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St. Louis Likes to Raze Buildings on October 20th

One year ago today developers building the unnecessary parking garage in the Old Post Office District began demolishing the Century Building while a judge was considering a temporary restraining order against demolition. Clearly they wanted to damage the building before a TRO was issued. Ultimately the TRO was not issued. It was a very sad day.

Heard on discussion forums on Wednesday evening, 10/20/2004:

The SE corner is getting a good beating, with small pieces coming down for now. The demo guy explained that they are “laying down a base” of small pieces in the street to protect the pavement, then they’ll start giving it bigger hits.

The next day:

I drove downtown at 10:30pm Wednesday night to take a peek at progress, St. Louis style. The southeast corner of the Century’s top floor certainly had Geisman’s signature on it, but the wrecking ball was idle – at least for the half hour I was there. I asked a construction worker what was going on and he said they were just taking a break at that moment, had been delayed while adding another section to the crane, planned on continuing the demo all night long and that it would take about 4 months to complete the job. I wonder if all-nighters, such as this are budgeted for the entire 4 month term or limited to only the wee hours of evenings preceding a judge’s ruling on a petition for a TRO. Does the side opposing the motion for a TRO in this case, gain leverage by rendering the building beyond redemption? Geez, given the issues being heard by a judge concurrently, ! wouldn’t such a blatant and vitriolic action be considered Contempt of Court?

From another on 10/21/2004:

As far as I could tell, the pounding stopped around 2 am. I finally got back to sleep close to 4 am and never heard any destruction noise after that.

The mood for many in the city was low. In time the “establishment” will realize the error of razing the Century Building.

Fast forward to present…

Last night the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Houston Astros, ending their 2005 season. Demolition will now begin on the old Busch Stadium. Originally they had planned to implode the 40 year old structure but they will instead use more conventional demolition techniques.

When they were discussing imploding the stadium I began a post I was going to title, “Top Ten Buildings I’d Implode Before Busch Stadium.” I didn’t want my work to go to waste so here is the list:

  • 10 – Indoor malls, starting with Westfield “Shopping Towns”
  • 9 – Chesterfield Commons, sprawling strip/big box center in flood plain
  • 8 – St. Louis Marketplace, nearly vacant strip/big box center
  • 7 – Interstate highways in the City of St. Louis (I-44, I-55 and I-70)
  • 6 – Westport Plaza, a make believe city.
  • 5 – A. G. Edwards Complex (link w/strong language)
  • 4 – All parking garages lacking street level retail (quite a few)
  • 3 – Pet Building
  • 2 – Adams Mark Hotel
  • 1 – Gateway One
  • While I like the arches of the “old” stadium I can live without the rest of it. The building to sidewalk relationship is dismal. The new stadium shows more promise from an urban perspective although the whole red brick retro thing is a predictable.

    – Steve

    PS @ 10:45am: It was 11 days later, on October 31, 2004, that I started Urban Review – St. Louis.


    Winghaven Grocer Closes Store


    Last January I shared the tales of a trip to visit friends in St. Charles County. I learned more about my friend’s grocery shopping habits:

    They go to Dave’s on the Boardwalk in Winghaven. Earlier in the day, Dave himself took out their groceries to their SUV. Who knew such friendly neighborhood markets existed – much less in a new area in St. Charles County. This is not some glorified convenience store – they have a full selection of groceries including fresh produce and a deli. Plus, the store was very attractive in a smart way – much like our small Straub’s chain. I had low expectations and was immediately surprised.

    Today my friends told me that yesterday was the store’s last day open. This certainly does speak volumes about the shopping habits of the typical suburban resident. They have a great market in walking/biking distance from their homes and they don’t support it.

    Below is a note from Dave’s website:


    A letter from Dave

    After many weeks of indecision it is with a great deal of regret that Kathy and I have to share with you that we will be closing our store for the last time Sunday, October 16, 2005.

