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Reimagining 100 North Broadway to Take Advantage of New Luther Ely Smith Square & Arch Entrance

For over 5 years now I’ve been thinking about how to redesign the Bank of America Tower at 100 N. Broadway. My primary beef wasn’t with the 22-story tower, but with the 1-story section to the South of the tower.

Looking North from Broadway & Chestnut, June 2010
Looking North from Broadway & Chestnut, June 2010

First, a little background:

Bank of America Tower is a 22-story, 500,000 square foot Class-A office tower located in the heart of the prominent Downtown St. Louis market – the regional center for Missouri’s largest law, accounting and financial service firms. Located at the intersection of two major downtown arteries, Broadway and Pine, the Bank of America Tower offers easy access to the region’s extensive highway system and Metrolink light rail system.

Bank of America Tower was built to exceptional standards in 1976 as the corporate headquarters facility for Boatman’s Bancshares. Designed by the world-renowned architectural firm Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, the building features exquisite granite and marble finishes throughout and floor configurations which offer tenants breathtaking views.

Hertz Investment Group acquired this prestigious property in 2005. It is currently owned and managed by Hertz Investment Group. (Hertz Investment Group)

NationsBank bought Boatman’s Bancshares in 1996, and two years later it bought the larger BankAmerica Corporation — taking the name Bank of America. At some point the building was sold to investors. Through all the ownership changes the 1-story section remained a branch bank — until November 21, 2014.  See: Bank of America closing one of its downtown St. Louis branches.

My design idea is directed at the San Diego owners, I’m not proposing taxpayers do or fund any of what I’ll suggest below. Some of you may think if there was market demand for my idea it would already exist. This viewpoint ignores the fact that markets & buildings are constantly changing to reflect new market conditions. Because building changes don’t happen overnight, there’s a delay between a shifting market and physical changes.

Before I get into my idea I want to show you more of the photos I took in June 2010:

Looking North at the West side plaza, this is considered the front since it faces Broadway, June 2010
Looking North at the West side plaza, this is considered the front since it faces Broadway, June 2010
Though my main focus was the 1-story glass wing, I didn't like how the tower and the sidewalk/plaza met, June 2010
Though my main focus was the 1-story glass wing, I didn’t like how the tower and the sidewalk/plaza met, June 2010
From this view we can see it is across Chestnut from the Old Courthouse, June 2010
From this view we can see it is across Chestnut from the Old Courthouse, June 2010
Looking East see can see the Arch. The building has zero relationship with the sidewalk, June 2010
Looking East see can see the Arch. The building has zero relationship with the sidewalk, June 2010
The East plashes a different feel because it is raised above the 4th St sidewalk, June 2010
The East plashes a different feel because it is raised above the 4th St sidewalk, June 2010
A view of the East side plaza from 4th & Chestnut, June 2010
A view of the East side plaza from 4th & Chestnut, June 2010
Both plazas and the building are built over underground parking. This fact places limits on what can be done to give the building a better relationship with sidewalks on Broadway, 4th, and Chestnut in particular, June 2010
Both plazas and the building are built over underground parking. This fact places limits on what can be done to give the building a better relationship with sidewalks on Broadway, 4th, and Chestnut in particular, June 2010

I returned in September of 2010 to have another look. With an active bank branch in the 1-story part my focus was on the tower’s ground floor facing Broadway. This time I did do a brief post, sharing the next two images. The captions are new.

The SW corner the tower as it meets the plaza. The interior floor level is nearly level, making it easier open this space directly to the exterior. But what, if anything, is on the ground floor? Can't tell just passing by.
The SW corner the tower as it meets the plaza. The interior floor level is nearly level, making it easier open this space directly to the exterior. But what, if anything, is on the ground floor? Can’t tell just passing by. September 2010
From inside the lobby we see it's a restaurant, September 2010
From inside the lobby we see it’s a restaurant, September 2010
In my September 2010 post I didn't share this image, but it shows the restaurant space going back along the exterior wall.
In my September 2010 post I didn’t share this image, but it shows the restaurant space going back along the exterior wall.

