New Book: ‘Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges’ by June Williamson & Ellen Dunham-Jones

 

 One of the most important issues facing regions in the coming decades will be the enormous amount of land around the inner core that was developed in a manner that exacerbates current & future problems. Suburbia everywhere will need to be retrofitted. In 2009 I posted about a new book …

Thoughts on St. Louis’ First Non-Partisan General Election

 

 In November we passed non-partisan “approval voting” for local elections. Last month the top two in multi-candidate races in the primary advanced to Tuesday’s general. It appears to have worked well. Some races the candidate with the most votes in the primary went on to win the general, others the …

Nonprofit Run By Hubbard Family To Renovate Long-Vacant Carr School

 

 Carr Square Tenant Management head Rodney Hubbard Sr. will announce later today that the nonprofit will finally renovate the crumbling Carr School. After collecting fees from & suing actual developers, the Hubbard family is going to put on the developer hat. Securing permits won’t be a problem because Rodney’s daughter …

The St. Louis Region Needs a Moratorium Stopping Construction of New Gas Stations

 

 Earlier this month a city in Northern California has done what other municipalities should do: ban the construction of new gas stations. The city of Petaluma has become the first in the nation to ban the construction of new gas stations in the city, as part of its aggressive goal to …

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New Book: ‘Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges’ by June Williamson & Ellen Dunham-Jones

April 12, 2021 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book: ‘Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges’ by June Williamson & Ellen Dunham-Jones
 

One of the most important issues facing regions in the coming decades will be the enormous amount of land around the inner core that was developed in a manner that exacerbates current & future problems. Suburbia everywhere will need to be retrofitted.

In 2009 I posted about a new book addressing this topic, see: Book Review; Retrofitting Suburbia, Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.

Now June Williamson & Ellen Dunham-Jones are back with 32 case studies where the retrofitting principles have been applied.

This amply-illustrated book, second in a series, documents how defunct shopping malls, parking lots, and the past century’s other obsolete suburban development patterns are being retrofitted to address current urgent challenges they weren’t designed for: improving public health, increasing resilience in the face of climate change, leveraging social capital for equity, supporting an aging society, competing for jobs, and disrupting automobile dependence.

Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges provides summaries, data, and references on how these challenges manifest in suburbia and discussion of successful urban design strategies to address them in Part I. Part
II documents how innovative design strategies are implemented in a range of northern American contexts and market conditions. From modest interventions with big ripple effects to ambitious do-overs, examples of redevelopment, reinhabitation, and regreening of changing suburban places from coast to coast are described in depth in 32 brand new case studies.
• Written by the authors of the highly influential Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs
• Demonstrates changes that can and already have been realized in suburbia by focusing on case studies of retrofitted suburban
places
• Illustrated in full-color with photos, maps, plans, and diagrams

Full of replicable lessons and creative responses to ongoing problems and potentials with conventional suburban form, Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges is an important book for students and professionals involved in urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, development, civil engineering, public health, public policy, and governance. Most of all, it is intended as a useful guide for anyone who seeks to inspire revitalization, justice, and shared prosperity in places they know and care about. (Wiley)

University City’s plan to replace a strip shopping center and modest houses with a big box Costco isn’t what the authors are advocating.

Here are the 32 case studies examined in this book:

  1. Case Study II.1   Aurora Avenue North, Shoreline, Washington
  2. Case Study II.2   Hassalo on Eighth and Lloyd, Portland, Oregon
  3. Case Study II.3   Lake Grove Village, Lake Oswego, Oregon
  4. Case Study II.4   Phoenix Park Apartments, Sacramento, California
  5. Case Study II.5   Parkmerced, San Francisco, California
  6. Case Study II.6   The BLVD, Lancaster, California
  7. Case Study II.7   TAXI, Denver, Colorado
  8. Case Study II.8   Guthrie Green, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  9. Case Study II.9   La Gran Plaza, Fort Worth, Texas
  10. Case Study II.10 The Domain, Austin, Texas
  11. Case Study II.11 ACC Highland, Austin, Texas
  12. Case Study II.12 Mueller, east Austin, Texas
  13. Case Study II.13 Promenade of Wayzata, Wayzata, Minnesota
  14. Case Study II.14 Maplewood Mall and Living Streets, Maplewood, Minnesota
  15. Case Study II.15 Baton Rouge Health District, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  16. Case Study II.16 Uptown Circle, Normal, Illinois
  17. Case Study II.17 One Hundred Oaks, Nashville, Tennessee
  18. Case Study II.18 Historic Fourth Ward Park, Atlanta, Georgia
  19. Case Study II.19 Technology Park, Peachtree Corners, Georgia
  20. Case Study II.20 Walker’s Bend, Covington, Georgia
  21. Case Study II.21 Downtown Doral, Doral, Florida
  22. Case Study II.22 Collinwood Recreation Center, Cleveland, Ohio
  23. Case Study II.23 The Mosaic District, Merrifield, Virginia
  24. Case Study II.24 South Dakota Ave and Riggs Road, Fort Totten, Washington, DC
  25. Case Study II.25 White Flint / The Pike District, Montgomery County, Maryland
  26. Case Study II.26 The Blairs, Silver Spring, Maryland
  27. Case Study II.27 La Station – Centre Intergénérationnel, Nuns’ Island, Verdun, Quebec
  28. Case Study II.28 Bell Works, Holmdel, New Jersey
  29. Case Study II.29 Wyandanch Rising, Town of Babylon, New York
  30. Case Study II.30 Meriden Green, Meriden, Connecticut
  31. Case Study II.31 Cottages on Greene, East Greenwich, Rhode Island
  32. Case Study II.32 Assembly Square, Somerville, Massachusetts

