Potential North-South & County Light Rail Line Should Include ‘Green Track’

 

 No, I don’t want the rails to be painted green. Instead I want the space between the rails to be green with vegetation, where possible. Why? Aesthetics, cooler temperatures, management of stormwater runoff, etc. Green track isn’t limited to only historic lines, it’s increasingly common in Europe with some limited …

Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

 

 I never met Robert J. Baer, but I see the plaza named for him all the time. Baer Plaza, across Broadway from The Dome (map), was named in his honor a little more than 20 years before his death in 2017. The 25th anniversary of the dedication is just 7 …

Glad the Illinois Primary is Tuesday, June 28th

 

 I’ve lived in two states my entire life, Illinois isn’t one of them. But as a St. Louis Missouri resident for nearly 32 years I’ve seen plenty of Illinois campaign television advertisements. Of course, Illinois residents in the St. Louis metro area have seen more than their share of Missouri …

New Residential Building Will Replace Short 1968 Bank Building at 620 Market in Downtown St. Louis

 

 The 2-story building at 620 Market Street, at 7th, was built in 1968. Most recently it was Mike Shannon’s restaurant, originally it was a bank with drive-through tellers. My first time in this building was in the early 1990s when the offices for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments — …

Recent Articles:

New Book — ‘Risky Cities: The Physical and Fiscal Nature of Disaster Capitalism’ by Albert

April 7, 2022 Books, Environment, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Risky Cities: The Physical and Fiscal Nature of Disaster Capitalism’ by Albert
 

A new book explores one of my favorite topics: the overlap of urbanization, capitalism, and disasters. Think our bad habit of developing in flood plains, then acting shocked when levees results in flooding elsewhere. The term “disaster capitalism” is very appropriate.

Over half the world’s population lives in urban regions, and increasingly disasters are of great concern to city dwellers, policymakers, and builders. However, disaster risk is also of great interest to corporations, financiers, and investors. Risky Cities is a critical examination of global urban development, capitalism, and its relationship with environmental hazards. It is about how cities live and profit from the threat of sinkholes, garbage, and fire. Risky Cities is not simply about post-catastrophe profiteering. This book focuses on the way in which disaster capitalism has figured out ways to commodify environmental bads and manage risks. Notably, capitalist city-building results in the physical transformation of nature. This necessitates risk management strategies –such as insurance, environmental assessments, and technocratic mitigation plans. As such capitalists redistribute risk relying on short-term fixes to disaster risk rather than address long-term vulnerabilities.  (Rutgers University Press)

You can read the introduction at Barnes and Noble.

— Steve Patterson

 

Local Elections In Missouri Tomorrow: 2 Propositions For City Voters, 4 Propositions For County Voters

April 4, 2022 Featured, Politics/Policy, St. Louis County, STL Region Comments Off on Local Elections In Missouri Tomorrow: 2 Propositions For City Voters, 4 Propositions For County Voters
 
Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection

Voters in Missouri will be going to the polls tomorrow, unless they voted absentee as I did. The post will cover St. Louis city & St. Louis County. For voters in Jefferson & St. Charles counties click here or here, respectively.

The ballots in the city are identical, and short. Only two propositions.

PROPOSITION R (Proposed by Initiative Petition [the full text of which is available at all polling places])

Shall Article IV of the City of St. Louis Charter be amended to:

  • Prohibit Aldermen from taking actions on matters pending before the Board of Aldermen where they have a personal or financial conflict of interest;
  • Require that Aldermen’s financial disclosure statements be open to the public;
  • Have ward boundary maps drawn by an independent citizens commission after each decennial census; and
  • Prohibit the Board of Aldermen from changing voter-enacted voting methods for municipal offices without first submitting such changes to the voters?

YES – FOR THE PROPOSITION NO – AGAINST THE PROPOSITION

PROPOSITION 1 OFFICIAL BALLOT – BOND ELECTION

Shall the following be adopted:

Proposition to issue bonds of The City of St. Louis, Missouri in an amount not to exceed Fifty Million Dollars ($50,000,000) for all or a portion of the following purposes: (1) improving, resurfacing, repaving and/or repairing streets; (2) designing and constructing public safety facilities; (3) designing and constructing pedestrian and bicycle transportation facilities; (4) maintaining and improving the safety and security of correctional facilities and improving public safety systems; (5) providing local matching share funds, where applicable and necessary, to utilize federal funds in furtherance of any of the cited projects herein; (6) replacing, improving, renovating and maintaining buildings, bridges, and equipment of the City of St. Louis, such as neighborhood recreation centers and firehouses; and (7) paying for expenses associated with the issuance of such bonds. If this proposition is approved, the property tax levy is estimated to remain unchanged.

YES – FOR THE PROPOSITION NO – AGAINST THE PROPOSITION

I favor both propositions.