The Atrium Cafe was very good, but it’s only open for lunch weekdays. Given that it’s hidden from anyone outside, that makes sense.

After the Bank of America branch closed I returned in July of this year to see the interior space and take another look at the exterior.

The SE corner of the vacant 1-story atrium bank branch from the Chestnut sidewalk
The SE corner of the vacant 1-story atrium bank branch from the Chestnut sidewalk, July 1015
Looking at the East greenhouse
Looking at the East greenhouse, July 2015
Looking West along the narrow Chestnut sidewalk, the interior floor level is higher than the sidewalk, July 2015
Looking West along the narrow Chestnut sidewalk, the interior floor level is higher than the sidewalk, July 2015
At one of the breaks between greenhouse glass we see the exterior is damaged and poorly patched, July 2015
At one of the breaks between greenhouse glass we see the exterior is damaged and poorly patched, July 2015
Looking closer we see a little dead space used to separate the greenhouses, July 2015
Looking closer we see a little dead space used to separate the greenhouses, July 2015
On Broadway we see more pedestrians with the Old Courthouse being the new main ticketing point for the Arch, July 2015
On Broadway we see more pedestrians with the Old Courthouse being the new main ticketing point for the Arch, July 2015
Turning toward the building we can see the top of the Arch peaking above the 1-story atrium space, July 2015
Turning toward the building we can see the top of the Arch peaking above the 1-story atrium space, July 2015
Inside looking East along the South atrium/greenhouse wall we can see the inward point we saw outside and the structure set back from the glass, July 2015
Inside looking East along the South atrium/greenhouse wall we can see the inward point we saw outside and the structure set back from the glass, July 2015
Looking toward the building lobby, July 2015
Looking toward the building lobby, July 2015
Looking at the Old Courthouse through the window screens
Looking at the Old Courthouse through the window screens, July 2015
Looking at the Arch through the window screens
Looking at the Arch through the window screens, July 2015

Even at this point it hadn’t hit me, though I knew the protruding greenhouse glass had to go. It was on my 2nd visit to the new Luther Ely Smith Square that I figured it out. Lets start with the last photo from that post.

Looking toward 4th & Chestnut
Looking toward 4th & Chestnut

The owners consider Broadway & Pine the main corner, but the diagonally opposite corner is positioned to take advantage of the new Square and future Arch entrance.Many Arch visitors will park in the Kiener garages and walk right past 100 N. Broadway.

The solution is to remove all the glass & cladding from the 1-story section and rethink it. The space has been vacant for over a year, with bank branches continuing to close it’s unlikely a bank will lease it. It is time for s physical change to the space to respond to the changing market. It isn’t 1976 anymore!

Looking at the building from the NW corner of the Luther Ely Smith Square. Many Arch visitors will be parking un the garage seen in the background
Looking at the building from the NW corner of the Luther Ely Smith Square. Many Arch visitors will be parking un the garage seen in the background

So my thought is this should become a restaurant. Not a weekday lunch-only spot but a place open for breakfast, lunch, & dinner 7 days a week. With all the tourists it should be familiar — Panera — still called St. Louis Bread Co here. There’s one on the ground floor of the Kiener East garage a block West — this could be a larger more up-to-date location.

Here’s more detail:

  • Remove the greenhouse glass from all three sides, widen Chestnut sidewalk
  • Create new building lobby with door to new restaurant — not open like it has been for nearly 4 decades.
  • Place the kitchen & restrooms in the center.
  • Include an elevator and stairs to a new rooftop patio. Shade for rooftop patio could come from a pergola, stretched canvas, umbrellas, etc.
  • Nighttime lighting would be important to make this a great evening destination.

A St. Louis Bread Co here would be bad for the Atrium Cafe, perhaps they move to the old Bread Co space a block West. Their old space could be opened to the plaza like I suggested in September 2010 — occupied by a restaurant different enough from Panera/Bread Co. to survive.

