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Will the Urban League’s New Ferguson Center Be Urban or Suburban?

This afternoon the Urban League is going to give more details about something they released on Friday, a new center at the site of the burn-out QuikTrip on West Florissant in Ferguson:

On Friday, the Urban League said the center would be “an important extension of its services in North County to further the League’s mission of empowering communities and changing lives.”

The center will “expand the Urban League’s work to broaden access to education/job training, employment and economic self-reliance for residents of the St. Louis metro area,” the League said in a news release.

A news conference is set for Monday afternoon to announce details, which the Urban League would not provide Friday. (Post-Dispatch)

Job training is needed in Ferguson, a better-trained workforce will benefit the entire region.

The former QuikTrip at 9420 W. Florissant on  August 16, 2014, click image for map
St  Louis County records list the irregularly-shaped property as being 1.14 acres.
St Louis County records list the irregularly-shaped property as being 1.14 acres.

St  Louis County records list the property as being 1.14 acres with irregular borders. This afternoon we might see preliminary ideas for the planned building. Hopefully the Urban League is planning to build the structure out at the street corner, close to the public sidewalk. My fear is they’ll set a building at the back, behind parking. The latter would send the wrong message to a community with many who use sidewalks and public transit. Since they’ll be starting with a cleared site I’m hopeful, I applaud the effort but remain cautious until I see specifics.

The press conference will be held 3pm at the Urban League’s non-walkable St. Louis County Operations Center at 8960 Jennings Station Road. To be fair, it’s located in a rented former grocery store built in 1967.

— Steve Patterson.


Fifth Anniversary of River City Casino

A lot has happened in the five years since River City Casino opened just beyond the city limits in South St. Louis County. The President Casino on the Admiral closed four months later in June 2010. It seems like every remaining casino, at least on the Missouri side, changed ownership. August 2013:

The Federal Trade Commission required Pinnacle to sell one of its two St. Louis-area casinos as a condition of Pinnacle’s $2.8 billion purchase of rival Ameristar Casinos. Pinnacle completed the Ameristar purchase this week. (Lumiere casino sold to Tropicana for $260 million)

I’ve never been inside River City because 1) I don’t enter buildings where smoking is permitted and 2) I’m not a gambler. However, I did post on pedestrian access in March 2012 — see River City Casino Has Surprisingly Good Pedestrian Access Route.

River City Casino in south St. Louis County, 2011
River City Casino in south St. Louis County, 2011
Approaching the casino as a pedestrian
Approaching the casino as a pedestrian, 2012

I could be wrong, but I don’t think South Broadway in St. Louis saw the renaissance that was predicted. It seems we’ve just shifted gambling revenues to a new location.

— Steve Patterson


So Some ‘SCHMUK’ Parked In A Loading Only Zone

Since I started this blog more than a decade ago pedestrian access & walkability have been a regular theme — especially since I became disabled 7 years ago. Friday I encountered a car parked blocking a ramp. Being a car guy I tend to mention the make of car — it was a Pontiac that blocked a ramp on one of my first outings to the store in a wheelchair in 2008. The car on Friday happened to be a Mercedes.

"Mercedes owner blocked a crosswalk I needed at Richmond Hts MetroLink station"
I said “Mercedes owner blocked a crosswalk I needed at Richmond Hts MetroLink station” on Facebook & Twitter. Click to view on Facebook.
I posted this picture of the rear vanity license plate “SCHMUK” on Twitter and in the comments on Facebook, click to view on Twitter.
No license plate displayed on the front — as required by Missouri law. No snow or ice — just salt residue

I’m posting this to start a civil discussion about the physical design of the area and how pedestrian amenities are easily ignored.

These three images, above, were taken at 12:11-12:12pm on Friday afternoon, it was 43 °F just before noon.  Like everyone, I make mistakes.  When I do I admit as much.

