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Porano Pasta Is Just What Downtown Needed

February 5, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Retail 5 Comments

The closing of two long-time downtown restaurants last month got a lot of media attention, so did the new restaurant that opened: Porano Pasta.

News of this restaurant broke a year ago:

Chef Gerard Craft of Niche and its affiliated restaurants will open a fast-casual concept called Porano Pasta & Gelato at the Mercantile Exchange downtown. Porano will draw on the food served at Craft’s Clayton restaurant Pastaria and follow what he calls the “Chipotle format.”

[snip]

Porano will be open for lunch and dinner. Diners will build their meals by choosing a base (organic semolina pasta, gluten-free pasta, farro, focaccia or lettuce), a protein (slow-roasted beef brisket, pork shoulder, pork meatballs, grilled free-range chicken, Calabrian-spiced tofu or roasted seasonal vegetables) and a sauce (pomodoro, pomodoro with smoked pork or roasted red pepper) or salad dressing.

Diners can further customize their meal with such toppings as cheese, anchovies and pickled chiles. Pastaria gelato will be available in single-serve cups (complete with wooden spoons).

Porano will take over the space at 634 Washington Avenue previously occupied by Takaya New Asian. Craft projects a summer opening date.

They didn’t make their original schedule — it has only been open for a few weeks. Right now they’re only open for weekday lunch, but hours will soon be extended into the evening and weekends.

Porano Pasta at 7th & Washington Ave is inviting
Porano Pasta at 7th & Washington Ave is inviting
The place filled quickly on my visit on Wednesday
The place filled quickly on my visit on Wednesday
You go through a line where you pick your items and the staff assemble your dish. It moved very quickly.
You go through a line where you pick your items and the staff assemble your dish. It moved very quickly.
I got the organic semolina pasta, pomodoro sauce, half spicy tofu & half seasonal veggies two kinds & crunch garlic.
I got the organic semolina pasta, pomodoro sauce, half spicy tofu & half seasonal veggies two kinds & crunch garlic. $8.95
As "fast casual" you don't use fine dinnerware. but everything I used can be recycled. -- including the bowl & fork
As “fast casual” you don’t use fine dinnerware. but everything I used can be recycled. — including the bowl & fork
A staff person is often around to help, but I noticed recyclable items in the trash container on the right.
A staff person is often around to help, but I noticed recyclable items in the trash container on the right.

Fast casual pasta has been tried downtown before — remember 10th Street Italian or Pasta House Pronto!? Both of those were failed concepts, but Porano Pasta has nailed the concept. While $8.95 isn’t cheap, the same meal on good china with metal silverware would cost twice as much and take at least twice as long.

The location is ideal, lots of daily foot traffic. With a great mix of restaurants & a theater, the MX is a happening spot. Soon the Blues Museum will open across the street.

My one suggestion is a new sign over the recycling bin that has images of what can be recycled.

— Steve Patterson

 

Two Downtown Restaurants Closing This Weekend

January 25, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Retail 1 Comment

I’ve lived in St. Louis for more than 25 years now, the last 8+ downtown (Downtown West). In this time, many restaurants have come and gone all over the region.  Anniually publications highlight closings & openings — RFT’s 2013 Openings & Closings, for example.

Restaurants close for a variety of reasons.

According to a frequently cited study by Ohio State University on failed restaurants, 60% do not make it past the first year, and 80% go under in five years. (Food Network Chef Robert Irvine Shares The Top 5 Reasons Restaurants Fail)

At the end of this month two longtime downtown restaurants will close: Mike Shannon’s Steaks & Seafood and Harry’s Restaurant & Bar.

On the heels of Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood (closing Jan. 30), Prime 1000, the Dubliner and Joe Buck’s shuttering, comes word that Harry’s Restaurant & Bar will close after a celebration Jan. 29-30.

Harry’s co-owner Tim Pieri confirmed to the Post-Dispatch that the sprawling complex at 2144 Market Street will close after nearly two decades. Harry’s includes a dining area along with a patio and the Horizon at Harry’s nightclub. (Post-Dispatch)

Shannon’s will focus on their two other locations — Edwardsville & the airport. Harry’s only has the one location.

