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Halliday St. Illegal Parking Pad Fiasco Ends, Portion of Street Likely Given Away

OK, so here is what you do if you buy a property to rehab that has no parking. First, you pave over any bit of yard that exists on a Saturday when you won’t get caught. One of two things will happen, you either get left alone and get to keep the parking or “compromise” and get the alderman to give you a portion of the publicly owned right-of-way for you to include with your property.

I first blogged about this in June of last year (post) and a fourth time in August 2007 (post w/links to other posts). Last month, after wearing down the neighboring residents, something finally happened. The pad, illegally placed in the front yard, began to be removed.
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Now, this sounds wonderful. As we can see from the image below…
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…the pavement is now gone from the front yard after a six month prolonged process. The developer had promised parking to his buyers and rather than face the music for such a commitment the city is going to come along and bail him out — by giving him part of the public street.

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This quiet one-way street in the Tower Grove East neighborhood is about to get some angled parking for the condo residents. I personally have no objection to the switch to angled parking or even issuing them permits for their exclusive use of those spaces. My issue is with the city vacating a portion of the street so it can be given over to private residents. Late last year Ald. Conway confirmed with me that he was trying to get Todd Waelterman, Director of Streets, so sign off on the vacation. I have not received a response from Waelterman that this has indeed happened.

In a city public space, the collective street, sidewalk, etc…, should be valued highly. It is these public rights of way that service as connectors to all privately owned land. It is the use and arrangement of these spaces that define a street as part of a walkable community or simply as a suburban arterial road with no redeeming public value. Cities like St. Louis need to treasure our publicly owned land that we have in our streets and alleys.

 

Restaurant Cuts Dinner Hours Due to Highway 40 Closure

The Southside Journal is reporting that Giuseppe’s Ristorante at Grand & Meremac is axing it’s dinner hours starting next week, in anticipation of a drop in business from it’s largely West County clientele.

When the highway reopens, Giuseppe’s could start its evening hours again.”Sixty percent of our customers live in West County,” said Forrest Miller, who owns the restaurant with Eric Stockmann and Mark Manfrede. “You can’t expect people to go through that aggravation.”

While I think that many people on all sides of the construction zone will spend more time nearer their homes, I still think people will venture out for an evening meal to a well-known place they enjoy. The Fox and Symphony will continue. Life will continue, unless places begin to shutter their doors beforehand.

“When they closed the highway last summer, each time they closed it our weekend business was in the tank,” said Miller, who also owns the popular South County banquet hall Royale Orleans at 2801 Telegraph Road with his wife Donna. “We noticed our business was off like 60 percent every weekend.”

“This is a big restaurant,” Miller said. “If you have a bad day, you go in the hole.”

I appreciate that restaurants cannot have food prepared only to send it home with the staff because their business was down. Still, the temporary shut downs that we had were very temporary — a solitary weekend here and there. People were like, “let’s just go some place close tonight.” Well, that is going to wear off very soon.

In January our roads will be a mess. However, I think folks will get into a routine and before long it will seem rather normal. Someone coming for an 8pm Saturday dinner reservation will still manage. They might do well to consider a weekend only evening schedule, say Thursday-Sunday, starting in February. Still, the Feasting Fox across the intersection might pick up some business from people that arrive for dinner only to find the establishment closed.
Forrest Miller spoke at the stop highway 40 closure meeting last week held by Joe Passanise.

 

The Disappearing Urban Billboard

I’ve talked at length before about signs and billboards (here and here). These days it is all about the large-scale vinyl banner but in earlier times what wasn’t painted on the side of a building was set on the roof.  I had never given these old billboards much thought, until recently.

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Above is the Farmers and Merchants building in February of 2006 with an advertisement for the phone book, of all things. To preservation purists the billboard is an eyesore. The platform in front of the billboard masks the decorative elements along the parapet of the building and adds a cluttered look, right?

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Above, in November 2007, the billboard is gone but the framework remains — for now. Soon the framework will be off to a metal recycler. Standing in the beautifully renovated South Side National Bank, now condos, with a representative from The Lawrence Group I couldn’t help feel a sudden loss when he indicated it was going away. “No!” I cried out.

