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Kevin McGowan Calls Me From the Dog House

This morning I received a phone call from developer Kevin McGowan of McGowan|Walsh. He was calling, as you might guess, in response to the flack over a pet ban in the loft building in which he and other members of his family live (see prior post). For the last week he has been in a PR doghouse.

I’ve known Kevin for some time now and we worked together last year on a team looking at the Gateway Mall. It was nice to have the opportunity to talk with him again. He appreciated my prior post on this take as I presented a “rational” perspective as did some of the comments from others.

Kevin wanted to set the record straight:

  • M|W projects have condo rules similar to most condos downtown or otherwise that allow for pets but place limits no pounds and number of pets. Once the owners take control of the association they are free to change the rules as prescribed in the binding agreement.
  • His building contains 13 residential units with only four of those being owned by a member of the McGowan family.
  • The vote to change the rules in the building was “nearly a year ago” and existing pets were grandfathered in. Kevin says he was not present for the vote.
  • Kevin said he is not an officer in the association now nor was he at the time of the vote.
  • The issue of late has been that a couple of owners wish to sell and claim the no-pet policy is hurting their ability to sell their lofts. Kevin said the requests to change the policy have been too numerous.
  • Finally, he says, he was so “exacerbated” by the repeated requests he recently sent off the email trying to put an end to the issue. Again, he is not an officer in the association but just one of the 13 owners.
  • He and his wife Erin, before having children, had a dog for a good five years. I didn’t ask what they are going to do when their kids want a pet dog.
  • But I couldn’t have him on the phone and not challenge him. I said it seems like much of the debate is over dogs in common areas as well as dogs barking which can be heard in adjacent units. He agreed. So I asked about having a single cat. I offered that a vote to consider keeping a ban on dogs but allow a single cat might appease the owners trying to sell units. He didn’t seem to have considered that option but was not optimistic they’d consider such a compromise. The other thing, we didn’t discuss, is why not have another vote on the issue of pets in the building? If the majority still feel it is a sound policy it will remain. Obviously an association shouldn’t consider and vote on the same subject every month but at some point if an owner asks to reconsider a policy it should be voted on.

    The other thing we discussed was a dog park. It is common knowledge that Kevin was working on trying to get a dog park in Lucas Park for a while. Turns out the city has a policy that prohibits more than 30% of any designated park being separated and used for a dog park. Also, Larry Rice objected to park space being taken away from the homeless. But, he says, he is still working on a dog park because it is good for business. To that end he is looking to set up a non-profit to lease vacant land from the city to use as a dog park where owners could pay a small fee to help cover maintenance. The idea being that non-park land could be used 100% for a dog park. He is firmly convinced a dog park is good in helping attract new residents.

    Kevin mentioned one person that, if we had a dog park, would buy a loft downtown: Mayor Francis Slay. He said, “Francis is a big dog lover.” The issue is many dog owners, the Mayor included apparently, want a place where they can take the dog off the lease and let the dog be a….well, a dog. Kevin says Mayor Slay and his wife would move downtown if we had a dog park. You heard it here first, not in Deb Peterson’s column.

    A couple of other topics came up in our 45-minute conversation. As I had previously posted, McGowan|Walsh is offering free scooters with the purchase of a loft in the Motor Lofts and Packard Lofts. Kevin says they are now extending this to all McGowan|Walsh projects so it includes the GEW building on Washington at Jefferson and the Ballpark Lofts in Cupples Station adjacent to Busch Stadium. Their first order of nearly 200 scooters are expected to arrive in December and they just placed a second order of almost 300 more scooters. Wow, that is a lot of scooters! Kevin says he really enjoys his scooter. Blue Boat Designs on Washington Avenue was given a scooter from M|W and one of the staff, Jon Carlson, told me the other day he is having a blast riding it to work from home near Tower Grove Park. Kevin was excited about the idea of seeing all these scooters running around downtown.

    I just couldn’t let him go without once again bringing up the issue of excessive valet parking downtown. Kevin is an owner in the building where one of the biggest offenders, Lucas Park Grille, is located. His brothers, but not him, are partners in that restaurant. Kevin generally agreed that the valets may be taking too much space and as more and more storefronts become occupied by retailers needing convenient parking for their customers this issue is not going away on its own. He suggested I talk with Ald Lewis Reed on this subject. Good idea as Reed is up for re-election in March so perhaps the matter of valet parking along Washington Avenue can become a campaign issue for him or a challenger.

    – Steve


    Vespa Petitioning to Convert Some Auto Parking to Two-Wheel Parking

    Vespa is the most well known of scooter makers and you’ll see plenty of the Italian jobs on the streets of St. Louis. But they are also pretty determined to create an even bigger market for themselves and their competition. They realize parking is an issue keeping more people from using a small and efficient scooter over the family SUV. Enter the Vespa Petition, or Vespatition:

    Parking for All! Sign the Vespatition to convert some automobile spaces to two-wheel spaces!

    By signing the Vespatition, you are promoting the conversion of some automobile parking spaces to two-wheel spaces. The results will be publicized and sent to your local mayor.

