What Should Replace the 1960s 7th Street Parking Garage?

 

  In 1961 the former Stix, Baer & Fuller department store began building a 900-car parking garage, attached to its downtown location via a skywalk over 7th Street. Six plus decades later the old Stix store contains apartments, hotel, a museum, and restaurants. The garage is now surrounded on 3 …

Recent Book — “Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It” by M. Nolan Gray

 

  Over a century ago a new idea called “zoning” began, intended to guide cities to grow in a less chaotic manner than they had until then. Reality, however, was very different. It’s time to let go, change. A recently published book explains the why & how. What if scrapping …

18th Anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL, Stage 4 Kidney Cancer Still “Stable”, Gathering Today Noon-2pm

 

  Eighteen years ago today I registered the domain UrbanReviewSTL.com and began blogging about urban planning in St. Louis. YouTube didn’t exist yet. Facebook was known as The Facebook, still limited to college students at many universities. My husband (m 2014) was barely a year out of high school. Some …

Former St. Liborius Church Complex Fits Beautifully in the Street Grid

 

  A major reason why I decided to make St. Louis my home back in August 1990 was the complex street grid and the buildings that neatly fit into it. One of the finest examples of fitting into our decidedly non-orthogonal street grid is the former St. Liborius Church complex, …

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North-South MetroLink Study Update Looking To Stay On Jefferson Avenue, Avoid Previously Planned Circuitous Route

June 16, 2022 Environment, Featured, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on North-South MetroLink Study Update Looking To Stay On Jefferson Avenue, Avoid Previously Planned Circuitous Route
 

The idea of a North-South MetroLink light rail line has been discussed for many years — too many. We’ve had a couple of studies and locally preferred alternatives over the 15+ year period. Currently Metro is looking at the most recent and “tweaking” it to make it work financially with the city funds from our transit tax. So when I heard this would be included in the Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) June “Talking Transit” online event I immediately registered. It took place a week ago, but it’s online — link in a moment.

The last alternative was eastbound on Natural Bridge, coming south on Parnell/Jefferson to Cass (to include the large NGA workforce), east to 14th, eventually to 10th, back over to 14th, west on Chouteau, south on Jefferson.

2018 detail map showing the North-South MetroLink in orange. This is no longer possible because of the convention center expansion project closing 9th street.

So basically on Jefferson north of Cass and south of Chouteau, but taking a highly circuitous detour to go through downtown — and briefly east of Tucker.  The distance between those two points on Jefferson is 1.6 miles — in basically a straight line that would require no left or right turns.m

In a 2006 post I suggested a modern tram route on Jefferson, with a new MetroLink station where Jefferson crosses over the existing light rail line, so riders could transfer between lines. Well 16 years later they’re looking at doing basically just that — run in-street light rail on Jefferson with the addition of a MetroLink station at Jefferson. This was disclosed by Bi-State Development President & CEO Taulby Roach at 3:23 in CMT’s event a week ago (watch 0n YouTube).

Bi-State graphic, the orange-yellow mostly vertical line in the center shows the initial phase being evaluated now.  The pink sections are “areas of persistent poverty.”

 

With the NGA, Centene Stadium (MLS) and planned new hotels (Jefferson & Market) this a hot corridor.

The rail wouldn’t be a tram in mixed traffic, it would be in a separate dedicated center section, still low-floor though. The vehicles for both are nearly identical. In-street light rail vs tram basically means dedicated right-of-way and fewer stops, to improve overall speed.

Obviously I’ve long thought a stop at Jefferson on the original MetroLink was a good idea — the distance between the Union Station & Grand stations is just so excessive. I often talk about focusing on corridors, not circuitous routes, and Jefferson is an obvious corridor for a transit project.  It’s not a perfectly straight line, but it would eliminate a huge amount of turns.

Like previous North-South studies, the idea of going out west on Natural Bridge allows a future phase to connect into North County. This could help get county residents to employment opportunities at NGA, and in Downtown West/Midtown.

The American-made Brookville Liberty vehicle can go off-wire for short distances. Dallas TX April 2015

The study update is looking at the latest low-floor vehicles to use. Because of some tight points they’re looking at vehicles that could run for short distances on battery, with the usual catenary most of the distance. This is called off-wire. An example is the Brookville Liberty, in use in cities like Dallas, Milwaukee, and Oklahoma City.  I have no idea which specific vehicles Metro is considering, but the technology to go without a catenary for a short distance is proven.

Interior of Brookville Liberty with low center section and step up seating at each end. Dallas TX, April 2015.

Brookville Liberty at a stop in Milwaukee WI, June 2021

Low-floor center section of Brookville Liberty makes boarding easy. June 2021.

