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Checking Out Giant Touch Screen Information Kiosks

July 30, 2020 Featured Comments Off on Checking Out Giant Touch Screen Information Kiosks

Way back in January I saw a news story that interested me, but it was too cold out — eight new information kiosks had gone online.

The vertical touch screen information centers provide visitors and residents with information on restaurants and attractions as well as local resources and services.

Kyle Sparks was visiting from Cincinnati and used a kiosk a the corner of 4th and Chestnut.

 “I’ve only been to St. Louis a couple of times and I was just kind of moseying around trying to find out what I could find and these make it really easy,” he said. 

The kiosks are part of the city’s Smart City initiative and have been in the works for two years. The information centers are being paid for without any tax dollars.

“There is no investment from the city or taxpayers to pull this thing off. It’s entirely funded through sponsorships and advertising opportunities,” said Jacob Long, spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson. (KMOV)

I saw a couple white driving home from trips to a store. In late April it was warm enough for me to check them out. However, health and other posts prevented me from writing about them…until now.

An IKE at 8th & Washington Ave.

Here’s what the manufacturer says about the hardware & software:

Designed in concert with Pentagram and built to the proprietary specifications of our platform, every IKE guarantees the best in quality and will complement the aesthetics of any city.

Instead of being relegated to a secondary position on a tablet, the large 65” screens located on both sides of the kiosk are prominent, visually impactful and encourage frequent pedestrian interaction.

IKE is built on an open, multi-lingual data platform that provides maximum flexibility and integration with city data sources. Our software is developed in an agile process, with city partners joining us at the table to develop new ideas and applications.

Our in-house Software Engineering team has full-stack expertise, including infrastructure, scalable backend systems and user interfaces. This allows for the continuous evolution and innovation of our platform and gives our team the ability to customize IKE software to meet the needs of any city. (IKE Smart City)

Let’s take a look.

The other side of the IKE at 8th & Washington.
There are accessibility options the user can select — assuming they can see well enough to select the larger text option.
The sidewalk side of the hardware has a lighted blue 911 button — I didn’t test this.
I did test the ability to have it take your photo and text it to yourself. The photo arrives square, but I cropped it here. This side of this IKE was incredibly slow on April 21st.
So I went over to Market & Tucker to test another.
This screen worked much better than the previous. They may just need to be restarted every so often. Again, this was cropped from a square image. I’m seated in my wheelchair so standing would get more of you in the photo.
Yesterday I saw another at 8th & Walnut
And another was just installed along Tucker at Washington Ave. The cover is still in place. According to the KMOV article, there were 8 initially — 7 downtown and 1 across from Crown Candy Kitchen. Not sure how many are throughout St. Louis now.

I’ve yet to see anyone using an IKE, but downtown has been deserted because of the pandemic. They definitely get your attention, even as a motorist, especially as a pedestrian.

The IKE touch screens are in addition to the static directories downtown provided by the CVC, shown above in this 2013 image.

We’ll see how it goes. I need keep carrying hand sanitizer with me so I can keep testing them.

— Steve Patterson

 

A St. Louis Statue to be Proud of: Frankie Freeman in Kiener Plaza

July 23, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on A St. Louis Statue to be Proud of: Frankie Freeman in Kiener Plaza

Recently there have been renewed calls for the removal of statues honoring confederates. Just yesterday:

On Wednesday, the House took a pivotal first step in an overwhelming vote to remove a bust of the fifth chief justice of the United States and Confederate statues from public display in the U.S. Capitol.

The final vote was 305-113. There were 72 Republicans who joined with Democrats in approving the measure. (ABC News)

Another target has been homicidal tyrant Christopher Columbus. Last month the St. Louis statue honoring him was removed.

A statue of Christopher Columbus that stood in a St. Louis park for 134 years was removed Tuesday amid a growing national outcry against monuments to the 15th century explorer.

