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Saturday in Tower Grove Park

May 7, 2011 Parks, South City 1 Comment
ABOVE: Tower Grove Park, April 2011

St. Louis has many beautiful parks, large & small.  Tower Grove Park must be ranked among the top parks in the city.

Tower Grove Park was first authorized by a state law passed on March 9, 1867, and came into existence on October 20, 1868, when Henry Shaw conveyed his lands to the City of St. Louis, by deed of gift. It is governed by a Board of Commissioners appointed under the authority of the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri. The Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden is one of these Commissioners, by virtue of his office.

Under the terms of the 1867 act of the General Assembly of the State, the Park Board has the “full and exclusive power to govern, manage, direct and control” the park, “to pass ordinances” for its regulation and government, and, generally, has “all the power and authority … conferred upon or possessed by the Corporation of St. Louis in respect to the public squares and places” in St. Louis. The Commissioners submit an annual report to the Board of Alderman of the City.

Fulfilling the contractual obligations assumed in 1868, when the Mayor and Henry Shaw jointly signed the deed, the City supplied funds for the improvement of the land, and each year since then has placed funds in the hands of the Board, to be expended upon the Park at the discretion of the Commissioners.

For twenty years as the work of improving the Park land proceeded, Mr. Shaw gave his services as Comptroller and general supervisor, and during that period of devotion to the public welfare, he personally donated to the Park three noteworthy bronze statues and other works of art.

Tower Grove Park is a nearly rectangular tract 7,676 feet long and 1,550 feet wide, as originally platted. The area granted by Mr. Shaw’s deed was 276.76 acres, but the outer border, 200 feet wide, containing 74.74 acres, was reserved for leasing for villa residences, but this never materialized. Problems involved in the effort to carry out this provision resulted in many years of negotiation. In 1925, a satisfactory solution was reached, and this surrounding strip was legally merged in the Park.

There still remained a privately owned strip of land adjoining the Park at the northwest, known as the Payne Tract and containing about eight acres, which Mr. Shaw had desired to include in the Park. Through purchase and condemnation, this land was acquired before the end of 1926, and became in all respects a part of the Park.

Tower Grove Park is now a unit enclosed by four streets, and contains 289 acres. It is the second in size in St. Louis, and exceeds the next largest local park by more than 100 acres.

Should we demand local control?

ABOVE: Tower Grove Park, April 2010

Get out and enjoy Tower Grove Park if you haven’t in a while.

– Steve Patterson


Cinco de Mayo on Cherokee Street Saturday May 7th

Tomorrow is the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration on Cherokee — one of St. Louis’ most interesting streets.

The 2011 Cinco de Mayo festival will feature live entertainment on two stages, DJs, and roaming street performers. Over ten bands will perform throughout the course of the day. The main stage located at California & Cherokee will feature traditional Mexican performances while the Gringo Stage located at Oregon & Cherokee will showcase local bands selected by the St. Louis Secret Sound Society.

If you’ve not experienced the food & fun on Cherokee tomorrow is a good day to do so.

– Steve Patterson


My Transit Presentation at the Southwest Garden Neighborhood Meeting

transit routes swgna

Last night I spoke at the Southwest Garden Neighborhood meeting on the subject of transit.  My presentation was billed on the agenda as “Everything you wanted to know about using public transit but were afraid to ask.”  Not sure I lived up to that but here is what I presented:

  • Transit is not just light rail, buses are the main component of the system
  • Folks who’ve never ridden transit seem willing to try rail, but not buses
  • Route and stops are easy to understand on rail, harder with buses
  • Buses will get you more places, and closer to your start & end locations
  • Bus fare is $2, a transfer is 75¢ extra
  • Passes can be purchased for 2 hours ($2.75) , one day ($7.50), weekly ($23.50) and monthly ($68.00)
  • Seniors and the disabled can get a discount.  A special ID must be obtained from Metro.
  • Passes are valid on buses in St. Clair & Madison Counties in Illinois.
  • Wait for any passengers exiting the front door before boarding, exit the rear door when possible.  Note the rear steps are steeper so some may find the front steps more comfortable.

The meeting was held at the senior center located at 5602 Arsenal, so I mentioned places that can be reached on the #30 “Soulard” bus along with the time to get there:

The SWGNA office is located at 4950 Southwest Avenue so I mentioned options via the #14 “Botanical Garden” and #95 “Kingshighway” buses.

