Home » Loughborough Commons » Recent Articles:

Bike Parking Comes to Loughborough Commons, Sorta


The sign reads “For Everyone’s Safety, No Skateboarding, No Roller Blading, No Bicycling. Violators Will Be Prosecuted.” And below the no bicycling sign is, a new bike rack. The sign they should have up at the two entrances would warn pedestrians, “We have no provisions in place for those of you on foot so for your own safety just stay out (unless you work here).” But, back to the new bike rack.

This rack is known as a “dish rack” type of rack and frankly it is one of the worst racks on the market. This type has several problems but the main thing is that it is designed to have a wheel (typically front) slide into one of the narrow slots. This makes the bike very unstable in windy conditions but more critically when attempting to secure the bike to the rack you really can’t use a modern U-lock, you must have a long enough chain to be able to lock the bike’s frame to the rack. Otherwise, someone can easily release the front wheel and take the rest.
This is also a two-sided rack, designed to be accessed from one side or the other but here they’ve pushed it up against the wall so only one side is usable. This is probably OK because I doubt they’d have a mad rush of cyclists all at the same time. What is unfortunate is for the same money (or maybe less) they could have purchased a far superior bike rack capable of holding 2-4 bikes with good support, rather than potentially twisting an expensive rim on a windy day.


But the real problem comes in the placement of the rack. It is increasingly obvious they (developer & engineer) had no thought about bike parking beforehand, only trying to fix the situation later after so much attention. But the sidewalk you see here will someday connect to walks eventually getting you out to Loughborough. This is the only pedestrian route planned in and out of the entire project and if the bike rack is used, bikes will be blocking the sole sidewalk.Pedestrian access & bike parking should have been ready on the day the store opened, something that would have been possible had they given it some thought ahead of time. It would have been the friendly thing to do.


Turning back north toward Loughborough we see they’ve begun to dig out the dirt where a planned sidewalk is going to go. My personal guess is they wanted to wait on this sidewalk until the strip mall building that will be on the left gets built. As with bike parking, the recent attention to these issues has likely rearranged their construction schedule a bit.Note the pedestrian walking along the narrow auto drive as they leave the store. I’ve never once had to hang around to get a picture of a pedestrian, someone is almost always walking to or from the store.


Loughborough Commons: Getting the Lead Out?

I’m more than a little confused how DESCO plans to deal with lead contamination at Loughborough Commons. Site contamination, you might recall from a prior post, was among reasons cited in a report on why it was in the public’s interest to blight the site and offer tax incentives for redevelopment.

Today’s Post-Dispatch indicates removal as the means of remediation (emphasis mine):

A Desco spokesman said the company would finish preparing the ground before signing any additional leases. Among the tasks is removing lead residue from a site formerly used to make paint, the spokesman said.

Last week the Suburban Journal had a piece on the contamination issue that also seemed to suggest removal (emphasis mine):

“There is lead underground,” said Lori Willis, a spokeswoman for Schnuck Markets, Inc. “When it is removed as part of Phase 2 of our project, the work will be done in accordance with state and federal laws and under the guidance of the (state) Department of Natural Resources.”“DESCO is experienced in handling this. They don’t anticipate any problems and they will follow all safety procedures relative to the lead removal process,” Willis said.

But in the same article it is suggested the solution is not removal, but containment (emphasis mine):

The remediation effort will primarily involve containing the material in place so that it poses no risk, Willis said.The lead isn’t harmful if it’s covered, Brian McCurren, an environmental engineer for the state Department of Natural Resources, said. It’s only harmful to construction workers who come into contact with it, he said.

From the looks of the site they are going with containment but it seems odd even the spokesperson keeps saying removal.


Some Reasons for Blighting for Loughborough Commons Remain Unchanged

Today I ran across the city ordinance establishing a CID (Community Improvement District) for Loughborough Commons. Through taxes this will account for about $3 million in improvements for the area. Click here for the 5mb PDF file. Ignore the last few pages as those pertain to another bill wherein Slay Bulk Terminals leases some riverfront land from the city, headed by Mayor Slay. Hmmmm….

What I found interesting in the CID file was an October 2004 report prepared by local firm Development Strategies to justify the blighting and establishment of the tax incentives.

This report describes and documents those conditions that, without TIF will continue to erode the Redevelopment Area’s economic vitality and hasten its transition from an economic asset to an economic liability for the City of St. Louis, its residents, and the taxing districts that depend upon it as a revenue source. The existing I-55/Loughborough Redevelopment Area suffers from a multitude of physical and economic deficiencies including defective and inadequate streets, unsanitary or unsafe condition of site improvements, deferred maintenance, a large soon to be vacant structure, improper subdivision or platting, conditions which endanger life or property by fire or other causes, and economic obsolescence.

