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Corner Stores Popping Up Everywhere

February 17, 2011 Downtown, Retail 22 Comments
ABOVE: Fred's Cheapo Depot at 7th & Olive

Last week I was driving home on 7th when a bright store at Olive caught my eye.On Monday I was back in the area and snapped the above picture.  It wasn’t until last night I figured out this new corner store downtown is a Fred’s Cheapo Depot.  Locals will recognize Fred as the guy that has been selling “dirt cheap” alcohol & smokes for years.  I’m an avid non-smoker but I may stop in to check out their spirits. This store is certainly better than a vacant storefront.

I’m seeing what appears to be more and more small corner stores throughout the city.  What they lack in selection and parking the make up for in convenience.

– Steve Patterson


Changes Coming To Macy’s In The Railway Exchange

January 13, 2011 Downtown, Economy, Retail 10 Comments

Macy’s currently occupies the first six floors of the 21-story Railway Exchange Building.

Railway Exchange
ABOVE: The massive Railway Exchange Building occupies an entire city block

The department store plans to consolidate into the lower three floors.  Macy’s contains two restaurants, Papa Fabares on the 2nd floor and The St. Louis Room on the 6th, but you need to know about them because you won’t find any information on their website:

ABOVE: Macy's website listing indicates a restaurant, but offers no details

The store is still listed as “St. Louis Centre” for the former mall to the north being rebuilt as a parking garage with street-level retail.

ABOVE: The entrance to Papa Fabares on the 2nd Floor of Macy's
ABOVE: The entrance to Papa Fabares on the 2nd Floor of Macy's

Papa Fabares takes you back in time and the French Onion Soup is the signature item.  I don’t see this restaurant going anywhere when Macy’s consolidates.

ABOVE: The lunch buffet at the 6th floor St. Louis Room
ABOVE: The lunch buffet at the 6th floor St. Louis Room

The 6th Floor St. Louis Room, however, will be a casualty since this floor will no longer be a part of Macy’s.


I’m unsure what will happen to the pedestrian walkway over Olive to the parking garage.  Most months when I go to a regular lunch meeting at the St. Louis Room I just use my wheelchair to travel the 10 blocks to the store, but a few times I will drive my car and then the pedestrian bridge is handy in bad weather.


The pedestrian bridge connects at the 4th floor of the Railway Exchange Building, one above Macy’s after consolidation.  It is butt ugly and should go but the sidewalk level disabled entrance faces 6th Street, not Olive.   Removing the bridge might present some ADA access issues.  I’m torn, the urbanist in me says the bridge needs to go but the disabled me says it is handy.

– Steve Patterson


Kansas City’s Power & Light District An Open-Air Food Court

img_1947Kansas City’s Power & Light District was developed by The Cordish Companies, the same developer selected by the Cardinals in 2006 for Ballpark Village.  I’ve over simplified in the headline — it is more than a food court.

There are streets that continue the existing downtown street grid but the main area is a self contained central area.  As with an indoor mall, this is private –not public, space. Unlike the public square, don’t plan to organize any government protests here.  It has the generic feel of an indoor mall, without the air conditioning or heating.

Granted it is dressed in the latest style — lots of metal internally and brick facing the streets.


I visited on a very cold Saturday morning so both the sidewalks and the central Main Stage area were largely vacant.  I will visit again in the Spring on a weekday and weekend night.

img_2009The evening after my morning visit three friends picked me up at my midtown hotel for dinner downtown.  Did we go to a place at the Power & Light?  Uh, no.  We went to a locally owned restaurant in the nearby River Market District. Like St. Louis, Kansas City has a great restaurant scene but projects like Power & Light and Ballpark Village are more about formula restaurants than local places.   The question I have is if both can co-exist?  Will the influx of a concentration of tax subsidized new eateries make it difficult for existing places to compete?  Or will downtown see an increase in the number of diners so existing & new survive?

Call me a snob, but I don’t see myself patronizing restaurants at Ballpark Village.

– Steve Patterson


Downtown Grocery Stores: St. Louis vs. Kansas City

December 13, 2010 Downtown, Retail, Travel 33 Comments
ABOVE: Cosentino's Market, downtown Kansas City, MO

On a recent visit to Kansas City I visited the downtown Cosentino’s Market in the Power & Light District.   I was impressed., I left thinking the store had to be twice as big as St. Louis’ downtown market, Culinaria.   It is bigger, but only 22% (27,000sf vs 33,000sf).

Both stores are operated by local family chains.

