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Lack of Land-Use Controls Among Reasons Why So Little Transit-Oriented Development At MetroLink Stations After Two Decades

Today is the 20th anniversary of the opening of our original MetroLink light rail line. Since then we’ve added a line in Illinois and one in St. Louis County.

MetroLink train leaving the North Hanley station
MetroLink train leaving the North Hanley station

One thing we haven’t really seen much of is transit-oriernted development (TOD). We’ve had a few projects that are, at best, transit-adjacent development (TAD).

TAD is TOD gone bad, development that is adjacent to transit but breaks all the rules that make TOD work, like making public spaces the focus of building orientation and neighborhood activity; creating pedestrian-friendly street networks that directly connect local destinations; and providing a mix of housing types, densities and costs. (TOD’s Evil Twin: Transit-Adjacent Development)

In the poll last week I asked about the lack of TOD in the last two decades:

Q: Why do you think our MetroLink light rail stations haven’t seen much transit-oriented development in the last 20 years? (Pick up to 3)

  1. Lack of proper land-use controls, like form-based zoning 42 [13.21%]
  2. Nobody pushed for TOD 37 [11.64%]
  3. Regional fragmentation of leadership 37 [11.64%]
  4. Regional job & population growth have been stagnant 37 [11.64%]
  5. The station designs aren’t conducive for infill development 31 [9.75%]
  6. Located in bad locations. 29 [9.12%]
  7. The alignment isn’t convenient to many 27 [8.49%]
  8. No demand for transit-oriented development 23 [7.23%]
  9. We naively thought if we built it they’d come 17 [5.35%]
  10. Used mainly for games, events, to reach Lambert airport 15 [4.72%]
  11. Another reason not listed 10 [3.14%]
  12. Our laissez-faire love of the free market 8 [2.52%]
  13. Naysayers muted initial enthusiasm, halting TOD potential 4 [1.26%]
  14. Park & ride lots are the best use of the land at the stations 1 [0.31%]
  15. Unsure/no answer 0 [0%]

All of the above (except #14) are valid reasons, I think they ended up in about the right order too. A form-based code at the Wellston station would’ve required St. Louis County Economic Council building to acknowledge the presence of light rail.

The St. Louis County Economic Council building abuts the station but doesn’t even have a sidewalk to the front door, located as far away from transit riders as physically possible.

When the county government doesn’t do set a good example, how can we expect others to do better on their own?

In the last couple of years there has been a TOD push. Better late than never or too little, too late?

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: Why So Little Transit-Oriented Development In The Last 20 Years?

The 20th anniversary of the opening of our light rail sys system, MetroLink, is next week.For the last 12-18 months there has been a big push by Citizens for Modern Transit and East West Gateway Council of Governments to kickstart development around the stations.

ABOVE: Looking west toward the Union Station MetroLink Station from 16th & Clark
Looking west toward the Union Station MetroLink Station from 16th & Clark. The offices on the left aren’t oriented to transit, just adjacent.
ABOVE: The only thing at the station currently is 1,583 parking spaces (926 surface, 657 in garage)
The only thing at the North Hanley station  is 1,583 parking spaces (926 surface, 657 in garage)
ABOVE: After the shortcut through the park the residents still have to walk through a parking lot. Pedestrians shouldn't have to walk through a parking lot, they're among the least appealing places to walk.
Not much exists around the Wellston Station, the jobs center in the background is hard to reach on foot, easy by car though

The poll this week lists many possible reasons why development hasn’t happened around the stations, you can pick up to 3. The choices are presented in random order.

On July 31st, MetroLink’s 20th anniversary, I’ll share my thoughts on why development hasn’t happened  and what we need to do so the next 20 years are more productive.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Books From Reedy Press: Black Missourians, Eckert Summer Cookbook, Do Before You Die, St. Lou-isms

I’ve received a number of books recently, this post is about four from St. Louis-based publisher Reedy Press.

#1

Covers of the four books
Covers of the four books

The first fills in a gap in my knowledge about some names I’ve heard in my nearly 23 years as a resident of St. Louis.