I can’t fault the Lawrence Group, well, not too much.  They own the building and want to do a new roof, hard to argue with that logic.  I know if they wanted to install such a billboard folks would be upset.  This, of course, got me wondering if I’d be one of those objecting to a large display of commercialism if this same billboard were proposed today.
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Near my office, on South Kingshighway, is another rooftop billboard above the yummy Lily’s restaurant. This helps answer my question — I think I’d be able to support having such billboards along commercial streets.  I’d be cautious about light pollution — excess light cast into nearby windows from the billboard.  But in general, I rather like it.
Even though I don’t always like the message on the billboard, I like the presence.  It adds a nice touch of urban messiness to the street.  I like the shadows they cast.  I like the details of the metal structure and the supports where the structure touches the roof or exterior masonry walls.  I don’t want St. Louis to become Times Square or Las Vegas but such are part of our culture.

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Above is from a scene in the classic 1992 film, Strictly Ballroom, with Scott and Fran dancing on the roof amongst the laundry and a Coke billboard.  OK, that was based in Australia — see how universal the billboard truly is.  We have Billboard magazine and I’m sure we’ve all seen a sitcom or two with folks up on a billboard trying to change the message.

I like urban clutter, but not just any clutter.  I don’t like tons of little (or big) vinyl banners affixed to the face of buildings.   I’m also not a fan of the big billboard on a pole — just sticking up in the air, often next to the highway.  But there is something about the rooftop billboard that I find endearing.

As a matter of public policy, I wouldn’t go so far as to prevent an owner from removing a billboard from their building but I could also see circumstances where not only might such a sign be welcomed, but actually encouraged.  I could imagine allowing property owners along major streets to erect billboards as part of a development project — as an incentive for doing a more urban project.  For example, say Walgreens were to renovate an existing urban building (aka up to sidewalk, parking on-street/behind) and then lease the 2nd floor apartments.  I’d let them have a billboard on the roof for that.

I’d want it to be at least on a two-story building.  Again, issues of light pollution would need to be addressed.  Not Times Square, just enough to upset the anti-clutter folks.

 

Aldermen Pass Legislation to Approve 10-Year Tax Abatement for Strip Center

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen just “perfected” Board Bill #257 giving the suburban strip mall at 2000-2014 South 7th (aka Broadway to most of us) at Russell 10-year tax abatement. Basically the building, built as part of a prior redevelopment plan, was considered “blighted” because it was vacant.

IMG_4828.JPG Last month the project added a sidewalk connecting a portion, but not all, of the storefronts to the public sidewalk system. For more information click here.

 

Schmid Names All Association Members to Nominating Committee In Marine Villa Neighborhood

It’s been a tough year for Alderman Craig Schmid. The old guard controlling the Cherokee Station Business Association were ousted (see post). Schmid then faced a primary opponent to keep his seat (which he did) and neighbors in the Marine Villa neighborhood, where he serves as President, have been pressuring him on the leadership of the organization.

Neighbors have been pushing for open elections, per the 1969 bylaws they finally got a copy of earlier this year (see post). These bylaws call for the President to create a “Nominating Committee” of an unspecified number of persons. So what does Schmid do? He mails out a letter to all members stating they are all on the nominating committee. He is asking them to mail back to him their nomination.

NominationFormEnv Several things I should note about this, I received copies of these mailings via an anonymous email account. The mailings were sent out in official Board of Alderman envelopes, despite not being official aldermanic business (image at right, click to see larger version in Flickr). Presumably city tax payers bought the envelopes for official business? The mailings were stamped so we don’t really know who funded the postage. Ditto for the return envelopes which had postage affixed.

Despite this questionable use of taxpayer funded materials (envelopes at a minimum) the mailed out form listed all six positions up for nomination. However, it gives the member only one place to nominate for a single office. Must these members run out to Kinko’s to make multiple copies of this form to nominate someone for each office?

One last thing the sender pointed out to me — the materials sent have conflicting boundaries for the neighborhood. The bylaws state Jefferson as the Western boundary and I-55 as the Eastern boundary. However, a flyer for their next meeting on January 28, 2008 indicates California (street) as the Western boundary and the river as the Eastern boundary. Maybe the first order of business at the next meeting might be to nail down those boundaries once and for all?

Click here to view the 3-pages mailed to members (I’ve circled the boundary sections on pages 2 & 3). Their next meeting is on the 28th of January although the flyer doesn’t list the time. Their website says 6:30pm. I’m thinking this will be an interesting meeting to attend.

 

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