The other side of the Old Courthouse has a similar low platform with tower arrangement. That low platform is occupied by the inwardly-focused Tony’s. I don’t see change coming to that building anytime soon. The owners of 100 N. Broadway have a great opportunity to rethink their building to take advantage of the new Arch entrance.

— Steve Patterson

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Online Retailers Opening Physical Stores

November 27, 2015 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Online Retailers Opening Physical Stores
Target in Chicago's former Carson Pirie Scott department store, is a traditional brick & mortar retailer still trying to expand online sales.  February 2014 image
Target in Chicago’s former Carson Pirie Scott department store, is a traditional brick & mortar retailer still trying to expand online sales. February 2014 image

Increasingly online retailers are opening brick & mortar stores. But don’t expect big boxes filled with merchandise, purchases will still be shipped:

For instance, New York-based Bonobos offers four styles of men’s pants , 20 color options and about 30 sizes in its clothing mix. That’s over 2,400 different possibilities.

“If you were actually to stock that in inventory, the amount of space you would need would be exorbitant,” said Erin Ersenkal, the New York-based company’s chief revenue officer.

Customers leaving its stores “walk out hands-free” as the Bonobos website says, their order shipped directly to their home or office.

By only stocking clothes that customers can try on for fit, and then shipping them, “we’re able to take all the energy that would have been focused on inventory management and shift it to our customers,” he said. (USA Today)

Retailing is continually changing. It’s nothing like I remember from the 70s when I’d go to Sears, TG&Y, & OTASCO with my mom. Or even the 80s when I worked at Toys “R” Us and Dillard’s.

For online retailers, a physical store or two lets them study what customers want. Today I won’t be anywhere near a physical store.  However, tomorrow is Small Business Saturday — put in your zip code to see local small businesses.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Cleveland’s Healthline Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Part 4

This is my final part on Cleveland’s Healthline Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). However, donations to offset the cost are still accepted here.

Earlier posts:

One of the articles that got me seriously looking at BRT was from Forbes in September 2013: Bus Rapid Transit Spurs Development Better Than Light Rail Or Streetcars: Study. Two parts stood out:

“Per dollar of transit investment, and under similar conditions, BRT can leverage more (development) investment than LRT or streetcars.”

For example, Cleveland’s Healthline, a BRT project completed on Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue in 2008, has generated $5.8 billion in development —$114 for each transit dollar invested. Portland’s Blue Line, a light rail project completed in 1986, generated $3.74 per dollar invested.

and…

The U.S. has seven authentic BRT lines in Cleveland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Eugene Ore., and several in Pittsburgh. None achieve the internationally recognized “gold standard” of BRT like Bogota’s TransMilenio line. But one planned for Chicago’s Ashland Avenue might.

“There’s no gold standard BRT in the U.S. yet,” Weinstock said, “but if we continue with the Ashland project on the current trajectory, Ashland could be the first gold in the U.S.”

I’ll address Chicago’s Ashland Ave in a future post. BRT — more development return than LRT or streetcars?

Long-time readers know I love rail — especially streetcars. Public transit was often about real estate development, to get people to a new project, developers would build a streetcar line to get them there. Cities would lease part of the public right-of-way (PROW) so they could operate. Cities, including St. Louis, would have multiple private companies providing public transit. Eventually cities would increase the fees for the track & overhead wires in the PROW or even require the operators to repave roads where they operated. This quickly made streetcar operations unprofitable. One solution, of course, was to abandon the track and use rubber tire vehicles — the bus.

Eventually governments bought up all the private systems — remaining streetcar lines and those that had been converted to bus. Remember, their origin was rooted in the development of real estate. With land developed these lines became strictly about moving people to/from. We need to retuning to the days of the connection between transit and development!

Which brings me back to Cleveland’s Healthline, it had an amazing $114.54 dollars of development for every dollar spent on the BRT line. Below is page 9 from More Development for Your Transit Dollar: An Analysis of 21 North American Transit Corridors.

