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Union Station “Festival Marketplace” Opened In 1985

August 29, 2012 Downtown, Featured, Retail 14 Comments

St. Louis Union Station reopened 27 years ago today as a “festival marketplace.” Roughly translated that means cheesy mall in an old space built for some other purpose, in this case an old train shed. Actually part of the train shed is used for hotel rooms and meeting space, under the south end is parking and part is used for retail shops and food court.

ABOVE: The midway was once lined with shops, additional glass booths in the center have been removed.
ABOVE: One of the many former restaurant spaces that’s closed, in a very ugly way
ABOVE: Former Nature Co. space now a small retailer.
ABOVE: Under the train shed one of the few remaining restaurants, Landry’s, mentions parking validation. The MetroLink light rail station probably brings more people to Union Station than cars.

In the poll last week I was pleasantly surprised by often readers had been to Union Station in the last year, I thought many more would pick “0”.

Q: How many times have you been to St. Louis Union Station in the last 12 months?

  • 0 116: [54.21%]
  • 1-3: 78 [36.45%]
  • 4-6: 12 [5.61%]
  • 7-10: 4 [1.87%]
  • 13+: 3 [1.4%]
  • 10-12: 1 [0.47%]

Still more than half did indicate they hadn’t been to Union Station in the last year. To my knowledge the hotel does well so hopefully someone will buy the place and rethink  it once again.

— Steve Patterson


Filling In Three Blocks Along North Tucker Boulevard

North Tucker Boulevard has been more urban than it is today. Over the years buildings came down left and right to provide surface parking, mostly for workers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Much of the surface parking is owned by the paper but with hundreds fewer employees the same level of parking is no longer needed. It’s time to rethink north Tucker Blvd!

ABOVE: Privately owned parking lot vacant on a Tuesday afternoon (June 5, 2012). NE corner of Tucker [email protected] Cole St., click image for Google Maps.
ABOVE: Unused parking lot owned by the Post-Dispatch.
ABOVE: Across Cole St to the south the parking area is partially full on the same day.
ABOVE: The building at 911 N. Tucker was built in 1890.

Below I’ve placed blue rectangles on the spots where new buildings could be constructed. The red are harder spots due to small size (Carr St) or a new useless plaza (south end).

ABOVE: Aerial of a few blocks of north Tucker showing locations where infill buildings can easily be constructed (blue) and additional spots where they should be considered (red)

The Carr St on the north to Convention Plaza (Delmar) on the south there are many opportunities to construct infill buildings. At the center is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

I can hear the naysayers now, “there’s no demand for new construction here” or “location, location, location.” The new Mississippi River Bridge opens in 2014 and then suddenly this will become a major entry into downtown St. Louis. Now’s the time to start planning so at least one building can be open by 2014. It may very well take 10-20 years to fill in as I’ve shown but this is the first step to getting to that goal.

Remember, 15 years ago naysayers said there was no demand for housing downtown — and they were right — sorta. Those who wanted a hip loft in a walkable downtown had no way as individuals to get what they wanted. A few were marketed but not enough were willing to take the risk — and it was a risk. Then Washington Ave went on a road diet going from 4 travel lanes to two, widening the sidewalks in the process. Through these efforts the area was reinvented and things began to take off.

Storefronts are still vacant but housing occupancy is on par with other areas.  The area of North Tucker Blvd I’m talking about is just a few blocks north of Washington Ave. The new Tucker streetscape is being finished now. It includes provisions for on-street parking in this area so ground-level retail is an option.

Lee Enterprises, owner of the Post-Dispatch, should be talking with developers now. They might get a new parking garage behind new buildings facing Tucker — I’d want the city to prohibit/strongly discourage a parking garage facing Tucker but facing 13th would be ok.

In the block opposite the Post-Dispatch new buildings on each side of 911 N. Tucker should be respectful without copying. Modern would be fine with me, just not a six-story mirrored box.

The opportunity for a “signature” building is on the NW corner of Tucker Blvd. & Cole St.

ABOVE: Looking east on Cole St from Tucker Blvd.
ABOVE: Looking west on Cole St from 11th. A new building on the vacant lot would hide KDNL’s building.

Cole Street has a very wide right-of-way east of Tucker, giving the opportunity for high visibility for pedestrians and motorists heading west on Cole. This is also an opportunity to look at Cole and how to encourage more pedestrians to use Cole to connect parts of downtown and the housing to the north.

