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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


Entrance Stairs Makes 19th Street Sidewalk Useless

Recently, on my way home from the Schlafly Tap Room, I ran into problem after problem.  At 19th there was no curb cut so I couldn’t continue east.

ABOVE: Can’t proceed when encountering a corner without a curb ramp. The opposite corner has a ramp that’s pretty useless without a ramp in this side of 19th St. Click image to view map.

As I had to do at 22nd to get to the Tap Room, I thought I’d go mid-block and cross at the alley. But turning south on 19th I discovered another problem newer than the granite curb.  A friend went with me a few days later to get pics of me on what’s left of the sidewalk.

ABOVE: The wide steps/wheelchair ramp for Jim Edmonds 15 Steakhouse makes the sidewalk on 19th Street almost impossible to use, my wheelchair barely fit between the stair and parking meter.
ABOVE: The width of the wheelchair ramp (right edge) is fine, it is the stairs that create the problem.
ABOVE: Close up you can see just how tight this sidewalk is now.

Based on city records, a $1.3 million renovation project took place in 2007 to create  I saw no separate building permit listed for an exterior ramp and stairs. I don’t know who’s at fault for this, but something has to change! The public sidewalk cannot be pinched down this narrow for private use.

Was it designed this way?  Perhaps, but my guess is a field change made the steps wider so the open door wouldn’t block the steps (see 2nd pic). However it happened, it should’ve been caught by someone in the city building department.

I see two solutions to be paid for by the responsible party: remove the extra wide part of this construction or take out the adjacent parking lane to widen the sidewalk. Neither will be cheap.  Just removing the parking meter might be marginally acceptable.

But wait, there is more!

ABOVE: Just trying to reach the alley so I could cross 19th St. I encountered big blue blocking my way, forcing me to squeeze past the stairs and find another route. .

The 3-story building contains multiple tenants, including  Jim Edmonds 15 Steakhouse on the first floor, insideSTL.com on the 2nd floor and a law firm on the 3rd.

I’m emailing this post to Todd Waelternan, Director of Streets, and David Newburger, Office on the Disabled, for action. I’ll be discussing this and other topics tonight with DJ Wilson on KDHX’s Collateral Damage show at 8:30pm.

— Steve Patterson


Pedestrian Access To Council Plaza Residential Towers Marginally Improved

Last year I wrote about pedestrian access to the two high rise towers at the Council Plaza complex on Grand (see: Pros & Cons of Saving the 1960s Flying Saucer at Grand & Forest Park).  With the renovation of the saucer the pedestrian access for residents of the two towers has improved…somewhat.

ABOVE: recently added fence cuts off the two east towers to Grand, residents forced into long auto driveway, June 2011

The problem noted last year was the developer fenced off an area around the lower building between the first tower and Grand. This forced residents, many seniors and disabled, to use the long auto driveway. This change reduced access — a clear violation of the ADA.

ABOVE: As part of the Saucer renovation, a new sidewalk was added along the north side of the drive into the Council Plaza complex.
ABOVE: Unfortunately it stops well short of reaching the first tower, much less the 2nd tower.

Hopefully the developer plans to continue this sidewalk as part of a future project. Unfortunately it is not as wide as the sidewalk that got fenced off — two wheelchair users going in the opposite direction couldn’t pass each other.  At this site, that might happen several times a day.

ABOVE: The 2nd tower at the far east end of the site has always been for seniors, it was just renovated.

Access was fine until the fence was installed a year or two ago, and now a narrow sidewalk that doesn’t go far enough is s marginal attempt to fix the problem they created. We need local regulation so seniors and disabled do not have to walk in auto driveways to get home.

— Steve Patterson


Readers: Saucer Impressive; Patterson: Saucer Totally Fails On Pedestrian Access

I had high hopes when it was announced the Saucer on Grand would be renovated rather than razed. Finally an opportunity to improve pedestrian access to what was originally built as a Phillips 66 gas station. I’d watched the construction going on but couldn’t get close enough to see any specifics.

I didn’t rush over on the morning Starbucks opened last week but I was encouraged when I saw a KMOX photo on Facebook with a highly visible blue crosswalk. Encouragement immediately turned to disappointment once I saw it in person.

ABOVE: A group of students leaving the Starbucks at the Saucer on opening day. What’s the problem, they’ve got a designated walkway? Note the wheelchair user in the roadway because the public sidewalk still has unpassable areas from the construction.
ABOVE: The wheelchair user is further toward the auto exit and the pedestrians are closer to the public sidewalk.
ABOVE: Now it’s clear that blue crosswalk serves a disabled parking only.
ABOVE: Up close we see these pedestrians using what appears to be a route to the sidewalk along Grand have to step over a newly poured curb and walk through a newly mulched area that’ll presumably have plants.
ABOVE: From the public sideway we can see how short the distance actually is, it would’ve been so simple to have the blue stripped walkway connect to the public sidewalk! Two people stand in the driveway because clear pedestrian space isn’t defined.
ABOVE: These two decided to walk in through the automobile out lane rather than walk through the mulch. Walking into the path of drivers as they’re just getting their coffee isn’t good, crossing the path perpendicularly in a marked crosswalk is safer.

