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Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

May 30, 2018 Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design, SLU, Walkability Comments Off on Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

Grand Avenue runs through Saint Louis University’s main campus. It’s very busy because other North-South options like Spring & Theresa were vacated years ago. This means North-South that had 5 options now have 3: Vandeventer, Grand, and Compton. To handled the increased volume, on-street parking was removed. Without having to slow for cars parking, speeds increased. For pedestrians this is dangerous.

Since the city has given away public right-of-way (aka streets) to private property owners for years this problem exists throughout the city.  The proposed solution is the same superficial one — decorative crosswalks. The warm & fuzzy element of urban planning.

SLU’s rendering of proposed changes to Grand where West Pine used to be

Here again is what SLU is planning at Lindell, where West Pine used to be, and Laclede:

The project calls for the elimination of one of the three northbound lanes on Grand, which will allow the remaining lanes and the median to be widened. Bollards will also be installed to protect pedestrians who are about to cross the street as well as those who might be standing in the median. The roadway where the crosswalk is, will be changed to a brick-like surface to enhance the look and remind drivers to slow down. (KMOV)

Let’s take a closer look at each element.

  • Removal of one Northbound travel lane: Reducing the number of travel lanes is good.
  • Widen the remaining travel lanes & median: While widening the median is ok. increasing the width of travel lanes is the wrong thing to do! Wider lanes means driver’s feel safe at higher speeds. The remaining lanes should either be kept at their current width or reduced if you want to slow vehicles to increase pedestrian safety.
  • Bollards installed: In this context bollards gov an impression of safety, though they might help since cars will be going even faster on wider lanes.

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I’ve long been interested in the Grand & formerly West Pine crosswalk. I visited and observed at 4:45pm on Tuesday September 21, 2010 — nearly 8 years ago.

The crosswalk was highly visible to pedestrians & motorists, September 2010

After I observed the crosswalk and took the photo (above) I decided to record what I was witnessing,

Here are the problems I listed at the end of the video:

  1. Signal timing is too long for pedestrians, they get tired of waiting and cross when they can. The timing needs to change so pedestrians can safely cross more frequently.
  2. The pedestrian button, like most in St. Louis, doesn’t do anything. Even the one person who pressed the button crossed before getting the “walk” signal.  Eliminate the button or make the signal change quickly once pressed.

The fixes, save for shortening the crossing distance & giving students more space to stand between traffic, won’t make this crossing any safer. It’s possible the dark bricks will be less noticeable to motorists than the white paint. I know from a wheelchair perspective brick crosswalks are highly annoying. Motorists need to slow down before they reach the crosswalk.

Looking North on the East side of Grand, June 2011

One of the big problems is the lack of anything to get motorists to slow down: parked cars, narrow lanes, or — my favorite — street trees. It feels too wide open so motorists feel ok going faster than they should. Other things to do would be rumble strips in the pavement prior to reaching the crosswalk. make traffic stop more frequently during busy times, embed flashing LED lights in the lane markers ,a lighted sign overhead, etc.

Sadly too many are fooled by this region’s superficial efforts to appear to make pedestrian-friendly environments. Here’s the results of the recent non-scioentiofic Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Proposed changes to the crosswalk on Grand South of Lindell will greatly improve safety for pedestrians.

  • Strongly agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Somewhat agree 7 [31.82%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Disagree 4 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 1 [4.55%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

This crosswalk will, to most eyes, look better. Aesthetics aside, it won’t perform any better — it might be worse. This is a way for SLU to mitigate damages from a future lawsuit by claiming they made an effort to improve safety. Actual safety is perceived as too inconvenient to motorists.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

New Saint Louis University Hospital An Opportunity To Build A Great Urban Mixed-Use Campus

On Tuesday SSM Health took over Saint Louis University Hospital from Saint Louis University, at the same time announcing plans to construct a new facility:

SSM Health plans to invest $500 million to build a new St. Louis University hospital and ambulatory care center. 

