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Competing Visions for Forest Park Avenue Corridor

Forest Park Ave from Kingshighway to Grand (map) is 1.6 miles long with the potential to be a dense urban corridor. Developers, however, would like to make it a typical low-density big box chain retail corridor. I’d like to show you why I believe two big box retail developments at Forest Park Avenue & Vandeventer are out of character, why these will undo the work others have done recently.

I had enough photos of various buildings along Forest Park Ave to write this post, but Saturday I spent about 90 minutes taking around 150 photos as I traveled the entire length in my wheelchair. Why go to such trouble? I believe cities can’t be properly understood driving through in a car, or worse, relying on Google street view. You’ve got to hit the pavement to really get what an area is about.

I got off the bus on Forest Park Ave at the first stop east of Kingshighway and returned downtown from the Grand MetroLink station, about 2 miles of travel.  Don’t worry, I’m only going to show you a small percentage of the images I took.

Looking east toward Euclid Ave we see numerous multi-story buildings, including medical, hotel, & apartments
Looking east toward Euclid Ave we see numerous multi-story buildings, including medical, hotel, & apartments, all recent structures
One low-rise strip center exists on the NE corner at Taylor Ave. If the St. Louis Streetcar gets built expect this 1985 building to be replaced with something more dense
One low-rise strip center exists on the NE corner at Taylor Ave. If the St. Louis Streetcar gets built expect this 1985 building to be replaced with something more dense
The Parkview Apts next door contain 192 units on a lot just 65% bigger than the strip center.
The 1972 Parkview Apts next door contain 192 units on a lot just 65% bigger than the strip center.
This 3-story apt building was built in 1930, it contains 24 units
This 3-story apt building was built in 1930, it contains 24 units. The building next door was built in 1908
Across Forest Park is the Rehab Institute, I had some outpatient physical therapy here.
Across Forest Park is the Rehab Institute, I had some outpatient physical therapy here.
Back on the north side of Forest Park we have a 242 unit building built in 1977
Back on the north side of Forest Park we have a 242 unit building built in 1977
This block contains older buildings as well
This block contains older buildings as well, all 2-3 stories
Same is true on the south side of Forest Park Ave
Same is true on the south side of Forest Park Ave
This is a very pleasant place  to be a pedestrian even with many cars passing by
This is a very pleasant place to be a pedestrian even with many cars passing by
The 3-story Cortex building from 2006 faces Forest Park Ave
The 3-story Cortex building from 2006 faces Forest Park Ave
Unfortunately this 2-story structure at S. Boyle, built in 1919, will be razed for a wide pedestrian mall leading to a new MetroLink station to be built 2 blocks south
Unfortunately this 2-story structure at S. Boyle, built in 1919, will be razed for a wide pedestrian mall leading to a new MetroLink station to be built 2 blocks south
Across the street a similar building was successfully renovated for an independence center and upscale resale store
Across the street a similar building was successfully renovated for an independence center and upscale resale store. This was built in 1931.
One of the few 1-story buildings, this one dates to 1912 and has many windows on the street-facing   facade. Currently a dialysis center.
One of the few 1-story buildings, this one dates to 1912 and has many windows on the street-facing facade. Currently used as a dialysis center.
The general rule, however, is 2-levels up to 6 or more at times. All front Forest Park Ave
The general rule, however, is 2-levels up to 6 or more at times. All front Forest Park Ave
Former Ford plant is now apartments with street-level retail
Former Ford plant is now apartments with street-level retail
Two of the four storefronts are still available.
Two of the four storefronts are still available.
The 3-story warehouse from 1901 is now part of the Center for Emerging Technologies
The 3-story warehouse from 1901 is now part of the Center for Emerging Technologies
A long-time Salvation Army facility, 3-stories facing Forest Park Ave
A long-time Salvation Army facility, 3-stories facing Forest Park Ave
A 2-story Laclede Gas building
A 2-story Laclede Gas building
A 2-story firehouse at Vandeventer
The 2-story firehouse at Vandeventer was built in 1965
A former warehouse facing Forest Park and another facing Laclede are apartments geared toward SLU students. The parking garage was set back enough to permit a shallow liner building.
A former warehouse facing Forest Park, and another facing Laclede, are apartments geared toward SLU students. The parking garage was set back enough to permit a shallow liner building.
At Spring Ave millions have been invested in existing urban buildings
At Spring Ave millions have been invested in existing urban buildings
Microbrewer Six Row is in the urban building on the SE corner at Spring Ave
Microbrewer Six Row is in the urban building on the SE corner at Spring Ave
Finally at Grand we have one of SLU's residence halls
Finally at Grand we have one of SLU’s residence halls, though not oriented to Forest Park Ave

