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St. Louis’ Low Standards Turns A Once-Proud City Into A Suburban Office Park

February 26, 2015 Accessibility, Featured, North City, Planning & Design, Walkability 55 Comments

We can all agree St. Louis must retain existing employers and attract new ones. Unfortunately, St. Louis has a habit of forgetting about urban design along the way.   Let’s take a look two examples; one within the proposed 100 acres site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and one to the immediate West.

First is a warehouse currently occupied by Faultless Healthcare Linen.

This warehouse, built in 1991, will be razed if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency picks the city site over three others in the region.
This warehouse, built in 1991, will be razed if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency picks the city site over three others in the region.
This small building from 1899 helps hide the awful warehouse behind it.
This small building from 1899 helps hide the awful warehouse behind it.

I remember when this was built in 1991 — I’d just moved to Old North St. Louis and passed it daily on Jefferson.  One street was closed, the rest are faced with blank concrete block walls.

The next example is Pharmaceutical company Sensient Colors Inc., their 30-acre campus at 2515 N. Jefferson is to the West of the potential National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency site.

The Sensient building was built in 2004.
The newest Sensient building was built in 2004 faces Jefferson but no entrance here, no public sidewalks even.
Looking NE from Elliot Ave between N. Market & Benton. The company has removed public sidewalks from the public-right-of-way adjacent to their facility.
Looking NE from Elliot Ave between N. Market & Benton. The company has removed many public sidewalks from the public-right-of-way adjacent to their facility.

Never heard of Sensient? I hadn’t either, but you’ve likely seen their products — on your plate.

Most of the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers use Sensient colors and flavors to make their household brand-name food and beverage products. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Now, the demand for natural colors is suddenly outpacing demand for synthetics, and Sensient, which makes both, is responding. It has sophisticated technology it won’t explain (it does mention doing “supercritical CO2 extraction”) to pull the coloring agents from botanicals. It has a Fusion Precise Natural Color system that lets customers specify not just a particular color, but also a subtle shade of that color. And it has a head start: 60 years’ experience with natural colors. (St. Louis Magazine)

I get it, they have trade secrets. Still, in a city people do walk to work — especially from public transit. I believe we can retain/attract employers without turning our city into a suburban office park.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "55 comments" on this Article:

  1. guest says:

    Okay, Steve. You’ve officially jumped the shark. The places you’re talking about aren’t even shells of their former selves. Most of the built environment has long been demolished. Now if this trend were happening in Dutchtown, Gravois Park, O’Fallon, the Central West End, you might have a point. Now you are just being hyperbolic. Sorry.

    • So they aren’t what they were 50-60 yeas ago? That’s no reason to suburbanize an area so close to downtown.

      Given the geographic size of the St. Louis region having a 50+ square mile dense urban core is a realistic expectation. The city is less than 1% of the region’s land area.

      • guest says:

        Steve, listen to what you’re saying! The area isn’t what it was “50 OR 60 YEARS AGO”?!?!?

        Exactly. That is the entire issue. The area has become a an abandoned, run down slum. There is no market. There is no demand. It’s a hollowed out area.

        Getting any development there is a miracle. If we could get 3,000 jobs there, wonderful.

        As far as preserving density, walkability, historic fabric, transit oriented developments, etc, a good 70% of the city is still ripe for that type of use. Just not the area you’re describing.

        Think big picture, Steve. Pick your battles. While you’re focused on low density, suburban-styled redevelopment of an abandoned area, places like Hyde Park and Dutchtown are the ones where we need to watch for the re-entry of suburbia (of course to be preceded by maybe 30 years of gradual decay and demolition!)

        • I am thinking big picture — our region is stagnant in terns of population, jobs, etc. A strong dense vibrant urban core in the center 1% of land area is one of the avenues to improve the prospects for the entire region.

          The alternative is continuing the failed policies of the 50-60-70 years expecting a different outcome.

        • John R says:

          Actually the area has a certain attraction as it is not a high density slum but is rather low density with many vacant parcels and close to downtown…. this is what attracted McKee in the first place. It is one of the few places in the Central Corridor where you can build a decent supply of modern residential and mixed-use. The big thing that is preventing this is not the area itself but that we have really crappy regional growth.
          If we were growing more, we’d be much further along with Downtown West redevelopment and having much brighter near-term prospects for the adjacent near north. Handing over more and more acreage to super-block warehouses, etc. does not help as we wait for this growth to come.

