Home » Planning & Design » Recent Articles:

Sidewalk Obstruction Removed After Annoying Pedestrians For 7+ Years

August 6, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Sidewalk Obstruction Removed After Annoying Pedestrians For 7+ Years

Last month I began going to the Downtown YMCA at the MX to workout (thanks AARP Medicare Plan). Locust would be direct, but crossing 13th in a wheelchair is awkward and construction has the sidewalk on the North closed at 10th. So I take Washington Ave East to 6th. It was there, next to the Eastbound Convention Center MetroLink station entrance, I encountered an obstacle. A wooden box with a yellow stick on top. At times I’d be meeting someone walking the other direction, one of us had to wait (usually me because of direction) while the other went by.

I snapped this photo on July 11, 2018 — my 6th visit to the YMCA at the MX. I didn’t share the pic.

By my 10th visit on July 11th I’d had enough, posting the following on Twitter:

On Facebook I posted this image and the one above with the same text. Reader Jim Zavist commented: “Based on Google Streetview, four bolts were imbedded in the sidewalk somewhere between 2009 and 2011 (for a sign?) and they’re apparently still there. Why nothing was ever installed is a very good question! https://goo.gl/maps/knG2vLWnEQ22”

When I got home I pulled up the link on my computer — Google Street View allows you to see current views, but you can also go back to see older views. I also looked through my photos to see why I had. Below is a mix of Google Street View screenshots & my photos. First, background history. The Convention Center Metrolink Station opened on July 31, 1993 as part of our original light rail line. The Eastbound entry/exit is located on the SW corner of 6th & Washington.

Eight years earlier St. Louis Centre indoor mall opened. So opening a  transit station adjacent to a mall is a good thing. After helping to kill downtown’s sidewalks, the mall closed.

October 2007 shows the unobstructed sidewalk, MetroLink station, tower & St. Louis Centre indoor mall . Source: Google Street View
September 2009 is much the same. Source: Google Street View
Looking west from 6th Street on May 22, 2010. The oppressive skywalk over Washington Ave would soon be removed as the indoor mall was turned into a parking garage with sidewalk-level retail. The adjacent office tower would also get a new entrance facing Washington Ave.
July 16, 2010 — the glass facade is being removed.
August 8, 2010 — — the bridge/skywalk is gone along with one bay of the old mall.
November 19, 2010 — the office tower’s new entry is taking shape
April 29, 2011 — new sidewalks are poured, new lighting installed.
June 2011 the exterior is basically done
July 2011 — Google Street View captures the recently poured sidewalks. Note the barrier…
Zooming in we can see 4 bolds sticking up from the newly poured sidewalk. Seeing the bolts made me think perhaps Metro planned some signs, I remember seeing new signs about this time.
October 11, 2011 — a worker installs a new sign on the other side of 6th. Recently I noticed this sign has a large base, way too big for the four bolts across the street. Perhaps a smaller version?
April 2015 — at least 4 years after the sidewalk with 4 bolts was poured a wooden box now hides them.
The box looks weathered, itself a trip hazard.
july 2015 — the box is still there unmarked. A Sherif’s van is parked on the sidewalk because that’s what we do in St. Louis.
july 2017 — by now someone added a yellow stick to the top of the box — to point out to pedestrians it is on the sidewalk

So when I posted about this on July 19th it had been an issue for over seven years. Seven years!

The box looks well worm by July 19, 2018

Either Metro or the MX developer planned something that was never going to be installed. Rather than cut the bolts off they built a wood box, then later added a yellow pole to said box to prevent people from tripping.  I know this is just one little sidewalk on a side street, but it illustrates how little concern there is for the pedestrian experience downtown — right next to a transit station.

The box & pole were still there on the morning of July 25th, but July 28th I came around the corner and saw they had been removed and the bolts cut off.

July 29, 2018 — no box w/yellow pole
Close up shows where thw bolts were cut off. No evidence of any electrical

It wold’ve been cheaper if the bolts had been cut off years ago, or realize the sidewalk was too narrow in the first place and the bolts not put in there in the first place!

