12.44%]
  5. Shipping 14 [7.25%]
  6. Customer service 12 [6.22%]
  7. Ownership 9 [4.66%]
  8. Politics of retailer 8 [4.15%]
  9. Other: 8 [4.15%]
  10. Employment policies 6 [3.11%]
  11. Unsure, N/A, no answer 3 [1.55%]
  12. Layaway plan 1 [0.52%]
  13. Financing terms 0 [0%]

Interesting results, a decade ago I doubt shipping would’ve gotten any votes.

  1. Patronize local shops in my neighborhood
  2.  Within the St. Louis City boundaries!
  3. Image / attitude
  4. Locally Owned / Small Business
  5. local
  6. shop the city!
  7. Cleanliness of store and patrons
  8. Parking 😉

— Steve Patterson




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