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Readers: Aquarium A Good Fit For Union Station

I’ve never been to an aquarium before, but I know they’re popular attractions.  We recently spent the day at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, next to their Shedd Aquarium.  Shedd’s ticket prices range from $8/adult ($6/child) to $54.95/adult ($45.95/child). I assume most but the $37.95/28.95 “total experience” ticket, it allows you to see everything but you must wait in lines.

For years I’d heard about the World Aquarium, located within City Museum. Now it’s in Laclede’s Landing. Adult admission, for comparison, is only $6.

The new aquarium will be in addition to the existing:

St. Louis Aquarium will be a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, LHM said. The facility will employ marine biologists and aquarists to care for the creatures displayed and oversee water chemistry, animal nutrition, veterinary duties, education, staffing and safety.

The association, based in Silver Spring, Md., has more than 230 members. Among them is the Butterfly House, which opened in 1998 in Chesterfield and, since 2001, has been a division of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The aquarium, expected to get a million visitors annually, will be a draw for school groups as well as an entertainment destination, LHM said. An 8,500-square-foot event space with the shark tank as a backdrop will be available for weddings, social gatherings and corporate parties. (Post-Dispatch)

As with zoos, I question the ethics of keeping wild animals in captivity for our amusement.

The former food court and retail spaces under the train shed had a decidedly mall feel, October 2011
The former food court and retail spaces under the train shed had a decidedly mall feel, October 2011

The results of the non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: An aquarium in the former shopping mall area is a good fit for Union Station

  • Strongly agree 13 [27.08%]
  • Agree 11 [22.92%]
  • Somewhat agree 7 [14.58%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.08%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [4.17%]
  • Disagree 6 [12.5%]
  • Strongly disagree 6 [12.5%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [4.17%]

I voted for “somewhat agree”, but it depends on the execution, admission price, etc. I’m more excited about the new hotel rooms to be built within the clock tower!

— Steve Patterson


Cobra Heads Shine Light Up Into Our 4th Floor Windows

Street lights are important for safety, so motorists and pedestrians can see better at night. Good lighting can help reduce crime. Sadly, most cities, including St. Louis, have bad lighting. Instead of lighting the road and sidewalks we also light up the night sky.

The International Dark-Sky Association estimates that 1/3 of all lighting is wasted at an annual cost of $2.2 BILLION dollars. The light projected directly upwards from a cobra-head streetlight is about 30% of the total light it emits! (James Mason University/John C. Wells Planetarium: Light Pollution: The Overuse & Misuse of Artificial Light at Night)

Our loft is on the 4th floor of our building, our windows don’t directly face Locust St. Still, a cobra head light across the street blasts our uncovered windows with light every night.

Looking South from our balcony toward Locust St, two cobra head lights can be seen -- one per side
Looking South from our balcony toward Locust St, two cobra head lights can be seen — one per side
This cropped version narrows down to the two lights
This cropped version narrows down to the two lights
Cropping again you can see
Cropping again you can see

The solution is to replace the old cobra head lights with more efficient LED lights, right?

The new plan for security was put in place before the recent robberies. It calls for four more surveillance cameras, license plate recognition cameras, and brighter street lights.

“What we want now are the surveillance cameras that have red and blue flashing lights on them so that people realize they are on camera and that is a really critical next step to make people realize this is a watched area,” said Missy Kelley with Downtown St. Louis, Inc.

The plan calls for all 3,000 downtown street lights to be replaced with LED lights that are brighter.

“Change out all of the cobra head lights downtown to LED lights which are brighter and whiter and will splash back onto the sidewalk. They will light the streets but also light the sidewalks,” Kelley said.

Areas around the Busch Stadium, the Peabody Opera House and Scottrade Center will see the new lighting first. (More security measures coming to downtown St. Louis)

The word “brighter” was used three times in the above quote. But, again, LEDs are the solution, right?

Not necessarily says the International Dark-Sky Association — they detail five myths about LED streetlights:

  • Myth #1: The use of LEDs reduces light pollution and is “good for dark skies” because they’re highly energy efficient.
  • Myth #2: The use of LEDs reduces light pollution and is “good for dark skies” because they make it easier to control where the light lands on the ground.
  • Myth #3: LED lighting increases traffic safety
  • Myth #4: LED lighting improves security by discouraging crime.
  • Myth #5: Energy savings from LEDs automatically means a lower carbon footprint, which is better for the environment.

Just like most regions, we’re replacing bright cobra heads that scattered light in all directions with brighter LEDs that scatter more light in slightly less directions. Brighter isn’t necessarily better or even safer.

— Steve Patterson




Sunday Poll: Aquarium A Good Fit For Union Station?

Please vote below
Please vote below

Last week LHM, owners of Union Station, announced plans to add an aquarium as par of the remake of the property. The 1985 mall under the train shed failed, but the hotel portion has continued to do well.

Developers are planning to build a $45 million aquarium is [sic] Union Station near downtown St. Louis and they say it will feature one of the largest collections of sharks in the Midwest.

The 75,000-square-foot St. Louis Aquarium will display thousands of aquatic species, such as stingrays and fish in 1 million gallons of water in the complex’s former mall area. A planned v-shaped rope bridge will suspend visitors above the shark tank. It will also include a gift shop, 8,500- square-feet of private event space with the shark tank as a backdrop, and possibly a themed restaurant in the old Houlihan’s space. (An aquarium for St. Louis is part of the redesign for Union Station’s former mall)

Thinking many of you have opinions, it’s the poll topic this week.

The poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson


Remembering Peter Fischer, Improving Citygarden

August 1, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Remembering Peter Fischer, Improving Citygarden

Peter Fischer, the reserved head of the Gateway Foundation, died a year ago Saturday 7/23. His best known work is Citygarden, which opened June 30, 2009:

Citygarden started with his Gateway Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting art and urban design. His affinity for unpretentious art is reflected throughout the park. Park patrons can climb on the sculptures, dart around the water plumes and swim in the fountains.

A frequent visitor to the park, Mr. Fischer especially loved watching kids splash in the water features. When safety concerns arose, he proposed to continue to allow swimming but hired lifeguards to keep watch.

The world soon took note of the park. A New York Times piece praised the park, and numerous awards were given. In 2011, Citygarden won its biggest award, the ULI Amanda Burden Urban Open Space award. (Post-Dispatch)

Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011
Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011

I was there for the ribbon cutting , I think he was too. But he wasn’t on the stage giving a speech, he always proffered to remain in the background.

One of the few times he and I talked was shortly after Citygarden opened, I saw him sitting and observing people. I rolled over and chatted briefly. I got an email from him once — just before a public Gateway Mall Advisory Board meeting — he didn’t want me taking/posting pictures of the model we’d be shown for Kiener Plaza.

I love Citygarden, visiting often. However, it’s not perfect.

The only restroom is inside the restaurant, so these are on the 10th Street (West) side.
The only restroom is inside the restaurant, so these are on the 10th Street (West) side.

As I’ve stated before, I’d like to see the block to the West joined via the Hallway walkway with a public restroom.

There was no thought about communicating to pedestrians on the hallway about traffic on 9th Street, so Fischer had it closed to vehicles.
There was no thought about communicating to pedestrians on the hallway about traffic on 9th Street, so Fischer had it closed to vehicles.
Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles
Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles

I chose not too pursue the opening of 9th Street while Peter Fischer was still alive — I knew better. But now, more than a year after his death, I think the subject deserves attention. But it’s not as simple as just moving the barricades out of the way. There’s no way to communicate to pedestrians that Northbound vehicles on 9th Street have a green light.

One way streets function only in pairs — one each direction. Eighth and 10th streets are both one-way Southbound.

— Steve Patterson


Readers Opposed To Licenses To Help Homeless

Homelessness is a problem everywhere around the world, though not at the same rates.

What’s even more surprising than the discrepancy in homeless populations between the two cities is the fact that Tokyo, at 13.4 million people, is larger than New York City (8.4 million people) and Los Angeles (3.9 million people) combined. While the rate of homelessness in New York is currently 67 for every 10,000 people, in Tokyo there is just one homeless individual for every 10,000 city residents.

Why the massive discrepancy in rates of homelessness between two of the most populous cities in the world?

As with most socioeconomic phenomena, there are a number of contributing factors. First and foremost, income inequality is a massive and growing problem in the United States, while Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries. One principal measure of income inequality is the GINI coefficient, a measure from 0.0 (perfect equality) to 1.0 (perfect inequality). Recent surveys in the two countries found a GINI coefficient in Japan of 0.32, while in the US that rate was 0.41. However, income inequality can’t be the only explanation for Japan’s success combatting homelessness, especially considering that the country’s inequality index has actually worsened over the past few decades.

Where Japan is really surpassing the United States, instead, is in the social safety net it offers its citizens. (Think Progress)

Our safety net is full of holes, allowing far too many people to become homeless.

Richard Gere recently portrayed a homeless man.

Two hours of trying to find a place to sleep, trying to get identification to receive benefits.

Here are the results from the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree? St. Louis should require those giving food to the homeless to have a license?

  • Strongly agree 8 [18.18%]
  • Agree 4 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [2.27%]
  • Neither agree or disagreei 2 [4.55%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [6.82%]
  • Disagree 8 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [34.09%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 3 [6.82%]

Nearly 60% disagree with requiring a license, I’m in the middle. Every day I pass the homeless and the criminals that prey on them, I often see a new person with a suitcase. A church group unloading baloney sandwiches from a trunk isn’t helpful as a warm meal indoors. Those doing so think it’ll help them after they’ve died, but I’d rather offer real help in the present.

I’ve helped two people who were homeless in downtown St. Louis. The first lived in a property I owned for over a year as he got a job and rebuilt his life. He’s remarried and they recently bought a home together. The more recent person is still struggling, but he was able to leave St. Louis a few years ago. I brought both food — fresh fruit. They’ve both been in our loft, guests for a home-cooked meal. It’s rare that I meet anyone on the street that I feel comfortable with inviting into our home.

The sight of crowds of homeless, and those who prey on them, crowding around a car/van must further lower the spirits of those in that situation. Of course, we don’t want anyone dropping dead due to starvation, but all of society would be better off if we improved our safety net and then improved our ability to get people off the street and into housing. It’s also cheaper.

But this is St. Louis, we don’t do what’s best. In June police drove into the park between Soldiers Memorial and the library to run off the homeless.

June 23
June 23
June 28
June 28

Like most parks downtown, this one no longer has any benches. No reason for anyone to be there.

Those newly on the street need to be housed quickly before they become accustomed to life on the streets. An overnight cot isn’t the same thing. This requires social workers. The license bill shouldn’t become law, but it would be nice if those who want to help took action to actually help. Volunteer at places that feed the homeless warm meals indoors, provide stable housing, etc.

— Steve Patterson