Extraordinary Black Missourians: Pioneers, Leaders, Performers, Athletes, and Other Notables Who’ve Made History by John A. Wright Sr. and Sylvia A. Wright, $19.95.  ISBN: 9781935806479

African Americans have been a part of Missouri from its territorial days to the present, and Extraordinary Black Missourians describes more than 100 pioneers, educators, civil rights activists, scientists, entertainers, athletes, journalists, authors, soldiers, and attorneys who have lived in the state for part or all of their lives. Josephine Baker, Lloyd Gaines, Langston Hughes, Annie Malone, Dred Scott, Roy Wilkins, and others featured in the book are representative of individuals who have contributed to the African American legacy of Missouri. They set records, made discoveries, received international acclaim and awards, as well as led in the civil rights movement by breaking down racial barriers. These accomplishments, and others, have played a major role in shaping the history and culture of the state and nation. Extraordinary Black Missourians attempts to put a face on these individuals and tells of their joys, failures, hardships, and triumphs over sometimes insurmountable odds.

With a look at blacks from all over the state, there are names in the contents I’ve never heard before. Glad to have this indexed book for future reference.

 #2

Everyone that has lived in St. Louis knows the name Eckert. Last year I posted about The Eckert Family Fall Cookbook and now they’re out with a summer volume:

The Eckert Family Summer Cookbook: Peach, Tomato, Blackberry Recipes and More compiled by Jill Eckert-Tantillo and Angie Eckert, $12.00. ISBN: 9781935806462

The second installment of the Eckert Family Cookbook Series features delectable, time-tested recipes from their famous summer harvest. From roasted tomato gratin to peach cobbler, The Eckert Family Summer Cookbook covers every category from soups and salads through desserts. Recipes emphasize ingredients pulled straight from the fields during summer months, when tender fruits flourish alongside root vegetables, sturdy greens, and woody herbs. Highlights include corn saute, peach tomato mozzarella salad, pork tenderloin with balsamic peaches, and fresh blackberry tart, among other delights. Tips and techniques for preparation and storage also fill The Eckert Family Summer Cookbook-the latest example that eating locally grown foods is a family tradition for the Eckerts! Jill Eckert-Tantillo is vice president of Marketing and Food Services for Eckert’s. Angie Eckert is vice president of Retail Operations for both the Country Store and the Garden Center for Eckert’s. Both Jill and Angie love to prepare meals for family and friends using the freshest ingredients of the season. They believe the best family memories are made around the dinner table.

#3

Bored? Here’s a book with 100 suggestions on things to do here in St. Louis. Scanning the list I’d say I’ve only done about 20-25 of them, so I’d better get busy.

100 Things to Do in St. Louis Before You Die by Amanda E. Doyle, $15.00. ISBN: 9781935806509

Let’s face it: St. Louis is a big city, and life is short. Whether it’s moving some musts to the “done” column of your bucket list or finding fresh ways to spend your summer in the city, this handy compendium will make the most of your minutes. Bike the Riverfront Trail to the Chain of Rocks Bridge, sip a chocolate malt at Crown Candy Kitchen, hold your breath during the high-wire act at Circus Flora, or admire the architectural and design splendor of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ebsworth Park home: you just gotta do it! One hundred ways to connect with your town await. Special features include insider tips on getting the most from your stops and themed itineraries for the truly adventurous. As the associate editor of Where Magazine for the past 13 years, and as mom to a curious preschooler, Amanda E. Doyle enjoys seeking out the city’s singular charms, including those documented in her two previous books, Finally! A Locally Produced Guidebook to St. Louis, By and For St. Louisans, Neighborhood by Neighborhood and To the Top! A Gateway Arch Story.

#4

Every region has lingo that is unfamiliar to newcomers, St. Louis is no exception.

