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City Hospital once part of a dense neighborhood

Cities, and the neighborhoods within them, slowly change over time.  Old photographs and written accounts are our best window into life before we existed.  When I arrived in St. Louis in August 1990 the old City Hospital complex on Lafayette was long vacant.  Now the main building is The Georgian condos but two other structures were razed for the condo project.

From Paul Hohman of Vanishing St. Louis:

The aerial photo below from 2002 shows the City Hospital site as a fairly dense urban village with the old Administration Building along Lafayette, the 13 story Tower Building at center fronting on Carrol Street (notice how Carrol connects to the residential area to the west), and the 6 story former Malcolm Bliss Mental Heath Center along Park Avenue. In late 2002 demolition began on Malcolm Bliss and the Tower Building prior to the conversion of the Administration Building into the Georgian Condominiums by Gilded Age.

Image source: Vanishing STL, click image for post

Last year I brought the following photo which shows the construction of the now-razed tower building.

Source: scanned original photo

This was an era of increased building possible through rail transit (streetcars).  I know perceptions were changing anyway, but I can’t help but think the demise of the last streetcar in 1966 contributed to further decline.  Eight lines were closed in 1946/47.  Cities like New Orleans, San Francisco and Toronto kept their lines running and that has paid dividends for them.

– Steve Patterson


No longer bus-averse

February 9, 2010 Public Transit 8 Comments
ABOVE: Vew from a bus in Seattle, WA
ABOVE: Vew from a bus in Seattle, WA

I no longer have issues with taking a bus if that is that is the only public transportation choice I have.  This was not always the case with me.  I still prefer streetcars to the bus but many times the bus is better than a private car.

Before moving downtown I would sometimes bike a few blocks over to the #40 Broadway bus to catch a ride downtown.  I was nervous the first time I used the bike rack on the front of the bus but I quickly got used to it.  Taking the bus downtown allowed me to arrive sweat-free.  Returning home I could bus or bike back, depending on my level of energy.

Once I used a combination of modes for a meeting in Granite City, IL.  I drove my only vehicle,  a 49cc motor scooter, to MetroLink station for a light rail train across the river to East St. Louis where I got on a Madison County bus to Granite City, IL.

After I moved downtown I had to attend a breakfast meeting on Delmar in the Loop. It was cold and rainy and I didn’t feel like riding the scooter.  I had two choices via public transit.  Light rail on MetroLink or the bus.  While I prefer rail transit, the bus was closer to my house and final destination: I walked two blocks from my loft to catch the bus and it dropped me off across the street from my destination.  Learning the bus routes near my loft helped me understand where I could get to via the bus.

I’ve ridden buses on vacation as well. My last trip to New York City I rode the bus from the airport into Manhattan.  In Seattle last year I rode a bus into downtown and back from the Capital Hill neighborhood.  In October 2009 I tried out the new downtown circulator (see post).

The bus serves serves a function just as other modes do.  The private car isn’t going away but neither is the bus.  Neither should go away.  What we all need to remember is we need the option of various modes in order to make a choice.  Too much of our region has no choice at all — if you want to leave your house it will be by private automobile.

– Steve Patterson


What the passage of Proposition “A” can mean for the St. Louis region

ABOVE: St. Louis County Executive Charlie A Dooley
ABOVE: St. Louis County Executive Charlie "A" Dooley, August 2006

Tuesday April 6, 2010 voters in St. Louis County will decide the fate of Proposition A — a 1/2 cent sales tax to match the same tax previously approved by voters in the City of St. Louis.  Revenues would be used to fund existing operations and expand service of our regional public transit.

I decided to put together list of what “A” can do for the region:

  1. Accelerate: strong transit will accelerate the trend toward filling in the core rather than pushing outward at the edges.  This helps ensure those folks who moved to the edge won’t be surrounded by new construction.
  2. Accessible: public transit makes going from home to work accessible to many.  This applies to those of us with disabilities as well as those without access to an automobile. Getting our citizens to work, school is important for a strong region.
  3. Accomplish: dedicated funding is critical to a healthy  transit transit system.  Prop. A will accomplish the goal of creating a dedicated funding source for operations.
  4. Achieve: St. Louis will be closer to achieving the type of transit system a strong region needs to have to compete in the 21st century.
  5. Activate: transit helps create activity.  Transit riders are often pedestrians on part of their total trip.  Their activity creates a buzz around stations & stops.  More transit and more riders that will activate our sidewalks.
  6. Adjust: we will adjust our ideas about transit and what it means to the region, even if we don’t use the system ourselves (or just rarely).
  7. Affirm: passage will affirm our commitment to a regional transit network.  This affirmation will send a strong message to companies and people considering the St. Louis region as a future location.
  8. Affordable: as we saw when service was cut back people couldn’t get to work.  Employers need their employees at work.  Our region can’t afford to not have a functioning transit system.  We can’t afford to not pass this tax.
  9. Attainable: with dedicated funding Metro can attain a decent level of service for the region through both rail & bus transit.
  10. Augment: we will be able to augment the current system to better serve the core of the region, including St. Louis County.

