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Forget Smelling Roses, I Stop To Take Pictures Along The Way

Leaving the Missouri History Museum the other night I just had to stop and snap a few pictures. Here was the best one.

The Missouri History Museum
The Missouri History Museum

It was a beautiful evening, almost chilly out — in August!  Have a great weekend everyone.

— Steve Patterson



Gateway Mall Still Unloved, Conservancy Resigned, Advisory Board Kept In Dark

Just a few years ago I was optimistic about the future of the Gateway Mall, the linear park north of Market Street, stretching from Broadway to just past 20th Street. The Gateway Mall Master Plan had been adopted by the city. The Gateway Mall Advisory Board was established to ensure proposed projects met the master plan. A separate, non-profit, group, the Gateway Mall Conservancy, was formed to raise private money to implement the plan.

Peter Fischer, the man behind Citygarden via the Gateway Foundation, headed the Gateway Mall Conservancy and had a seat on the Gateway Mall Advisory Board.  Another member of the Conservancy was Emily Pulitzer. Between Fischer & Pulitzer I thought they’d be able to raise the money needed to continue work on more blocks of the park.

From a press release from Mayor Slay:

March 12, 2010 – Mayor Francis Slay convened the first meeting of the newly formed Gateway Mall Conservancy Board yesterday. The purpose of the Board is to facilitate the planning, design, funding and execution efforts for the entire Gateway Mall, which runs from the Old Courthouse west to past Union Station.

The Gateway Mall Master Plan, formally adopted by the City of St. Louis in July of last year, provides the City with a comprehensive vision for transforming downtown’s central park into an outstanding open space. Building on this long-range vision, the Plan creates an overall framework to guide future individual proposals within the Mall.

“This is an important step in building on the momentum created by the opening of Citygarden last summer,” Slay said. “This Board is made up of individuals who can provide executive, civic, and fundraising energy and leadership. They each have already contributed to our community in so many ways.”

Named to the Gateway Mall Conservancy Board were Peter Fischer, Gateway Foundation; Robert Archibald, Missouri Historical Society; Steve Cousins, Armstrong Teasdale LLP; John Ferring, Plaze, Inc.; David Mesker, retired, A.G. Edwards; Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts; Kitty Ratcliffe, St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission; Henry S. Webber, Washington University; Josephine Weil, Community Volunteer; and Patricia Roland-Hamilton as Executive Director.

Also announced today was the formation of the Gateway Mall Advisory Board, a group of stakeholders responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Gateway Mall Master Plan and providing ongoing community input about the Gateway Mall. Its composition and responsibilities are outlined by City ordinance.

Its role is to oversee and review compliance with the Plan and provide review of proposed modifications to the Plan. Members of the Board constitute a part of the public review process and have the authority to conduct a public review of any proposed expansion, modification, replacement, relocation, adaptive re-use, or removal of existing roads, paths, parking lots, recreation areas or natural areas.

“It’s critical to ensure we adhere to the vision set forth in the Master Plan,” said Gary Bess, the City’s Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry. “We will look to this group to assist us in doing so.”  (Press Release PDF)

I was among those appointed to the Gateway Mall Advisory Board, rather than just be a critic on the outside I had an appointed seat at the table.

But there were early signs it wouldn’t last. Peter Fischer wouldn’t authorize the funds to renew the domain GatewayMall.org, so the initial website disappeared. Executive Director Tricia Roland-Hamilton’s email address, peroland@gatewaymall.org, ceased working when the domain shut down. She then had to use her personal email account. So much for having a place to let citizens understand what this appointed body was doing.

Summer view of Kiener Plaza, concept approved by the Gateway Mall Advisory Board in January 2011
Summer view of Kiener Plaza, concept approved by the Gateway Mall Advisory Board in January 2011

We rejected one proposal in 2012 and in 2011 gave preliminary approval to changes to Kiener Plaza:

Andy [Trivers] then introduced guests Donald Stastny and Nate Trevethan. Nate, representing Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, presented the vision for Kiener Plaza, as prepared as part of the entire Arch grounds project. Donald and Nate also used models to present the preliminary vision to the Board.

The initial vision calls for removal of the amphitheater, the addition of a Beer Garden and Café, a Pavilion, Playground and Carousel. The schematic design also calls for the continuance of the “Hallway” along the northern edge of Market Street, special lighting, and an event lawn.

This presentation is the initial step in the Project Approval Process for privately funded projects within the Gateway Mall. On a motion by Byron Marshall and seconded by Jack Reis, the Board approved the preliminary prospectus. (Gateway Mall Advisory Board minutes from January 26, 2011)

Because Kiener Plaza was part of the master plan we had to look at proposals for change.  At the time we expected to see more detailed drawings in the future, but we never did. Apparently, as I just recently learned, the ordinance authorizing the tax vote also removed Kiener Plaza from the master plan.

Here’s an email message I received from Parks director Gary Bess after I began asking questions:

As most media outlets have reported, Kiener has been included in the City Arch River Project   This point has also been included in public meetings regarding the project   When the ordinance was passed authorizing the CAR project/tax, Kiener was dropped from the Gateway Mall Plan and included in CAR  We were informed in February that in light of the above change the Conservancy was transferring all previous design work to CityArchRiver further indicating that the Conservancy  believed it has done all it could do to move the Kiener project forward and felt others could help in moving the the implementation of the master plan West of Tucker forward and resigned

Assumed you knew about Kiener’s inclusion in the CAR project based upon media and public meeting  The Conservancy is a private not for profit and chose not to publicly announce their resignations  i respect this decision    The City will look for new options on private funding for the Mall project West of Tucker.  The good news of course is projects East of Tucker are complete and/or funded.
I know of no funding to renovate this block or 2 others east of Tucker.
I know of no funding to renovate this block or 2 others east of Tucker.