Here’s what I got wrong:

  1. The ramp isn’t for a crosswalk, it’s for a passenger loading zone.
  2. It’s near the Brentwood MetroLink Station, not the Richmond Heights MetroLink Station — that’s located one station Eastbound on the Blue Line, which opened in 2006.

Very little discussion on Twitter, but Facebook erupted. Here’s some comments that remained as of yesterday (users deleted others):

Comments from a 23 year-old saying he’s the owner:

  • Thanks facebookers. This is actually my vehicle. I assure you that it was a clearly marked parking space and a car was actually parked behind me as you can see. The curbs are not marked yellow or anything. I apologize but it says nothing about not parking in that space. My plates are hilarious I know. Thanks dan for telling me about the post! Lets find something new to complain about now!
  • [After I said I contacted the police] “Omg. Like they don’t have more important stuff to worry about. Sorry you had an inconvenience. Again. The writing on the pavement was still covered in snow and ice.. Also why isn’t the other car being put on a blast? Because it was not a Mercedes!” 
  • Only tacky people use front license plates. Duh.
  • God my car is beautiful though isn’t it?!
  • I have apologized multiple times. No clear signs. No curb markers. No lines within the area. Also the other car hasn’t been called out. Just mine. I’m over the whole situation.

From his friends:

  • I find this city to be wasting more and more time on pointless endeavors that literally amount to nothing more than pessimistic chatter.
  • Go fight a war, go feed the homeless, save a child refugee…no chance of you becoming something of use to the world because you will all still be on facebook making a fool out of yourselves and the right of freedom of speech. No wonder this city is in turmoil… people being shot over petty crimes and people bitching about where cars are parked on a social media site during their off time. #sillyfirstworldproblems My finger tips were cut off a month ago. THAT is a problem. …get a life.
  • It’s the principle. I also am annoyed that my friend who is a very kind, successful individual who doesn’t deserve internet slander or harassment was being targeted as som e sort of criminal. It is as I said before petty, a waste of time, and pathetic.
  •  You guys are clearly uneducated morons! Had any of you spent as much time trying to be successful as you do running your mouths and posting stupid stuff on fb, you too could have nice things. Maybe then you wouldn’t have to run your mouth and judge ppl just to fill you free time it looks like a perfectly fine place to park to me!
  •  Wow! Pretty sure anyone who can afford a Mercedes can most definitely read! So you’re a wannabe photographer, I wouldn’t quit your day job just yet. Parking sucks all over stl & I’m sure that loading zone was so clear thru the ice that even you missed it! You even said so. I am truly nowhere near wealthy & even I have more to do in life than to be so dang petty over something so minimal! Josh is a wonderful person, I’ve known him his whole life! But you all see a Mercedes & automatically go to rich jerk….stereotype much! Sorry, I just think it’s ridiculous to waste this much time of your day venting about something when it would’ve taken 5 extra seconds to walk around the car a foot! They’re not going to give you a Jay walking ticket if there’s obviously a vehicle blocking what you THOUGHT was a crosswalk. Get a life…one where you have a legitimate reason to bash someone, for more than having money bcuz your attitude says that’s all your pissed about. Love ya Josh, glad you could handle this with the class you did, sorry, couldn’t shut my mouth when it’s about my adopted brother!
  • Wow. I know my friend would never intentionally try to hurt anyone or do wrong, as I’ve known him for eight years. Mistakes happen, and whether or not he parked incorrectly, I don’t think it warrants such persecution. He didn’t get a ticket, did he? Leave the law up to the police, not the Internet.
  • I love that the fact you’re driving a Mercedes is what is really pissing people off, [redacted]. If you were driving a POS (that’s Piece Of Shit, for you flipping idiots out there), no one would have even posted about this as that shit happens all the time! Find something else to be pissed about people. #youarethespoiledone.
  • How about using your anger to get the city to install signs on poles that would clearly state Loading zone. Not paint a street that would be covered with salt residue. do something useful instead of petty with your time.