Click to open larger version
Click to open larger version

As you can see from the BRT, LRT, and streetcar limes above the return on investment is all over the board. In the top section (Strong TOD Impacts) we see the LRT cost more than the BRT or streetcar lines, but had significantly less development.  A return of $3,74 on every dollar looks good until compared to $41.68 or more. Kansas City’s MAX bus line doesn’t even meet the basics to be BRT — yet it has had a return of $101.96 per dollar!

The report begins talking about the Metro subway system in Washington D.C. — a long & costly undertaking:

A growing number of US cities are finding, however, that metro or subway systems are simply too expensive and take too long to implement to effect significant changes in ongoing trends toward suburban sprawl. As such, cities are turning to lower-cost mass transit options such as LRT, BRT, and streetcars. These systems, which frequently use surface streets, are much less expensive and can be built more quickly than heavy-rail subways or metro systems. Over the past decade, some evidence has emerged that some LRT systems in the US have had positive development impacts. Outside of the US, in cities like Curitiba, Brazil, and Guangzhou, China, there is copious evidence that BRT systems have successfully stimulated development. Curitiba’s early silver-standard BRT corridors, completed in the 1970s, were developed together with a master plan that concentrated development along them. The population growth along the corridor rate was 98% between 1980 and 1985, compared to an average citywide population growth rate of only 9.5%. However, because bronze-, silver-, or gold-standard BRT is still relatively new to the US, evidence of the impact of good-quality BRT on domestic development is only now beginning to emerge and has been largely undocumented. (p14)

A detailed look at the Corridors with Strong TOD Impacts begins on page 110:

The analysis shows that all of the corridors in the Strong TOD Impacts category had Strong government TOD support and either Emerging or Strong land potential.

The only two transit corridors in our study that rate above bronze — the Cleveland HealthLine BRT and the Blue Line LRT — both fell into the Strong TOD Impacts category and were in Emerging
land markets. The Blue Line LRT leveraged $6.6 billion in new TOD investments, and the Cleveland HealthLine BRT leveraged $5.8 billion, making them the two most successful transit investments in the country from a TOD perspective. Portland achieved this over a much longer time period and in a stronger economy than Cleveland did.

In the Strong TOD Impacts category, three corridors with below-basic-quality transit had Strong land development potential and Strong government TOD support: the Portland Streetcar, the Seattle SLU Streetcar, and the Kansas City Main Street MAX.

In each of these cases, local developers and development authorities did not feel that the transit investment was all that critical to the TOD impacts. Thus, we can conclude that if the land market is strong enough, and the government TOD efforts strong enough, a below-basic transit investment might suffice; but a higher-quality transit investment could have even greater impacts.

Not all of the investment along Cleveland’s Healthline is urban. We visited this CVS  — built right after the line opened. The building is set back behind a fenced parking lot.

A typical suburban CVS is among the new development along Cleveland's Healthline
A typical suburban CVS is among the new development along Cleveland’s Healthline. Click image to view in Google Maps.
Like most newer CVS stores, it has an ADA accessible route out to the public sidewalk.
Like most newer CVS stores, it has an ADA accessible route out to the public sidewalk. In this view from the entry pedestrians must go left to the intersection to reach the EB & WB stations. If the entry were at the corner less walking would be required.

As I noted previously. a lot of the new development was on college & hospital campuses — it would’ve happened anyway — but it faces the street rather than looking internal (like SLU, BJC, etc).

I’ve got to read the full report a few more times so absorb it all — while recognizing it was written with a pro-BRT viewpoint.

Any TOD effort is most successful when land-use planning and urban development efforts are concentrated around a high-quality mass transit corridor that serves land with inherent development potential. Assistance from regional and city-level agencies, community development corporations, and local stakeholders can help create more targeted policies to direct development to such transit corridors. Local foundations can be critical to the process of funding redevelopment and providing capital and equity for projects. Local NGOs, which can communicate the projects to the public to help broaden support, are also important.

