Last Mile to Cahokia Mounds Is Impossible For Pedestrians

 

 I’ve working on my bucket list in the last two years living with stage IV kidney cancer. Right after Memorial Day I was able to visit Milwaukee, my very first time in Wisconsin. I’m also working on items closer to home that I can safely do during a pandemic. To help …

New Book — ‘Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in Our Lives’, by Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett

 

 This is the first of three books I received in July, so they’re newish. My health insurance is better now so I’m getting caught up. I’ve posted before about my interest in electric cars, but also interest in and use of public transportation. My electric “vehicle” is a 2008 power …

We Saved Money On Our Electric Bill By Switching Rate Plans

 

 For years there was no financial incentive to reduce electricity use during peak periods. Running the dryer &  air conditioning while cooking dinner at 5pm weekdays cost the same as doing them at other times.  With Ameren Missouri’s new smart meters and Tine of Use (TOU) rate plans reducing electric …

Mid-70s Downtown Office Tower Getting Needed 21st Century Update

 

 Office vacancy rates are high now, especially in downtown St. Louis. Office vacancy is up across the metro area, averaging 16.9% in the second quarter of 2021 compared with 11.8% in 2020. Rents for offices outside of downtown declined nearly 4% from the end of 2020 through the second quarter …

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17th Annual Post on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis

January 18, 2021 Featured, MLK Jr. Drive, North City Comments Off on 17th Annual Post on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis
 

Since 2005 I’ve looked at Dr. Martin Luther King Drive every year on the national holiday to honor the civil rights leader killed in 1968. This is my 17th such post.

In St. Louis two streets were renamed in 1972 — Franklin Ave east of Leffingwell Ave and Easton Ave west of Leffingwell Ave became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. This travels through north St. Louis from the Mississippi River to city limits.

Though not bustling like new suburban malls, it still had lots of commercial activity. In the nearly half century since the streets were renamed the black middle class largely abandoned north St. Louis — moving to either other parts of the city, north county & beyond, even out of state. With some exceptions, retail activity on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive has collapsed — as have many buildings.

Today we’ll start at MLK & Tucker then head west. Why not start further east? Well, only one block of MLK remains east of Tucker (12th) — between 9th & 10th. On the south side of the street is the side of an anti-urban hotel and on the north side a surface parking lot enclosed by chain link fencing. The blocks between Broadway (5th) and 9th are part of the convention center and dome.

At Tucker & MLK you have the former Post-Dispatch building being renovated into office space for Square and others. All photos, except where noted otherwise, were taken on Saturday January 9, 2021.

The first block of MLK east of Tucker is closed during building renovations, left. The main entrances used to face Tucker & MLK, but that will change when it reopens.
The new main entrance will be on the opposite end, a previously windowless addition has been transformed into the new main entrance at Tucker & Cole.
In 2020 the few remaining old buildings on MLK between 13th & 14th were razed. This view from the NW corner of MLK & 14th we can see all the way to Tucker & Convention Plaza (aka Delmar).
In 2020 the city leased a former RV park that occupied an entire city block bounded by MLK, Jefferson, Cole, and 23rd.
Tiny houses began being set into place so unhoused individuals could have a safe place to live.
The storefront at 2706 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive was boarded up.
I’ve been watching the house at 3047 MLK slowly deteriorate. It has stood here since 1880.
In 2012 the rear wing was still intact.
The McKee-owned warehouse in the triangle where Page & MLK meet is another that has been slowly crumbling.
The MLK side is actually the back. At the top you can see a wall on the mechanical penthouse has collapsed.
Here’s a cropped view to show the wall collapse. This will allow more water & animals into the structure.
On the block west of Whittier Street stood large 3-story building. In the foreground the sign for the late Ald Sam Moore is still in place at the Ville Mall business incubator he helped build. It’s suburban-style front parking lot is in stark contrast to businesses in older buildings across MLK
A better view of the site where a large 3-story warehouse stood for decades.
From my 2019 post: Bricks are starting to fall from this building. It should be stabilized, but it’ll likely be allowed to crumble until neighbors demand it be razed.
The well-proportioned, but vacant, building at 4277 MLK has lost brick from the exterior row.
The closed Marshall School building that faces Aldine Ave is still awaiting a buyer.
A positive sign just west of Newstead, very glad to see this building getting some attention.

 

This handsome building at 4524 MLK needs attention to keep it from getting beyond the ability to save it.
The building at 4534 MLK is getting some tuck pointing to help it keep standing.
Something is happening at 4668 MLK.

