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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.

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.

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.


Newly Constructed Starbucks and Others Lack Mandated ADA Access Route

I want to see St. Louis reach its potential and be a much more pedestrian friendly place to live. I see many people out walking and jogging but we could have so much more sidewalk activity. I’m seeing more and more couples with babies out in strollers trying to navigate our sometimes unfriendly environments. I’ve written many times about the lack of an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access route at Loughborough Commons to which people say someone is not going to walk to Lowe’s to buy drywall. Well, no sh*t. But people do still walk or use mobility devices to buy smaller items. I’m not suggesting we ban cars, simply make places accessible via various means. The ADA is federal civil rights legislation and, if actually followed, would make places more accessible to everyone including those elusive families we seek to attract to the city.

The newest Starbucks in the City of Saint Louis is located where Chippewa St (aka Watson, formerly Route 66) and Lansdowne Ave intersect — just east of both the well known Ted Drewes Frozen Custard Stand and a MetroLink light rail station. It recently opened but unfortunately it is about as auto focused as you can get.

The drive through lane, above, is front and center as seen from the public sidewalk. In the above image the front door is basically behind the right most umbrella. I’m not sure how they expect people from the very nice adjacent neighoborhood to walk there from the sidewalk — through the drive lane and over the shrubs? Someone in a wheelchair is out of luck.

Above, the situation is the same from the other side. You can stand on the sidewalk and read the menu of the drive-thru but you cannot access the door!


View from public sidewalk.


Basically anyone using a wheelchair to access the site must use the auto drive to get to the accessible area just beyond the maroon SUV and then backtrack to the door.


Not only is this dangerous, it is not ADA compliant. Regardless of ADA, this type of poor planning simply assumes everyone will arrive by car. I was unable to spot a bike rack anywhere on the site or in the public right of way. The public sidewalk completely lacks street trees. Sure, the building is nice and new but poorly planned. By contrast, the dated Arby’s location in the next block to the West has an access route to their entrance from the sidewalk. Although it does not meet current ADA standards, it complies with the intent which is more than I can say for Starbucks.

The City of Saint Louis is not alone in permitting poorly planned projects to be built. The adjacent suburb, quite dense and pedestrian friendly, is allowing new construction to erode what there good urban roots. One such project, is another new Starbucks which opened within the last month or so.

Located on the SE corner of Delmar and North & South this new Starbucks drive-thru is more geared toward motorists than the many pedestrians in the area. Despite a high level of pedestrians in the area, this new Starbucks shrugs off any notion of complying with the federal ADA requirement for an accessible entrance from the public street.


Above, a new Bentley, valued at roughly $170K, waits at a red light while a young couple with dog and twins in stroller cross the street.

The couple from above enter the site of the Starbucks via the outgoing auto lane and head toward the back of the building to access the ADA ramp to get their kids out of the parking lot. As others leave, a minivan attempts to back out of a space.The Royal Banks branch diagonally across from the Starbucks, built recently, also suffers from the same issue. From the sidewalk we can see the entrance and an accessible parking space but if you are on the sidewalk (and not driving a black Porsche) you are not welcomed.


Some might say this is better than the gas station that used to be on the site to which I would agree. But, when building brand new from scratch shouldn’t these businesses do a better job attempting to connect people to their front door? The best way is to build up to the street but short of that they need to provide an access route.


Those trying to enter the bank on foot (or mobility device) end up facing the outgoing auto traffic. Those able to can jump onto the sidewalk adjacent to the building but others are forced to risk it in the auto lane until they reach the ramp from the drive to entry.

Given this bank’s sidewalks and ramps I don’t think they’d get an access route right anyway. The red ‘truncated domes’ are used to help those who are visually impaired to know when they are crossing a drive/street. Their direction is meant to guide them, by feel under foot, to the other side. However, here we can see that these will send them out into the street.


The two remaining corners each have older buildings that are urban in form — butting up to the sidewalk. This makes it much easier for pedestrians to access local businesses and spend money. Of course, they must first get past the Post-Dispatch newspaper box blocking the top of the wheelchair ramp.

Back to the city we see the new big box store, The Restaurant Depot, on Manchester Road across from St. Louis Marketplace.

This store is not open to the general public, you must be a restaurant owner to get in. Still, this facility should have an ADA route from the public sidewalk as an employee might use a wheelchair or simply decide to take transit and walk from the nearest bus stop to their job.


Above is yet another new Starbucks being constructed between Broadway and 7th at Russel, just east of Soulard.  An adjacent building will have a new Bread Co (Panera for you non St. Louis readers).  I’m guessing they will lack an ADA compliant access route to both of these locations.

We cannot continue this cycle of building places hostile to pedestrians and then say there are not pedestrians as a justification to build ever more hostile environments.  People arriving at these sites on foot, bike, wheelchair, scooter or car can all be accomodated if we as a city/region make it a priority.  Our leadership in the city and in adjacent municipalities have failed to look out for the interests for whom they are supposed to serve.


Gotta Hurry to Get that Loaf of Bread

Earlier today, around 11am, I was heading eastbound on Loughborough, a 2-lane street with on-street parking on both sides.  I was roughly near the middle of Carondalet Park and all of a sudden a Chevy Caprice passes me.  It took me a second to realize I had just been passed.  I looked down at my speedometer on my scooter — I was doing roughly 32mph.  I look up at a speed limit sign and it is posted at 30mph.  Then I flip the guy the bird.

