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Readers Supportive of Park Bond Debt

December 14, 2011 Economy, Parks, Politics/Policy 4 Comments
ABOVE: The Fox Park pavilion faces Shenandoah Ave

Last week more than half the readers that voted in the poll support the city taking on debt to fix our many parks:

Q: Do you support St. Louis selling bonds to fund park improvements?

  1. Yes, investing in our park infrastructure will help the city prosper! 52 [54.17%]
  2. No, the debt will be a burden on city revenues 21 [21.88%]
  3. Possibly 12 [12.5%]
  4. unsure/no opinion 6 [6.25%]
  5. Other: 5 [5.21%]

The other answers were:

  1. If we need bonds, then do a bond issue. Tax revenues are for ongoing revenue.
  2. like better parks. don’t like debt. hm?
  3. why not sell bonds to improve failed school district?
  4. No. there are at least a half dozen more pressing needs than park maintenance
  5. I support the bonds but agree with JZ71 – funding needs to be more distributed.

Time will tell if this was a good decision. Improved parks may make city neighborhoods more appealing, attracting residents, businesses and jobs. Increased revenues cover the debt. On the other hand service cuts might be needed in the future to deal with the debt payments. The original post had some spirited comments.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Do You Support St. Louis Selling Bonds To Fund Park Improvements?

St. Louis will be selling bonds to fund improvements to the city’s park system. From STLtoday.com on Friday:

St. Louis aldermen today overwhelmingly approved a plan to issue $64 million in bonds for city parks, with about $30 million to be spent on improvements at Forest Park.

What’s not to like about better parks?

ABOVE: Forest Park

Comptroller Darlene Green isn’t happy about the city taking on more debt:

On Thursday, Green was outvoted when two related bills authorizing the funding plan passed the city’s three-person Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which also includes Mayor Francis Slay and Aldermanic President Lewis Reed. Aldermen today approved the bills by wide margins. (article)

So St. Louis will take on more debt. In a November 30th letter to the Board of Aldermen, Comptroller Green explained her concerns about paying off the debt.

ABOVE: Gravois Park is one of 100+ parks in St. Louis

This seems like a perfect subject for a weekly poll question: Do you support St. Louis selling bonds to fund park improvements? The poll is in the right sidebar, results will be posted Wednesday December 14th.

– Steve Patterson


Reurbanizing Jefferson & Lafayette Pt 2: Foodland

ABOVE: Vacant Foodland store was built in 1984. Click to view map.

The long-vacant Foodland grocery store (1601-45 S. Jefferson) was in the news recently:

Developer Green Street Properties has filed plans with the City of St. Louis to rehab the empty 47,000 supermarket, and hopes to fill it with a smaller grocery store and other retailers. It has a contract to buy the building and hopes to start a $6.6 million first phase in the spring, with a second phase potentially to come later.

The store – just across Jefferson Ave. from Lafayette Square – has sat empty since 2004, when Foodland closed after failing to get neighborhood support for a liquor license. It had previously been a National store. Much of the surrounding neighborhood is now considered a “food desert” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for lack of grocery options. (STLtoday)

On Saturday I posted about the SE corner of Jefferson & Lafayette, how a 2007 residential & retail building is a starting point for reurbanizing this intersection. This grocery store was occupied for only 20 years (1984-2004) before being vacated 7 years ago. That’s a rather sad statement but not really surprising given how out of context it is.

This post will critique of 70s & 80s planning theory that created the existing problems. Part 3 tomorrow will look at possible solutions.

Street Grid:

The short-block walkable street grid was always decimated by development. Street closures are still common practice in St. Louis.

ABOVE: Google Maps aerial of the Foodland and Eads Park (click image for larger version)

Eads Ave east of California Ave was removed, Ohio Ave was removed from St. Vincent Ave to Henrietta Pl and Texas Ave became lost in a sea of parking. Cul-de-sacs were created for new housing built in 1979, the same year the television series Knots Landing premiered (set on a California cul-de-sac). Yes, Eads Park was created from the replatting of the land but that doesn’t justify the disruption in the grid — the connectedness of the area.


ABOVE: Since opening the message has been this is a place to be driven to, remaining disconnected from the less functional sidewalk grid

The nearby houses were only 5 years old when this grocery store opened as a National in 1984. Still, it wasn’t designed to be walked to from houses that could see the store from their windows. The single access point from Jefferson Ave is an auto drive where Eads Ave used to be located. St. Louis’ population in 1980 was 452,801 and in 1990 it was 396,685 — both significantly greater than our 2010 count of 319,294.

Today those remaining still walk to the store, but now their choices are limited to gas station convenience stores.

ABOVE: A man walks northbound in front of the closed Foodland carrying groceries from the corner convenience store
ABOVE: Two men walking under the front overhang of the store after shopping at the same convenience store.

These last two guys cut by the side of the store to go through an opening in the fence to reach the park and residences beyond.

ABOVE: The last guy walking northwest toward the neighborhood
ABOVE: Opening in fence gives pedestrians the access they need but it's hardly friendly

Lack of Connection within the development

In addition to deliberately not connecting to the city beyond the boundaries of the property even new construction isn’t connected to each other, everyone is expected to drive from place to place.