In the big scheme of things St. Louis still has major problems, in that context this is insignificant. To me and others who use this sidewal, it is important,  There are still hundreds of other issues I deal with just downtown. I can’t solve St. Louis’ big problems, but I’ll take on small issues one by one.

Cities in which residents & tourists have challenges as a pedestrian are not going to have bustling sidewalks. Downtown retail/restaurants can’t survive without foot traffic. St. Louis would be wise to make life easier for pedestrians all over the city — but especially around major transit.

— Steve Patterson


Monogram’s Developer Not Closing 17th Street Afterall

July 23, 2018 Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Monogram’s Developer Not Closing 17th Street Afterall

A little over two years ago neighbors and myself were opposed to the proposed closure of a short section of 17th Street. The developer of the old CPI HQ, now called Monogram, wanted the city to give them 17th Street between Washington Ave & St. Charles St so they could connect two city blocks into a super-block.

Here are my posts from that time & issue:

We lost, the legislation passed so as work on converting the former office building into apartments we’ve been expecting St. Charles & 16th treets to get widened so they could become two-way — a requirement of closing 17th Street. In the last two years, however, something changed the developer’s mind about closing 17th Street.

The view from a neighbors balcony at 4:30pm in November 2009 — when CPI was still open and the lot was employee-only parking
2012 Entire block of surface parking east of CPI’s building shown in the background

For a few years after CPI closed anyone could park on the lot, but for a short time it became a pay lot. Once construction was set to begin a temporary chain link fence with locking gates was installed.

By May of 2017 lthe parking lot was filled nearly every day with construction workers’ vehicles.
In May of this year they trenched wiring to four new concrete bases for lights. It was at that point I didn’t think they’d widen 16th/St Charles to close 17th.
Then at the end of the last month the new fence posts going in confirmed the street changes would not happen.
By early this month a very attractive new fence was installed.
For years the lot have 4 drives — two on 16th, two on 17th. They fenced off two, leaving one per street. The remaining two got wide sliding gates.
A pedestrian gate is on Washington at 17th. Monogram residents who park here will walk across 17th — like we suggested in 2016.
On July 16th they began resurfacing the lot.
By closing half the in/out drives and not closing 17th/widening 16th/St Charles they get more total spaces than before.

I just wish the months-long battle over closing of 17th could’ve been avoided.

Thankfully the lighting is LEDs that face directory down, not out toward surrounding buildings. More outside lighting should be directed only where needed.

— Steve Patterson



Connecting The Dots Without Paul McKee

June 25, 2018 Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Connecting The Dots Without Paul McKee

I’ve long argued one key to revitalization of St. Louis is to focus on major corridors. Concentrating on major transportation corridors, used by many means  efforts will get noticed, whereas rehabbing or building new houses in the middle of a residential block four bstreets away may not. Not that we shouldn’t do work on neighborhood streets, but perceptions of entire neighborhoods can be positively influenced along busy corridors. Along the way you can improve mobility for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and even motorists. My views ob the importance of corridors is why I liked some aspects of Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration plan.

Two recent posts on McKee’s plans — which the city now says he’s in default on their agreements:

Northside project area, 2011

The plan focused on four largely vacant spots where McKee wanted to put jobs.

For the most part two corridors connect these four locations: Jefferson & Cass. As you can see from the image above, the total area is quite large. Overwhelmingly large.  St. Louis loves big projects, especially those that are too big to succeed.

St. Louis needs to look at these four spots and come up with a framework plan for each. Will one be mostly residential while another is industrial, and another a mix of uses? What is desired in terms of the form future buildings should take? What should the corridors look like? Travel speeds, width of auto lanes, transportation options? Answer the big picture questions and then developers (big & small) will know what is the desired outcome in 15-20 years. Players of all sizes can be a part of the effort.

I’d personally add a 5th spot to the list — the North riverfront area found at the East end of Cass Ave. @ N. Broadway.  Might as well look at the full length of Case Ave from Broadway on the East to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just West of Grand Blvd. — a 2.5 mile-long corridor. What’s the development potential? Any historic buildings?