As you can see each block for the last 1.5 miles from Kingshighway has buildings fronting Forest Park Ave, nearly all 2 or more floors. Seems like every decade since the early 20th century new buildings have followed this pattern. But now Pace wants to change the pattern drastically, a new vision.

Pace Properties wants to build a retail center, called Midtown Station, on Forest Park Ave. between Vandeventer and Spring.

Pace says the site is ideal because of its proximity to St. Louis University and Washington University, as well as major employers like Ameren Missouri, BJC and Wells Fargo. (KSDK)

From the development flyer:

Pace wants to have the backs of big boxes facing Forest Park Ave & Vandeventer Ave
Pace wants to have the backs of big boxes facing Forest Park Ave & Vandeventer Ave
This big box development (yellow) coupled with another to the west purple will completely undo the hard work and investment of  others along the Forest Park Ave corridor
This big box development (yellow) coupled with another to the west (purple) will completely undo the hard work and investment of others along the Forest Park Ave corridor

Next to Saint Louis University should be walkable retail shops, not the blank walls of the back of big boxes. I’m not opposed to retail, I’m opposed to the form these developments will likely take. I’m gathering examples of how this could be done much better, look for another post next month.

I don’t want this new suburban big box vision to reverse the urban corridor.

— Steve Patterson

 

Potential Development Sites Along Proposed Streetcar Line, Part 6: Compton to Vandeventer

As I’ve done for the last month, this is another post on potential development sites along the proposed initial route of the St. Louis Streetcar.  The sections already reviewed are as follows:

  1. Olive 15th-16th
  2. Olive 16th-18th
  3. 14th & Olive To North Florissant & St. Louis Ave.
  4. Olive 18th to Jefferson
  5. Jefferson to Compton

This post will cover the section from Olive & Compton to Lindell & Vandeventer (map). For those unfamiliar with the area, Olive splits off to the north but to motorists Olive becomes Lindell (pronounced Lindle). The entire south side of this stretch of Olive/Lindell is the campus of Saint Louis University (SLU). The north is a mix of SLU, private, and institutional properties.

We’ll start at Compton and head west.

ccc
Massive SLU parking garage could be fronted with a shallow “liner building” to create a relationship with the sidewalk.

The buildings & land on the other side of Lindell from SLU’s Compton Garage are ripe for development, I’m just lacking images of them.

ABOVE:
The intersection where Olive splits off to the right was redone a few years ago.
ABOVE:
gLooking the opposite direction
ABOVE: Looking south at a planned, but unmarked, crosswalk
It shouldn’t take a streetcar to make it safe
hotel.ignacio
Hotel Ignacio is just part of the development activity that has taken place here.
The Field House Pub & Grill is an example of positive things already underway in Midtown
The Field House Pub & Grill at 510 N. Theresa is an example of positive things already underway in Midtown
The streetcar can help the existing momentum and reduce the need for the excessive amount of surface parking.
The streetcar can help the existing momentum and reduce the need for the excessive amount of surface parking.
SLU could reskin this former state office building at 3545 Lindell, adding storefronts and new floors.
SLU could reskin this former state office building at 3545 Lindell, adding storefronts and new floors.
The SLU campus east of Grand has a prison feel, fences everywhere. SLU could remove the fencing to connect to the street, like the campus west of Grand.
The SLU campus east of Grand has a prison feel, fences everywhere. SLU could remove the fencing to connect to the street, like the campus west of Grand.
With a new building on the right, street trees along Grand would make this a pleasant route to take to reach the streetcar
With a new building on the right, street trees along Grand would make this a pleasant route to take to reach the streetcar
slumidtown2
Ideally SLU will build a new building on the SE corner of Lindell @ Grand
ABOVE: The once vibrant urban street corner is now a passive hole in the city
As well as the NE corner. I’d love to see a Trader Joe’s on the ground floor, with apartments above.