I’d hoped to have visited Oklahoma City by now and ride their Brookville Liberty vehicles., but rental cars & flights have just been too expensive. Again, I’m not sure what vehicles Metro is considering, this is the only off-grid vehicle I’ve ever ridden before.

In the CMT event on Zoom Taulby Roach indicated they’re planning on closed platforms  — having to pass through a fare gate to reach the platform.  This coincides with Metro’s platform project to install fare gates at all MetroLink stations in Missouri & Illinois.

Hopefully Metro’s latest look at North-South rail will result in actual construction, eventual operations.

Steve Patterson

 

Lewis Reed’s 25-Year Political Career (1997-2022)

June 8, 2022 Featured, History/Preservation, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Lewis Reed’s 25-Year Political Career (1997-2022)
 

Former 21st ward alderman John Collin-Muhammad resigned two weeks prior to a federal indictment against him and two others was unsealed. Jeffery Boyd resigned his long held seat as 22nd ward alderman the day after the indictment became public.

The third indicted was board president Lewis Reed, who resigned yesterday.

All three may avoid guilty verdicts in court, but politically they’re finished.

I never trusted Lewis Reed, I never could get a direct answer from him. He’d always just laugh and change the subject. Huge red flag in my book. Yuge!

Thankfully I can proudly say I’ve never voted for Lewis Reed. Not when he first ran for the citywide office in 2007, or re-election three times since. I never voted for him when he ran for Mayor.

Here’s a brief outline of Reed’s political career in St. Louis.

Reed was the campaign manager for 6th ward alderwoman Marit Clark’s 1997 independent run for mayor against Democratic nominee Clarance Harmon. Reed’s day job was as a computer network manager for a hospital group.

Harmon won the race but Reed got himself appointed to the St. Louis Port Authority, quickly becoming the chair. By 1999 Clark decided to retire from the Board of Aldernen, Reed was one of three candidates to become Alderman in the 6th ward. The other two were Patrick Cacchione and Brian Ireland.

Lewis Reed won his first election in St. Louis.

In the Spring of 2001 board president Francis Slay was elected mayor, alderman Jim Shrewsbury elected board president.

It was as 6th ward alderman that Reed came to my attention in 2006, over a planned police substation in the Tower Grove East neighborhood. It was known in the Fall of 2006 that Reed would be challenging board president Jim Shrewsbury in the Spring of 2007, causing people to begin planning to replace him on the board, representing the 6th ward.

From Reed’s 2007 campaign website running for board president. Saved on 3/6/2007 — knew it would eventually be useful.

Reed won his first citywide election in the March 2007 partisan primary by defeating 2-term president Shrewsbury, becoming president of the board the following month.

In March 2013 Reed ran for mayor for the first time, losing to incumbent Francis Slay. He remained president of the board since it was elected two years off from the mayoral race.

In Spring 2017 Reed again ran for mayor, but this time incumbent Slay wasn’t seeking a 4th term. The Democratic primary was packed with people wanting to become mayor. Others on the ballot included then 21st ward alderman Antonio French, Treasurer Tishaura Jones, 22nd ward alderman Jeffrey Boyd, and 28th ward alderwoman Lyda Krewson. Krewson became the city’s first female mayor. Every other candidate kept their existing elected sears that year, except Antonio French. John Collins-Muhammad was elected 21st ward alderman, succeeding French.

There’s a lot more detail I probably could’ve researched/included, but I think you get the overall picture of Reed’s 25 year political career in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

My Maternal Ancestors Farmed In Ukraine, Russia For A Couple Of Centuries

June 2, 2022 Featured, Politics/Policy, Religion Comments Off on My Maternal Ancestors Farmed In Ukraine, Russia For A Couple Of Centuries
 

Few living today have seen war between European nations, until the last few months. Russia President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine is horrific. The whole world is watching, especially neighboring countries. Eventually this may become World War 3.

When Russia invaded Ukraine I began looking at cities on Google’s Streetview, beautiful. Google has since removed this feature, at least from Mariupol. Satellite views are still available — I love how you have a dense city up to a point then rural farmland — none of the auto-centric sprawl visible in every region in the U.S.

But this post isn’t about present cities in Ukraine, or the war. It’s about my familial connection to Ukraine, Crimea, Poland, Russia, other European nations mentioned nightly on the evening news for months. It’s also about religious freedom.

As the headline states, numerous generations of my ancestors lived in Ukraine and South Russia. However, I’m not Ukrainian or Russian. All eight of my maternal great-grandparents were Mennonites living in settlements in Russia & Ukraine before immigrating to the U.S. and Canada in the late 19th century.

