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Still In Chicago To Avoid Snow In St. Louis

Looking east along Erie St at Fairbanks, Chicago IL
Looking east along Erie St at Fairbanks, Chicago IL, click image to view in Google Maps.

My husband and I had planned to return to St. Louis from Valentine’s weekend in Chicago via Amtrak late Sunday night — well technically just after midnight Monday morning. Sunday we realized the weather would make it difficult for me — arriving so late there wouldn’t be MetroBus service and getting the nearly 3/4 of a mile home on un-shoveled sidewalks in frigid temperatures wasn’t an option.

We tried to reserve a wheelchair taxicab from both companies that offer that service — but cited the coming storm as to why they couldn’t pick me up. My husband needed to be able to go to work Monday, so he left on our scheduled train but I changed my ticket to Tuesday morning — today. I’ll arrive later this afternoon.

The temperature will still be frigid and the sidewalks unusable, but I’ve arranged for a wheelchair taxicab to pick me up.

As a first, this post was started as a note on my iPhone Sunday night and finished at a Panera on my iPad Monday morning. The snow was good in that it forced me to learn to post from my iPad on the go.

— Steve Patterson

 

Happy Washington’s Birthday or Presidents’ Day?

February 16, 2015 Events/Meetings, Featured, Transportation, Travel Comments Off on Happy Washington’s Birthday or Presidents’ Day?
The Lincoln IL Amtrak station, as seen from a Lincoln Service train in May 2012
The Lincoln IL Amtrak station, as seen from a Lincoln Service train in May 2012

So which is it: Presidents’ Day or Washington’s Birthday? What about Abraham Lincoln? The best answer I found online is from Snopes.com (recommended):

Claim:   The federal holiday observed in the United States on the third Monday of February is officially designated as “Presidents’ Day.”

FALSE

Their post is long and detailed, but the following is a good summary:

President Nixon is frequently identified as the party responsible for changing Washington’s Birthday into President’s Day and fostering the notion that it is a day for commemorating all U.S. Presidents, a feat he supposedly achieved by issuing a proclamation on 21 February 1971 which declared the third Monday in February to be a “holiday set aside to honor all presidents, even myself.” This claim stems not from fact, however, but from a newspaper spoof. Actually, presidential records indicate that Nixon merely issued an Executive Order (11582) on 11 February 1971 defining the third Monday of February as a holiday, and the announcement of that Executive Order identified the day as “Washington’s Birthday.”

Executive Order (11582) makes no mention of the title’s of the holidays:

(a) Holiday means the first day of January, the third Monday of February, the last Monday of May, the fourth day of July, the first Monday of September, the second Monday of October, the fourth Monday of October, the fourth Thursday of November, the twenty-fifth day of December, or any other calendar day designated as a holiday by Federal statute or Executive order.

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is the 12th — my husband and I were on a Lincoln Service Amtrak train to Chicago on his birthday. Washington’s birthday s the 22nd — this coming Sunday.

— Steve Patterson

 

Repurposing Gas Stations As Restaurants

The other day, while waiting at a red light, I noticed a business had opened in an old filling station at Eichelberger & S. Kingshighway. The ice cream shop is called The Filling Station.

The Filling Station opened in 2013, click image to see entry on Yelp.
The Filling Station opened in 2013, click image to see entry on Yelp.

I haven’t patronized the business so I can’t speak to the food or service. However, I can say I love the building and its use as a restaurant. Before the light turned green I was thinking about the lunch my husband and I had in Kansas City, at a place I thought was a former gas station.

Joe's Kansas City, formerly Oklahoma Joe's, is among the most popular BBQ restaurants in Kansas City.
Joe’s Kansas City, formerly Oklahoma Joe’s, is among the most popular BBQ restaurants in Kansas City, thankfully we arrived before the line was out the door.
Inside the former service bays
Inside the former service bays
It was after we ate that I realized this was still a functional gas station!
It was after we ate that I realized this was still a functional gas station!

A hugely popular restaurant operating out of a current gas station? Here’s part of their story:

Later that year [1996], experience and commitment intersected with opportunity and serendipity at the corner of 47th Avenue and Mission Road in Kansas City, Kansas, where the owner of a little neighborhood gas station and convenience store, not far from the Stehneys’ house, closed the little fried chicken counter he had been operating inside the store. “It seemed like a pretty good place for a barbecue joint,” Jeff says. “Inside a gas station. Plus there was a liquor store next door, in the same building, which was kind of cool. But the main thing was that it was close to home. I knew we’d be putting in some long hours, and being close to home would be a really good thing. We put together a proposal, made an offer, and all of a sudden we were not only in the barbecue business, but also in the gas station business.” (Joe’s KC)

As a vegetarian I don’t visit BBQ places, but I’d read about their portobello sandwich: The Portobello Z-Man Sandwich $7.39 (smoked portobella, smoked provolone cheese, topped with two crispy onion rings, on a toasted Kaiser roll).

