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The Magic Continues at Loughborough Commons

It has been a while since I’ve written about Loughborough Commons, the big box retail center receiving something like $14 million in various tax incentives. They been busy building some more retail square footage and preparing for some new tenants to open soon. This is simply a teaser post to show you a couple of the things I’ve been watching for a while.
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Above, a staircase leads you down to the parking lot for the multi-unit strip center from the public sidewalk along Loughborough. So we have an SSC — sunken strip center. Or is the center depressed rather than sunken? Or simply depressing? When this stair was announced in the Holly Hills neighborhood newsletter a while back, prior to construction, they made mention of a bike rack at the bottom of the stairs. And here it is — a bike rack at the bottom of stairs.

A bike rack at the bottom of stairs! Get it? Pretty convenient location if you are capable of biking down a set of stairs. So when you bike into the parking area from the complete opposite side you might decide to ride over here to lock up your bike — if you know it is there. And yes, the bike rack is the same width as the concrete pad so that on the off chance the front side is full and you need to use the back side you must push your bike through the grass and shrubs, assuming the sprinkler system is not on. I’m not sure how they expect you to bike back up the stairs.

Those that bike for transportation might have actually appreciated not having to lift their bike over the curb. Say you’ve got one of those handy kid holders on the back of your bike — suddenly the bike is a lot heavier and the kid is precious cargo. Those biking through the park with a kid trailer are simply out of luck as no place is big enough to park your bike & kid trailer. Well, unless you can pick up both over the curb and through the shrubs you can leave the trailer on the grass portion at the back.

I’m also really fond of the ADA ramp at the bottom of the stairs. That will actually come in quite handy for everyone taking their wheelchair up & down the stair. The red truncated domes serving as a “detectable warning” for those with visual impairments are meant to be felt under foot to alert someone when entering a road — not a parking area. That is communicating to someone the are entering a street situation. Clearly they should have consulted with someone with some actual knowledge about the ADA.
Speaking of ADA ramps.
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Down the hillside closer to the Schnuck’s and Lowe’s some new stores are being built. In the foreground is a new sidewalk and ramps that to the right connect to the sidewalk along the edge of the main driveway (I say sidewalk but it is too steep to be considered a sidewalk per ADA). The original drawings for the center didn’t include this is the way to get to the Schnuck’s — they had pedestrians crossing the main drive earlier and then the side drive to where you see the back of the stop sign above. I think this could have been a better solution. OK, so you make your way down the hillside from the pubic street, you cross a drive that is just to the right, you make the 90 degree turn, you note the half buried fire hydrant, and you spot the ramp across the drive — they don’t line up.

This is entirely new construction and the ramps on each side of the main driveway do not align. This is all by the same people being built at the same time — am I being unreasonable expecting that they’d align ramps so the person in the mobility scooter, the child on their bike or the parent pushing a baby stroller can safely cross the main entrance to a busy shopping center? This is not complicated stuff here. Yeah yeah, they are not done yet. I don’t want to hear it —- they’ve poured the concrete so they are done with this portion.

I am waiting for a bit more to get done and I will bring you a more in depth review of the new areas and some changes in the old. It is clear to me they were making an effort to improve upon what they had previously done but from the looks of things they simply didn’t have the right people on the job.

 

The Gateway Cup, Bicycle Racing in St. Louis (w/Video)

Labor Day weekend means many things to many people. To cyclists the weekend is all about racing with hundreds of cyclists from a multi-state area converging on St. Louis to compete for, as they say, cash and prizes. Below is a short video (9:37) from each of the four days as well as some still images. Enjoy!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEQPG7tRGP8[/youtube]

Friday August 31, 2007 – Tour de Lafayette around Lafayette Park:

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Above, riders speeding by race control as evening sets. This Friday evening tradition brings out many spectators.

Saturday September 1, 2007 – Downtown St. Louis:

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Above, an early race turns onto 14th from Locust.

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Above, final men’s group on Locust.

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Above, racers on Washington Ave at the start/finish line. Races are up to 115 minutes + 5 laps.

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Above, racers make the turn from Washington Ave onto 20th.

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Above, expensive racing bikes resting against the wall of the recently condemned Centenary Tower building at Locust and 16th. The team van is just out of view. This team was from Iowa.

Sunday September 2, 2007 – Giro della Montagna (Tour of the Hill):

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Above, “The Italian Immigrants” outside St. Ambrose are not dressed for cycling.

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Above, I spotted this old car in an alley and had a little fun with editing features in Apple’s excellent iPhoto program.

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Above, back at the main race area crew were busy keeping bikes in top shape for the riders.

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Above, every year the Italia-America Bocce Club hosts a pasta dinner following the races. The dinner is free for riders but $7 for adults — well worth it in my view. The rider in line in front of me didn’t want meatballs on his spaghetti and the older gentleman serving was completely shocked. When I said “no meatballs” he couldn’t believe it. I had moved on to the salad and he was telling the other volunteers, “they didn’t want any meatballs!” The ladies were great, they were like, “Not everyone eats meat.”

