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On-Street Parking on Washington Avenue — Finally!

Yes folks, we finally have on-street parking along a two-block stretch of Washington Avenue — from 10th to Tucker (aka 12th). Thanks to Ecology of Absence for the heads up on the change. Before we get into the new changes I want to give you some background.

Getting on-street parking has been a topic of mine for sometime now, it first came up on December 29, 2004 when I was reviewing the recently completed streetscape improvements in the area. On that post I wrote:

Downtown Now’s Tom Reeves was quoted in a St. Louis Business Journal story about the improvements:

“The idea is to make a safe, pedestrian-friendly environment so we can have tourists, convention goers, residents and business people all walking up and down the street,” he said. “That’s going to lead to a lot of new retail business.”

Sorry Tom, despite the attractive benches, street trees and brick pavers this area will not be as pedestrian-friendly as hoped.

Why you ask?

Lack of on-street parking.

Someone made the foolish decision to not have parking on Washington Avenue East of Tucker. This decision is going to have a negative impact on the friendliness of the street by having four lanes of fast moving traffic going by you.

The street will seem dead – parked cars have an amazing ability to indicate that something is going on. Can you imagine sitting on one of those benches near the curb line knowing cars, SUVs & buses are going to be whizzing by just a few feet away? Not me!

As a result, these blocks will not be as successful as the blocks to the West. Just imagine the Loop without on-street parking and four lanes of traffic. Yes, you could get through during rush hour much easier but that shouldn’t be the goal. Think of Euclid without street parking – it would be boring and lifeless.

Expecting to have a successful urban retail street without on-street parking is simply naive. Sure, Chicago’s Michigan Avenue doesn’t have on-street parking but it is an exception rather than the rule. This is so basic a principle it makes me continue to wonder if anyone at City Hall or Downtown Now get what urban life is all about.

This is likely the fault of city traffic engineers or perhaps Downtown Now. Could just be a lack of thought – these blocks didn’t have on-street parking before the improvements. Maybe it was just assumed the parking & traffic lanes would be the same? However it came to be, it is unfortunate. Traffic moving faster is always contrary to pedestrian-friendly.

The good news is this is reversible. Re-stripe the street and install some parking meters and the life of the street will improve dramatically. Plus, this reduces the need for ugly parking lots and garages. But, I’m not optimistic the city will wake up and realize the folly of this mistake.
I revisited the issue again on July 1, 2005 in a post called ‘East Washington Avenue: To Park or Not To Park?’

This evening on the way to the First Friday Gallery and Design Walk downtown I couldn’t help but notice cars parked on Washington Avenue East of Tucker. This is special because the street has neither parking meters or no-parking signs. So is it allowed or not? I was excited to see people parking along this stretch of Washington Avenue. It looked and felt so much better. But later what did I spot attached to the lamp posts with string? No-parking signs. At some point after 6:30pm the city came by and attached temporary “no-parking tow away zone signs.” They weren’t ticketing or towing. They were simply trying to keep the area lifeless and sterile.

Five months had passed without any indication of parking being allowed or not allowed. So people started parking on the street when visiting restaurants or galleries. Realizing the error of not blocking parking the city put up paper signs until they could get permanent signs in place to prohibit parking. This was all very deliberate and poorly executed. Two days after this post the Mayor’s blog announced a downtown traffic & parking study.

On July 15, 2005 the issue came up again:

Today Downtown St. Louis Partnership President Jim Cloar included the following in his weekly notes to members:Curb-side parking is prohibited along Washington Avenue east of Tucker. Some “entrepreneurial” motorists realized that “No Parking” signs had not been installed and have been camping out all day, playing havoc with buses, delivery trucks and traffic in general. That has been corrected and tickets will be issued going forward.

The stupidity of his statement is so infuriating. Where does one begin?

I concluded the post stating, “We must rescue our streets from the very organization that is charged with promoting downtown!”

I quickly did a couple more posts on the subject in the following days. On July 17, 2005 I posted an online poll and on July 18, 2005 I posted findings from an informal traffic count.

My most recent post on the subject was this past December in reviewing the draft traffic/parking study:

While they say that on-street parking has not been ruled out I’m suspicious. They hinted at allowing parking except during peak hours. I pointed out after the meeting to Doug Shatto [study consultant] how KitchenK will not use their sidewalk cafe license until they have a row of parked cars to make sidewalk dining more hospitable to their patrons. I also pointed out that Copia is allowed to take a traffic lane for valet parking. If we can take a lane for a valet we can certainly take the balance of the lane for parking as the flow is already restricted. I still want to see on-street parking all the way from Tucker to at least Broadway.

While I was rightfully suspicious in December it also seemed pretty clear that many folks living and working in the area that on-street parking was going to be necessary to continue the vibrant street life we see west of Tucker to the blocks east of Tucker. In between posts I talked up the issue to as many people as possible, including those that might be able to have some influence such as developers Kevin McGowan, Matt O’Leary and Craig Heller. I already knew the city’s Planning & Urban Design director, Rollin Stanley, would be supportive of on-street parking. I just wasn’t sure if he’d be able to charm his political colleagues enough to get them to concede on this issue.

