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Happy Cycling

I didn’t plan to do week devoted to bicycling. It just worked out that way. If you missed the earlier posts just use the archives links on the main page to find them or use the search function.

I wanted to do a long post on bike safety but time just doesn’t permit that today. Instead I will give you a few pointers and some links for further reading.
• Ride on the road, not the sidewalk
• Ride with traffic, not against
• Wear a helmut – make sure it is properly fitted
• Follow the rules of the road – bikes are vehicles.

A few links of interest:
St. Louis Regional Bike Federation – great local organization (I’m on the board so I am a bit biased)
Local Bike Instructor, Martin Pion – great guy. I took his “Road 1” course in 1999.
• League of American Bicyclists – national organization, certifies instructors like Martin.
Missouri Bike Federation – excellent advocacy group for the entire state.
• Bike Cult – fun site, check it out.

Carrie Zukoski’s recent story in the Healthy Planet.
Urban Biker’s Tips & Tricks – excerpts from the book of the same name. An excellent resource.

And if you are curious I’ve got a simple little page with pictures of my bikes, some bike rides, and pictures of the bike racks at all St. Louis Public Library locations. Check it out at www.orange-bike.com.

Have a good weekend and happy riding!

– Steve


Blogs Will Change Your Business

April 22, 2005 Books Comments Off on Blogs Will Change Your Business

I typically don’t do short posts simply referencing a mainstream media source but I thought this was interesting enough. BusinessWeek magazine has a long feature story titled, “Blogs Will Change Your Business.”

Blogs could end up providing the perfect response to mass media’s core concern: the splintering of its audience. Advertisers desperate to reach us need to tap niches (because we get together only once a year to watch the Super Bowl). By piggybacking on blogs, they can start working that vast blogocafé, table by table. Smart ones will get feedback, links to individuals — and their friends. That’s every marketer’s dream.

To quote Edna Turnblad from Hairspray, “It’s the times, they are a changing.” Interested in advertising on my site or on the STL Syndicate? Let’s talk.

– Steve


Planning Books of Interest

April 14, 2005 Books Comments Off on Planning Books of Interest

I’m a book hound. I have hundreds of books and thousands of magazines. I’ve read nearly all, some more than once. For nearly 20 years I’ve used the Architects and Designers Book Service to order books.

So when I get a catalog in the mail for more books I have to hide the credit cards before I open it up. Such is the case with the American Planning Association’s “Planners Book Service Catalog.”

Below are a few of the books I found very interesting from the catalog. I’ve linked to their site although you can probably order them through other sources like Amazon or local bookstores like Left Bank Books or the St. Louis AIA Bookstore.

The following are just a few of the books that look interesting to me. The descriptions are theirs not mine. – Steve

Cities In Full

Three decades ago, urban America was troubled by escalating crime rates and a fleeing middle class, but conditions in many cities were enviable then compared to now. Some are so damaged that to restore them to their 1970 condition seems an insurmountable task, and true revitalization may seem unimaginable to those who control their fate. Yet, all is not lost. CITIES IN FULL explores the great potential of the American city and outlines essential elements necessary for its revitalization.

Steve Belmont embraces Jane Jacobs’ much acclaimed prescription for urban vitality — high densities, mixed land uses, small blocks, and variously aged buildings. He examines neighborhoods that adhere to her precepts and those that do not and compares the results. He examines the destructive forces of decentralization and shows how and why they must be turned into forces of renewal.

The author outlines an agenda for recentralizing commerce, housing, and transportation infrastructure and discusses how recentralization is affected by poor social and economic conditions. He analyzes the deficiencies of current low-income housing policy and offers a strategy more favorable to cities and their metropolitan areas.

Belmont exposes neighborhood political forces that sometimes thwart a city’s best interests and offers an ambitious blueprint for renewal that includes creating middle and upper income housing at moderate and high densities; revitalizing neighborhood commercial streets with an urban spirit; building new centralized infrastructure; and transforming the public realm to attract the middle class.

Exhaustively researched and well illustrated, this book is an invaluable resource for planners dedicated to reviving American cities.
… Continue Reading


St. Louis Among Ten Towns to Watch

April 2, 2005 Books 8 Comments

Forbes publisher, Rich Karlgaard, is promoting his new book, Life 2.0: How People Across America Are Transforming Their Lives by Finding the Where of Their Happiness. This book is not released yet but American Way magazine (you know the one you get on American Airline flights) had a review.