The corner of Lindell & Grand should get major new buildings. There are already substantial buildings in the area, especially to the north & west. These two corners were land banked by SLU so the streetcar is the perfect time to withdraw them and put them to good use activating the intersection.

I'd love to see the ground floor of Jesuit Hall activated with a cafe or bakery
I’d love to see the ground floor of Jesuit Hall activated with a cafe or bakery
The Lindell facade of Jesuit Hall also has opportunities for activity.
The Lindell facade of Jesuit Hall also has opportunities for activity.
The Masonic garage ob Olive is awful
The Masonic garage on Olive is awful, I can’t see this staying long-term
This section of Lindell has some stunning buildings, this is SLU's museum
This section of Lindell has some stunning buildings, this is SLU’s museum
The few gaps can be filled in with massive structures, student housing over retail would be nice at Lindell & Spring
The few gaps can be filled in with massive structures, student housing over retail would be nice at Lindell & Spring
Maybe we can widen the sidewalks along Spring
Maybe we can widen the sidewalks along Spring
3699 Olive
Eventually the owner of the auto repair shop at 3699 Olive @ Spring will retire and sell.
The Coronado was vacant for years until the Gill's renovated.
The Coronado was vacant for years until the Gill’s renovated.
Hopefully someone will find the right formula for the lower level space
Hopefully someone will find the right formula for the lower level space, several places have failed
A few years ago SLU razed two buildings here to make room for expansion of the law school. With the law school opening downtown this land plus the old law school are available
A few years ago SLU razed two buildings here to make room for expansion of the law school. With the law school opening downtown this land plus the old law school are available
The various modifications to the 1914 structure at 3765 Lindell has made it rather odd looking.
The various modifications to the 1914 structure at 3765 Lindell has made it rather odd looking.
The Crazy Bows & Wraps location might be developed. This 1961 structure was extensively remodeled in the 90s.
The Crazy Bows & Wraps location might be developed. This 1961 structure was extensively remodeled in the 90s.
In 1978 it was included as a "contributing structure" in the Midtown Historic District, click image to view district nomination.
In 1978 it was mentioned in the Midtown Historic District nomination as a “unfortunate intrusion which should not have been allowed”, click image to view district nomination.
This building was also part of the 1978 midtown historic district. This building should be saved as it contributes to both Lindell & Vandeventer.
This building, originally built for the Brotherhood of Railway & Airline Clerks, contributes to the 1978 midtown historic district. This building should be saved as it contributes to both Lindell & Vandeventer.

An interesting paragraph from the 1978 midtown nomination:

Unfortunately, Midtown is still perceived by many as a dangerous area riddled with street crime and all manner of urban ills, the most prominent of which is the current “black sploitation” fare served at the Fabulous Fox. In spite of this onus, a 1977 walking tour sponsored by the St. Louis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and New Town/St. Louis, Inc. drew hundreds of curious and concerned

St. Louisans to Midtown. The solution for the revitalization of existing structures and the continuing education of the general public will not be easy, but to abandon Midtown is to dismiss one of the strongest concentrations of architecturally significant buildings in St. Louis.

There is more developable area north of Lindell and  west of Spring, both vacant buildings and vacant land.

— Steve Patterson

 

MetroBus Guide For SLU Law Faculty, Staff, & Students

Very soon the Saint Louis University School of Law will move into a renovated building downtown, near the courts.

Last month (April 2013) the exterior of the new law school was basically complete, with new glass elements and a new top floor.
Last month (April 2013) the exterior of the new law school was basically complete, with new glass elements and a new top floor.
The same building in September 2012
The same building in September 2012

But this post isn’t about the alterations to the building, this post is meant to help faculty, staff & students understand how to use the MetroBus system.

The distance between the current law school on the main SLU campus and the new building is 2.3 miles via Lindell/Olive & Tucker. Driving time is 9 minutes end to end, but no parking is available at the ends, so walking time needs to be added.

Taking the #10 (Gravois Lindell) MetroBus is 16 minutes, per Google Maps, including walking time.  Time on the bus is 11 minutes plus 5 for walking, so taking the bus is competitive with driving in this example.

Those going from the main campus can catch the #10 in one of two places: on Lindell east of Spring or Lindell east of Grand. You’ll exit the bus on just after it turns on 14th St., next to the Ford Building.