In the last 16 years the building has been a dollar type store at least twice, it’s closed again. 4949 MLK
For a few years now a new building has been under construction at 4973 MLK, set back suburban-style. It looks finished, but has yet to be occupied.
The former Sears on Kingshighway near MLK is now the Urban League, the building is still named after Victor Roberts.
The auto & tire business at 5018 MLK is burnt out.
The facade at 5153 MLK has collapsed.
Last year I knew the facade wouldn’t last long so I included it for documentation purposes.
And sadly one of my favorite buildings in the entire city was finally razed.
5716 MLK in 2019.
The former National market at 5870 MLK has had other uses over the years, last as Ali Market. A medical marijuana dispensary license has been awarded to Growing Jobs Missouri. Hopefully this will still happen.
In late August 2020 the upper floor collapsed while the business at 5917 MLK was open. I doubt the building will be here next year. Click image to see Post-Dispatch story in a new tab.
Here is what it looked like in 2019.

As in prior years there are a few bright spots along an otherwise bleak street.

As long as there is extreme poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars.
— Dr. King, “The American Dream” speech, June 6, 1961 at Lincoln University. Listen here, quote at 14:23.

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March 2nd Non-Partisan Ballot Is Set

January 12, 2021 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on March 2nd Non-Partisan Ballot Is Set
 
Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners at 208 South 12th Tucker) from February 1932 through December 1998. From my collection

Seven weeks from today, Tuesday March 2, 2021, St. Louis will hold its first non-partisan election for aldermen & mayor. Additionally, it’s the last election where half the aldermen means 14.

This year happens to be the odd-numbered wards up for election — to a special two-year term. A couple of even-numbered wards also have elections to fill an unexpired term. In two years the total number of aldermen will drop from 28 to 14, then 7 will get an initial 2-year term and 7 the usual 4-year terms. Once the census numbers are know  redistricting will begin.

Unlike past elections, the winners now must have more than 50% of the votes, so in a race with 3 or more candidates and nobody achieves the 50% threshold a runoff election will be held on April 6, 2021. Any runoff would be the top two candidates only. It’s unclear to me what would happen if two or more candidates tied for second place.

For decades partisan candidates paid a filing fee to the political party they were running for, usually Democrat. Independent candidates had to collect signatures to get on the general election ballot. Now every candidate is independent and must collect signatures to be included on the ballot. Some declared candidates are not on the ballot because their petitions didn’t contain enough signatures of registered voters.

Additionally this is the first time voters get to vote for more than one candidate in each race on their ballot.

Okay, let’s take a look at the races & candidates on the March 3rd ballot, here in reverse order:

WARD 27 — includes parts or all of: Walnut East & West, North Point, and Baden neighborhoods.

– Mary Ann Jackson is the only candidate. The incumbent is Pam Boyd.

WARD 25 — includes parts or all of: Carondelet, Dutchtown, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.

– Shane Cohn, the incumbent, is the only candidate. I ran for this seat 16 years ago, 4 years before Cohn won in 2009.

WARD 23 — includes parts or all of: Lindenwood Park, Ellendale, Clifton Heights, and North Hampton neighborhoods.

– Joseph A. Vaccaro, Jr., the incumbent, is the only candidate.

WARD 21 — includes parts or all of: Kingshighway East, Greater Ville, O’Fallon, Penrose, and College Hill neighborhoods. This ward has six (6) candidates and is the most likely to have a runoff election on April 6th.

– Laura Keys, current Democratic committeewoman
– Travon Brooks
– Melinda L. Long, a former alderwoman for this ward
– John Collin-Muhammad, current alderman
– Ticharwa Masimba
– Barbara Lane

WARD 19 — includes parts or all of: Shaw, Tiffany, The Gate District, Midtown, Vandeventer, and Covenant/Grand Center neighborhoods.

– Cleo Willis, Sr.
– Marlene E. Davis, incumbent

WARD 17 — includes parts or all of: Shaw, Botanical Heights, Tiffany, Midtown, Central West End, Forest Park Southeast, Kings Oak, and Cheltenham neighborhoods. Longtime alderman Joe Roddy announced last year he wouldn’t seek another term.

– Don De Vivo
– Tina Pihl
– Kaleena Menke
– Michelle Sherod

WARD 15 — includes parts or all of: Tower Grove South, Dutchtown, Gravois Park, Tower Grove East, and Benton Park West neighborhoods.

– Jennifer Florida, another former alderwoman running
– Alexander J. Gremp
– Megan Ellyia Green, incumbent

WARD 13 — includes parts or all of: Carondelet, Holly Hills, Boulevard Heights, Bevo Mill, Princeton Heights, Southampton, and Dutchtown neighborhoods.