ABOVE: Culinaria - A Schnucks Market, downtown St. Louis MO

The older & larger chain is the St. Louis-based Schnucks:

“Associates of Schnuck Markets Inc., have been serving customers a unique combination of quality food, variety and value for nearly seven decades. Founded in north St. Louis in 1939, the family-owned grocery company has grown to include more than 100 stores in seven states: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee and Mississippi.”

But the Cosentino chain is only a quarter the size of Schnucks:

The Cosentino family opened their first market in 1948, located on Blue Ridge Boulevard in Kansas City. Since that time the local family owned grocer has aspired to provide excellent customer service in an exceptionally clean environment. It was with immense pride that Cosentino’s Market grew from a dream into a reality. The first Cosentino’s Market was opened in Brookside in 2004 followed by the location in the Kansas City Power & Light District in 2009. “We were so honored to be chosen as part of this historical project and to have the chance to develop such an innovative store.” John Cosentino says of the Downtown project.

Cosentino’s Food Stores currently operates 25 stores in the Kansas City area. The first generation is proud to watch the third generation of Cosentino’s Family members now taking part in the day to day operations and management of the company.

So the newer, smaller chain built a larger downtown market.

ABOVE: Cosentino's Market, downtown Kansas City, MO

The Cosentino’s didn’t receive any direct subsidies.  However, it is part of the Power & Light District, which was financed in part through the state MODESA program.  Culinaria, on the other hand, got plenty of incentives.  First the parking garage it is located in is owned by  the Missouri Development Finance Board.  The structure was developed by DESCO, the Schnucks’ development company.  But they also got specific help:

Schnucks will pay $3.42 million necessary for tenant improvements, inventory and other opening expenses at the downtown location, at Ninth and Olive streets, according to state finance board documents. The remaining money will come from a combination of state, federal and city subsidies. (St. Louis Business Journal)

ABOVE: Culinaria - A Schnucks Market, downtown St. Louis MO
ABOVE: Culinaria - A Schnucks Market, downtown St. Louis MO

To my knowledge no criteria was put in place to have Schnucks repay the taxpayers if the store exceeded a certain threshold.

– Steve Patterson


Adaptive Reuse Not Just For Historic Buildings

My downtown loft condo is within a 7-story building constructed in 1919 and used for decades by a printing firm.  It now contains 38 lofts and one commercial space.  The adjacent 9-story building in our condo association includes another commercial space and 40 lofts.  Throughout downtown this story is repeated over and over, old structures re-imagined for different uses than when originally constructed decades ago.

But what about buildings that are less than charming? St. Louis Centre comes to mind.  When it opened in 1985 it was the “largest urban shopping mall” [WikiPedia]  in the country.  When I arrived in St. Louis just five years later I could see the mall was in a death spiral.

ABOVE: 6th & Locust view of St. Louis Centre just as work started earlier this year.

Being a mall, it turned inwards putting large blank walls the street. Not what we want downtown now (we never should have wanted this…).  To many the answer to these buildings that no longer serve our current needs is the same as it been for decades — tear it down to the ground and build something new.  But we know the old historic buildings can be adapted to new uses.  In those cases, reuse usually requires stripping away decades of attempts to modernize the building.

With newer buildings the process involves stripping away those blank walls and reorienting the structure to embrace the sidewalk and surroundings.

ABABOVE: oppressive bridge and a full bay of the old mall stripped away.

Work continues on the former St. Louis Centre.  The first part was to strip away the interior walls from the old mall as well as the blank walls.  Along Washington Ave an entire bay of the building was removed to uncover the sidewalk.

Most of the three upper floors will be parking for 750 cars — to serve the attached 600 Washington tower (formally One City Centre) and the U.S. Bank tower across 7th Street.  The 2nd & 3rd floor of the Washington Ave side will contain a movie theater.

I recently got a glimpse inside the construction site on a private tour with Matt O’Leary.  O’Leary, a former VP of Pyramid Construction, has been working on this project for years.  The reuse concept has changed dramatically over the years, but the goal of opening the building to the sidewalk hasn’t changed.

ABOVE: view of the former 4th floor food court
ABOVE: the former mall atrium was filled in with level floors and ramps for parking

This parking will have the best natural lighting.  In my tour I learned that Macy’s, in the Railway Exchange building across Locust, has receiving and customer pickup in the ground floor of this structure.  Trucks unload here and merchandise is taken down elevators to a tunnel under Locust. Who knew?

ABOVE: The new lobby for the 600 Washington tower will be highly visible from 6th

The following are some images from the developer, click to view larger size.



7th-str-g-nw-rendering_2010-05-06Once complete I will do a review of the finished project.

– Steve Patterson