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Clemens Mansion Was To Kickoff McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration Project

November 17, 2012 25th Ward, Accessibility, Featured, Grad School, MLK Jr. Drive, Parking Comments Off on Clemens Mansion Was To Kickoff McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration Project

It was three years ago today that many gathered on the lawn in front of one of the most historic properties in St. Louis: The Clemens Mansion, located at 1849 Cass Ave.

ABOVE: Blueprints for the adoption of the Clemens Mansion to senior apartments was on display on November 17, 2009
ABOVE: St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signs a bill for Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project

From The Beacon:

Mayor Francis Slay put his ceremonial seal of approval Tuesday on the first step of the $8.1 billion plan to redevelop a large portion of north St. Louis, but he remained noncommittal on what developer Paul McKee considers a key part of the project.

The signing ceremony for two bills passed by the Board of Aldermen — the bills were actually signed into law by the mayor on Friday — took place under a tent on the front lawn of the Clemens House, one of the most visible properties in the McKee project area. (St. Louis Beacon)

Initial work had begun on the renovation but work stopped when part of the financing fell through, I believe a low-income housing tax credit. Soon much of McKee’s project will have a final airing in court.

The state Supreme Court has set Nov. 28 as the date for oral arguments in the lawsuit that has blocked McKee’s massive NorthSide Regeneration project for more than two years. There’s no telling how long after that a ruling might come down, but that ruling will help the project advance, McKee said. (stltoday.com)

Disclosure: I was a very minor consultant on the Clemen’s Mansion project, assisting with accessibility and starting to look at traffic calming and walkability along a larger stretch of Cass Ave. Hopefully the project can be completed in the future.

— Steve Patterson


The (former) Pedestrian Malls of Illinois

A year ago. I was starting my Capstone (thesis) for a masters in urban planning & real estate development at Saint Louis University. My focus, I decided, would be on pedestrian malls – once open streets permanently closed to vehicular traffic.

Last fall I documented roughly 160 such malls built in North America between 1959-1984. Documenting the year removed, if so, proved far more difficult than I thought. The Capstone remains unfinished.

On Friday, while driving to Chicago, I realized I should narrow my focus to the ten former pedestrian malls in the state of Illinois. A manageable number where I could collect and examine data.

Neil Street, Champaign IL
ABOVE: Neil Street in Champaign IL was once a dead pedestrian mall

So far I’ve visited Chicago (State Street), Elgin, Freeport, Rockford, Danville, Champaign, and Decatur. Last night stayed in Springfield and I’m checking out their former pedestrian mall this morning. I skipped Oak Park (inner ring Chicago suburb) because I visited there l last year. That leaves only Centrallia left to visit after today.

In visiting each of these I was amazed at how different each town is today. Big & small, college & industrial, rich & poor. Besides the failed pedestrian mall experiment, each town looks to have been repeatedly raped by urban planners, civil engineers and architects.

– Steve Patterson

[Note: This post was written on my iPad with a photo from my iPhone. Not all editing features are easily available, but I hope to produce more posts this way.]


North America cities that have (or had) a pedestrian mall

Friday I asked for help with information on 60 former pedestrian malls (see post).  Readers responded with helpful information.  Today I’m sharing my complete list of cities that have or had a pedestrian mall built during the period 1959-1984.   A few cities are listed twice because they had two pedestrian malls.

For my purposes a pedestrian mall is the at least partial closure of a commercial street to vehicles.  The “semi” mall permitted traffic but on-street parking was significantly reduced or eliminated.  Most were in the downtown area but in larger cities they could be found on neighborhood commercial streets such as St. Louis’ North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall (currently being removed).

I now have 134 malls in 136 towns and cities.  A couple of sources I have made reference to (nearly/almost/over) 200 malls built.   These sources never document this 200 number.  So part of my research is simply to verify how many malls were actually built during this 25-year period.