– Anne Schweitzer
– Beth Murphy, incumbent

WARD 12 — includes part or all of: Boulevard Heights, Princeton Heights, St. Louis Hills. Larry Arnowitz resigned last year.

– Joe Rusch
– Bill Stephens
– Vicky Grass, incumbent from special election

WARD 11 — includes parts or all of: Carondelet, Patch, Holly Hills, Boulevard Heights, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.

– Sarah Wood Martin, incumbent

WARD 9 — includes parts or all of: Dutchtown, Mount Pleasant, Marine Villa, Gravois Park, Kosciusko, Soulard, Benton Park, Tower Grove East, and Benton Park West neighborhoods.

– Ken A. Ortmann, former alderman
– Dan Guenther, incumbent

WARD 7 — includes parts or all of: Kosciusko, Soulard, Benton Park, McKinley Heights, Fox Park, Compton Heights, Lafayete Park, Downtown, Downtown West, and Near North Riverfront neighborhoods.

– Shedrick (Nato Caliph) Kelley
– Jack Coatar, incumbent

WARD 5 — includes parts or all of: Downtown West, JeffVanderLou, St. Louis Place, Carr Square, Columbus Square, Old North St. Louis, Near North Riverfront, and Hyde Park neighborhoods.

– Tammika Hubbard, incumbent
– James Page

WARD 4 — includes parts or all of: Lewis Place, Kingshighway East, Greater Ville, The Ville, and Vandeventer neighborhoods. Sam Moore died in 2020, this election is for the remainder of the term.

– Edward McFowland
– Leroy Carter
– Dwinderlin (Dwin) Evans, incumbent from special election

WARD 3 — includes parts or all of: JeffVanderLou, St. Louis Place, Hyde Park, College Hill, Fairground, and O’Fallon neighborhoods.

– Brandon Bosley, incumbent
– Herdosia Kalambayi Bentum

WARD 1 — includes parts or all of: Wells/Goodfellow, Kingshighway East & West, Penrose, Mark Twain, and Walnut Park East neighborhoods.

– Loren Watt
– Sharon Tyus, incumbent
– Yolanda Brown

COMPTROLLER — citywide

– Longtime Comptroller Darlene Green is again unchallenged.

MAYOR — citywide. Mayor Lyda Krewson isn’t seeking a second term.

– Andrew Jones
– Tishaura O. Jones
– Cara Spencer
– Lewis Reed

So those who are unchallenged will be re-elected. The races with only two candidates will be decided on March 2nd. Races with 3 or more candidates might be decided on Election Day — if one gets at least 50% of the votes.

School board elections and any runoff races will be Tuesday April 6, 2021.

— Steve Patterson

Initial Thoughts On Proposed ‘City District’ In North St. Louis

January 4, 2021 Featured, North City, Planning & Design Comments Off on Initial Thoughts On Proposed ‘City District’ In North St. Louis
 

In 1990, at just 23, I fell in love with St. Louis and its quirky street grid. I hadn’t yet been to New York or Chicago but I knew many big cities had rigid orthogonal grids — nothing but right angles.

St.Louis’ grid, on the other hand, had right, obtuse, and acute angles. This meant interesting views from various directions, buildings designed to fit into the odd-shaped parcels. Some streets follow old trails, the neighborhoods built up around the meandering paths.

I simply adore this about St. Louis.

In my first 6-9 months here I made my way along North & West Florissant Avenue as it makes it way up through North St. Louis. My destination was O’Fallon Park — the neighborhood and city park.

Right before the park was the remnants of once-thriving commercial district. I’ve been back there many times over the years in a car, bike, bus, and motor scooter.

From the bus on August 5, 2017, looking at West Florissant Ave & Harne Ave. Click image to view in Google Streetview

This old commercial area is the center of a new revitalization project called “The City District.”

Phase One
During the $34 million Phase One, 66 parcels will be demolished and the land will be reallocated for new construction of retail, homes and community greenspaces. More than 50 percent of these properties are currently vacant. The construction team is working on master plan and design development and bidding. Demolition will begin in March. Kwame Building Group is serving as the construction manager and program manager. The architect is Jackson Design Group.

In Phase One, the construction team also will build City Plaza, which will create vibrant shopping and recreational opportunities and a thriving local labor force. The commercial center will feature extensive retail and office space, including a grocery store and bowling alley.