The commissioners who oversee Tower Grove Park recently voted to remove the statue. It was loaded onto a truck Tuesday, but it wasn’t clear what will become of it. Park officials didn’t immediately reply to a phone message seeking comment. (AP/MSN)

The controversial statue of King Louis IX remains on Art Hill, for now.

Installed in 1906, the Apotheosis of St. Louis depicts the city’s namesake, Louis IX of France, riding astride an armored horse, his sword raised upside down to form a cross. It’s a portrayal befitting a ruler renowned for his military prowess. But the statue fails to address the canonized king’s darker legacy—the totality of his accomplishments—and now, amid a spate of protests against systemic racism in the United States, the St. Louis monument is one of many public works at the center of a major cultural reckoning. (Smithsonian Magazine)

Amid all this controversy I wanted to think about positive role models honored in bronze. The Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Fountain Park came to mind first. Then my mind turned to one of the newest statues in St. Louis, installed in November 2017:

The bronze figure depicts Freeman walking away from the Old Courthouse. It’s symbolic of her leaving after the 1954 landmark case “Davis et. al. v. the St. Louis Housing Authority,” which resulted in the end of legal racial discrimination in St. Louis public housing. Freeman was the lead attorney for the case.

A few days before her 101st birthday, Freeman sat next to the statue on Tuesday and greeted visitors who came to celebrate her, from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to former Washington University Chancellor Dr. William Danforth. (Post-Dispatch)

Freeman died the following January. Why does she have a statue in Kiener Plaza?

Freeman, also known as “Frankie Freedom,” was raised in a segregated town in Virginia. She knew she wanted to become a lawyer since she was young. Eventually, she became a civil rights attorney who fought to end segregated housing and promoted equal rights in St. Louis and nationwide during the civil rights movement.

She was also the lead attorney in the court case Davis v. St. Louis Housing Authority in 1952, which helped in ending racial segregation in public housing in St. Louis. “Frankie Freedom” became an assistant attorney general of Missouri and staff attorney for the St. Louis Land Clearance and Housing Authorities from 1956 to 1970.

Freeman became the first woman to join the U.S Civil Rights Commission in 1964, which investigates discrimination complaints, collects data on discrimination, and advises lawmakers and the president on equal protection and the issues of discrimination. She served on the commission for 16 years.

She was also an active member and longtime board member of the United Way and was part of the leadership of the Girl Scouts. (Newsweek)

Freeman spent her entire life working toward equality for all — we should be proud she made St. Louis her home.

Sculpture of civil rights attorney Frankie Freeman, May 2018
After the March 2017 reopening of Kiener Plaza I noted a spot left for a then-undisclosed sculpture.

Further reading see Davis et al. v. The St. Louis Housing Authority at Wikipedia and/or JUSTIA. Watch her on YouTube via Missouri Historical Society.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

A Look at 207 North Sixth Street, Charlie Gitto’s Pasta House Since 1978

July 15, 2020 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on A Look at 207 North Sixth Street, Charlie Gitto’s Pasta House Since 1978

When I first saw Charlie Gitto’s restaurant at 207 North 6th Street many years ago I imagined a small business owner fighting Famous-Barr department store parent company, The May Department Stores Company, to keep its small downtown restaurant open.

Charlie Gitto’s Pasta House stands in contrast to the spiral parking garage exit ramp. At right, the massive Railway Exchange building that housed the May Company headquarters and their Famous-Barr department store, later a Macy’s.
This view shows the East side of the garage which faces both 7th & Olive streets. I adore the green glazed “bakery brick” on the facade.

Sounds good, right? But it was way off.

My first clue was from the recent announcement that Charlie Gitto had died.

Gitto and his wife, Annie, at one point operated as many as six restaurants in the area along with their children.
The couple opened the well-known Charlie Gitto’s Pasta House on Sixth Street downtown in 1978. Their children owned the other restaurants. (Post-Dispatch)

Wait, 1978? The surrounding parking garage was older than that. Though I’d only eaten there once, it looked like it had been there for generations, memorabilia covered the walls. 1978.