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Above, friends and parents greet their kids at the finish of the children’s races.

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Architecturally the Hill neighborhood is one of the most interesting in the city. While some buildings are similar to those from other parts from the same era, some are quite different. The Hill seems to have more 2nd floor balconies such as this one on Marconi.

Monday September 3, 2007 — The Delmar Loop:

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Patrons at Brandts enjoy the view of the first corner of the race, out of view to the right.

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The sidewalks were packed!

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Above, at this point I’ve got a slice of cheese pizza from Racanelli’s in one hand and the camera in the other.

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Above, riders making the first curve of the course. Joe Edwards’ Blueberry Hill restaurant and club is in the background.

Good times, good times…

For more information & professional photos of the races visit stlbiking.com.  If you missed these races, mark your calendars for next year!


 

Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center Opens Renewable Energy Center in 25th Ward

For nearly a year now the old Held Florist & Greenhouse in the 47xx block of Tennessee Ave has been getting a make over. Broken greenhouse glass fixed, a good cleaning, paint and such. A woman named Susan Jansen had purchased the property in late 2006 and everyone was finally glad to see things happening. In July, the property was sold to the New Life Evangelistic Center operated by Rev. Larry Rice. NLEC is most well known as the controversial homeless shelter located on Locust between 14th & 15th.

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On Saturday the 25th Rice held a grand opening for his new Missouri Renewable Energy Center located at the property. But, by this time his holdings had expanded. If you recall from June, the 1894 frame farm house was being threatened with demolition but the Preservation Board put the kibosh on that (see prior post). On August 7th the NLEC, represented by Larry Rice, purchased the old Held home and the adjacent land. The brick 2-family with the green roof in the background above was formerly my home which I sold in January 2006 (can you say good timing?) to an owner occupant.

I’m still not sure what to make of all this but I do know that a number of people have contacted me expressing their concern about his presence in the neighborhood. When I told one concerned person about the change of ownership, their reaction was simply, “Oh shit!”

 

Steve Wilke-Shapiro on KDHX Tonight, Farewell Party Tuesday

August 20, 2007 Media, South City 10 Comments

Tonight is Steve night on KDHX‘s Collateral Damage program — Steve Wilke-Shapiro from 15thwardstl.org and myself will join hosts DJ Wilson and Fred Hessel in studio at 7pm on 88.1FM. As many of you know, Wilke-Shapiro and his family are moving to Des Moines for a new job and to be closer to family. Among tonight’s topics will be Steve’s 50 Things I Won’t Miss About St. Louis list which includes, in no particular order:

  • The Board of Aldermen – I’m not going to name all the individual representatives. That would take up 24 of my 50 items in this list. For the most part, they seem to be just about as incompetent at dealing with critical issues in a proactive and comprehensive manner as Congress is. Two big thumbs down.
  • Parochialism – Y’all have to figure out a way to work across borders. The region is killing itself from all the fighting over scraps in a zero-sum game.
  • Eureka, Chesterfield, and friends – That sucking sound you hear? That’s all my taxes going to maintain your unsustainable infrastructure.
  • Paul McKee – Pretty much represents all that is wrong with politics and development in St. Louis. Clear cutting is not the right way to go about rebuilding community.
  • Interstate 64 – Or is it Highway 40? Redoing this road is the biggest boondoggle we’ve seen since, well, the Page Avenue Extension. Should have planned for transit.
  • Page Avenue Extension – I could put together another “Top 50” list of things I would rather have spent a billion dollars on. All you self-centered suburbanites quit complaining about Metrolink “subsidy” until you add up all the money spent on extending and widening your own roads.
  • Loughborough Commons – With a little urban planning, it could have been done so much better. Instead we have another “place not worth caring about.”
  • Riverfront – Quite possibly the biggest missed opportunity in the region. What a huge disappointment it is to cross under the Arch and gaze down the grand stairway only to see the might Mississippi lapping at a sometimes parking lot and a bunch of concrete bollards.
  • Racism – Race seems to inform everything in St. Louis (and not in a good way). I’ve been in St. Louis for 14 years and haven’t seen much forward movement. I don’t know what the right steps are, but I do believe that until people make a conscious effort to equalize some of the spatial disparities in income, education, health, and employment, it will be difficult to deal with the underlying prejudices.
  • The Gateway Mall – If you build it they will come. We don’t need “greenspace” downtown.
  • “Reserved” street parking – They are public streets. I’ll park where I want. Just because you own the adjacent property doesn’t make a street space yours.
  • River Des Peres – Affectionately called River Dispair by those in the know.
  • Schnuck’s – I shop there because it’s so damn convenient to my house (I don’t even have to get in the car), but I don’t like it. Shame on you for demolishing the Century Building. Is it intentional that the logo looks so much like “Schmucks”?