St. Lou-isms: Lingo, Lore, and the Lighter Side of Life in the Gateway City by John L. Oldani, PhD, $19.95. ISBN: 9781935806448

Do you warsh your dishes and rinsh them in the zink? Do you eat mustgo for dinner? Heard about zombies in Wildwood or St. Louis Hills? Ghostly hitchhikers in Florissant? What or who is a St. Louis Hoosier? In St. Lou-isms, John “Dr. Jack” Oldani documents wholly new St. Louis folklore related to senior citizens, baby boomers, lawyers, nurses, new St. Louis vocabulary, Irish and Bosnian folklore, and even urban belief tales. Dogtown, St. Louis Hills, Valley Park, Wildwood, Ellisville, and other communities are connected through jokes, beliefs, tales, speech, lingo, graffiti, games, and other lore. St. Lou-isms decodes the lingo and traces the stories, shared by all St. Louisans. This book will keep you from being St. Louis “stupid,” or a few clowns short of a circus! You can live, laugh, and learn to leave a legacy! For more than 30 years, Dr. John L. Oldani, a St. Louis native, has been a professor of American Studies and folklore at American and international universities. From his fieldwork, he has collected more than 150,000 folklore texts from the St. Louis area. He is the author of four other books on American folklore, one highlighting the American quilter.

Look for these at local bookstores like Left Bank, AIA, Missouri Botanical Garden, etc., or click the title link to order direct from the publisher.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: What are your top three (3) brew pubs in the St. Louis region?

In a previous poll I asked about favorite brewery, but excluded brew pubs.  This week I want to find out the brew pubs favored by readers. This time I think I have all listed, but if not you can add an answer when taking the poll.

The poll is in the right sidebar until May 26th, results presented May 29th.

— Steve Patterson

 

Five Years Since Pyramid Properties Ceased Operations

Five years ago today major St. Louis developer Pyramid Properties, led by John Steffens, collapsed, leaving a long trail of unfinished properties.  From May 2010:

City leaders and Pyramid’s former partners say the transfer of properties is remarkable given the size and scope of the properties involved and the timing of the deals in the midst of the Great Recession.

“It has worked out far better than I expected,” said Jeff Rainford, Mayor Francis Slay’s chief of staff. “The fact that people were willing to not race to the courthouse steps is the only reason this didn’t end up a total disaster.”

Instead of filing lawsuits or filing for foreclosure, many of Steffen’s lenders, investors and former partners suspended disbelief and instead participated in a workout process that began days after Pyramid closed its doors. (St. Louis Business Journal)

With the properties untangled many have since been completed by others, including, but not limited to:

ABOVE: Art display windows facing 16th Street
Leather Trades, building completed as artists apartments, shown above: art display windows facing 16th Street
The Metropolitan, now artists lofts
The Metropolitan, now artists lofts
South Grand Senior Apartments finished and occupied
South Grand Senior Apartments finished and occupied
Former Dillard's became The Laurel Apts, Embassy Suites Hotel and Robust Wine Bar
Former Dillard’s became The Laurel Apts, Embassy Suites Hotel and Robust Wine Bar
St. Louis Centre became the MX. Pi Pizzeria was the first to open.
St. Louis Centre became the MX. Pi Pizzeria was the first to open.  MX Movies, Snarf’s Sandwiches, The Collective, and Takaya New Asian have since opened for business.
One City Centre got a new entrance and a new name reflecting the address change to 600 Washington
One City Centre got a new entrance and a new name reflecting the address change to 600 Washington
The former Carter Carburetor Company headquarters building is now the Grand Center Arts Academy.
The former Carter Carburetor Company headquarters building is now the Grand Center Arts Academy.

The above properties show that even in a down economy projects can happen. Still, the future of a few other former Pyramid projects remains unclear or just getting started:

The Jefferson Arms remains vacant although different developers are trying to  put together a deal to rehab the property.
The Jefferson Arms remains vacant although different developers are trying to put together a deal to rehab the property.
The Arcade-Wright buildings
Dominium Development, the Minneapolis-based company behind the Leather Trades & Metropolitan artists loft apartments hopes to repeat the formula in the attached Arcade-Wright buildings
The Mercantile Library is now at UMSL, the former building remains vacant.
The Mercantile Library collection is now at UMSL, the former building downtown remains vacant.
River Roads Mall was razed before Pyramid collapsed, the site remains vacant. This former bank, adjacent to the mall site, also remains vacant. More on River Roads next week.

Considering how much property Pyramid had tied up in complicated financial transactions it’s remarkable what has been accomplished in the last five years. Hopefully the  remaining projects will be completed in the new few years.

— Steve Patterson

 

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