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Eleven New Trees Replaced Along Broadway at Baer Plaza

June 7, 2021 Downtown, Environment, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on Eleven New Trees Replaced Along Broadway at Baer Plaza

Early last month I saw landscapers planting new trees along Broadway next to Baer Plaza, across from the dome.

On May 3. 2021 I saw workers busy planting new trees on the east side of Broadway.

I frequently take Broadway to/from the central business district. Living north of the convention center & dome, Broadway (5th)& 9th are the only options to get around the massive facility that closed 8th, 7th, and 6th streets. Sometimes to make things interesting I roll on the east side of Broadway, so I knew exactly where they were planting.

On October 1, 2020 I snapped a few pics of the empty spots where trees had once been:

Looking north you could see the numerous empty squares where the allee vanished.
Some were just bare dirt.
Others still had some liriope (aka monkey grass)

There were 11 trees missing, very obvious sign of neglect. Not sure why, but I didn’t post the pictures to social media. So last month I was very happy to see workers busy planting eleven new trees. I retuned on May 7th to get these pics.

The new trees are small compared to the more mature trees further north, but they’re quite big for new trees.
Another view.

I don’t know trees to tell you the variety or how fast they’ll grow. Hopefully within a few years they’ll fill out nicely.  I’m going to take the east side of Broadway more often, especially when going to Laclede’s Landing, Eads Bridge, Arch grounds, etc.

— Steve Patterson

 

The 9th/10th One-Way Couplet Needs To Return To Two-Way ASAP

May 25, 2021 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on The 9th/10th One-Way Couplet Needs To Return To Two-Way ASAP

More than six decades ago 9th & 10th streets were changed from two-way to one-way in the opposite directions — a one-way couplet. This still exists from Clark Ave on the south to Cass Ave on the north — a distance of 1.2 miles. The north end used to continue past Cass to connect to I-70, but it was shortened when construction on the newest bridge over the Mississippi River began approximately 15 years ago. The south end still connects to I-64 ramps.

The purpose of one-way streets decades ago was to quickly get cars into downtown in the morning, then back out after work. They did their job…a little too well. Downtown was so quick to empty out nobody stuck around for shopping, dinner, or a show. There many reasons why downtowns emptied out, but one-way streets were a major contributor. To make downtown St. Louis enjoyable as a place to live, work, and visit all the one-way streets need to return to two-way traffic eventually. When Locust Street west of 14th switched back to two-way a dozen years ago it made a huge difference.

For nearly 50 years  9th & 10th extended north of Cass Ave to connect to I-70, but that ended with the 2010 start of a new bridge over the Mississippi River, later named the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. But downtown 9th & 10th weren’t the original couplet of paired opposite direction one-way streets.

Let’s look at the original one-way couplets in the downtown central business district (Arch to 12th/Tucker):

  1. Northbound 4th & southbound Broadway (aka 5th)
  2. Southbound 6th & northbound 7th
  3. Southbound 8th & northbound 9th
  4. Southbound 10th & northbound 11th

The first still exists today, the rest have all been changed to the point they no longer function as original intended. Three streets lots blocks to the convention center & dome: 6th, 7th, 8th. Ninth will soon be added to that list.  Sixth street lost blocks to Kiener Plaza & the hotel south of Market. Both sixth & seventh streets lost blocks to the original downtown Busch Stadium (now Ballpark Village), and the current Busch Stadium. And finally northbound 9th Street is closed for one block between Market & Chestnut because the designers of Citygarden didn’t think about a pedestrian signal at 9th & Market. D’oh!

I’ve posted about changing these opposite one-way streets back to two-way traffic numerous times, but now it’s urgent. When the convention center expansion begins a couple of blocks of 9th will be closed, but that’s not the urgent reason for restoring two-way traffic. The vacant AT&T Tower downtown at 909 Chestnut (bordered by 9th, Chestnut, 10th, and Pine) is why these streets need to revert to two-way traffic. Why?

909 Chestnut was built at the headquarters for Southwestern Bell Telephone, later purchased by AT&T

The entrance and exit to the small underground garage was designed with the one-way streets in mind, the entrance was off northbound 9th and the exit was onto southbound 10th. The 44-story building has been vacant since 2017, but eventually someone will renovate it. When they do it would be easy to switch the entrance and exit. If the building is renovated while 9th & 10th are still one-way it’ll be impossible to make them two-way in the future.

The original entrance off nb 9th could be an exit after future renovations.
The original basement entrance could just as easily be the exit.
On the opposite side of the building we have the original exit onto sb 10th. Again, this could easily be the entrance if 10th was two-way.

Since built, exiting traffic has come out southbound just before Chestnut. Switching the exit from 10th to 9th wouldn’t change this potential conflict point.

The building has lost value and changed hands numerous times, eventually someone is going to renovate it. 

The 1.4 million-square-foot, 44-story office building on Chestnut Street is the largest office building by square-footage in the region, and the 1986 structure built for a single tenant has posed a vexing challenge amid a downtown market already struggling with the highest office vacancy rate in the metro area. 