Mennonites are members of certain Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons (1496–1561) of Friesland. Through his writings, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders, with the early teachings of the Mennonites founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held with great conviction, despite persecution by various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. An early set of Mennonite beliefs was codified in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith in 1632, but the various groups do not hold to a common confession or creed.

Rather than fight, the majority of the early Mennonite followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their belief in believer’s baptism. Over the years, Mennonites have become known as one of the historic peace churches, due to their commitment to pacifism. (Wikipedia)

In short, Mennonites and other anabaptists don’t believe in baptizing a baby. They believe baptism is something a person should decide for themselves.  This distinction from other Christian religions subjected anabaptists (Mennonite, Amish, etc) to religious intolerance.

All my mom’s ancestors for hundreds of years were Mennonite, but that ended when she married my father, who wasn’t a Mennonite.

My maternal ancestors moved every few generations, trying to find a place to farm and follow their religious beliefs.

Vistula delta Mennonites were a historic Mennonite community, established in the mid-16th century in the Vistula river delta in Poland. It originated from the Netherlands and present-day northern Germany. The Mennonite community played an important role in the drainage and cultivation of the Vistula delta and the trade relations with the Netherlands. In the late 18th century a significant number of Mennonites emigrated further and formed the nucleus of the Mennonite settlements in Russia, while many remained in the region after the annexation of the region by Prussia in the Partitions of Poland. With the end of World War II and the flight and expulsion of Germans (incl. Germanized Dutch settlers) the Mennonite settlements in the Vistula delta ceased to exist.

The Plautdietsch language, a mixture of Dutch and the local Low German dialect, originates from the Vistula delta and is still used by Mennonite communities worldwide. (Wikipedia)

This is the context that prompted my ancestors in the late 1700s and early 1800s to move to Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea — the hope of farming and being left alone. They didn’t attempt to assimilate, they set up rural isolated Mennonite villages in settlements.

The Molochna River, Ukraine. Photo from internet, by ??????? ???????. June 2017

My recent research has found my ancestors lived in at least 16 different settlements, but the one with the most was the Molotschna Colony.

Molotschna Colony or Molochna Colony was a Russian Mennonite settlement in what is now Zaporizhzhia Oblast in Ukraine. Today, the central village, known as Molochansk, has a population less than 10,000. The settlement is named after the Molochna River which forms its western boundary. The land falls mostly within the Tokmatskyi and Chernihivskyi Raions. The nearest large city is Melitopol, southwest of Molochansk.

Initially called Halbstadt (Half-city), Molotschna was founded in 1804 by Mennonite settlers from West Prussiaand consisted of 57 villages. Known as the New Colony, it was the second and largest Mennonite settlement in the Russian Empire. In the late 19th century, hundreds of people left this colony to settle in North America. Colonies there had groups that later relocated to Latin America, where Mennonites settled in several countries. After many Mennonites left or were deported during and after the last days of World War II, this area became populated largely by Ukrainians. (Wikipedia)

Some of their surnames included: Klassen, Neufield, Weins, Zacharies, Wall, Kruger, Kroeker, Fast, Thiessen, Bornn, Toews, Loepp, and Loewen. My maternal ancestors all immigrated to the U.S. and Canada in the late 19th century. It’s still unclear to me the proximity of their villages to the Pale of Settlement:

A western region of the Russian Empire with varying borders that existed from 1791 to 1917 in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed and beyond which Jewish residency, permanent or temporary, was mostly forbidden. Most Jews were still excluded from residency in a number of cities within the Pale as well. A few Jews were allowed to live outside the area, including those with university education, the ennobled, members of the most affluent of the merchant guilds and particular artisans, some military personnel and some services associated with them, including their families, and sometimes their servants. The archaic English term pale is derived from the Latin word palus, a stake, extended to mean the area enclosed by a fence or boundary. (Wikipedia)

This coincides with the time frame my maternal ancestors were in that part of Europe. My understanding is Jewish people weren’t allowed to farm, they were in cities doing trades. My ancestors, on the other hand, were farmers in small self-sustained rural villages. Recent pictures (before this war) of these areas were simply gorgeous, very beautiful.

Political changes & religious intolerance is why many Mennonites immigrated to North America in the late 19th century. Many Jewish people also left the Pale in the same period.

It’s weird that prior to this war I had little interest in Ukraine and my familial connection. Now I see news reports of fighting in certain regions so I look to see if my ancestors lived there, or nearby. The answer is usually they did.

It has been nearly 150 years since my ancestors lived there, but I feel a connection. The loss of life, disruption of families, destruction of cities, etc is all very upsetting.

