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Writing About Improved Pedestrian Access For A Decade, Before Becoming Disabled

In the nearly ten years I’ve written this blog I’ve consistently argued for improved pedestrian access, even before I became disabled in February 2008. Newer readers may have forgotten my early advocacy for walkability, here are some reminders:

The above posts were all before my stroke! I’m particularly proud of pushing for pedestrian access at Loughborough Commons, it’s a better than planned project because of my pushiness.

When the new Schnucks opened in August 2006 there was no pedestrian access at all.
When the new Schnucks opened in August 2006 there was no pedestrian access at all.
By the next month the developer was adding a sidewalk to the east side of the entrance drive.  Eventually the other side also received an access route.
By the next month the developer was adding a sidewalk to the east side of the entrance drive. Eventually the other side also received an access route.

Loughborough Commons would’ve been better had the city, developer, and engineers planned for pedestrian access & internal circulation from the start. They didn’t, but by pushing throughout construction I helped the project be just a little accommodating to pedestrians.  In one post I even said something like “I hope I don’t become disabled” when arguing why it was important for new development to welcome pedestrians in edition to motorists.

Yes, I’ve posted about crosswalks & pedestrian access since becoming disabled — but they’ve been a regular topic since that first day I started writing: October 31, 2004.

— Steve Patterson

 

Will Fifth Third Bank At Loughborough Commons Connect To Sidewalk?

Has it really been nearly two full years since I’ve written about Loughborough Commons? It was December 2008 when I wrote about the new Burger King’s lack of pedestrian access despite the nearby sidewalk.

“Burger King has very generous provisions for the motorist but zip for the pedestrian. What pedestrians you might ask. Well, people do walk to Loughborough Commons. People also arrive by bus and bike. Yes, most use a car but we shouldn’t overlook those not driving private autos. Everyone spending money at Loughborough Commons is paying an extra tax to the Community Improvement district. Shouldn’t pedestrians expect some accommodation in return?”

Of course, nothing was done to correct the lack of pedestrian access.  Now construction has started on the Fifth Third Bank for the parcel between the main entrance and the Burger King.  Here is what the site looked like in late 2008:

The bank building faces Loughborough but will be reached internally. The drive through lanes, not the front door is what is visible from the main drive.

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My assumption is the existing sidewalk will not be continued across the edge of the parcel and not up to the front door, a clear violation of the ADA.

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I was only at Loughborough Commons for a few minutes but I spotted pedestrians leaving as I was leaving. Walkability is not that difficult but it is obviously out of the mindset of civil engineers and the developers who hire them.

– Steve Patterson

 

Loughborough Commons Community Improvement District Meeting Today, 3pm.

lc_cid92007.jpgThe Board of Directors of the Loughborough Commons Community Improvement District are meeting later today at the downtown law firm of Greensfelder, Hemker and Gale, P.C.  This ‘CID’ was set up to use some of the tax revenues collected at Loughorough Commons to fund improvements.  It is a quasi governmental entity and therefore subject to open meetings laws.

At right is the public notice found today at City Hall, click to view PDF copy.

 

Excise Division to Hold Hearing on Qdoba’s ‘Summer Garden’ & ‘Full Drink’ Request

The Qdoba chain’s latest store in the St. Louis region is open at Loughborough Commons. This afternoon the Excise Division will hold a hearing to determine if they should get a “full drink” liquor license and an outdoor “summer garden” permit. While the poor planning at Loughborough Commons disgusts me and I’m not fond of formula chain places I can’t imagine anyone telling them no at this point.

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The place is done, including the patio. The outdoor area will soon be ideal for watching those folks driving around the new strip center to order their latte at the Starbuck’s drive-thru window.

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What would happen if immediate neighbors all showed up at 2pm protesting the idea of people buying a bud light to go with their burrito? And further yet, drinking said bud on the patio.

So who is the excise division? Well, they are part of the Department of Public Safety — you know that department now headed by Charles Bryson. The DPS website doesn’t tell us much:

Excise Division

6 Employees
Robert W. Kraiberg, Commissioner
314-622-4191
The Excise Division is charged by City Charter with the regulation and control of liquor within the City of St. Louis. The Division is responsible for determining licensing in accordance with the City Liquor code, authorizing issuance of all liquor and non-intoxicating beer licenses, enforcement of City Liquor Laws and Ordinances and initiation of civil action to suspend, cancel or revoke licenses when violations to statutes occur.