Only photo I could find of 620 Market, where Shannon's was located on the ground floor. February 2012. Click image for map.
Only photo I could find of 620 Market, where Shannon’s was located on the ground floor. February 2012. Click image for map.

City records online don’t list the date the building was constructed. In 1969 the Spanish Pavilion (briefly) opened on the block, this building appears on a 1971 aerial.  In the early 1990s the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, our Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), was located on the 2nd floor.  I have no recollection what was on the 1st floor prior to Shannon’s relocating here 10-15 years ago. They installed new windows along Market — making a strong connection to the public realm. Pedestrians could see the beautiful dining room & bar — though both were slightly higher. I ate there once 5-8 years, a friend was treating. Great food & service. Convenient location, we arrived as pedestrians.

The location is excellent, very close to Busch Stadium. Unfortunately, the city allowed the Cardinals/Cordish to build Ballpark Village without pedestrian access from 7th Street. So anyway wanting to eat here before or after a baseball game were forced to walk in auto driveways or a circuitous route to stay on marginal sidewalks.  This didn’t cause them to close, but it didn’t help. It also presents physical challenges for the next tenant of the space.

Harry's address is 2144 Market St, but the entry is on 22nd St, click image for map
Harry’s address is 2144 Market St, but the entry is on 22nd St, click image for map
Looking North on 22nd toward Market. FBI on left, Harry's on right
Looking North on 22nd toward Market. FBI on left, Harry’s on far right

On paper Harry’s location is also good: surrounded by hotels and at a highway on/off ramp. The building was built in 1964, for years a Mercedes-Benz dealership was across 22d  Street — now the FBI.  I remember the auto dealership, but I don’t recall what was in the Harry’s building. The dealership closed in 1995 — about the same time Harry’s opened.

I’ve never eaten at Harry’s — never had any desire. The building isn’t inviting. They took the on-street parking for valet use. Though I live closer to Harry’s than to Shannon’s, pedestrian access is basically impossible. Not the building — getting there. I was able to photograph the conditions in June 2010:

The sidewalks between Harry's and Union Station aren't friendly to the able-bodied -- impossible for the rest of us.
The sidewalks between Harry’s and Union Station aren’t friendly to the able-bodied — impossible for the rest of us.
Another example
Another example

Even a guest at the hotel across Market St from Harry’s would have a challenge walking to dinner. But again, even if it was a walker’s paradise the building isn’t inviting.

One photo from their website. Seriously?
One photo from their website. Seriously?

I looked at their menus and photos — how did they stay open this long?

[Harry’s owner] Pieri cited a familiar scenario: “It’s the economy, the highway closing, Ballpark Village. Downtown is just a dead area right now, unfortunately. Obviously, the sad part is nobody is talking about it. Iconic places are going out of business, and nobody cares.

“Ballpark Village was the nail in the coffin. It shut down Washington Avenue and took 70 percent of our business. We thought it would be more like 10 or 20 percent. It took the people left who were coming to downtown.”

He said the closing of Highway 40 (Interstate 64) for construction in various stages between 2007 and 2009affected Harry’s because “St. Louisans are creatures of habit. When it was closed for 2½ years, they went elsewhere.”

Pieri thinks there’s a downward swing that will continue until downtown books more conventions and brings crime under control. “People are afraid to come downtown,” he said. (Post-Dispatch)

The closing of Harry’s isn’t a shock to me.

— Steve Patterson

 

SUV Blocked Pedestrian Path At The Boulevard

Last Saturday morning we drove out to The Boulevard to get a gift at Crate & Barrel.  When we arrived and left a large SUV was parked blocking the crosswalk.

The owner was sitting in his SUV blocking the crosswalk when we arrived and when we left
The owner was sitting in his SUV blocking the crosswalk when we arrived and when we left

A person was inside, but I didn’t confront him other than giving him a dirty look as I slowly walked around with my cane.

This person was either:

  1. Waiting to pick up someone who was shopping, or
  2. Security

I emailed the property manager at Pace Properties, asking if this person was security. I’ve not heard back.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

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

 

 

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