I’m disappointed and angry — mostly at myself for thinking somehow this would be different than previous plans. I’m angry at Peter Fisher for turning down a skate park west of Tucker because it wasn’t dignified enough for his sensibilities. We could’ve had a great skate park in operation by now, but we don’t!!  I kept my mouth shut because I had a seat at the table, I was trying hard to be a good player, working within the system.

I informed the other members of the Gateway Mall Advisory Board (expired & current) of this news via email Sunday evening.

— Steve Patterson


Wildlife In Citygarden

Not sure why I’m surprised to see wildlife in the city, but I always am. Citygarden has the large white rabbit sculptures but the other night we saw a little bunny.

Walking through Citygarden the other night my boyfriend spotted a little bunny
Walking through Citygarden the other night my boyfriend spotted a little bunny
Close up of bunny
Cropped image of bunny

What wildlife have you seen in your city yard or city park that surprised you?

— Steve Patterson


Readers Mixed on How to Reduce Auto Congestion in Forest Park

A few of you have expressed that you feel the weekly poll results here are predictable. Maybe you’re more perceptive than me because I couldn’t have predicted the outcome of the poll last week.

The green Forest Park Trolley loops around in the park and stops just north of the park at the Forest Park MetroLink station
The green Forest Park Trolley loops around in the park and stops just north of the park at the Forest Park MetroLink station

Here are the final results:

Q: How should we address auto congestion in Forest Park? (Pick up to 3)

  1. Run the existing Forest Park Trolley more frequently 44 [21.57%]
  2. Build a trolley/streetcar circulator system within the park 35 [17.16%]
  3. Change nothing, fine as is 32 [15.69%]
  4. Whatever you do don’t allow overhead wires within the park 23 [11.27%]
  5. Ban cars in the park at peak times only 17 [8.33%]
  6. Charge a toll per car to drive into the park anytime 15 [7.35%]
  7. Charge a toll per car to drive into the park at peak times only 11 [5.39%]
  8. Ban cars in the park at all times 10 [4.9%]
  9. Build an elevated monorail circulator in the park 9 [4.41%]
  10. Build an electric bus circulator system within the park 7 [3.43%]
  11. Unsure 1 [0.49%]

I’m not sure how I’d feel about tracks and/or overhead wires in Forest Park, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like a monorail. I included that option as a joke, but 9 voted for it.

Thankfully banning cars all the time got less than 5% of the vote. Comments on the original post showed a variety of viewpoints. I think it is fair to say no consensus was reached, the top three answers above are pretty dissimilar.

The Zoo and the Art Museum are the two biggest generators of autos, besides special events like the Ballon Glow.  The Zoo will be moving most parking across I-64 and using a gondola to get people into an expanded zoo. The Art Museum opens a new wing this coming weekend with a below-grade parking garage:

The design organically links the East Building to the Cass Gilbert. A new grand staircase provides a seamless transition to the lower-level galleries, where a concourse leads to a new café, a gift shop, auditorium and the new 300-space parking garage. (West End Word)

Both of these efforts will help. I think we need a year or two of both changes and evaluate then. In the meantime I’d like to see the Forest Park Trolley become more BRT (bus rapid transit) like with actual stations, longer hours, notification of the next trolley bus, etc. Hybrid buses would be nice to reduce pollution.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: How Should We Address Auto Congestion In Forest Park

Last week Loop businessman & Loop Trolley backer, Joe Edwards, said he thinks we’ll eventually see cars banned in Forest Park. He’d like to see an electric powered trolley (aka vintage streetcar) on tracks circulating within the park. I know weekend traffic in the park can be so bad the #95 (Hampton) MetroBus reroutes to avoid going through the park. Cars are banned/limited at times — like the annual Ballon Glow.

Parking along park roads or in surface parking lots can be difficult at times
Parking along park roads or in surface parking lots can be difficult at times

Traffic can be obnoxious in Forest Park, ruining the pleasure of being outdoors to some. I recall flying back to St. Louis one night a few years ago and lighting in the parking lots stood out like a sore thumb in an otherwise dark park.

Currently the Forest Park Trolley does a decent job for those of us who enter the park without a car.

The green Forest Park Trolley loops around in the park and stops just north of the park at the Forest Park MetroLink station
The bright Forest Park Trolley loops around in the park and stops just north of the park at the Forest Park MetroLink station. Yes, it is a new low-floor MetroBus with a cartoonish wrap.

Still, the vast majority drive into the park rather than use public transportation. This has prompted the St. Louis Zoo to buy the former hospital site across I-64/Highway 40 for additional parking with plans for a gondola to transport patrons back and forth. By eliminating some, or all, of the surface parking between the zoo and the highway the zoo can expand to the south with more exhibits.

So what are some of the options for dealing with congestion?

  • Bans cars at peak times or all the time
  • Construction of a electric trolley on a track, as Edwards suggested
  • Construction of an electric bus system with overhead wires like the trolley but no track
  • Run the existing trolley bus more frequently

Some will object to overhead wires and/or tracks, but others object to all the cars.

So this is the poll topic this week, the exact question is: How should we address auto congestion in Forest Park? I’m allowing you to pick up to 3 choices from the list. The poll is in the right sidebar.

Please take a moment to vote in the poll then share your thoughts in the comments below.
— Steve Patterson