So what restaurant was there when the building survived most of the block being razed for Famous-Barr’s parking garage. Was there a fight to keep the small building at 207 N 6th from becoming rubble?

When I decided to seek answers to these questions I had no idea the huge wormhole I was going down. But that’s often the case, especially when searching Post-Dispatch archives.

Before delving into the archives I did a quick Google search. There I found a May 2013 article about how Macy’s planned to close the downtown location in August. It began with this about opening a parking garage:

In September 1922, Famous-Barr proudly opened a new two-story parking garage on Seventh Street, near its bustling department store. It cost $200,000 to build and could hold 400 machines, as cars were known then. (Post-Dispatch).

Wait, 1922? Two-stories?

The spiral exit ramp of the Famous-Barr parking garage is clear in the background as the Kiener parking garages are under construction. The spiral is at 6th & Pine, the Charlie Gitto’s Building is visible next to it. The rest of the block to Olive still exists.

Instead of quickly finding answers I was finding more questions. I ended up using newspaper archives through the library, historicaerials.com, and Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. City records online weren’t helpful because they didn’t list an age for 207 North 6th Street.

Let’s look at what I found in chronological order, starting in 1909.

In 1909 207 N. 6th Street was a restaurant. It had a first floor masonry wall to separate it from the lobby of the Mona Hotel to the North. The 2nd floor over the restaurant was likely part of the hotel since the masonry wall didn’t continue up. Sanborn Co. Fire Insurance Map

So this confirms the site has always been a restaurant, right? Wrong. It was in 1909 and since 1978 but that doesn’t explain which its block got razed.

On January 31, 1922 came the following was on page 3 of the Post-Dispatch:

The Famous & Barr store has purchased, subject to title, the east half of the block on Seventh, between Walnut and Elm Streets, as the site for a four-story or six-story free parking garage for its customers, to be operated on a plan similar to the four-story parking garage that is to be erected by the Scruggs-Vandervort-Barney Dry Goods Co. on the south side of St. Charles, between Eleventh and Twelfths streets.  

So in the 1920s both downtown department stores built parking garages blocks from their stores. The site of this first Famous-Barr garage later became part of the 1966 Busch Stadium and is now surface parking at Ballpark Village.

In the final edition of the Post-Dispatch on November 1, 1960 came front page announcement of a new garage, which continued on page 6.

Famous-Barr Co. will raze most of the buildings in the block across Olive Street from its downtown store and will construct a parking garage for 800 automobiles there, Stanley J. Goodman, general manager, announced today. 

The 10-level garage will occupy the western half of the block bounded by Sixth, Seventh, Olive and Pine streets. Express exit ramps paralleling Pine street will occupy some of the eastern portion of the block.  

The only present stores that will remain in the block are Boyd’s at 600 Olive, Jarman shoe store at 622 Olive and Neels Drug at 207 North Sixth. 

So no battle to save the 207 N 6th St building, also that hasn’t always been a restaurant.

On October 11, 1950 Neels Drugs was located at 521 Pine Street. By October 22, 1959 Needs Drugs, an independent Rexall druggist was located at 207 North 6th Street.

On November 27, 1974 Post-Dispatch restaurant writer Joe Pollack indicated, on page 86, that Rich & Charlie’s was going to open another pasta house…on 6th. The very next month there’s a classified ad run December 27-30 seeking dishwashers & porters — apply at Pasta House Co. 207 N. 6th.

Advertisements for Rich & Charlie’s and The Pasta House Company with identical specials appeared in the October 12, 1975 Post-Dispatch, page 117.

In October 1975 Pasta House Company has a location at Plaza Frontenac, but 6 months earlier Rich & Charlie’s was advertising for cooks, dishwashers, etc at Plaza Frontenac. Rich & Charlie’s began in 1967 at 8213 Delmar, a longtime Pasta House Company address.  Another article described The Pasta House Company as a “affiliate” of Rich & Charlie’s.  Even now I don’t fully understand how these businesses were connected, neither mentions the other on their current websites.