  2. Mark-AL says:

    The 1899 building appears to be a bit more than a “box” with a cornice, with at least one addition that appears to ignore all the fascia details of the original box: simple parapet detail, unadorned masonry devoid of coins/soldiers/stone base, windows that appear to have been sized based on availability. Come to think of it, it sorta reminds me of a ……warehouse! But the parapet is stepped, which ads some interest, but I wonder if this was intentional or the result of poor maintenance. So what makes this structure so attractive–other than its age? (The addition appears to be a trick from the 60’s.)

    I think I read somewhere that the warehouse employs over 100 workers. I’m certain that those employees and their families have benefited and continue to benefit from the new warehouse, as does the Fed. Government, the state and the city (workers pay taxes and tend to sponge up fewer welfare benefits), as does law enforcement ($ encourages shopping vs shop-lifting). I wonder: would the warehouse be there today if the city had required the developer to build consistent with adjacent buildings? Ornamentation costs money. Bottom line reality: If the municipality’s building requirements exceed the developer’s budget, some smart investor may decide to go down the road with the development plans, leaving a vacant lot or one filled with abandoned structures, 100+ people out-of-work, a bigger lug on the Feds, state and city; more irritation and aggravation for the police, and more of my tax dollars going to support perfectly healthy citizens who have nothing to occupy their days other than watching “Let’s Make and Deal” and “Judge Judy” on TV .

    This area of north-central St Louis was not considered to be prime real estate when the warehouse and Sensient were both built. Whichever city employee negotiated the deals deserves a prize, not criticism for building structures inconsistent with the majority of nearby under-maintained/abandoned structures.

    • guest says:

      Hilarious, but true! Let’s start giving out those prizes.

      And, Steve, seriously. C’mon, man! You have to be realistic. Market forces are real and play a role.

      We need to do something in this area, something that the market will support. If it’s low density warehouses, at least they are creating jobs in the city with people paying earnings taxes. These same jobs could have just as easily been located out in Maryland Heights or Wentzville for criminey’s sake.

      If you want to have a talk about community rebuilding, what about places threatened with loss TODAY? Places like Gravois Park and Hyde Park, for example.

      The losses in JVL happened, as you say, 50-60 years ago. Time to move on and think about what’s real in today’s market and today’s St. Louis!

      • At this point I’m ready to move on, but my lottery tickets haven’t won yet.

        • Mark-AL says:

          If you’re ready to “move on,” think “Elberta, AL”: less than 6 miles from the beautiful Gulf with natural white sand; buildings that reflect local color (much like tree-house construction with building details sensibly governed by materials availability and certainly by budget); the Elberta Hardware Store with original wood floor (previously it was a 4-lane bowling alley); the new 8-lane bowling alley (built in 1946); a new school building that some people might find offensive because it looks nothing like the old one that I attended (a converted barn) or the adjacent pole barn that was erected in the early 1990s); great store-bought food available at the ” Road Kill Cafe” which stays open M-F(posted hours: around 11:00 AM or until we run out of food.) You can buy your produce at the corner farmer-operated market—it’s self service when the temps drop below 60 (much like Strabs!) The police know all the current and former residents by name. No one ever really considers himself to be a “former” resident. You don’t need to wait for that lottery check either, Steve. The cost of living is likely the lowest you’ll find anywhere. A $100,000 mansion might cost you $300.00 in annual RE taxes–unless you’re 65+, when taxes drop dramatically. (And I know of only a hand-full of $100,000.00 mansions in the city.) And “outsiders” are welcome–after a 10-yr incubation period. If you like pecans, they’re abundant! Just walk up to the front door of the property where the tree’s located, and the owner will tell you to help yourself–and probably offer to help you pick ’em up. Seafood? Just throw your hook in the inter-coastal waters or in the Gulf for some seafood that just might change your mind about “Ms. Smith’s” fish sticks. Just about everyone in Elberta works for a living– or at least someone in the house does. They all shop at the Piggly Wiggly in nearby Foley, attend Sunday services either at The First Baptist of Elberta or at St. Bart’s Catholic. Everyone in the town supports St Bart’s fish fry during Lent, and turns out for the annual sausage festival, which keeps the firetrucks gassed up and bullets in the cops’ revolvers (to keep those still in incubation under control!). Life is good there. I’ll be eligible to retire in 30 years, and there’ll be a place for me in Elberta when I return. Other than an incident yesterday at the school (where a woman showed up at the back door of the cafeteria to shoot her sister), the schools are safe, the kids are respectful and incidents of road-rage are dealt with behind Farmer Meyer’s barn.

          • Uh, no thanks. Alabama isn’t gay-friendly! I want more density, more urbanity, more transit — or at least a region willing to work toward those.

