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Street Performers in the CWE

One of my wishes for St. Louis is to have more street performers.  I included this on my list on Monday, prompting an email from a reader.

Here is the text from the announcement:

Join your friends and neighbors for Fabulous Fridays!
The North Euclid Merchants
put together this great promotion
Every Friday from 5:00 to 10:00!

Alternating Entertainment which will include:

  • Classical Guitarists
  • Portrait Painters and other Artists
  • Fire Dancers
  • Jugglers and Dancers

Enjoy dining in the neighborhood and extended shopping hours too!

See you on Fabulous Fridays!

For more information, contact David Richardson at 314-361-4870
or rothschilds@sbcglobal.net

I’d like to see us get to the point where street performers randomly appear in busy areas rather than have to be something staged by merchants.  This is the correct first step to get to that point.  More merchant groups should look at hiring street performers & vendors to bring the sidewalks to life.  I may not get the Euclid & McPherson tonight but you can be assured I will soon.

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The Case for the San Luis Apartments

Last April I did a post about the now shuttered San Luis Apartments on Lindell, just West of the New Cathedral (map). My position was, and is, that the 1960s modern former hotel is not a good urban building – that it doesn’t relate well to the adjacent sidewalks. The St. Louis Archdiocese wants to raze the structure for a surface parking lot.  I visited the site last June, ariving via wheelchair.

View of San Luis from the Lindell sidewalk

So while I’m not fond of the building, it is way better than a surface parking lot. Razing it to build a good mixed use structure would have my full support. Razing it for a parking lot gets my full opposition.

View of San Luis from across Lindell & Taylor
View of San Luis from across Lindell & Taylor

Here are some additional resources and viewpoints on this structure and the plans for its demise:

This building is intact & sound. We should not be so wasteful a society where we can toss aside a structurally sound building for a surface parking lot.

I’d like to see the relationship with the public sidewalk improved upon.  “Preservation” of the existing relationship is not good enough.  Despite the shortcoming on how it doesn’t relate to the sidewalk, the overall massing of the building is pleasant and would be sorely missed.

 

New Arby’s has Required ADA Access Route

For a couple of years now I’ve showed project after project lacking a federally mandated ADA-compliant access route. The biggest culprits are often fast food joints with drive-throughs taking priority over the pedestrian (see post on recent Starbuck’s locations). Shopping centers are no exception and it wasn’t until I began highlighting the flaws at Loughborough Commons did they make changes to the original access plans. To date there is still not proper access to the Lowe’s. Granted a person in a wheelchair doesn’t come off the street to take home drywall but smaller items like light bulbs are still in need when you are disable.
I think the city’s former commissioner on the disabled used to just count the number of disabled parking spaces and give projects an OK if it met the required number. But I can assure you that not everyone arrives by car which means if they are not bicycling they are walking or using a wheelchair. And the ADA access route provides equally good access for those who are able bodied and those that are not. Those who are out pushing a baby stroller will appreciate the provisions as much as the person in a wheelchair.

So when the Arby’s on Lindell was rebuilt following the fire at the construction project next door (see post) I was not optimistic about what sort of pedestrian access they would provide. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the final outcome:

 

As you can see above it doesn’t take much — just a way to get from the public sidewalk to the main accessible entrance. Clearly here the pedestrian was given due consideration.

Given the urbanity of the apartment project next door it would have been nice to see the Arby’s be less suburban in nature — closer to the street, fewer auto drives, etc but at least they got the pedestrian access right. So if we are going to continue to build more suburban structures in the city, such as this Arby’s, we need to ensure they all have pedestrian access to the public sidewalk as this does.  Anything less is unacceptable.

 

San Luis Apartments Not A Good Urban Building

The St. Louis Archdiocese wants to raze the San Luis Apartments next door to The New Cathedral for a 150-car surface parking lot. Local efforts to save the building from the wrecking ball give it more urban credit than it deserves. Yes, it is far more urban than any surface parking lot would ever hope to be.

From a recent West End Word article:

A statement issued by Landmarks’ Board of Directors argued that, “Through curvilinear forms and differentiation of wall materials, the hotel possesses a striking geometric presence. With covered parking placed in the rear away from Lindell Boulevard, the Hotel de Ville promotes the pedestrian-friendly quality of the Lindell streetscape.

This building does nothing to promote pedestrian anything. Parking is actually close to the sidewalk —- the fact the building hovers over the parking doesn’t improve the pedestrian experience in the least. Walk along the sidewalk in front of the building — as you would expect from a structure that started life as a 1960’s motor hotel, the pedestrian is not really considered. You look under the building at parking and the entry is set back behind an auto drive.

The best I can say is that the mass of the building does help anchor that corner — a surface parking lot would simply create a big hole in an area lacking holes in the urban fabric. The forms of the building are pleasant enough but I would not lose any sleep over its demolition.

Asked if the proposal on Lindell Boulevard is an example of the Central West End going backward, Thomas Richter, the archdiocese’s director of buildings and real estate, said, “We don’t think it is a step backward.”

The proposed parking lot “represents an investment in the Central West End” because it shows that Rosati-Kain intends to be in the CWE for the long haul, he said.

A surface parking lot is not an investment! To use such valuable real estate to store cars is such a waste. To spend the kind of dough it will take to buy out the HUD contract, raze and pave the land just for parking is shameful. Is this really the best use of the church’s resources?

There was a time not that long ago when churches were an important part of building the physical community and now all over this city we see church leaders worshiping the automobile by razing structures for parking. How much transportation could the church provide by not razing this structure and instead selling the land. If anything they should seek a developer to build low-income housing to help diversify the neighborhood and provided needed affordable housing.