    Just as parking spaces for compact cars and handicapped parking stalls have increased efficiency and convenience in urban and suburban communities, officially designated two-wheel parking facilities can do the same.

    Government agencies should consider removing the two-wheeler from the four-wheeler parking space and placing it in its own, scaled down zone. This is a simple concept that can be embraced by city councils, urban planners, local merchants, contractors, shopping center management and private businesses whenever parking for motor vehicles is provided.

    Here are some suggestions for motorcycle/scooter parking that we are proposing:

    Street-legal parking – convert a number of existing parking spaces every couple of streets to motorcycle/scooter parking

    •Spaces can be metered or un-metered
    •The smaller size of two-wheel vehicles allows them to fit into unoccupied areas on streets and sidewalks, creating efficiencies in urban planning and increasing city revenues (if metered).
    •Six motorcycles, scooters or limited-access motorcycles carrying from six to twelve people can be parked in the area normally taken up by one automobile. If, however, no motorcycle parking facility is provided in the area, one would possibly find those six motorcycles occupying up to six separate automobile spaces.

    Convert unused space – cement curbs of a certain size can be converted to two-wheel parking. A specialized parking area for motorcycles and scooters not only leaves more space for the automobiles, but also caters to the riders’ needs by providing a well-lit, convenient and secure location in which they may confidently leave their vehicle. Such facilities can be small in area and can usually be located near a building entrance or at the end of a parking island.

    Parking garages – designate parking spaces in municipal garages for two-wheel vehicles. Create a more equitable rate structure for two-wheel vehicle parking in private garages.

    Sidewalk parking – permit scooters and motorcycles to be parked in designated areas on sidewalks and locked to structures which currently accommodate bicycles.

    Designating scooter/motorcycle parking is one of the most urban things we could do in the St. Louis region. This ranks up there with actually having designated bicycle racks! This petition from Vespa is part of their Vespanomics website — a platform on oil dependence and how two-wheel transportation can help with the issue. It only has a few links to their main website — it is not a thinly veiled attempt at the environment just to sell you a scooter. In fact, Vespa has done a good job overall about being inclusive of other competing brands.

    Local and national government leaders are charged with establishing transportation policies that address both short-term and long-term problems, are environmentally responsible and truly benefit the American consumer. With the support of federal, state and local governments, new options like scootering can bring immediate and substantial economic and environmental benefits to Americans and the communities in which they live.

    To facilitate the adoption of scootering, U.S. Mayors and other elected officials should consider providing dedicated parking for scooters and motorcycles.

    Now is the time to broaden the dialogue about America’s addiction to oil and its dependency on foreign imports in a way that includes technological as well as behavioral solutions.

    I ask that everyone of you reading this take a minute and click on the above link to sign the petition. Doesn’t matter if you have a scooter or not or where you live. Just fill out the form to help support a more friendly policy toward parking for two-wheeled vehicles.

    Of course if Vespa sends this to Mayor Slay they are kinda wasting their time as the Mayor’s office has little control over parking in the city. Our planning agency has little say either! No, parking in St. Louis is the responsibility of the Treasurer! Yes, Treasurer. Presumably accounting types know best when it comes to parking. The logic being parking is a revenue source so that belongs to the Treasurer. Not sure when this became part of the city’s charter but it is F’d up if you ask me. Larry Williams has been Treasurer of St. Louis since 1981. As you might expect, he ran unchallenged in the last election in 2004.

    While we are on parking, we need to switch from individual meters and marked spaces to the more free-flowing parking model of progressive cities and institute a “pay-n-display” system for paying. The reason is short cars like mine do not need anywhere near as much as a Chevy Suburban or a Hummer. With more and more shorter cars around we can likely squeeze in another space per block. With four sides to a block and a good 40 blocks in the CBD we could easily get another 160 cars right in front of local businesses. Of course, using some of this newfound space for scooter/motorcycle parking would be wise.

    Related Prior Posts:
    •St. Louis Region Needs to Address Parking for Scooters & Motorcycles, April 2006
    •Parking on Washington Avenue — Finally!, February 2006

    Again, please sign the Vespatition!

    – Steve


    McGowan|Walsh Opens New Sales Center

    mcgowanwalsh - 7.jpgMcGowan|Walsh Historic Renovators today opened their new “Sales & Presentation Center” to more than 300 REALTORS®. We were first treated to a “nuts & bolts” seminar on loft selling and lunch down the street at Windows on Washington.

    Sadly, many in my profession don’t get the renaissance in urban living. Today’s presentation did a great job of explaining what it is all about. Kevin McGowan asked his wife Erin to talk about a typical day for them. The McGowan’s have a 3-year old as well as twins that are less than a year old. Erin talked about a mom’s group where her son (age 3) is the oldest. The point, families do live downtown.

    McGowan|Walsh will be doing something new with all their upcoming projects: Opening sales to those customers represented by buyer’s agents for a full two weeks prior to just taking contracts from those not represented. So, if you are looking to place a contract on one of their projects get with an agent (such as myself) so you can pick the unit you want and get pre-construction pricing.