          • Mark-AL says:

            Now wait a second! Your “gayness” doesn’t define you, does it? I’m straight, but my sexuality is only a small part of my life (that didn’t come out right!!!) . If we’re partnered, after we close the bedroom door and turn off the lights at night, there’s really very little that’s different between us, isn’t there? People in the south are not freaked out by gays, and for the most part they just don’t care. Plus, there are gay bars in nearby Pensacola and Mobile, and New Orleans is only a 4-hr drive. New Orleans offers any kind of sex one might want: gay, straight, fairly gay, fairly straight, bestiality–! Maybe you should get over your gayness, most of the rest of us have! You want urbanity? Elberta has a new subdivision built on a horseshoe layout with 38 houses lined up one-after-the-other–just like Itaska Avenue in St Louis!! The repetition and monotony would trick you into thinking you were back in St Louis–absent the frustration you feel when a developer doesn’t place Corinthian columns on a warehouse. No problem with that here, because people in Elberta think a column is two back-to-back 2x4s. The houses on the horseshoe are popular among the “outsiders,” most of whom are still in incubation. Transit? For $3.50 per ride, you can call BART, and they’ll pick you up at your front door, take you anywhere in Baldwin County you care to go as your destination. (As far south as Gulf Shores, north to Bay Minette! At least 60 miles N to S; 45 miles E to W) It isn’t ‘rapid transit,’ but most residents agree that it’s rapid enough. If they pick you up at the store to bring you home with your groceries, most of the drivers will even carry your groceries into the house, then sit for a spell and visit over coffee or cider–and even help you reach the upper cubbards to put the heavy stuff away. And they’d feel embarrassed if you offered them a tip.

          • Mark-AL says:

            Oh, and I almost forgot. You mentioned “density”. Yes, some people do accuse us Alabamians of being quite dense.

          • Discrimination in employment, housing, etc are very real problems for the LGBT community. St. Louis city at least has protections against these.

          • Mark-AL says:

            In Elberta, those LGBT protections aren’t necessary. No one cares. (And frankly, I can’t agree that there are or are not LGBT provisions already in place in Elberta.) And no one peeks into your bedroom at night to see what’s going on, if or how it’s being done. They’re too busy trying to make something go on in their own bedrooms. And most of us grew up around a barn yard, where we’ve seen just about everything there is to see in every form imaginable!!! Ever see a young stallion try to mate with a jersey cow? They’ll husband-up with knot holes in the fence if you don’t keep an eye on them! ….and one more thing: I’ll bet you that we have as many or more blacks and hispanics working in our (Foley) Walmart as you have at your South County location, and Walmart is one of our biggest industries. And I know of four black and at least 10 Hispanic farmers here who each own 30 or so acres and who have crafted out a decent living for themselves and their families–and I haven’t lived in Elberta for almost 17 years, so there could be more now ( my parents are no longer able to keep up on the Elberta news). Don’t sell us short. Elberta is the place to be–whether or not you’re gay….or straight. Given a choice, I’d choose Elberta over any place in Europe any day of the week. There’s a house on the horseshoe street waiting for you and your partner to move into.

          • guest says:

            Yeah, but it’s a suburban office park. Which would you rather have? A gay friendly city with suburban-style areas or a densely built city without civil rights protections for gay?

          • Both!! Plenty of choices too!

  3. JZ71 says:

    First, I’ll echo what the other posters have said – the first part of the urban-density equation is jobs. St. Louis has hollowed out, creating all these “opportunities” for “suburban office park” “crap”, because we’ve lost 2/3 of our peak population and the jobs that kept them here. That said, there’s also absolutely no reason why density can’t return – these low-density, single-story commercial uses can be wiped clean pretty easily – just look at the acres out in Fenton where Chrysler used to be and the acres out in Hazelwood where Ford used to be. Take a look, too, at what is happening in Denver, northeast of their downtown. An industrial / warehouse area, much like what you’re describing in today’s post, is quickly morphing into a pretty cool, mixed use area. It has various components and various names – RiNo (River North), Taxi (a facility similar to Laclede Cab’s that’s been repurposed) and the Brighton Boulevard corridor, but these projects are all happening because there is a DEMAND for them – if we had similar demand in St. Louis, they’d be happening here, as well, much like how Cortex is happening.