Not sure what finally tipped the scales but this week signs permitting on-street parking were installed.
… Continue Reading


A Fun Time Was Had By All

Tonight’s ‘The Walk’ in The Ville neighborhood was a fun time. I only made it to the first two places before having to return home. Us newcomers were very welcomed by the usual patrons. The bar owners were very happy to have new customers. I enjoyed spending time hanging out away from my usual places.

Leading the walk was stlsyndicate “kingpin” Brian Marston. Brian’s wife Amanda Doyle managed to beat me at a game of darts but on the next game I did better than her but I was beat by 6 points by a guy named Tony. So close… Brian & Amanda publish The Commonspace website and blog. Other bloggers included Rick Bonasch of STL Rising and Antonio French of PubDef Weekly.

The second stop, the Harlem Tap Room, was established in 1946! That is history folks! The place was also packed. I nice place to stop and have a drink. Despite the devastation in much of this area along Martin Luther King Drive a strong community does exist. The time is now to build upon what remains — not displace — just add to.

Our region can no longer ignore half the city.

– Steve


Belleville’s Liese Lumber Using Biodiesel in Delivery Trucks

Local lumberyard Liese Lumber has taken a bold & progressive step — it is now running it’s 14 delivery trucks on 11% biodiesel. I spoke with owner Tom Lippert by phone today and he said the reasons were twofold. First, the cost of the fuel is less than regular diesel (the soybean-based biodiesel is subsidized by the state of Illinois). The second reason is his staff saves time by not going to filling stations — they have the biodiesel fuel delivered to them and kept in a storage tank. They’ve been running the biodiesel since July 2005.

Liese Lumber has two locations in Belleville IL, one at 319 E. Main and another at 2200 S. Belt. Liese Lumber mainly services contractors but they are also open for consumer business. But their hours of 7am to 5pm Monday — Friday are not consumer friendly.

Thankfully the biodiesel in their trucks is friendly both to the environment, helps local soybean farmers and helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Congrats to Liese Lumber for taking this important first step.

Next time I’m buying something from a company that will need to be delivered I’m going to ask if they use biodiesel in their delivery trucks. The more we ask the more we can impact our own future.

– Steve


‘BEHOLDER’ Is Interesting Story of Power & Corruption

January 18, 2006 Local Business, Politics/Policy, Religion Comments Off on ‘BEHOLDER’ Is Interesting Story of Power & Corruption

Recently I watched a new independent film, Heart of the Beholder: This American Dream Became a Holy Nightmare. It is the tale of a family that owned a chain of video stores that refused to remove certain films deemed indecent by a small by powerful group of zealots. These zealots blackmail a prosecutor into closing down the video stores, ruining the lives of this family. In the end the prosecutor gets his just rewards. It is an interesting story that everyone should see, especially those living in St. Louis.

I had not lived in St. Louis long when the story of St. Louis Circuit Attorney George Peach being arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer. That was in 1992. Yes, this movie is based on events that happened here in the St. Louis area in the 1980s and early 1990s.

First I want to say the picture is not anti-religious. In does not make light of or disparage Christians but does look at those who are a bit too self-righteous.

One of the movies the group picketing the video stores wanted to remove is one of my all-time favorites, Blazing Saddles. Mel Brooks’ movies are many things but they are not morally offensive.

The movie is not being shown in theaters because they are having a hard time getting a distribution deal. I leant my copy to a friend and she watched it twice just to pick up all the details. You can order a copy by clicking on the image at right.

– Steve


Belas Artes Latest Business in McKinley Heights

Many of you are probably familiar with the former Marty’s Baking at Russell and Mississippi in the near south side neighborhood of McKinley Heights. Like the various places before Marty’s, I felt it was too small of a space and not open enough to the sidewalk.

In place of the old Marty’s is the refreshing Belas Artes, a self-described “urban oasis.” For me it is a very pleasing and open storefront design, good beverages, an interesting lunch menu (warm Apple & Brie sandwich w/small house salad for $4.50!) and another place to sit with my Mac and work.

Of note is the new bike rack located out front. It is not my favorite design but it is certainly not the worst on the market. I appreciate the consideration for cyclists and wish more businesses would do the same.

For another take on Belas Artes check out the new healthy food blog for St. Louis called, the Curious Kitchen. The author, Lois Brady, is a close personal friend and believe me she knows healthy food. I was lucky enough to have some of her vegetarian Hoppin John last night.

Just up Mississippi from Belas Artes (@ Geyer) is another locally owned business, Four Muddy Paws. If you have a dog or cat forget about the big chain stores for your pet supplies or grooming. This store operates in another old corner storefront. Owners Matt & Jeff have done a great job with the color scheme on the exterior, the window displays and the merchandising. They are also carrying some really nifty pet journals, called My Furry Tales, written by another good friend.

Across Mississippi from Four Muddy Paws another mixed use building is being renovated. As places like Lafayette Square and Soulard become both fully occupied and higher in price we’ll begin to see other areas benefit from the interest in living an urban lifestyle. McKinley Heights is very convenient and just a short walk over I-44 to Lafayette Square.

While you are looking for a home in the neighborhood be sure to stop and support the local businesses that are making a difference.

– Steve