    M|W will be giving each purchaser of a new loft a new scooter as well (updated 5/30/06 – Packard & Motor Lofts only at this point). Kevin McGowan mentioned he has had recent talks with city officials about scooter parking as he wants to make sure his customers have a place to park their new scooters when visiting local businesses and friends. I addressed this issue in a post entitled St. Louis Region Needs to Address Scooter & Motorcycle Parking on April 6, 2006.

    Kevin McGowan & partner Nat Walsh are also mixing up the selections scene a bit. Light fixtures, bathroom fittings and kitchen casework is being sourced from Blue Boat Designs located at 1607 Washington Ave. Their products are not the run of the mill loft finishes we’ve seen for the last 5 years.

    Look for the West Downtown area to really take off in the next 3-5 years as these buildings become occupied and as new construction begins. Kevin McGowan and I discussed their plans for the remaining Cupple’s buildings near the new Busch Stadium being marketed as the Ballpark Lofts. He indicated they’ve had an amazing amount of interest from office interests as well as national retailers. Looks like at least one of the buildings may go entirely office with street-level retail.

    A few additional photos are available on Flickr.

    – Steve


    St. Louis Region Needs to Address Parking for Scooters & Motorcycles

    Last week I did a post where I bemoaned about getting a tow warning from Saint Louis University after I parked my tiny & cute 49cc moped/scooter on the city’s public sidewalk. In doing so I fully expected the debate that followed. Some agreed that SLU should have no control over the sidewalk and that as a society we need to provide parking for motorcycles & scooters. Others agreed SLU had no control over the sidewalk but that the city should have been the one to give me a warning because I shouldn’t have parked on the sidewalk.

    I think the debate was healthy and got people more energized for this post on scooter & motorcycle parking. Scooters and motorcycles are a valid means of transportation. Ditto for bicycles. I believe it is important for our region to make at least the urban core friendly to these environmentally friendly methods of transportation by providing appropriate parking. The City of St. Louis along with urban schools like Saint Louis University, Washington University, Webster University (due to Old Post Office Location), and Harris-Stowe University should be having a conversation and taking a pro-active position on parking needs for more efficient modes of transportation.

    Here is just a small sample of efforts I found throughout the country:

    University of Wisconsin-Madison:

    Scooter drivers at UW-Madison will find new, designated parking areas in the heart of campus when the academic year begins, and parking outside of those areas could result in $40 fines, officials say.

    The new parking system was created in response to the proliferation of the motorized two-wheelers and the need for scooters to coexist safely with pedestrians on a bustling campus.

    “When we had 10 or 100 mopeds on campus, it was fine to have no real rules,” says Rob Kennedy, senior transportation planner. “But now we have 1,000 scooter drivers on campus and, at any one time, 600 are parked on campus.”

    In an effort to reduce the number of pedestrian-scooter conflicts on campus sidewalks and to improve safety, officials are creating 665 marked moped parking spaces scattered in about 25 areas. Previously, there were about 100 marked scooter parking spaces on campus.
    … Continue Reading


    SLU Claims Ownership of Grand Sidewalk

    Scooter at Dubourg HallToday I attended the ULI Competition presentations at Saint Louis University. Being such a nice day (although windy) I decided to take my scooter. Plus, I knew parking would be an issue so why not ease the issue with the compact scooter?

    During the lunch break I walked to Nadoz at the Coronado. Finally at nearly 3pm it was time to leave (I’ll tell you the winner in a separate post). What do I find on my scooter? An orange “tow warning” from SLU’s Parking and Card Services which read:

    “You have parked on Saint Louis University property and violated the Parking Policies and Procedures Regulation as checked below:”

    Within the “other” section they wrote in “parking on sidewalk.”

    While inside I had chained my scooter to the sign post at the curb — the only place I could find in the vicinity of Dubourg Hall on Grand. I went inside for hours knowing my scooter was most likely safe from theft as well as not blocking the public sidewalk.

    Scooter at Dubourg HallBut is it really a “public” sidewalk. I called the phone number on the card, 314-977-2957. The woman on the end said that the sidwalk along Grand is SLU property and they control it. As such, I was not permitted to park my tiny little 49cc scooter on their sidewalk. instead, I am supposed to get a visitor parking permit and parking in a regular parking space in one of their numerous garages or surface lots.

    In reviewing SLU’s parking information online a couple of things become clear:

  • St. Louis’s most “urban” campus focuses on cars. I found no reference to bicycle parking or suggestions to visitors to save on parking hassles by taking the bus and/or MetroLink.
  • They do not distinguish between a tiny moped that is easily carried away and a full-size motorcycle.
  • Bicycle parking is limited, I actually saw none today while I walked through the campus to lunch. I’ll have to go back to see how much they do have.
  • But who exactly has authority over the sidewalk? If I had parked my scooter within the inner campus I’d certainly see where they have control. But the sidewalk along a public street — Grand Blvd?

    Is this sidewalk truly public?

    – Steve