His Dad removed his comments, but the one from his mom remains:

  • My son has apologized, he is a very caring and loving young man and has always obeyed the law, once again, we apologize for all the inconvenience.
    Loving Mother

One of his so-called apologies was this internet meme:

Some may consider this an apology, I do not.

Another comment from the thread — from a personal friend:

I understand that it does not alway occur to people that parking in front of the sidewalk ramp prevents someone using a wheelchair from crossing the street– it is a concept that most folks have the luxury of not thinking about. The benefit of this thread is that it has had the potential to increase awareness (for those open to having their awareness increased). However, I don’t think “sorry you are poor” and related sorry-not-sorry apologies count as a sincere apology and referring to “inconvenience” is patronizing.

Friday I wanted to verify what another commenter had said — that it was clearly a loading zone on Google Maps. The aerial was too dark but the August 2012 Street View was clear, I shared the following screen shot in the thread.

In the comments I was accused of photoshopping the words LOADING ONLY even though I included a link to see it on Google -- click to view.
In the comments I was accused of photoshopping the words LOADING ONLY even though I included a link to see it on Google — click to view. I couldn’t photoshop the above, much less hack Google.

We were out that way Sunday afternoon so I drove through to check it out from a motorists prospective.

Right off Hanley you see a loading only zone with a solid white line and a sign. He was parked further West, let's see how it looks.
Right off Hanley you see a loading only zone with a solid white line and a sign. He was parked further West, let’s see how it looks.
Again, a solid white line that curves back to the curb is a good clue this isn't for driving or parking.  The text is faded and no sign is posted like the previous spot. The ramp is very visible,
Again, a solid white line that curves back to the curb is a good clue this isn’t for driving or parking. The text is faded and no sign is posted like the previous spot. The ramp is very visible,
A close up of the fading text, but the solid white line and ramp are pretty clear.
A close up of the fading text, but the solid white line and ramp are pretty clear.

This entire development is poorly designed  — it doesn’t work well for both motorists and pedestrians. After the I-64 rebuild Musick Memorial Dr became a public street, it’s how you get to Westbound Eager Rd from Hanley. From the various comments I got the view that everything East of I-270 is “the city”, with what the rest of us know as the city being downtown.   St. Louis has no responsibility for Musick Memorial Dr — that falls to either the developer or City of Brentwood.

If only there was  a massive parking garage where he could’ve parked.

— Steve Patterson


The 1876 City Limits Were So Far Out In The Countryside

From its founding in 1764 the city limits of St. Louis kept expanding as the city grew in population. Each time they annexed land in the rural fields surrounding the city.

The 1860 census recorded 160,773 residents — more than 100% growth from 1850s census figure of 77,860. The 1870 census saw the population nearly double again — to 310,864 (Wikipedia). When St. Louis divorced itself from St. Louis County in 1876 the limits where set far out in the countryside.  The leaders at the time must not have thought we’d reach those limits as quickly as we did, or leapfrog them as happened.

This marker at the St. Louis-Maplewood city limits is where
Entering St. Louis from Maplewood, where Manchester Rd becomes Manchester Ave

Though Maplewood wasn’t incorporated until the 20th century, people like James Sutton settled the area in the early 19th century decades before St. Louis split with St. Louis County.  From Maplewood’s history:

In 1876, the limits of the City of St. Louis were extended to their present location. This limit line shows no consideration for the buildings in Maplewood, but ruthlessly bisects many of them. It cuts off the eastern triangle of the Brownson Hotel and runs right through the middle of the old Maplewood Theater, (now gone) putting the projection booth in Maplewood and the screen in St. Louis.

On one street, however, the limits do not interfere with the house. This is along Limit Avenue which was plotted with half of its width on either side of the limits line (St. Louis on the east and Maplewood on the west).

