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Update: Park Ave Sidewalk Now Passable

In March I blogged about an ADA issue I spotted from a MetroBus (see: New Driveway Makes Sidewalk Non-ADA Compliant (Updated)). Curbs for the driveway prevented passage in a wheelchair.

ABOVE: New driveway to Park bisects the public sidewalk without ADA ramps. March 2012.

The update to that post was this:

This will get fixed as part of a project titled 8496 BROADWAY & 7TH STREET IMPROVEMENTS (PARK AVENUE TO I-55 OVERPASS),FEDERAL PROJECT STP-5422(612), ST. LOUIS, MO : that will have a pre-construction conference on March 7th. Still, this shows clear lack of oversight on the part of inspectors to allow something like this to get built in the first place.

As the city told me, the began right away. I still haven’t visited since the work is just wrapping up, but I’ve been watching as I pass by on the bus.

ABOVE: Extensive work has been done in the 7th/Park/Broadway area, still ongoing in September 2012. Click image to view in Google Maps.

Once construction has finished I’ll visit the area and take a critical look at the finished product.

— Steve Patterson


Follow Up: St. Louis Bread (Panera) Builds New ADA Ramp

September 4, 2012 Accessibility, Featured, South City, Walkability Comments Off on Follow Up: St. Louis Bread (Panera) Builds New ADA Ramp

On February 20th I posted out the lack of an ADA Accessible Route in South St. Louis  (see: Poor Pedestrian Accessibly at Saint Louis (Panera) Bread Co on Chippewa St. at Lansdowne Ave). Today I’m happy to report Panera has stepped up and corrected the situation. Here’s the before:

ABOVE: In February 2012 access to the St. Louis Bread Co. at 6607 Chippewa from the public sidewalk required going up steps.

I contacted and company and met with District Manager Chris Harre onsite on my birthday, February 28th. On May 1st a building permit application was filed with the city to build an accessible ramp at an estimated cost of $5,000.

When I visited the site late last month workers were still finishing up final details.

ABOVE: A switchback ramp was fitted into an area previously planted
ABOVE: The view of the ramp from the west
ABOVE: View from the top of the ramp. The triangular wedge between the upper & lower sections of the ramp will contain plants.
ABOVE: The new ramp is highly visible, says all pedestrians welcome here.

I appreciate that Panera acted quickly once I pointed out the accessibility problem, if only other companies would do the same. Special thanks to District Manager Chris Harre.

— Steve Patterson



A Look At South Broadway Through The Marine Villa Neighborhood

Every city probably has a Broadway; I grew up on Broadway Ave in Oklahoma City, I’ve been to Broadway in NYC and I’ve seen traveled all of Broadway in St. Louis. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Broadway is the only road in the City of St. Louis that crosses the city limits in opposite ends, north and south.

Broadway in St. Louis varies in feel as it curves along following bends in the Mississippi River. To my eye one the mile stretch through the Marine Villa neighborhood is the most interesting. I’d driven, scootered and bicycled this mile stretch of Broadway from Keokuk St. on the south to Cherokee St on the north numerous times in my 22 years in St. Louis but recently I “walked” both sides using my power wheelchair.

Naturally my mind started thinking of ways to revitalize this corridor so this post is a look at the good, the bad, and some of what’s needed. I’ll share some of the 250+ pictures I took on Sunday August 19, 2012.

