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Banners Have Gone Too Far

All over the city, especially downtown, you see banners for new condos and lofts. Long vacant buildings have massive colorful banners announcing the project and where to find more sales information. These are a great visual way to communicate that something is happening in these buildings. Visitors to our city can quickly see St. Louis is rockin. The banners, thankfully, are just temporary until the building is finished.

What about when the banner is not promoting a project but is purely advertising?

mikeshannons.jpgThis weekend I spotted these colorful banners on the Market Street side of Mike Shannon’s new location. At first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and had to loop back around to make sure I was seeing this correct. Yes, there in big letters was advertising for AT&T and Cingular Wireless. How tragic.

I’m not a fan of sterile streets. I like activity, color, lights and such. I’m also more inclined toward advertising for the business located in the building rather than a building owner selling their wall for advertising. I’m not a fan of vinyl banners.

A century ago we saw large sides of buildings painted with advertising, sometimes for the business in that building and sometimes not. Today those old signs are regarded as charming and actually helpful in identifying historical information. While I’m not advocating Mike Shannon’s paint advertising for AT&T on their building I do see a difference. The painting was semi-permanent and a testament to how long the business was expected to be around. Vinyl banners look cheap because they are cheap. The look temporary because they are. But how temporary?

Will Mike Shannon’s keep this banner up until AT&T changes their name again? Maybe until they find someone else that wants to sponsor their North wall? Are vinyl banners to become a common sight on buildings all over the city? I certainly hope not!

I scanned the City’s Comprehensive Sign Control Regulations but it wasn’t readily clear to me if the banner at Mike Shannon’s is in violation or not. Mike Shannon’s did an outstanding job on the renovation of the building with its large windows and attractive patio. Pity they felt it necessary to ruin the look as they have.

– Steve


Local Stores Offer More Humor Than Chains

February 24, 2006 Local Business, Travel Comments Off on Local Stores Offer More Humor Than Chains

CityMarket.jpgSeattle’s City Market store offers a humorous take on current affairs to attract customers. A friend of mine sent me this image he took while walking home from work the other day. Apparently this local market is known for its signs. My friend wrote in his email:

These are the folks that brought us “The Passion of the Sandwich” and “Salvador Deli”

Humor is one of the things seldom expected from big national chain stores or even regional chains but is often the hallmark of the business owner behind the counter at a locally owned business. Yet one more reason to skip the chains.

– Steve


The Gelateria Rivals City Grocers for Most Significant DT Neighborhood Contribution

February 22, 2006 Downtown, Local Business 23 Comments

After speaking to a class at Webster’s Old Post Office campus last night I headed over to meet a friend at The Gelateria for what else — gelato! A steady stream of customers came in and out during the nearly two hours we hung out. Finally around 9pm I decided it was time to scoot home.

Today I’m back at The Gelateria having a beverage while checking email and updating my site (yes, they are a free wi-fi hotspot). With weekend hours until midnight they are the late night destination place downtown.

At the end of 2004 I proclaimed City Grocers the best new thing:

A grocery store as the best of 2004? YES! Nothing else will have such an impact on the future of downtown as a grocery store. Schnuck’s Markets development arm, Desco, is busy razing the Century Building for a f*cking parking garage – they can’t be bothered with serving the real needs of downtown. But, local developer Craig Heller and grocer Rance Baker decided to fill the void by opening City Grocers in the ground floor of Heller’s Bell Lofts. Heller, Baker and the staff of City Grocers are the urban heros of 2004!

While City Grocers’ role is not diminished by the new kid downtown they are challenged for the title of most significant neighborhood contribution. I’ll call it a tie for now. However, Joe Edwards’ bowling alley, Flamingo Bowl, may be the new king when it opens this summer.

If you haven’t checked out the grocery selection at City Grocers or the hazelnut gelato at The Gelateria you are missing out.

– Steve

[UPDATE 2/23/06 @ 12:30pm – Changed headline from “…most significant downtown business” to “…most significant DT neighborhood business.” This should help clarify that I am talking about businesses that contribute to the feel of a neigbhorhood and not a 9-5 CBD. Nobody decides to spend a Saturday downtown due to ATT/SBC (unless they are putting in OT). – SLP]


Moseley To Open Cinema Downtown

February 22, 2006 Downtown, Local Business 23 Comments

The Post-Dispatch’s Deb Peterson is reporting local theatre owner Harmon Moseley will open a theatre in part of the Jefferson Arms. For those that have lived here a while you’ll recall the various attempts to have a theatre downtown — behind the train shed turned parking lot at Union Station.