    The two and one half years we have been open have made us a success in everything we tried to do with the exception of one, and that is the financial portion of the business.

    Kathy and I tried to capture this “NEW URBANISM” spririt with the return of the old “CORNER GROCERY STORE” and feel that history will show that we were just four years too early.

    We’ve had fun as we watched our friend’s and families grow, our friends getting married, and prayed for our friends working through health situations. We have enjoyed just watching the kids grow.

    Please remember this special community that exists here in O’Fallon and work to keep it that.

    We have been blessed in so many ways as each of you have been our greatest blessing. As our life continues into the future we know that we will have a difficult path to travel, but also believe that one greater than all of this will light the way.

    We have made many friends here and hope to remain in contact with all of you, as we do live in the O’Fallon area.

    While I began this with a “farewell” it would be more appropriate to use the Austrain version of “AUF WIEDERSEIN” (Until we meet again)!

    Love and many thanks,
    Kathy & Dave

    P.S. Kathy, Dave and all our “GREAT” associates will be looking for jobs.

    First I want to give Dave and his wife Kathy credit for giving it a try. Unfortunately Winghaven was billed as New Urbanism but it was really only a half-assed attempt at true New Urbanism. Blame can be pinned on the City of O’Fallon, the lenders afraid of something new and the developer for not pushing for the real thing. I would guess than when Dave signed on as a tenant he was sold a bill of goods.

    We have only one true example of New Urbanism in our region and that is New Town at St. Charles. It is everything that Winghaven is not.

    – Steve


    St. Charles School District Faces Financial Issues

    October 17, 2005 Politics/Policy, Suburban Sprawl Comments Off on St. Charles School District Faces Financial Issues

    Yes, suburban St. Charles School District is facing financial shortfalls in coming years and is considering closing some neighborhood schools. The once booming district has seen enrollment drop over the last few years.

    This was completely predictable.

    Just as the City of St. Louis lost population and students to St. Louis County we are seeing a repeat performance in St. Charles County. Most of the district is located in the older City of St. Charles, which is not expanding, while the rest of the county is turning farms and flood plain into sprawl as fast as they can.

    School districts in the newest areas of St. Charles County are dealing with rapidly increasing student populations, straining budgets to build new schools and pay for fuel to transport students. Neighborhood schools just don’t exist in the new sprawl.

    The myth of this idyllic county are unraveling before our eyes. It will be interesting to see if they have learned from mistakes made in our cities over the last 60 years or if they will be repeated.

    – Steve


    Proposed Lowe’s in Charlotte N.C. A Good Urban Compromise

    Other U.S. cities are finding creative ways of integrating “Big Box” retailing within older urban neighborhoods. Last week I showed you a big box development in Atlanta that managed to create real streets and a mix of building sizes. Now I’ve run across an interesting proposal for a Lowe’s in Charlotte N.C.

    Lowe’s has made substantial changes to its plans for a home improvement store on South Boulevard….The plans also move the garden center to the South Boulevard side of the store, next to a new 5,000-square-foot retail building that could house a coffee shop, a deli or other types of neighborhood retail. As in the previous plan, the store would still have parking on the roof and be lined by up to 60 condominiums.

    Just imagine, a garden center next to a coffee shop — sounds good to me. Rooftop parking is also a good solution to massive parking lots. And condos around the building. This peaked my interest and I was pleased with what I found.

    First, the proposal is not yet final. At this time Lowe’s is on their 4th revision to the site plan. Neighbors are still upset about a Lowe’s in their neighborhood — they are concerned about too much traffic. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. If only they could see the abysmal Lowe’s/Schnuck’s combination we are getting.


    Let me explain the site plan above since at this quality you can’t see the detail. The middle of the image is the Lowe’s with parking & trees shown on the roof. To the lower left is a small but typical parking lot in front of the building. The dark band in the picture is parking at the back of the building. But this parking is not for the Lowe’s but is instead for the residential units facing the adjacent neighborhood.