Phase Two
The O’ Fallon Neighborhood is home to some of St. Louis’ largest and most historical homes rivaling the size and stylings found in the Central West End and surrounding Tower Grove Park and Forest Park. In Phase Two, $1 million will be invested in rehabilitating 26 existing homes. Large single-family homes will be converted into multi-use rental properties while retaining their architectural history. A $24 million project will construct new single and multi-family homes.

Culturally competent and equitable redevelopment practices will be central throughout the five-year project. The KWAME team is committed to maximizing MBE/WBE and local firm participation. The project team has established a partnership with the City of St. Louis to increase community safety and security focused on community competent policing. Existing infrastructure will be reimagined to improve and promote public transit and pedestrian accessibility. (Kwame Building Group)

My initial thoughts are generally positive, the area desperately needs investment after decades of disinvestment by whites and then blacks. I’m very glad this effort is coming from the black community, not an old white suburban developer. It’s a very good thing they’ve given this commercial district a name — that’s important for creating a positive identity.

However, I’m very concerned about demolition of currently occupied structures. Reallocating land sounds like making wide suburban lots rather than the existing narrow lots with garages and services off the alley. How the large triangle created as West Florissant splits is treated will be very important. It’s all asphalt now. Lots of unanswered questions.

Wisely they’ve said it will take multiple phases and five years, though I expect it’ll take even longer. And that’s ok, it didn’t decline overnight so we can’t expect an immediate reversal. I’m looking forward to seeing more details.

— Steve Patterson

So Long 2020: Too Much Death

December 30, 2020 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on So Long 2020: Too Much Death
 
Didn’t have a dumpster fire photo, so this October 16th McKee warehouse fire will have to do representing 2020.

Most agree 2020 was, overall, an awful year. So much death. Not just from COVID-19, murders in St. Louis also set records. As of December 24th 254 people had been murdered in the city.

St. Louis has seen a nearly 25% increase in the number of homicides over the same period in 2019.

This year is the deadliest year in St. Louis’ history on a per capita basis. In 1993, 267 people were fatally shot, but the city had about 80,000 more residents. (KSDK)

There’s no vaccine to keep our murder rate from going up, no treatment has been found to lower it permanently.

When 2020 began I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to 2021. In December 2019 I received my first two immunotherapy treatments stage 4 kidney cancer. My to do list for 2020 included checking off bucket list items and making final arrangements should the treatment not work.

In early February I got the first news — the treatments prevented the tumors from growing! I was very happy and thought this was going to be a good year. I began thinking about making a 2-week solo trip to Chicago in April. As I was about to buy a round trip ticket on Amtrak everything went into lockdown.

In April, instead of a trip to Chicago, I had surgery to install a power port in my chest. I inherited my mom’s tricky veins, so this little device is connected to a jugular vein making blood draws and intravenous treatments much easier. We’d received homemade masks from my sister-in-law the day before my surgery.

Unlike so many, I’m still here. I’m actually optimistic I’ll see at least 2022. At some point in the 2nd half of 2021 it’ll be less risky to travel, eat out, etc. Unfortunately I’m not optimistic about crime in St. Louis being substantially reduced.

— Steve Patterson

Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change

December 24, 2020 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change
 

A year ago Metro announced that a new color scheme was being phased in.

You will continue to see the red-white-and-blue trains and buses for a long time. There are currently three MetroLink trains featuring the new look, as well as 26 new MetroBus vehicles. These new 30-foot Gillig buses have improved emissions and a much smaller turning radius than other buses in the fleet, making them more flexible in the types of service they can provide and in the locations where they can better operate.

The new paint scheme will only be applied to new vehicles being added to the Metro fleet as they replace older trains, buses and vans that are being retired out of service. All of these updates are part of the normal maintenance and replacement cycle for transit vehicles, signs and materials, and no additional funds are being used or needed to make these changes.

It took a while but I think most vehicles have now received the new design. Train vehicles haven’t actually been replaced, but individual cars gets updated and the livery changes from the standard to advertising, etc. Buses also get a change of livery based on advertising wraps.

The new blue design in July 2020
New blue design last month

MetroLink trains & buses have been white for decades.

The old blue & red design on a white background, 2014.
The old blue & red on a white background on August 26, 2006 — the opening of the Shrewsbury line.

I’ve been here 30 years and I couldn’t think of a different color scheme, but a friend reminded me prior to the 2003 Bi-State to Metro change to blue & red on white they had a red/orange/yellow scheme.

Red, orange, & yellow strip on white background. 1996 photo by Ron Walker.

I personally love the new design. The bold blue design stands out, at least for now. In time it’ll get old and tired. It’s refreshing to no longer have the white background. I’ve seen the new blue design on buses, but haven’t gotten a photo yet.

— Steve Patterson

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