Although cities in the US are still far from fully transforming their declined urban neighborhoods into high-quality, mixed-use urban developments, they are well on their way. Gold-, silver-, or bronze-standard BRT, when combined with institutional, financial, and planning support for TOD, is proving to be a cost-effective way of rebuilding our cities into more livable, transit-oriented communities.

Regardless of their bias, the above is true — we’ve invested hundreds of millions in light rail and have little TOD to show for it because of poor land-use planning.

Like streetcars & LRT, I think BRT is a great option to consider in the St. Louis region, We can argue about the mode, but we need to take action to have land-use planning that will strongly support transit-oriented development!

— Steve Patterson

 

An Urban Home Depot

The following post first appeared on UrbanReview | CHICAGO

Big box retailers long had a standard formula: cheap building surrounded by acres of surface parking. More than a decade ago they began to experiment with new designs as they entered urban locations where land prices & population density meant acres of surface parking wasn’t possible. I recall seeing the Home Depot on N. Halsted under construction — I just can’t recall when. I do know it was open by March 2005:

The company has eight stores in the city, including a unique two-story, storefront-style location at 2665 N. Halsted St.

Like Target, Home Depot knows the value of a flexible footprint. That gives it more options in working its way closer to the urbanite customers it craves. The Halsted store doesn’t sell much lumber; it focuses on the tools and interior design products that North Side condo owners shop for.

A lot of city neighborhoods fit Home Depot’s demographic, which is neither wealthy nor poor. The main thing: plenty of homeowners. “Home Depot is looking for bungalow city,” says Mr. Kirsch of Baum Realty. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

Though I’d been past it numerous times since it opened, I never went inside. Last month my husband and I needed something from a hardware store. He called a couple of local places near the Streeterville condo where we stay while in Chicago but they didn’t have what we needed. Looking at transit to the various locations we decided the N. Halsted location would be the easiest.

The Home Depot on N. Halsted in Lincoln Park was built more than a decade ago.
The Home Depot on N. Halsted in Lincoln Park was built more than a decade ago.
The garage entry/exit is recessed from the sidewalk
The garage entry/exit is recessed from the sidewalk
The store has two interior levels
The store has two interior levels
Rooftop garden on 4
Rooftop garden on 4
The front of the 2-story store is mostly glass, the is on the 2nd floor
The front of the 2-story store is mostly glass, the is on the 2nd floor
The rooftop garden on 4. Parking is on 3 and the balance of 4
The rooftop garden on 4. Parking is on 3 and the balance of 4

The question is how do we get urban retail to take more urban form in areas where land isn’t so expensive? Can a city, like St. Louis, through zoning or incentives, create an atmosphere where retailers are willing to invest in more expensive buildings with structured parking?

— Steve Patterson

 

Restaurant & Patio May Be Coming To Tucker & Washington Ave

October 15, 2015 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Retail Comments Off on Restaurant & Patio May Be Coming To Tucker & Washington Ave

Earlier this month I posted an image of the micro-park, located at Washington Ave & Tucker Blvd, to Twitter & Facebook.  My caption was “Construction fencing up around pocket park Tucker & Washington Ave, plants & retaining walls removed.”

The image shared on social media on October 4th
The image shared on social media on October 4th
Another image I took on October 4th
Another image I took on October 4th

To fresh your memory, let’s go back a few months. My subject was the Arch from the 2009 All-Star game looking very shabby, thankfully it’s now gone.

July 2015
July 2015
Similar angle on October 5th
Similar angle on October 5th

Some thought the building owner wanted to extend their private parking lot toward Washington Ave. A building resident said the owner wants to build a patio for a future restaurant tenant.

You’ll recall five years ago the ground floor was occupied by a nightclub:

No restaurant has been named, but this could be very good for the area.  This land is privately owned, though some may say an easement was created over the years.

— Steve Patterson

 

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