The new facilities, which will be situated in the immediate vicinity of the current 365-bed hospital near the midtown campus of St. Louis University, will be completed within five years, SSM officials said. (Post-Dispatch)

Uncertainty of the existing Desloge Tower left many wondering if it might be razed.

Desloge Tower in 2011
Desloge Tower in 2011

First, some background:

Going back in the history books, Firmin Desloge Hospital was officially dedicated on November 3, 1933, rising 250 feet and topped by a French Gothic roof of copper-covered lead. Over the next several weeks, it began admitting its first patients. It was unique for its time, offering patients private or semi-private rooms instead of the open ward model common in most hospitals. Desloge Tower served as the main hospital building of the Saint Louis University Medical Center until 1959 when Firmin Desloge Hospital, the Bordley Memorial Pavilion and the David P. Wohl Sr. Memorial Institute were collectively renamed Saint Louis University Hospital.

Desloge Tower is also home to the chapel of Christ the Crucified King, commonly known as Desloge Chapel, which was designed by Gothic revivalist architect, Ralph Adams Cram, who was a prolific and influential American architect of collegiate and ecclesiastical buildings. The chapel was designed to echo the contours of the St. Chapelle in Paris, which was Louis IX’s palace chapel, and in 1983, Desloge Chapel was declared a landmark by the Missouri Historical Society.

Desloge Tower continues to serve SLU Hospital with physician offices, gastroenterology, interventional radiology and the cardiac catheterization lab.

Its image is a well-recognized part of the St. Louis skyline, and is often the symbol of the hospital itself. (SLU Hospital)

With a fresh start nearby, it does mean the future is uncertain. The future of the old Pevely Dairy just to the North is more certain — it’ll likely be gone.

The former Pevely Dairy at Grand & Chouteau, 2011
The former Pevely Dairy at Grand & Chouteau, 2011

I’m fine with the Pevely coming down — as long as the new facilities are very urban in form. This is on the route of the busiest MetroBus route in the region — the #70 (Grand), and the #32 (ML King-Chouteau) runs in Chouteau. Just to the North is the Grand MetroLink (light rail) station.

Westbound #32 MetroBus on Chouteau just barely west of Grand. The Pevely bldg is to the left. 2012
Westbound #32 MetroBus on Chouteau just barely west of Grand. The Pevely bldg is to the left. 2012
#70 MetroBus riders at the Grand MetroLink station, August 2012. Dislodge Tower can be seen in the distance
#70 MetroBus riders at the Grand MetroLink station, August 2012. Dislodge Tower can be seen in the distance

What many in St. Louis, especially at City Hall, fail to realize is facilities can be friendly to motorists and pedestrians — these are not mutually-exclusive. The street grid need-not be decimated to create a campus.

Looking east along Erie St at Fairbanks, Chicago IL
Looking east along Erie St at Fairbanks, Chicago IL

When we visit Chicago next month, our 4th time in 2015, we’ll be staying in a friend’s condo located within the Northwestern Medicine/Northwestern Memorial Hospital campus. The sidewalks are packed with people visiting street-level restaurants. The internal walkway system and lots of parking garages hasn’t made the sidewalks a ghost town.

SSM Health is going to build a new complex. Now’s the opportunity to look at how medical campuses in other cities can be vibrant active places that are also convenient to those using cars. Dislodge Tower could become a mixed-use building with retail, restaurants, offices, and residential.

— Steve Patterson

 

Thankfully Biondi Wasn’t Allowed To Immediately Raze The Pevely Building

A few years ago Saint Louis University was determined to raze the Pevely Dairy building at Chouteau & Grand (see Pevely Dairy Fate to be Decided Today, or Not?). The city said they could raze the building — once they apply for a building permit for the medical building they intended to build to the South — the site of the Pevely Dairy was to be lawn and driveway. Many of us who fought against demolition felt defeated, eventually they’d submit plans for an awful new building set far back from the road and the historic warehouse would come down.