    The other half of the equation is that those quaint, multi-story, small-floorplate warehouses simply don’t work well for most of today’s commercial users, who function way better on a single, larger floor than they do on multiple floors that require freight elevators. Yes, the old brick structures make great lofts; no, they don’t make very good warehouses, especially if the bulk of your freight comes and goes on 48′ semi-trailers and/or in ocean-going containers. The world has evolved past the solutions of the first half of the Twentieth Century. Darwin was right – we either adapt or we die . . . .

    http://www.zeppelinplaces.com/ . . http://www.rivernorthart.com/ . . http://denverurbanism.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Brighton_Boulevard_Report_Final.pdf

    • JZ71 says:

      We need developers like these guys if you want to see real change in the city. From their website: “Fundamental to the Zeppelins’ success is identifying underused properties in primarily former-industrial areas- this strategy began in the mid-1970’s with catalytic projects in Lower Downtown, continued in the 80’s and 90’s with beginning stage redevelopment of the Golden Triangle neighborhood and is currently driving the development of Denver’s River North (RiNo) area.

      “The father and son team Mickey and Kyle Zeppelin are committed to promoting social change through intelligently designed projects that address unmet needs in the market and provide a catalyst to surrounding neighborhoods. As Denver natives, the Zeppelins and their team of collaborative partners have received recognition and multiple awards for TAXI, the repurposed 20-acre former Yellow Cab terminal on the Platte River in RiNo. TAXI’s success, including 100% occupancy of over 200,000 square feet, is based on the development of workspaces and complementary amenities that are aligned with the unique needs of new economy businesses.

      “Current projects under development include additional new economy work space and high density family housing at TAXI intended for underserved demographics not currently addressed by the multi-tenant rental boom, such as urban families with young children.

      “Zeppelin Development recently opened the Source, a new generation urban market that combines some of the most accomplished independent artisan food and beverage producers in the region. Additional development activity is in the planning and design phases for an expansion of The Source onto the neighboring site, including expansion of artisan production space, food and beverage offerings and a hospitality component.”

    • Demand just doesn’t happen — it’s created. Is a young entrepreneur going to form a startup here because they can build a cheap one level warehouse? Maybe, but easily cleared warehouses isn’t a formula for a sustainable neighborhood.

      • guest says:

        Uh, STL is a hotbed for startups and creativity, suburban-styled redevelopments or not. What’s yer point?

        • Yes, as a result of a lot of effort (time & money) St. Louis finally has startups. These startups are concentrated in urban areas that are walkable and servered by public transportation.

          • guest says:

            So that’s a good thing, right? And the Sensient installation in N. City is probably not holding that back.

          • It’s not creating an environment where others seek to invest. Where are the businesses trying to be near this employment base?

          • guest says:

            You love the straw man argument, don’t you Steve? Sensient did invest. We may get another 3,000 jobs in the area. McKee is hoping to attract billions.

          • That facility began around 1988 with a major expansion in 1996 and 2004. However, It hasn’t generated new interest in the area. As people continued to leave the area they’ve been able to acquire more property.

          • JZ71 says:

            And how is this a “problem”? One group leaves, another group replaces the first group. That’s a good thing! It’s when the first group leaves, and no one follows behind, that you create “problems”! But, yes, we do need more density. We have plenty of areas where investment is needed AND land is available. That’s where the real focus needs to be!

          • JZ71 says:

            So, putting in more sidewalks would convince more businesses to invest in north city?!

            What do most businesses “want”? In order of importance:

            1. Low operating costs – low rent, low taxes, affordable utilities.
            2. Safety and security – they don’t to be broken into or to have their employees put in danger.
            3. Access – easy to get stuff in and out, be it data, trucks, customers or employees.
            4. Image – want to look good (enough) to both customers and competitors/peers.
            5. Convenience – easy to reach from the boss’s house, access to the airport.
            6. Amenities – a bonus, but way down the list – you’re here to work, not play!

          • These must be balanced with what cities need/want.

          • JZ71 says:

            And what are “cities”?! They’re people, people with a whole range of priorities and opinions. They’re not just politicians, outside experts and special interests. They’re not just mixed-use urban buildings, QT’s, single-family homes, parks, industrial plants or strip malls, they’re ALL OF THE ABOVE! One size does NOT fit all! What works for you may, or may not, work for me, A-B, gmichaud, Sensient, Procter & Gamble, Mark or Trader Joe’s! As others have noted, Sensient is a contributing member of this community. They may not be contributing in exactly the way you WANT them to, but THEY’RE STILL HERE! An all or nothing mindset is just the type of thing that stifles progress and sends more people packing. Cities are messy, they’re not going to fit into your perfect, fantasy, paradigm, we’re ALWAYS going to have imperfection, mistakes and conflict.

