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Celebrating the Life of Steve Patterson, Part 1: “I Ain’t Dead Yet”

August 29, 2022 Downtown, Events/Meetings, Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Celebrating the Life of Steve Patterson, Part 1: “I Ain’t Dead Yet”
Blogger Steve Patterson on the Gateway Mall hallway, Citygarden. May 2021. Photo credit: Humans of St. Louis

When I was first diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer in the fall of 2019 I wasn’t sure what to expect from treatment, life expectancy, etc. While getting my affairs in order I remained as optimistic as possible.

I’m not a fan of solemn funerals so I thought about having a big party to celebrate my life in style. But what good is that after I’m dead?  So then a pre-death party followed by another at some point after I’m gone. Perfect.

Then came the pandemic. Scratch anything indoors. I thought about Citygarden, but Kaldi’s closed temporarily so no snacks or restroom access.

Now, even with vaccines, people are still getting Covid-19.  I’ve seen the blood test results on my immune health, that’s why my oncologist says  I’m immunocompromised. Anything indoors would require someone to check vaccination status. Outdoors it is, but not in brutal heat, cold, rain, etc.

As the months and years have passed I’m less interested in a single big event. Instead I like the idea of a series of small informal outdoor gatherings. I’d like to see each of you in person, whether we know each other or not.

The first such event was going to be this morning, but last week I saw  forecast called for rain. It’s always something…

Once I see an opening in the weather I’ll announce the date & time on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) at least 24 hours  prior.

Right now Wednesday morning (8/31/2022)is looking good, so this is a tentative date, 8am-10am. Unless it rains I’ll be on the terrace outside the recently reopened Kaldi’s in Citygarden, 808 Chestnut, enjoying a smoothie that I ordered online via ToastTab app. Please stop by to say hello, tell me I’m often wrong, or whatever. I’ll be sitting in a regular chair, but my orange wheelchair will be nearby.

For those that haven’t seen me in a long time, I now weigh about half of what I did when I had my stroke in 2008! I have to eat all the time now just to try to maintain my current weight.

I’ll announce additional dates/times/locations  for future gatherings on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) a few days prior. I’m open to suggestions for other outdoor locations, the only requirements are accessible via transit, shade, and nearby restroom. I’d also like to do some evening and weekend gatherings. I’ve also thought about using Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Live. Suggestions welcome.

Again, I’d love to talk with everyone at some point. Monday is the first of many. I do ask that if you have any Covid-19 symptoms (or positive test) please wait for a future date.

I definitely want to do something on the 18th anniversary of this blog, on Monday October 31, 2022. Maybe I could dress up as the late Jane Jacobs?

My next scans are in two weeks, I anticipate they’ll also show my “numerous tumors” as still stable.  After my 4-night hospitalization last month my kidneys are returning to normal.

Ok, hope to at least see a few of you Monday morning!

— Steve

 

Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

June 25, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

I never met Robert J. Baer, but I see the plaza named for him all the time. Baer Plaza, across Broadway from The Dome (map), was named in his honor a little more than 20 years before his death in 2017.

Every year annuals are placed around the marker, at the base of the flag poles. This spot, visible when driving by on Broadway, always looks nice.
The large lawn area is always very attractive.

The 25th anniversary of the dedication is just 7 weeks from today, on Saturday August 13, 2022. I think it calls for recognition…and a little effort beforehand to improve the condition.

Improve condition? It looks nice, right?

First, read more about the man the plaza is named to honor.

 Mr. Baer retired in 2002 as president and chief operating officer of UniGroup, and its operating subsidiaries, which include household goods transportation companies United Van Lines, LLC and Mayflower Transit, LLC. He was a past chairman of the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District and a past president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, in addition to serving twice in area mass transit leadership positions. In the 1990s, he chaired the agency responsible for coordinating the expansion to America’s Center which included the domed stadium. Mr. Baer was born and raised in south St. Louis. He attended St. Francis de Sales High School, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Beginning his career working for the City of St. Louis Division of Recreation in 1957, he served as deputy director of the Metropolitan St. Louis Human Development Corporation from 1964 to 1970. He was then employed for four years as chief of staff for Lawrence K. Roos, the County Executive of St. Louis County. In 1974, he was named executive director of Bi-State Development (which now operates the Metro public transportation system), a position he held for three years.