Man, that is a lot. Good thing this was passed and everything razed. But what are some of the details behind the report leading to blight?

Well, how about “defective and inadequate street layout resulting from… interupted [their spelling] grid street pattern.” I also like, “Unsanitary and unsafe conditions resulting from: lack of sidewalks, dangerous vehicular movements.” Continuing down the list they cite “deteriorated site improvements resulting from: deteriorated parking areas, deferred maintenance” and “improper subdivision and obsolete planning.”

The report talks about the street grid that once existed many years ago:

As part of the grid, Blow Street and Robert Avenue ran uninterrupted form the west of what is now I-55 to the east of the highway. In addition, Colorado Avenue ran north-south from Robert Avenue to the north. This pattern of streets provided good access and circulation for the property in the Redevelopment Area.

It then explains how the railroad and the highway changed that and how some streets went away. No mention of putting back the grid that was removed for Nordyne and Schnuck’s (formerly a National store).

Lack of sidewalks is a whole section. This is the best part:

Many of the streets in the Redevelopment Area lack sidewalks or have inadequate sidewalks. This creates a hazardous condition for residents, employees and visitors. Specific problem areas include:

1. Lack of sidewalks on both sides of Blow Street
2. Lack of sidewalks on the east side of S. Grand to the south of Blow Street.
3. Cracked and uneven sidewalks along the east side of S. Grand Avenue between Loughborough Avenue and Blow Street.
4. Cracked and uneven sidewalks along the south side of Loughborough Avenue to the east of S. Grand Avenue.

So how did the crack team of Desco, Kowelmann Engineering and Ald. Matt Villa solve each of these blighting conditions? No sidewalks on each side of Blow Street? No problem, lets just remove the street entirely! That took care of number 1 on the list. For number two, the lack of sidewalks along the east side of Grand, they did nothing. Presumably this blighting condition remains. And those cracked and uneven sidewalks between Loughborough and Blow? No problem either, they simply removed them and do not intend to replace them. The final item, poor sidewalks on Loughborough will be fixed through the logical solution of replacement. The fact remains an unsafe condition due to lack of sidewalks along the east side of Grand Ave is unchanged. The blight cited as reasons for tax incentives and the use of eminent domain has not been solved after $40 million of expense. Sad.

The section on “Improper Subdivision or Obsolete Planning” is a propaganda gem:

This subdivision has produced lots that are inappropriate for residential use and are very inefficient to service. Some of the lots are as narrow as 25 to 35 feet wide and 283 feet deep. This is clearly not a desirable lot dimension for residential use. The depth of other lots have been reduced to 100 to 150 feet, but the narrowness of these lots and the lack of an alley create conditions where must of the lot is consumed by driveway and parking area and servicing of the residence must be done from the street in front of the house. These conditions represent a deviation from the typical residential pattern in the neighboring residential blocks and are not representative of good residential planning.

Yes, and they are all about good planning at Loughborough Commons! It appears five residential properties had this amazingly long yards which is a bit unconventional although certainly appeal to some. Such oddities exist all over this city but that is reason to wipe it clean and start over. Furthermore, three of the long properties faced the now removed Blow Street. Their combined width and depth would have ben an ideal candidate for an in-fill townhouse or condo project much like those we might see in the West End.

Stand-alone grocery stores, like the Schnuck’s store in the Redevelopment Area, are becoming increasingly difficult to economically sustain in a competitive retail environment where shoppers prefer to have all the convenience of multiple purchasing or service options at a single location. All of the major competing grocery stores that are closest to the Redevelopment Area have the benefit of being part of a strip center or a concentration of retail offerings.

This argument falls flat when examined. First, I think this holds true in suburban ares where people don’t want to navigate the family minivan from one parking lot to another on say a hellish road like Manchester in Ballwin. While this report cites a number of grocery stores attached to some sort of strip center they failed to mention the closest store — the former Schnuck’s on South Grand near Holly Hills.

The residential properties represented maybe 4 acres out of a total of roughly 30 acres. This land was at a far corner and in no way represented a block to redeveloping the remaining 26 acres. The city represented by Ald. Matt Villa and Mayor Francis Slay failed to do due diligence and correct all of the reasons the area was blighted in the first place.

We need new and better representation at City Hall or such fleecing will continue. This is incompetence at all levels of the development design and approval process.

