St. Patrick’s Day Myths; Early St. Louis Irish History

 

 Top o’ the mornin’ to ya. I knew the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was going to have a low response, the more controversial the subject, the more responses. Q: Agree or disagree: Irishman Saint Patrick is celebrated today for bringing Christianity to Ireland, driving out snakes. Strongly agree: 1 [6.67%] Agree: 3 [20%] …

Activity at the Bottle District Site

 

 The eastern edge of my new neighborhood, Columbus Square, has been known as “The Bottle District” since 2004. In 2004, longtime neighborhood business McGuire Moving and Storage Company, announced plans to redevelop the district as an entertainment destination. Noted architect Daniel Libeskind was hired to design the district. The Ghazi …

A St. Patrick’s Day Sunday Poll

 

 The downtown parade was yesterday, the Ancient Order of Hibernians parade is today in dogtown. St. Louis has a long history of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day: On March 17, 1820, a small band of Irish settlers gathered to praise St. Patrick. It was the first recorded observance of St. Patrick’s …

New Book — St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline by Steve Pick with Amanda E. Doyle

 

 I like music — I have a decent music collection (digital & vinyl), but I’ve never been to a concert. Well, I did see & hear Bonnie Raitt and many others at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2004. Though I’ve lived in St  Louis for 28+ years, I haven’t …

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Opinion: Possible Soccer Stadium Will Not Help Downtown West Without A Neighborhood Plan

December 5, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Opinion: Possible Soccer Stadium Will Not Help Downtown West Without A Neighborhood Plan
 

Before I begin discussing my thoughts on a possible soccer stadium in the Downtown West neighborhood, let’s take a look at the results from the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: If awarded an MLS expansion team, the stadium could be a catalyst for the Downtown West neighborhood.

  • Strongly agree: 18 [34.62%]
  • Agree: 7 [13.46%]
  • Somewhat agree: 8 [15.38%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 3 [5.77%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [5.77%]
  • Disagree: 3 [5.77%]
  • Strongly disagree: 10 [19.23%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Over 63% percent voted in the affirmative, I voted “somewhat agree” because yes, it could become a catalyst. With history as a guide, it most likely won’t do anything positive for the surroundings. Busch Stadium II (1966-2006) didn’t have much of an impact on adjacent blocks for the 3 decades it stood. Our NFL dome didn’t do anything for its surroundings either — the large site to the North is still vacant.

To become a catalyst for private investment a lot of planning must happen, a form-based code adopted so every property owner contributes to the same vision. Part of the problem is the current ownership group, and the last, both want to located the stadium South of Market Street — between 20th & 22nd Streets.  In February 2016 I suggested a MLS stadium North of Market bounded by 20th Street, Market, a rebuilt 22nd Street, and Pine. Only the stadium would fit, if at all. This land is also owned by the State of Missouri. This would leave lots of room for new development South of Market Street, North of Pine, etc.

Looking East toward Union Station from 22nd Street, a new Fairfield Inn is under construction on the former site of Harry’s.

Part of the area where they want to build a stadium is where Harry’s Bar & Restaurant was located at 22nd & Market St. This small site is already being developed, from September 2017:

The Fairfield, a Marriott brand, will have about 125 rooms and a two-story parking garage along with event space on the almost 1-acre site at 2144 Market Street. Developer Equis Hospitality Management of Brentwood hopes to finalize financing for the $19.5 million project by January and begin construction in January. (Post-Dispatch)

In October it was said the hotel site wouldn’t be needed for the stadium.

Across 22nd Street from the hotel, now under construction, is the St. Louis office of the FBI. Urban Stadiums should be like Chicago’s Wrigley Field, surrounded on all sides by numerous businesses that are active even on days when the stadium is empty. Not surrounded on one side by a fenced parking lot at a fortress. I doubt the FBI has any plans to relocate.  The stadium would be focused more toward Union Station, presumably. Still, the best urban stadiums are surrounded by active properties owned by others.

Financially the deal isn’t the worst. the land hasn’t generated any property taxes for decades, so by abating property taxes it’ll continue as it would if nothing were built. The city would wave taxes on construction materials like they’re doing with the hotel and other projects. This isn’t a huge gesture because most construction materials used on these projects aren’t bought from suppliers located in the city. This might be an incentive for the contractors to buy from city suppliers rather than outside suppliers.

It’s really hard to be anything but cynical about a new stadium, likely surrounded by acres of surface parking. Hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised…assuming the MLS awards one of the two remaining expansion teams to St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis City Pedestrians Finally Getting A ‘Leading Pedestrian Interval’

December 3, 2018 Featured, Walkability Comments Off on St. Louis City Pedestrians Finally Getting A ‘Leading Pedestrian Interval’
 

A significant change has been happening at St. Louis intersections: the leading pedestrian interval (LPI). The what?

Walk signal is on while the traffic signal is still red, 11th @ Locust.

