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Thirty Hours on Megabus: St. Louis to Memphis to Little Rock to Dallas & Back

May 12, 2015 Featured, Transportation, Travel Comments Off on Thirty Hours on Megabus: St. Louis to Memphis to Little Rock to Dallas & Back

Two week ago I arrived in Dallas for a workshop & conference. I left St. Louis at 3:40pm Monday, arriving at 7:35am Tuesday morning. Amtrak? Drive? Greyhound? No, Megabus.  I last wrote about Megabus in August, see My First Trip Via Megabus. At that time the official stop was just a spot on 14th between Spruce & Clark. Now Megabus uses one of Greyhound’s bays at the Gateway Transportation Center — a huge improvement.

Sign inside the Gateway Transportation Center
Sign inside the Gateway Transportation Center

Departing & arriving inside a building with food & restrooms is so much nicer than just a spot next to the road. At just before 4pm in the afternoon it isn’t a big deal — assuming it isn’t raining. But in a couple of weeks we’ll be leaving just after midnight for a trip to Chicago. It’s the middle of the night when a building makes a difference — especially in a strange city.

Two hours each way were spent in Memphis.
Two hours each way were spent in Memphis at the META North End Transfer Center. The restroom was awful, but they had plenty of outlets for charging electronics.
Very happy when we arrived in Dallas!
Very happy when we arrived in Dallas!

But when your conference stipend covers your hotel for four nights sometimes sacrifices must be made. My roundtrip was $32.50 — purchased about a month in advance. Airfare & Amtrak were both in the hundreds, renting a car would’ve been just as costly. Flying or driving wouldn’t have allowed me to have my power wheelchair, not a good option in this case.

— Steve Patterson

 

Reviving A Dead Mall By Rebranding With An Ethnic Focus

In 2009 I paid a visit to my childhood mall that opened in 1974 — eight days before my seventh birthday. By 2009 it was dead — all four anchors were closed as were most of the smaller stores. The next year National Public Radio did a story on how the Federal Reserve of New York came to own one of Oklahoma’s largest indoor malls:

It also owned a loan to Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City. Then, when the owners of the mall couldn’t make the payments, the Fed foreclosed. So now it owns the mall, which includes a Chick-fil-A and an AMC theater. (NPR)

The AMC Theater is in a separate building on an outlet — built years later.

A Crossroads Mall  entrance, August 2009
Crossroads Mall entrance, August 2009 was used (by permission) in the 2010 NPR story.

In March I returned with my husband. Why visit a dead mall again? New owners have rebranded the mall, attracting new customers and stores.  From two years ago:

The south Oklahoma City mall fell into the hands of the federal government in 2008, limped through the recession years with a handful of tenants while somehow managing to keep its doors open.

But Legaspi, who owns The Legaspi Co., a California firm known for turning ailing shopping malls into thriving, Hispanic centers, has a plan.

On Wednesday afternoon, he announced details of the project, including the mall’s new name: Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads, a name that translates to “the main square” at the crossroads. It includes space for a grocery store, nightclub and a rodeo arena seating 3,500 spectators.

Already, Legaspi has worked on a dozen ailing malls across the country. (NewsOK)

From the new owner’s About Me page:

The Legaspi Company is a full-service development/brokerage company for commercial/ investment real estate, particularly for retail projects.  We are recognized as an aggressive commercial real estate company, noted particularly for our ability to successfully identify and capitalize on untapped opportunities created by demographic changes and trends in the marketplace.  This reputation has led many investors, developers and retailers (please see accompanying client list) to seek our assistance in their expansion/development planning, site selection, and leasing/sales negotiation activities.  Municipalities and government entities have also recognized our ability to position, in many cases re-position, shopping districts in order to increase services to the community.

The foundation of our strength in various market areas is our niche marketing orientation: our recognition of the unique needs and marketing characteristics of each site on its own merits, and our willingness, as a matter of choice, to educate and work aggressively with investors, developers, retailers, and tenants in these areas, which in many cases were, till quite recently, considered marginal at best. (Legaspi Co)

We visited early on a Sunday morning, just as stores were starting to open.