Bus stop at 14th & Pine
Riders returning the SLU main campus can catch the #10 at this bus stop at 14th & Pine, the Ford Building at left is the stop for those going to the law school.

In the opposite direction you’ll walk two blocks west along Pine to the stop shown above. You can exit at Grand to Spring for the main campus.

Frequency is every 30 minutes, 40 minutes after 11pm. The #10 line is the bus I use most often, the 30 minute frequency isn’t a problem when you know the schedule. I personally don’t use the printed schedule, I just check the times on the Google Maps iPhone app (or online) as needed.

The bus route number is shown on the front left followed by the the final destination.
The bus route number is shown on the front left followed by the the final destination. This example is the #70 (Grand) MetroBus heading NB.
The route number & destination is also displayed on the curb side of the bus, just behind the door.
The route number & destination is also displayed on the curb side of the bus, just behind the door.

Here are some other things to remember:

  1. Make sure you look for your bus, if you are busy reading the bus driver may not realize you want to board and pass you.
  2. Transfers offer a good value. Say you board the bus at 10:30am and pay $3 ($2 fare + $1 transfer), you’ll get a transfer good until 1pm!
  3. Bus drivers can’t offer change, so having $1 bills is a good idea, a monthly pass is $72. Hopefully a new SLU administration will join the Metro campus programs like St. Louis Community College, Washington University, and University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL).
  4. Let others get off the bus before boarding, when you exit use the back door rather than the front door. This reduces delays.
  5. You’ll need to pull the cord to signal you want to stop at the next bus stop.
  6. Don’t be afraid to sit toward the back, the front seats must be given up for elderly & disabled passengers.
  7. Other MetroBus lines within 2 blocks of the law school include: 30, 41, 74, 94, 97, 99. Four blocks away at 14th & Market adds the 4 & 11.

Anyone else have any positive advice?

— Steve Patterson

 

My Wish List For The Next Saint Louis University President

Most likely you’ve already heard the news: Lawrence Biondi has announced he will retire as president of Saint Louis University.

The Rev. Lawrence Biondi surprised supporters and critics alike Saturday evening when he announced plans to retire from the presidency of St. Louis University.

The move follows months of campus strife that included no-confidence votes by faculty and students. (stltoday)

I’ve lived in St. Louis for nearly 23 years, most of Biondi’s 25-year tenure. I’ve witnessed the physical changes to the midtown campus along with everyone else. The public remains sharply divided on these changes. Some of us see the changes during his tenure as highly destructive and anti-urban, others view them as visionary, saving a once-dying campus.

Who’s right? Actually, both views are correct.

Biondi had a vision for the campus and was relentless in making it happen. Unfortunately, his vision was shaped by a perspective shared with many in his generation:

  1. Pedestrians stroll through park-like settings but use cars to actually get from point a to point b, pedestrians should be seperated from roads.
  2. Old urban cities are bad places with bad people, to be safe we must create physical barriers to keep them out of our space and to tell us where we shouldn’t go.
  3. Only poor people use public transit, everyone else has a car. In other words: transit brings troublesome poor folks while parking garages attracts desirable folks.
  4. Open space, with lush green lawns, solves problems.
  5. Residential, office, retail, industrial should all be separate from each other.

These views were formed in their youth, influenced by the General Motors Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair.

The 1939 GM "Futurama" exhibit imagined intersection of 1960 with pedestrians separated from autos
The 1939 GM “Futurama” exhibit imagined intersection of 1960 with pedestrians separated from autos, click image to view 6 minute YouTube video from the 1939 New York World’s Fair (highly recommended)

My hope is the next president of Saint Louis University will reject the beliefs listed above. That he/she will instead think:

  1. The university should embrace the city, not wall it off.
  2. Supporting public transit will greatly reduce the need to take on debt to build more parking garages
  3. Thriving areas beyond campus will enrich the student experience
  4. SLU is an urban campus, the public rights-of-way (roads/sidewalks) within our boundaries should be highly active
SLU's anti-urban research building on the SE corner of Grand & Chouteau
SLU’s anti-urban research building on the SE corner of Grand & Chouteau

What is the likelihood the Board of Trustees will select someone with a viewpoint radically different from Biondi with respect to urban planning? Right, not very high…

— Steve Patterson

 

SLU’s Sculpture Garden Not Accessible To All

The northeast corner of Grand & Lindell, once an urban corner, is Saint Louis University’s Ellen Clark Sculpture Park. This large open site contains a number of sculptures that apparently please SLU President Lawrence Biondi.