        In 1977, Mr. Baer joined United Van Lines as vice president and general manager. He was named United’s president in 1982 and, in 1988, was appointed president and chief operating officer of UniGroup, a newly formed holding company with United its largest operating entity. During Mr. Baer’s 25 years with United and UniGroup, the enterprise grew into one of the largest transportation corporations in the United States with consolidated annual revenues of $2 billion. In 1995, UniGroup acquired a second household goods mover, Mayflower Transit of Carmel, Ind. Mr. Baer served as chief operating officer of United, Mayflower, and sister UniGroup companies Vanliner (Insurance) Group, Inc., Total Transportation Services, and UniGroup Worldwide, Inc.

        Following his retirement from UniGroup, Mr. Baer continued to serve UniGroup for several years as a member of the Vanliner board of directors. He also was on the boards of Stifel Financial Corp., U.S. Bank, and Drury Hotels.

        In addition to his UniGroup corporate responsibilities, Mr. Baer contributed his time and leadership abilities to a variety of community service organizations and agencies over a period of more than 20 years. From 1985 to 1989, he was president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, overseeing the activities of the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department which included the construction of the first new police stations in decades. In 1990, he accepted the chairmanship of the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, which was responsible for a $300 million expansion of the city’s convention center and construction of the domed stadium. A park on Broadway east of the dome was designated “Baer Plaza” in recognition of Mr. Baer’s role in the project.

        Mr. Baer was chairman of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District from March 2003 until March 2005, and he remained on that board until April 2006. His previous experience leading Bi-State Development was instrumental in his appointment, in December 2007, as acting head of Metro Transit. The “temporary” job grew into a three-year assignment, concluding in 2010 after voter approval of a ballot proposition to ensure the ongoing financial sustainability of public transit in St. Louis.

      Among his other civic activities, Mr. Baer was founder of the Thomas Dunn Memorial Adult Education Program in the mid-1950s. He was an emeritus member of Civic Progress. He was the recipient of numerous awards for many achievements throughout his career. (Kutis Funeral Home)

Again, I never met him. I can’t speak to how he was personally, as a boss, as a civic leader.  I imagine getting the city, county, and state to work together to build a stadium in the hope of getting an expansion team takes a lot of skill.

Plaque denoting the dedication on August 13, 1997 — 7 weeks from today.

Even if an event doesn’t acknowledge the 25th anniversary, or Baer’s contributions, the plaza should be cleaned up.

The paved portion of the plaza is where most of the cleaning needs to happen. You can kinda see how the center is darker than the perimeter.
The paved center has several drains — but all have been clogged for years.
Another clogged drain, with plenty of caked dirt around each.
With the drains clogged a good rain turns the plaza into a shallow pond. June 2021. This means groups can’t plan to use this space for events in case it rains just prior.
At the base of the trees there’s a collection of twigs & small branches.
There’s also a few areas with more compostable material.

The biggest project is getting the drains cleared. This means hiring a company to provide this service. Once the drains are cleaned out, the entire circular plaza needs to be power washed. It’s all filthy and looks it. The concrete and bricks are in good condition, they just need a good cleaning. Again, this is a project to hire out, maybe the downtown Clean Team?

The sports commission that operates the Dome and this plaza recently came into a bit of money, I think unclogging drains and cleaning the hard materials would be a good investment. Especially since the XFL will be returning in 2023.

All the hard surfaces along Broadway north toward Cole Street also need cleaning. Additionally toward the north end a few tree wells need a little sprucing up.

This is the worst tree well. It needs more dirt to fill in the low areas (left) — there’s dirt in the ADA ramp on Cole @ 6th that might do the trick.

Some of these northern tree wells could benefit from more liriope & lillies, like the others.