AT&T vacated its lease in September 2017 and about 2,000 of the company’s employees relocated nearby in buildings at 801 Chestnut and 1010 Pine streets. (Post-Dispatch, May 2019)

For comparison here are some other large vacant buildings downtown

Since 909 Chestnut was built as a headquarters it was connected to buildings to the east & west. Another block west was a large company parking garage. The garage under 909 Chestnut is small, was built for service vehicles and company executives. A MetroLink light rail station is only a block away, but parking obsessed assumes everyone has a car.

The building footprint is too small to ramp up to use some upper floors for parking. A car elevator or automated system are the only options to get cars up higher, but they’re very costly.

Eventually someone will figure it out. When they do 9th & 10th should be two-way traffic.

— Steve Patterson

 

MLS Stadium: Before & During Photos From the St. Louis Wheel at Union Station

March 29, 2021 Downtown, Featured, MLS Stadium, Planning & Design Comments Off on MLS Stadium: Before & During Photos From the St. Louis Wheel at Union Station

In February 2016 the St. Louis region was still accepting the fact the Rams were returning to California, our proposal to clear the north riverfront for a new National Football League (NFL) stadium had been rejected — by Kroenke or voters…can’t remember.

Also in February 2016 Major League Soccer (MLS) expressed interest in St. Louis as an expansion city. I didn’t want the historic north riverfront to continued being targeted, so I proposed a different site. A site I’d wanted to see redeveloped for years. The short remnants of the never-built 22nd Street Parkway.

See 2015/01/20 A Great Site For A Major League Soccer (MLS) Stadium In Downtown St. Louis

This image is from that February 2016 post, taken from the adjacent hotel.

I haven’t been back to that hotel yet, but I have ridden the St. Louis Wheel at Union Station. Twice, in September 2019 and earlier this month.

Today’s post is a look at similar views from those two visits, nearly 18 months apart.

Before: looking northwest on September 24, 2019
During: a similar view as above on March 7, 2021. In time the Union Station surface parking lot in the foreground will get developed.

Now for a cropped view focusing on Market over the 22nd Parkway.

Before: the Market St bridge and the ramp up to it had been there for decades. I saw the big hole on the other side of Market as an architectural advantage.
During: the decaying Market Street bridge is gone! The new MLS stadium is set into the hole. A tunnel will provide service access to the stadium.

Now looking west:

Before: The 22nd Parkway cut a slice between 21st & 22nd streets. Prior NFL & MLS stadium proposals were here, wedged up against I-64.
During: for the first time in 6+ decades Clark Ave will be uninterrupted between 20th & Jefferson.

It’s even more exciting closer to street level.

Before: pretty much a dead zone in 2019.
During: you can see Clark Ave taking shape. Eventually the long vacant land in the foreground will be developed.

It is very exciting to see this area beginning to recover from the damaging 22nd Street Parkway project. It’ll take years to fill in, but it’s better to naturally fill in over time than to be an all at once infill project.

Will do this again in 12-18 months.

— Steve Patterson

 

Initial Thoughts On Proposed ‘City District’ In North St. Louis

January 4, 2021 Featured, North City, Planning & Design Comments Off on Initial Thoughts On Proposed ‘City District’ In North St. Louis

In 1990, at just 23, I fell in love with St. Louis and its quirky street grid. I hadn’t yet been to New York or Chicago but I knew many big cities had rigid orthogonal grids — nothing but right angles.

St.Louis’ grid, on the other hand, had right, obtuse, and acute angles. This meant interesting views from various directions, buildings designed to fit into the odd-shaped parcels. Some streets follow old trails, the neighborhoods built up around the meandering paths.

I simply adore this about St. Louis.

In my first 6-9 months here I made my way along North & West Florissant Avenue as it makes it way up through North St. Louis. My destination was O’Fallon Park — the neighborhood and city park.

Right before the park was the remnants of once-thriving commercial district. I’ve been back there many times over the years in a car, bike, bus, and motor scooter.

From the bus on August 5, 2017, looking at West Florissant Ave & Harne Ave. Click image to view in Google Streetview

This old commercial area is the center of a new revitalization project called “The City District.”

Phase One
During the $34 million Phase One, 66 parcels will be demolished and the land will be reallocated for new construction of retail, homes and community greenspaces. More than 50 percent of these properties are currently vacant. The construction team is working on master plan and design development and bidding. Demolition will begin in March. Kwame Building Group is serving as the construction manager and program manager. The architect is Jackson Design Group.

In Phase One, the construction team also will build City Plaza, which will create vibrant shopping and recreational opportunities and a thriving local labor force. The commercial center will feature extensive retail and office space, including a grocery store and bowling alley.