At approximately age 40-41 Charlie Gitto was the manager of the Pasta House Co. chain’s location at 207 N. 6th Street. In 1978 he went from manager to owner of this location, now called Charlie Gitto’s Pasta House. Another pasta house was nearby, Tony’s Pasta House.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Park/Garden Under Construction Next To Eads Bridge

July 9, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Planning & Design Comments Off on New Park/Garden Under Construction Next To Eads Bridge

When Great Rivers Greenway announced six years ago they were going to build a park on the north side of the Eads Bridge many of us scratched our heads — there’s already huge park (90+ acres) on the south side of Eads Bridge — the Gateway Arch National Park. Why build a small park next to a big park?

It was announced a park was planned for the north side of the Eads Bridge, on the other side of the trucks parked in the alley. March 2014
Another March 2014 view, taken from Lucas Ave & Commercial alley.

Here is their initial press release:

Feb. 27, 2014 (St. Louis) – With the transformation of the Riverfront and Gateway Arch grounds underway, the Great Rivers Greenway District is pleased to announce the purchase of a historic property that will provide a safer and more accessible connection between Laclede’s Landing and the revitalized Riverfront.

The lot is situated directly north of the Eads Bridge between First and Second streets on Laclede’s Landing. It is the site of the former Switzer Licorice Building, which was demolished in 2007.

“We are very pleased to have acquired this property,” says Susan Trautman, Executive Director of Great Rivers Greenway District. “Not only will it provide a universally accessible connection to the Arch grounds, it has the potential to create larger connections across the region and spur future development.”

The District aims to transform the property into a park or other compatible development offering food, restrooms, or other services to enhance the visitor experience while providing a seamless transition between the revitalized Gateway Arch grounds and Laclede’s Landing.

“The site offers endless possibilities for connection,” says Trautman. “It is steps away from the Eads Bridge Metrolink station, four blocks south of the North Riverfront Trail, and around the corner from the new trails being built on the Arch Grounds and along the Riverfront. It is fitting that the ‘front door’ of this property is a soaring arch beneath the historic Eads Bridge.”

The District purchased the property from St. John’s Bank for $350,000. The property’s appraised value was $390,000. 

I didn’t catch this six years ago, but the site isn’t actually “between First and Second streets” — it’s between First and Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd (originally Warf).

What we often get in press releases about planned projects is statements meant to reduce possible objections to a decision. Who’d have a problem with safer and more accessible, right? Keep reading.

The 1st Street opening in the approach, the park site id on the other side of both the approach and 1st St.
The Commercial Alley opening, currently closed while workers on the park use the covered/shaded space.

The Missouri approach to the 1874 Eads Bridge is brick & stone, but has five openings to allow people and vehicles to easily reach the other side:  Warf, First, Second, at two alleys in between the streets. They knew in the 19th century that closing off parts of the street grid wouldn’t be a good idea so they make sure every street & alley could continue unimpeded.

Stairs from 1st Street up to the MetroLink platform
From 2nd Street you can use the elector or stairs.

For anyone arriving at Laclede’s Landing via MetroLink light rail can exit to either First or Second streets — assuming they’re physically able to do so as only the Second Street exit has an elevator. Due to elevation changes, the Second Street exit also has significantly fewer steps than the First Street exit.

Surface parking across 1st Street from new park. The buildings in the background face 2nd Street.

Second Street is the primary street in Laclede’s Landing, it has the most restaurants and such. First Street is ok a block further North, but right at the bridge it’s desolate — mostly surface parking and a old flood-prone parking structure down the hill.

View of new park site from 1st Street MetroLink station opening

The west side of this new park is bounded by First Street, therefore adjacent to the First Street entry/exit for MetroLink. As a wheelchair user I can’t use the First Street exit. This park may prove popular, perhaps especially with cyclists and those looking for restrooms.

The land between Commercial alley and Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd is still privately owned, but Gateway Greening hopes this is a phase 2.