Campaigns for both:

St. Louis County voters will have different offices/issues on their ballots based on their address, but all will have the same four county-wide propositions. A simple majority is needed for each to pass.

PROPOSITION A

Shall the Charter of St. Louis County be amended to require that all costs associated with employees appointed by the County Executive be covered under the County Executives budget and to eliminate the authority of department heads to employ one executive assistant and one secretary for each of them outside of the merit system, as set forth in Exhibit A of Ordinance No. 28,307, on file with the St. Louis County Administrative Director and the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners?

YES NO

PROPOSITION B

Shall the Charter of St. Louis County be amended to change the requirements for the position of county executive so that the county executive shall hold no other employment nor shall the county executive perform work as an independent contractor during the term of office and that a violation of either of these restrictions shall cause the county executive to forfeit the office and the office shall be declared vacant as set forth in Exhibit A of Ordinance No. 28,308, on file with the St. Louis County Administrative Director and the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners?

YES NO

PROPOSITION C

Shall St. Louis County impose a local use tax at the same rate as the total local sales tax rate, provided that if the local sales tax rate is reduced or raised by voter approval, the local use tax rate shall also be reduced or raised by the same action?

YES NO

PROPOSITION D

Shall St. Louis County be authorized to enter into a lease agreement with Raintree Foundation for a building and surrounding ground located in Queeny Park for the operation of a pre-primary and primary grade school pursuant to the terms as set forth in Exhibit A of Ordinance No. 28,324, on file with the St. Louis County Administrative Director and the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners?

YES NO

For more information on St. Louis County elections/ballots check out the St. Louis County Board of Elections.

If you are a registered voter in Missouri please be sure to vote tomorrow.

— Steve Patterson

U.S. Senate Candidate Eric Greitens To Hold Campaign Press Conference Today

April 1, 2022 Big Box, Books, Featured Comments Off on U.S. Senate Candidate Eric Greitens To Hold Campaign Press Conference Today
 
Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens

Former governor Eric Greitens is a candidate for the U.S. Senate, one of nine Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the Missouri primary on August 2, 2022. The Democratic primary has eight candidates.  Senator and former Governor Roy Blunt is not seeking another 6-year term.

Greitens was recently in the news over new allegations:

Allegations stem from an affidavit from his ex-wife Sheena Greitens filed in their ongoing child custody case in Missouri. She alleges the former governor was physically abusive toward both her and one of their sons, who was 3 years old at the time, the Associated Press reported.

The accusations come years after Greitens resigned as governor while facing allegations of sexual misconduct and blackmail involving his hairdresser and a House investigation into his campaign’s finances.

Greitens has emerged as a leading candidate in a crowded Republican field to succeed the retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. His primary opponents include Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, Mark McCloskey and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz. (USA Today via MSN)

This allegation has apparently prompted some republicans to call for Greitens to drop out of the race.

Just last week, Greitens’ ex-wife accused him in court of physically abusing her and their two children while they were married. McConnell reportedly seemed hopeful that the news would torpedo Greitens’ campaign, according to a New York Times report last week.

“We caught a break,” McConnell reportedly told fellow GOP senators. 

Greitens has since claimed — without evidence — that McConnell and GOP operative Karl Rove conspired against him to spread allegations of misconduct. (MSNBC)

In an effort to refocus his campaign on wining the primary, Eric  Greitens has hired former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to assist with  getting the campaign on track.

So at 3pm this afternoon Giuliani will introduce Greitens at a press conference and campaign rally at the Four Seasons in Chesterfield, MO. I’d go out of curiosity, but it would require 3 different bus routes (90 minutes!) to get all the way out there.

— Steve Patterson

Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn)

March 21, 2022 Downtown, Featured, MLS Stadium, Planning & Design Comments Off on Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn)
 

As I outlined two years ago, the blocks around new Centene Stadium will most certainly change in the coming years, decades. We’ve already seen some buildings on Olive be razed for the stadium, and more for a new garage. These weren’t architectural masterpieces, but they were urban. Hopefully it’ll be a good trade off.

One building I want to see razed, or significantly altered, is the hotel at 2211 Market Street (2.78 acres). Currently it’s officially known as the “Pear Tree Inn Near Union Station.” With the new major league soccer stadium nearing completion next door I think they’ll rename the hotel to reflect the ideal proximity. I’d like to bigger change — a complete rethink.

Photo of Pear Tree Inn
The 11-story hotel was built in 1965. It is set back from Market Street behind parking. It doesn’t orient to any of the three streets (Market, 23rd, Pine) that has bordered it since new.
Photo of low parking garage behind Pear Tree Inn
The 2-level parking garage to the north of the tower was built at the same time.

One of the first things I like to do is look back at what existed before — especially streets & alleys. Not that I’d necessarily want to recreate what existed over a hundred years ago, I just find it helpful.