The operating gas station in KC doesn’t have the architectural charm of the older & smaller building in south St. Louis, but the idea is great. What a great way for someone wanting to get into the restaurant business — opening up inside an existing gas station. I’m curious how many gas stations we have in the region that have lunch counters inside. If you’ve got a great product, you could do well.

Have a great weekend, see you at 8am Sunday for a one day poll (8am-8pm).

— Steve Patterson

 

Successful Pedestrian Malls Kept Cross Streets Open

Pedestrian malls, the closing of a street to vehicles, is an area of great interest to me. Popular in the 1960s & 1970s, very few had long-term success in North America, most failed and have been reversed. St. Louis’ former 14th Street Pedestrian Mall was such a failure.

In September I got to visit two of the successes, both in Colorado: Denver’s 16th Street Mall and Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall.  After visiting these two I’ve identified some key differences that I believe contributed to the success of these two while others failed. The main difference is both of these allow the cross streets to continue through uninterrupted. Most pedestrian mall projects screwed up the street grid in two directions, the closed mall street and all the intersecting streets. Depending on the length of the pedestrian mall this could mean 1-8 cross streets got redirected. In doing so a large area and many streets were cut off from regular traffic.

St. Louis’ 14th Street Pedestrian Mall — 1977

  • Length: 2 blocks
  • Status: removed
  • Map (was 14th from St. Louis Ave to Warren St)
Looking south on 14th, Spring 1991
Looking south on 14th, Spring 1991
Looking West on Montgomery St, Spring 1991
Looking West on the one cross street, Montgomery St, Spring 1991

St. Louis’ pedestrian mall was only 13 years old when I first saw it in the Fall of 1990. Long-time residents I talked to said the mall failed very early on, long before I saw it 13 years later.

Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall — 1977

  • Length: 4 blocks
  • Status: active
  • Map
Boulder's Pearl Street Mall
Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall is for pedestrians only
Broadway is only highway 7, one of three streets that continue through the four block mall.
Broadway is only highway 7, one of three streets that continue through the four block mall.
The same intersection
The same intersection as viewed from our rental car
We ate dinner at a popular restaurant on Pearl St, but it was one block West of the mall.
We ate dinner at a popular restaurant on Pearl St, but it was one block West of the mall.

Many small town pedestrian malls were built by malling the main highway that ran through the downtown business district and creating opposite one way streets on either side so highway traffic could continue. Boulder, however, allowed their highway to continue with only a traffic signal like you’d see if Pearl St was still open to cars. They too did the one-way couplet thing on parallel streets, but it and the mall are perpendicular to the main highway through town.

Denver’s 16th Street Mall — 1982

  • Length: 13 blocks
  • Status: active
  • Map
Denver's 16th Street Mall
Denver’s 16th Street Mall with mall-only buses, in the center in this block
At this point the bus lanes are divided, leaving a center pedestrian area
At this point the bus lanes are divided, leaving a center pedestrian area
The buses were every few minutes and were non-polluting
The buses were every few minutes and were non-polluting

Denver was late to get a pedestrian mall, few were built in the 1980s. Perhaps their delay paid off, enabling them to see mistakes made by other cities. Chicago also had a transit mall, but it was for many bus lines. The diesel fumes meant their mall wasn’t a pedestrian paradise. Whereas Denver runs free shuttles to get people up and down the 13 block length, with several points where you can connect to local bus or light rail lines.

It appears Denver, unlike St. Louis, has kept its street grid in tact — with the exception of 16h Street. St. Louis has made it a habit of closing streets, disrupting the grid.

Conclusion

Another successful pedestrian mall is Church Street Marketplace in Burlington VT (map).  Like Boulder & Denver, the cross streets continue uninterrupted. I need to return to my grad school data to see if any of the failed/removed pedestrian malls allowed cross streets to cut through the mall, I don’t recall any.

This is not to say that the many failed pedestrian malls might have succeeded had they kept cross streets open, or a that a remaining mall could be enlivened by opening the cross streets. Both might be the case, I just can’t come to that conclusion — yet.

Still, St. Louis serves as an example of ongoing struggles when the street grid has been repeatedly compromised.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis’ IKEA Will Be Just Like Kansas City’s IKEA

November 17, 2014 Big Box, Featured, Retail, Travel 2 Comments

My husband and I recently visited the newly opened IKEA in the Kansas City area.

IKEA Merriam
IKEA Merriam KS

I’d researched the location prior to our trip, more on that later. As we entered the top level it hit me — it’s just like the 2nd Chicago-area IKEA (Bolingbrook, IL). I emailed IKEA spokesman Joseph Roth while we were shopping:

Steve Patterson: “It looked like it was the Bolingbrook location over parking. I’m guessing the St. Louis location now under construction will be similar?”