I personally would’ve liked to have seen new buildings, rather than more open space. That’s a big part of the problem with Laclede’s Landing — too few buildings, far too much open space. Sure, this will be green open space instead of asphalt open space. Hopefully the parking to the North & West can get replaced with new buildings — this would give this park nice walls.

The Katherine Ward Burg Garden is currently under construction

The new park is not named after the building that occupied the site for decades, Switzer licorice.  No, follow the money out to Ladue.

The Katherine Ward Burg Garden is the first step in this long-term plan to redevelop the St. Louis Riverfront north of the Eads Bridge and Gateway Arch. Situated adjacent to the Eads Bridge, the half-acre plaza will be a welcoming spot once people exit the MetroLink at the Laclede’s Landing stop.  It is bordered by North 1st street on the east, Lucas Avenue on the northern edge, the Mississippi Greenway (Commercial Alley) on the east and the Eads Bridge to the south.

Thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of  Katherine Ward Burg, the garden has been designed to create a flexible and welcoming open space which attracts visitors north from the Arch grounds to explore Laclede’s Landing or to the Arch grounds from the Landing. It incorporates an iconic trellis, stepped terraces and curving seatwalls offering a comfortable spot for respite, a meeting place to start an adventure and a site that can be adapted for special events and programs. The gently sloped landscape allows for accessible ramp access from First Street down to Commercial Street, a way for all people to move down toward the river, eventually connecting to the Mississippi Greenway.

Construction is underway and expected to be complete in Spring 2021. (Great Rivers Greenway)

If you were looking for a post with uncritical approval with artists renderings you’ve come to the wrong blog. Hopefully my skepticism will prove unfounded, the garden will become a huge success.

We’ll find out how it looks and functions next year and if it’s a success after a few more years.

— Steve Patterson

 

The St. Louis Region Needs to Consider No Longer Chasing Big Conventions

July 6, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on The St. Louis Region Needs to Consider No Longer Chasing Big Conventions

We keep being told we need to expand our region’s primary convention center in order to compete with other cities for big conventions/conferences.

Looking South on 9th Street from Cole Street. The CVC can’t expand north, east, or south — so it now wants to close 9th to go West.
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.

The purpose of convention centers is to get outsiders to travel to a region, spending money on hotels & food — adding to the economy. The convention center facilities themselves are often a loss leader, they don’t make a profit or break even on their own but help bring warm bodies with cash to burn to a region.

The past few years attendance at conventions/conferences has been shrinking. The number of conventions have also been getting fewer and fewer. Then came COVID-19, cancelling the rest of 2020. The future of the big convention is seriously in doubt.  The big conventions that do continue will have their choice of top facilities. Even if we go for the latest expansion we won’t be in the top tier. The remaining smaller conventions & conferences will have their pick of hotel-based convention/conference facilities.

We need to say enough is enough. The current convention/dome occupies what was once 11+ city blocks!  A 12th block is a privately-owned parking garage that predates the Cervantes Convention Center.  Ballpark Village was only 3 city blocks originally.

Our mostly vacant convention facilities occupies the same space as four ballpark villages!

It’s absolutely insane to have this much prime downtown real estate sitting idle most of the year. Yes, when a huge convention is in town downtown is hoping. But what if these blocks, plus Baer Plaza & The Bottle District, were redeveloped?

Three North-South streets would again connect downtown to those of us who live immediately to the north, across Cole.  Sixth, seventh, and eighth streets would provide easy access, rather than having to go around a huge obstacle. Ninth street would remain open. Two East-West streets would also be reopened: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd & Convention Plaza (aka Delmar). The City-owned parking garage and parking lots on the West side of 9th could also be developed.

We would still need a tourism office and folks to help fill up various smaller convention/conference facilities throughout the region. They just wouldn’t be pressured to try to fill a huge white elephant.

To my knowledge, no city/region has had the courage to opt out of chasing conventions. We should be the first to do so, creating a neighborhood in its place that’s so vibrant that people from out of town want to visit.

— Steve Patterson

 

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