ABOVE: Looking east from the walk at the front of the store out the driveway, formerly Eads Ave

In 1991 a small retail building was built on a separate parcel to the north of the grocery (far left above). The auto access drive, once a public street, is part of the grocery property. The parcel with the retail building was likely  granted an easement to use the drive for auto access. Developed after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it has no concern for pedestrians entering from Jefferson or even the adjacent grocery store. Plenty of auto parking though.

ABOVE: Pedestrians using wheelchairs can't access the side, the only ramp provided is in the middle of the facade reached via the parking lot
ABOVE: The grocery building is very close to the retail building but in pedestrian terms it is miles away

Reaching the site

The problems aren’t limited to the site.

ABOVE: Crosswalks with pedestrian signals aren't accessible, are unfriendly even to the able-bodied

Perhaps the attitude was “why bother?” since no pedestrian route exits to the front of the buildings. It’s no surprise to me this has failed as a retail draw, urban customers must be able to reach the stores by foot as well as car.

Corner Gas Station:

The NW corner of Jefferson & Lafayette has had a gas station since  1950. The building has changed but the issues have been the same for more than six decades.

ABOVE: This is currently the neighborhood's grocery store, but it's no more walkable
ABOVE: Sidewalk and auto drives merge into one, with autos winning the territory

The pedestrian space is lost, overtaken by autos. A public library branch is across Lafayette Ave.,  in the background. Let’s get around to Lafayette Ave, the south edge of the area.

ABOVE: The former Texas Ave (left) is now a driveway into the Foodland site but it lacks sidewalks for pedestrian use

In 1998 a Holiday Inn Express was built on a separate parcel south of the still-open grocery store.

ABOVE: Pedestrian access to Lafayette Ave is provided but it's too narrow

I was barely able to get past the brick columns and I had to move a bench on the sidewalk under the canopy to be able to head toward the grocery store.

ABOVE: A connection to allow guests to walk to the grocery wasn't provided.
ABOVE: The hotel as seen from the grocery

I reviewed Historic Aerials from 1958, 1971, 1998 and later for this post.  Search for 1601 S. Jefferson 63104 to view for yourself. Tomorrow I will offer my thoughts on how Green Street Properties together with adjacent property owners and the city can connect the retail to the surroundings.

– Steve Patterson


Saturday in Fox Park

November 12, 2011 Featured, Parks, South City 12 Comments

A week ago I took the bus to Fox Park — the neighborhood and city park — to check out a community project in the park. Mark Groth (St. Louis City Talk) told me he and others on the Fox Park park committee would be planting 40 trees so I had to stop by.

The city website for the park says: “Fox Park and Playground began to be used for recreational purposes in 1917 under a permit from the Fox Brothers and was purchased in 1931.” In 1909 the land that is now the park was the lumberyard for the Fox Brother’s millwork and wagon businesses.

ABOVE: The Fox Park pavilion faces Shenandoah Ave (click image to view in Google Maps)
ABOVE: An auger made digging relatively easy
ABOVE: Placing the trees in the holes created by the auger
ABOVE: New playground equipment was recently added when the park was in the 7th ward
ABOVE: Next on the wish list is a new basketball court to replace the tired existing court
ABOVE: Only one of two rims remains but it's in sad condition
ABOVE: The west end of the park had buildings facing California Ave until recent years
ABOVE: Much work remains to address years of neglect
ABOVE: The east end of the park is leased to the Police Athletic League for a ball diamond

I really like this little neighborhood park, such a great asset  for the residents. I applaud them for putting sweat equity into the park.

– Steve Patterson


We Should Restore “Twain’s” Original Lighting Scheme (1982 Video)

September 19, 2011 Downtown, Featured, Parks 42 Comments

After my recent post on the ‘Twain’ sculpture by Richard Serra, friend and reader Matt Bauer said he was there the day of the dedication on May 1, 1982. He was just a kid then but his dad, Merrill Bauer, had a video camera. As luck would have it, Merrill Bauer already had those home movies digitized. Using Dropbox Matt was able to give me access to the 16 minute 450mb file to edit and post.  I got it down to 4:08.

Then U.S. Senator Thomas F. Eagleton (September 4, 1929 – March 4, 2007) was on hand that day. In the video you will see the original lighting that flooded the exterior of the piece as well as each opening on the interior.

I’d long wondered about lighting the piece, but wasn’t sure if the artist would approve. Thanks to this footage, that question is now answered. You will also notice the absence of current buildings to the north of the site and the presence of buildings to the east — all since razed.

Here are some still images taken from the video:

ABOVE: Original light fixtures had shields to direct light onto the art
ABOVE: Interior lighting was limited to each opening
ABOVE: Exterior lighting was extensive

My guess is the lighting became difficult to maintain and was removed. I think by the time I arrived 8 years later the lighting was gone. Imagine Citygarden without lighting.

ABOVE: lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special

Thirty years later, modern lighting technology would allow us to wash ‘Twain’ with light. Thanks to Matt & Merrill Bauer for getting me their video to post!

– Steve Patterson