Here is the list in alphabetical order by city name (italics = removed; bold = intact; red= need more info)

  1. Allentown Pennsylvania
  2. Ann Arbor Michigan
  3. Ashtabula Ohio
  4. Atchison Kansas
  5. Atlantic City New Jersey
  6. Auburn New York
  7. Baltimore Maryland
  8. Baltimore Maryland
  9. Battle Creek Michigan
  10. Boston Massachusetts
  11. Boulder Colorado
  12. Buffalo New York
  13. Burbank California
  14. Burlington Vermont
  15. Burlington Iowa
  16. Calgary Alberta
  17. Cape May New Jersey
  18. Centrallia Illinois
  19. Champaign Illinois
  20. Charlottesville Virginia
  21. Chicago Illinois
  22. Coos Bay Oregon
  23. Cumberland Maryland
  24. Dallas Texas
  25. Dallas Texas
  26. Danville Illinois
  27. Decatur Illinois
  28. Denver Colorado
  29. Des Moines Iowa
  30. Dubuque Iowa
  31. East Lansing Michigan
  32. Elgin Illinois
  33. Erie Pennsylvania
  34. Eugene Oregon
  35. Evansville Indiana
  36. Fargo North Dakota
  37. Fayetteville North Carolina
  38. Fort Lauderdale Florida
  39. Frankfort Kentucky
  40. Freeport New York
  41. Freeport Illinois
  42. Fresno California
  43. Galveston Texas
  44. Greenville South Carolina
  45. Greenville North Carolina
  46. Hallifax Nova Scotia
  47. Hartford Connecticut
  48. Helena Montana
  49. Honolulu Hawaii
  50. Iowa City Iowa
  51. Ithaca New York
  52. Jackson Michigan
  53. Kalamazoo Michigan
  54. Kansas City Kansas
  55. Knoxville Tennessee
  56. Lake Charles Louisiana
  57. Lansing Michigan
  58. Las Cruces New Mexico
  59. Las Vegas Nevada
  60. Lebanon New Hampshire
  61. Lincoln Nebraska
  62. Little Rock Arkansas
  63. Louisville Kentucky
  64. Madison Wisconsin
  65. Memphis Tennessee
  66. Miami Beach Florida
  67. Michigan City Indiana
  68. Middletown Ohio
  69. Milwaukee Wisconsin
  70. Minneapolis Minnesota
  71. Monroe North Carolina
  72. Muncie Indiana
  73. Napa California
  74. New Bedford Massachusetts
  75. New London Connecticut
  76. New Orleans Louisiana
  77. New Orleans Louisiana
  78. New York City (Brooklyn) New York
  79. Newburyport Massachusetts
  80. Oak Park Illinois
  81. Ottawa Ontario
  82. Oxnard California
  83. Painesville Ohio
  84. Palm Beach Florida
  85. Parsons Kansas
  86. Paterson New Jersey
  87. Philadelphia Pennsylvania
  88. Philadelphia Pennsylvania
  89. Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
  90. Pomona California
  91. Portland Maine
  92. Portland Oregon
  93. Pottsville Pennsylvania
  94. Poughkeepsie New York
  95. Providence Rhode Island
  96. Quebec City Quebec
  97. Reading Pennsylvania
  98. Redding California
  99. Redlands California
  100. Richmond Indiana
  101. Riverside California
  102. Rock Hill South Carolina
  103. Rockford Illinois
  104. Sacramento California
  105. Saint Charles Missouri
  106. Saint Louis Missouri
  107. Salem Massachusetts
  108. Salisbury Maryland
  109. Santa Cruz California
  110. Santa Monica California
  111. Schenectady New York
  112. Scranton Pennsylvania
  113. Seattle Washington
  114. Sheboygan Wisconsin
  115. Sioux Falls South Dakota
  116. Spartanburg South Carolina
  117. Springfield Missouri
  118. Springfield Illinois
  119. St. Cloud Minnesota
  120. St. Joseph Missouri
  121. Tacoma Washington
  122. Tampa Florida
  123. Toccoa Georgia
  124. Toronto Ontario
  125. Trenton New Jersey
  126. Tulsa Oklahoma
  127. Vancouver British Columbia
  128. Vicksburg Mississippi
  129. Washington District of Columbia
  130. West Chester Pennsylvania
  131. Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania
  132. Williamsport Pennsylvania
  133. Wilmington Delaware
  134. Winona Minnesota
  135. Winston-Salem North Carolina
  136. Youngstown Ohio

I believe most, if not all, of those listed in red have been removed with the street re-opened to traffic.  I may just need the year it was reopened.    I have no doubt that over 200 were proposed.  Built?  At this point I don’t think so. If you know of others that are not on this list please share.