That cannot be the extent of information about liquor licenses? So I went back to the main city site and used the search field. This is what I got:
cinliquor

The default is to search stlouis.missouri.org — the “CIN Main Site” or I could search stlcin.missouri.org which is a bit more descriptive. The third option is to the search the internet which we all can easily do from our browsers anyway. I picked the default and basically found press release information — even though press releases are found in the second search option according to the search page. So, I selected the second option and there I found a FAQ page on Liquor licenses. Why this is not linked directly from the Excise Division/Department of Public Safety site I don’t know.

liquorfaq

So we see a full drink license “cannot be issued if the surrounding neighborhood disapproves.” Gee, define surrounding. It seems they have a “formal procedure” that can only be obtained via a phone call from 8-5 Monday through Friday. I’d say secret procedure is more like it.  You know I think this whole web thing might actually take off so it would be OK to invest in getting more and more information available to the public via the internet.

People want solutions so here we go.  Explain the types of licenses in greater detail, linking to the appropriate ordinance(s).  Make the necessary forms available online as editable-PDF documents.  Explain the formal procedure so that everyone applying for a license, as well as neighbors, know the same rules.  List who makes the decision and what their criteria is.   Are these people appointed, elected or staff?

Back to Qdoba for some final thoughts.  A chain place can afford to build out a full establishment on the assumption that nobody will object to their having a liquor license and a patio permit.  I know I certainly don’t object — a few beers will likely make Loughborough Commons more tolerable.  But the local person seeking to open an establishment can’t afford such a proposition.  Can they get necessary approvals before spending their life savings on a building or lease space?  Without the finished space the neighbors might have concerns about what is planned.  Without the liquor and/or patio license up front a lender might see the proposition as too risky.
I may need to visit City Hall Room 416 today at 2pm to find out more.

 

Six Years and Counting

Like the “where were you when Kennedy was shot” question from an earlier generation, we all know what we were doing as we watched on live television the unfolding of events on 9/11/2001. There I was in the living room of a client I had just met, watching that second plane hit the other tower of the World Trade Center. Any doubt about the first plane being lost in the fog was gone. I think what I remember most was the courage of those in the fourth plane, knowingly facing their own deaths, thinking of others on the ground — preventing the deaths of so many more.

In the weeks prior a friend and I had booked an exciting 17-day trip to the east coast — Washington DC, Pennsylvania and New York. Our flight to DC was October 19th. I had been to DC before but this time was obviously different — the Pentagon had a huge hole in the side. Still, people were out and about in the various neighborhoods. The Washington Monument, as you might suspect, was closed to visitors. We had planned a road trip from DC to New York via Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water in rural Pennsylvania and thus had booked a rental car. Getting off the city bus at National Airport was weird — the place was a ghost town as flights were still not being permitted in or out. My first time in New York was surreal. Hotels and restaurants were eager to kick start the local economy so tourists were welcomed. As you approached “ground zero” as it was becoming known, the smell hit you. Neighbors in nearby Battery Park were hosing out the filters on their ventilation systems. The skyline I had seen my entire life in pictures was different, the Statue of Liberty was closed. We walked through the upper east side on the day a person died of anthrax poisoning on the upper east side. Stores had signs indicating they sold the anti-anthrax drug.

I visited New York again in the Fall of 2005. By then the debate about the future of the 16+ acre WTC site was in full swing. It should become a memorial park, it should be rebuilt as it was, and we shouldn’t build targets anymore were among the numerous viewpoints. Others advocated for much needed housing rather than simply replacing vast quantities of office space. Still others sought to return to the long abandoned street grid.

When Minoru Yamasaki was selected to design the World Trade Center his Pruitt-Igoe public housing, designed a decade earlier, was already troubled. When the ribbon was cut for the WTC in 1973 St. Louis had already begun to implode Yamasaki’s insensitive work here. In the 50s and 60s there was little opposition to such large scale projects save for Jane Jacobs. Today the debate over the 16+ acre site in lower Manhattan continues. Such a massive site in NYC is a rarity.

Back in St. Louis 16 acres is nothing to us. The Schnuck’s City Plaza development at Natural Bridge & Union is 20 acres, the Southtown Plaza strip center (former Famous-Barr site) is 11 acres. The old arena site, now called The Highlands, is 26 acres. The remaining Pruitt-Igoe site is roughly 33 acres. At 30 acres, Loughborough Commons, the Schnuck’s/Lowe’s albatross, is nearly twice as big as the WTC site. Yes — Loughborough Commons is 87% larger than the World Trade Center site! Wow, they are debating how many blocks and streets as well as how much office, retail and housing they can squeeze onto their 16 acres while here just getting the ability for an ADA-compliant sidewalk clearly takes more than action by the Board of Aldermen.

Thousands lost their lives six years ago and many more were strongly impacted by the loss of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and simply a smile from a passing stranger no longer with us on the subway. Decisions made about the future of the WTC site, as well as development sites here in St. Louis and throughout the world, will too have an impact on people’s lives, although in a different way. We must ask ourselves why we are not creating places beyond just the short-term — a place to buy a cordless drill or get a latte at a drive-thru window. Architecture cannot made us better persons but our environment can and does impact how we all engage each other in our daily lives. We must do better. If not, we are simply funding a self-inflicted form of long-term terrorism.

 

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