1909 Sanborn fire insurance map
In February 1909 we can see Chestnut between Market and Pine, 22nd on the east, 23rd on the west. City blocks 914 & 915.
Aerial view with interchange east of hotel
For decades is was next to what was planned to be the 22nd St Parkway. This interchange was all that ever got built.
Aerial view with stadium construction east of hotel
Now the new MLS stadium is going up, and 22nd Street will once again exist!

Interestingly, the little bit of land between the east side of the hotel and the new 22nd Street is deeded in several small parcels, at least one to TKFC Properties, LLC in Moscow Mills, MO. The accessor classifies it as “9900 (OTHER UNDEVELOPED LAND AND WATER AREAS, NEC)”, so perhaps it’ll collect runoff water. Seems too valuable for water retention.

I strongly dislike this hotel and parking garage. I suspect the owner, Drury Hotels, is contemplating their options now that their real estate has a prime spot near the MLS stadium, and a higher valuation. The big question is what are the various ways to rebuild or start over?

I believe in reusing existing structures, so the first option would be to look at adding a new tower perpendicular to the existing one so hotel rooms on the east side could look toward the stadium and downtown. The roof of a new tower could contain a rooftop restaurant/bar with outstanding views. A new urban entrance facing Market, 22nd, or Pine. Some sort of drive though for check in that doesn’t block the many pedestrians that will soon be in this area.  Parking will need to go somewhere, preferably underground.

Other options involve razing the tower and garage, completely starting over from scratch. If they get the little bit of land between the existing lot and 22nd Street the site will be bordered by four streets — it needs to acknowledge all of them.

Reconstructing Chestnut Street needs to be considered. Chestnut still exists between 23rd and Jefferson Ave. so this would help reconnect the original street grid. We would then have two parcels, with the north larger than the south.  Perhaps a parking garage in the center of the larger parcel, wrapped in hotel rooms, apartments, and/or offices? The new block of Chestnut might be a full public street, a public walkway, or a private walkway that’s generally open to the public. I can see a Chestnut walkway being filled with outdoor dining, a new building(s) on the south side blocking the hot sun.

My one time in the hotel was to get this photo from the hallway of an upper floor. This was the view I used in my February 2016 post when I called for this to be the site of a new stadium — over six years ago! Click image to view post.

I’m confident this site will look dramatically different within a decade, just not sure how it’ll look. If I’m still around when something happens I’ll be sure to post about it.

— Steve Patterson

New Book — ‘American Urbanist: How William H. White’s Unconventional Wisdom Shaped Public Life’ by Richard K. Rein

March 18, 2022 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘American Urbanist: How William H. White’s Unconventional Wisdom Shaped Public Life’ by Richard K. Rein
 

cover of american urbanist book Willam H. Whyte is one of two people who influenced how I see our built environment, the other is Jane Jacobs. Had I known about either in 1985 I probably would’ve studied urban planning instead of architecture. Both focus on observation, but in very different ways.

On an otherwise normal weekday in the 1980s, commuters on busy Route 1 in central New Jersey noticed an alarming sight: a man in a suit and tie dashing across four lanes of traffic, then scurrying through a narrow underpass as cars whizzed by within inches. The man was William “Holly” Whyte, a pioneer of people-centered urban design. Decades before this perilous trek to a meeting in the suburbs, he had urged planners to look beyond their desks and drawings: “You have to get out and walk.”
 
American Urbanist shares the life and wisdom of a man whose advocacy reshaped many of the places we know and love today—from New York’s bustling Bryant Park to preserved forests and farmlands around the country. Holly’s experiences as a WWII intelligence officer and leader of the genre-defining reporters at Fortune Magazine in the 1950s shaped his razor-sharp assessments of how the world actually worked—not how it was assumed to work. His 1956 bestseller, The Organization Man, catapulted the dangers of “groupthink” and conformity into the national consciousness.
 
Over his five decades of research and writing, Holly’s wide-ranging work changed how people thought about careers and companies, cities and suburbs, urban planning, open space preservation, and more. He was part of the rising environmental movement, helped spur change at the planning office of New York City, and narrated two films about urban life, in addition to writing six books. No matter the topic, Holly advocated for the decisionmakers to be people, not just experts.
 
“We need the kind of curiosity that blows the lid off everything,” Holly once said. His life offers encouragement to be thoughtful and bold in asking questions and in making space for differing viewpoints. This revealing biography offers a rare glimpse into the mind of an iconoclast whose healthy skepticism of the status quo can help guide our efforts to create the kinds of places we want to live in today. (Island Press)

He was right, in-person observation is incredibly valuable. Photos, videos, etc are good, but the best observations are made in person. This is why for 17+ years I like to visit places in person before posting about them here.

You can read some preview pages of this hardcover book here.

— Steve Patterson

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