    This section gives you a good idea how the Lowe’s is separated from existing residential by new housing. What amazes me is how Lowe’s has had to rework their proposal numerous times before the city would approve the plan. What a novel concept for the city to not just bend over, grab their ankles, and take whatever big box the developer says they want to build!

    Also interesting is the level of detail on the proposal from Lowe’s. For Loughborough Commons we got freshmen level architectural sketches. In Charlotte they’ve got an exceptional level of detail for all to see. Click here to review the full PDF document (it is a big one – be patient). The proposal even included a bike & pedestrian map! This showed locations of bike racks (yes, more than one) as well as pedestrian circulation patterns. Meanwhile, we don’t even get sidewalks on our proposals.

    The new Target could have benefited from the same type of thinking. Imagine some townhouses along the back of the newly constructed building facing the residential neighborhood.

    This is for the folks at City Hall: The developers are going to do the least they can get away with some rare exceptions. Desco is not one of those exceptions! If we are going to have quality developments we must set standards to maintain a sense of urbanity. Clearly we can do this while still permitting big box developers to locate within the city. And if the current crop of people at city hall won’t make the changes we’ll just have to get new ones that will. How about a full round of recalls?

    In development you get what you ask for and based on what is being built in and around St. Louis we are saying, “Give us the crap that nobody else allows anymore.” Charlotte isn’t exactly Chicago or Atlanta. Must we continue to settle for second or third rate developments from our second and third rate developers and elected officials that smile at the ribbon cuttings?

    – Steve


    Atlanta’s Edgewood Development Offers Inspiration for Saint Louis

    Much of my time is spent ranting about “missed opportunities” at local developments such as Loughborough Commons. Responses are often along the lines of well we don’t like it either but we have to compete with the suburbs. We have such a void of good design in the St. Louis area our expectations are so low. Architects and planners in this town need to have some balls and show clients what is possible rather than continuing with the same crap.

    But new big box developments need not be the drab single-use wastes of land that litter the St. Louis region. If you combine creative developers and architects with higher land cost in municipalities that actually demand urbanity you get something along the lines of Atlanta’s new Edgewood shopping district.


    It is hard to tell from this site plan but a lot is happening on this 37 acre site. The developer’s promotional literature does a good job of summarizing the mix:

    “This distinctive project will allow for anchor tenants and small box tenants as well as local retailers and restaurants, featuring a variety of architecture to suit the diverse tenant mix and compliment the area’s unique history. The center’s proposed ‘Main Street’ element with its blend of local boutiques, friendly eateries and exciting national retailers is sure to become a thriving hub of neighborhood activity for families and singles alike. Additionally, an existing historic building will be converted to residential lofts and this conversion will be the cornerstone that blends new to old thus making the entire project a true live-shop-play community.”

    This is exactly how big box developments like Lowe’s and Target can be integrated into neighborhoods. The smaller buildings provide opportunities for local retailers with offices or living units above. Shared parking encourages walking from store to store creating an energy that most sprawling developments lack. I’m not fond of Atlanta but I may have to schedule a visit soon to see it first hand. The development opened this summer. To see some photos of the project under construction and of the surrounding homes click here.

    UPDATE 9/27/05 @ 10AM – See more images of the Edgewood Retail District and an analysis of the design from a New Urbanist perspective here.

    Like Desco’s Loughborough Commons this development is in the middle of existing housing and is adjacent to a rail line serving commuters (MetroLink will stop at the Loughborough Commons site in the future). Both have a Lowe’s and a major grocery store. The similarities end there.

    Other recent developments in the region, like THF’s Wal-Mart & Lowe’s project in Maplewood, is a conventional drab single use project. Just imagine how different that area would feel had they gone in the same direction as Atlanta’s project.

    Locally our developers, architects, planners, and city officials are selling us short. We deserve no less than such a vibrant mixed-use development.