Phase Two
The O’ Fallon Neighborhood is home to some of St. Louis’ largest and most historical homes rivaling the size and stylings found in the Central West End and surrounding Tower Grove Park and Forest Park. In Phase Two, $1 million will be invested in rehabilitating 26 existing homes. Large single-family homes will be converted into multi-use rental properties while retaining their architectural history. A $24 million project will construct new single and multi-family homes.

Culturally competent and equitable redevelopment practices will be central throughout the five-year project. The KWAME team is committed to maximizing MBE/WBE and local firm participation. The project team has established a partnership with the City of St. Louis to increase community safety and security focused on community competent policing. Existing infrastructure will be reimagined to improve and promote public transit and pedestrian accessibility. (Kwame Building Group)

My initial thoughts are generally positive, the area desperately needs investment after decades of disinvestment by whites and then blacks. I’m very glad this effort is coming from the black community, not an old white suburban developer. It’s a very good thing they’ve given this commercial district a name — that’s important for creating a positive identity.

However, I’m very concerned about demolition of currently occupied structures. Reallocating land sounds like making wide suburban lots rather than the existing narrow lots with garages and services off the alley. How the large triangle created as West Florissant splits is treated will be very important. It’s all asphalt now. Lots of unanswered questions.

Wisely they’ve said it will take multiple phases and five years, though I expect it’ll take even longer. And that’s ok, it didn’t decline overnight so we can’t expect an immediate reversal. I’m looking forward to seeing more details.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America’ by Angie Schmitt

December 11, 2020 Books, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on New Book — ‘Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America’ by Angie Schmitt

For months now we’ve all been living through the COVID-19 pandemic, but a silent epidemic has been going on for years: pedestrian deaths. Every week we hear about a pedestrian being hit & killed by a car. Often these are seniors just trying to cross a busy street — like 87- year old Phyllis Powers — she was hit & killed trying to cross MacKenzie Road to vote a month ago.

A recent book looks into the issue:

The face of the pedestrian safety crisis looks a lot like Ignacio Duarte-Rodriguez. The 77-year old grandfather was struck in a hit-and-run crash while trying to cross a high-speed, six-lane road without crosswalks near his son’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was one of the more than 6,000 people killed while walking in America in 2018. In the last ten years, there has been a 50 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

The tragedy of traffic violence has barely registered with the media and wider culture. Disproportionately the victims are like Duarte-Rodriguez—immigrants, the poor, and people of color. They have largely been blamed and forgotten.

In Right of Way, journalist Angie Schmitt shows us that deaths like Duarte-Rodriguez’s are not unavoidable “accidents.” They don’t happen because of jaywalking or distracted walking. They are predictable, occurring in stark geographic patterns that tell a story about systemic inequality. These deaths are the forgotten faces of an increasingly urgent public-health crisis that we have the tools, but not the will, to solve. 

Schmitt examines the possible causes of the increase in pedestrian deaths as well as programs and movements that are beginning to respond to the epidemic. Her investigation unveils why pedestrians are dying—and she demands action.  Right of Way is a call to reframe the problem, acknowledge the role of racism and classism in the public response to these deaths, and energize advocacy around road safety. Ultimately, Schmitt argues that we need improvements in infrastructure and changes to policy to save lives.

Right of Way unveils a crisis that is rooted in both inequality and the undeterred reign of the automobile in our cities. It challenges us to imagine and demand safer and more equitable cities, where no one is expendable. (Island Press)

I want to talk about some issues addressed in this book, but first, here are the contents:

Introduction: Outline of an Epidemic
Chapter 1. The Geography of Risk
Chapter 2. The Profile of a Victim
Chapter 3. Blaming the Victim
Chapter 4. The Criminalization of Walking
Chapter 5. Killer Cars
Chapter 6. The Ideology of Flow
Chapter 7. A Hard Right Turn
Chapter 8. Pedestrian Safety on the Technological Frontier
Chapter 9. The International Context
Chapter 10. Families for Safe Streets

Yes, pedestrian deaths are an epidemic. A pandemic, like COVID-19, is worldwide. An epidemic, like pedestrian deaths, is largely a problem in one area such as the U.S.

Increasingly older adults are unable to continue driving, finding themselves in suburbs not designed for pedestrians. Timing of infrequent crosswalk lights are too fast for slow walkers. For many it’s too far to reach a designated point to cross an arterial so people attempt to cross where they can because they can’t do the extra distance.

The alarming rise in pedestrian deaths coincides with the switch from passenger cars to larger and larger pickups & SUVs. Why? A primary reason is the higher mass on the front of these vehicles — hitting people in their torso rather than legs.

These problems are worse in low-income & minority neighborhoods. The population that needs better pedestrian facilities often don’t get them.

The book details the problems and offers solutions.

Pedestrian safety expert Dan Burden (right) leads a “walking audit” on Delmar just west of Union in 2011 — that’s me in the wheelchair. Photo credit: Lou /AARP

This book is for anyone interested in addressing pedestrian safety and removing inequalities in our rights of way. The author and others discuss the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in a video here.

You can order from the publisher.

— Steve Patterson

 

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