The Saucer will be a huge draw for students who’ll very likely arrive as pedestrians. Most will come from the north. Others will come from the dorm across the street or from the medical campus to the south. No consideration was given to pedestrian from the west or south and a fix isn’t as simple as to the north.

ABOVE: Students walk over curbs and through mulch, parking & a drive to reach the Saucer.

Yeah but it’s hard to make changes when working with an existing building…except if you recall everything was stripped away from the site except the Saucer’s roof structure!

ABOVE: Fast forward to July 20th of this year and the structure was stripped down to just the saucer roof and the columns

This was poorly planned new site work. New curbs, new asphalt. The perfect chance to acknowledge the bulk of customers will be pedestrians from Saint Louis University.

Here are the results from the poll last week:

Q: Initial Reaction To The Updated Flying Saucer (Formerly Del Taco)?

  1. Impressive 62 [46.62%]
  2. I knew it could be great 48 [36.09%]
  3. I favored demolition but this renovation makes me glad it wasn’t razed 8 [6.02%]
  4. Unsure/no opinion 7 [5.26%]
  5. Other: 5 [3.76%]
  6.  They still should’ve razed it and built a more conventional building 3 [2.26%]

And the other answers:

  1. Good re-use of an old structure…but not mind blowing.
  2. It’s still a fast food joint.
  3. Could have been cool but disparate design elements are hideous.
  4. Meh
  5. Dishonest architecture doesn’t endure on its own merits.

I’m thrilled and disappointed at the same time.

— Steve Patterson


Reaching The O’fallon Park Recreation Center

Previous posts on the O’Fallon Park Recreation Center covered the political standoff (Poll: Thoughts On The Not Yet Open O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex) and agreement (Readers Split On O’Fallon Park Controversy, Agreement Reached), today I want to talk about how to reach the Rec Center once it opens.

Many residents using the new facility, as well as YMCA/Herbert Hoover staff, will drive there. But others will walk or bike there and still others will come from further away riding the #74 (Florissant) MetroBus. I’ll cover all modes but lets start with transit and pedestrians.

ABOVE The southbound #74 MetroBus stops at W. Florissant Ave & Pope Ave, across the street from pedestrian access route.
ABOVE: Big beautiful homes on Holly Ave at W. Florissant Ave, two blocks north of Pope Ave


ABOVE: Several well-marked crosswalks allow pedestrians to cross W. Florissant Ave to enter O’Fallon Park. Pope Ave has a traffic signal to stop traffic.
ABOVE: A wide sidewalk works its way up the hill from Florissant & Pope.
ABOVE: Looking back downhill toward Florissant Ave. & Pope Ave.
ABOVE: This sidewalk crosses the main internal park road leading to the recreation center.
ABOVE: The sidewalk continues to the front door of the new facility.

As the pictures above show, the pedestrian access from the nearby neighborhood, Florissant Ave. and MetroBus is excellent. A straighter path would be a shorter but not possible due to the grade change. Besides, if you’re going to work out saving a few steps probably isn’t a priority. Pedestrians just have to cross one internal park roadway, they don’t have to walk in it. Unless they are coming from or going to the O’Fallon Park Boathouse or if you live to the southeast of the park, across Harris & Adelaide Avenues, then access is tricky through the park or requires walking in the park roadway or going out to Florissant Ave and then back in.

ABOVE: A direct path from the Boathouse to the new Rec Center is needed. Pedestrian access circled in blue. Aerial from Google Maps, click to view.
ABOVE: Connecting the new rec center and the historic boat house is complicated by the terrain. but this should’ve been considered when building a $20+ million facility.

On to bicycling and driving. Cyclists can use the roadway so from that perspective their fine but I have serious issues with the bike rack selection and installation.

ABOVE: Empty bike racks in front of the unopened O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex

Architects love this bike rack design, even though it is a poor choice for securing a bike and most of the time they are installed incorrectly, as was the case here. When used as designed they can only secure the frame at one point, they should be loaded from both sides. The four racks shown here are designed to hold a total of 28 bikes. Another area with more of the same rack is to the left.

Better bikes racks would’ve been less expensive. Total failure on the part of the architects and/or client (city parks dept).

ABOVE: Sidewalks along the outside edges of the parking lot provide a safe path to walk to the building.
ABOVE: Bioswales collect rain water runoff from the asphalt parking lot.

With the exception of the choice of bike rack and lack of connection to the O’Fallon Park boat house and adjacent tennis courts I’d say access is very good. It’s far better than trying to reach the sister facility in Carondelet Park from nearby neighborhoods.

— Steve Patterson