Color was added to the entrances
Color was added to the entrances, a vinyl banner covers the outdated metal graphics
The former Dillard's, where I worked briefly in college, now has some color
The former Dillard’s at right, where I worked briefly in college, now has some color. Click image to see this lot filled with people during a 2014 festival.
The former Dillard's store was being
The former Dillard’s store would soon be ‘El Parian’

During our visit we didn’t know what El Parian would be, I’ve since learned:

El Parian will feature about 60, 12-foot by 12-foot incubator booths that will be ringed around an atrium.

Additional phases of construction will include salon and restaurant space, with the hope of eventually having booth space for as many as 300 small start-up businesses, he said. The second and third floors of the Dillard’s wing will be converted to office space, Ruiz said.

Tenants at the mall said they were hopeful that El Parian would draw more shoppers to Plaza Mayor and give existing businesses a boost. A trickle of new shops has continued to reopen in the mall since redevelopment plans with Hispanic mall developer The Legaspi Co. were unveiled in spring 2013. (NewsOK)

The El Parian is now open, so I have a reason to return. Another would be to visit later when places are open — especially restaurants.

One of several restaurants in the mall, this one was just about to open. Soccer was playing on the TV.
One of several restaurants in the mall, this one was just about to open for the day. Soccer was playing on the TV.
The center court once again hosts packed events
The center court once again hosts packed events, click the image above to see a photo from a 2014 event on their Facebook page

This video aired not long after the change to Plaza Mayor — it is wrong about the mall’s opening though — it opened in 1974 — not 1979.

Such a focus makes sense in Oklahoma City, in 2010 the population of Oklahoma City was 579,999 — with 17.2% being Hispanic or Latino (of any race) — up from 5% in 1990 (Wikipedia). By contrast, the City of St. Louis was only 3.5% Hispanic/Latino in 2010 (Wikipedia). The St. Louis region likely has a much lower percentage than the city.

Though this focus wouldn’t work for our dead/dying malls I bring this up because it shows how one developer has found a way to match vacant real estate with an often marginalized market. National brands are beginning to recognize the Hispanic/Latino market:

The 50 largest spending companies put $3.4 billion into Latino advertising in 2013, according to the most recent figures available from industry publication Advertising Age, which measured spending on Spanish-language ads on broadcast and cable networks and in Spanish language publications. Procter & Gamble Co. was the top spender with $334.8 million, followed by AT&T with $124.7 million. Target came in 28th, with $51.5 million. (LA Times)

Most real estate brokers & developers, blinded by their conventional wisdom, couldn’t see any use for this mall.

One of the new monument signs around the exterior
One of the new monument signs around the exterior

This is a good lesson on how the status quo establishment may not offer creative solutions — such reminders are a very good thing. I look forward to returning over the coming years to see Plaza Mayor continue to evolve.

— Steve Patterson

 

Three-Day Weekend: Fuel Taxes and Tolls

We did a 3-day weekend trip to Oklahoma City last weekend so my husband could meet more of my family — including two in from Northern California. For cost reasons we decided to drive rather than fly. We kept detailed records on costs — fuel and tolls. We drove I-44 the entire way — in Oklahoma it is a toll road.  I think the results will make for an interesting conversation about fuel taxes and tolls.

Those of us not using a prepaid PIKEPASS had to stop at toll plazas to pay in cash. Those using PIKEPASS save time and 5%. 
Those of us not using a prepaid PIKEPASS had to stop at toll plazas to pay in cash. Those using PIKEPASS save time and 5%. Those with a PIKEPASS can also use it in Northern Texas (Dallas-Ft. Worth) and Kansas.

Our roundtrip was 1,129 miles (585 were in Missouri, 544 in Oklahoma) — 51.8% vs 48.2%. We used 31.861 gallons of gasoline — 69.54% of which was purchased in Missouri.  Our 2007 Honda Civic, with over 100k miles, averaged over 35mpg on mostly highway miles, the government rating on our vehicle is 36mpg highway. We stayed a traveled a few MPH over the posted speed limit of 70 un Missouri and 75 in Oklahoma.