This should make for a good conversation! Tuesday evening friends are giving Steve a farewell party at The Royale. 5:30pm-? And finally, if you are looking for a great home in a great neighborhood consider Steve’s home at 3618McDonald.com (listed by my broker, Christopher Thiemet).

 

Halliday St. Illegal Parking Pad Fiasco Continues

IMG_4740.JPG Third time is a charm, so goes the old saying. Well, for the third time now the unapproved parking 4-car parking lot at a condo project in Tower Grove East is back on the agenda for the Board of Adjustment. Eventually the neighbors will capitulate on the issue and the developer and alderman will have their way. But as I’ve said before, this really is a bigger issue than simply this single block of Halliday.

Ald. Conway, the son of a former one-term Mayor (wiki), is trying to convince the public this is a rare situation and should be allowed to remain. After all, he had to help shut down the drugs and prostitution that once existed in the building. Yes folks, whatever you do, make sure that drugs and prostitution do not come into your neighborhood for the obvious reasons but also because they will forever be used to justify bad design decisions in the future. The choices otherwise, so I am told, are either a big ass parking pad for condo dwellers’ cars or section 8 housing. In St. Louis politics, a middle ground does not seem to exist.

But could this situation occur again? Well yes, and very nearby also in the 8th ward.

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This wonderful 1925 apartment building located at Magnolia & Thurman contains, per city records, 38 apartments. To the back is the Bi-State bus loop property. This building has only the land it sits on.

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The front interior court is a wonderful space.

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Above: Stepping back a bit we see the interior court and the small front lawn between the building and sidewalk.

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Looking west we see how the line of buildings is maintained down the Magnolia with Tower Grove Park on the left.

All I know about this project is that it is to be condos. I don’t have a clue who the developer is, how many units they plan or how parking will be accommodated. I do know it is also in the 8th ward where Ald. Conway might rationalize that paving this front yard might be a good solution. Again, I don’t know the specific plans for this project — I am simply using it to illustrate that we have numerous buildings that do not have extra land for off-street car storage.

We must decide, as a city and not block by block, if we are going to renovate dense urban buildings such as these despite lack of parking. To me this location is an ideal place to live — the park is stunning, bus routes are convenient, Shaw is a great neighborhood, the Botanical Gardens are close, shopping on Grand and Morganford is an easy bike ride away. On-street parking is adequate.

Getting back to Halliday. The immediate neighbors have made it clear — the front yard parking lot needs to go. The Tower Grove East neighborhood has made it clear — the front yard parking lot needs to go. Other city residents, such as myself and many of you have made it clear — the front yard parking lot needs to go. The solution, worked out over a month ago, would provide angled on-street parking — a good solution for a quiet tree-lined residential street.

Of course, the Alderman is trying to make that complicated. Rather than set up a permit-only parking area for the new condo residents he has actually proposed deeding a portion of the public street to the condo owners for their parking! Uh, hello, the public street is just that — public! I don’t give a sh*t if the condo owners will sue the developer for promising parking — he should not have made promises he could not keep. We simply can’t have developers running around promising parking they don’t have or tax abatement that was never approved and then change the rules after the fact to keep them from having made false statements (the tax abatement is just an example from other projects, that is not an issue in this case).

While I feel for the owners of the newly developed condos, I hope you have good documentation on the parking promise as well as a good lawyer. To potential buyers out there — this is a good example of why you need a REALTOR® when purchasing property — we help look out for issues such as this and ask for proof of future promises (such as evidence that tax abatement has been applied for and is in process). OK, the real estate sales pitch is over.

One of the big obstacles in development projects is getting financing without dedicated off-street parking. I’ve had numerous developers tell me it is an absolute must. The developers often are open to having less than one space per unit, knowing they’ll have sales/leases to people that take transit, walk, bike or simply don’t mind leaving their car on the street but it is the banking industry in St. Louis that requires a high level of parking. And here we enter the vicious circle: we are not going to have a public that uses the car less and other modes more until we live in more dense areas where it is forced by circumstances (lack of parking) or cost. On the other hand, we are not going to get this more dense development until we have a public that increasingly uses other modes besides the car. Bankers need to see more people with fewer cars to give them the confidence to lend on a project with few to zero parking spaces and people need to have good housing choices near convenient and frequent transit to comfortably live without a car. The solution is we’ve got to meet in the middle — people need to accept they may have to park their car on the street and bankers will need to be open to looking at walk-ability and access to transit when evaluating proposed projects. We simply cannot let a lack of off-street parking halt all the good renovation work happening throughout the city.

The Halliday St. parking lot is back on the Board of Adjustment agenda for Wednesday August 29, 2007 at 1pm. Room 208 of City Hall. For those keeping count at home, this is the third time on their agenda.

Prior posts:

 

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