            People leave the city, any city, when they a) can’t find work, b) no longer feel safe, and/or c) see better opportunities somewhere else. People aren’t leaving the city because we have parts of town that have warehouse and light industrial uses, they’re leaving because these USES are slowly leaving, leaving a void behind. People are not “buying” into the city, in greater numbers, either because they don’t like the products being offered and/or they don’t want to deal with our (reputed? actual?) crime “issues”. Sidewalks, or a lack thereof, are a very tiny, miniscule, part of a much larger “problem”. I have no real clue on why people are finding Wentzville and Warrenton to be great places to move to, but they’re growing, and we’re not!

          • gmichaud says:

            You act like it is impossible for human beings to improve their environment they live in. You seem to prefer a free for all. I guess for instance instead of George Washington commissioning Pierre L’Enfant to design Washington it should have been all left up to what, random acts? It is possible to welcome new business and at the same time maintain standards in the urban environment. That is what zoning crudely does. Transit and pedestrians especially suffer under the free for all system of planning you seem to wildly support.

          • JZ71 says:

            Of course it’s possible for human beings to improve the environment that they live in – all it takes is money! It takes money to build a QT and it takes money to build urban mixed-use buildings. Money doesn’t fall out of the sky, we human beings earn it, save it and spend it. Moving money around is the raison d’etre that cities exist in the first place! We can only “maintain standards in the urban environment” when people are spending money! The reason why much of north city looks like an industrial wasteland is because IT IS – ain’t no money bein’ spent up there on much of anything, much less the “good stuff”!

            There was consensus to implement L’Enfant’s design in Washington. There is no consensus that industry is bad for St. Louis. There is no consensus that we should discourage construction that will either bring or keep jobs in the city. If you want to live in a fantasy world where employment, money and taxes don’t matter, so be it. My read is that most city residents (“the city”) are eager for new investment and new and better jobs! And if it comes down to a choice between suburban scale “crap” or nothing at all (and that usually IS the only option, these days, in the city), I’ll take something over nothing. We can continuously “stand on our principles” but we’re going to starve doing so, at least until we get a lot more competition for all these vacant parcels . . . .

          • guest says:

            Yeah! Somebody’s gotta provide a reality check around here. Thank you, sir! This has got to be one of the more amusing threads at UR in a long time!

          • Reality!?! You’re kidding, right? More like a free-market fantasyland… Ayn Rand would approve.

          • gmichaud says:

            Actually money does fall out of the sky, we are human beings, we create money
            Anyway tell me more about the consensus to implement L’Enfants design in Washington. And who exactly is saying that industry is bad for St. Louis, you’re the only one I’ve heard say anything like that, so it must be you.
            Beyond that I honestly find it hard to believe you an architect. If you do not value the ability of design to create wealth then you can’t be an architect
            The talking points you spout have nothing to do with building cities. I have cited the actions of many cities, London, San Francisco, Toronto, Stockholm, Helsinki, Hong Kong and others in reference to techniques for developing beautiful cities that are prosperous.
            Just how do you think successful cities got to that point? And yes cities are chaotic and messy, but the proper stage has to be set for human activities, whatever they may be.

            St. Louis is far, far behind at this point. Forget the stadium, the real faults are in urban design. And in fact business men and women of all sorts will buy into a vision of the city that will make them more successful
            the truth is you can not name a city that is successful that takes the approach you advocate, name one please that allows anyone to do whatever they want to do.
            If you want to talk facts that is fine, unfortunately you have the identical attitude of city government in taking something over nothing. It puts the citizens of St. Louis into the position that they grovel at anyone that makes a proposal and flashes a few bucks.
            You sir, and your philosophy is the type of approach that is holding St. Louis back, and yes, as the physical evidence demonstrates your approach is the face of St. Louis right now. Your approach is exactly why St. Louis is losing population and has been struggling. Your approach describes the failure of St. Louis over the past 6 decades or more.

          • guest says:

            New York? Didn’t it develop without a lot of government direction?

          • gmichaud says:

            Actually New York is heavily regulated. Height and setback restrictions are lessened when open space is created adjacent to the building, like the Seagram Building for instance.They won’t even let Wal Mart into New York City. New York is probably the wrong city to cite as one to develop without government direction.

          • guest says:

            I’m sure it is now, but what about through the 1940s and 50s, when it’s most iconic buildings and density were created? I’m guessing then it was all pretty much developer and demand driven, not zoning based.