Our total cost for fuel & tolls was $21.48, but even though only 48.2% of our miles were in Oklahoma that state received 82.17% of our money, Missouri the remaining 17.83%.   In total state fuel taxes & fees we paid $3.83 to Missouri, $1.65 to Oklahoma. We paid Oklahoma a total of $16 in tolls  — $4 per toll plaza stop. Missouri collects 17.3¢/gal in fuel taxes & fees, Oklahoma a little less at 17¢/gal.  Oklahoma has ten toll highways thoughout the state!

If Missouri is unwilling to increase our fuel taxes to fund our infrastructure needs then we should consider tolls. This has allowed Oklahoma to fund roads & bridges while keeping fuel taxes among the lowest in the country. Oklahoma gets visitors passing through their state to pay for the privilege. Of course, if you ask Oklahomans about tolls they’ll say they don’t like them.

Critics of fuel taxes say increasing efficiency of vehicles causes shortfalls in state revenues, electric vehicles like a Tesla don’t pay any fuel taxes. Tolls are the great equalizer though — a Tesla would’ve paid $16 in tolls just like we did.

— Steve Patterson

 

Day Trip: Staunton & Mt Olive Illinois

March 20, 2015 Featured, Metro East, Travel Comments Off on Day Trip: Staunton & Mt Olive Illinois

Two weeks ago I wrote a post called Please Enjoy The Weekend, I didn’t give the details of our planned day trip. Today I want to share with you what we did that day. We crossed into Illinois on the Eads Bridge and took state roads through Pontoon Beach, Edwardsville, and other towns on the way to our first stop.  A detour near our destination forced us onto I-55 for about a mile.

First stop: Main Street Staunton IL. We had lunch at Cavataio's Restaurant on Main & Edwardsville St, click for their website.
First stop: Main Street Staunton IL. We had lunch at Cavataio’s Restaurant on Main & Edwardsville St, click for their website. Go Bulldogs!!
Route 66
We were on Old Route 66 part of the drive from St. Louis to Staunton, at this point we turned right for our next stop.
If you've driven I-55 you've likely seem Country Classic Cars. This was my third visit since 2006, the 2nd visit for my husband.
If you’ve driven I-55 you’ve likely seem Country Classic Cars. This was my third visit since 2006, the 2nd visit for my husband.
Soulsby's Service
In nearby Mount Olive we found Soulsby’s Service, the oldest remaining Route 66 gas station building. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, click image for more information from the National Park Service.
Because of the snow I couldn't walk to the Mother Jones monument, click image for more information
Because of the snow I couldn’t walk to the Mother Jones monument, click image for more information
After the cemetery we drove down a few streets of modest homes in Mt Olive IL but then we spotted this house
After the cemetery we drove down a few streets of modest homes in Mt Olive IL but then we spotted this house

We’re going to repeat this day trip when there’s no snow or water out. As car guys looking at classic on historic Route 66 is a fun interest. We have more fun planned for this weekend!

Spring starts this afternoon at 5:45pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

I’d Love An Eataly St. Louis

February 18, 2015 Featured, Retail, Travel Comments Off on I’d Love An Eataly St. Louis
Eataly Chicago is 63,000 square feet on two levels.
Eataly Chicago is 63,000 square feet on two levels. Clock image for website.

During my nearly week-long visit to Chicago I shopped at three very different grocery stores: local chain Treasure Island, national chain Whole Foods, and Italian-based global chain: Eataly.

The only other Eataly in North America is in NYC. Most are in Italy, other cities with a location include Tokyo , Dubai, and Istanbul.

The Italian businessman Oscar Farinetti opened the first Eataly in an old vermouth factory in Turin, Italy, in 2007. Twenty-six outlets later, the word Eataly has been spoken so many times from Turkey to Tokyo—and now in River North—that you may have forgotten how silly it is. An Italian superstore called Eataly! That would be like an American food bazaar called United Plates. [Chicago Magazine]

Investors such as Mario Batali are looking to expand to cities like Boston, Philadelphia, etc.

i doubt we’ll see an Eataly in St  louis, but I also didn’t expect us to get an IKEA  The best location for an Eataly in St. Louis would be Ballpark Village because it offers a high concentration of people much of the year. However, Eataly seems to prefer going into existing buildings.

— Steve Patterson

 

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