This divorce bought change to the county left behind:

When the new county was organized, a Maplewood man, Henry L. Sutton, son of James C., was chosen as its chief executive officer, or presiding justice of the county court. The first three meetings of this body were held at the Sutton home on Manchester. Then in 1877, the patriarch of the neighborhood, James C. Sutton died. He left nine children and his land was divided between them. One of the daughters, Mary C. Marshall, seems to have been the first to think of selling her tract for a subdivision, for in 1890, she sold to a company organized by Theophile Papin and Louis H. Tontrup, two St. Louis real estate men, and managed by Robert H. Cornell.

If only we could bring the 1870s leaders into the present day to show them the consequences of their actions. If so, St. Louis would likely  be part of St. Louis County with limits out near the present-day I-270.

— Steve Patterson



Word Police: Vacant vs Abandoned

People often refer to vacant properties as abandoned.  Though abandoned properties are usually vacant – unless a squatter has occupied it – a vacant property isn’t necessarily abandoned. Take the beloved Laclede Power building (1246 Lewis St) as an example.

The Laclede Power building, just North of the Ashley Street Power House, a contributing building in the , would be razed
The historic Laclede Power building on the North Riverfront has been vacant for many years, but it’s hardly “abandoned”

This building, long been identified as a trailhead for the north riverfront trail, has been vacant for years, it’s boarded and has missing windows. Classic abandoned building, right? Wrong!  Anyone who knows the history wouldn’t describe it as abandoned:

In 2001, Trigen St. Louis Energy Corp. donated the 45,000-square-foot Laclede Power Center at 1246 Lewis St., valued at $150,000, to Trailnet.

Trailnet plans to develop the building to serve as a gathering place for cyclists using the St. Louis Riverfront Trail. Originally, Trailnet sought to develop the building alone, but the group now plans to partner on the site with a for-profit developer. Tucker said the organization will have a request for proposals available in early June; it’s already spent about $1.5 million on property repair and environmental cleanup. (St. Louis Business Journal)

The building is now owned by Great Rivers Greenway District:

Our History

In the year 2000, the people of the greater St. Louis area voted to create the Great Rivers Greenway District. By exercising their voice and their vote, the residents of the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County made it clear that they wanted to make the St. Louis region a better place to live. Since that time, the Great Rivers Greenway District has been working to carry out the vision of the people.

Our Mission

The fundamental purpose of the Great Rivers Greenway District is to make the St. Louis region an even better place to live by creating a clean, green and connected region.

Lots of effort & money have gone into this building over the years, including a new roof, waterproofing, etc. to stabilize it. It’s one of my favorites, so much so we have a large framed photo from the interior in our entryway.

Another example is the closed Jamestown Mall.

The Jamestown Mall food court in 2011
The Jamestown Mall food court in 2011, only four stalls were open


FLORISSANT, Mo. (KMOV.com) – St. Louis County Police were searching the abandoned Jamestown Mall early Monday morning after a break-in was reported. (KMOV –Police respond after break-in reported at abandoned North County mall)

It’s closed, but not abandoned! The building still has power & water, the owner is presumably paid the property taxes. Saturday afternoon Fox2 posted the story ‘Take a creepy trip into the abandoned Jamestown Mall‘, featuring this video (some language NSFW):

At the 11 minute mark the urban explorer reaches the mall office — the lights are on in the hallway, a chime goes off and he says, “I have a feeling I should not be in here.”  Though the video includes “abandoned” in the title the description on YouTube is:

Published on Dec 15, 2014
Exploring a certain StL mall upon popular request. The power is still on here and it is alarmed. DO NOT attempt to trespass here; you will be caught and charged. Armed guards patrol the mall 24/7. 

A vacant building with power, water, alarm, security guards, etc isn’t abandoned!

So why am I playing the role of word police? Words influence perceptions and perceptions can influence action — or inaction.

Please don’t call a building abandoned unless you know for sure the legal owner has walked away from the property.

— Steve Patterson