Joseph Roth: “Correct. Essentially, there is mostly just one version of the store; but where the size of the site is smaller, we elevate the store above parking — as we did in Merriam, KS and are doing in St. Louis.”

Thus, by visiting the IKEA in Merriam KS we got a preview of the St. Louis location that will open in the Fall of 2015. Before we look at the store let’s look at the site — similarities and differences with the St. Louis site.

The demolition of a vacant shopping center that will become the future home of the area’s first Ikea store is set for Wednesday in Merriam.

The 60,000-square-foot building, which was initially planned for a Circuit City electronics store, will be razed and replaced by an Ikea home furnishing store that will be about six times as large. (Kansas City Star)

Razing an old shopping center for a new retail project isn’t a big deal, but a new, never occupied, shopping center was leveled!

In 2004, the city approved a plan by DDR Corp. (then called Developers Diversified Realty) to erect a fancy new “urban village.” Up went the strip mall. Then down went the U.S. economy. At the time of its completion, Merriam Village had signed only one tenant: Circuit City. But the electronics retailer collapsed into bankruptcy before it could occupy its brand-new store, leaving only “CIRCUIT CI” on the mall’s otherwise blank marquee, a ghost visible to highway drivers long after the deal fell apart. (Pitch)

You can see photos of the strip shopping center here.

Aerial of Merriam Village.
Aerial of Merriam Village from Apple Maps, click to view a current aerial in Google Maps.

You can’t get much more suburban than this site! Still, the area is served by public transit. The area has good sidewalks and the Merriam Village shopping center did a good job of connecting to the public sidewalk out front. Employees are far more likely than customers to arrive via public transit.

Pedestrians on the public sidewalk have a straight shot to the front door.
Pedestrians on the public sidewalk have a straight shot to the front door.
The site is so compact they built structured parking to the south of the building
The site is so compact they built structured parking to the south of the building
The north side of IKEA as seen from the new QT down the hill.
The north side of IKEA as seen from the new QT down the hill. The retaining walls from the razed shopping center were…retained
Looking toward the south
Looking toward the south
Looking toward the north
Looking toward the north

The St. Louis location, despite being closer to downtown, isn’t as tight. We’ll have lots more surface parking, here’s the site plan for St. Louis:

Proposed site plan for the IKEA, I marked the area to the east to indicate the proposed retail development. Click image to view larger.
Proposed site plan for the IKEA, click image to view larger version.

The Kansas City IKEA is the 7th IKEA location I’ve shopped at over the last 24+ years but I realize many of you may not have been in one.  My 15+ times visiting IKEA have always been while traveling, several times I’ve packed my car to the headliner. It’ll be nice having a store so close where I can just get a little something, I can easily go back to get more.

The top level is the showroom, with model rooms set up to show you ideas for using their products. After you make your way through this floor you’ll find the main restaurant. Down one level you’ll find the products.

Let’s start by parking under the store.

The garage under the store isn't special, though brighter than under the Target at Hampton & Chippewa
The garage under the store isn’t special, though brighter than under the Target at Hampton & Chippewa
Looking toward the entry
Looking toward the entry
Losding areas are outside and in the covered garage. Unlike other IKEA stores, you can wheel carts to your car.
Losding areas are outside and in the covered garage. Unlike other IKEA stores, you can wheel carts to your car.
Conveyor belt helps you get down from the checkout to the parking level
Conveyor belt helps you get down from the checkout to the parking level
Once at the main level you are directed up to the showroom level
Once at the main level you are directed up to the showroom level via the escalator or elevator
The start of the showroom level
The start of the showroom level
Besides living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, etc., they also are big in everything you need for a new kitchen.
Besides living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, etc., they also are big in everything you need for a new kitchen.
The large restaurant is cafeteria style
The large restaurant is cafeteria style
On the lower level is where you'll find the products to fill your  bag or cart.
On the lower level is where you’ll find the products to fill your bag or cart.
Bed & bath linens
Bed & bath linens
Lighting ia one of my favorite sections, many are now LED.
Lighting ia one of my favorite sections, many are now LED.
Then you'll find the warehouse area where you'll find the flat-packed furniture you saw displayed in the showroom above.
Then you’ll find the warehouse area where you’ll find the flat-packed furniture you saw displayed in the showroom above.
Seasonal merchandise is displayed near the checkout lines...and expect lines on weekends. Their bistro is just past the checkout
Seasonal merchandise is displayed near the checkout lines…and expect lines on weekends. Their bistro is just past the checkout

In the past I’ve told people to plan at least 4 hours to visit an IKEA the first time, but it’ll be different having a store so close. It’ll be easy to visit often a year from now. If you want a preview of the coming St. Louis IKEA just visit the suburban Kansas City IKEA.

— Steve Patterson

 

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