To drive the route to the airport it would take 20 minutes, 25 in traffic and is 15.7 miles. If you drove to catch a flight you’d need to consider the time spent parking at a long term lot and catching a shuttle bus to the terminal. Factor in the cost of gas, wear on your car and parking costs then transit might be a good option. Note that a late return flight might get you back too late to catch the last train.  I once had to exit the last train at the CWE station and catch a taxi the rest of the way home.

And finally I listed some options from Hampton & Southwest via the #90 “Hampton” bus.

Of course everyone would need to map their specific origins and destinations.  I find Google Maps far easier to use than printed maps and timetables.  Metro’s website was recently updated to incorporate Google Maps.

For many getting to work via transit may not be a viable option, but we take so many other trips in our lives outside of getting top/from work.

Unfortunately due to the rain I had to drive my car rather than take the #30 bus.  Thanks to Southwest Garden’s executive director, Dana Grey, for inviting me to speak.

– Steve Patterson


Curb Ramps Still Missing in Key Locations 20 Years After the ADA

ABOVE: missing curb at Lafayette Ave & Tower Grove Ave made this intersection passable

Last week I was at Tower Grove Ave & McRee Ave for a ground breaking when I left in my power chair I had to head south a few blocks to Tower Grove Ave & Shaw to catch the bus.  At Tower Grove Ave & Lafayette Ave I encountered the above situation, no curb ramp into the sidewalk.

All the rest of the intersections had curb ramps, but all it takes is one missing to make an entire stretch impassible.  Thankfully a section of curb was missing, allowing me to pass by.  At Thurman Ave pieces of curb were also missing, allowing me to pass through there as well.

– Steve Patterson


Botanical Grove: Green City Living in the Heart of Saint Louis

A ground breaking was held last Friday afternoon for the Botanical Grove project in the Botanical Heights neighborhood.

The Botanical Heights Neighborhood is a centrally located neighborhood with close proximity to many Saint Louis amenities and destinations. The neighborhood is in the midst of a series of planned redevelopment projects that aim to improve the area, creating a vibrant walkable urban community. The first portion of redevelopment was completed between 2004 and 2007 and included the construction of 150 new homes on the six blocks bounded by 39th Street and Thurman Avenue, completed by St. Louis based homebuilder McBride and Sons. Botanical Grove represents the next phase of development, with a focus on green building within and the historic context of the western half of the neighborhood.

The neighborhood was formerly called McRee Town, so-named after McRee Ave that runs east-west through the neighborhood. Here is info on the project:

Botanical Grove includes thirty new homes on the 4200 Block of McRee in the Botanical Heights Neighborhood of St. Louis. These homes include all new homes as well as complete renovations of historic homes, with a range of unit types and sizes. All homes are built to LEED for Homes standards, to your custom specifications. Green construction on all homes, including standard geothermal heating and cooling, means a healthy lifestyle at a low operating cost. Combining these green features, with quality construction, and ten year property tax abatement allows Botanical Heights Homes to offer exceptional homes at a an exceptional value.

The firm UIC + CDO, located at McRee Ave & Tower Grove Ave , is the developer.  The project has been in the planning stages for the last five years.  In August 2010 I attended a neighborhood meeting where the project was presented to the neighbors, Ald Joseph Roddy (17th Ward) and Stephen Conway (8th Ward) both spoke at the gathering.

ABOVE: Ald Roddy (left) and Ald Conway (right) in August 2010
ABOVE: Ald Roddy (left) and Ald Conway (right), August 23, 2010

I like many things about this project, among them:

  • Existing privately owned homes within the defined area will remain in the hands of the current owners. Existing residents I spoke with will be glad to see  neighboring properties renovated and vacant lots infilled.
  • Vacant structures will be renovated, not razed.
  • New construction offers a contemporary, but compatible aesthetic.  The Model 1 has a great floor plan with central kitchen and rear living room.
  • LEED construction for the buildings as well as green elements for the street, such as rain gardens, are important to reducing waste.
  • Commercial buildings along Tower Grove Ave will also be renovated.
  • The homes include single-family detached and townhouses. The sizes are reasonable, not McMansions.

I’d be concerned about starting such a project in this economy but the bankers present on Friday are behind the effort.  I think they will phase the project over the next few years as buyers sign on the dotted line for each renovated building or new construction.

ABOVE: ground breaking shovels outside the UIC+CDO office on Friday March 18, 2011

This firm has already demonstrated with both of their buildings at Tower Grove Ave & McRee Ave that good design and a slow approach can make a huge difference over time. Over the next 10 years we will hopefully see the rest of the vacant structures in Botanical Heights renovated and the vacant lots infilled with new housing units.

– Steve Patterson