I’m familiar with two of these, I experienced the “before” of #1 years ago, and #16 in 2012. Aurora Avenue in Seattle and the suburb of Shoreline is like arterial roads everywhere: awful. When I last saw it we drove to a Home Depot. From reading the case study I know the portion of Aurora Ave in Seattle is unchanged, but a stretch north from the city line has been improved. To a motorist driving by you might not notice the physical changes, but pedestrians will immediately tell it is less hostile. Motorists will notice more humans actually walking.

When I drive back to Oklahoma City to visit family & friends, hopefully later this year, I’ll stop in Tulsa to visit an aunt and see #8 and sites in adjacent Greenwood (site of the Tulsa race riot). I’d love to visit each of these case studies.

If I hadn’t had a stroke in 2008 I would’ve enjoyed working on retrofitting suburbia.

— Steve Patterson

Thoughts on St. Louis’ First Non-Partisan General Election

April 8, 2021 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Thoughts on St. Louis’ First Non-Partisan General Election
 
Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection

In November we passed non-partisan “approval voting” for local elections. Last month the top two in multi-candidate races in the primary advanced to Tuesday’s general.

It appears to have worked well. Some races the candidate with the most votes in the primary went on to win the general, others the 2nd place primary candidate won the general.

There were two citywide races on Tuesday, only one competitive: mayor. Once again comptroller Green wasn’t challenged.

In the mayoral primary I voted for two of the four candidates — city treasurer Tishaura Jones and alderman Cara Spencer — the top two in the primary. Jones had come in 2nd place in the March 2017 partisan primary. Last month Jones came in 1st, Spencer 2nd. I was thrilled knowing one of my choices would become mayor.

The month between primary and general was intense. Many people took sides, getting into heated arguments. Campaigning turned negative, especially from Spencer or groups supporting her. It’s unclear to me if another strategy would’ve enabled Spencer to overcome Jones’ lead.

An example of a 2nd place primary finish to victory in the general is James Page in the 5th ward, my ward. In the primary a month ago Tammika Hubbard received more votes than challenger Page. I’d backed challengers to Tammika Hubbard in 2013 & 2017, only to see Hubbard win in the partisan primary. In 2017 the democratic primary had six candidates. Tuesday Page received 52.49% — the first time candidate came from behind to defeat the Hubbard political family.

Tammika Hubbard is the daughter of Rodney & Penny Hubbard. In 2016 Penny Hubbard lost her reelection bid for state rep. Their son Rodney Hubbard Jr. previously held that seat. Penny Hubbard is still 5th ward Democratic committeewoman, but Rodney Hubbard Sr. previously lost the committeeman seat to state rep Rasheen Aldridge.

Carr Square Village, built by the St. Louis Housing Authority in the 1950s, has been updated over the years

The Hubbard family is considered a political institution in the 5th ward, Carr Square. However, Rodney Hubbard Sr.’s political career began in the inner-ring suburb of Pagedale.

  • August 1973: he replaced someone else on the Pagedale zoning commission.
  • October 1973: he lost a special election to be Pagedale mayor, a 472-47 landslide.
  • February 1974: appointed Pagedale public relations director.
  • April 1975: sworn in as a Pagedale alderman.
  • September 1986: now acting resident manager at Carr Square Tenant Management Corp.

Rodney Hubbard Sr. wasn’t mentioned in the Post-Dispatch between April 1975 and September 1986. He was hired as a resident manager in the mid 1980s and hasn’t left. I wonder if the board is independent.

The last 28 aldermen are now set, in 2023 the number of wards will be cut in half.  Old political machines like the Hubbard’s will find it hard to cope with bigger wards in terms of voters and geographic size. In the next two years we’ll see the 28 aldermen jockeying for attention to help them potentially run against a fellow alderman.

— Steve Patterson

Nonprofit Run By Hubbard Family To Renovate Long-Vacant Carr School

April 1, 2021 Featured, North City, NorthSide Project, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Nonprofit Run By Hubbard Family To Renovate Long-Vacant Carr School
 

Carr Square Tenant Management head Rodney Hubbard Sr. will announce later today that the nonprofit will finally renovate the crumbling Carr School.

Carr School, built in 1908, has been vacant for decades. 2013 photo

After collecting fees from & suing actual developers, the Hubbard family is going to put on the developer hat. Securing permits won’t be a problem because Rodney’s daughter Tammika Hubbard is the alderman.  Unless James Page defeats her at the polls on Tuesday.