Looking north from Cass & Tucker 5 years ago as the approach to the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge was nearly complete.

Many are interested in investing in a North-South transit line: light rail, streetcar, BRT, etc. One study included Natural Bridge as part of the route — a station at Parnell/Salisbury (Jefferson) would be the kind of public infrastructure investment that could spur private interest. There’s also been talk of connecting the new National Geospatial Agency  West HQ, now under construction at Cass & Jefferson, to downtown via a streetcar or some other means. These should all be planned together, not separately as we often do here.

These efforts won’t return us to our peak population of over 856k, but concentrating new housings, jobs, etc can make near North St Louis more sustainable so continuing to provide city services is a viable option. Residential streets may remain sparsely populated for many decades, but have a nearby corridor active with jobs & residents will allow the neighborhoods to hold on until they can slowly stabilize with lower density than the nearby corridors.

Along these lines the City’s development entity. the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC), is seeking proposals for a citywide economic development plan.

Alderman Joe Roddy, who as head of the Housing Urban Development and Zoning committee has called for a citywide plan for several years, said it was “long overdue.” He said a bill passed by alderman earlier this year calling for the creation of an economic development strategy, which would be updated annually, put some additional pressure on SLDC to move ahead with the strategy. (Post-Dispatch)

The last attempt at anything citywide was when Rollin Stanley was in charge of planning — he got a new land use analysis passed, but got pushed out before he could get needed zoning changes enacted. Lots of wasted effort in a city that resists changing despite plenty of evidence it needed to decades ago.

While I think St. Louis could bring affordable new housing, quality transit, improved pedestrian environment, and much-needed jobs to the Northside — I’m not convinced it has the capacity to change enough to do what’s required. Hopefully I’m wrong.

— Steve Patterson



Blairmont Became NorthSide Regeneration, Received Blessing of Mayor Slay and a Majority of Aldermen

June 20, 2018 Featured, NorthSide Project, Planning & Design Comments Off on Blairmont Became NorthSide Regeneration, Received Blessing of Mayor Slay and a Majority of Aldermen

On Monday I took you back through years of looking into various shell companies involving hundreds of properties, many acres, and lots of secrecy — up to the public reveal in late May 2009. If you missed it, see Before It Was Officially Named NorthSide Regeneration, We Knew It As ‘Blairmont’.

That Fall, during the Board of Aldermen’s 2009-2010 session, two bills (BB218 & BB219) were introduced by then 5th ward alderman April Ford-Griffin and 4 co-sponsors: Freeman M Bosley Sr.(2nd), Kacie Starr Triplett (6th), Phyllis Young (7th), and Marlene E Davis (19th).  Of these 5 aldermen,  only Marlene Davis is still in office.

These two bills, despite significant public opposition, moved quickly through the Board:

  • 10/16/2009 First Reading
  • 10/23/2009 Second Reading
  • 10/30/2009 Perfection, Third Reading

Online voting records only go back to 2015, so I can’t tell you who, if anyone, voted against these bills.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signs 2 bills for Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project on November 10, 2009.

In November 2009 Mayor Francis Slay signed the two bills at an event held in front of the Clemens Mansion, which was going to be rehabbed by state tax credits (low income and/or historic) didn’t come through. The still-vacant property burned on July 12, 2017.

I was there whenPaul McKee  & Mayor Slay kicked off NorthSide Regeneration, here’s there comments that day.

The two bills became  two ordinances:

After the two bills became ordinances, lawsuits were filed, more legislation passed with more tax credits and so on. In the meantime, the National Geospacial-Itellegence Agency (NGA) picked a sparsely populated area North of the old Pruitt-Igoe site for their new West headquarters, relocating from South St. Louis. See New NGA West Location Will Gut St. Louis Place Neighborhood, Not Revitalize What Remains. As mentioned on Monday, the 5th Ward master plan, adopted in 2002, designed the area for new development.