A leading pedestrian interval (LPI) gives pedestrians the opportunity to enter an intersection 3-7 seconds before vehicles are given a green indication. With this head start, pedestrians can better establish their presence in the crosswalk before vehicles have priority to turn left. LPIs provide the following benefits:

  • Increased visibility of crossing pedestrians.
  • Reduced conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles.
  • Increased likelihood of motorists yielding to pedestrians.
  • Enhanced safety for pedestrians who may be slower to start into the intersection. (Federal Highway Administration)

The FHA says the benefit is a 60% “Reduction in pedestrian-vehicle crashes at intersections.” Video I took last month shows a 3-second LPI. Hopefully busier intersections (pedestrians & cars) get 7 second LPIs. Still. 3 seconds is better than 0!

I’m not sure if an LPI is used anywhere in St. Louis County, or the rest of the region.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Would a MLS Stadium be a Catalyst for St. Louis’ Downtown West Neighborhood?

December 2, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Popular Culture, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Would a MLS Stadium be a Catalyst for St. Louis’ Downtown West Neighborhood?
 
Please vote below

Last week the city’s development agency issued a glowing report about the economic value of a potential soccer stadium, and aldermanic committee approved a resolution related to a soccer stadium:

For three hours Wednesday, aldermen on the Housing Urban Development and Zoning Committee questioned the prospective team owners and their aids on the many details of the soccer proposal. They wanted to know how much money the prospective owners were putting into the deal and how much the city would be on the hook for.

Team owners said they’d cover almost the entire $392 million cost to build the stadium, although they won’t have to pay the amusement or real estate tax. And three cents will be added to every dollar spent by fans at the game, which will go to the team.

Some aldermen wanted to know how much it would cost to demolish the yet-to-be-built stadium in 30 years because the city will own it by then.

“Some of that stuff was just meant to distract and it’s sad those things continue to happen,” Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said.

The place was packed with soccer fans; it was standing room only. Everyone who spoke up supported the proposal.

“I have asked countless people in all walks of life tell me the downside of this. ‘It’s too good to be true.’ ‘What am I missing?’ The answer is simple there is no downside,” said Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin.

The proposal passed out of committee by a unanimous 8-0 vote. (Fox 2)

With the Resolution 180 out of committee, the full board voted on it on Friday:

The city Board of Aldermen overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday that outlines tax incentives for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium downtown.
The proposal passed 26 to 2, with President Lewis Reed voting yes. Megan Green, 15th Ward, and Sharon Tyus, 1st Ward, voted no. Sarah Wood Martin, 11th Ward, was absent.
“I will enthusiastically vote yes,” Alderman Scott Ogilvie, 24th Ward, said before the vote. “But I will remind everyone that our work is not done making sure this is a good and fair lease.”
 
The resolution is just a first step. It outlines the financing plan but doesn’t create the laws required to secure tax incentives. Aldermen would vote on those later — if, Mayor Lyda Krewson has said, the MLS awards St. Louis a team. (Post-Dispatch)

Now it’s up to Major League Soccer (MLS) to determine if St. Louis will be awarded one of two remaining expansion teams. Today’s non-scientific poll is a hypothetical based on being awarded a team by the MLS. It’s up to you, the reader, to define what “catalyst” means in this context. An existing highway on/off ramp — built for a long-abandoned highway loop project — would be replaced by the stadium.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight. Wednesday I’ll share my thoughts, along with the poll results.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 25 of 2018-2019 Session

November 30, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 25 of 2018-2019 Session
 
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 25th meeting of the 2018-2019 session.

Today’s agenda includes five (5) new bills:

  • B.B.#170 – Boyd – An ordinance authorizing and directing the Circuit Attorney, to enter into a contract with the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs for funding to create a Conviction Integrity Unit within the Office of the Circuit Attorney and authorizing the Circuit Attorney to expend the contract grant funds necessary to support this effort including the hiring of personnel; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#171 – Boyd – An Ordinance adopting the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code, with amendments; and containing a penalty clause, severability clause, savings clause, and emergency clause.
  • B.B.#172 – Martin – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to conditionally vacate above surface, surface and sub-surface rights for vehicle, equestrian and pedestrian travel in the southern 169 feet of the 15.00 foot wide north/south alley bounded by Robert on the north, Vermont on the east, Koeln on the south and Alabama on the west in City Block 3064-A, as hereinafter described, in accordance with Charter authority, and in conformity with Section l4 of Article XXI of the Charter and imposing certain conditions on such vacation.
  • B.B.#173 – Oldenburg – An ordinance creating a new chapter under title 23 of the Revised Code, titled small wireless Facilities and pertaining to the establishment of procedures and requirements relating to the construction and deployment of small wireless facilities; to be Codified as Chapter 23.59 of the Revised Code; containing a severability clause, savings clause and an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#174 – Howard – An Ordinance establishing a stop site at the intersection of Ridgewood and Wilcox regulating all traffic traveling westbound on Wilcox at Ridgewood, and containing an emergency clause.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