Perhaps a CVS or Walgreen’s would locate in the ground floor of one of these buildings on Tucker?  New construction in this area could be exciting, much more so than Ballpark Village.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: How Many Times Have You Been To St. Louis Union Station In The Last 12 Months?

ABOVE: The Grand Hall in Union Station. Photo by William Zbaren from the book American City: St. Louis Architecture

St. Louis Union Station is just a few blocks away from my loft, so it’s convenient to stop there. I still marvel at the grandeur of the structure and wish I could go back in time to see at its peak.

In 1912 Union Station was a busy place, but who visits Union Station in 2012? Hotels guests obviously. Anyone else? Bueller?

In the poll this week I want to get a sense of how often the readers of this blog frequent Union Station. Hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. The poll is in the right sidebar and results will be presented on Wednesday August 29, 2012.

— Steve Patterson



On-Street Parking On Washington Ave

Regular readers know I’m a fan of on-street parking. It forms a nice barrier between moving traffic and pedestrians. It also helps up road width. Linear parking is so much better than surface or structured sparking.  A few years back there were efforts by officials to keep the full curb-to-curb width of Washington Ave for moving vehicles. After some battles, parking is permitted on both sides between 10th-11th and the south side from 11th-Tucker (12th). In true St. Louis fashion, this is being addressed block by block rather than a well-planned coordinated effort.

ABOVE: Cars parked on Washington Ave east of 7th Street

The other evening I was pleased to see cars parked on Washington Ave. east of 7th. There are no signs prohibiting parking so it seemed to just happen organically. There’s also no parking meters.

ABOVE: Cars still parked on Washington Ave a couple of hours later.

If retail is going to open and survive on-street parking is a must-have.

— Steve Patterson


Transit Visibility: Metro vs DART

The headline isn’t referring to the visibility of transit vehicles, but the transit agency itself. More specifically the transit store and board of directors.

ABOVE: Any clue what goes on here? Let’s get closer so you can see.
ABOVE: It’s obvious now, right?

Above is the entrance to Metro’s MetroRide Store where you can get transit schedules and buy transit passes. Everyone walking by on Washington Ave would know that, wouldn’t they? The Convention Center MetroLink station is a block to the east, the #40 (Broadway) MetroBus also stops there.  Some photo ID services are here, seniors and disabled have to visit the strip center on DeBaliviere. Metro’s headquarters is in a building a block away from the Laclede’s Landing MetroLink station, not serviced by a single bus line.

In Dallas last month I noticed how DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) was totally different, you know, making sure people knew how to find it.

ABOVE: Dart’s offices are located at one of the busiest light rail stations, the Akard Station. The yellow windows on the right market the store just inside their HQ.
ABOVE: Well that’s pretty clear! No confusion about what I’ll find inside.

Retailers know to get customers they need to draw people into their stores for a sale to happen.

I also like how DART calls their light rail simply “rail”, very equal to “bus.” All transit riders ride DART regardless of whether they ride bus, rail, paratransit.

Visibility extends to the board managing the agency.

ABOVE: DART’s boardroom is just inside the building entrance unlike Metro where you have to sign in with security and be escorted upstairs just before the meeting starts.

Our MetroRide Store description tells another part of the problem: Location

Trying to decide which Metro Pass or Ticket is the best value for you? For assistance with your Metro fare purchases, you can call or visit the MetroRide Store, 701 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101, 314-982-1495, (located inside America’s Center at 7th & Washington, Downtown St. Louis), open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays. The MetroRide Store accepts MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, personal checks, debit cards and government transportation vouchers.

701 Convention Plaza? Some know Convention Plaza used to be called Delmar but part downtown was renamed in the 1970s when the Cervantes Convention Center was built. In the early 1990s the convention center was expanded two blocks south to Washington Ave, at that time Convention Plaza was bisected by the expanded building.

ABOVE: Looking at a map someone would logically go to 7th & Convention Plaza to find 701 Convention Plaza, right? But they’d be too far north if they did.

The address should be 703 (or 705) Washington Ave!

You have to really want to buy a transit pass or attend a Metro board meeting to seek either out. Neither should be as difficult as they are. Tomorrow I’ll share a few ideas I think we should consider copying from DART to improve bus and rail service in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson




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