The lame idea that people would drive to Union Station to see a film was absurd. Of course they hoped people would take in dinner while they were there. Well, they thought wrong. Destination places tend to do well as long as they are the new & hot destination.

A theatre will do great at Jefferson Arms. Not so much because of the building (although it is interesting) but because of the location on Tucker at Locust. With the many downtown residents and the many more of us that like to visit friends downtown I can see it staying busy.

Moseley says he wants to “raise the bar” in St. Louis by including a full bar. Great idea as some recent movies require a good stiff drink to deal with the poor script and lackluster performances. They cannot all be Brokeback Mountain.

Now for a mini-rant…

In the last five years we’ve witnessed a virtually empty downtown transform into an interesting downtown. We are a long way from being 24/7 but each new enterprise helps. A neighborhood needs all those places necessary for daily life. A theatre isn’t exactly a necessity but I can’t imagine doing without the option.

Downtown leaders need to be marketing the businesses that have opened. They are doing a poor job.

For example, take the Explore St. Louis site from the Regional Commerce & Growth Association (RCGA). They list the following neighborhoods in St. Louis: Laclede’s Landing, The Ville, Lafayette Square, Soulard, South Grand, The Hill. Uh, hello, Downtown!!! You know, the place where your offices are and where we have this white elephant convention center and near bankrupt convention hotel.

The Loop does well because of the efforts of Joe Edwards and other merchants. They have no bureaucratic entity like the Downtown Partnership or Downtown Now to deal with. They get organize, decide what they are going to do and then do it. We kinda have that downtown already with the developers bringing in new business owners. Do we need the Partnership?

Maybe some of our independent filmmakers in town can put together a documentary on the politics behind the razing of the Century Building. Wouldn’t that make an interesting opening film in the Jefferson Arms?

– Steve


Copia’s Valet Parking Negating New On-Street Parking

As a follow up to my post from earlier today I ventured down to Washington Avenue to check out the parking situation on a Saturday night. Although parking is now permitted on two additional blocks (10th to Tucker) you wouldn’t know it based on the parked cars.

The block between 10th and 11th is full from end to end, a very good sign. It looks so much better it is a pity we’ve gone this long without it. But the block between 11th and Tucker is another story.

Copia Urban Winery at 1122 Washington Avenue is consuming entirely too much of the 1100 block with their valet parking. How much is too much?

Try 288 feet! (I carry a measuring wheel in my car for such purposes.)

Copia, located about the mid-point of the block, is 75 feet wide (per tax records). So they are taking away 213 feet of parking from adjacent buildings. A little greedy don’t you think?

Now I’m not going to tell any high-end restaurant they can’t have valet parking. That is a necessary function to please their clientele. However a number of their own customers could park on the same street if they didn’t block it off with their orange cones.

I looked through St. Louis’ ordinances online and didn’t turn up any laws regulating valet parking. The City of Clayton, however, has a reasonably defined law (no direct link, search for ‘valet’). They require a license and the city determines the amount of space the valet is allowed to occupy.

St. Louis needs to address the valet parking situation or we risk stagnating the very area we are trying to enliven. You don’t need nearly 300 feet of road to provide adequate valet parking service for a restaurant the size of Copia.

Back to Clayton, I’ve seen restaurant valets occupy at most two parking sapces — roughly 40-45ft. If we were generous and gave Copia 60 feet of space they should be able to provide for their customers without blocking traffic. Although if someone ends up waiting in a lane for a minute or two it won’t be the end of the world. The street is 50 feet wide at that point (yes, I measured that too) so someone could easily go around.

At the most Copia should be restricted to the width of their building. They have no need to take away spaces that could be used by adjacent store fronts or visitors to residential units above. As additional businesses open in the area it will simply be unfair for one business to consume so much of the on-street parking spaces.

Where are Tom Reeves & Jim Cloar on this one? My guess is inside Copia…

– Steve