Readers Split on Loop Trolley

November 28, 2018 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Readers Split on Loop Trolley
 
Loop Trolley 001

Regular readers over the last 14+ years know I’m a huge proponent of rail projects — largely as development tools. To catch you up, I’ve ridden rail lines in the following cities:

  1. Chicago (commuter rail)
  2. Cleveland (commuter rail)
  3. Dallas (light rail & modern streetcar)
  4. Kansas City (modern streetcar)
  5. Little Rock (heritage trolley)
  6. Memphis (heritage trolley)
  7. New Orleans (heritage trolley)
  8. New York (commuter rail)
  9. Portland (modern streetcar)
  10. San Francisco (heritage trolley, cable car, commuter rail)
  11. Seattle (modern streetcar)
  12. Toronto (heritage trolley)
  13. Washington D.C. (commuter rail)

Note:  For my purposes here heritage trolley includes existing vintage lines/vehicles, new lines using old vehicles, and new lines using reproduction vehicles. I was unable to ride Dallas’ heritage trolley because their vehicles don’t have wheelchair lifts. Some on the list above were ridden prior to my February 2008 stroke.

I want to return to Cincinnati to ride their modern streetcar that was nearly complete when I visited in 2015. see Cincinnati’s Modern Streetcar. The Oklahoma City Streetcar, a modern 4.6 mile line, is scheduled to begin service next month — a good excuse to visit to the city where I spent my first 23 years.

OK, I like rail projects. That said, I’m fully aware of differences among the types and how well they’re implemented, or not. When I was visiting Cincinnati the track was complete and testing was just started. They had a big PR campaign about how to park cars so the streetcar could pass. Restaurants/bars along the route had drink coasters with streetcar info. Kansas City also did a great job with communications before, during, and after testing. Communications from the Loop Trolley has been…lacking, by comparison.

The OKC Streetcar is another to compare to the Loop Trolley. It’s more than twice as long with ground-breaking in February 2017 — and it’s beginning service next month! Construction on the Loop Trolley began in March 2015 and just recently opened. Half the distance of OKC and twice as long from start to open….embarrassing!

Early on I was excited by the Loop Trolley because a consultant was working to make the line adaptable to modern streetcar vehicles for the future — this would’ve allowed expansion Eastbound on Delmar toward CWE/Midtown/Downtown. But that future-proofing got scrapped.

Looking out the front/read of 001

There’s been no shortage of criticism of the Loop Trolley: buses are cheaper, too expensive to build & maintain, Loop already served by light rail, limited service hours, too slow, etc. While all are valid, they miss the point: development. The Loop Trolley distinguishes The Loop from other shopping/restaurant/entertainment destinations in our region. In the next decade we’ll see gaps filled in with new high-density development. Some existing low-rise buildings will be razed for new development.

Two of the four corners at Delmar & Skinker are now vacant. These will get developed regardless.
Head East of the Delmar MetroLink station and urban development isn’t s given
Numerous low-density buildings are vacant
Without the Trolley the prospect of this former car wash at Delmar & Goodfellow getting developed was slim.

Along the route we’ll see an increasing presence of bigger retailers. With the bulk of the route located in the City of St. Louis it’ll help generate new sales/property taxes, the new businesses will provide needed employment. Hopefully some young residents will be able to start their own businesses along the route. Ideally, some affordable housing will get built in addition to apartments geared toward wealthy Washington University students.

A visitor staying downtown who wants to eat fondue isn’t going to take MetroLink to Delmar and then walk nearly a mile to the West end of the Loop, but they might include a Trolley ride there.  After dinner they might decide to walk at least part of the way back to the Delmar MetroLink station. The Trolley helps with the last mile problem.

Because I rode on a free special event day (Small Business Saturday) I didn’t experience buying a ticket and validating it inside the trolley car. I tried to find & download the app to buy a ticket that way. After searching, then asking, I learned the apps have been submitted to Google & Apple, but they’re not yet approved. I plan to ride again on a normal day so I’ll be able to test ticket sales/validation. I’ll also be able to see how it goes with the wheelchair lift on a day when it isn’t standing room only.

A ticket machine is at each station.
Ticket validator on the Trolley

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll the respondents were mixed:

Q: Agree or disagree: Now that the Loop Trolley is operating on the full 2.2 mile route I feel more positive about it.

  • Strongly agree: 8 [19.51%]
  • Agree: 4 [9.76%]
  • Somewhat agree: 7 [17.07%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 5 [12.2%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Disagree: 7 [17.07%]
  • Strongly disagree: 6 [14.63%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [2.44%]

Despite the endless number of hiccups I still believe, as I did in March 2017, the Loop Trolley Will Surprise Naysayers.  Of course, many will cling to their first impressions and talk bad about the Trolley even if it succeeds in filling in vacant lots along the route. I may have to eat my words…but it will be many years before we’ll know.

— Steve Patterson

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