2011: The historic Pevely Dairy maintains the building line at both Grand & Chouteau
2011: The historic Pevely Dairy maintains the building line at both Grand & Chouteau

However, their project didn’t go forward! Thankfully the city’s Preservation Board had the good sense to require a real project before allowing the demolition. See SLU May Pass on Pevely Site for New Medical Facility.

View from Grand last month
View from Grand last month

So now it’s three years later, Biondi is no longer SLU’s president.  Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t see any news about the fate of the building and the acres of vacant land to the south. I’d love to see it get a new use as part of a larger project. I’d also like to see the big red letters spelling PEVELY returned to the rooftop sign. Pevely Hall?

— Steve Patterson

 

Saint Louis University Law School Shuttle

One reason for trying to build the St. Louis Streetcar is to reduce the number of polluting buses on the streets, in particular, from shuttles for the new Saint Louis University School of Law (my review of the building). The law school is open and the diesel-powered shuttles are very visible.

Shuttle in front of Scott Hall
Shuttle in front of Scott Hall
Shuttle on Locust at 9th, near Culinaria
Shuttle idling on Locust at 9th, near Culinaria

Here’s a quick summary of the route:

Scott Hall Shuttle You can access Scott Hall from the main university and designated law school parking via a new shuttle. Hours and information can be found here. The shuttle will connect Scott Hall to the main University campus, Salus Center and the law school parking at Schnucks Culnaria and 1215 Olive St. surface lot. The final shuttle runs from Scott Hall at 10:10 p.m. with drop-offs at Culinaria, the 1215 parking lot and finally at Busch Student Center. (source)

And here’s visuals:

Scott Hall Shuttle route map on SLU website
Scott Hall Shuttle route map on SLU website
Close up of the route in the central business district
Close up of the route in the central business district

Seems excessive too me, especially when they sit and idle, spewing diesel fumes. Guess law students won’t mix with the general public with such an elaborate shuttle system at their disposal. Presumably, though, amy SLU faculty, staff, or student, can ride it.

— Steve Patterson

 

SLU’s New Law School Breathed New Life Into An Old Building, Downtown

September 30, 2013 Downtown, Featured, SLU 25 Comments

The building at 100 North Tucker was built by a developer in 1964, opening for office tenants in 1965. Typical for that era, the 11-story structure had low ceilings and small windows. It was plain, a dog. It’s been “functionally obsolete” for decades now.  Occupancy dwindled to the point the last owner donated it to his alma mater, Saint Louis University.

The same building in September 2012
100 North Tucker in September 2012, before renovations

Last week I got to tour the Saint Louis University School of Law, the new occupant of the building. The tour was organized by the St. Louis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, our guides were architects from The Lawrence Group who worked on the project.

Turns out the structure was designed to have two more floors to be added later. So one tall floor was added.
Turns out the structure was designed to have two more floors to be added later. So one tall floor was added. Two previously unused elevator shafts got new elevators to the 12th, the originals stop at 11
The library occupies the 5th & 6th floors with views of the St. Louis courts to the south
The library occupies the 5th & 6th floors with views of the St. Louis courts to the south
The south end of the new top floor is an event space, wheelchair access is provided by a ramp out of view
The south end of the new top floor is an event space, wheelchair access is provided by a ramp out of view
The glass wall of the 12th floor offers great views downtown. A mock courtroom occupies the north end of the floor.
The glass wall of the 12th floor offers great views downtown. A mock courtroom occupies the north end of the floor.
A small class was having a mock trial inside the courtroom
A small class was having a mock trial inside the courtroom during our tour
View looking east
View looking east

I’ve not been happy with the direction former SLU President Larry Biondi took the main campus (fenced fortress) but his last project looks to be a winner.  I’ve not tried The Docket restaurant on the ground floor yet, but at lunch on the day of the tour I saw a SLU law student at Empire Deli on Washington. An ugly building was given new life while adding many more people downtown.

Congrats and thank you to everyone that made this happen!

— Steve Patterson

 

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