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Extending “hallway” element must be a top priority for the Gateway Mall

The hallway — that wide sidewalk along the north side of Market St — is what will eventually tie the blocks of the Gateway Mall together.

ABOVE: Citygarden seen from Richard Serras Twain
ABOVE: "Hallway" in Citygarden as seen from the block with Richard Serra's Twain

Unfortunately as well designed as Citygarden is, when built they didn’t plan to connect the hallway element to the blocks to the east and west. The crossing at 9th Street meets the design criteria of the master plan but at 8th and a 10th it was somehow forgotten. Hopefully we will get all the blocks from Broadway (5th)  and 20th.  Right now we have only the two between 8th and 10th.  Going forward we will need to make sure as each block is done that we plan ahead for the next adjacent block.

– Steve Patterson


Inner-ring Montgomery Bank lacks proper ADA access route to adjacent public sidewalk

As we build new buildings it is important to construct them so they are accessible to everyone.  Unfortunately, many still design buildings to be reached only by automobile.

I recently noticed a fairly new Montgomery Bank on Laclede Station Rd at Watson Rd.  It is certainly an attractive building with nice massing.

The problem is the building ignores the public sidewalk along Laclede Station Rd.  The location is surrounded by existing homes and apartments.  People do walk in the area.  Sidewalks are provided for pedestrian use but some businesses, such as Montgomery Bank, design only for motorists.

If you are able-bodied you can step over the curbs and grass to reach the front door of the bank.  However, if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter you must “drive” far into the site to get to a point where you can get out of the way of cars and head toward a door.  If I had the power I’d make this bank redo their site to provide an ADA-compliant access route.  Good pedestrian access is the first step needed  to get people to walk.  I don’t expect us to go back and retrofit decades of sites and buildings.  I do expect businesses to do a better job when building today.

– Steve Patterson


Accessibility often about making tough decisions

ABOVE: New addition at Stelina Pasta Cafe, photo by author
ABOVE: New addition at Stelina Pasta Cafe, photo by author

Stellina Pasta Cafe is a great, little, locally-owned restaurant on Watson Road in southwest city. After 5 years of growing their business, the owners recently grew their building, replacing the old concrete patio with a new, brick-faced, urban addition that pushes the face of the structure out to the front property line. Visually, the addition works very well. The scale and the detailing are both well done. The only real quibble I’d have is keeping the old, free-standing sign, but I’m sure they had their reasons for doing so.

The one big “fail” is their apparent lack of appropriate access under the ADA. Their previous storefront did not provide good access, either, but access was possible through a side door, down a narrow pedestrian alley, between this building and its neighbor.  This was an acceptable and appropriate, “readily-achievable” solution to the reality that the building was built well-before the ADA took effect in 1992.

ABOVE: long narrow route to access Stelina without steps, new addition on the right, photo by author

Fast forward to 2010 and the choice was obviously made with the addition to maintain the existing conditions, instead of making the new entrance accessible.  Whether or not this is a technical violation is unclear.  The ADA states that “Where feasible, accessible public entrances shall be the entrances used by the majority of people visiting or working in the building.”  Could that have been done here?  Within the program and the budget?  Yes, absolutely.  Either a split-level floor plan (with an internal ramp) could have been used, or an exterior ramp could have been added.

ABOVE:detail of new entry, photo by author

A secondary issue is that the new front door does not comply with ADA requirements for clear access.  With steps, it’ll never work for people in wheelchairs.  But with appropriate handrails, a correctly-sized landing and enough clearance to operate the door, people with some physical limitations could still use the new main entrance, even with steps.  Unfortunately, there are multiple “misses” here, creating hazards for even able-bodied patrons.

Whose fault is this?  There are multiple possibilities.  The owner may have directed his/her designer and contractor to maximize the floor area inside the addition.  The designer may not fully understand the requirements of the ADA (even though it’s been in effect for nearly two decades).  Our building officials may have missed the issues during plan review and final inspection.  And one or more may have been willing to bet that they “wouldn’t get caught”, that this is a small project and no one will complain (after all, the ADA is civil rights legislation, enforced at the federal level).

Unfortunately, at this point, there are no easy fixes.  To comply, the entrance needs to be rebuilt.  It’ll be expensive and it will disrupt their business, again.  Bigger picture, given the other positives (successful local business, reinvestment in the community, appropriate urban design decisions), should anyone push the issue at this point?  Or, is it simply time for no more excuses?

– Jim Zavist

Editor’s Note:

After Jim submitted this post to me for approval I decided I, as a disabled person, needed to visit to see how well it worked (or didn’t work). I am able to do steps but the noted lack of handrails and landing made entering via the front door an impossibility for me.  I walked down the narrow side walkway to enter the dining room.  After a great meal I was ab;e to exit via the new doorway — using the door push bar for support to descend the steps.

ABOVE: Steps at front door as seen from inside.
ABOVE: Steps at front door as seen from inside.

Good ADA accessibility doesn’t just happen.  It takes hard work and people concerned about the subject.  It is unfortunate Stelina Pasta’s new addition is such a challenge to enter. Their decision to use casement windows means an exterior ramp cannot be added in the future.

– Steve Patterson, publisher & editor


Please do not park within 8 feet of vehicle door

Since I started driving again in July 2008 I have had a disabled parking permit. Initially it was about being near the door and to the ramp to avoid a step up/down.  I can walk further now but the disabled parking is still important to me because I need to open my driver’s door fully to get in and out of my car.  The level surface required at disabled parking helps as well.

For others, such as the owner of this van, plenty of space is necessary to get in and out with a wheelchair.  Please respect not only the parking space, but also the extra room beside the space.

– Steve Patterson


A poor attempt at ADA compliance

April 30, 2010 Accessibility 1 Comment
ABOVE: a poor attempt at a ramp at Tucker & Delmar

What passes for ADA compliance never ceases to amaze me.  Does it work? Sorta.  After my chair came to a sudden stop I backed up and approached from just the right angle to be able to get up this curb.

– Steve Patterson