Some cities, such as my home town of Oklahoma City, built pedestrian malls after 1984.  These tended to be very different.  In the case of Oklahoma City they dug out a street in their old warehouse district to create a canal.

– Steve Patterson


My Time in Old North St. Louis

In the Spring of 1991, at age 24, I moved to a 3-room flat on Sullivan Street.  It was quite a change from my first St. Louis apartment on Lindell.

14xx Sullivan, May 1991
14xx Sullivan, May 1991

My place was the one with the green shutters over the front door/transom (right edge). The four unit building didn’t have indoor plumbing when first built — my tiny bathroom had been built into a corner of the middle room.  The only sink was in the kitchen.  My rent in 1991 was $50/month, a fraction of the $330/month of the studio on Linedell.

N. Market Street, March 1991

In those days I’d talk with many neighbors after arson fires.  These fires were numerous too.  I’d go out later to check out another building lost to fire.

location unknown, 1991

There were so many I don’t recall where they all were.  I’m not sure about the one above.  Hopefully someone can identify this building location from the contextual image below:

The myriad of issues that have faced this neighborhood has always fascinated me.  Population decline, loss of the middle class, highway construction, the Model Cities program, and the 14th Street Pedestrian Mall:

Vacant parking lot for 14th Street Mall, 1991
Parking lot for 14th Street Mall, 1991

Through all the negatives there were many brights spots: great neighbors, Marx Hardware and, of course, Crown Candy Kitchen:

I haven’t lived in Old North St. Louis in over 15 years but it occupies a special place in my heart.  Much has changed from the three years I was a resident.  More of the old building fabric has been lost but more has been renovated and more built new.  Very soon the North 14th Street Mall will again become just North 14th Street again — the first time in over 30 years.

My Capstone (thesis) for my Masters degree in urban planning will be titled The Pedestrian Mall as a Revitalization Strategy.  The North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall, that I first saw 19 years ago, will serve as the primary case study in my research.

– Steve Patterson


City’s First LEED-Platinum Building Hosts SLU Environmental Planning Class

Last night our Environmental Planning course, taught by Dr. Sarah Coffin, met not at our usual classroom at Saint Louis University but at the new offices of the William A. Kerr Foundation on the north Riverfront. Never heard of the Kerr Foundation? Well, you are not alone. Kerr had set up a foundation so that after he died family members would help give away his money for good causes. Two brothers, nephews of Kerr, are responsible for the foundation. One lives in California and helps distribute the money there while the other, Dr. John Sweet, lives here in St. Louis and naturally he supports causes here.

I don’t have the exact mission of the foundation but local community support and education are key components. Dr. Sweet brings a strong environmental ethic to this job — a position that brought him out of retirement. Sweet is an avid bicyclist which is how we first met, I am fortunate to be able to call him a personal friend. Sweet, through this foundation, has given money to many groups throughout the region. Now keep in mind that they don’t have the tens of millions (or even hundreds of millions) that many foundations do. Still, to some organizations doing good work, even a few thousand dollars here and there can have a huge impact.

So a few years ago Sweet decided the foundation would buy an old building on the north riverfront area, near the entrance to the bike trail. I toured the building with Sweet prior to the start of any construction and I can tell you it was pretty well deteriorated. A former 19th century bath house turned food processing facility, it had had a rough life. Today the building has undergone a $2 million dollar renovation and has been approved as the first LEED-Platinum building in the City of St. Louis.


OK, from this view it doesn’t look like much. The more interesting section is up the hill to the left, which I failed to get a good picture of! As part of the LEED process you try to minimize waste & improve efficiency so I would image that is why we still see former windows blocked up. While the foundation does not need this much space for their office, they are allowing non-profit groups to use the facility for educational purposes, including meetings.

