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Connecting The Dots Without Paul McKee

June 25, 2018 Featured, Planning & Design No Comments

I’ve long argued one key to revitalization of St. Louis is to focus on major corridors. Concentrating on major transportation corridors, used by many means  efforts will get noticed, whereas rehabbing or building new houses in the middle of a residential block four bstreets away may not. Not that we shouldn’t do work on neighborhood streets, but perceptions of entire neighborhoods can be positively influenced along busy corridors. Along the way you can improve mobility for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and even motorists. My views ob the importance of corridors is why I liked some aspects of Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration plan.

Two recent posts on McKee’s plans — which the city now says he’s in default on their agreements:

Northside project area, 2011

The plan focused on four largely vacant spots where McKee wanted to put jobs.

For the most part two corridors connect these four locations: Jefferson & Cass. As you can see from the image above, the total area is quite large. Overwhelmingly large.  St. Louis loves big projects, especially those that are too big to succeed.

St. Louis needs to look at these four spots and come up with a framework plan for each. Will one be mostly residential while another is industrial, and another a mix of uses? What is desired in terms of the form future buildings should take? What should the corridors look like? Travel speeds, width of auto lanes, transportation options? Answer the big picture questions and then developers (big & small) will know what is the desired outcome in 15-20 years. Players of all sizes can be a part of the effort.

I’d personally add a 5th spot to the list — the North riverfront area found at the East end of Cass Ave. @ N. Broadway.  Might as well look at the full length of Case Ave from Broadway on the East to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just West of Grand Blvd. — a 2.5 mile-long corridor. What’s the development potential? Any historic buildings?

Looking north from Cass & Tucker 5 years ago as the approach to the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge was nearly complete.

Many are interested in investing in a North-South transit line: light rail, streetcar, BRT, etc. One study included Natural Bridge as part of the route — a station at Parnell/Salisbury (Jefferson) would be the kind of public infrastructure investment that could spur private interest. There’s also been talk of connecting the new National Geospatial Agency  West HQ, now under construction at Cass & Jefferson, to downtown via a streetcar or some other means. These should all be planned together, not separately as we often do here.

These efforts won’t return us to our peak population of over 856k, but concentrating new housings, jobs, etc can make near North St Louis more sustainable so continuing to provide city services is a viable option. Residential streets may remain sparsely populated for many decades, but have a nearby corridor active with jobs & residents will allow the neighborhoods to hold on until they can slowly stabilize with lower density than the nearby corridors.

Along these lines the City’s development entity. the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC), is seeking proposals for a citywide economic development plan.

Alderman Joe Roddy, who as head of the Housing Urban Development and Zoning committee has called for a citywide plan for several years, said it was “long overdue.” He said a bill passed by alderman earlier this year calling for the creation of an economic development strategy, which would be updated annually, put some additional pressure on SLDC to move ahead with the strategy. (Post-Dispatch)

The last attempt at anything citywide was when Rollin Stanley was in charge of planning — he got a new land use analysis passed, but got pushed out before he could get needed zoning changes enacted. Lots of wasted effort in a city that resists changing despite plenty of evidence it needed to decades ago.

While I think St. Louis could bring affordable new housing, quality transit, improved pedestrian environment, and much-needed jobs to the Northside — I’m not convinced it has the capacity to change enough to do what’s required. Hopefully I’m wrong.

— Steve Patterson



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