Carr School is owned by Carr Square. The ground surrounding it is owned by NorthSide Regeneration, the Paul McKee-led effort to compile property in north St. Louis, in which Carr Square is partner. (Post-Dispatch)

Yes, the Hubbards will likely turn to their buddy Paul McKee for help. Their nonprofit helped McKee get his tax credits. Expect the project to proceed at the pace of other McKee’s NorthSide projects.

— Steve Patterson

The St. Louis Region Needs a Moratorium Stopping Construction of New Gas Stations

March 31, 2021 Big Box, Books, Central West End, Featured Comments Off on The St. Louis Region Needs a Moratorium Stopping Construction of New Gas Stations
 

Earlier this month a city in Northern California has done what other municipalities should do: ban the construction of new gas stations.

The city of Petaluma has become the first in the nation to ban the construction of new gas stations in the city, as part of its aggressive goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.

On Monday night, the city council unanimously approved the measure with a second reading of the ordinance, effectively adopting the ban immediately.

The ordinance was widely embraced, as the city council said it faced no opposition.

In a city of some 60,000 residents, covering 14.5 square miles, Petaluma currently has 16 gas stations with another previously approved filling station on the way.  (Source)

It’s foolish to keep devoting more and more land & money into a business model that’s in decline. As vehicles have gotten more efficient gasoline sales have been in decline, as electric vehicles begin to  flood the market gasoline sales will continue falling off. One estimate is 60%-80% of existing gas stations could close by 2035.

Petaluma California is similar in land area & population to the St. Louis suburb of Florissant. By my count Florissant also has 17 gas stations.

Our region has food deserts, but not gas station deserts. Gas stations, mostly large convenience stores that also sell fuel, are everywhere. Former gas stations, vacant & repurposed, are also everywhere.

These will not be repurposed later into EV charging stations as EVs are recharged overnight, at home. Yes, eventually EV batteries will be able to be charged significantly faster, but by then cars will either be owned by ride share companies or it can go off on it’s own and park on a charging pad while you work.

Newer has station in the suburb of Rock Hill, MO replaced a historic stone church.
A closed gas station on the NE corner of Compton & Chippewa.
Former BP gas station at Lackland & Midland, it closed sometime between 2008 & 2012.
The vacant gas station at 2418 N. Florissant was built in 1972.
The urban Arlington Grove Apts as seen from the auto-centric gas station across the street.

Gas stations are a blight, a big hole in the urban fabric. They’re anti-pedestrian. These should no longer be built in the city, county, or region. A big part of why Petaluma banned new gas stations is a grassroots organization called Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations — we need a similar effort here.

— Steve Patterson

MLS Stadium: Before & During Photos From the St. Louis Wheel at Union Station

March 29, 2021 Downtown, Featured, MLS Stadium, Planning & Design Comments Off on MLS Stadium: Before & During Photos From the St. Louis Wheel at Union Station
 

In February 2016 the St. Louis region was still accepting the fact the Rams were returning to California, our proposal to clear the north riverfront for a new National Football League (NFL) stadium had been rejected — by Kroenke or voters…can’t remember.

Also in February 2016 Major League Soccer (MLS) expressed interest in St. Louis as an expansion city. I didn’t want the historic north riverfront to continued being targeted, so I proposed a different site. A site I’d wanted to see redeveloped for years. The short remnants of the never-built 22nd Street Parkway.

See 2015/01/20 A Great Site For A Major League Soccer (MLS) Stadium In Downtown St. Louis

This image is from that February 2016 post, taken from the adjacent hotel.

I haven’t been back to that hotel yet, but I have ridden the St. Louis Wheel at Union Station. Twice, in September 2019 and earlier this month.

Today’s post is a look at similar views from those two visits, nearly 18 months apart.

Before: looking northwest on September 24, 2019
During: a similar view as above on March 7, 2021. In time the Union Station surface parking lot in the foreground will get developed.

Now for a cropped view focusing on Market over the 22nd Parkway.

Before: the Market St bridge and the ramp up to it had been there for decades. I saw the big hole on the other side of Market as an architectural advantage.
During: the decaying Market Street bridge is gone! The new MLS stadium is set into the hole. A tunnel will provide service access to the stadium.

Now looking west:

Before: The 22nd Parkway cut a slice between 21st & 22nd streets. Prior NFL & MLS stadium proposals were here, wedged up against I-64.
During: for the first time in 6+ decades Clark Ave will be uninterrupted between 20th & Jefferson.

It’s even more exciting closer to street level.

Before: pretty much a dead zone in 2019.
During: you can see Clark Ave taking shape. Eventually the long vacant land in the foreground will be developed.

It is very exciting to see this area beginning to recover from the damaging 22nd Street Parkway project. It’ll take years to fill in, but it’s better to naturally fill in over time than to be an all at once infill project.

Will do this again in 12-18 months.

— Steve Patterson

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