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SLU’s Sculpture Garden Not Accessible To All

March 19, 2013 Accessibility, Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design, SLU 9 Comments

The northeast corner of Grand & Lindell, once an urban corner, is Saint Louis University’s Ellen Clark Sculpture Park. This large open site contains a number of sculptures that apparently please SLU President Lawrence Biondi.

ABOVE: The once vibrant urban street corner is now a passive hole in the city
ABOVE: The once vibrant urban street corner is now a passive hole in the city

I’ve only seen the colorful sculptures from the public sidewalk surrounding the fenced space. It is open to the public but the design isn’t accessible to those of us using wheelchairs.

Bare dirt at both entrances is  an invitation to get stuck. Even grassy areas can be a challenge for my power chair and nearly impossible for those in manual chairs.
Bare dirt at both entrances is an invitation to get stuck. Even grassy areas can be a challenge for my power chair and nearly impossible for those in manual chairs.

I can walk with my cane if there was a way to get my chair inside the gates so I don’t have to leave it out on the sidewalk to risk being stolen.  I’d think this sculpture garden should comply with the ADA due to #9 below:

Under the ADA public accommodations are private entities that own, lease, lease to or operate a place of public accommodation. This means that both a landlord who leases space in a building to a tenant and the tenant who operates a place of public accommodation have responsibilities to remove barriers.

A place of public accommodation is a facility whose operations affect commerce and fall within at least one of the following 12 categories:

  1. Places of lodging (e.g., inns, hotels, motels, except for owner-occupied establishments renting fewer than six rooms)
  2. Establishments serving food or drink (e.g. , restaurants and bars)
  3. Places of exhibition or entertainment (e.g. , motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls, stadiums)
  4. Places of public gathering (e.g. , auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls)
  5. Sales or rental establishments (e.g. , bakeries, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centers)
  6. Service establishments (e.g. , laundromats, dry-cleaners, banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair services, funeral parlors, gas stations, offices of accountants or lawyers, pharmacies, insurance offices, professional offices of health care providers, hospitals)
  7. Public transportation terminals, depots, or stations (not including facilities relating to air transportation)
  8. Places of public display or collection (e.g. , museums, libraries, galleries)
  9. Places of recreation (e.g. , parks, zoos, amusement parks)
  10. Places of education (e.g. , nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private schools)
  11. Social service center establishments (e.g. , day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies)
  12. Places of exercise or recreation (e.g. , gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses) (source)


The park also serves as a dog park
The park also serves as a dog park

SLU installed a bag dispenser so dog owners can clean up and Biondi likes seeing dogs there.

“I am a dog lover,” said Biondi, who has an 8-year-old golden retriever named Iggy, in honor of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit order. “But even if I didn’t love dogs, I’d still want the dogs in the park. It’s a nice opportunity for the community to get together and come to the campus and form friendships.” (stltoday.com)

Even as a dog park it has issues. If I were to try to enter the park there’s a risk someone’s dog might escape since no vestibule is provided.

Officially the entire corner is temporary, the university sought development  proposals when the recession hit. Rather than make the park accessible I’d much prefer to see it get redeveloped. SLU has tons of open land, plenty of space exists to create another dog park nearby.

Marina Building August 1977
Marina Building August 1977

The historic Marina Building was only two stories high but a new building could be many more floors given the height of others in the area. I’d love to see a Trader Joe’s in the ground floor of a new building.

Here’s an interesting tidbit I ran across researching this post:

This year [2011] marks the sesquicentennial of the Camp Jackson massacre at this site, then known as Lindell Grove on the western edge of the city. On May 10, 1861, federal troops — already on edge and spooked by the sound of gunfire — fired into the crowd, killing 28 civilians, including several children, and wounding nearly 100 more. From 1929 to 1959 a monument to the event stood nearby, but it was banished when a descendant of Daniel M. Frost, general of the pro-Confederate Missouri militia, donated funds for Saint Louis University to purchase the midtown Frost Campus. Today, the site houses the Ellen Clark Sculpture Park, which is full of colorful abstractions reflective of Saint Louis University president Lawrence Biondi’s taste in art. Not even a small plaque commemorates the historic event or the two dozen-plus civilians who died here. (RFT Best Hidden Historical Site – 2011)

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Eric says:

    Banning grass from parks because a wheelchair might get stuck in it is going overboard, I would say.

    • He isn’t saying they need to pave over the whole darn thing — just that in order to comply to ADA standards, SLU needs to improve its points of access with a wheelchair-accessible entrance and a simple walking (rolling) path.

  2. JZ71 says:

    One, yes, this violates the ADA. Two, pretty much every “park”, public or private, does, to some degree or another. Three, if this were conceived to be temporary, I’d be less concerned than if it were permanent, like citygarden. Four, Steve is right, from an urban standpoint, an urban-scale redevelopment would be the best outcome. And five, that last paragraph does prove that money talks, especially in St. Louis . . . .

  3. moe says:

    Another SLU bashing. Must be a slow day.

  4. branwell1 says:

    Haven’t you heard? Biondi does whatever he wants. Oh, and we should be grateful, whatever it is. Or isn’t. Either’s fine! Only resentful hicks question his boundless vision, which seems to see vacant lots everywhere. And soon-to-be vacant lots. Like God himself, the Reverend has a grand plan we mortals can barely grasp, so who are we to question? It’s likely a matter of faith.

    I think the fact that this corner has this use on it is both sad and a civic embarrassment. A vacant lot at a major intersection practically in the geographic center of an urban area is still a vacant lot, even when tricked out as a “temporary” sculpture garden or dog park.

  5. tpekren says:

    Only to imagine the vision and imagine if SLU would have put its research tower on this corner.
    This location has so much potentional. For the live of me the only reason it remains empty is that SLU/Biondi is honestly scared of the fact that any structure of significance and decent desgin will look down and make the surrounding campus look bad. Almsot the reverse idea of keeping up with the Jones. Instead, just bulldoze your neighbors house if they do something that makes your place look dumpy.
    Which gets me to another fly on the wall moment. I believe the proposal a few years back was put forth by McCormak and Baron with the intention of them locating their offices there. Wonder what caused that idea to go south? and it must have been a solid agreement for everybody to keep their mouth shut since.

    • moe says:

      Why would anyone put a medical research building 1.5 miles away from the hospitals? Duh. Do you see Wash U. putting their research facilities on their main campus or at the BJC campus?


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