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What is Next For the Former St. Aloysius Complex?

One thing is known about St. Aloysius, the city’s Preservation Board will not be hearing an appeal from owner Jim Wohlert. I have confirmed with Cultural Resources Director, Kathleen Shea, that no appeal has been received by her office. Ms. Shea had sent letters of denial to Mr. Wohlert on January 24, 2006 following the December 19, 2005 Preservation Board meeting. The ordinance stipulates that any appeal must be filed within 30 days.

So if the developer continues to push his plan for detached housing where the graceful church buildings now stand he’ll have to go a different route. Enter Alderman Vollmer and his deferring accomplices. Look for legislation to exclude the 2+ acre site from preservation review or perhaps to exclude the neighborhood from the preservation review process altogether.

This would be an interesting turn of events now that Alderman Waterhouse is introducing legislation to put the adjacent 24th Ward back into the preservation review process (full story). Vollmer should keep in mind that removing the 24th Ward from preservation review was one of the actions that got Bauer recalled.

– Steve


The McDonald’s Saga Continues

This morning’s hearing on the proposed McDonald’s at 3708 S. Grand was interesting to say the least. On one side we had folks from Pyramid, a McDonald’s rep, the McDonald’s franchise owner and Alderman Jennifer Florida. On the other side you me, a number of nearby residents and Alderman Craig Schmid.

Here is a brief summary:

  • Ald. Florida attempted to put a positive spin on the whole project by calling the proposed McDonald’s “urban-style” and “pedestrian-friendly.” She also said, I kid you not, that the McDonald’s was the “lynchpin for future development occurring” (I thought I was going to lose my breakfast).
  • The franchise owner, James Procter, said they must close their current location at 8pm each night due to crime in the area but they’d like to have the new place open until 11pm. I guess it never occurred to him that perhaps his poorly lit and dirty establishment might the cause of any crime issues (or perception of crime issues) in the area.
  • It was stated that the franchise is up for renewal and McDonald’s is requiring them to rebuild, relocate or close. From a citizen perspective I don’t think our urban planning should be decided based on a franchise agreement.
  • The list of speakers in opposition to the proposal was long. However, the main focus was the conditional use of the drive-thru so I’m not sure how the concerns about trash and such will be taken.
  • Ald. Craig Schmid has been getting some bad press lately over his ideas around loud speakers and liquor licenses. I’ll leave those subjects for another day. On this issue he broke with the time honored practice known as “aldermanic courtesy” and publicly opposed the McDonald’s proposed supported by Ald. Florida. Go Craig!!!
  • The part after the meeting was better than the meeting. I watched as residents had words with Ald. Florida (I always like a free show). Myself and others opposing the project are getting organized for the bigger fight on remaining hearings on the project. Look for the campaign to kick off in the near future!

    Earlier today I was finally able to get a copy of the site plan for the project. OMG, It is worse than I had expected.

  • The site plan includes two 30 ft wide curb cuts along Grand and one 30ft curb cut along Winnebego. A total of three curb cuts!!!! Look for traffic nightmares as people are turning in and out of two cuts along Grand plus Winnebego. This many curb cuts in such a short distance create hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and those of us on scooters.
  • Two “monument” signs. These are the less intrusive type than the tall roadside type. However, at the hearing they indicated only one sign while the drawings indicate two.
  • 47 total parking spaces! The plan shows room for eight cars in the drive-thru lane.
  • The plan is also interesting in what it does not include. The “F” Neighborhood Commercial District requires a number of things before permitting a conditional use when adjacent to a residential district. One item is:

    f. Parking areas shall be screened at all property line with a 10-foot landscaped strip contiguous with or directly across an alley or public or private easement, other than a public street, from any existing residential use or dwelling district. Parking area screens shall consist of a minimum 2-foot high berm and a masonry or wood barrier that is at least 70 percent opaque and not less than 6 feet in height and shall be maintained in good order.

    In this case they show 15 parking spaces along the eastern edge of the site which is across an alley from a residential district. But the plan conveniently omits the required 10-foot landscaped strip along the alley. Out front we’ve got another issue:

    g. A landscape strip not less than 3 feet in width shall be provided along all public streets and shall contain 2-foot high solid landscaping or a masonry wall not less than 2 feet in height except that these elements shall not be required in approved driveways. Street trees shall be installed in the tree lawn, between the public sidewalk and public street, when the tree lawn has sufficient width, or street trees with gates shall be installed in public sidewalks where the sidewalk has sufficient width and is on an earth base with a minimum of 25 feet between trees not including driveways. A minimum of 15% of the lot area shall be landscaped, including screening areas.

    Looks like they might have 3 feet of landscaping at one point out front but barely. No landscaping is indicated on the drawings other than to indicate a few areas as landscaped. Lots of asphalt though!

    The building occupies only 10% of the total site. 10%!!! Sorry, you can’t get any more suburban than that!