– Steve


A Review of the Actual Site Plan of Loughborough Commons

I’ve finally seen the approved site plan for Loughborough Commons: Pedestrian access off Grand at the south end near the Lowe’s? None. Public sidewalk along Grand? None. Sidewalk along the west side of the main drive? None. Public sidewalk along Loughborough? Yes. Sidewalk along the east side of the main drive. Yes. Bike Parking? None. Parcel A (aka big pile-o-dirt)? Scary!

Let’s look at each individually:

As indicated earlier no pedestrian access is planned at the south entrance to Loughborough Commons. This secondary entrance is a wide 35ft and is near many homes to the west of the project as well as other homes where someone might walk along Koeln under I-55. Again, the drawings do not indicate any accommodation for pedestrians at this end — those walking will need to walk along the grass, walk in the auto drive or just get in their car. You can say that someone won’t walk to Lowe’s to buy drywall which is true enough. However, hardware stores of all sizes have many small sales. Furthermore, someone living in this area would naturally go this direction to get to the Schnuck’s grocery store.

Any pedestrian walking along Grand will need to be on the west side of the street as no sidewalk is being constructed along the east side of the street. While not serving any building entrances I am a firm believer in city streets having sidewalks on both sides.

At the main entrance on Loughborough the project drawings do not indicate any internal sidewalk along the west side of the entrance. This is the most logical side for those coming from all the houses to the west of the project. There will be a sidewalk leading to Parcel A but I will discuss that in greater detail later in this post.

Desco is replacing the sidewalk along the length of Loughborough. In an early post from this week I may have suggested this was not the case but in later posts was clear they were indeed replacing the sidewalk.

And finally, as Ald. Villa indicated via email and engineer Dennice Kowelman indicated via phone, they will have an internal sidewalk along the east side of the main drive. The drawings indicate it will be 5ft wide and run adjacent to the drive itself. While this is indicated on the construction documents it was not shown on the public drawings to the public in January 2005 nor does their current construction suggest such a sidewalk. I’m at a loss why the sidewalk was not poured when they did the driveway. I’m also baffled they have graded the soil and planted grass seed if they are going to do a sidewalk. They also have some access covers that would appear to be placed in a manner that will present some challenges. Again, it does not appear they will be putting a sidewalk here but the construction documents do show it. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and presume it was a matter of construction phasing.

The drawings indicate at the bottom of the hill they’d have a crosswalk taking you to the west across a 24ft drive to a striped corner and then south across a 33ft drive to a sidewalk along the front of the as yet to be built additional retail spaces north of the Schnuck’s. While I am happy they have at least this much shown it is simply not enough given the size of the project (30 acres, $40 million) and the size of the public tax breaks ($14 million). So the expectation is someone must follow a maze to get from A to B. But human nature just doesn’t work that way, pedestrians naturally take the shortest path unless the longer path is far more compelling. A plain sidewalk abutting the drive on the east is not more compelling. It dumps you out at the parking and intersection of internal drives. What will happen is people will most likely continue walking along the west side of the drive either in the drive itself or on the grass — we will probably see a worn path next year similar to those at places like Gravois Plaza.

Bike parking? Sorry, you’ll have to lock your bike to the cart racks and hope someone doesn’t hit it as they pull up in their Hummer. And yes, you can bike to a hardware store and buy supplies —- my storage on my bike is more capable than that on my scooter. It is possible some of the outparcel buildings may have some bike parking as they are not yet detailed. Well, I take that back. Parcels B, C, D and E where the current Schnuck’s is located (yes four individual parcels) are not detailed. Parcel A, where homes once stood and where you now see the great mound of Carondelet, is highly detailed. And that is the scary part.

The 13,800sf strip building is facing north toward the park but it is not located along the Loughborough sidewalk where you might expect an urban building to be. No sir, it is set back as far as it can be on that parcel with 85+/- parking spaces between it and Loughborough. Cars coming and going to this section will use the main entrance of the center. A sidewalk is shown from Loughborough where the grass is now but connecting up to this strip center, not down to the main walk in front of Schnuck’s.

Let’s assume for a moment that the St. Louis Bread Co is planning to lease space in the strip portion on this parcel rather than construct a free-standing building with drive-thru in the lower section. And you are there having your “pick-two” lunch and decide to walk over the Schnuck’s to get a few things. Following their sidewalk plan you’d walk back up to Loughborough, cross the main drive to the east, head south along the sidewalk, cross back over the main drive again this time to the west, and then cross another drive before reaching the sidewalk heading to the Schnuck’s store. Or, you cut through the grass and save roughly 350ft in distance. If you are in a wheel chair you’ll be forced to take the longer route.

