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Pedestrian Improvements At Utah Place & Gustine Ave

I recently noticed some pedestrian improvements at Utah Place & Gustine Ave.  To note the changes we need to look at a similar intersection, Utah Place & Spring Ave:

ABOVE: Utah Pl & Spring, pedestrians are exposed when crossing Utah Pl
ABOVE: Utah Pl & Spring, pedestrians now have a refuge when crossing Utah Pl
ABOVE: Looking north across Utah Pl
ABOVE: Looking west across Gustine Ave, note the detectable warnings point in the direction a blind person should walk
ABOVE: SE corner of Gustine & Utah with ramps/detectable warnings pointing in the right direction.

Scroll up and look at the aerial again, the ramps on west side of Gustine crossing Utah point into the center of the intersection, not at the crosswalk.  These new improvements are a step in the right direction, but not without flaws.

– Steve Patterson


Grand and Chippewa a few years later

My first post about the McDonald’s at Grand & Chippewa was on February 1, 2005, nearly 5 years ago.    I was alerting everyone about the plan to build a new McDonald’s drive-thru across Grand at Winnebego (map link).

Former McDonald's in 2005

In 2006 the battle began.  The vacant site on Grand where the McDonald’s was proposed had been a Sears site decades ago. It stood vacant.  Neighbors of new nearby homes (and many others) objected to the drive-thru which did not conform to the original blighting plan for the redevelopment.

protest at site of proposed McDonalds on April 15, 2006
protest at site of proposed McDonald's on April 15, 2006

Many meetings were attended, protests were made.  The Summer of 2006 was a busy time fighting for an urban South Grand.

By September 2006 McDonald’s had won the approvals they needed to build their new location.  In November 2006 I declared the drive-thru project dead, delays took their toll and the local franchise owner closed the old McDonald’s rather than rebuilding on the new or old site.

Not long afterward the now defunct Pyramid Construction began building senior apartments once planned for the old McDonald’s site on the former Sears site.

On January 30, 2008 I posted about a title loan operation wanting to open up shop in the long boarded up McDonalds’s building.  I attended the hearing on the title loan outfit on Thursday January 31, 2008.  I didn’t get a chance to blog about the meeting, the following afternoon I had a stroke.  It was 3 months before I returned home.

During the Spring 2009 campaigns I heard a comment from someone the only thing I contributed to the 25th Ward (just South) was the boarded McDonald’s.  Thanks, I appreciated that.  Since then someone bought the unfinished senior building and finished the project.   And just recently the boarded McDonald’s got a fresh start:

Pho Mama (Mama Pho) Vietnamese Restaurant, a new restaurant in the Dutchtown West Neighborhood Association (DWNA) area is set to open on Monday, November 2, 2009! Pho Mamma is located at the corner of S. Grand and Chippewa. Their phone is 314-802-8348 and they will be open 7 days a week from 9am to 10pm.  (Source)

The old building is not the most urban but it also isn’t new.  Often small local start-up businesses cannot afford the rents on new construction. The site may eventually become more urban.  I stopped by the area yesterday to photograph both places.

Pho Mama, 3737 S. Grand
Pho Mama, 3737 S. Grand

Far more tasteful in appearance than the McDonald’s.

Senior housing instead of a new McDonalds drive-thru
Senior housing instead of a new McDonald's drive-thru

Today the former vacant site contains senior housing with street-level retail spaces facing Grand.   I’d say S. Grand is better off without a new McDonald’s drive-thru.  It would have been a tiny building on a large site with too much parking and a duel drive-thru lane.  If only we can get the traffic calmed in this part of Grand as well as a zoning overlay to require new construction to conform to the established urban standard.

Many people were involved in putting a stop to the auto-centric McDonald’s.  We should all be proud of the outcome, I know I am.  We should also go patronize Pho Mama.

– Steve Patterson


Tower Grove South Concerned Citizens Special Business District

What a name!  Ald Jennifer Florida is introducing legislation (BB89) at the Board Of Aldermen this morning to put the establishment of a special taxing district on the ballot for residents within the district to vote on.  The district, if approved, would be from the alley South of Utah Place, to the centerline of Grand, to the centerline of Gravois to Roger Place (one block West of Gustine). The official name would be the “Tower Grove South Concerned Citizens Special Business District.”
First, what is with the “concerned citizens” bit in the name?  They’ll never get the full name on banners or on trash cans.  Doesn’t every area have concerned citizens?
Secondly, I never like it when major streets are used as edges for neighborhood or business district lines — Grand was once the center point for residential areas on both sides.  When using major streets as dividing lines we end up with different groups having a say on the same street — but only for their half.  When business districts are done this way you end up with money for improvements for half the street.  Using alley lines is the better way to go.

And lastly I always wonder who manages the money — in this case it would be a 7-member Board of Commissioners appointed by the mayor.  Five would be property owners and two would be renters.


Title Loan Outfit Proposed for Former McDonald’s Location

One of the hot topics from 2006 was the proposal to relocate a McDonald’s location (w/double drive-thru) to back up to the Gravois Park neighborhood along South Grand. After a long battle, that plan was scraped. The owner shuttered the old McDonald’s at Grand & Chippewa.

The property sold last year and now a title loan company (or similar?) is proposed for the existing building and drive-thru. I’m told the same company is also interested in opening in the former Wendy’s at South Kingshighway and Tholozan. Neighbors of both properties are mobilizing to oppose what they see as loan sharks that prey on the poorest in our society.

Tomorrow morning at 8:30am, in room 208 of City Hall, a hearing will be held on conditional occupancy of the former McDonald’s location (along with other agenda items). Ald Florida (D-15th) is said to neither support nor oppose the application.


Political Eye on Ald. Florida

Last weeks ‘Political Eye’ editorial in the St. Louis American took aim at 15th ward Alderman Jennifer Florida. Florida, you may recall, is the alderman that I squared off against last year over her push for a relocated McDonald’s on South Grand. Thankfully, her relocation of the fast-food chain failed. Here is an excerpt from the editorial, she was rumored to want the job as Lewis Reed’s Chief of Staff:

Florida’ 15th Ward didn’t exactly deliver the bacon for Reed, though it did give him well over the typical 15 percent of the ward’s vote for an African American running citywide. During Reed’s campaign, Florida was considered by many to be overbearing, rude and grossly insensitive. While Florida reportedly got on everyone’s last nerve, even when she snapped at low-keyed and in control Alderwoman April Ford Griffin, her antics were dismissed and the campaigned moved forward. At one point in the final days of the heated campaign, Florida’ see-saw personality finally disqualified her from even getting the community outreach post, which was taken by Rory Roundtree.

You can read the full editorial here. Thanks to Steve Wilke-Shapiro’s 15thwardSTL blog for the heads up.