ABOVE: Broadway heads off to the right just past Keokuk. The intersection of Broadway, Jefferson & Chippewa has been a commercial center since the 19th century.
ABOVE: Map of the mile stretch of Broadway through the Marine Villa neighborhood. Click image to view in Google Maps.
ABOVE: Detail of 3812 S. Broadway, built in 1896!
ABOVE: In the wedge where Broadway meets Jefferson at Chippewa is a fountain surrounded by overgrown shrubs. Really? Is this supposed to be positive public space? It looks like it was designed to repel, not attract, people.
ABOVE: City records show this “park” was built in 1998, after Ald. Craig Schmid had the city buy and raze the existing building.
ABOVE: On weekends many cyclists use S. Broadway
ABOVE: Also in the space between Broadway & Jefferson is a former Hollywood Video store. The suburban parking lot, just behind Schmid Park, was never appropriate at this location.
ABOVE: Monroe Elementary School has a prominent position on Broadway at Missouri Ave
ABOVE: The next stretch of Broadway is mostly residential
ABOVE: But not all are occupied
ABOVE: Residential quickly changes to commercial/industrial, entrance to Anchor Moving & Storage,
ABOVE: Parking lot for the school creates a long dead zone, needs buildings again.
ABOVE: Widman Motorcycles has been a fixture on South Broadway for decades
ABOVE: The gentle curve of Broadway creates interesting views
ABOVE: The way the orthogonal street grid intersects with the meandering Broadway creates interesting but awkward intersections.
ABOVE: Former fire engine house #3 bounded by Broadway, Miami St & Salina Salena St., owned by the city but leased out to an individual for storage.
ABOVE: View across Salina Salena St from the old firehouse. City records say this first building was built in 1941 but it must be from the 19th century
ABOVE: 3640 S. Broadway has seen better days but the barely visible old cast iron storefront is an obvious clue it was built long before 1941.
ABOVE: City records are likely right on the building next door, says it was built in 1955
We’re in the other mostly commercial section of S. Broadway in Marine Villa
This 6,000+ sq ft doctor’s office & residence was built in 1941. I had the pleasure to tour the building a number of years ago. One of my favorite buildings in St. Louis!
Across Broadway is this 12-unit apartment building built in 1964
Just 5-6 years ago an interesting grouping of a few 4-family buildings existed here, I was talked casually with an investor about buying and rehabbing them. This is where Lemp Ave intersects with Broadway.
ABOVE: The bar/grill in the ground floor of this 1887 building at President St has closed. We have a President St?
ABOVE: The bar may be closed but the residential is occupied. Across the street is the massive former Lemp Brewery complex
ABOVE: A long stretch of the Lemp Brewery property along Broadway is vacant and fenced, perfect for new construction
ABOVE: The Lemp Brewery complex was built over a period of years and thus includes numerous buildings. Click the image for the Lemp Brewery Wikipedia entry
ABOVE: The design of the buildings presents many challenges, including accessibility for the disabled. It’s being marketed as the Lemp Brewery Business Park, click image for website.
ABOVE: Heading south on Broadway the Lemp Brewery complex is the first thing you see as you go under I-55 at Cherokee St.

So what’s my take away? Lots of potential, lots of obstacles. Here are my recommendations, in no particular order:

  1. Undertake a corridor study to take an in-depth look to inform future policy decisions (aka zoning, infill, etc).
  2. Issue an RFP to replace the Schmid fountain and vacant Blockbuster Hollywood Video with a 2-3 story mixed-use structure with urban form, unless #1 above says a park at the intersection of three major streets is a good idea. I can’t imagine that being the case.
  3. In the meantime remove overgrown plantings around the fountain and islands in the area. Replant with low maintenance plants that don’t get so massive.
  4. Create a marketing campaign (brand identity)  for the commercial area where Broadway, Jefferson & Chippewa meet.   Get the name for this area circulated so it becomes recognizable.
  5. Look at curb bulb outs or other treatments to visually narrow the roadway. Alternatively, this might be a good area to place the bike lane between the on-street parking and curb. Perhaps literally narrowing the road is a good idea, it was likely widened in the early 20th century.
  6. Develop a form-based code to guide infill in vacant areas, in particular Lemp & Broadway. A free-standing McDonald’s with double drive-thru wouldn’t be desirable at that corner. But a CVS in a new multi-strory mixed-use urban building would be a nice addition in my view.
  7. Look at the sidewalks, fix areas where broken or missing. Clean off other areas where grass has grown over the sidewalk in other areas. Organize monthly walks up and down the street.
  8. Find a more positive use for the firehouse. Work with the Brewers & Maltster’s Union hall to the south on developing their vacant land between their hall and the firehouse.

I’m sure I’ll have many more thoughts the more I think about it. What are your thoughts? Generally negative (“location, location, location”) don’t offer any value to the dialog, constructive ways to improve the location do.

— Steve Patterson



Chippewa Sidewalk Still Not Passable Nearly Six Months Later

Since I sold my car in April I’ve made two shopping trips to Target on the #11 (Chippewa) MetroBus. In June I spotted sidewalk construction between the bus stop and Hampton, the driver let me off on the west side of Hampton so I wouldn’t be stuck.