          • Very few “iconic” buildings in NYC: Guggenheim, United Nations, Lincoln Center: http://nyc-architecture.com/TEN/TEN-NY.htm

            In 1980 a study was done to look at plazas that were built in 60s/70s. Developers were rewarded by allowing them to build higher if they built plazas — but design matters. The study produced a book and video: https://vimeo.com/111488563

          • gmichaud says:

            Actually they first started regulation at the founding of New York, as in St. Louis with the incorporation of the grid. But it was 1916 when the first high rise regulations came into being.

          • JZ71 says:

            You’re conflating urban design and financial viability / reality. When any city is doing well, economically (“booming”), those in power have the ability to shape change. When any city is stagnant, or worse, declining, those in power have very little power to effect any change, at all. As an architect, I can visualize and “plan” many, many potential scenarios and design multiple potential solutions. (And, as lover of fine vehicles, I can go online and configure my “perfect” Ferrari or Rolls Royce, and like Steve, until I hit the lottery, it ain’t gonna end up in my driveway.)

            We can “plan” all we want, but if people aren’t buying/renting/building what we’ve “planned”, why bother? All the cities you’ve identified – “London, San Francisco, Toronto, Stockholm, Helsinki, Hong Kong” – are great, attractive, urban cities. They’ve been able to shape their built environment because there’s a continual stream of new residents and new money coming in, all willing to make whatever compromises necessary (including paying significantly more than we do for space) to be in these magical cities. Compare that to the dynamic here, where, to many people, the city is viewed to be inferior to the surrounding counties, and the region is valued less than many other regions:

            London – $750,000
            San Francisco – $1,000,000
            Toronto – $1,000,000
            Stockholm – $450,000
            Helsinki – $600,000
            Hong Kong – $500,000

            St. Louis – $130,000

            Any time housing costs anywhere from 4X to 7X what we’re willing to pay here, the direct result will be a) higher densities, with b) smaller units and c) better-quality finishes. If you want to believe that urban design decisions shaped the economic viability of these cities, so be it. I’ll only agree that it’s one component, but far from the most important one..

          • gmichaud says:

            Do you read my posts? How do you think these cities became successful? Do you think they act like urban planning whores and whoever waves a little money at them they become faint and have weak knees and say “do whatever you please, what ever you want”
            As I tried to explain above and I guess it didn’t register with you, your approach is exactly and I mean exactly what the City of St. Louis has been doing for decades. It is an approach weakening the livability and causing much of the lost of wealth and prosperity
            I go into a bit of detail in another post about the City of London as one approach to implementing urban design concerns. It, like all of the cities you mention except St. Louis have structured processes and high standards.
            These standards first and foremost create livable cities, but they also increase the wealth of businesses and the citizens.
            You never come up with solutions. Apparently you feel St. Louis is 2nd rate and does not deserve to succeed.
            I don’t know what the problem is, but your attitude mirrors the failed City of St. Louis governance and the ignorance they exhibit about design and its role in the city.
            Reality, the reality is the the City of St. Louis is failing and needs major changes to how it implements standards. Standards that build a livable and desirable city which has as an outcome prosperity.

          • guest says:

            All those places are international centers of commerce and tourism. They are magnets of demand. St. Louis, not so much. And the Ferguson effect can only make things worse.

          • gmichaud says:

            They are international centers of commerce and tourism, as St. Louis once was, due in large part how they manage the building of their cities. And yes, Ferguson effect must be overcome, it is more severe because of the lack of regional leadership on the issues we are discussing right now.

          • JZ71 says:

            “Exactly what the City of St. Louis has been doing for decades” is a direct result of businesses and residents fleeing the city! We’ve been putting patches on a sinking ship. You can only leave buildings vacant, unloved and unused, for so many years, before they start to, and eventually do, fall to the ravages of nature. There are many, many archaelogical ruins around the world that represented the pinnacle of urban planning for their respective societies, yet they failed because they did not adapt to changing times. we can, and should, “plan” for better times, but this planning needs to be done in the context of our financial realities! We can “tell” Walgreens or CVS “No, you can’t build a new store without a drive-thru” (becasue it’s the “right” “urban” thing to do), but the result, in 99% of the city, today, won’t be a new store with no surface parking and no drive-thru, it will be NO STORE AT ALL!

            What you’re advocating is a level of control that can be exerted only in a planned community, be it Seaside, Florida, New Town St. Charles or Winghaven. It requires a strong developer controlling a significant chunk of land and it requires a marketing effort to attract buyers and renters seeking that particular form of buiilt environment, and willing to pay for it! The CWE and Soulard have some controls and some marketing that makes them “attractive”, but they also have a finite number of consumers of that built form. Extrapolating that form further out is “good”, in theory, but it only “works” if consumers are actually “buying” it, choosing it over a more “suburban” form!