That’s it: unclog a few drains, power wash all pervious materials, a little dirt and a few plants.  If not done before the anniversary, perhaps the anniversary date is the day for a big project with volunteers.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Residential Building Will Replace Short 1968 Bank Building at 620 Market in Downtown St. Louis

June 20, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Real Estate Comments Off on New Residential Building Will Replace Short 1968 Bank Building at 620 Market in Downtown St. Louis

The 2-story building at 620 Market Street, at 7th, was built in 1968. Most recently it was Mike Shannon’s restaurant, originally it was a bank with drive-through tellers. My first time in this building was in the early 1990s when the offices for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments — the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The building faces 3 streets: Market, 7th, and Walnut.

620 Market is located on the SE corner of Market & 7th. March 2022.
Alley between 620 Market (left) and the back of the Hilton parking garage (right). This alley may be privately owned by the hotel, not sure. March 2022.
Original bank night deposit box facing the alley on the east side.
The bank’s drive through tellers were accessed from Market Street. The access to the new building’s garage parking will be on this side. March 2022

Soon the building will be razed so a new building can be constructed on the site. Good riddance. Seriously, it’s awful for a central business district, but it’s exactly what to expect from the 1960s. Here’s more photos from years past.

Seventh Street faced of 620 Market, at Walnut. May 2012
The Walnut side, facing south toward Busch Stadium II when new. This was taken in April 2013 during phase 1 construction for Ballpark Village.
This May 2015 view from the Railway Exchange shows the context before phase 2 of Ballpark Village was built. Click image to see larger version.
620 Market top center in March 2016, during the removal of the old Kiener Plaza. Looking at 7th & Market.
The Market Street entrance to 620 Market, February 2016.

 

The new building won’t be an office building, but rental units over parking — exactly what you’d expect in today’s current development climate.

The construction will be a 3-story garage with 5 stories of wood-frame units above. There will be both street and paid garage parking. Public dog park areas abound and a 3rd floor courtyard facing the east will provide residents with an outdoor pool and yoga. A roof top viewing deck of the Arch and the Stadium and the skyline will be a great amenity. An on-site leasing office, cyber cafe and a community/fitness area will be placed on the ground floor along with 4955 square feet of retail/restaurant space. (Garrison Companies)

The developer’s website mentions the Ballpark MetroLink station only a couple of blocks away, and the new residential building over a new Target under construction at the Grand MetroLink station. Though they think Grand is “only a light rail stop away.” These light rail references combined with the “paid garage parking” tells me a parking spot won’t be included in the rent — such unbundled parking is ideal. Hopefully I’m reading this correctly.

While all the downtown condos I’m aware of all have an assigned space, many rental buildings don’t include a parking spot. Less “free” parking means fewer cars, greater use of public transit.

620 Market is on the left side. some units in the new building will have great views of Kiemer Plaza and parades on Market Street. May 2017 photo.

 

 

Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

May 19, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Plazas Comments Off on Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago the trees at the renovated Kiener Plaza looked so new, provided no shade. Now they’ve matured nicely. Saturday we spent 2+ hours sitting in the shade.

Look at the size of the trees on the right, they provide actual shade now.
This February view shows the new visitor center building. The trees are bigger but hadn’t put on level for the seaso9n yet.
Same area, at the reopening in 2017
The awful May Amphitheater sunk into the west end of the previous Kiener Plaza.

It’s nice seeing Kiener Plaza be a space that can hold thousands of people and still function. Now if only we could do something about those two parking garages across Chestnut, to the north.

— Steve Patterson

 

Rethinking 811 North 9th Street (Holiday Inn Express)

May 17, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Rethinking 811 North 9th Street (Holiday Inn Express)

I recently posted about a 1960s hotel in the Downtown West neighborhood that no longer worked (see Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn). Today is a similar look at an early 1980s hotel the no longer works: The Radisson/Ramada/Holiday Inn at 811 North 9th Street.

The primary view of the 5-story hotel is from 9th & Convention Plaza (formerly Delmar, Morgan before that). April 2016 photo

It is across 9th Street from the blank west wall of our convention center, but soon the convention center expansion will mean it is surrounded on 3 sides. Its backside will soon face the only through street passing the property.

Before I get into the problems & possible solutions a little history is important.

Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

In 1977 our convention center opened. Delmar, historically known as Morgan, was renamed to Convention Plaza between 3rd/4th and 14th Street. This street remained open as it has always been. The convention center originality occupied four city blocks bounded by Delmar/Convention Plaza, 9th, Cole, and 7th. Two blocks of Dr. Martin Luther King (formerly Franklin) and two blocks of 8th Street were erased from the grid.

The Sheraton Hotel also opened in 1977 — on the east side of the convention center, bounded by 7th, Cole, 6th, and Dr. Martin Luther King.  Then on April 1, 1981 the Radisson St. Louis Hotel opened on the west side of the convention center on  “9th at Convention Plaza”, aka 811 North 9th Street. Radisson was a very small hotel chain at the time, this was roughly #30 for them.

Demolition of the decade-old Sheraton Hotel to make room for the new football stadium. July 1992 — looking South from Cole & 7th

Ok, back to the Radisson and how it doesn’t fit 41+ years later:

Click image to see a larger view.

In this view the green box on the left is the parking lot to the south that will soon become an outdoor convention space. The blue in the upper left will be a parking garage with ground floor retail/restaurant. The grey box on the right will be new convention center space. 10th Street (left to right on top) will become 2-way traffic, unfortunately only for the short distance between Washington Ave and Cole Street. The hotel main entrance is the red star, bottom center. The red hexagon at 10th & Dr. Martin Luther King is the hotel dock/service entrance.

As always, I look first to see options where as much of the existing is retained. Maybe move the entrance/lobby from the east (9th) to west (10th) side?

This December 2012 view shows a problem with relocating the entrance to 10th Street — the 1st floor level is below the street/sidewalk. Plus the main elevators are on the east side.
Guests approaching from southbound 10th Street will be greeted by the docks and often employee cars.

Because the height of the ground floor relative to 10th Street, elevator locations, dock, etc relocating the entrance said lobby to the opposite side doesn’t look feasible — at least not to me. Again, the building has had many updates over the decades, but I don’t see anyway to avoid totally razing it. Maybe the interior has some redeaming quality to make it worth saving?

Nope!

Looking up from the 1st floor corner of the lobby. December 2012
On the 2nd floor you can see how the pool is at the center, spreading humidity and chlorine smell throughout. December 2012.

Maybe those planning the convention center expansion thought of this, but I’d have liked to have seen a land swap. Get the hotel to build a modern structure on the surface lot one block south, green in my diagram above. When the new hotel is finished tear down the old one and use that for the outdoor convention space — would be conveniently between the new wing of the convention center on the north and the new hotel on the south. Instead of 3 extra 1-block sections of streets surrounding the old hotel that land could be put to better use. The hotel could get a great new property closer to Washington Ave with zero downtime.

Again, this might have been proposed and ruled out Just not sure since the design was final when presented to the public.

So let up suppose the hotel owner, a Washington DC – based LLC, is willing to raze and rebuild on the existing site. What should they do?

Public streets all the way around is excessive paving, city maintenance. I’m at a loss how to design an attractive/functional hotel on this site, but I think creative architects could come up with some great concepts.

Short of a new building, I’d like to see the perimeter updated. Landscaping and maybe some shallow/liner retail spaces to fill in the gaps between the blank first floor walls and the public sidewalk(s).

Looking east from 10th along the south side (Convention Plaza/Delmar).

The south side has the most extra land. This isn’t inviting at all — a totally blank wall and boring turf grass. Maybe add some texture to the wall, giving it some gentle lighting at night? Or you widen the public sidewalk and build little storefronts to fill in the remaining lawn? Put a green roof on these so the hotel guests have something nice to look at from above.

In 2012 the Holiday Inn was a Ramada.

Regardless of the brand, I’d like to see the check in driveway located somewhere not between the sidewalk and the front door. It’s not impossible.

An Embassy Suites hotel in Chicago has no valet or other vehicle provision out front. Click image to see in Google Maps.
Parallel to the main street is a driveway for valet, etc. There’s an other entrance for guests to self-park.

To close I think if the 41+ year old hotel at 811 North 9th Streets remains as is, surrounded by wide streets, it’s going to be awkward for convention guests. It’s not going to look/feel good to anyone. Not sure of the best solution but I know it should be figured out before we spend millions locking it into this location.

— Steve Patterson

 

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