 

Bill Would Permit Segway Use in Forest Park

Last Friday Ald. Lyda Krewson (D-28th) introduced Board Bill 449 which would allow, with restrictions enforced through a permit process, the use of a Segway in Forest Park. Currently the Segway is legally allowed to use the street, along with cars, trucks, bicycles and scooters. They are also allowed, per state law, to use sidewalks and bike paths:

Defined–requirements for operation.

307.205. 1. For the purposes of sections 307.205 to 307.211, “electric personal assistive mobility device” (EPAMD) shall mean a self-balancing, two nontandem wheeled device, designed to transport only one person, with an electric propulsion system with an average power of seven hundred fifty watts (one horsepower), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a propulsion system while ridden by an operator who weighs one hundred seventy pounds, is less than twenty miles per hour.

2. An electric personal assistive mobility device may be operated upon a street, highway, sidewalk, and bicycle path. Every person operating such a device shall be granted all of the rights and be subject to all of the duties applicable to a pedestrian pursuant to chapter 304, RSMo.

3. Persons under sixteen years of age shall not operate an electric personal assistive mobility device, except for an operator with a mobility-related disability.

4. An electric personal assistive mobility device shall be operated only on roadways with a speed limit of forty-five miles per hour or less. This shall not prohibit the use of such device when crossing roadways with speed limits in excess of forty-five miles per hour.

5. A city or town shall have the authority to impose additional regulations on the operation of an electric personal assistive mobility device within its city or town limits.

The last section above does allow cities to place restrictions. In the City of St. Louis it has been interpreted by the City Counselor’s office that the Segway is a vehicle and is not allowed to use sidewalks and/or bike paths. The current applicable definition comes from ordinance 65138 which was signed by the Mayor in January 2001 — before the introduction of the Segway:

For purposes of this ordinance a “motorized scooter” shall mean any two-wheeled device that has handlebars, is designed to be stood upon by the operator, and is powered by a motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion at a speed of not more than 25 miles per hour.

The above ordinance was originally targeted to those motorized skateboards that were popular at the time — hence the ‘stand upon part’ of the definition. The city cites the following as reasons for a Segway being a vehicle and thus banned from use on sidewalks:

Every person operating a motorized scooter shall have all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of any other vehicle as established by ordinance, including, but not limited to, ordinances concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs, except those provisions which, by their very nature, can have no application.

Well, OK, but what about this section from the same ordinance:

A person operating a motorized scooter is not subject to the provisions of this code relating to registration, and license plate requirements, and, for those purposes, a motorized scooter is not a motor vehicle.

If we stroll over to the “revised code” for the city and look at the Chapter 17.16 Miscellaneous Traffic Rules we can see all sorts of, well, miscellaneous rules. These include rules on many topics such as crossing fire hoses, boarding in motion, transporting animals, and allowing police officers to ride bicycles on any sidewalk in the city. The city considers the Segway a vehicle and references the following as reasons why it is banned on all sidewalks:

17.16.040 Driving upon sidewalk or bicycle/ pedestrian right-of-way.

A. No person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.

B. No person shall drive any vehicle upon any bicycle/pedestrian right-of-way. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to persons driving emergency vehicles or maintenance vehicles, persons who drive upon any bicycle/pedestrian right-of-way as a means of ingress or egress to a place of business or a residence or persons crossing any bicycle/pedestrian right-of-way at a point designated by Grace Hill Americorp as river access crossing site. (Ord. 64952 § 2, 2000: prior: Ord. 57831 § 1 (part), 1979: 1960 C. § 827.040.)

So is the Segway a “vehicle” or not? The state of Missouri considers a bicycle a vehicle as well with the operator is subject to the same rights and rules as a motor vehicle operator but we don’t ban bicycles from operating on bike paths.

So Ald. Krewson’s bill is not looking to examine the bigger issue from a city-wide perspective. BB#449 is geared only at Forest Park and mainly at institutions within Forest Park. Basically the Science Center owns (16) Segways they like to use for groups to show how they work — you know, the science behind them. Legally they should be permitted to use them on roadways in Forest Park but it seems they want to use them on sidewalks and paths. This bill, if passed in its current form, would permit the Director of Parks to formulate rules, an application process and issue permits to those seeking to use a Segway in Forest Park.  To receive a permit you’d need to own the Segway.  Institutions in Forest Park, such as the Science Center, could allow others to use their Segways after the person signed a waiver form.  Anyone riding a Segway in the park would need to wear a prominent plackard — making them look even dorkier.

So all this brings up several questions.  First, does the current laws on the books limit the use of Segways or not?   If yes, do we keep it as is or do we consider where and how we’d like to permit Segways on sidewalks/paths.  For example, besides Forest Park perhaps on the North Riverfront Trail?  If the current laws do not ban the use of Segways on sidewalks/paths, do we want to limit their use.  At nearly $6,000 a pop it is pretty rare to see one out and about except for tour groups.

One time, a few years ago, I crossed the street heading to the Chicago Art Institute and a group on Segways had blocked the entire corner on the sidewalk — making it difficult for me as a pedestrian to get through.  Like my scooter, I have no issues with someone locking up a Segway to a bike rack on the public sidewalk, but I have to wonder about mixing Segway users with walkers, joggers, rollerbladers, and cyclists on paths in Forest Park.  This seemingly non-issue gets complicated pretty quickly.  For more information on the Segway see Wiki and Segway.com.

 

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