ABOVE: The once vibrant urban street corner is now a passive hole in the city
ABOVE: The once vibrant urban street corner is now a passive hole in the city

I’ve only seen the colorful sculptures from the public sidewalk surrounding the fenced space. It is open to the public but the design isn’t accessible to those of us using wheelchairs.

Bare dirt at both entrances is  an invitation to get stuck. Even grassy areas can be a challenge for my power chair and nearly impossible for those in manual chairs.
Bare dirt at both entrances is an invitation to get stuck. Even grassy areas can be a challenge for my power chair and nearly impossible for those in manual chairs.

I can walk with my cane if there was a way to get my chair inside the gates so I don’t have to leave it out on the sidewalk to risk being stolen.  I’d think this sculpture garden should comply with the ADA due to #9 below:

Under the ADA public accommodations are private entities that own, lease, lease to or operate a place of public accommodation. This means that both a landlord who leases space in a building to a tenant and the tenant who operates a place of public accommodation have responsibilities to remove barriers.

A place of public accommodation is a facility whose operations affect commerce and fall within at least one of the following 12 categories:

  1. Places of lodging (e.g., inns, hotels, motels, except for owner-occupied establishments renting fewer than six rooms)
  2. Establishments serving food or drink (e.g. , restaurants and bars)
  3. Places of exhibition or entertainment (e.g. , motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls, stadiums)
  4. Places of public gathering (e.g. , auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls)
  5. Sales or rental establishments (e.g. , bakeries, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centers)
  6. Service establishments (e.g. , laundromats, dry-cleaners, banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair services, funeral parlors, gas stations, offices of accountants or lawyers, pharmacies, insurance offices, professional offices of health care providers, hospitals)
  7. Public transportation terminals, depots, or stations (not including facilities relating to air transportation)
  8. Places of public display or collection (e.g. , museums, libraries, galleries)
  9. Places of recreation (e.g. , parks, zoos, amusement parks)
  10. Places of education (e.g. , nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private schools)
  11. Social service center establishments (e.g. , day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies)
  12. Places of exercise or recreation (e.g. , gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses) (source)

b

The park also serves as a dog park
The park also serves as a dog park

SLU installed a bag dispenser so dog owners can clean up and Biondi likes seeing dogs there.

“I am a dog lover,” said Biondi, who has an 8-year-old golden retriever named Iggy, in honor of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit order. “But even if I didn’t love dogs, I’d still want the dogs in the park. It’s a nice opportunity for the community to get together and come to the campus and form friendships.” (stltoday.com)

Even as a dog park it has issues. If I were to try to enter the park there’s a risk someone’s dog might escape since no vestibule is provided.

Officially the entire corner is temporary, the university sought development  proposals when the recession hit. Rather than make the park accessible I’d much prefer to see it get redeveloped. SLU has tons of open land, plenty of space exists to create another dog park nearby.

Marina Building August 1977
Marina Building August 1977

The historic Marina Building was only two stories high but a new building could be many more floors given the height of others in the area. I’d love to see a Trader Joe’s in the ground floor of a new building.

Here’s an interesting tidbit I ran across researching this post:

This year [2011] marks the sesquicentennial of the Camp Jackson massacre at this site, then known as Lindell Grove on the western edge of the city. On May 10, 1861, federal troops — already on edge and spooked by the sound of gunfire — fired into the crowd, killing 28 civilians, including several children, and wounding nearly 100 more. From 1929 to 1959 a monument to the event stood nearby, but it was banished when a descendant of Daniel M. Frost, general of the pro-Confederate Missouri militia, donated funds for Saint Louis University to purchase the midtown Frost Campus. Today, the site houses the Ellen Clark Sculpture Park, which is full of colorful abstractions reflective of Saint Louis University president Lawrence Biondi’s taste in art. Not even a small plaque commemorates the historic event or the two dozen-plus civilians who died here. (RFT Best Hidden Historical Site – 2011)

– Steve Patterson

 

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