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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Mega-Convenience Store Wally’s Follows Popular Buc-ee’s Concept With Second Location In Fenton MO…Is Bigger Better?

April 11, 2022 Environment, Featured, St. Louis County, Transportation Comments Off on Mega-Convenience Store Wally’s Follows Popular Buc-ee’s Concept With Second Location In Fenton MO…Is Bigger Better?
 

When I was a kid a 1970s filling (gas) station was a small corner location with a few pumps and a small interior. Inside they might have a vending machine or two. They also did some automotive work, like tire repairs, in the shop portion of the building. Restrooms were often small and accessed from the outside. Fuel was their primary revenue source.  The closest was a 2-canopy Phillips 66 “gull wing” design — similar to the single canopy one at Page & Vandeventer.

Small convenience stores also existed, and some sold fuel.

At some point (80s?) gas stations and convenience stores merged. It was 1982 when Buck-ee’s opened its first convenience store/gas station in Clute Texas (near Houston), followed by others. These were typical suburban filling stations for the day, significantly smaller than today’s QuikTrip.

In the years since these new gas/convenience hybrids became bigger and nicer, the number of fuel pumps has steadily increased. What was once a small corner lot is now multiple acres.

In 2001 Buc-ee’s owners decided to go big instead of incremental growth — opening their first mega location along I-10 near Luling TX (map). It’s a stop between San Antonio and Houston, in the middle of nowhere. Even now the only other thing at this exit is a Love’s Travel Stop and a couple of hotels, all on the other side of the interstate. Sheer size was the gimmick. Rather than have multiple separate locations along the interstate they put all those fuel pumps, food, restrooms, employees, etc into one big location. It was a brilliant idea — great for marketing, simplifies logistics, etc.

During the last two decades others have replicated their logo and/or concept.

In recent years, during the company’s rapidly growing success, Buc-ee’s has filed numerous lawsuits against other convenience store chains, most of them based in Texas, for trademark and trade dress infringement.

In 2014, Buc-ee’s filed a lawsuit against Texas based convenience store chain “Frio Beaver”. Frio Beaver, a company with a logo also depicting a beaver in a yellow circle with a black outline, was accused of copying the iconic Buc-ee’s beaver head logo, which the company is widely known for in Texas.

In 2016, Buc-ee’s sued “Choke Canyon BBQ”, another Texas convenience store, for copyright infringement and trade dressing. Choke Canyon uses a logo of a grinning alligator in the middle of a yellow circle, which Buc-ee’s claims is an attempt by the chain to resemble the Buc-ee’s logo. Choke Canyon is also calling their new stores “Bucky’s”.

In 2017, Buc-ee’s again filed a lawsuit for breaking an agreement, this time against a Nebraska-based convenience store chain known as “Bucky’s”. The two companies had agreed to remain in their respective states and expand only to states where the other did not operate.

There was also a non-logo related lawsuit filed in 2013 against “Chicks”, a convenience store located in Bryan, Texas, for trade dressing by allegedly copying Buc-ee’s mega convenience store designs and layout. The case was settled out of court.

Wally’s opened its first Buc-ee’s style mega-convenience store/filling station in Pontiac IL in 2020 (map). I checked, it’s inside the city limits. Barely.  Their logo would never be confused with Buc-ee’s, so they’re safe there.  Since Buc-ee’s doesn’t have a Missouri or Illinois location (yet) Wally’s is likely safe from a trade dress lawsuit.

Long line of fuel pumps is parallel with I-44
Long line of fuel pumps is parallel with I-44

The new Wally’s in suburban Fenton MO is their second location. They’re looking to expand, interested in sites 2-8 acres in size.

Likes:

  • Clean.
  • Cheese pizza slice was good.
  • Nice seeing food prepared on site.
  • Friendly employees.
  • Contactless payments accepted inside and at fuel pumps.

Dislikes:

  • Excessive impervious paving.
  • No solar.
  • No trees.
  • No seating, inside or out.
  • Long walk to restrooms.
  • Higher fuel prices than most others in zip code.
  • Higher food, beverage prices.
  • Number of disabled/accessible parking spaces seems too few.
  • A few ADA violations.

Let’s take a look:

Street entrance
My first pic of Wally’s, a view from the street. The massively wide driveway is likely designed to accommodate tanker trucks delivering fuel.

Jeep Grand Cherokee
A vintage Jeep Grand Wagoneer takes center stage, facing the highway. This is where one ADA violation occurs — they have a marked pedestrian route from the building out to this platform buy failed to include a curb cut/ramp.

 

Fuel pump
Fuel pumps are modern, offer contactless payment.

Crosswalk to building
The have an outer sidewalk along the outer edges of the property on the industrial park side, this marked crosswalk leads you to the building. However, the industrial park isn’t designed for pedestrians. So workers in surrounding businesses will likely need to drive here say for lunch — or walk in the street, driveways, and/or drainage ditch when not full of water.

Area to charge electric vehicles
To one side of the building is a canopy shading electric vehicle chargers.

Plug in graphic painted on paving
I thought this painted graphic was cute.

EV charger
Not sure if the ADA addresses access to chargers, but many with disabilities would have a hard time accessing the charge hose — this is a problems I’ve seen at every public charger location. The screen height seemed ok.

Side view of Wally's
Looking back at the side entrance from the charger area.

Side entrance
Entrances are large with automatic doors.

Center interior
The center of the building has a higher ceiling, lots of staffed stations.

bar-be-que station in center
Like Buc-ee’s, the main attraction is BBQ.

Back wall from center
Looking along the back wall

bakery with pizza
The bakery included pizza and muffins, etc

Two pizza slices
We each had a slice, we had to eat it in our car.

A cafe section, or course.

Beyond the Cafe is the wall of soda, and snacks like jerky. You pass though here to reach the restrooms.

The restrooms were clean, with sinks in the center. At each sink you get soap, water, air to dry. Very nice.

I don’t fault the owners or patrons of Wally’s, it is certainly of the current times.  Thankfully I don’t think we’ll see too many of these in the future. The typical big gas station (looking at you QT) is bad enough.

We shouldn’t even be building any new gas stations at this point.

— Steve Patterson

 

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

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