For more information the on Proposition A see the Yes on A website at moremetrolink.com.

– Steve Patterson


Recovery Act high-speed rail announcement in St. Louis

ABOVE: Dr. Ed Montgomery (center) at press cponference in St. Louis on 1/28/2010.
ABOVE: Dr. Ed Montgomery (center) at press cponference in St. Louis on 1/28/2010.

Yesterday, across the country, announcements were being made regarding $8 billion in federal grants from the Recovery Act.  One of those announcements took place in St. Louis.   I was there for the announcement and captured the entire press conference on video so you can view the entire event.

#1 – Opening with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Dept Admin Karen Rae (Dept Admin Transportation Dept):


#2 – Dr. Ed Montgomery (White House Exec Dir for Auto Communities and Workers):


#3 – U.S. Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-3rd):


#4 – Question  & Answer:


#5 – Missouri Senator Joan Bray (D-24):


Another press conference will be held today (Friday 1/29/2010) at the Amtrak station in Alton IL.  It will be years before the St. Louis-Chicago connection is complete but as was said this $8 billion is only a down payment.  The federal government subsidized the interstate highway system for decades while ignoring passenger rail. Chicago will be the center of a network of high-speed rail lines, our proximity is good.

“A White House official visited St. Louis today to announce $1.1 billion in stimulus money for high-speed rail between St. Louis and Chicago and another $31 million to upgrade passenger rail service between St. Louis and Kansas City.” (St. Louis-Chicago high-speed rail gets $1.1B in stimulus)

Improving city-to-city rail transit will increase the ability for someone living in the St. Louis region to go car-free.  Residents on both sides of the Mississippi River can take MetroLink to the St. Louis Amtrak station and travel to Chicago and beyond.  I look forward to taking a high-speed train to Chicago.

– Steve Patterson


Transit-oriented development finally coming to St. Louis?

St. Louis’ original light rail line, MetroLink, opened in 1993.  I was a young man back then (26).  I was so excited about the future of the city I had called home for only 3 years at that point.

The total system has been expanded several times since then but my hope of new construction clustering around the growing number of stations never appeared.  Some existing buildings around some stations were renovated but for the most part stations are surrounded by Park-n-Ride lots.

One such lot is in an older dense area, adjacent to the Forest Park Station (above, map).  Developer McCormack Baron Salazar wants to develop the surface parking lot into retail, housing and commuter parking.  Last week I attended a meeting hosted by McCormack Baron to introduce the concept to the area residents.

Richard Baron led the meeting.  McCormack Baron Associate Project Manager Cady Scott, a Saint Louis University urban planning graduate, is working on the project and was there to answer questions as was local architect Andy Trivers.

There are no fancy architectural drawings to show because this project is at the very beginning stages.  What I do know is they want street-level retail facing DeBaliviere (approximately 10,000sf), one and two-bedroom apartments above (approx 80 units) and parking for residents and commuters.  Parking was, as you might expect, one of the areas with lots of questions from those at the meeting.  Also not surprising was the opposite viewpoints raised.  Some favored little to zero commuter parking while others wanted more than the current 100+ spaces.  Scott & Baron also indicated resident parking would be segregated from commuter/retail parking.  They seek to have less than one space per unit.  All of the units would have universal design and they expect a number of residents to be car-free.  They are planning for two WeCars (car sharing from Enterprise).

Richard Baron referenced their 6 North project throughout the meeting (my 2005 review here).


Located near Saint Louis University at Laclede & Sarah (map), 6 North features retail and office space facing the street and universal design living units.  The units are rented at both market and subsidized affordable rates. Residents include the disabled and able-bodied.  To use this same model next to a transit station is ideal.

But some neighbors thought it best to wait for the market to rebound to support all market rate for-sale housing.  I disagree.  Besides the fact the site has been vacant for half a century, the disabled need more housing options near transit.  Those receiving housing subsidies are not deadbeat welfare parents with tons of kids.  They might be staff at nearby Washington University or a school teacher.  They must pay rent, just less than the market.  The 6 North project has a waiting list of people seeking a unit.

Now is the best time to develop this site.  It provides housing oriented to transit, needed for those who don’t/can’t drive, and desired by many that can drive but would rather take public transit.

– Steve Patterson