    Ald. Florida said the project was “pedestrian-friendly” yet I see no evidence of such. At no point is a sidewalk provided for pedestrians to walk from the public sidewalk to the entrance of the establishment. If you are coming from the neighborhood to the east your only means of entering the site is through the 30-foot wide in/out drive and then walking through the drive area to the front corner of the building. If you are on Grand and wish to enter the restaurant you have the same situation, you must enter the site through the automobile entrance & exit areas. And if you are in a wheelchair you must wheel about 85 feet as if you are heading toward the drive-thru lane before you get to the one ADA ramp. Yeah right, pedestrian friendly my…

    No bicycle parking is indicated either. From the looks of things this does not appear to be any different than a McDonald’s they’d build along a suburban highway exit ramp.

    Once I get the document in PDF format I’ll do another post so everyone can see for themselves.


    Proposed McDonald’s, A Story of Aldermanic Deception & Suburban Design

    Alderman Florida flat out lied. Not an omission of a few details. No sir, a bold faced lie.

    I sat next to Alderman Florida on Monday as the proposed McDonald’s at 3708 S. Grand was discussed before the Commercial District Committee of the Dutchtown South Community Corporation. She claimed to not have any graphics to show the group of the proposal, instead she showed site plans for the nearby Southside National Bank project. Yet, in her possession was a site plan for the McDonald’s project. When questioned on the subject she claimed the site plan she had was not the final plan. Digging a deeper hole she said a current site plan did not exist, that nothing had been submitted. We were puzzled at the idea of a public hearing on the zoning of a drive-thru could be held without a site plan. The truth is it can’t.

    Florida also tried to play dumb on the details of the proposal, claiming she didn’t know if they were using the full site or not.

    Alderman Florida briefly unfolded the site plan and I was able to get a good look at it. The plan uses the full 40,000sf site (approximately 200ft x 200ft), includes new curb cuts on Grand and Winnebego, lots of parking and a drive through. As is typical with these fast food places, the building is set back from both streets with drive lanes between the public sidewalk and building. On the Winnebego side parking, a drive and the drive-thru separate pedestrians from the building.

    Florida described the McDonald’s as an “urban-style” building. Let’s see, we have a large site where roughly 5% of the land will be covered in building with the remaining 95% in asphalt. Plus the building is set back from the sidewalk and is only one-story in height. I’m just not seeing anything to make this urban. Oh yes, I forgot, it has red brick. So taking the standard formula painted concrete block McDonald’s and put some red brick on the place and all of a sudden it is urban? Sorry, I don’t think so.

    Damn, I hate being lied to.

    Right to my face no less!
    … Continue Reading


    Geologist: World Wide Oil Peak Occurred on December 16, 2005

    Via Green Car Congress:

    Ken Deffeyes, Princeton geology professor emeritus, former Shell geologist and author of two books on peak oil, has calculated that the world passed the peak of oil production (production of half of available oil) on 16 December, 2005.

    Two years ago, Deffeyes, who had worked early in his career with M. King Hubbert at Shell, had forecast crossing the peak threshold on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005. Deffeyes revised his calculations based on 2005 data.

    In 1956, Hubbert calculated—and then publicly predicted—that US oil production would peak in the early 1970s. Although Hubbert was widely criticized by some oil experts and economists, in 1971 US oil production did indeed peak and has since been in decline.

    All the detail can be found here.

    What does this mean for St. Louis? The age of cheap motoring is over. Done. Finished. In the next 20 years we will see energy prices skyrocket.

    Now is the time to wean ourselves away from an auto-centric environment to one where the car has its place alongside walking, biking, scootering, and quality mass transit (read: streetcars). The cities that prepare for this inevitability today will be the ones that do well in twenty years.

    – Steve


    Alderwoman Florida To Discuss Proposed McDonald’s

    I recently commented on the land swap that would mean the construction of a new McDonald’s fast-food franchise on the site of the former Sears store on Grand at Winnebego. An upcoming conditional use hearing is reportedly to be held on the 16th but I have not been able to confirm the date, time and place.

    However, I have received word that Ald. Florida will be fielding questions from the folks in Dutchtown:

    As per the request of the DSCC Board of Directors, Alderwoman Jennifer Florida will meet with the DSCC Board of Directors and Commercial District Committee to discuss the McDonald’s on Monday, February 13, 2006 @ 4:30 PM @ Dutchtown South Community Corporation.

    Sunshine Laws require this meeting be open to the public so be sure to attend if you have an interest in this project. The Dutchtown office is located at 4204 Virginia (@ Meramec), 63111 (map)

    In short I feel the McDonald’s should not be allowed to build on the site. The fast food structure surrounded by parking and a drive-thru lane is an incompatible use in an urban environment. This section of Grand is becoming increasingly urban and has the potential to extend the feel of the area to the north. Allowing this former Sears site to become a low-use sprawl project is a careless use of resources that will make it increasingly difficult to finish the residential development directly behind the site.

    But we are not alone in dealing with dreaded drive-thrus.

    McSpotlight.org is a world-wide resource for fighting McDonald’s restaurants. Another great resource is No McDrive-Through!, a Toronto group that successfully prevented a McDonald’s drive-thru from being constructed in their pedestrian neighborhood.

    – Steve