Wednesdays is when I share the results of the non-scientific Sunday Poll, so here they are:

Q: Agree or disagree: Paul McKee’s Northside Regeneration project was the only hope for reviving much of North St. Louis

  • Strongly agree 4 [11.11%]
  • Agree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree 16 [16.67%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.78%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1  [2.78%]
  • Disagree 5 [13.89%]
  • Strongly disagree 19 [52.78%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

I’d planned to share my thoughts on what St. Louis should do next now that McKee’s project has collapsed, but that’ll need a separate post. So Monday won’t be about all the issues frim the past 15 years…it’ll be about the next 15 years as I think they should go.

— Steve Patterson


Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

May 30, 2018 Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design, SLU, Walkability Comments Off on Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

Grand Avenue runs through Saint Louis University’s main campus. It’s very busy because other North-South options like Spring & Theresa were vacated years ago. This means North-South that had 5 options now have 3: Vandeventer, Grand, and Compton. To handled the increased volume, on-street parking was removed. Without having to slow for cars parking, speeds increased. For pedestrians this is dangerous.

Since the city has given away public right-of-way (aka streets) to private property owners for years this problem exists throughout the city.  The proposed solution is the same superficial one — decorative crosswalks. The warm & fuzzy element of urban planning.

SLU’s rendering of proposed changes to Grand where West Pine used to be

Here again is what SLU is planning at Lindell, where West Pine used to be, and Laclede:

The project calls for the elimination of one of the three northbound lanes on Grand, which will allow the remaining lanes and the median to be widened. Bollards will also be installed to protect pedestrians who are about to cross the street as well as those who might be standing in the median. The roadway where the crosswalk is, will be changed to a brick-like surface to enhance the look and remind drivers to slow down. (KMOV)

Let’s take a closer look at each element.

  • Removal of one Northbound travel lane: Reducing the number of travel lanes is good.
  • Widen the remaining travel lanes & median: While widening the median is ok. increasing the width of travel lanes is the wrong thing to do! Wider lanes means driver’s feel safe at higher speeds. The remaining lanes should either be kept at their current width or reduced if you want to slow vehicles to increase pedestrian safety.
  • Bollards installed: In this context bollards gov an impression of safety, though they might help since cars will be going even faster on wider lanes.


I’ve long been interested in the Grand & formerly West Pine crosswalk. I visited and observed at 4:45pm on Tuesday September 21, 2010 — nearly 8 years ago.

The crosswalk was highly visible to pedestrians & motorists, September 2010

After I observed the crosswalk and took the photo (above) I decided to record what I was witnessing,

Here are the problems I listed at the end of the video:

  1. Signal timing is too long for pedestrians, they get tired of waiting and cross when they can. The timing needs to change so pedestrians can safely cross more frequently.
  2. The pedestrian button, like most in St. Louis, doesn’t do anything. Even the one person who pressed the button crossed before getting the “walk” signal.  Eliminate the button or make the signal change quickly once pressed.

The fixes, save for shortening the crossing distance & giving students more space to stand between traffic, won’t make this crossing any safer. It’s possible the dark bricks will be less noticeable to motorists than the white paint. I know from a wheelchair perspective brick crosswalks are highly annoying. Motorists need to slow down before they reach the crosswalk.

Looking North on the East side of Grand, June 2011

One of the big problems is the lack of anything to get motorists to slow down: parked cars, narrow lanes, or — my favorite — street trees. It feels too wide open so motorists feel ok going faster than they should. Other things to do would be rumble strips in the pavement prior to reaching the crosswalk. make traffic stop more frequently during busy times, embed flashing LED lights in the lane markers ,a lighted sign overhead, etc.

Sadly too many are fooled by this region’s superficial efforts to appear to make pedestrian-friendly environments. Here’s the results of the recent non-scioentiofic Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Proposed changes to the crosswalk on Grand South of Lindell will greatly improve safety for pedestrians.

  • Strongly agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Somewhat agree 7 [31.82%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Disagree 4 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 1 [4.55%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

This crosswalk will, to most eyes, look better. Aesthetics aside, it won’t perform any better — it might be worse. This is a way for SLU to mitigate damages from a future lawsuit by claiming they made an effort to improve safety. Actual safety is perceived as too inconvenient to motorists.

— Steve Patterson