So maybe Loughborough Commons isn’t the lowest form of development. It is one tiny step above the lowest because of the yet to be built sidewalk on one side of only one entrance. Yet the strip center look facing Carondelet Park will be a horrible sight and perhaps keeps them at the lowest level regardless of the final tenant(s). I’ve made a formal request under Missouri’s Sunshine Law for copies of the site plan — once obtained I will publish them here for you to review and come to your own conclusions.

– Steve


Holly Hills Neighborhood Seeking a St. Louis Bread Company at Loughborough Commons

It appears the neighborhood group in the Holly Hills area near Loughborough Commons is campaigning for a St. Louis Bread Company (aka Panera Bread to the rest of the country). I can’t blame them, the food is great and affordable. They have wi-fi too which is needed in the area. My investment club also happens to be a long-time shareholder of Panera (PNRA).

The following is an email sent out to neighbors:

Dear Neighbor,The Holly Hills Improvement Association Board has been working for the last year to suggest and attain the right type of businesses for the Loughborough Commons development that are a good fit for the neighborhood. I think we can all agree that Saint Louis Bread Company would be a welcome addition to the development. However, Panera Bread (who owns SLBC) is on the fence and we’ve been told directly by the Schnuck family that community support in favor this store locating at this development could possibly sway their decision.

Some of you might recall that this is the same scenerio that happened in St. Louis Hills several years ago. However, the neighborhood rallied in favor and they are currently enjoying coffee and sandwiches at their own Saint Louis Bread Company on Chippewea.

So, here is what we’ve been told to do…write letters…lots of them. They are asking us to bombard the office with support letters to convince them to locate in Loughborough Commons. I’ve put together a sample letter below that you can cut/paste, modify, or of course, you can create your own version. But the address and contact person are who you should keep consistent.

As with most things these days…time is of the essence. If we can get these letters sent by September 8th…that would be most ideal. I’m also interested in keeping track of the number of letters sent for the Schnuck Family. If emailing me to let me know you sent or will send a letter isn’t too inconvenient, I would appreciate that. Also, send this to all of your friends and neighbors and let’s see what we can do.


Mr. Ronald M. Shaich
Chairman and CEO
Panera Bread
6710 Clayton Road
Richmond Heights, MO 63117

Dear Mr. Shaich,

I live in the Holly Hills neighborhood in South St. Louis City. Our neighborhood sits adjacent to the new Loughborough Commons currently under development. I am writing to you in support of building a Saint Louis Bread Company in that development. I pledge to frequent your restaurant and encourage my neighbors to do so as well. We are a community that prides itself on city living and supporting Saint Louis businesses, such as yours. We would be overjoyed to have you as our

Thank you,

Your name here
Your address

As you might guess, I love grassroots campaigns. Yes, I would agree with these residents that a St. Louis Bread Co. would be a very welcomed addition to the local restaurant scene and the fact it is a local firm makes it all the better. I have one slight caveat: I want to be able to walk to the Bread Co. from Loughborough or the Schnucks on a sidewalk.

Panera has proven they are very willing to locate in more urban storefront locations — I’ve seen them here and in other cities. They also have a standard suburban free-standing prototype complete with drive-thru. For a stand alone building with a drive-thru their prototype is really quite attractive and exudes a higher quality feel than most such “buildings.” But, it is what it is —- a small detached structure with a drive-thru window.

The Holly Hills residents are wise to take a pro-active stand on the types of uses in the development. Yet issues such as accessibility and bike parking often escapes most local organizations. They are all volunteer and can only do so much. Their main concern is often making sure such projects are not filled with check cashing places or rent to own furniture stores. Some organizations will have a planner or architect among the group that will also inject some physical design issues into the discussion.

I have to wonder if they are getting a Big Lots store at Loughborough Commons because the one on Broadway at Osceola now has a for lease sign on it. The leasing agent? Desco (the developer of LC). I personally like Big Lots as a concept — they have some really good items at excellent prices. The store on Broadway near me is looking a bit tired but some new ceiling tiles, paint and new flooring would do wonders for that building. But stores are seldom interested in such improvements to freshen an old store when they can move to a newer development. So, it appears that I may be staring at an empty Big Lots, the building itself a former grocery store.

The planning issues around pedestrian connections and bike parking remain the same regardless of the types of retailers and restaurants that open at Loughborough Commons.

– Steve