            I’ll repeat – density only happens when land is expensive. When land is cheap (as it is pretty much everywhere in the city), and transit is poor or non-existent, it almost always makes more sense, finacially, to buy more land and build a one or two story structure than it does to buy less land and build a multi-story structure, especially one that includes structured parking. Most consumers are looking for the best “deal” they can find. Most people aren’t going to pay hundreds of dollars more each month, in rent or on their morgage, unless they a) can afford it, b) have no other alternatives, and/or see a compelling reason to make that choice. Yes, part of what we are missing around here are some of those choices, but mostly what we’re missing are the incomes needed to support that lifestyle.

          • The other side of it is that people have been leaving because of what the city has been doing. Tens of thousands got displaced for urban renewal projects — I used to do business with a Webster Groves company that moved out there when I-55 construction forced them to move.

          • gmichaud says:

            Again your solution is to do nothing to correct current problems. Unbelievable.
            You are making things up again, I never said CVS or Walgreens should not build a drive thru, in fact look at the new CVS on Lindell, they were asked to abandon their standard slash and burn suburbanization model and guess what, they did. There in fact is a store there. You don’t get it do you? St. Louis is not going to rebound without some urban design standards.
            And no I’m not advocating the level of control of a Seaside, Florida. for god sakes man, wake up!
            You try to rationalize everything into a question of money, and while money is important it is at the bottom of a long list of human values that should come first when building cities.
            Nor do you seem to understand how coherent urban design can attract money and wealth. Instead you want to wait until St. Louis is totally screwed up, and then what? do you think people are going to be attracted to a city that is totally screwed up after years of allowing developers to do whatever they please?
            You don’t make sense, you’ve got it backwards I’m afraid. Developers will be attracted to a desirable city, as will residents and home buyers. That isn’t going to happen if there is not the same type of direction other cities apply to their success. We have example after example of the many ways other cities succeed, you know, actual facts.

  4. joe in the city says:

    What the city really needs is these conservative building restoring folks to just back off! I dont want a west county office park in the city but most of the new development has always been held up by folk who insist that we dont destroy that 1800’s building for the sake of the building,, not realizing that no other development will happen for that area. Pevely factory on grand (case and point)

  5. gmichaud says:

    I agree with you Steve, the City could do a good deal more to welcome these businesses while at the same time insure the building of an urban orientated environment. I think the gas station in Milwaukee that you posted a few days back was a good example where the building was both mult story and captured the corner.
    Actually I have seen a number of new projects that have gracefully added parking while maintaining an urban profile. One project I can think of off the top of my head is along Sutton in Maplewood, past Elm, before the railroad tracks, And of course there are others, the new CVS on LIndell and so on.
    City officials have to do a better job of finding ways to maintain an urban environment. It can be done, other cities do it, otherwise St Louis city will become no more than another undesirable suburban enclave.
    Unfortunately I think Mckee is headed in that direction also, the little he has revealed has one of those suburban style industrial parks.

  6. gmichaud says:

    Steve you talk about standards and I’ll mention again the City of London and its Unitary Development Plan with Strategic Goals. Those goals establish standards that allow developers to do as they wish, but at the same time allow them to become familiar with the standards for which their project is judged and may or may not be approved. London has goals in many categories, transport and movement, housing, environmental quality and so on.

    (One example of this would be 9.32, Strategic Guidance recommends that ” the right balance is struck between pedestrians’ needs and the needs of other road users and that in some areas restriction or removal of traffic will be appropriate as a means of creating better conditions”)

    (Or another example Policy Strategy 10E, “To require accessibility throughout the City for everyone unless it can be demonstrated to the Corporations(meaning the City of London) satisfaction that there are justifiable reasons for not doing so)

    In very simple terms for St. Louis, one strategic goal might be to maintain streetscapes as much as possible to encourage transit and pedestrian use. Another strategic goal might to minimize the impact of parking lots on streetscapes. These goals would be applied more vigorously to say the SLU/Grand Center area or the Lafayette Square area than in a more isolated industrial district This is also how London manages their goals.

    You can see in your previous post about Jefferson and Chouteau would be impacted by even just these two goals, It gives citizens an idea of how that intersection might be approached by a developer and it creates guidelines for the developer and government officials in decision making.

    These strategic goals are up for public review every 10 years, so the standards become part of an ongoing public dialogue about development in London.

    I’m not saying this is the solution, but it is a possible solution that could work. In any case it is light years better than what is going on now in St. Louis.