— Steve Patterson

Two Buildings, One Small Lot

May 26, 2022 Featured, Neighborhoods, Planning & Design, Zoning Comments Off on Two Buildings, One Small Lot
 

In the past you’d see multiple buildings on a single lot. Usually this was house and outhouse, stable, or garage. Large fancy homes might have servant quarters over the stable/garage — such was the case at the Campbell House. In more modest neighborhoods you might see two houses or a house and a storefront. A longtime friend owns a property that has a brick front house with full basement and a smaller frame house with a crawl space.  This was not uncommon a century ago. People would build a small house at the rear of the lot and then later build a bigger/nicer house at the front.

What’s unusual about my friend’s property is the 896 sq ft brick house with basement was built first, in 1927. Then in 1936 a 440 sq ft frame house with crawl space underneath was built. My assumption is some combination of increased population and the Great Depression is why the smaller frame house was built later. Either the owner rented out the new frame house to supplement their income, or the owner moved to the frame house so they could rent the bigger brick house and avoid foreclosure. I like that the big house is less than 900 square feet.  I looked up the address in the Post-Dispatch archives, the husband died in December 1934. So his widow likely added the small house for different financial reasons than I originally thought.

My friend has lived in each of the two houses at different times, both are rented now.

Today smaller backyard units are called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU):

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a legal and regulatory term for a secondary house or apartment that shares the building lot of a larger, primary home. The unit cannot be bought or sold separately, but they are often used to provide additional income through rent or to house a family member. For example, an elderly parent could live in a small unit and avoid having to move to an assisted living facility.

  • An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is an additional residential building that occupies the same lot as a primary residence.
  • Examples of an ADU could be a guest house or a detached garage with a rented apartment above.
  • The establishment and use of an ADU will fall under different zoning rules and regulations depending on where you live.
  • An ADU can provide additional income in the form of rent.
  • An ADU costs money to build and upkeep and will increase monthly utility bills.

The ADU is also known as an in-law or mother-in-law unit, secondary dwelling unit, granny flat, or carriage house. An ADU usually has its own kitchen, living area, and separate entrance. An ADU may be attached to a house or garage, or it can be built as a stand-alone unit, but it generally will make use of the water and energy connections of the primary house.

Two structures on a single lot is different than the once-common two-family building, one unit over another on the same lot. The 1924 two-family I bought back in 1924 was like this, very typical for a rapidly growing St. Louis. There were also four & six unit variations.

The gray building on the left was torn down late last year, it was built on the same 40 foot wide lot as they red house on the right. Image: Google Streetview

This post is about another combination you no longer see happen — the addition of a commercial building on a lot with a residence.

In 1898 two matching red brick houses were built side by side, both 844 sq ft. Each on a 40 ft x 100 ft lot.

In this January 1903 map we see the two brick houses (pink) in a mostly wood frame (yellow) neighborhood Source: 1903 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, click image to view source page.

The houses were at 1915 & 1919 Cooper Street, between Daggett & Shaw avenues.

The twin houses were fourteen years old when, in 1912, one family built a 2-story brick commercial building on the same lot as the house at 1919 Cooper Street, its address was 1921 Cooper Street. A 40 foot wide lot with a house AND a commercial building!

The neighborhood was changing as more and more immigrants arrived from Italy. Multi-story masonry commercial buildings replaced many smaller wood frame houses. It’s not yet clear what business(es) initially occupied this new building, but in 1921 the family opened a funeral home.

In the late 1930s Cooper Street became Marconi Ave. In 1940 Calcaterra Funeral home moved to a new building on Daggett, just east of now Marconi Ave.

At some point between 1940 and 2021 the commercial building had the 2nd floor removed, the main floor converted to residential. It was 790 sq ft.

I don’t blame anyone for tearing down this building. Looking at the vacant spot now it’s hard to believe another building fit in the space for 109 years. See current on Google Streetview. Neighborhoods, including The Hill, continue to evolve.

— Steve Patterson

 

Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

May 19, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Plazas Comments Off on Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today
 

Five years ago the trees at the renovated Kiener Plaza looked so new, provided no shade. Now they’ve matured nicely. Saturday we spent 2+ hours sitting in the shade.

Look at the size of the trees on the right, they provide actual shade now.

This February view shows the new visitor center building. The trees are bigger but hadn’t put on level for the seaso9n yet.

Same area, at the reopening in 2017

The awful May Amphitheater sunk into the west end of the previous Kiener Plaza.

It’s nice seeing Kiener Plaza be a space that can hold thousands of people and still function. Now if only we could do something about those two parking garages across Chestnut, to the north.

— Steve Patterson

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