In July it looked like the sidewalk was fixed, but it wasn’t.

ABOVE: July 3 2012 the sidewalk remained not passable to my power chair.
ABOVE: View looking east from Hampton after I “drove” through the Walgreen’s parking lot

This was due to a water main break:

The break happened on Tuesday morning in the Northhampton neighborhood. A thin layer of water is covering roadways near the intersection and there is a fear that the water will freeze causing a slick and potentially dangerous situation. (KMOV)

Freeze? Yes, the water main break happened on January 24, 2012! Did someone forget about the sidewalk?

— Steve Patterson



Historic District Standards Need Updating

Many of St. Louis’ first historic district regulations were written in the early 1970s, the thinking at the time was we needed to strip away “clutter’ such as projecting signs in order to compete with the tidy new suburbs.  Later regulations used the earlier ones as a base so today we have many regulations that are out of sync with our thinking 40 years later. Attitudes and thinking change.

ABOVE: Bastille on Russel in Soulard was denied a permit for a solar panel
ABOVE: Air conditioners visible on the roof of Joanie's Pizza from the same spot as viewing Bastille's

In 1947 the St. Louis Comprehensive Plan called for razing all of the Soulard neighborhood and building a new suburban-style subdivision, complete with cul-de-sac streets!!

Plate Number 16 is a plan for the reconstruction of the Soulard Neighborhood. Some of the more important features of the plan are: the extension of Gravois Avenue from Twelfth Street to the proposed Third Street Interstate Highway, providing a direct route to the central business district; the widening of 18th Street, the widening and extension of 14th Street, the widening of Park and Lafayette Avenues; underground garages in the multi-storied apartment area between 12th and 14th; a neighborhood part of 10 acres or more complete with spray pool, community facilities and game courts; the extension of Lafayette Park to serve this as well as other neighborhoods; landscaped areas throughout the community for passive recreation; enlargement of the City Hospital area; grouping of commercial areas into orderly shopping centers and the complete reconstruction of the neighborhood into super residential blocks with a new street pattern to serve these blocks and to discourage through traffic.

Such a plan would transform an obsolete area into a fine residential neighborhood with a good standard of housing, enlarged open areas, greatly improved environment, small concentrated shop centers, and much needed park and recreation space. The new interstate highway passes diagonally through this neighborhood and could be most advantageously undertaken simultaneously with the reconstruction. This is an area well suited for families of medium incomes. (Obsolete areas)

Just 25 years later Soulard is designated a historic district! Again, those early days of preservation regulations attempted to freeze the natural evolution of buildings, no doubt a reaction to a few decades of pro-demolition thinking. It’s possible, I believe, to preserve the historic neighborhood while allowing solar panels but not white vinyl windows with too many dividers between the panes. Yes, it’s subjective. In 25 years solar panels can be removed…of course so could inappropriate windows.

Here are the poll results from last week on this topic:

Q: St. Louis denied a solar panel on a visible roof in historic Soulard, thoughts:

  1. Ridiculous, all the air conditioners that are visible in Soulard are equally out of place 46 [39.66%]
  2. Just following the set standards, but they’re outdated and need to change 31 [26.72%]
  3. Good, we need to keep historic districts looking nice 12 [10.34%]
  4. Owners of historic buildings are better off buying power from alternate sources rather than clutter up their buildings 11 [9.48%]
  5. Understand the rules before you buy/rent/lease a buildling! 6 [5.17%]
  6. Other: 9 [7.76%]
  7. unsure/no opinion 1 [0.86%]

The “other” answers were:

  1. Why not rent rooftop space from a more practical building (warehouse, box store)
  2. dumb, other cities can add this to the evidence that STL is a dying city.
  3. I guess no one has noticed the potential of energy shortages
  4. Where are the options for letting them install solar panels???
  5. I think it is interesting that this was enforced, but Pevely was demolished…
  6. Creative solutions that maintains the historic facade but allows modernization.
  7. It’s not rediculous, but well designed/installed panels should be allowed.
  8. is there a compromise such solar panels in the shape of tiles?
  9. Understand the rules before you buy/rent/lease a buildling!

Just like ordinances, these historic district standards need to be reviewed and updated on s regular basis. Monday the Preservation Board granted a variance to allow solar panels at Bastille.

— Steve Patterson