    • JZ71 says:

      From http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/blog/guidance/local-plans/local-plans-key-issues/

      “Local Plans should be tailored to the needs of each area in terms of their strategy and the policies required. They should focus on the key issues that need to be addressed and be aspirational but realistic in what they propose.”

      “While the content of Local Plans will vary depending on the nature of the area and issues to be addressed, all Local Plans should be as focused, concise and accessible as possible. They should concentrate on the critical issues facing the area – including its development needs – and the strategy and opportunities for addressing them, paying careful attention to both deliverability and viability.”

      “A Local Plan is an opportunity for the local planning authority to set out a positive vision for the area, but the plan should also be realistic about what can be achieved and when (including in relation to infrastructure). This means paying careful attention to providing an adequate supply of land, identifying what infrastructure is required and how it can be funded and brought on stream at the appropriate time; and ensuring that the requirements of the plan as a whole will not prejudice the viability of development.”

      “Early discussion with infrastructure and service providers is particularly important to help understand their investment plans and critical dependencies. The local planning authority should also involve the Local Enterprise Partnership at an early stage in considering the strategic issues facing their area, including the prospects for investment in infrastructure.”

      “The Local Plan should make clear, for at least the first five years, what infrastructure is required, who is going to fund and provide it, and how it relates to the anticipated rate and phasing of development. This may help in reviewing the plan and in development management decisions. For the later stages of the plan period less detail may be provided as the position regarding the provision of infrastructure is likely to be less certain. If it is known that a development is unlikely to come forward until after the plan period due, for example, to uncertainty over deliverability of key infrastructure, then this should be clearly stated in the draft plan.”

      Bottom line, “Local Plans” need to be realistic and tailored to fit a five to ten year time frame. They need to reflect actual uses, not unrealistic, aspirational ones. They need to include a whole range of views, not just those of ivory tower “experts”. They’re looking for incremental improvement, and here, in St. Louis, we’re starting with a pretty low threshold. My basic point is yes, we can do better, but we’re not going to see a wholesale shift just because we decide to tell developers that we know better!

      • gmichaud says:

        You are contradicting yourself again, you lift out a quote from the Unitary Plan that meets your strange agenda. I assume you looked at the rest of the Unitary Plan which in fact tells developers what the strategic goals of the city are that they should try to, and in some cases must fulfill. Did you get that part too, or only a part that you can distort to fit your ideology, such as it is?

  7. Cummbottom says:

    Provide economic budget to appease. Larger corporations to retain residency. St.Louis forgotten metroplitan region. Once prosperous logistics,regional banking and manufacturing.Enough of historical rendering have. Jay Nixon attempt reduce import taxes. Inept policy which goes before vote. Whom behind disfavor growth. St.Louis region once gotten inter-state commerce. Federal and regional companies with NFTA. Rivaly among which state allowing cheaper wages. Port of St Louis industrial faciliation. Logistics why stagnated economy? Possible you could lose NFL team soon? Racial strife colleges without business correspondence. New era of appropriation begun. Is there resolution to inept economics? STLCR,NAIOP,SIORSTLouis,St.Louis Development corporation and STLIPA. Guilty how were are economic forums. NAIOP biggest antagonist regarding gentrification. Speciality provide best profits investors gotten. Cities awaken with financial success. Speaking about failure to once. Stagnated cities sudden wealth nothing. Else to provide adequate housing. Lower income always charade only. Those able problem top market cap. American cities only seeing immediate. Gains fully aware of Korean,Australian,Nordic,Canadian and Japanese. Interested in establishing companies and joint ventures. Jay what deal shall provide need. To visit with diplomacy winning. Ticket for St.Louis you have. Somewhat proficient citizens regarding. Employment of demand electronics,chemicals and engineering. Colleges of Missouri limited. Global 5000 yes there cartels they. Own finance source of corporations. Unfortunately St.Louis hasen’t attracted new industries. Failure to transform into economic success. Worse is Detroit singled industries now. Stagnated deficit forgotten St.Louis what. Happen failed attract new industrial concepts. Ideal geographical location how? Mid-western region excellent airport still. Ignored potential of tech firms. Colleges not efficient getting best. To relocate expand currculum. Say Missouri is leader specialized academics. Sweden has become leader in nanotechnology. Formerly non industrail power now diverse. H1B is political regarding next hot market. Dumping puppets implying those hired. Cheaper wage to engage profits. Machine what happen to Korean chemical planet. Deal St.Louis county opportunity wrong.
    Political accordance Missouri could rebound. Jay what do have to say?


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