The book will include a list of 150 Great Places to Live but in the meantime American Way narrowed the list to a top ten. St. Louis was #7 on the list.

#7 – St. Louis, Missouri

“A ‘bohemian bargain’, which means it offers a lively downtown coupled with a reasonable cost of living.”

The remainder of top ten is:
1 – Bismarck, North Dakota
2 – Bisbee, Arizona
3 – Austin, Texas
4 – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
5 – Albany, New York
6 – Birmingham, Alabama
8 – Albuquerque, New Mexico
9 – State College, Pennsylvania

10-Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I don’t want St. Louis to become Chicago, Seattle or New York. I do want St. Louis to come into its own and hopefully that will include density, mass transit and a thriving local economy. If so we may begin receiving new residents finding the “where of their happiness” in our great city.

– Steve


The State of Real Estate

April 1, 2005 Books 3 Comments

The April 2005 issue of St. Louis Magazine includes their annual ‘2005 Real Estate Guide.’ This magazine is mostly, in my view, a West County society magazine.

One agent is quoted as saying, “I am seeing people looking seriously at Lafayette Square. In one week, I did two sales down there.” In 2005 some people are just now waking up to Lafayette Square. Old St. Louis notion #1 – the city is “down there.”

The magazine promotes downtown lofts but from a different perspective than I am accustomed:

“In the heart of downtown, lofts have become the trendy and affordable way to downsize, while contributing to the revitalization of the Washington Avenue area. But the area is still not a guaranteed investment.”

To affluent county folks with 5,000sf McMansions I guess a downtown loft is both a downsize and affordable. Despite the number of lofts built in the last few years it doesn’t seem like demand can be met. But what is with the “not a guaranteed investment” comment? No real estate purchase is a guaranteed investment. Old St. Louis notion #2 – buying in the city is risky. If you want a risky investment buy a vinyl clad ranch in a subdivision 45 minutes from downtown St. Louis. The magazine quoted a real estate appraiser as a backup of this view:

“I’m having some concerns about lofts. I haven’t seen many resales yet. A lot of these folks are going to be transferred to other jobs. We’ll be able to tell in two to four years when the young, single families start having kids and move out.”

Old St. Louis notion #3 – people with kids leave the city if they can afford to. I know of people with school age children moving to downtown and midtown. Many families live in the city – sending their children to public, magnet, private, and parochial. Still others home school. The choices are many. For some city couples the lower property taxes in the city plus not necessarily having two cars more than pays for private schooling. Other parents find not spending hours driving to and from work or from subdivision to mall to industrial park gives them more time to spend with their kids and at their kid’s school. There is no substitute for parental participation.

“Another sizzling neighborhood is Maplewood.”

First, Maplewood is a municipality – not a neighborhood. People need to stop throwing the word neighborhood around so indiscriminately. Municipalities and subdivisions are not neighborhoods. Old St. Louis notion #4 – anyplace is a neighborhood. New Urbanists have developed a list of 13 elements that most neighborhoods have. Click here and scroll down to see the elements of a neighborhood. That having been said, Maplewood does contain some great neighborhoods.

“There are great deals to be had in neighborhoods such as Forest Park Southeast and Old North St. Louis”, states the article. Wow, finally something good. Oh wait, “but buying in these areas is risky, because while some neighborhoods, such as Lafayette Square, can safely be called revitalized, others have a more uncertain future.” Old St. Louis notion #5 – anything not mostly white is risky. Buying real estate involves risk. I’ll agree that FPSE and ONSL involve greater risk than say Lafayette Square. I don’t think it is necessary to keep reinforcing this idea. If we continue calling an area risky guess what, it will remain risky!

In their buy or rent section you are advised to rent if, “Your job requires a substantial amount of travel.” Again, I disagree. Many downtown loft owners travel. They enjoy being able to get to the airport via MetroLink. The connectedness offered by loft living and Washington Avenue gives loft owning travelers a sense of belonging when they are in town and excellent tax benefits. The two-page spread of sale stats includes median days on market. At 188 days downtown looks like things don’t move. Since many lofts go on the market as soon as the developer buys the building and establishes a unit price this is a bit misleading.

One of the biggest challenges in St. Louis is simply one of perception. This article does very little to change perceptions about the city. In fact, it reinforces the conventional thinking that has kept many suburbanites from considering the city.

– Steve