I ended up being right behind him at the traffic signal entrance to Loughborough Commons.  I tooted my horn and yelled “hurry up” as he had a back window down a bit.  Once he parked I asked why he passed me, stating that that was dangerous and what was his hurry.  His only response, “Are you a cop?”

Folks, before you get in such a hurry to pass those of us on two wheels take a look at the speed limit and check to see what speed we are traveling.  If we are going slow on a 4-lane road then simply use the other lane (although don’t cut back in front of us and then turn right).   If we are on a 2-lane road and traveling at the posted speed limit just wonder if you really need to get to your destination a second or two before we do.  The bread will still be on the shelves when you get there.


Schnuck Family to Sell Majority Stake in Shopping Centers to Austrailian Trust

From the Sydney Morning Herald via Urban St. Louis forum:

MACQUARIE CountryWide Trust has expanded further into North America, buying a controlling interest in 33 retail centres from the Schnuck family worth $US260 million in a joint venture with the Regency Centers Corporation.

Under the deal the Schnuck family will retain 20 per cent of the portfolio, with Macquarie CountryWide owning 65 per cent and Regency the remaining 15 per cent.


Above: Grand opening of Schnuck’s store at Loughborough Commons in South St. Louis, August 2006.

Austrailia’s Hearald-Sun writes:

Of the 33 shopping centres in the deal, 26 are in the greater St Louis area.

The centres will be managed by Regency and the Schnuck family’s DESCO Group.

I’m not exactly sure what this will mean for us locally. Maybe this will be a good thing to have some outside perspective? Given the “value” of these shopping centers, and the $14 million in tax subsidy for Loughborough Commons alone, I fail to see why better pedestrian access could not have been included in the project’s designs.

Related Links:

UPDATE 7/9/07 @ 12:45pm:

The St. Louis Business Journal has a slightly different percentages and some more detail (full story):

Macquarie CountryWide Trust (MCW) is buying a 60 percent stake in the portfolio. MCW is managed by a division of Macquarie Bank Group, based in Sydney, Australia. Macquarie Bank Group’s real estate division manages a portfolio of assets totaling more than $23 billion globally. In a joint venture with MCW, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Regency Centers Corp. is buying a 13 percent stake in the portfolio.

I’m willing to bet that the Schnuck’s grocery store chain will announce within the next 12 months they are being sold.


Access Changes at Loughborough Commons

This is a quick update post from my favorite auto-centric sprawl shopping center in the city, Loughborough Commons. As regular readers know, I’ve been making a big deal about the poor pedestrian access to the center. This update shows you some good and some not so good things at this time.


Above was the view looking north from the front of the Schnuck’s store on November 28, 2006. I thought they were going to provide some sort of access at that time but they did not. Note the customer walking against traffic in the main auto drive.

So I was very glad to see that in the last few days a temporary pedestrian walkway has been created between the main auto entrance and where another building is being construted (I believe for an office supply chain store). Though likely not ADA compliant this is a very nice but long overdue gesture on the part of developer DESCO.

In the back ground near the white van they’ve also started to excavate for more of the sidewalk on the east side of the main auto drive. Eventually these walkways should connect although the stop sign at this internal intersection has been removed for months now. We’ll see how the crossing gets marked and signed. Again, I am very glad to see they are taking steps to provide this access.

Shifting now out to the public street, the sidewalk situation along Loughborough has had ups and downs turing this project.


Above is a view from August 30th, 2006 looking westbound from the bus stop. You can see the sidewalk, the old auto entrance, now blocked, and the new auto entrance. In the background is the big pile-o-dirt where the recessed new strip center is being constructed today. Not exactly great but at least passable for most.


Sadly, for roughly nine months the public sidewalk along Loughborough (just east of the new auto entry) has been left in this condition (above). Missing curb, stagnant water, broken concrete, piece of plywood, etc. The benches for those using the bus were removed last year as well.


Close up view of the conditions, above. Note the changing water marks on the warning barriers. The lights have long stopped flashing.

Pedestrians heading to & from Loughborough Commons have managed to avoid the above mess by taking a short cut which you can see clearly in the grass. This, of course, does not help those using mobility aids such as wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

I recently pointed out these conditions to officials via email. Today crews are working to finish the curb and sidewalk in this area. But just as I think I am making progress something else happens. Ald. Matt Villa, of late, has been receptive to discussions about access and has been very responsive to my requests to push for completion of some of these area. DESCO may have had these things on their schedule for now anyway so it is hard to say if my complaining was effective, I like to think it helped grease the wheel.

The above is along Loughborough east of the main entrance, let’s now switch to west of the main entrance.


Above was the scene on August 30th, 2006. The old store had just closed and the new store opened but pedestrians coming from the west were forced into the street. Yes, I know a construction zone not finished – just hold on before you scroll down and yell at me in the comments!


A month later, on September 30, 2006 a new sidewalk was poured and the big pile of dirt was removed (to where the old store was located, now razed).
Skipping ahead to April 24, 2007 and switching directions in the same area:


Above we can see the sidewalk from September 2006 is still in place and being used — we have a mom and her child heading to the store and another customer just leaving.


However, by June 3, 2007 much of the sidewalk from September 2006 and the remaining old sidewalk had been removed, including the corner ramp at Grand. Here you can see a customer who had just left the Schnuck’s walking in the street. I’m actually glad to see the old sidewalk and corner ramp go away as they were in poor condition and should have been replaced back in September 2006. I don’t know the plan here but hopefully the sidewalk will be back in place soon so that more customers are not forced into an un-friendly street.

Earlier this year the auto drive was also restriped to change some lanes, I’ll spare you the pictures (for now).