Inside it looks pretty conventional. But items such as a dimmable florescent lighting, non-VOC paint, recycled newspaper insulation, carpet made from recycled materials, kitchen cabinets from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and so on are certainly non-conventional. Getting natural light into the building to reduce lighting loads, which increase air conditioning loads, was important.


A glass floor in the main area helps get natural light to a lower level, shown here looking back up.


Six reasonably conventional solar tubes on the roof help take natural light down to another lower level that was formerly completely dark without artificial lighting. Here a framework is used to protect the tops of the tubes — glass tops help these serve as outdoor tables for rooftop events. The decking is the well-known TREX material which is easily available.


Except for the deck areas, the roof is a green roof — covered in drought tolerant materials. These were recently set in place so they’ve yet to fill in but they are expected to expand and disguise their containers. To the left is an exterior elevator for full access to the roof. Not visible are solar panels facing the south, mounted on a pitched section of roof.  The north riverfront trail is just beyond the flood wall seen in the background.  That body of water, for those of you that don’t see it often enough, would be the Mississippi River.  


Set on a deep base in the tiny sliver of ground to the north of the building is the first wind turbine in the City of St. Louis. On the tour we checked out the controllers that help invert the power from this and the solar panels so that it can be sold back and added to the grid. The wall of devices, meters and switches looked like something out of Frankenstein’s laboratory. Sweet says he still buys electricity but feels that it is reduced through the use of solar and wind energy. Obviously a wind turbine is not something Joe homeowner can run out and purchase. Nor can developers likely recover such costs either although as such technology becomes more commonplace we will certainly see prices drop.


Above and left is the Laclede Power Building, owned by Trailnet, may soon be renovated.  At first glance you might think it is derelict and abandoned and a candidate for demolition.  However, Trailnet has worked hard to keep the building intact by doing major stabilization work such as exterior tuckpointing and a new roof.  While it is currently rough around the edges, the Laclede Power Building will be reborn in the future and will serve many generations of St. Louisans.   Spending money on stabilization is often a far better investment than simply razing a building to create ever more vacant land.  And yes, John Sweet’s foundation helped fund the stabilization and environmental remediation that took place.

Another building in the area I am hugely fascinated with is this old warehouse. A group of investors owns this building and quite a bit of land around it.  I can picture a whole new neighborhood of mixed-use buildings built around those that remain.  A short walk to the south, through the Laclede’s Landing casino district, and you are at the MetroLink light rail station.  I would love to live in this building!  Note to self, call the one investor you know and see where they are with this project.

Following the tour our class met in the main space of the foundation’s building for actual lecture and discussion.  One person we learned about was Garrett Hardin who, in 1968, wrote a still controversial paper, The Tragedy of the Commons.  The basic premise being that selfish individual interests can end up destroying the common good — fishermen that over fish an area can ruin the fishing not only for themselves but others as well.  We didn’t get into his views on human overpopulation as well as he and his wife’s belief in choosing when to die — they committed suicide together in 2003 — both were in their 80s. 

We also looked at the writings from the late Rachel Carson.  Carson was a marine biologist and her writings on the impact of DDT on bird populations helped ban the use of the pesticide in the US.  Monsanto apparently still makes DDT for use on crops in countries like Mexico.  Some consider Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, a significant part of the birth of the environmental movement that led to the first earth day in 1970 as well as major environmental laws enacted during the Nixon administration. 

We reviewed/discussed many more topics in class, too numerous to outline all here.   Post class I scootered around a bit and got a few more photos. 


The  Kerr foundation is in the foreground at right.  This is technically still an alley although it is not really paved.  The building I am madly in love with stands proud in the background. 


The sunset, like the weather, was quite nice yesterday.  This electric substation brings home the point about what it takes to power our lives, including the Mac I type this on now.  I want to thank Dr. John Sweet for creating a wonderful demonstration project to help educate and prompt us to think about our decisions about building materials and energy use.